Most managers will head into 2022 fantasy football drafts looking to nab one of the top-tier running backs. While there's nothing wrong with that, savvy drafters will identify potential breakout candidates they can target later on in order to prioritize premium skill-position talent. If these dark horses pan out, it can have league-changing implications.
With that in mind, here are three breakout running backs to consider in fantasy drafts this year.
Breakout RBs 2022
1. Dameon Pierce (ADP: RB43)
Someone is going to have to take over in the Houston Texans backfield and rookie Dameon Pierce looks like a strong candidate to do so. The former Florida standout has the size (5-foot-10, 225 pounds) to barrel through opposing defenders, which makes him a perfect goal-line option. Pierce also hauled in three receiving touchdowns during his final college season. Assuming he can make an impact in the passing attack, Pierce has a top-24 RB finish in PPR-scoring leagues written all over him. Keep in mind the Texans are paying Marlon Mack $2 million and Rex Burkhead $2.35 million in 2022. That is not the kind of money a team dishes out for a featured workhorse back. It may take a few weeks for Pierce to assert himself as the best RB on the roster, but watch out once he does. With an ADP well within the 10th round, managers can feel comfortable taking the risk here.
2. A.J. Dillon (ADP: RB25)
People seem to be forgetting that A.J. Dillon outshined Aaron Jones in almost every statistical category last season. The third-year pro saw more carries (187), racked up more rushing yards (803) and finished with more rushing touchdowns (5). Don't chalk that up to Jones missing two games due to injury, either. Over the last eight regular season games in 2021, Dillon averaged 3.5 more carries per game than Jones and out-touched him in the red zone 24 to 9. His efforts led to a RB23 finish in PPR-scoring leagues. At the least, Dillon is set to see a similar workload and should have no trouble being an RB2 again. His ceiling is much higher than that, though. With question marks surrounding Green Bay's wide receiver position, head coach Matt LaFleur is going to rely on his powerful RB duo as often as he can. That's especially the case if the Packers are in front on the scoreboard as much as they have been over the last few years. The game script works out perfectly for Dillon.
3. Javonte Williams (ADP: RB12)
Javonte Williams was a popular breakout pick as a rookie before he ended up splitting carries with veteran Melvin Gordon in the backfield. It was a disappointing result from a fantasy football perspective (RB17), but glimpses were shown of what Williams is truly capable of. The 22-year-old broke a tackle on 31% of his attempts, which is the highest rate ever from a running back since ProFootball Focus started recording data in 2006. In his one game that came with 20-plus touches, Williams posted 178 yards from scrimmage to go along with 1 touchdown (29.8 fantasy points). Even though Gordon was re-signed, it was only to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He has even made it clear himself that the coaching staff sees Williams as the featured back this time around. Quarterback Russell Wilson being in town heightens every offensive player's ceiling. Williams has a legitimate shot at the RB1 title, yet is being drafted as a borderline top-12 option. Talk about a steal.
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Larry Rupp is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Larry Rupp also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username phillyfan424. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.