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Fantasy Football

Best Rookie Running Back Fantasy Fits

  • Zach Cohen
  • May 2, 2022
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I’ll be completely honest with you: I don’t really love any of these fits. Too many questions linger either about the player’s potential role or shortcomings. As of now, there’s only one rookie running back I can see finishing as an ‘RB1.’ Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t have my favorite fantasy fits from a wild NFL Draft. I chose four that stood out to me the most and explained why they could make you a happy fantasy manager. Just don’t expect the next Jonathan Taylor or Austin Ekeler from this class—at least not this year. 

Stay tuned for my favorite wide receiver fits coming soon.

Kenneth Walker: Seattle Seahawks

Let’s get this out of the way: Walker will be my top rookie back. The only two reasons to not have him highly are a lack of proven receiving work and Rashaad Penny. So let’s dispel those reasons a bit. Walker only caught 13 passes last season, so his upside to be a top fantasy running back may seem limited. Luckily, Walker may see enough work to bypass any major shortcomings in the passing game. In each of the past ten seasons, the Seahawks finished below the league average in pass attempts. It’s no secret Head Coach Pete Carroll wants to establish the run. And you know what else the Seahawks had over the last decade? Quarterback Russell Wilson. Seattle’s downgrade to Drew Lock and Geno Smith tells me they’ll probably be running the ball more this upcoming season. Walker’s the perfect back to see 20+ carries, just like he did in college. As for Penny, he looked good in the final eight games of the season but can we really expect him to enter next season still on fire? Injuries and poor play have marred his career, thus far. Chris Carson is an afterthought now, too. Walker can be the consistent, bruising back the Seahawks have been craving since Marshawn Lynch retired and who knows, maybe Seattle schemes him more passes than Wisconsin did? Just because a running back wasn’t asked to catch passes doesn’t mean he can’t. The Seahawks’ additions of Charles Cross in Round 1 and Abraham Lucas in Round 3 are a nice bonus, too. This is a great situation for Walker. I can see him carving out a similar path in fantasy as Jonathan Taylor did: being a top fantasy running back thanks to an offense designed around running the football.

Breece Hall: New York Jets

At first, I was hesitant to put Hall on this list. But after further research, it seems like Hall can be a workhorse back for New York. Michael Carter—the Jets’ fourth-round running back from 2021–led the team’s backfield with 13.4 touches per game. That included eight games of double-digit carries and nine games of three or more targets. It’s not the greatest stat line, but Carter also missed three games with an ankle sprain. Keep in mind the Jets had the second-highest pass rate in football. While New York could still entertain pass-heavy rates, bad teams are normally forced to throw the football more than they like. The Jets arguably improved this offseason, which could mean more rushing attempts. Still, we all know the real money is made on passing downs. So even if Hall takes over as the Jets’ primary back, can he be a reliable pass-catcher? That remains up in the air. In Hall’s scouting report, Keith Sanchez defines Hall’s passing-down skills as inconsistent, though he notes Hall’s ability to be a serviceable check-down option. Hopefully, now you see why I was a bit reluctant to include Hall. The real reasons why I could like Hall in fantasy: an improved offensive line and draft capital. The Jets signed guard Laken Tomlinson and they’re getting back Mekhi Becton from injury (probably). George Fant was more than fine as a left tackle in Becton’s absence, too. As for draft capital, General Manager Joe Douglas spending a second-round pick on Hall a year after using a fourth-round pick on Carter tells me they’ll prioritize Hall over Carter. That’s enough to put Hall on my fantasy radar, though I admittedly prefer the other three situations.

Tyler Allgeier: Atlanta Falcons

Talk about a prime opportunity. Allgeier enters a running back room that features the underwhelming options of Damien Williams and Qadree Ollison. Mike Davis was recently cut, too. We can throw Cordarrelle Patterson in there, though one look at the Falcons’ wide receiver room and I think Patterson will get more looks out wide this season. There’s clearly a path for Allgeier to become Atlanta’s primary running back. While he’s not the most exciting pass catcher, Allgeier showed he can be an option on basic route concepts at BYU. But here’s where Allgeier‘s fantasy value becomes intriguing. We should expect the Falcons to run the ball a lot more this season than they did last season. The first indication of that is replacing quarterback Matt Ryan with Marcus Mariota. Mariota doesn’t have the cannon that Ryan does, so it makes sense Head Coach Arthur Smith will likely dip more into the run-centric playbook he and Mariota were familiar with at Tennessee. And even if the Falcons’ offense doesn’t prioritize the run game more, Allgeier still has the talent to stake his claim as Atlanta’s top back. Similar to Breece Hall, that opportunity alone can make him fantasy relevant.

Dameon Pierce: Houston Texans

If you’ve read my fantasy columns this offseason, then you know how I feel about Pierce. He’s a well-rounded, physical running back who should see the field early thanks to his plus abilities in pass protection and special teams. In fact, I already wrote about Pierce’s potential fit in Houston, and my sentiments remain the same. 

“Similar to the Falcons, the Texans haven’t done much to sort out their backfield. Perhaps that changes in the next coming months, but for now, they could use an influx of young talent. Houston isn’t the most attractive team for young running backs, so this really comes down to the massive opportunity for touches. With Mark Ingram and David Johnson not on the roster, nearly 22 touches per game are up for grabs. Unless of course, Rex Burkhead and Royce Freeman shoulder the load (yuck). Any rookie that Houston drafts instantly becomes the most promising running back on the team. That’s no exception for Pierce, even if he gets relegated to short-yardage work at first.”  

Pierce can be an early-down back with the possibility to see some third-down work. Does that make Pierce a must-grab in fantasy formats? No, not really. As much as I love Pierce as a prospect, I can’t see him ascending to the upper echelon of fantasy running backs. At most, I think Pierce can be a serviceable matchup-based fantasy option with much greater upside in best ball leagues.

Honorable Mention: Rachaad White: Bucs

White’s profile doesn’t scream “future RB1,” but his skill set can translate exceptionally well to the fantasy realm. You can make the argument White is the best pass-catching back in the class. Putting him in Tampa Bay can allow him to capitalize on the Bucs’ pass-heavy offense (no team called more pass plays than Tampa Bay last season). The reason I don’t love the fit is that running back Leonard Fournette isn’t a bad receiver. In fact, Fournette caught the third-most passes among all running backs last year, even with missing time. But we have to assume White was brought in as more than just depth. I wouldn’t be surprised if White takes over as the Bucs’ main third-down back. Unfortunately, Fournette severely limits White’s role, so until we know exactly how White will be used. I’m only interested in him in best ball leagues.

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Zach Cohen