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NFL Running Back Depth Charts Analysis: AFC South and AFC East

Travis Etienne Jr. fantasy football rankings draft sleepers running backs

Today we're looking at the fantasy football running back depth charts for the AFC South and NFC East. The regular season is right around the corner and each team's depth chart is mostly complete! Before diving into the fantasy season, RotoBaller has you covered with some last-minute running back depth chart recaps for each team, including some useful bits of analysis for players you want to keep on your radar.

Please note that the charts below are based on individual team depth charts and come from RotoWire's projected starting units. The DCs project the real-life pecking order expected to be used by head coaches at the respective franchises, not where RotoWire projects those players to finish in fantasy leagues.

Here are the current preseason depth charts at running back for teams in the AFC South and AFC South divisions.

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Fantasy Football Depth Chart Takeaways: AFC South

 

Bet on ghosts, eyes closed: Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars

If you know me, then you know I'm definitely not the ultimate Travis Etienne lover. Not because I don't rate him, nor acknowledge his talents, nor anything that goes against him personally or as a player, is what I'm saying. But the fantasy community went a little bit nuts about this guy and what he might do and I never bought into it.

I'm still not quite doing it, but looking at this division and trying to find value at the RB position he surely looks like a legit draft pick for the 2022 fantasy campaign, if nothing else only because of his ground-low ADP of RB20.

That's correct. Etienne is getting off draft boards as the RB20 (42nd-overall pick) while projecting for a top-14 (nearly RB1) finish as PFF sees the redshirt rookie. Etienne projects for 226 PPR points over 17 games this season in Jacksonville, getting 200+ carries (almost 900 yards and six TDs) and also contributing 50+ receptions on a 60+ target diet with two touchdowns on his line.

That's fantastic production for the cheap price, all things considered. There was a lot of dreamy talk about how Travis will do this, how Travis can do that, and the projections seem to be on that line. The price, though, has gone a bit lower and that's something I definitely appreciate. With the ADP depressed this summer, Etienne is finally someone we all can "safely" target in our drafts, so don't pass on the chance.

 

Alternative value-play - Nyheim Hines (IND):

One of my favorite ever-backups, Hines is back at it making my columns for one more season. It is what it is, some things just never change. Nobody is moving Jonathan Taylor for the RB1 role in Indy and the RB1 finish in fantasy leagues without regard to the format you happen to play in. That said, the ADP of 1.1 and RB1 is definitely going to make Taylor a make-or-break proposition, so you better know the risks if you pay such a hefty price.

Hines, on the other hand, is a legit RB3/FLEX in the set-it-and-forget-it mold. He's the RB45 off the board while projecting to a better RB37 finish next year, almost into the RB3 realm as PFF sees him, and most probably a lock to getting there when all is said and done. Rex Burkhead (HOU) is the other player I'd like to name-drop here as a fantastic value, though there are more doubts in the Texans backfield in terms of who'll do what when it comes to the RB1/RB2/RB3 roles in that offense.

 

Fantasy Football Depth Chart Takeaways: AFC East

 

Best projection/value bundled into one man: Chase Edmonds, Miami Dolphins

As many as eight rushers from these four teams are projected to get 89+ carries in 2022 while seven of those eight are supposed to get 105+ over the year. That's insane depth. Not only that but also six rushers in this group project to get at least 20 targets next season. Again, ridiculous depth for a single division.

That said, though, there is not a single top-30 player in the AFC East, at least judging by PFF's latest run of projections. Edmonds, Breece Hall, Damien Harris, and James Cook all rank in the 31-to-36 range, but that's it. One has to assume someone will break into the RB2 realm, but the chances of any of those four hitting RB1-paydirt are low at best.

The Dolphins are going to boast a rather improved line while having a fully healthy Tagovailoa (at least when Week 1 kicks off) along with an entirely revamped backfield now featuring former Cardinal Chase Edmonds, injury-returnee Raheem Mostert, and Super Bowl champ Sony Michel.

Of course, Mostert and Michel are the real super-value plays here with ADPs of just 174th and 179th overall, but Edmonds is the no. 1 rusher of the Fins and his ADP of 98th (RB34) is quite cheap all things considered, as he projects to a nice-enough 156 PPR points in 2022, the highest figure among players in the division.

 

Alternative value-play - Damien Harris (NE):

Harris is limited in terms of his skill set (forget about seeing him active in pass plays) but he's also the one rusher in the division with the clearest path toward a clear-cut RB1 role in his team's offense. In fact, PFF has a 195-carry projection attached to his name in what they see as a potential 840+ yard rushing season.

Harris is still a bit expensive and boasts a negative ROI (ADP of RB27 vs. a projection of RB33) but he's the one with the safest floor among all tailbacks in this group. If Rhamondre Stevenson doesn't pull off a breakthrough campaign and starts strong, odds are Harris clearly surpasses the 200-carry barrier (PFF projects Stevenson to a rather-high 150 carries...) and goes on to score many more FP over the year.



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