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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Shawn Childs

Top 5 RB2 Cheats: Dillon, Pollard Offer Value

A significant part of winning in fantasy football is making challenging lineup decisions. Some of the best fantasy managers in the high-stakes market overcome coin flips on Sunday by drafting teams that are strong at wide receiver. The goal is to identify a front-line edge at running back, followed by a high-floor stable of wide receivers. By doing this, they expect to cheat the RB2 position while eliminating many mistakes with wideouts in most weeks. At the same time, their depth helps set a higher floor at wide receiver in bye weeks. As the season progresses, they hope to improve their options at their second running back position, leading to an exceptional starting lineup late in the year.

As of mid-August, here’s a list of the top five running backs drafted that are ranked outside the top 20:

Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/USA TODAY Network

AJ Dillon, Packers
Heading into 2021, Dillon had the appearance of a big, power back with a higher ceiling in scoring. Surprisingly, he ended the year with 34 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns, outlining a more complete player for the Packers and fantasy teams. In the offseason, Dillon continued to work on his pass-catching. Additionally, Green Bay lost Davante Adams to the Raiders, creating an uptick in receptions to their running backs.

Fantasy Take: This season, Dillon looks positioned to insert himself as the Packers’ top goal-line runner with an easy floor of 250 touches. If Aaron Jones has an injury, his opportunity pushes him to RB1 status with a top 5 running back ceiling.

Tony Pollard, Cowboys
Despite coming into training camp in excellent shape and the Cowboys continuing to say they want to give Ezekiel Elliott the lion’s share of running back touches, Pollard looks poised to have an increased role in 2022. He finished last season with 169 touches with a combined 1,056 yards, two touchdowns, and 39 catches while ranking 28th in running back scoring (162.6 fantasy points) in PPR leagues.

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Fantasy Take: His natural growth should be 13 chances a game in 2022. Dallas has questions at WR2 and WR3 early in the season, with Michael Gallup coming off a torn ACL injury and Jalen Tolbert looking to make his mark in his rookie season. The Cowboys expect to get Pollard more involved in the passing game. However, his ceiling in scoring won’t be impactful with Elliott still on the field.

Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
Damien Harris led the Patriots in running back production (1,061 combined yards with 15 touchdowns and 18 catches) in his third season in the NFL, but fantasy drafters continue to select Stevenson in front of him in fantasy leagues. Early in the summer, it was evident that James White wouldn’t be in New England’s running back plans in 2022. Stevenson dominated in two games (20/100/2 with four catches and 19/107/2) last season when given starting touches.

Fantasy Take: The Patriots won’t hand Stevenson the full pass-catching opportunity early in the year, but he has the talent to seize an explosive role this year even with Harris healthy. His next step should be over 1,000 combined yards with a run at double-digit scores and a chance at 50 catches.

Rachaad White, Buccaneers
No one fought for Leonard Fournette in drafts last season, with many drafters expecting Ronald Jones to be the bell-cow runner in the Tampa Bay offense. In the end, Fournette delivered the sixth-best fantasy season (255.6 fantasy points) despite missing three games. Tom Brady trusted him in pass protection, and he rewarded Fournette with 69 catches for 454 yards and two scores while gaining only 6.6 yards per catch. White comes off an exciting season at Arizona State (1,452 combined yards with 16 touchdowns and 43 catches) over 11 starts.

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Fantasy Take: I never want to invest in a player after a high-ranking season. Fournette has talent, but White brings fresher legs with a pass-catching foundation. If Fournette has an injury, White looks poised to push for an RB2 season even in a split role. However, I don’t expect him to offer playable stats out of the gate, making White more of an upside RB4 on draft day.

James Cook, Bills
The combination of Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis gives the Bills the foundation of a top passing attack in the NFL. However, their missing link in the run game is an explosive player with game-breaking speed and ability. Cook brings a short college resume (230/1,503/14 with 67 catches for 730 yards and six touchdowns) over 46 games, but he has the tools to offer back-breaking runs with an excellent skill set in the passing game. His challenge to secure a third-down role is pass blocking, something that looks to be trailing coming into the NFL.

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