TRUST YOUR GUT – RUNNING BACKS
As NFL teams get ready to add missing pieces to their roster through the upcoming draft, all fantasy managers are closely watching. What changes are being made to teams so they can have the tools to make the best choices on their league drafts this summer? In the last article we looked at the top 5 quarterbacks we wanted to get. And in the latest TRUST FACTOR list we take a look at the running backs we would like to target to help our team reach the pinnacle of our league.
TRUST THE RUN
Finding fantasy bell cow Running Backs is like being a magician. Almost like pulling the rabbit out of the hat in front of all your friends, looking them in the eyes and telling them “I knew he was going to be the best running back this year!!”
If only it was that simple! It takes time and data and some luck to have the RB1 for your league. Let’s look at some of the top ones for this season and see who you will trust your gut on running backs this year.
Here’s my top 5 running backs in my TRUST FACTOR list.
AUSTIN EKELER / TRUST FACTOR RATING 7.9
- In 2021 Austin Ekeler soared up the ranks to finish 2nd in average of FPPG with 19.3. He ran for 911 yards with 12 rushing touchdowns. He also had 647 receiving yards with 8 touchdowns. Those 20 touchdowns tied with Jonathan Taylor for most Running Back touchdowns. His Draft Rank for this season is #3 (ECR).
- This season will be his third with his quarterback Justin Herbert and his second full season with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. He saw 911 rushing yards on 206 attempts, while being targeted 94 times for 647 receiving yards. He was tied for the lead in running back targets with Najee Harris. Being healthy this year also had him playing in 16 games.
- With all the weapons at Herbert’s disposal, I am going to trust Ekeler to get a few more looks behind the second year OC Lombardi. With a second season in the offense and a better understanding of the expectations at his position , he should be the workhorse that the Chargers will need to make the playoffs. Nine times during the season he finished with more actual points than his projected points and out of those nine games he finished four of them with at least 10 points more than the projected points.
JONATHAN TAYLOR / TRUST FACTOR RATING 7.8
- Taylor led the way for Running Backs in 2021. He was the perfect example of a workhorse back. He finished first in total yards with 1811 on 332 attempts with 18 touchdowns. His FPPG was also first with 20.8. On receiving he also added 360 yards with 2 touchdowns. He is currently rated the RB1 for the 2022 season and looks to be the Running Back with the most trust for managers looking to draft a top Running Back this year.
- This will be Taylor’s third year in the league and with the addition of Matt Ryan as Quarterback , it will be interesting to see if the game script changes this season and the Colts give Ryan the opportunity to throw on downs that before , Taylor would be handed the ball for a run.
- Looking at my trust factor rating, Taylor is only .1 behind Ekeler for this season. I can’t see the Colts getting too far from the game script that they had in 2021. Taylor will be the key for the run game this season and as long as he stays healthy we should see another outstanding year from the running back.
DERRICK HENRY / TRUST FACTOR RATING 6.8
- 2021 was going well for Henry till week 8 of the NFL season when he had a fracture in his foot that took him out till the playoffs. Before the fracture he had 937 yards on 219 attempts with 10 touchdowns. He was on pace to break the NFl rushing record. He had an average of 23 FPPG.
- The Titans have made no major changes so far during the off season that would make us think that their game script will change during the 2022 season. The run is the main part of the Titans offense. In 2019 they were 3rd in rushing with 2223 yards , in 2020 they were 2nd with 2690 yards and last year they were 5th with 2404 yards. So, knowing all that ,it just looks like Henry will be the centerpiece of the Titans’ run game.
- By the time the season gets under way , Henry will be 29 years old. Being a Running back is a young man’s game but in the case for Mr. Henry, he keeps getting better with time. I wouldn’t hesitate taking Henry in a minute. Looks like he still has plenty of gas in the tank for another strong run this year. I trust that this year he will be a workhorse looking to take the NFL rushing record.
JOE MIXON / TRUST FACTOR RATING 6.7
- This past season was the best Mixon has had since coming into the NFL. He finished the season as RB3 with 1205 yards rushing on 292 attempts with 13 touchdowns. He also had 314 yards receiving on 48 targets and 3 touchdowns. No wonder his team made it all the way to the Super Bowl in 2021. He had 16.7 FPPG and ranks at #7 (ECR).
- Mixon will be the lead back again in the Bengals offense for this season. With the additions to strengthen the offensive line , the Bengals look to make sure Mixon will be a more valuable weapon as the team looks to stay atop of the AFC North.
- When it comes time to the draft and you are in the back half of the draft order, it’s always nice to know that there are good Running Backs available to you before they all get picked. Mixon might be one of those gems that slip right to you. If you are picking seventh or later and Mixon comes to you, trust that getting him late in the first round could be one of the best things to happen to you in your draft.
CHRISTIAN McCAFFERY – TRUST FACTOR RATING 5.8
- After a very disappointing year for McCaffrey managers, they hope to bounce back with a season of redemption in 2022. Only into the third game of 2021 and CMC went down for 6 weeks. Then, after only four more weeks he was down for the season. But, during the seven games he played, he averaged 15.6 FPPG, rushing 99 times for 442 yards and one touchdown. He had 343 yards receiving on 41 targets with one touchdown. This year, he ranks at #5 (ECR).
- Lots is up in the air with the Panthers this season. The biggest question is who will be the Quarterback for Carolina? Do they draft one – or trade the first round pick for someone that has experience to lead the team? However this plays out could also determine where CMC goes in your draft. As much as I like him, my confidence with a rookie Quarterback may slip a little on CMC. But not much – he will be the centerpiece to the offense and be getting the most touches of any player on the Panthers this season. After all, he did quite well with Sam Darnold behind centre for the first two games of the season -where McCaffery’s FPPG was 23.2 and 22.2!
- Regardless, McCaffrey hopes to recover and have another great season like he did in 2019, when he averaged 25.8 FPPG. When looking at CMC you know one thing, he will give it all he has. He will be 26 by the time the season starts this year but no matter who they have as Quarterback, CMC will bring his style of game. And, if he stays healthy, and you trust your gut, you might find yourself on top of your fantasy league at the end of the season.
DON’T WORRY, DRAFT HAPPY
Running backs are always a premium. Often, having one of the top ones is a must if you want a chance at winning your league.
But, don’t despair if you don’t get one of the top ones. If you take a look at the top 12 Running Backs and look at the FPPG from last year, 7 points separate first from twelve. And only 3 FPPG separate third from twelve! So during your draft there is always room to recover.
Good Luck in your draft!!