The NFL is hard enough without the schedule-makers burdening your team with an unforgiving schedule. But sometimes, life ain’t fair. These four running backs will probably be saying that idiom this year as they trudge through their gauntlet. What will it mean for their fantasy value?
Worst running back schedules
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
The schedule is obviously not the biggest worry when it comes to assessing McCaffrey’s fantasy outlook. He put up 23 PPR points in Week 2 against the Saints, one of the stiffest run defenses last year. When you can contribute as a receiver as much as C-Mac does, you really don’t concern yourself with matchups. He just needs to stay healthy, plain and simple. One week after that Saints game, McCaffrey exited with a hamstring injury and missed the next five contests. He’s played in 10 of a possible 33 games since the start of 2021. Keeping him on the field probably involves a smaller workload, but that’s fine; just anything to help his bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons stay connected. McCaffrey is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward player, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he has the toughest upcoming schedule of any running back.
Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The NFC South is going to be a theme here. The current hubbubs over Lenny’s weight will probably fizzle out by the time the regular season rolls around, and his season will begin with matchups against three top-10 run defenses from last season — Saints, Cowboys and Packers. The Rams (Week 9) and Cardinals (Week 16) are also on the slate. But with Tom Brady back under center, Fournette should be locked in as a high-end RB2. His top competition for touches right now may be third-round rookie Rachaad White.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons
Can Cordarrelle really replicate his shocking 2021 campaign as one of fantasy’s best waiver claims? To do so, he’ll have to overcome the third-toughest schedule for RBs and a Falcons offense without a good answer at quarterback. Marcus Mariota? Desmond Ridder? Uh ... this could be a problem. Patterson’s fantasy playoffs schedule looks terrible: BYE, at Saints, at Ravens, vs. Cardinals from Weeks 14-17. DK Nation’s Chet Gresham has Cordarrelle ranked as the No. 35 RB for PPR leagues.
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
You’d expect that Akers would not look 100 percent healthy upon playing seven months after suffering a torn Achilles — and you’d be right. Akers totaled only 172 yards on 67 carries over the Rams’ four playoff games. But with Sony Michel now out of the picture, Akers heads into 2022 as the unquestioned backfield starter for the Super Bowl champs. He’ll battle against those sturdy NFC South defenses along with the Cowboys and his familiar NFC West foes. Following a full offseason to get right, Akers looks like a safe RB2 tied to a high-quality offense. Although, with that slate, there will inevitably be bumps in the road.