Now that the 2022 NFL season is over and we’re well into the playoffs, I figured it was time to analyze some NFL rookies. I’m ranking the running backs who just completed their rookie season. I’ll look at how they did, what to expect in the future, and how I’d rank them after the 2022 season. This can help in many ways, like giving you names to buy low on potentially or guys you should sell now. These dynasty rankings are meant to help you figure out what to do with these rookie running backs.
Rookie running backs are expected to perform usually first-year in. When one doesn’t play at all, that decreases their value greatly. When one over-performs, their value can skyrocket. However, there’s always a prime opportunity to get in on a running back that does just enough their rookie year to showcase their potential. In future articles, I’ll look at the wide receiver positions. So, let’s start by analyzing how to value these rookie running backs properly and what the crystal ball tells us for their future. Some potential future studs listed below can be had extremely cheap right now. Be sure to take advantage of the price discount! All scoring will be based on Superflex PPR, 6-point touchdown leagues.
Stats come from Fantasy Data and Pro Football Reference. There are a lot of surprises. Be sure to comment on Twitter, and I’ll answer any questions! I can’t wait to see how these running backs look a year from now. Check out my prior rookie tight end and quarterback dynasty rankings.
1. Breece Hall, New York Jets
I am sickened that Hall suffered a torn ACL right when he took over the starting role and was playing more. His stats on only 49% of the snaps over seven games and two starts are outrageous. It’s not a revolutionary idea to have Breece as a top-three or even first overall in the running back dynasty rankings. So, of course, he’s my number one in the rookie dynasty rankings.
Hall was outrageous in the passing game, with 19 catches for 218 yards and 11.5 yards per reception (YPR). That yardage was third-highest among all rookies. Hall played in only SEVEN games! He saw the deepest targets at 4.7 air yards, highlighting his route running and skills beyond rushing. He had five drops, so he’ll have to work on that during rehab.
That isn’t the most exciting part, though. Hall averaged 5.8 yards per carry (YPC) on 80 carries for 463 yards. That 5.8 was 0.9 above the next closest rookie rusher with at least 20 carries. He had five total touchdowns using his lethal mix of vision, power, insane elusiveness, and highlight video game moves. He averaged 4.2 yards before contact (YBCON). That’s tops for rookies and extremely elite. By the way, the rookie high for evaded tackles was 68. In only seven games, Hall had 50. That’s the most prominent example of how hard it was for a defender to just put their hands on him, let alone bring him to the ground.
I would love to add his 16.4 ppg to my roster, but owners will want multiple firsts. This might be the cheapest you can get the former 1.01 since his price will rise as Hall gets closer to returning. He’s only 21, which helps lock in that value and the prediction that he’ll get better. I’m not worried at all about him returning from an ACL tear. His youth will allow him to recover better. If you can add his 61+ yards created per game production to your roster, seriously consider it. If you already have Hall, do NOT sell him, even if you’re rebuilding. Hall is one you build your roster around.
2. Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have their franchise running back in Walker. He’s a top-10 dynasty running back, let alone in the rookie dynasty rankings. Walker was explosive in his rookie year over 15 games and 11 starts. He led all rookies in rushes (228), yards (1,050), touchdowns (9), and breakaway (15+) rushes (14). Plus, he co-led in evaded tackles with 68. Walker showcased a rare combo of elite speed, patience, elusiveness, and vision that allowed him to consistently break through arm tackles, turn bad plays into huge gains, and make huge plays. He averaged a healthy 4.6 ypc and a near-elite 2.7 yards before contact (YBCON).
Thanks to his strong play down the stretch, he finished the season as the RB19 despite missing two games and not playing much during the first few games. I expect an RB1 season next year in Seattle’s rush-heavy system. Walker does need more work in the passing game to reach his elite potential. He only had 27 catches for 165 yards on 35 targets. I’d like to see him get 40 more receptions and 250+ receiving yards next year.
Another bonus to his elite season was his usage in the red zone. Walker saw a rookie-high 44 touches there and scored seven times. You want a big-usage running back in the red zone, and Walker provides that. It’s going to take two or more firsts to acquire Walker. He’s a pure win-now back that brings you years of stability at the RB1 position. I’m not huge on paying up for a running back unless I badly need one. However, if you have him, hold onto him. His price will rise from here.
3. Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans
It was neck and neck as to whether Pierce would be three or four in my rookie dynasty rankings, but I gave the edge to him due to more production, a larger role, and a likelier rush-friendly offense. DeMeco Ryans come from the Shanahan tree and will likely hire an O.C. who prefers a run-heavier scheme similar to Shanahan’s. Pierce deserves an even more significant workload after being close to 1,000 rushing yards. Unfortunately, his season ended due to an injury. He started all 13 games and is set up to be a potential RB1 next year.
Pierce was good on the ground despite playing behind a woeful offensive line. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry (YPC) on his 220 attempts, leading to 939 yards. He scored four touchdowns and broke 35 tackles. In another example of how hard it was to get this guy to the ground, he co-led all rookies with 68 evaded tackles. He created over 55 yards per game on only 64% of the snaps. Please, Texans, give this guy more snaps. He was passable in the passing game, with 30 catches on 39 targets for 165 yards and a touchdown. Dameon dealt with the less-than-stellar quarterback play, so perhaps those numbers can rise with a better quarterback next year.
Pierce has a lot of potential, and I think this is just the floor for the young, bruising back. I doubt anyone is selling him, especially for less than a first. If you have him, hold onto him and don’t sell. He would be a terrific RB2 on a contending team. With his youth, you could have a strong RB2 for the next few years. If you can buy him for a first in 2024, I’d do it if you need a running back.
4. Isiah Pacheco, Kansas City Chiefs
It took a while and a couple of injuries, but Pacheco finally got a crack at being the starting running back and hasn’t looked back since. He performed beyond all expectations and verified the hype for him entering the season. Pacheco looked unstoppable on the ground by consistently breaking off large chunks of yardage with his agility, speed, and vision. Over 11 starts, and 17 games, he rushed for 830 yards on only 170 carries (4.9 ypc). He had five touchdowns and created nearly 21 yards per game. This was all on only 31% of the snaps. Imagine if he saw a starter’s workload.
Another impressive stat to showcase how dominant he was in his elite 3.2 YBCON. Pacheco relentlessly broke the first line of the defense without disrupting his acceleration. I loved his ability to find the right hole consistently and burst through it with power and no fear. I want to see more production in his passing work, as he saw only 14 targets but did catch 13 of them for 130 yards. Depending on what KC does with Jerick McKinnon or if they bring in another back, Pacheco could be due for an RB1 finish next year.
If you have him right now, don’t sell him. His price is only rising with his playoff performances. The Chiefs won’t be drafting another running back, likely due to many other needs. If you find someone selling Pacheco, try to offer up multiple early second-round picks. I’m not sure I trust the Chiefs enough to send a first, but if you give up a first, get another player in return with Pacheco. Don’t be surprised if he launches into being an RB1/2 next year and up my dynasty rankings.
5. Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
White did just enough to garner the fifth spot in my rookie dynasty rankings, although I’ll need more from him next year to keep him here. White played behind a bad run-blocking offensive line, but the upside is that he’s the RB1 for them next year and a new offensive system. With Brady at quarterback, the Bucs were overly veteran-heavy and pass-heavy. Lenny is likely to be gone. White can take over as the main back. He will get more consistent work.
It was happening towards the end of the season as White started more games. There was no denying his lethal ability as a receiving back, with 50 catches on 58 targets for 290 yards and two touchdowns. White will be a strong RB 2/3 from his receiving ability in PPR leagues. He saw 18 red zone touches and turned them into three touchdowns. He should see more usage next year. Despite only playing on 39% of snaps this year, White still had 31 evaded tackles with 481 yards on the ground over 129 rushes. I’m willing to give him a break on his 3.7 YBCON due to the offensive line. I will want to see an improvement early next season.
White’s a good running back to buy on the cheap this off-season since he doesn’t have the hype around him, unlike last year. If you can snag him for two second-round picks, I think he’ll pay that off in spades. I’m not sure I’d send a first for him unless I’m getting another piece. There are many running backs that you could do worse with than having White as your RB2/3. He’s a risk, but all running backs are these days.
6. Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons
To quote Cris Collinsworth, “Now, here’s a guy,” that surprised me at the end of the season. He might be the quietest rookie running back to get over 1,000 yards in quite some time. There have been zero talks of him, yet all he did was rush for 1,035 yards on 210 attempts, garner three touchdowns, making 16 receptions for 139 yards, and not fumble once. The former BYU running back might’ve just become the Falcons’ No.1 rusher for next year in a highly rush-heavy offense. That’s good news for anyone who owns an Allgeier stock.
Allgeier surprised me with his ability after the catch by averaging 8.7 YPR despite typically catching the ball 1.6 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The Falcons trusted him in the red zone with 33 rushing attempts. He only scored three times, so that’s the big area he’ll need to work on. Finish through the contact and dive toward the end zone. Another encouraging sign was Allgeier seeing 51% of snaps and seven starts. The Falcons started to trust him more and more, even after Patterson returned from injury.
Allgeier was elusive enough to evade 51 tackles and had nine breakaway rushes. Those are great numbers for a part-time rookie running back. Don’t be surprised if he finishes as an RB2 next year. He was the RB31 this year and averaged ten ppg. Buy-low on him now before people take notice of his production. I’d happily send him an early-second-round pick if I need a win-now running back.
7. James Cook, Buffalo Bills
Cook performed amazingly on a limited basis this season. Usually, I’d have him ranked higher, but I can’t guarantee that he’ll get more work next year. Nor can I promise that he would be just as good with more work due to his size. Plus, there’s the problem of Josh Allen stealing so many rushes/touchdowns. I’d buy James Cook still for a second-round pick. He’ll be a valuable flex next year, especially if Singletary isn’t re-signed.
Cook had 21 catches for an elite 8.6 YPR, which led to 180 yards. Allen trusted him a lot as he threw to him 32 times with one of the larger air yardages of a running back at 2.4 yards downfield. Cook was elusive and explosive in the rushing game over 89 carries with an average rush of 5.7 yards. He managed to get to 507 yards and two touchdowns. He had an elite 3.7 YBCON, showcasing his speed and vision. His 11 breakaway (15+ yards) runs were second among rookies.
He’s a huge buy-low right now. See if you can’t get Cook on your team. He could have a more significant workload next year as the Bills regroup for another year of contention. The only reason he isn’t higher on the rankings is because of the unknown amount of touches he will likely get next year.
8. Brian Robinson, Washington Commanders
Robinson was one of the season’s best stories, recovering from multiple gunshot wounds to leading his team in rushes and rushing yards. However, he’s not anything more than a backup running back long-term. Robinson doesn’t have much of a receiving ability, highlighted by only nine catches for 60 yards. Part of that is due to Antonio Gibson, but Brian’s never been a big receiver. The truly worrisome part is that he had 205 rushes for only 797 yards. He managed just a 3.9 ypc and only broke ten tackles. Ron Rivera stuck by him and gave him a chance to become a reliable short-yardage back, but Robinson failed to succeed. He had 25 red-zone touches and scored just three times.
If you want him, see if you can get Robinson as a throw-in to provide injury insurance and depth on your roster. Don’t expect him to be a starting running back on your dynasty squad. I heavily predict that the Commanders will draft a running back this year. If that happens, Robinson’s dynasty value is going to fall fast. I’d do it if you could trade him for a second-round pick. I don’t think his dynasty value will survive that high for much longer.
9. Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers
Warren performed better than expected as Najee Harris’ backup this year. He certainly displayed an ability to be a solid backup/change-of-pace running back. I think he could be a valuable third-down pass-catching back after averaging 7.6 YPR on 28 catches for 214 yards. He managed a great 4.9 YPC on 77 rushes for 379 yards and a touchdown. He was most impressive with a 3.1 YBCON and a juke rate of 37%. It proves how slippery Warren can be. The downside is he’s playing behind a workhorse running back in Harris. Acquire Warren for a third or as a throw-in to get the next man up in the Pittsburgh backfield, but until Harris misses time, it is just a bye-week fill-in.
10. Pierre Strong, New England Patriots
Here’s one of my favorite buy-lows of the off-season. The Patriots will likely let Damien Harris go, leaving them with only Rhamondre Stevenson. Strong is my favorite to step into the Harris role and become a flex-caliber player. He showed more in the receiving game than I expected, with seven catches for 42 yards on seven targets. However, his rushes were elite. He had ten carries for 100 yards and a touchdown. He used his speed and vision to garner an 8.1 YBCON, which isn’t sustainable. It still speaks to his talent that he can be a weapon. If he becomes the Patriots’ RB2, he’ll return flex numbers, if not better. I’d buy him for a third-round pick right now. The Strong hype is only just starting after a strong part-time rookie season. He’ll be rising up my dynasty rankings.
11. Zonovan Knight, New York Jets
No one predicted Knight to have much of a role entering the season, with Hall and Michael Carter ahead of them. Then, both of them got hurt, which allowed Knight to have a chance to shine. He played better than I expected, especially in the passing game. He gathered 13 of his 14 targets for 100 yards and 7.7 YPR. To make it even better, his average air yards was -2.1, which means he technically averaged over nine yards per reception. That’s really good, which might earn him a longer look in the passing game next year. He’ll need that as he struggled to rush with a 3.5 YPC over 85 rushing attempts. Knight’s a respected name to have on the end of your bench, though he’s still going to be stuck behind Hall and Carter. See if you can snag him as a throw-in piece in a trade.
12. Zamir White, Las Vegas Raiders
There’s one reason and one reason only to buy White right now. That is because you think Jacobs isn’t coming back, and White gets the carries. I’m not buying into that belief. The fact the Raiders gave him only 17 rushes all season with zero receptions speaks volumes to me. He played on a mere 4% of snaps, and Jacobs is coming off a career year. The odds are that Jacobs returns, which relegates White to clean-up duty. The bright side is that White did have a nice 2.3 YBCON. Still, he’s bottom of the bench depth or a throw-in piece for a trade.
13. Hassan Haskins, Tennessee Titans
Haskins is not the future running back for the Titans. He could be a long-term backup that might pop off one week or so at a time, but he isn’t someone to value in a dynasty truly. Even when Derrick Henry missed time this year, Haskins failed to get any red-zone looks, a key indicator of how the team views him. When he did play, he was successful in the passing game with 11 receptions on 12 targets for 57 yards. Rushing the ball was abysmal, with only 93 yards on 25 rushes. Haskins couldn’t avoid contact with an alarming 1.2 YBCON. He’s waiver wire fodder in the dynasty and nothing more right now.
14. Tyrion Davis-Price, San Francisco 49ers
Davis-Price was an unexpected Day 2 draft pick by the 49ers, but it hasn’t panned out. He dealt with injuries and was replaced in the rotation by Christian McCaffrey and Jeff Wilson. CMC and Elijah Mitchell will be the top two running backs in the future, which leaves TDP without a spot. When he did get onto the field, he didn’t impress. He managed only 99 yards on the ground over 34 carries. Price failed to avoid contact with a below-average 1.4 YBCON. Go ahead and drop Davis-Price to your waivers.
15. Isaiah Spiller, Los Angeles Chargers
Spiller was a massive let-down despite high expectations entering the NFL Draft and rookie drafts. He failed to make any impact with the Chargers. His dynasty value is dust. Perhaps Kellen Moore can fix him or turn him into a usable back. For now, he’s the low man on my dynasty rankings. That shouldn’t be a surprise after a season with three catches for 13 yards, 18 rushes for 41 yards, and just playing on 13% of the snaps. He’s not worth buying right now.
Let me know your thoughts on my rookie running back dynasty rankings! Be sure to check my upcoming rookie wide receiver dynasty rankings!
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As always, May the Force be with You…