Betting On Youth Over Veterans In RB In Fantasy Football

  • No fantasy football running back has repeated as a top three fantasy running back the next season over the past three seasons.
  • Despite the history of short shelf lives for running backs, industry analysts ranked older players near the top of the rankings.
  • Alternatives to the higher-ranked veterans include Najee Harris, Javonte Williams, and AJ Dillon.

LOS ANGELES – The 2022-23 NFL season is exactly six weeks away when the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills.

Naturally that means fantasy football kicks off as well, with many sites already offering player rankings.

Volume And Youth Overlooked By Analysts

Triston Cockcroft of ESPN recently released his fantasy football rankings. Within them he released his running back rankings heading into the next season:

  1. Jonathan Taylor
  2. Christian McCaffrey
  3. Austin Ekeler
  4. Derrick Henry
  5. Dalvin Cook

Each of those players have had fantastic seasons recently, but betting on the past at the top of the running back position has proven to not work out.

Due to injury and overall wear and tear, no running back has repeated as a top three finisher in fantasy football over the past three years.

Season RB1 RB2 RB3
2021 Jonathan Taylor(373.1) Austin Ekeler(343.8) Najee Harris(300.7)
2020 Alvin Kamara(377.8) Dalvin Cook(337.8) Derrick Henry(333.1)
2019 Christian McCaffrey(471.2) Aaron Jones(314.8) Ezekiel Elliott(311.7)

All of those NFL running backs ranked in the top five, save for Jonathan Taylor, are now on their second NFL contracts. Given the shorter shelf life of the running back position, it may be a better bet to select other young running backs either instead, in addition to, or just later in the draft than the older backs.

Young running backs (and their running back rankings) that make sense to be selected high, outside of top-ranked Jonathan Taylor, include:

  • Najee Harris(6th): The point may be that no running back has had a repeat finish inside the top three over the past three seasons, but Harris may be poised to do so. As a rookie, Harris led the league in overall touches and had a much higher snap percentage of 84% than either Ekeler(65%) or Taylor(69%) who both finished above him. Despite more touches and total yards than Ekeler, Harris scored 10 touchdowns last season to Ekeler’s 20.
  • Javonte Williams(9th): Seemingly every fantasy analyst’s top breakout pick until the Broncos resigned Melvin Gordon, the cooling-off of Javonte Williams may be overblown. Gordon, who is in his age 29 season started all 16 games he played last season. Williams started the other one. Despite the heavy advantage in starts for Gordon, they both had the exact same number of carries last season with 203. They tied for 15th in the league. Betting on William’s youth heading into his age 22 season seems to be a much more promising bet than worrying about Gordon who is only signed for one more season.
  • AJ Dillon(25th): Rated 61st overall in Cockcroft’s rankings, A.J. Dillon may be in line for a breakout season. The trade of star-wide receiver Davante Adams means Green Bay’s starting running back Aaron Jones will likely see a large uptick in passing work, meaning AJ Dillon will take over a much larger rushing share. Despite starting two games last season, Dillon ranked 20th in the NFL in carries, while Aaron Jones ranked 24th in carries.