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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Michael Fabiano

Fantasy Football One-Man Mock: Running Backs Rule

NFL fantasy draft season is in full swing, as managers are getting ready for upcoming drafts in an effort to achieve the ultimate goal: a 2022 fantasy league championship.

In the countless best-ball and mock drafts I’ve done, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: The running back position is going to be even more prominent than ever in the first and second rounds. What’s more, waiting on the position will no doubt end in a lot of headaches and confusion, as more and more backfield committees emerge. On the flip side, the depth at wide receiver continues to grow as teams lean heavily on the pass attack. We’ve also seen an influx of young talent at the position in recent NFL drafts.

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Now, let’s get to the real nuts and bolts of my latest one-man, 10-round mock draft.

This draft includes 12 teams and is based on a typical PPR scoring system. Each team used different “strategies” with their first three overall choices so you can see how the roster is built at the top. Notice, no team took a quarterback in the first three rounds.

(Note: You can view the draft picks per round in the spreadsheet below).

1.1. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts
2.12. Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens
3.1. James Conner, RB, Cardinals
4.12. DK Metcalf, WR, Seahawks
5.1. Mike Williams, WR, Chargers
6.12. Kenneth Walker, RB, Seahawks
7.1. Drake London, WR, Falcons
8.12. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Cardinals
9.1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
10.12. Raheem Mostert, RB, Dolphins

Notes: This team waited on a wide receiver until the fourth round, taking two running backs and a top-2 tight end instead. The backfield looks good with Taylor and Conner, and landing Walker in Round 6 could be a nice bargain. While the squad might lack an elite wideout for the first six games, it will have one once Hopkins returns from his suspension. Rodgers might not be as productive without his No. 1 wide receiver Davante Adams, but he’s still a nice addition as a low-end starting quarterback.

1.2. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
2.11. Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
3.2. Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals
4.11. Elijah Mitchell, RB, 49ers
5.2. Darren Waller, TE, Raiders
6.11. Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos
7.2. Gabriel Davis, WR, Bills
8.11. Matthew Stafford, QB, Rams
9.2. Russell Gage, WR, Buccaneers
10.11. Dameon Pierce, RB, Texans

Notes: Running back was the focus of this team in the earlier rounds, grabbing a trio in the first four picks. Henry and Barkley could combine to be a strong duo, while Mitchell will be a productive flex option. The team doesn’t have an elite wide receiver, but there’s a lot of upside in Higgins, Sutton, Davis and Gage. Plus, the addition of Waller gives this squad an advantage at the tight end position. Grabbing Stafford ensures solid quarterback play, and I also love the addition of Pierce in Round 10.

1.3. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
2.10. Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
3.3. Javonte Williams, RB, Broncos
4.10. Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers
5.3. Allen Robinson, WR, Rams
6.10. Amari Cooper, WR, Browns
7.3. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos
8.10. Dawson Knox, TE, Bills
9.3. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers
10.10. Darrell Henderson, RB, Rams

Notes: This squad went with three straight running backs, landing a very strong trio in McCaffrey, Jones and Williams. Herbert went in Round 4 before the team finally grabbed its first wideout in the fifth round (Robinson). Despite waiting, this team still landed some good receivers in both Cooper (if Deshaun Watson is under center for the Browns) and Jeudy. Knox is a decent add in Round 8, though I fear touchdown regression. This team could be very strong, but the dominoes must fall right.

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1.4. Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
2.9. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
3.4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
4.9. Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers
5.4. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
6.9. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
7.4. Dalton Schultz, TE, Cowboys
8.9. Melvin Gordon, RB, Broncos
9.4. Christian Kirk, WR, Jaguars
10.9. Jamaal Williams, RB, Lions

Notes: This team started with a pair of Chargers in Ekeler and Allen before grabbing a potential bargain in Elliott in the third round. Godwin is difficult to project since we don’t know when he’ll be back from a torn ACL, so this squad could have some early issues at wide receiver. That’s what happens when you grab a quarterback instead of a third receiver as “insurance” for Godwin in the fifth round. I like the selection of Schultz, but depth at running back and wide receiver could become a real issue.

1.5. Najee Harris, RB, Steelers
2.8. Nick Chubb, RB, Browns
3.5. Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers
4.8. Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans
5.5. Breece Hall, RB, Jets
6.8. Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
7.5. Chase Edmonds, RB, Dolphins
8.8. Russell Wilson, QB, Broncos
9.5. DeVonta Smith, WR, Eagles
10.8. Allen Lazard, WR, Packers

Notes: The draft started with a pair of running backs for this squad, landing two AFC North stars in Harris and Chubb. Grabbing the rookie Hall as a flex could pay dividends, and Edmonds is a nice No. 4 runner. I don’t love Johnson as a No. 1 wideout, but the group of D.J., Cooks, Thielen, Smith and Lazard isn’t bad at all. Wilson should be a nice option at quarterback near the end of the eighth round. Tight end will be a question mark for this squad though, as it didn’t draft one in the first 10 selections.

1.6. Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams
2.7. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
3.6. A.J. Brown, WR, Eagles
4.7. George Kittle, TE, 49ers
5.6. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens
6.7. Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals
7.6. Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles
8.7. Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Patriots
9.6. J.D. McKissic, RB, Commanders
10.7. Garrett Wilson, WR, Jets

Notes: This one is for all of you zero-RB folks, as the team went with three straight wide receivers and a tight end in the first four rounds. The result is a dynamic trio of wideouts who, along with Kittle, should be the bedrock of the roster. In typical zero-RB fashion, it was then all about finding potential bargains at running back. Dobbins could be a top-15 runner in Baltimore, and Sanders isn’t a bad No. 2 based on the strategy. Stevenson, one of my favorite running back sleepers, could bear fruit, too.

1.7. Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings
2.6. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
3.7. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Colts
4.6. Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
5.7. Marquise Brown, WR, Cardinals
6.6. Damien Harris, RB, Patriots
7.7. Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
8.6. Elijah Moore, WR, Jets
9.7. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
10.6. Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals

Notes: This squad didn’t wait four rounds for a running back, but it did go with three pass catchers in Jefferson, Kelce and Pittman Jr. at the top. The result of this sort of strategy, of course, is question marks in the backfield. That’s the case here with the trio of Jacobs, Harris and Pollard, who will need to exceed expectations for this team not to have issues at the position. I like Brown as a solid flex, at least while Hopkins is out, and Moore as upside as a No. 4 wideout. Prescott makes sense in Round 9.

1.8. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals
2.5. Tyreek Hill, WR, Dolphins
3.8. D.J. Moore, WR, Panthers
4.5. Antonio Gibson, RB, Commanders
5.8. Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Falcons
6.5. A.J. Dillon, RB, Packers
7.8. Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles
8.5. Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles
9.8. Jarvis Landry, WR, Saints
10.5. Michael Carter, RB, Jets

Notes: This team focused on wide receivers, grabbing three with its first three picks. That led to a solid trio of Chase, Hill and Moore, who will be the foundation of this team. Grabbing Gibson in Round 4 could actually be a solid bargain as the team’s No. 1 runner, though I view Patterson as more of a flex option than a No. 2 runner. I love grabbing Dillon as a No. 3 back, proving that you can still field a decent backfield even while leading with three wideouts. The Hurts-Goedert stack is also solid.

1.9. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
2.4. Deebo Samuel WR, 49ers
3.9. David Montgomery, RB, Bears
4.4. Terry McLaurin, WR, Commanders
5.9. Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
6.4. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Lions
7.9. Rashaad Penny, RB, Seahawks
8.4. Robert Woods, WR, Titans
9.9. Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers
10.4. Alexander Mattison, RB, Vikings

Notes: Grabbing Cook at No. 9 could be a potential steal, especially if the talented runner reverts to his 2020 form. Alternating backs and wide receivers in the first four rounds resulted in nice roster balance, and Jackson and Hockenson round out what should be a competitive starting lineup. The reserves also look good, though I like Penny more as a No. 4 back. Woods and Claypool could be good values based on their draft position and grabbing Mattison as a handcuff is a smart move as well.

TEAM 10 (RB, WR, RB)
1.10. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
2.3. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys
3.10. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
4.3. Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons
5.10. Darnell Mooney, WR, Bears
6.3. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Lions
7.10. Devin Singletary, RB, Bills
8.3. Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals
9.10. Kadarius Toney, WR, Giants
10.3. Ronald Jones, RB, Chiefs

Notes: This team’s backfield could be solid, depending on whether or not Kamara is suspended to start the season. I love Lamb in Round 2, and Pitts will serve as the de facto No. 2 pass catcher on the roster. Mooney is a low-end No. 2 wideout with upside, and we all saw how good St. Brown can be (although I fully expect target regression). Singletary isn’t a bad No. 3 running back or flex starter, and I like the selections of Toney and Jones as potential bargains. RoJo might even start in Kansas City.

TEAM 11 (WR, WR, WR)
1.11. Davante Adams, WR, Raiders
2.2. Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills
3.11. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Dolphins
4.2. Travis Etienne, RB, Jaguars
5.11. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs
6.2. Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns
7.11. Hunter Renfrow, WR, Raiders
8.2. Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers
9.11. James Cook, RB, Bills
10.2. Noah Fant, TE, Buccaneers

Notes: Yet another team in this draft went heavy on the wide receivers, and it led to a tremendous trio of Adams, Diggs and Waddle. The strategy followed up with three running backs, so the backfield isn’t as bad as it might be with a true zero-RB draft with Etienne, CEH and Hunt. Renfrow is a fine No. 4 wideout, and Brady is well worth an eighth-round pick even in his age-45 season (that’s just crazy). Cook is a good No. 4 running back in PPR, and waiting on a tight end still equated to landing Fant.

TEAM 12 (RB, RB, RB)
1.12. D’Andre Swift, RB, Lions
2.1. Leonard Fournette, RB, Buccaneers
3.12. Cam Akers, RB, Rams
4.1. Josh Allen, QB, Bills
5.12. Rashod Bateman, WR, Ravens
6.1. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
7.12. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Chiefs
8.1. Zach Ertz, TE, Cardinals
9.12. Chris Olave, WR, Saints
10.1. James Robinson, RB, Jaguars

Notes: The final team in the draft used a zero-WR strategy of sorts, as the first three picks were running backs and the fourth a quarterback. This backfield is stacked with Swift, Fournette and Akers, and Allen is the best signal-caller in fantasy land. The wide receiver position could be good, especially if Thomas reclaims elite status and Bateman meets expectations. Smith-Schuster could also be a nice No. 3 option, and Ertz is a solid starting tight end. Overall, this is one of my favorite teams in the draft.


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Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!

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