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Surprising Winners From The NFL Draft - Running Backs

james conner fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks

As an NFL player, it’s always inspiring to hear when your team has faith in you. After all, things like the draft are meant up to grab some young and rising talent, meaning veterans may get pushed down the depth chart or maybe off the team.

This past draft, many RBs were drafted in order to fill in RB1 and RB2 holes on some squads. However, not all teams did pick an RB and that shows they have faith in their current guys.

Here are several RBs who won the draft as their team didn’t draft a potential replacement or true threat to their role and thus they are set to lead their respective backfields. 

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

James Conner is slated to lead the Cardinals’ backfield in 2022, but this time without dual-threat Chase Edmonds by his side. Edmonds departed for Miami this season, clearing the way for Conner to get the lion’s share of touches.

An even bigger win for Conner is the fact that the Cardinals didn’t invest heavy draft capital into finding an Edmonds-type guy, instead drafting Keaontay Ingram out of USC in the sixth round. Ingram shouldn’t post much of a threat to Conner, as he didn’t even post one 1,000-yard rushing season in four college seasons between Texas and USC. 

Arizona did add Darrel Williams, a former Chief, this offseason, but Williams hasn’t been all that effective in his career, posting no more than 558 rushing yards and 452 receiving yards in his career and those were both last year. While Williams is expected to replace Edmonds, he isn’t as potent and is not even a true bell-cow back. 

When given opportunities, Conner has shown to be quite productive when healthy, often finishing well in many stat categories when ranked among other RBs.

2021 Productivity

With little competition for carries, Conner will be the true RB1 of this team and a good candidate to get a majority of the goal-line touches. He’s in the low-RB1 conversation for fantasy. 

 

Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

Though it seems the 49ers always have a crowded backfield, youngster Elijah Mitchell seems like the guy for the RB1 job heading into 2022. As you may remember, Mitchell took the league and fantasy world by storm early last season as a sixth-round rookie, posting 104 rushing yards in his NFL debut against Detroit and thus creating a bunch of fantasy hype around him. Though injuries did hold him out last season at times, the 24-year-old went on to amass four more 100-yard rushing games for a total of 963 rushing yards and five scores along with 19 receptions for 137 yards and a score on 20 targets in 11 games.

Mitchell ended up being the leading rusher of the team and it wasn’t even close as the second-best rusher was actually WR Deebo Samuel with 365 yards. Though Mitchell will face competition from guys like Jeff Wilson Jr. and Trey Sermon, neither was impressive last year and it’s hard to see them surpassing Mitchell on the depth chart.

In terms of the draft, San Fran took an RB in the third round, Tyrion Davis-Price out of LSU. Though the 21-year-old is coming off a 1,000-yard season in his final campaign at LSU, the RB was generally ineffective otherwise during his collegiate years, not amassing more than 446 rushing yards in the other two seasons. 

Davis-Price will likely be used in Kyle Shanahan’s offense this year, but it’s safe to say the rookie won’t start the season as the RB1 and it remains to be seen how effective he will be at the NFL level. 

Thus, Elijah Mitchell seems the clear-cut RB1 and is in the RB2 conversation heading into fantasy season (given he is and can stay healthy). 

 

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

Unlike the other two teams on this list, the Eagles flat out just skipped on drafting an RB, showing their faith in the guys they have now and Miles Sanders as the RB1.

QB Jalen Hurts did pace the team in rushing yards last year with 784 but that is because Sanders missed time due to ankle and hand injuries. Sanders still finished with 754 rushing yards and 26 receptions for 158 yards on 34 targets in 12 games though with no touchdowns which was disappointing. 

In 2022, the Eagles will run it back with Sanders as the lead guy, with Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott following him on the depth chart.

Neither Gainwell nor Scott had an impressive 2021 as each posted less than 400 rushing yards. On top of that, Jordan Howard, Sanders’ biggest competition for the team RB1 role, is now gone from the City of Brotherly Love which means Sanders is the true bell-cow back, no questions. 

As long as Sanders can stay on the field, he’s a low-end RB2 for fantasy heading into the season.



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