Heading into his third year in the NFL in 2022, Washington Commanders RB Antonio Gibson has shown the skills to be a high-level dynasty fantasy football talent with plenty of room to progress. After back-to-back seasons as a high-end RB2, can Gibson take that next step on his career path, and what should managers expect for the 2022 season?
Antonio Gibson’s dynasty profile for 2022
As a prospect in 2020, Gibson was a bit of a conundrum in rookie drafts. Given that he had seen just 33 touches at the running back position while at Memphis, it took some faith to believe he could make the leap to the NFL.
Gibson delivered in 2020 despite all the surrounding circumstances that come with a global pandemic, finishing as the RB13 while averaging 14.4 points per game. He was able to boost his stats thanks to his incredible knack for finding the end zone. At one point, he scored 7 touchdowns on 55 carries (Weeks 9 to 12).
2021 saw Gibson duplicate his success, as he once again finished as the RB13 in PPR formats. However, there was one major takeaway from Gibson’s campaign, and it largely surrounded fellow running back J.D. McKissic.
From Weeks 1 through 8, Gibson was the RB18 in fantasy, averaging 13.9 rushes, 2.6 targets, 73.3 yards, and 13.3 points per game. Yet, over the back half of the season (beginning in Week 10), Gibson was the RB6, averaging 16.7 ppg. What changed?
Well, in Week 12, McKissic sustained a concussion and did not return, allowing Gibson to take a stranglehold on the backfield and, perhaps more importantly, the receiving work. From Week 12 on, Gibson averaged 4.8 targets per game, along with 17.3 rushes, 95.5 yards, and 17.4 ppg. That is a significant increase. Dynasty managers have often felt Gibson was lacking in the passing game, but McKissic’s injury opened the door for more production.
The return of McKissic complicates Gibson’s future
All of this is relevant because McKissic decided to pull a fast one on the Buffalo Bills. After agreeing to sign with the franchise as a free agent, McKissic went back and re-signed with Washington in a move that clearly rubbed Bills GM Brandon Beane the wrong way.
For a brief second, it looked like Gibson would be one of the biggest winners of free agency. His stock was set to soar in dynasty. He was going to be the running back that some of us believe he can be, as we know the receiving capabilities are there given his time as a receiver in college. Yet, Gibson is once again in a committee with McKissic, with the latter gaining the more valuable opportunities.
Does this mean we should be out on Gibson? No, I don’t think so. His touchdown regression from 1 every 15 carries to 1 every 37 carries was expected. Yet, Gibson is still one of the league’s more capable backs. Plus, Gibson has shown he has RB1 upside anytime McKissic is unavailable to suit up. Even if new QB Carson Wentz is a lateral move from Taylor Heinicke, Gibson is a mid-to-low-end RB1 in dynasty.
Once we add the 2022 RB class, he’ll remain in the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 range. I have no issue holding onto Gibson. But if you have a manager who loves him and can use Gibson to take a swing on incoming rookie Breece Hall, who is likely a top-five dynasty RB today, go for it. That’s a risk I would be willing to take.
Fantasy projection for Gibson
With two similar seasons under his belt, Gibson’s production in Washington is a known commodity. Also, we know how the backfield will likely shake out. In neutral game situations last year (+/- 7 points), Washington was just below league average in terms of pace (28.6 seconds). When down by 8+ points, the Commanders barely sped up, snapping the ball every 26.9 seconds, 1.7 seconds slower than the league average.
Washington was just as conservative with its play-calling. They rushed on 46% of plays when neutral (23rd in the NFL) and 58% when leading by 8+ points (22nd). Even when in a negative script, Washington threw out the anchor. Their pass/rush split of 63%/37% marked a 7% difference from the league average.
What does it all mean?
That’s a bunch of numbers, but what do they mean? Well, it means no matter the game script, Gibson will be involved one way or another. Last season, even in a backfield split, he tied Joe Mixon for the second-most first downs in 2021. Gibson will lead Washington’s backfield, likely by a significant margin. In 2021, he saw a jump from his rookie season, going from 55% of the carries and 25% of the overall workload to 68% and 32%, respectively, on 57% of the snaps.
Given Washington’s more conservative play style, Gibson is in a prime position to have one of the higher opportunity counts — rush attempts plus targets — among RBs in fantasy (he was ninth in 2021 at 19.4 per game). I don’t see the Commanders pressing the gas pedal just because Wentz is now under center.
Gibson should once again be a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 in fantasy for the 2022 season. He is a worthy second-round pick. However, I would feel safer with him as my No. 2 RB rather than my top choice as McKissic does lower his ceiling.