HIT OR MISS: 2022 Rookie Running Backs.
What’s good, Rush Nation? I’m back with a new mini-series. This time looking at the Rookie class of 2022 and how their landing spots impact their Fantasy Football outlook for this season. What competition do they face? And, what I think you can expect from drafting these rookies, rather than veteran’s at a similar time in a draft. Who’s gonna HIT? Who’s gonna MISS? And, who am I firmly sitting on the fence with?
I’ll be basing this article on a PPR, 12 team league.
Breece Hall is the consensus RB1 of this rookie class. The New York Jets had an absolute monster draft, adding premium talent on both sides of the ball. In Dynasty leagues he’s more often then not the first player selected in rookie drafts this year. On the other side of the coin, the arrival of Hall is disastrous for sophomore Michael Carter’s value, as many had tipped him for a big leap forward in 2022. The former Iowa State Cyclone has RB1 upside in your Fantasy teams this year. But, let’s have a look at some of the less obvious options who could hit the ground running in 2022.
HIT! James Cook, Buffalo Bills.
Younger brother of Minnesota Vikings stud Running Back Dalvin, James Cook is looking to make a name for himself in the NFL. After not quite cementing their own stud at the position the last few years, the Bills headed to the draft. The 63rd overall pick is when Brandon Beane pulled the trigger. Hoping this is the time he gets Sean McDermott a weapon he can unleash from the backfield. Beane’s last 2 Running Back choices have been underwhelming. Namely, Devin Singletary(2019) and Zack Moss(2020).
Devin Singletary has pretty much beat out whoever’s been put up against him in his pro career. Although, he’s yet to have a 1,000+ yard rushing season. At Florida Atlantic, he eclipsed that feat all 3 seasons he was there. Buffalo have also brought in veteran Duke Johnson for depth. As it seems like their round 3 selection in 2020, Zack Moss is now an after thought.
Singletary will be Cook’s main competition this year. His best Fantasy Football finish so far was last season. After a slow start to the season, he was trusted with a lot more snaps down the home stretch. He ended up finishing as the RB20 in PPR. A vast improvement on his previous 2 years and chopping his ADP in half, after being drafted as the RB40.
Make way for the National Champ!
James Cook shared a backfield last year with Zamir White, who was drafted in round 4 by the Las Vegas Raiders. Cook’s pass catching out of the backfield made for a great 1-2 punch for Georgia, as they went on to win the CFP National Championship last year. The 22 year old is also quite nippy, running a 4.42 second 40 yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Jumping straight into the Buffalo depth chart as the teams RB2. Cook will provide a different dynamic in the backfield and should see plenty of work from day 1. His pass catching upside in PPR leagues could also mean he finishes above team mate, Devin Singletary this season. Both these guy’s have shared work in the past and that’s what I think could happen in 2022.
Cook will be an amazingly cheap flex play. Currently my RB40 I would not be shocked if he turned in a seasonal performance like Singletary last year and finishes as a RB2. Perfect in the later rounds to fill your Running Back room or even in Zero RB builds, it’s a HIT for James Cook this season.
MISS! Isaiah Spiller, Los Angeles Chargers.
I can’t wait to watch the Chargers on Sunday’s this season. 1 of the best young Quarterbacks in the league, the always underrated Keenan Allen and elite Running Back Austin Ekeler. For anyone trying to muscle their way into the offence at So-Fi they’d have their work cut out, never mind a rookie. Insert former Texas A&M star, Isaiah Spiller.
Spiller is entering the NFL after back to back 1,000+ yard seasons. Even back at Klein Collins High School the 20 year old was balling. Being selected for the 2019 Under Armour All-American game as a senior was the highlight. For the Aggies he achieved 1st team All-SEC honours in 2020 and 2nd team in 2021. The boy from Texas was selected in the 4th round of this years draft, pick 123 overall.
His now team mate Austin Ekeler, didn’t have such a prestigious NCAA or High School career. Leading him to go undrafted in 2017. The former Western Colorado student has bloomed at pro level. Turning in top level performances on a consistent basis since taking over from Melvin Gordon. Ekeler also has fantastic pass catching ability making him a PPR god. Turning in 2 top 5 finishes in the last 3 seasons.
Isaiah Spiller has shone throughout his football career. For the 2022 Fantasy Football season he’s going to be irrelevant. Just like rookies Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree before him it’s going to be very clear this is Ekeler’s backfield. He only played 10 games in 2020 and finished as RB26. As well as, leading the team in rushing yards. With Justin Jackson and rookie at the time Joshua Kelley, not filling the massive void left by Ekeler.
As I touched on earlier, his elite pass catching from the backfield brings huge upside in PPR leagues. Commanding around the 100 target mark in 2019 and 2021, when Austin went on to finish as the PPR RB4 and RB2 respectively. None of this is really a knock on Isaiah Spiller, I just can’t see him getting much of a chance in 2022. Ekeler also has 2 years left on his current contract so I’d expect a similar story for 2023 aswell.
In conclusion, the former Aggie is a supremely talented runner of the ball. I’ve no doubt in a better situation he would be right up my rankings and most peoples draft boards. At this moment he’s nothing but a handcuff for Ekeler. My RB58 for 2022 won’t see much volume in the Chargers offense and for that reason, it’s a MISS for Isaiah Spiller this year.
ON THE FENCE! Brian Robinson Jr, Washington Commanders.
I’ve said this in other articles I’ve wrote as well but I am a sucker for a good story. Brian Robinson Jr is loyalty personified. The 6th Running Back drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Alabama native was selected by the newly named Washington Commanders in round 3, pick 98 overall. After spending 5 years with the Crimson Tide.
2021 was a breakout season for Robinson. Putting up over 1500 scrimmage yards and scoring 16 times. He patiently waited for his opportunity and his talent prevailed in the end. Ron Riveira now has a no nonsense bull like rusher in his offense. Robinson has battled throughout his career with other top Running Backs for a role and now it’s the turn of 3rd year back Antonio Gibson, to try and fend him off.
Gibson has a decorated collegiate career behind him. He joined Memphis from East Central Community College, Mississippi, in 2018. He played snaps at Wide Receiver, Running Back and even Kick Returner for the Tigers. Finishing up with 1st team All-AAC honours as a returns specialist. 2nd team All-AAC honours as a Wide Receiver and playing at the Senior Bowl as a Running Back. As well as being the All-AAC Special Teams Player of the Year.
It’s no secret Gibson is a fantastic receiving back. His elite level pass catching led him to a PPR RB13 finish as a rookie in 2020. He went 1 better in 2021 finishing as RB12. But, I really feel as if Robinson’s style will suit the play of Gibson and it could almost be a 1a-1b situation in Washington. The best bit is the young man from Tuscaloosa will be free to draft. An upside pick at the end of your draft, currently my RB65. Take a punt. Worse case scenario you drop him to waivers, it still did not cost you any capital.