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Top Backup Running Backs To Target in 2022 Drafts

One of the most crucial things a fantasy player can do is have the foresight to build a lineup that maximizes talent while also minimizing the risk of player injuries or holdouts.

Aside from that, understanding the way coaches operate their backfields in today’s NFL is crucial to fantasy football success. The increasing level of talent at the running back position combined with teams' reluctance to pay NFL runners have made it extremely popular to employ split backfields and running back committees.

Knowing which teams utilize a bell-cow running back (a player who handles a majority of the work in the backfield as a rusher and receiver) versus a committee approach (multiple players with defined workloads and roles) can be a massive advantage during a fantasy draft. Below, you will find a few rushers that are worth drafting even if they'll start the season with an RB2-or-deeper role in their franchise's offense during the 2022 season.

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Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (ADP 83.3)

Nothing surprising in featuring Tony Pollard in this type of column after he's steadily gone up and up in his fantasy/NFL career, right? Of course, Ezekiel Elliott will always trump Pollard when it comes to overall volume (yes, that is both on run and pass plays), but Pollard will keep playing a heavy role on Dallas' backfield and even more as Elliott starts aging older and thus bringing more doubts to Dallas' table in terms of his conditioning and health. Will both rushers hurt each other? Perhaps a bit, but the minute Elliott gets injured (if that happens, which is not guaranteed), then Pollard would become a bona fide league-winning player for the price of a second-tier RB.

PFF projections have Dallas' pair as the fourth-best backfield of the 2022 season if things go according to their equations. Although it sounds ridiculously hard to pull off, the balance is quite even between Tony's and Zeke's projections with the former projected to 175 FP and the latter to 232. As I said, having such balanced workloads (Elliot is projected to 202 carries to Pollard's 157, and 65 targets to the RB2 47) would turn both Elliott and Pollard into RB2 (top-24) rushers at best in 2022. Now imagine what we could be talking about if Elliott misses, say, around five or six games next season--or even more!

Pollard had his best season as a pro in 2021, putting up career-high marks in carries (130), rushing yards (719), targets (46), receptions (39), and receiving yards (337). There is nothing in the way between Pollard and an RB2 finish and the upside is even higher than that if Elliott happens to miss any time at all.

 

AJ Dillon, Green Bay Packers (ADP 73.1)

Green Bay's backfield has stayed put and that's probably the best thing the Packers could hope for, even more considering how things went at other positions this past offseason. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are a ridiculously productive pair while keeping things uncannily balanced on the field. While Jamaal Williams was the Robin to Jones' Batman until he left for Detroit, Dillon became the bonafide RB2 of the Pack last season and I don't think Green Bay regrets handing him a heavy role at all. Dillon rushed the ball 187 times to Jones' 171 (albeit on two more games played) and also got 37 targets catching 34 (!) of them; all in all, it was an RB23 season for Dillon, averaging 10.9 FPPG in PPR leagues to go with Jones' RB12 finish at 15.3 FPPG.

PFF has Green Bay's backfield projected to the third-most PPR points scored next year with a balanced 236 FP coming from Jones and 172 more from Dillon. The underlying numbers tell a similar story, with Jones and Dillon having a 41%-38% rushing attempt share projection and an 11%-8% target share in PFF's latest projection update.

Those projections don't depict players devoid of context. In other words, if Aaron Jones gets injured this summer (football Gods, if you're there listening, please don't let that happen), then PFF would project Dillon to absorb Jones' production. I'm not saying he will at any point through next season, but starting from a baseline of 172 PPR points and adding even just a third of Jones' projection (around 165 PPR points) would have Dillon scoring 250+ PPR points next season and there is only one sentence able to describe that type of outcome: potential RB1 at the price of a low-end RB2.

 

Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns (ADP 89.3)

Cleveland will feature, for another season, a pair of RB1-A/RB1-B players in their backfield. That's because both Hunt and Nick Chubb are staying in the CLV at least for the 2022 campaign. PFF sees both rushers as legit RB2/RB3 threats with Chubb leading the way in opportunities (257 to Hunt's 157) and fantasy points projected (210 to 155). That's a reasonable thing, as are these two current ADP figures of 22.4 and 89.3 OVR, respectively.

Chubb's price has him a little bit overvalued for his expected production (projection of an RB15 finish next season) but if Hunt's ADP stays around 90, then he will stay a massive overperformer and under-the-radar steal (projected top-75 finish). In the past three seasons, Chubb has been the RB8, RB11, and lastly RB13. Hunt the RB47, RB10, and RB49. There is an obvious difference easy to spot right there, but most of those two stinky seasons by Hunt are because of missed time.

Looking at these two from a per-game perspective, though, things are much closer as Hunt has averaged 13.4 FPPG to Chubb's 16.2 while on a very lower opportunity share. Not saying that will change or that Chubb will get injured for a long period of time (he's missed four and three games in the past two seasons, though), but even if nothing bad pops up on Chubb's 2022 season, Hunt will still be a very capable RB2 to have around. PFF has Hunt projected to an 8.1% target share among his teammates, the 23rd-largest mark among all RBs eligible next season. He projects for 42 targets and 270 receiving yards on 34 receptions for two TDs. His 1.72 PPR/opp projection ranks second-highest among rushers expected to get at least 40 targets in 2022.

 

Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts (ADP 142.8)

There is absolutely nothing stopping Jonathan Taylor from eating all opportunities, carries, targets, and bodies he can stomach entering 2022. After a great rookie season in which he finished as the RB6 already, he doubled-down (and then some) last year with a monster RB1 finish by the way of scoring 373.1 total PPR points over his 17 games played. Jesus Christ. Even then, though, Taylor only caught 40 passes for 360 yards and two receiving TDs. "Only".

Nyheim Hines, who has been around Indy for four years and counting, finished with very similar numbers on the receiving end as he logged 40 receptions for 310 yards and one TD. See the Taylor hidden inside this man!? Quite a stretch, but you know where I am coming from and what I want to say. I've always liked Hines in PPR leagues because he's a unique and very valuable asset in that format.

Hines, as PFF projections see him, is expected to enter the RB3 realm easily with upside for an RB2 finish. His current ADP of 142.8 gets destroyed by the projection for an 86th OVR finish among all eligible players next season, and RB35 (with an ADP of  RB44!) Hines projects to 345 rushing yards and three TDs on a low/RB2 80 carries, but his projections for the passing game sit at 45+ receptions on nearly 90 targets for 350+ yards with two receiving TDs. Those are not crazy numbers considering we're just two seasons removed from an 89/380/3 (rushing) and 76/63/482/4 (receiving) season from Hines, so it could very well happen for him once more in 2022.



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