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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Charles Curtis

Fantasy football RB tiers 2022: From the first-round locks to intriguing sleepers

We’ve given you some running back rankings and some sleepers at the position to check out.

So now it’s time to help you out by breaking RBs into tiers, a really good exercise for fantasy football leagues both with snake or salary cap drafts. When is there a dropoff at the position as the draft goes on? Who’s elite and who might have some flaws?

This should hopefully help at the position that has so much volatility, whether it’s due to running back time shares or health or offensive lines.

So let’s break them down by tier, starting with the elite names:

Tier 1: The elite, safest picks

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

1. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

2. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

3. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

4. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

5. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

The cream of the crop. If you’re in a PPR league, Ekeler is more valuable than Henry, but generally, if you’re in the first five picks, you can’t go wrong with any of these guys.

Tier 2: Solid, with room for more

(AP Photo/Don Wright)

6. Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

8. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

9. D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

10. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

I like Harris as a contender to get into the top tier, and the rest are perfectly good RB1 types, many of whom who catch passes or who run behind elite offensive lines (like Chubb).

Tier 3: A whole lot to like, but ...

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

11. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

12. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

13. Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

14. James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

The group where you start to poke holes in their resumes. Jones is so good but has A.J. Dillon around. Barkley is in a questionable offense and is coming off of a rough season post-injury. Fournette may be sharing carries with others. Can Conner really repeat 2021?

I’d be fine rostering any, but there are concerns.

Tier 4: Upside galore, but will there be time shares?

Credit: USA TODAY Sports

15. Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

16. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

17. Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

18. Breece Hall, New York Jets

Hmm. A group that could explode, or be in a frustrating 50-50 timeshare.

Tier 5: Could they emerge as RB2s?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

19. J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

21. A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers

22. Travis Etienne Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

23. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

Related to Tier 4, but I have concerns about each of them, whether it’s injury recovery (Dobbins), timeshare (Dillon and Etienne Jr.), or O-line (Montgomery).

Tier 6: I REALLY don't want to, but if I must ...

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

24. Damien Harris, New England Patriots

25. Antonio Gibson, Washington Commanders

26. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

27. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

All potential top backs with their teams, but so many flaws.

Tier 6: High-upside backups and fringe starters

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports 

28. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

29. Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks

30. Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns

31. Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots

32. Ken Walker III, Seattle Seahawks

33. Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

They could either take a bigger chunk of their team’s snaps or they could be sitting on your bench as you wait for clarity. Not the worst group, honestly!

Tier 7: If they drop, MAYBE I'm getting value?

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

34. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

35. Chase Edmonds, Miami Dolphins

36. Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

37. Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons

I’m not happy about any of them, but there’s value if they drop a lot.

Tier 8: Time to fill up the bench with some possible upside

 Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

38. Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans

39. James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

40. Darrell Henderson Jr. Los Angeles Rams

41. James Cook, Buffalo Bills

42. Michael Carter, New York Jets

43. Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles

Some sleepers, some possible names who could do more than we think.

Tier 9: Handcuffs galore

 (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) 

44. Jamaal Williams, Detroit Lions

45. Isaiah Spiller, Los Angeles Chargers

46. Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears

47. Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons

48. Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens

Any of these five could end up with the lion’s share of carries due to the guy in front of them missing games.

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