Fantasy Football week five frenzy: Running back edition

The Indianapolis Colts battled the Broncos Thursday night, and all the fans saw were field goals. Seven of them, and the game went into overtime. Granted, neither team could get momentum on their side, and the Colts were missing their star running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor, the #1 consensus pick for 2022, is dealing with an ankle injury. The NFL rushing champ last year is ranked sixth this year in rushing yards, tied for third in rushing attempts, and has one touchdown on the year ( He is ranked 16th among running backs in fantasy football heading into week 6, and few expected Taylor to begin the year off on the tweaked foot. However, Taylor is just one of many surprises in fantasy football early on.
On the ground, Nick Chubb is the #1 ranked running back in fantasy football. Chubb is ranked second in league with five touchdowns and has 76 fantasy points. He was drafted between the 2-4 rounds, as fantasy owners figured the Cleveland Browns would split time between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. While both are in the top 25 in fantasy football, Chubb seems to be getting more of the shine without Deshaun Watson.
Behind Chubb is Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who leads the NFL in rushing yards with 463. What’s more surprising is Jamaal Williams is ranked #3, with the most rushing touchdowns at six. The Lion’s record is deceiving, as they’ve been within a possession’s reach every loss. Williams has taken the league by storm, despite his team’s performance, and thus far has been a surprise.
Speaking of surprises, to round out the running back carousel is the resurging Cordaralle Patterson. He suffered an injury and is out for some time, but Patterson is ranked fourth in the league for rushing yards. He remains on my team in the IR slot and will miss four games, but the former Vikings specialist is now blossoming as an Atlanta Falcon for a team with very few offensive weapons. Whether or not the momentum continues remains once he recovers remains to be seen.
From breakouts to busts, Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon hasn’t been living up to expectations. The Bengals did win two games in a row to rebound to 2-2, but their offensive line continues to be an Achilles heel. Mixon is second in rushing attempts with 82 but has 224 yards and a touchdown. His team has However, there is one running back who has yet to deliver.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris, a top-five running back coming into the year, is ranked 26 in fantasy football. Harris has one touchdown this year, and 202 rushing yards. The Steelers are off to a rough 1-3 start, as they experiment between Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett at the quarterback position. Najee Harris faces a tough battle this week against the Buffalo Bills, who are the eighth-ranked best defense. The struggle may not stop for the second-year running back, but fantasy owners need to look elsewhere for options. Now that we’ve looked at a few surprises and busts, let’s see which players could be making a run for the #1 pick next year.
Houston Texans rookie Dameon Pierce is having a thrilling first-year season. Aside from the team who hasn’t won a game yet, Pierce is eighth in rushing yards among running backs with 313. He’s seventh in rushing attempts at 60 and has two touchdowns. Currently ranked 14th in fantasy football, the rookie has shown potential. Perhaps it’s because Houston has no choice due to their quarterback situation, so Pierce has taken the ball and ran with it. This Sunday, the Texans take on the Jaguars who are 26th in rushing defense, meaning the rookie could break for some significant gains.
From a rookie to a sophomore, Khalil Herbert of the Chicago Bears is ranked 13th at this stage of the game. He was drafted by the Bears in 2021, but this year took on a bigger role. Herbert is eighth in rushing yards with 317 and tied for rushing touchdowns with three. Few fantasy owners saw these two breaking out or taking advantage of their situations, but both are making a statement.
To round out one more surprise, bust, and rising star for a lightning round, here is one more running back for each category.
Philadelphia running back Miles Sanders’ stock has been a surprise. The Eagles are 4-0, and Sanders is key to the equation. Except for week three, Sanders ran more than 80 yards on ten carries each game. In the previous game against Jacksonville, he had 27 rushes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Sanders is a surprise, as are the Eagles overall.
From a surprise to a bust, Dalvin Cook hasn’t been doing well in between the trenches. A first-round draft pick in many fantasy football drafts got lost in the shuffle. Cook has one touchdown in three games and hasn’t eclipsed 100 yet in a game. This could be partly due to teammate Justin Jefferson’s rise as the top wideout in the league, but it’s left fantasy owners wondering whether to start Cook at all. He’s in the flex spot on my team, with less than 15 points a game fantasy-wise.

Last but not least, Breece Hall is slowly emerging as a top-20 running back with the New York Jets. Now, Hall may end up a one-hit wonder given he had a breakout game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He rushed 17 times for 66 yards and a touchdown. He’s been a small component of their offense, but could be a hidden gem in the future. Just don’t blink twice on the Jets’ running backs, or they’ll prove you wrong.

Granted, this is week five and there are twelve weeks left. However, these are some observations from the running back spot as we reflect on their value coming into the year. Time will tell if these backs live up to their potential, or continue to underperform for their team and owners.

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