Step Up Sophomore – 2022 Sophomore Running Backs. 

STEP UP SOPHOMORE

After starting with the Wide Receiver position, I now move onto three 2022 Sophomore Running Backs. 

A player’s sophomore season can be a boom or bust season. Get it right and the player is more likely to stick around after their second season and consequently stick around in the league. 

In this series, I look at 3 players who have just finished their rookie season and will be looking to do just that, step up. 

In the systems they are in, stepping up is what’s needed. Knowing this could help you find some fantasy help in your drafts or at least some sleepers to keep an eye on. 

KENNETH GAINWELL – PHILADELPHIA  EAGLES

The Philadelphia back field was a mixture of all sorts last season. Not a single player even managed to get to 800 rushing yards and to make things worse, Quarterback Jalen Hurts was the leading rusher with 784 yards. 

Hurts and the lead Running Back Miles Sanders had very similar stats. Hurts had 784 rushing yards from 139 attempts, averaging 5.6 yards per rush. Sanders had 754 rushing yards from 137 attempts, averaging 5.5 yards per rush. The big difference was Hurts had 10 rushing TD’s compared to Sanders’ 0 TD’s. 

FINDING HIS PLACE

Where does Gainwell fit into all of this? Gainwell played in 16 games but was only a starter in 1 game. After 68 rushing attempts, Gainwell finished 5th on the Eagles rushing list with 291 yards and 5 TD’s, averaging 4.3 yards per rush. 

Gainwell had half the amount of touches that Sanders had which didn’t give Gainwell the best of opportunities to get anything going. Gainwell only had two games with over 50% snap percentage. On top of that, Gainwell only had 3 games with over 10+ rushing attempts. 

It doesn’t sound all that impressive but getting 5 touchdowns on the limited rushing role Gainwell had meant that I took note. The one area that Gainwell did get used, was in the passing game. 

Gainwell finished 5th on the Eagles receiving list and was actually the highest placed Running Back. Gainwell was targeted 50 times and caught 33 of those for 253 yards and a TD. 

HELPING HURTS

Being able to handle the ball both by rushing and receiving gives Gainwell an upper hand in being able to step up in his sophomore year. From the 253 receiving yards Gainwell got, 226 of those were gained after he caught the ball. 

The ability to be available for Hurts by the line of scrimmage for dump offs was key. Gainwell had an average depth of target at a very low 1.9 yards. Going forward, being available for Hurts will massively help Gainwells ability to step up as one of the 2022 Sophomore Running Backs.

Right now Gainwell has an ADP of 149, which slots right in the middle of the 13th round. At this point in the draft you are filling your bench so being able to pick up a player like Gainwell is a great addition to your team. Especially when Sanders hasn’t played a full season in the last two years. 

TRAVIS ETIENNE – JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

As one of the 2022 Sophomore Running Backs, Travis Etienne is a complete unknown as an NFL player. Coming into his rookie season, a lot was riding on Etienne to be the guy in Jacksonville to help move the team in the right direction along with Trevor Lawrence. 

After a pre-season of pass catching drills that got everyone excited, Etienne’s rookie season was over before it even began. A lisfranc injury set Etienne back then took him out for the season after the injury needed surgery. 

Heading into the 2022 season, things look promising for the young Running Back. Doug Pederson has taken over the reins as head coach, which in my opinion is an automatic upgrade from Urban Meyer in 2021 as general Human beings go. 

CAMP BATTLE?

Coming into the 2022 season, Etienne, barring any setbacks, should be the RB1 going into the OTAs. James Robinson tore his Achilles late in December and in theory should miss the start of the preseason program. Giving Etienne the best chance to take the RB1 job. 

With a new head coach, this Jaguars team needs to prove they are not the whipping boys of the NFL. A top prospect at QB in Lawrence needs to step up in his own right but using Etienne to his advantage will really help this team. 

The Jags look to have upgraded their O-Line which should help both Lawrence and Etienne and will most likely look to carry on upgrading it using the draft. 

COLLEGE BALL

The last two seasons at college show us that Etienne has been playing at a high level both in the rushing game and in the receiving game. In the last two seasons, Etienne rushed 375 times for 2528 yards but also caught the ball 85 times for 1020 receiving yards. Etienne also managed to bag 39 total touchdowns to top it all off. 

Robinson took almost all the back field work last season. Sharing a small amount of the work with Dare Ogunbowale and Carlos Hyde, both of whom are no longer with the Jaguars. With Robinson coming back from the Achilles, Etienne could see almost all of the backfield work going his way.

Bringing this to the Jaguars offence will be a massive help this season in taking the Jaguars higher up the ranks. In doing this it also means Etienne has the potential to be fantasy relevant as one of the 2022 Sophomore Running Backs. 

KHALIL HERBERT – CHICAGO BEARS 

As 2022 Sophomore Running Backs go, Herbert probably wasn’t on many players’ radars going into the 2021 season. But after watching the rookie play last season, Herbert became one of my favourite sleepers. 

When Montgomery went out injured, there was a four game stretch where the Bears used Herbert as the main rushing option. In those 4 games, Herbert didn’t have a game with less than 18 attempts or less than 70 rushing yards. 

Herbert also showed his ability in the receiving game after being targeted 16 times throughout the season and catching 14 of those. 

STILL A SLEEPER

Herbert is still a sleeper but he has shown us that he is ready to go when needed as a very useful back up to Montgomery. Also worth noting is the release of Tarik Cohen. This should give Herbert more of a chance to pick up more game time. 

Montgomery does take the majority of the workload, however after picking up an injury last season and seeing how good Herbert was as a replacement, Montgomery could see the Running Back work shared out like the cowboys do with Zeke and Pollard. 

If the Bears use Herbert to his true potential you could pick him up in round 12 with a current ADP of 136. This could be a steal if you get a Pollard role from Herbert. Especially when Pollard is going in round 8 right now with an ADP of 88.

SOPHOMORE QUARTERBACK

Fellow Sophomore Justin Fields could be a factor for Herbert too. Whilst Fields was the starting Quarterback for the Bears, Fields used his running ability quite a lot more when Herbert was in the line up. 

Fields’ rushing ability seemed to help Herbert and both players had games with over 100 rushing yards when starting together. 

Strangely enough, Fields’ passing went from averaging around 20 attempts per game without Herbert to around 30 attempts per game with Herbert as the starting Running Back. 

As I mentioned, Herbert is Still a sleeper but he has all the potential to be able to step up as one of the 2022 Sophomore Running Backs. 

 

There you have it, Rush Nation. My 2022 Sophomore Running Backs that need to step. 

Next up is the Quarterback position.

Until then, Keep Rushing.

Pittsy- @PittsyNFL

 

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