2022 Fantasy Football Tiers: Running Back


Running back fantasy football tiers are an important weapon in your arsenal. Instead of the rigid approach of fantasy football rankings, tiers allow you more flexibility on draft day, which is key to dominating your opponents. With a tier-based approach, you can see how each player stacks up at his respective position. 


To help you out on this front, I broke down my 2022 running back fantasy football tiers. You can use these as they are or move them around to create your own set of tiers.  Of course, don’t forget that you can check out more rankings and fantasy football projections..

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(Check out the positional tiers: Quarterback | Wide Receiver | Tight End | Overall)

Tier 1 – JT

Jonathan Taylor

Some years we don’t have a consensus at the top, but this isn’t one of them. It’s essentially Taylor, and then everyone else in 2022. He’s as durable as they come, saw a massive workload in a run-heavy offense, and came within shouting distance of 2,000 rushing yards last season. Don’t overthink this one. 

Tier 2 – Elite RB1s

Christian McCaffrey
Austin Ekeler
Derrick Henry
Dalvin Cook

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The real debate this year might be who comes in the No. 2 spot this year. McCaffrey has battled injuries in each of the last two seasons but has been fantastic every time he’s been on the field. Ekeler saw his workload increase in the red zone last season, but there are at least some questions as to whether the Chargers will manage his workload this year. Cook’s touchdown efficiency took a hit last year, but he remains a high-volume option in what should be a much more exciting Vikings offense this season. Henry was an absolute monster for the first two months of last season, but he’s now coming off a major injury and is entering his age-29 season.

Tier 3 – High-Ceiling RB1s

Najee Harris
Joe Mixon
D’Andre Swift
Alvin Kamara
Leonard Fournette

There are still some very interesting names at the position if you don’t end up with a top-six pick this year. Workload won’t be an issue for Harris, but his Steelers could struggle to move the football thanks to a suspect quarterback situation. Likewise, Mixon is the workhorse in a potent Bengals offense. While that isn’t how we’d describe the Lions, Swift’s heavy involvement in the passing game and explosive playmaking ability give him a lot of appeal. And sure, Fournette showed up a bit heavy in the offseason, but the Bucs are going to continue to feed him the rock in 2022. 

As for Kamara, his initial hearing is now postponed until Sept. 29. At that point, the case could be thrown out. If that happens, we’d likely see a suspension in the range of 2-4 games, effective immediately. Why not six games? Well, that number was thrown out there because of the felony charge he faces. No charge, no six-game suspension. However, if the case does proceed to trial, the league will wait until after that trial to issue a suspension. In the hurry-up-and-wait world of the law, it would be highly unlikely that the case takes place until at least very late in the season. And it’s much more likely that it doesn’t happen until after the season is over. In which case, Kamara would not face a suspension until next year. At this point, Kamara is looking like a fantastic value.


Tier 4a – Sexy RB2s with RB1 Potential

Saquon Barkley
Cam Akers
Javonte Williams
Breece Hall
Travis Etienne
J.K. Dobbins

There’s a bit of a running back dead zone after you get out of the second-round of 2022 drafts, but these three backs are appealing enough to target after the top-12 backs are off the board. Barkley has been a massive disappointment since his breakout rookie season, but he has essentially no competition for touches in the Giants’ offense. Akers made a remarkable return to the field last season and saw a massive 76 touches in the Rams’ four playoff games. Williams is poised for a breakout, but he will share the load with Melvin Gordon. Likewise, Etienne is a popular pick to make the leap this season, though his role in the Jags offense remains a question mark. Hall is the top rookie on the board and will likely be capped by a primarily early-down role for the Jets.

Tier 4b – Unsexy RB2s with RB1 Potential

Aaron Jones
Nick Chubb
James Conner
Ezekiel Elliott
David Montgomery

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Perception is key in fantasy football, and right now the overall view of this bunch isn’t especially great among the drafting public. The alternative name for this group is the “I have to take a shower after drafting him” tier. But sexy doesn’t win fantasy championships and there’s good value to be had with these players in the third, fourth and rounds. 

Jones was once a borderline elite fantasy option, but the Packers have made it clear that he’s in a timeshare with AJ Dillon. Likewise, Chubb splits the load with Kareem Hunt in Cleveland. Conner was one of the biggest fantasy surprises of last season’s stretch run, but he’s no stranger to injuries and is getting up there in age. Still, he’s the lead back with very little competition for touches. Likewise, Montgomery is the unquestioned lead back for the Bears. Of course, Chicago is one of the league’s worst offenses on paper entering the season. Elliott will split the workload with Tony Pollard, but he remains on the right side of the timeshare. 

Tier 5a – Unsexy Middle-Round RBs

Elijah Mitchell
Josh Jacobs
Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Miles Sanders

If you end up punting your second running back, this might be a good spot to start looking. All four of these backs sit right on the edge of RB2 territory. Mitchell was fantasy surprise last season and looks to be cemented in as the top back in San Francisco. Sanders achieved fantasy notoriety last season after failing to find pay dirt as a runner, but he’s positioned well as the lead back in Philly. While it’s yet to be see how the Chiefs backfield shakes out with Isiah Pacheco also in the mix, Edwards-Helaire is worth the risk given his extremely cheap price tag. As for Jacobs, he’ll likely again be limited to early-down work but should be used heavily there in what will likely be his final year with the Raiders.

Tier 5b – Questionable Committees

AJ Dillon
Chase Edmonds
J.K. Dobbins
Antonio Gibson
Damien Harris
Rhamondre Stevenson
Kareem Hunt
Devin Singletary
Tony Pollard
Rashaad Penny
Cordarrelle Patterson
Melvin Gordon
Brian Robinson
Raheem Mostert

Committees are no longer “dreaded” in fantasy football, but all these guys are in committee situations that put their respective fantasy values in question. Dillon, Pollard, Hunt and Gordon are all on the wrong side of their respective timeshares. Patterson isn’t really a running back in a conventional sense and may not lead his backfield in touches. Miami’s backfield is a complete enigma at this point in the offseason. While Edmonds looks like he’s the lead, all bets are off for now. Penny was a fantasy stud down the stretch last season, but you don’t draft one of the top backs in the class in Ken Walker if you don’t plan to use him. Singletary’s role seems somewhat stable in Buffalo, but he does figure to cede work on passing downs to James Cook. As for New England, the Patriots haven’t given much of an indication as to who will be their lead back. Drafting Harris or Stevenson is risky at this point. Robinson experienced a scary carjacking incident in which he was shot twice, but he’s already back in the Commanders facility and is trending in the right direction.


Tier 5c – Upside Rookies

Dameon Pierce
Kenneth Walker
James Cook
Tyler Allgeier

Middle-round rookie running backs can often result in a fantastic return on your draft day investment, but these guys also require a lot of patience as they may not get off to the best starts. Pierce appears to have locked up the starting job in Houston after a strong camp performance. Walker figures to be behind Rashaad Penny while he recovers from hernia surgery to start the season, but his talent is tough to ignore. As for Allgeier, his workhorse profile positions him well to lead the Falcons’ backfield in carries this season.

Tier 6a – PPR Specialists

Nyheim Hines
Michael Carter
Kenneth Gainwell
J.D. McKissic

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These guys do most of their damage in the passing game. While they certainly get a nice boost in PPR scoring, keep in mind that their limited volume makes all five much more volatile fantasy options.

Tier 6b – Priority Handcuffs

Alexander Mattison
Isaiah Spiller
Jamaal Williams
Rachaad White
D’Onta Foreman
Samaje Perine
Hassan Haskins
Benny Snell
Deon Jackson

Fantasy football handcuffs in today’s fantasy football aren’t what they used to be. Two decades ago, you always wanted to ‘cuff your backs because the top running backs saw massive workloads. However, today, it’s rare for backs to see that sort of volume. Still, you’ll want to handcuff your backs if you get your hands on one of the top-10 options. 

However, if you do decide to handcuff your top backs, remember to commit to the ‘cuff. Far too often, fantasy managers will cut their handcuffs early in the season after the lead back doesn’t get hurt. However, just two seasons ago we saw Ezekiel Elliott miss Week 15 and Tony Pollard finish as the No. 1 back for the week in his stead. Pollard was drafted in nearly every league that year but was available in over two-thirds of leagues in Week 15. Far too many manages didn’t commit to the ‘cuff and were burnt in the process. If you draft a handcuff, be prepared to roster that player for the entire season.

Tier 6c – Non-Priority Handcuffs

Darrell Henderson
James Robinson
Khalil Herbert
Isiah Pacheco
Mark Ingram
Jeff Wilson
Zamir White
Darrel Williams
Boston Scott

Unlike Tier 6c, which are the handcuffs to most of the top 10 backs on the board in this year’s fantasy draft, this group represents the handcuffs to backs outside of the top 10. If you roster one of these guys it isn’t as essential to handcuff them, especially if you also have a top-10 back on your roster. 

Tier 7a – Secondary Handcuffs

D’Ernest Johnson
Trey Sermon
Tyrion Davis-Price
Chuba Hubbard
Jerick McKinnon
Ke’Shawn Vaughn

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There are also some additional handcuffs to toss into the mix in deeper leagues. At a position that has a high injury rate, it’s also a good idea to keep a running tab on the handcuffs around the entire league.

Tier 7c – Late-Round Avoids

Kenyan Drake
Gus Edwards
Matt Breida
Damien Williams
Myles Gaskin

These guys are going to be on the board in the late rounds, but there’s really no appeal to drafting them. The goal in the late rounds is to get as much bang for your buck as you can, and this group just doesn’t offer much in the way of upside.

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