Welcome to fantasy running backs, where pain and misery are inevitable. With the risk and rate of injury seemingly climbing every year, it’s difficult to consider any RB a safe bet. But this is the life we have chosen, and grabbing an elite back in both best-ball and season-long leagues can prove vital.
The difference in best ball is you can make no moves, so it’s often worth the effort to cover your lead back with his handcuff in the likely case of an injury. Also, backs with big-play upside are slightly more valuable in best ball because, since there is no bench, you will stand to automatically benefit whenever that player has a monster week. Most leagues offer two starting spots at running back, so choosing 4-6 RBs during your draft is preferable.
For this article, we won’t just list the best RBs; you already know to draft Jonathan Taylor or Austin Ekeler if you can. No, we’ll use this space to spotlight some players who are worth targeting
Marlon Mack, Houston Texans
In the 2021 season, the Colts didn’t need to use Marlon Mack much as they had one of the best running backs in football with Jonathan Taylor. Mack played in just six games in 2021 rushing for just 101 yards. While he lost the majority of the 2020 season to injury, Mack rushed for 1091 yards and eight touchdowns back in 2019.
This upcoming season is expected to be a big one for him. With Rex Burkhead as the listed backup running back. There is a ton of opportunity for Mack to get the ball. The Texans also have a young quarterback who they may want to builds confidence before they have him go out there throwing a ton of passes a game.
David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
Over the past few seasons, Montgomery has been one of the more underrated backs in the league. In 13 games last season, Montgomery rushed for 849 yards and seven touchdowns. This was his first season with Justin Fields who will likely be the quarterback of the future for the Bears.
It will be fun to see what Montgomery does in the new offense with Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsky. Fields will likely take a big step this season which will be great for Montgomery. We’ve seen many running backs in the league have numbers shoot up with good dual threat quarterbacks.
JK Dobbins, Ravens
While he was expected to have a big season in 2021, Dobbins tore his ACL during the preseason. It was a major blow to the Ravens who already lost Gus Edwards to an ACL tear. Dobbins had a good year in 2020 where he rushed for 805 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Ravens are expected to be at full health this season after a disappointing 2021 where they lost a ton of players due to injury. They are expected to run the ball a ton this season and if that's the case, Dobbins will flourish. The offensive line is improved and they didn't add a big name receiver, so look for them to focus on the ground game.
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Coming out of college, Barkley was viewed as a prospect who could be the best running back in football in the next few seasons. That hasn't been the case however, as he’s dealt with a number of injuries since entering the NFL four years back. Last season, he had a down year as he rushed for just 593 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games.
The Giants have a brand new coaching staff, which will help Barkley a ton. They added a bunch of new offensive mind guys, including head coach Brian Daboll. He is expected to give the offense a major boost. Barkley has experience Daniel Jones major struggles over the past few seasons and we should see both guys numbers have a major increase in the new offense.
D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
In the past two season, Swift showed he will be a great NFL running back if he can stay healthy. He rushed for 617 yards and five touchdowns in 2021. He didn't get the ball as much as he should've however which we should see this season.
First year head coach has made it known that Swift will get the ball more this season. The Lion receiving core is stellar but there will still be a balance between the running game and passing game. With that, Swift will be on the field more this season than the previous two as he's earned it.