When discussing draft strategy, fantasy football managers tend to get too caught up in direct comparisons between players. In reality, they should be debating cost value, i.e. a player’s draft position combined with their ability. That leads to finding value and, ultimately, building a complete, championship-worthy roster.
Every draft class is different, but this year’s crop of fantasy running backs seems to have noticeable tiers, especially at running back. While landing an elite talent like Christian McCaffrey or Jonathan Taylor would be nice, it’s a luxury unavailable to those drafting at the end of the first round. Rather than chasing the next tier of RBs, which tends to start with names like Dalvin Cook and Najee Harris, it may be a more prudent move to target other positions. Why would want to wait to nab your first elite running back? Due to the potential of players that, in all likelihood, will be there in the second round. If there was ever a year to wait, or even trade back, in your draft, 2022 is it. Here are three rushers that could give you elite production this season that won’t cost your first pick to do it.
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Best Fantasy Football Second Round Running Backs
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
With every week that passes, my desire to draft Aaron Jones only grows stronger. The narrative of being in a committee with AJ Dillon is what has driven Jones’ draft value down the most, and smart managers should take advantage of that. To be clear, Dillon is sure to command his fair share of carries, and the coaching staff clearly loves his ability to grind out yardage. But elsewhere? The Packers are seriously lacking receiving talent without Davante Adams, and should become even more of a run-first team. When Aaron Rodgers does pass the ball, you can expect him to target Jones heavily. One of the best pass-catching backs in the league, Jones has averaged over 45 receiving yards (48.5) in games without Adams. That simply can’t be ignored; managers should be willing to snatch this consistent RB1 up as early as the middle of the second round.
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Injuries have plagued Barkley during his four years in the NFL. After back-to-back top ten fantasy campaigns, a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus forced him to miss most of the 2020 season and hampered his explosiveness when he did suit up last year. You can find this former top-five RB slipping as far as the third round, which is crazy when you consider that Christian McCaffrey is still a top four pick. While CMC is clearly the superior fantasy option, health shouldn’t make people ignore just how special Barkley can be when he’s at his best. One of the league’s few three-down running backs, Barkley’s elite receiving ability should be utilized in new head coach Brian Daboll’s pass-happy scheme. Add in an improved offensive line, and it’s not hard to envision a return to form for the former number two overall pick.
D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
Lost in the shuffle of a largely forgettable season for the Lions was the superb play of Swift, who was the RB5 in PPR leagues through Week 11 last year. Health issues aside (7 missed games over two seasons), the 23-year old is a great value in Round 2. Will Jamaal Williams continue to get carries? Probably, but that’s not the end of the world; keeping Swift from becoming a workhorse is part of managing his health. As long as D’Andre continues to catch a boatload of passes, he should be a set-and-forget RB1. Detroit should still be trailing in most of their games this year, so game script will favor the passing game. However, the Lions’ elite offensive line will also ensure more efficiency on their rush attempts. Don’t be afraid to snatch up Swift early in the second.