As NFL fans brace themselves for the slow months of the offseason, best ball drafts featuring some of the top rookies are taking place by eager fantasy football managers. With the NFL Draft not long ago and rookie minicamps taking place, which 2022 NFL rookie running backs could be valuable during your fantasy football best ball draft?
Which rookie RBs could you draft for Best Ball in 2022?
The 2023 rookie class of running backs is quite a step down from some of the recent classes. Add in some unfavorable landing spots along the way, and it becomes challenging to find rookie running backs who significantly impact your best ball team in 2022.
However, that is not to say they do not exist. Given how the format favors upside rather than weekly consistency, there are some rookie running backs sliding in drafts that could prove to be worthwhile picks when on the clock in your 2022 best ball draft.
Breece Hall, New York Jets
Let’s start this off with a more obvious name. The RB1 in the vast majority of rankings, both fantasy and NFL, Breece Hall was the first RB selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, coming off the board at No. 36 to the New York Jets.
Hall instantly comes in and dethrones Michael Carter off the No. 1 spot on the depth chart despite Carter playing very well as a rookie last season. With that said, everything Carter can do, Hall can do just as well, if not better. Although this will be a touch on the committee side, Hall carries 250+ touch upside as Carter absorbs the work of both Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson. Hall is closer to a back-end RB2 given the landing spot, but of the 2022 rookie class, he has the best chance to be an impact player for your best ball lineup.
Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks
From a pure rushing standpoint, Kenneth Walker III is the best of the class. Following a breakout performance at Michigan State, the 2021 Walter Camp and Doak Walker Award winner came off the board at No. 41 to the Seattle Seahawks.
Walker is in an intriguing spot. For one, this is not the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks we have grown accustomed to. It is the Drew Lock show. Add in the subpar roster, and Seattle’s offense lessens Walker’s upside in 2022. Also, who is the RB1? Is it Walker or Rashaad Penny?
Healthy for the first time seemingly since 2018, Penny went on a tear at the end of the 2021 season, rushing for over 130 yards in four of the final five games, finishing as the RB1 in fantasy over this stretch (19.6 PPR/game). Penny did receive a one-year contract in the offseason to keep him around, but injuries are a concern.
Not to mention Chris Carson is still in town. Once one of the most underrated backs in the league and fantasy, Carson’s season-ending neck injury is a massive concern. How much work will he receive this season? More than likely, an injury or two will reset this backfield. Based on the track record of Penny and Carson, Walker could find himself in a 16+ touches-per-game role if either/both are unable to suit up.
James Cook, Buffalo Bills
Truth be told, I was not high on James Cook heading into the NFL Draft. His game film at Georgia is impressive in some areas, but he is not the complete back like some want to make him out to be. If not for his last name, I can’t help but wonder if those comparisons to Dalvin Cook would still be mentioned.
However, draft capital must be factored in as well as the landing spot. It’s hard to beat second-round draft capital (No. 63) and be on the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills. Cook is by far the best pass-catching RB of this class. Not only can he come out of the backfield, but time and time again, we saw Cook out wide, running a stop-and-go or a comeback to beat the corner or nickel who rotated during the pre-snap motion.
He is another weapon for Josh Allen to utilize. The downside of this landing spot is the RB roles are split between two, maybe even three players. Devin Singletary is still the No. 1 and will be handing most of the two-down carries plus some receiving work. Cook projects to be a passing-down focused RB, which is great for PPR, but he will struggle for reliable goal-to-go carries. Singletary will be involved, as will Duke Johnson Jr. and even Zack Moss. Not to mention Allen is always a threat to keep it himself.
If I take a shot on Cook in a redraft format in 2022, best ball is where I want to do it. The format helps mitigate the weekly risk of relying on Cook’s utilization and potentially low floor. If an injury were to happen to Singletary, Cook will be the RB1 of arguably the NFL’s top offense. At worst, he is Allen’s checkdown weapon. Likely an RB4 in 2022, there is a path for RB2 upside for Cook. That alone makes Cook a rookie running back I want to take a shot on for best ball leagues in 2022.
Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans
I know, a Houston Texans running back. However, I would not be so quick to dismiss the landing spot as the opportunity sitting in front of Dameon Pierce is one of the best for any rookie RB in 2022.
After using a plethora of backs last season, Pierce has a shot to be the starting running back out of the gates. I feel Marlon Mack likely has the nod, but Pierce should be in the conversation. The only reason Pierce fell in the draft (pick No. 107) is that Florida, for some reason, opted to hardly use him. It certainly is not due to talent, as Pierce is a bowling ball with extreme contact balance and enough speed to break one loose. Pierce is currently being selected as the RB41 in best ball drafts, 12 spots ahead of Mack.
Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons
Along with Houston, the Atlanta Falcons were a team with a rather vacant opening for the RB1 position. Sure, Cordarrelle Patterson is coming off a breakout season, but they need someone else in the backfield. Especially someone who can be a two-down back and get those tough yards.
Luckily for them, Tyler Allgeier can do just that. A bruising running back, Allgeier appears to be in line for the No. 1 spot, especially after the team released Mike Davis. Patterson is one of the few weapons on this offense, making the selection of Allgeier critical as it keeps Patterson’s role flexible for head coach Arthur Smith.
Allgeier likely takes a hit in PPR formats given his profile, but if he surprises us, there is a path to targets, as Davis was 11th in targets for the position in 2022 (58).
While I doubt Allgeier brings a ton of weekly upside given the state of the Falcons, his RB45 ADP makes him a worthy mid-round addition to a running back room.
Tyrion Davis-Price, San Francisco 49ers
Was I in love with Tyrion Davis-Price’s game film? Not really. He was a solid rusher at LSU, but I wouldn’t say he blew me away. Apparently, he impressed the 49ers’ front office as they surprised many by selecting Davis-Price with the No. 93 overall pick.
This is a pure best ball upside pick. I love Elijah Mitchell and especially his workload, as he recorded 16+ carries in nine of 11 games last season. What I don’t love is the number of times he missed games due to smaller injuries. For the first time, Kyle Shanahan ran a primarily one-back scheme. After watching Mitchell go down a few times too many, does he do it again in 2022?
Davis-Price is right in the mix with Jeff Wilson Jr. for the No. 2 job in what has proven to be a value backfield to target for fantasy. I certainly wouldn’t be holding my breath waiting for Trey Sermon to emerge. I’ll take a few chances with Davis-Price as a rookie running back worth drafting in best ball in 2022.
Keaontay Ingram, Arizona Cardinals
Keaontay Ingram struggled to get much done at Texas, opting to transfer to USC for one last season. I’d say it worked out as we saw a different back in 2021. The 6’0″ and 221-pound RB rushed totaled over 1,000 yards in his final year. He then showed his speed at the NFL Combine, running a 4.53 40-yard dash which is solid for someone of his size.
Although he went in the fifth round, there is upside here. James Conner is coming off a sensational season in which he scored 18 touchdowns as the RB5. With Chase Edmonds out of town, Conner is the unquestioned workhorse RB in Arizona. But can he stay healthy the whole season? Injuries have been a concern for Conner, especially when workloads increase. He has the size to handle it, just not the track record.
Behind Conner is Eno Benjamin, a seventh-rounder from 2020. But with 41 career opportunities, if anything were to happen to Conner, would they turn to Benjamin? He lacks the size of either Conner or Ingram at 5’9″ and 207 pounds. We likely see a similar game plan to last season, with either Conner or Ingram the rusher and Benjamin in the “Edmonds” role. Based on the injury history of Conner, lack of proven depth, and a high-powered offense, keep a close eye on Ingram, who is currently coming off the board past pick 200 in best ball drafts.
Isaiah Spiller, Los Angeles Chargers
It seems like bashing Isaiah Spiller is the popular thing to do, saying he is not that good of a running back. I’ll tell you right now, you are not going to hear that out of me. From a pure film standpoint, he is one of the best in this class. Footwork, vision, contact balance, receiving upside, it’s all there. The only thing lacking is the home-run speed, but if you watched his film at Texas A&M, you knew this already.
Sure, his 4.64 40-yard dash was on the slow end, but contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to run a 4.3 to play in the NFL. Spiller will not have breakaway plays, but he will have a role. Being the RB2 for the Los Angeles Chargers is a pretty darn good role. He is stuck behind Austin Ekeler, but as a complementary back, Spiller is set to succeed in one of the best situations and behind one of the best OLs in football.
Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rachaad White was my first running back draft crush of this class. Everything about his game I love. Everything except for his contact balance as a guy his size (6’0″ and 214 pounds) goes down on soft contact far too often.
However, he brings a dynamic skill set with a second gear that pulls away once he sees daylight and has proven pass-catching ability. Leonard Fournette is unquestionably the top dog in Tampa, especially after signing a three-year extension in the offseason. The No. 2 is up for grabs following Ronald Jones’ departure for Kansas City. He’ll compete on Day 1 with Ke’Shawn Vaughn for the primary backup role, as Giovani Bernard is likely to remain the third-down/two-minute drill back.
White’s RB43 current ADP might be a touch higher than I would like to pay, but if looking for a potential rookie RB steal, White might very well be your guy in 2022 fantasy best ball drafts.