I certainly do not intend to talk smack about every video FantasyPros uploads on YouTube these days. But for the second day in a row, I have questions. Today about D-Bro’s “5 Bounce Back Running Backs” video:
First Candidate: Ezekiel Elliott
Which begs the question: how do we define “bounce-back”? Despite his apparent regression, Zeke always produced in fantasy. Last year, he was RB#6. If we expect him to “bounce back” from that, does it mean we see him in the overall RB#1 conversation?
In my initial rankings, I have Zeke as the RB#17. That’s based on a 50-40-10 rushing volume split between him, Pollard and Dak. If Zeke’s volume share will be closer to 60%, he could move into the top 10 range. But to go beyond that, he’d either need an even higher backfield share (which means we’d have to fade Pollard), or a much higher passing share than his usual ~8%, or the Cowboys would have to run the ball a lot more (2021, they were 10th in terms of rushing yards).
I don’t buy any of that. Zeke will regress. Anything else would be a miracle. The question is: by how much. His ADP of RB#17 may be a tad low, but to expect a top 5 finish from him (which, in my humble opinion, would be required for last year’s RB#6 to qualify as a “bounce-back” candidate) sound like quite the hot take to me.
Next in D-Bro’s list is Cam Akers.
Well, he did miss the entire fantasy-relevant part of the 2021 season, but should be healthy for week 1 of the 2022 season. So coming from zero, of course, he’ll bounce back.
The question is: by how much?
D-Bro says that the Rams want a workhorse RB. Maybe they do - even though, if memory serves me, Sean McVay did swap RBs in the past, even when both were healthy.
But I also expect Akers to be the clear lead back. 65-70% rushing volume is likely, especially since the QB won’t cut into the rushing production at all.
But how much do the Rams intend to run the ball? In 2021, they were pretty successful as a pass-heavy offense. Do they really want to change that? I think they will remain below the league median in terms of rushing production. And a 70% share of that could translate into an RB#18 finish. Which is exactly his current ADP.
Technically, that would qualify as a bounce-back performance. Still, to put that label in Akers might raise expectations too high.
Next man up is Miles Sanders.
2021 was a down year for him. He missed a few games, and when he played, he did not find the end zone even once. That resulted in an RB#45 finish. The only way for Sanders is up, or so it would seem.
But is it?
The Eagles were the #1 team in terms of rushing yards in 2021. Now they have a new top WR in A.J. Brown. Do we really expect their rushing volume to increase even further? Doesn’t seem likely to me.
Last year, Jalen Hurts soaked up 30% of the rushing volume and 45% of the rushing TDs. I don’t believe he will improve as a passer, so I expect him to keep using his legs.
And Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott won’t disappear entirely, either. Even if Sanders will be the lead back this year (and that’s not a given for me), the other RBs will soak up at least 20% of the rushing volume. That leaves a maximum of 50% for Sanders.
And with a 50% volume share, 17 games played and 10 rushing TDs, he comes out as RB#14 in my projections.
That’s his ceiling, based on a fully healthy season. If his volume share will be only 35-40%, he quickly drops to RB#25 - his current ECR.
That’s not enough for me to qualify him as a bounce-back candidate.
So how about the next guy: Saquon Barkley?
Now, before I finally finished my initial 2022 projections, I said that Saquon might actually have a pretty strong season. His injury shouldn’t limit him anymore, the o-line has improved, and the coaching changes should help him. We might see the old Saquon again.
So I gave him all 17 games in my projections, plus a 65% volume share on the ground and 12.5% through the air. Plus a total 8 TDs.
The result ranks him at RB#17. That’s 5 spots below his ADP.
The problem is: the volume just isn’t there on the ground. Daniel Jones rushes more than you would think - 27% yard share and 38% TD share in 2021. And in the passing game, there are very many mouths to feed in an offense that wasn’t terribly efficient in 2021.
A mid-range RB2 finish would probably leave Saquon owners disappointed yet again, especially if they drafted him at his ADP. To enter the top 10 conversation, Saquon would have to get a true workhorse share, and the Giants would have to be a much better offense overall than I expect them to be.
So Saquon is yet another candidate who technically might bounce back, but will still leave owners disappointed.
And finally, the obvious candidate: CMC.
Finally, a candidate I can agree with. Of course, to make his owners happy, CMC would have to stay healthy. I wouldn’t rule that out, as none of his injuries was really severe, and he never injured the same part of his body twice.
I think there is every chance he can have a healthy season. And we know what he can do if he’s on the field.
I gave him a 55% share on the ground and 20% share through the air. With 17 games played, that would make him the overall RB#2. Keep in mind the Panthers aren’t in the best of states, and even a healthy CMC would probably not turn them into a serial winning team.
There’s also every chance that they will manage his workload better, in order to try keeping him healthy. Or that they utilize him even more, and he will miss a good chunk of games again. Both would easily lead to CMC dropping out of the top 5, or even top 10.
Still, I don’t blame you if you want to take the gamble and draft him. His upside knows no limits. Unfortunately, neither does his ADP.
But I can agree to CMC being a bounce-back candidate.
Finally, I’d like to add one name to the list that wasn’t in the video: Nyheim Hines.
In 2020, he had a combined 862 yards + 7 TDs, and another 300 yards returning. As a reward, the Colts gave him a pretty substantial contract for a backup RB. Sadly (for his owners), he mostly disappeared in 2021, when he took a backseat to the Jonathan Taylor show.
But word from Indy is that his role should increase again in 2022. And given the money they pay him, I don’t see why it wouldn’t. Plus, the Colts know that also JT will break down eventually if they keep utilizing him in full workhorse fashion.
Matt Ryan won’t cut into the rushing volume. Phillip Lindsay isn’t likely to see too many snaps, either. So the path could be clear for another 1,000+ all-purpose yards season for Hines. If he can secure just a few more targets and manages to be used as a change-of-pace back on the ground as well, he is an RB3 candidate, who could easily enter RB2 conversation if JT misses even just a little time.
Especially in PPR, I’ll much rather draft Hines at ADP RB#42 than Saquon at RB#12. I have them only 20 FFP apart in season production, and that’s without JT missing any time.