Fantasy Football’s Biggest Risers of 2022: Running Back


Drafting a bunch of players who return draft-day value is a great way to have a decent fantasy football season. Win a few games, maybe squeak into the playoffs, not hate your season.

Of course, we want more than that. Your job as a drafter is to find players who will exceed value, not just return it. So today, we’re looking for players who will exceed draft day value in 2022. Maybe that means a player drafted as a starter who could end up leading his position; maybe it’s a player taken late in drafts who can return starter value. Regardless, these are the players on the rise in fantasy football in 2022.


We covered quarterbacks Saturday; today it’s running backs. Year after year the fantasy community has to spin the roulette wheel when it comes to drafting running backs. Injuries plays a huge part when it comes to forecasting and predicting who could emerge as the year’s surprise RB1. Over the past three seasons, we have seen only four running backs repeat as an RB1 every year, along with five making the list twice. No one has repeated the feat of being the top running back in fantasy in almost 20 years. That large turnover it can be hard to predict who is on the rise, but that’s the task for today. 

Potential RB1 Finisher 

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon 2022 fantasy football running back risers

Last season, the Bengals took a huge leap forward as a team. With this came a huge uptick in the team’s offensive production. They improved their points per game almost 7 full points to 26.4, finishing ninth in the NFL. With this, many of the players produced great fantasy seasons — Joe Mixon included. His 287.9 PPR points had him RB4 in PPR scoring formats, and his 18.0 PPG placed him as the RB7. This was all behind an offensive line that ranked 17th and 25th in run and pass blocking, respectfully. This offseason the Bengals addressed this glaring issue, by adding three starters in La’el Collins (PFF run-block grade: 89.8), Ted Karras (67.1) and Alex Cappa (71.2). These additions will help Mixon improve on his 4.1 yards per carry from last season, along with helping him to improve on his career-high 1,205 rushing yards from last season. We can also expect the Bengals offense to only get better as a whole, resulting in more opportunities to score touchdowns in 2022 — something he did 16 times last season. In the latter half of the season and the playoffs, we also saw Mixon become a good target out of the backfield — he averaged 6 targets per game from Week 16 through the Super Bowl. As we look forward to 2022, with this increased passing work and an improved offensive line, a huge production jump is in store for Mixon. These anticipated career highs will help catapult him up to the RB1 in 2022. 

Potential Top-12 finishers 

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions 

As one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league, we have been clamoring at the bit to see D’Andre Swift explode for a huge fantasy season. This has yet to happen in his young career, finishing as the RB18 in 2020 and RB16 in 2021 in PPR scoring. This past season he saw an expanded role, setting career highs in attempts, targets, receptions, receiving and rushing yards. Unfortunately, his touchdown production decreased from 10 to 7 in 2021. Looking deeper at FTN’s advanced rushing stats tool, we can see that in 2021, he forced eight more missed tackles and produced eight more 10-yard runs than in 2020. These stats also show us that he was limited inside the 10-yard line in 2021, as his attempts dropped from 17 (2020) to 11 (2021). To sum all of these numbers and stats up, Swift was highly productive between the 20s last season in his 13 games. However, the lack of goal-line work was less about Swift and more about the Lions as a whole. In 2021 their red-zone scoring attempts dropped from 3.3 to 2.6 per game. After a solid offseason, the Lions offense is expected to be much improved, which will lead to more scoring opportunities for the uber talented Swift. If we see a whole 17 games from him, finishing as a top-12 option is a lock, and top-five is a reasonable outcome.

J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens 

As a rookie in 2020, J.K. Dobbins produced 805 yards, averaging six yards per carry and scoring nine touchdowns, all on a 30% snap share. On top of these solid rushing stats, he was also a terror in limited work in the passing game, producing 120 yards and averaging 6.7 per reception. After this great rookie campaign, many had high hopes for Dobbins in 2022, but those came crashing down when he tore his ACL in the preseason. Less than a week later, backfieldmate Gus Edwards also tore his ACL, leaving the Ravens down their top two running backs. The Ravens would go on to finish top three in rushing yards and top 10 in rushing touchdowns in 2021, all with a group of aging veterans at running back. This speaks volumes to the team’s ability to execute in the run game through their scheme and quality blocking. Looking forward to 2022, we should expect a heavy dose of the run game yet again, led by Dobbins and Lamar Jackson. Something else we should expect is more targets and receptions from the running backs. In 2021, the Ravens started to use the running backs more in the passing game, targeting them 67 times. With an increased workload on the ground and in the passing game, Dobbins will be able to eclipse 1,200 all-purpose yards for the first time as a pro. This will help him shoot up the fantasy charts, settling in the top 12 in 2022. 

Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos 

Javonte Williams 2022 fantasy football running back risers

As a rookie, Javonte Williams was a tackle-breaking machine, finishing in the top five in the league with 53. On top of this, per FTN’s advanced rushing stats tool, he produced 25 carries of 10-plus yards, nine of 15-plus (producing 228 total yards on those runs). In other words, not only does he have power to his game, he has the speed to break long runs as well. Working in a 50/50 split with Melvin Gordon, he produced over 1.200 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns, finishing as the RB15 in PPR scoring. This offseason, the Broncos made a huge trade to bring in Russell Wilson, which should be huge for the already talented Broncos run game. This huge improvement in the passing game will force defenses to lighten the box, allowing Williams more space to work. Also, he will have an opportunity to improve on his 31 red-zone carries and four touchdowns, due to the improved offense that will be more potent in 2022. An uptick in the passing game, will allow Williams to improve on his 53 targets from last season. With all of these factors, we can easily see a path to a huge season for Williams in 2022. The key factor will be Melvin Gordon and how much he will be involved/ If it’s similar to last season, Williams’ ceiling is capped and he’ll struggle to produce top-12 numbers. If there is even the slightest uptick in his usage, it will be easy for him to finish at the back end of the RB1 ranks, but if he sees a large uptick, a top-10 finish may be in store for 2022. 


Potential Top-24 Finisher 

James Cook, Buffalo Bills 

The Bills set out this offseason to add a pass-catching back. It started with agreeing to terms with J.D. McKissic before he opted to return to Washington. They went on to sign Duke Johnson, then doubled down by drafted George running back James Cook in the NFL Draft. Cook was arguably the best pure pass-catching back in the draft class. Last season, he had 284 receiving yards on 27 receptions, while scoring 4 touchdowns for the Bulldogs. He’s been labeled a pass-catching back, but he did total 1,500 rushing yards in his four years at Georgia. He did that on only 230 carries, equaling out to 6.5 yards per carry — pretty impressive for a “receiving back.” Last season, the Bills targeted the running backs 92 times, a 13.9% team share. Devin Singletary saw a majority of these with 50, which he turned into 228 yards and one score. Along with his 870 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns, Singletary found himself a top-24 fantasy running back. In 2022, Singletary is in danger of losing this role, he has found himself in the doghouse at times due struggling with fumbles throughout his career (11). Cook could find himself in the role Singletary played last season for the Bills quicker than many think. If he can win the role in camp, it’s a lock for Cook to finish as a top-24 fantasy running back, even possibly finishing as the fantasy producer in the 2022 rookie RB class. 

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