Bust RB Candidates for 2022 Fantasy Football


You can’t win your fantasy football league during the draft, but you can lose it.

Avoiding potential busts is crucial to any fantasy success, as it can be very difficult to recover from disappointing player performances. It is obviously early, but let’s take a look at some potential bust candidates at the running back position for the 2022 NFL season.


(Check out more: QB Sleepers | QB Busts | RB Sleepers | WR Sleepers | WR Busts | TE Sleepers | TE Busts)

Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

Elijah Mitchell was the breakout star at the running back position last year, rushing for 963 yards and five touchdowns on 207 carries. He passed fellow rookie Trey Sermon on the depth chart during the preseason, and when Raheem Mostert suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1, it was Mitchell, not Sermon, who took over as the 49ers’ lead back. Mitchell missed some time, playing just 11 games but when he was active, he was the clear lead back, averaging 18.8 carries per game on an offense that ran the ball 48.3% of the time, the fourth-highest rate in football. He has clearly carved out a role in one of the most fantasy-friendly offenses for running backs, but entering the 2022 campaign, I have some reservations.

For starters, this is still the San Francisco offense led by Kyle Shanahan. What do I mean by that? Well, for years, this offense has had multiple running backs play a factor. In fact, they have had a different leading rusher in each of the last five seasons (Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Mitchell). And while Sermon didn’t deliver as a rookie, the team is reportedly still high on him, and he’ll be more prepared entering his second season. Mitchell averaged nearly 19 carries per game last year, but I’d take the under in 2022. Don’t forget, you also have to consider how involved Deebo Samuel was in the entire offense, especially the running game. Samuel averaged around four carries per game on the year, but that involvement increased as the season progressed. From Week 11 on (including the playoffs), Samuel was responsible for around 24% of the team’s rushing attempts, and there is no way they stop giving him the football after his incredible 2021 season. 


There is also the potential change in quarterback that will impact this offense. We have heard plenty of trade rumors surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo — while a trade hasn’t happened just yet, if we do see Trey Lance at quarterback for this team, we will see a lot more designed quarterback runs. Lance played meaningful snaps in three games last season and during those contests, the rookie QB averaged 10.3 rushing attempts per game. And of his 31 rushes during those games, 19 were designed. So if Lance is under center this season, Mitchell could be competing with three different players for carries (or more, the team just brought back Wilson as well). Between that and the fact that Mitchell doesn’t offer much as a pass-catcher (19 receptions, 13.7 routes per game), I’ll likely avoid Mitchell on draft day.

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott was a polarizing player last season. He played injured for much of the season but didn’t miss a game, which helped him finish as the RB7 in PPR formats. But on a per-game basis, Elliott was just the RB15, as his efficiency continues to fall. He’s been under 4.5 yards per carry in each of his last two seasons, while the explosive runs have fallen off a cliff. Despite playing all 17 games last year, Elliott finished with just six runs of 15 yards or more, which tied for 28th among all running backs. Zeke also ranked just 43rd among qualified running backs in yards after contact per attempt (2.73). It is completely fair to wonder if Elliott is reaching that point of a running back’s career where they begin to break down and again, while he didn’t miss any games last year, he should have. 

We also saw Tony Pollard look much more explosive, as he recorded five more runs of 15-plus yards than Elliott on over 100 fewer rushing attempts. While it seems extremely unlikely that Dallas just starts playing Pollard over Elliott, there is a chance of more of a split backfield, especially with Elliott getting older. I still believe Elliott sees strong volume but with the efficiency dropping as of late, if his workload does drop it all, that could really make an impact. He is no longer a sure-fire top-five fantasy running back, and it’s fair to wonder if he even belongs inside the top 10.

Miami Dolphins RBs

Miami had one of the worst rushing attacks in football last season, as just over 30% of the yardage from this offense came on the ground, one of the lowest rates in the NFL. Meanwhile, only the Steelers, Falcons and Texans averaged fewer rushing yards per game than the Dolphins (92.2), while they only generated 1.2 yards before contact per attempt (fifth worst). The Dolphins certainly are making every effort to revamp and unlock this offense, bringing in head coach Mike McDaniel, who clearly knows what an elite running game looks like from his time in San Francisco. But the team also added Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert and traded for Tyreek Hill at wide receiver. So now you have three running backs (Edmonds and Mostert join holdover Myles Gaskin) in an offense that still may not run the ball all that well. You’d expect Edmonds to be the pass-catching back in this offense, he’s now competing for targets with Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who both will operate in similar areas of the field as Edmonds. Things can certainly change, but as of right now, this is a backfield I am certainly looking to avoid.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

Since being selected at the end of the first round in 2020, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been a massive fantasy disappointment. CEH has clearly already been a bust, but if you are looking for a third-year breakout in 2022, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Kansas City already underutilized him before, but now it sounds like the team will likely be adding Ronald Jones to the backfield in free agency. Through his first two NFL seasons, Edwards-Helaire has accumulated a whopping 10 goal-line carries. It is possible the Chiefs finally give him more goal-line work (especially with Darrel Williams presumably gone as a free agent), we just haven’t seen it. In 2021, Edwards-Helaire saw stacked boxes on a league-low 8.4% of his carries and during his rookie season, that number was at just 9.39%. It is fair to wonder if opposing defenses start stacking the box a bit more with Tyreek Hill no longer taking the top off the defense. 

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