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2022 Free Agency Winners: Running Backs

There has been a flurry of moves this offseason as teams try to replicate the success that the Rams and Bengals achieved after being aggressive last offseason. Some running backs have new opportunities with new teams, whereas others found that the best outcome was re-signing to stay with their 2021 teams. Here are the biggest free agency winners at the running back position.

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2022 Free Agency Winners: Running Backs


Leonard Fournette

Following Tom Brady‘s return from his brief retirement, all the pieces have fallen into place for the Buccaneers. The best possible outcome in free agency for Leonard Fournette was to return to a workhorse role on an efficient Tampa Bay offense that ranked second in offensive points per game last year. Prior to his hamstring injury in Week 15, Fournette ranked 11th in opportunity share, third in targets, and third in red-zone touches among running backs. In fact, from Weeks 1 to 14, Fournette was the No. 3 fantasy running back in PPR scoring and the No. 5 running back in points per game. His new three-year, $21 million deal secures his starting role and strong fantasy production barring injury, making Fournette one of the biggest free agency winners at the running back position. With Ronald Jones now in Kansas City, Fournette is worth a mid first-round rookie pick to contending teams with elite top-five fantasy potential.


James Conner

Like Fournette, James Conner‘s dynasty value gains a significant boost both from re-signing with Arizona as well as from the departure of Chase Edmonds to Miami. Although the Cardinals are likely to add some running back depth via the draft, Conner figures to be the lead back in an offense that ranked 11th in offensive points per game last season. Prior to his heel injury, Conner was the No. 6 fantasy running back in PPR scoring and the No. 12 running back in points per game from Weeks 1 to 14. However, touchdown regression is a glaring concern, as Conner scored 18 total touchdowns at a 7.5 percent rate in 2021. Still, even factoring in fewer touchdowns scored in 2022, Conner should be a strong RB2 option with RB1 upside for contending dynasty teams and is worth an early second-round rookie pick.


Rashaad Penny

Remaining in a run-heavy Seattle offense was probably the best outcome for Rashaad Penny. Since the Seahawks drafted Penny in 2018, he’s missed 28 games due to injury before finally showing up in the back half of last season. Over his last five starts of 2021 when fully healthy, Penny averaged 18 carries per game, and a similar workload should be expected for him as the starter in 2022 considering the ominous reports of Chris Carson‘s neck injury possibly being career-ending. It should be noted though that the majority of Penny’s resurgent production last year came against bottom-10 rushing defenses in the Texans, Bears, and Lions. While Penny should be a sell-high for any first-round rookie pick given his injury history, he does offer a fairly high weekly fantasy floor due to projected touch volume after having re-signed in Seattle, making him among the free agent winners at running back.


Ronald Jones

Second chances are hard to come by for running backs, but Ronald Jones has one after signing a one-year prove-it deal with the Chiefs. He’s likely to split work with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but Jones’s fantasy ceiling remains high for 2022. Kansas City’s offensive line actually ranked eighth in adjusted line yards last season, but the Chiefs didn’t run the ball much, ranking sixth both in overall pass rate as well as in red-zone pass rate. With Tyreek Hill now traded to Miami, there’s a chance that Andy Reid could finally rely on the run game more this coming season. Since Jones projects to take more early-down work with Edwards-Helaire seeing more passing-down snaps, this could bode well for Jones’s fantasy ceiling. It remains to be seen whether Kansas City will actually run the ball more in 2022, but the possibility gives Jones a high fantasy ceiling and makes him worth an early second-round rookie pick.


Marlon Mack

Flying under the radar among the biggest free agency winners at running back is Marlon Mack. The Texans are building around Davis Mills for now, and while they could still draft a running back, it would be surprising if they were to spend an early-round pick to do so. Mack will be two years removed from his Achilles tear, and still only 26 years old, he goes from being buried on the Colts’ depth chart to having another opportunity at a starting job. Even though the Texans ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing yards last year with an offensive line that ranked dead last in run-blocking, Houston is likely to address the offensive line with at least one of their two first-round picks. And even if the rushing offense remains inefficient in 2022, Mack’s dynasty value at least rebounds from hovering near zero back to a late second-round rookie pick based on projected volume of touches alone.


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