When you are making your bets on an NFL Sunday and watching teams zip around the ball it seems like nobody runs the ball anymore. The league has definitely embraced passing like never before but there are still some teams that commit to the run and no matter how many passes are thrown there will always be a rushing leader.
Knowing which teams truly value a running game is as important as assessing individual talent in analyzing the market for the NFL rushing leader in 2022. Last year, it was the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor who led the league in rushing, doing so for the first time. With this market especially, health is a major factor because there is no doubt in my mind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry would have grabbed a third straight rushing title if he did not get hurt. His per-game numbers were better than Taylor’s
When you look at the history of this category, you do see some “one-hit wonders”. Not everyone who wins a rushing title is bound for the Hall of Fame, some just pop for a season or two and then disappear (Arian Foster, MJD) and some of the most dependable runners in the game never came close to single-year honours.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the “good bets and value” to win the rushing title this season.
2022 NFL Rushing Leader Futures
Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry +600
Henry missed half of last season but averaged more yards per game than Taylor when on the field. With the changes the Titans made this offseason (trading AJ Brown), there is going to be an even firmer commitment to the run this season. Especially if rookie QB Malik Willis is under center at all. The opportunity is there for Henry to get back to the top of the heap. That payoff is pretty good too.
Taylor is coming off a great season and has shown a lot over his first two years in the NFL. I do wonder about the situation though. The Colts upgraded at quarterback with Matt Ryan coming in from Atlanta. Now I do not think they are going to go pass crazy but you have to think they might lean a little more that way than they have in the past. Henry feels like a better bet unless you value health most of all.
Nick Chubb +900
Nobody knows what is going to happen with the Deshaun Watson situation, but I think it should mean more opportunity one way or the other for Chubb. Chubb is a workhorse and he seems destined to win a rushing title. The simple fact is he is the most consistent runner in the game right now, the only one with 3 straight 1000+ yard seasons while averaging at least 5 yards per carry. Cleveland is in an interesting spot this year and Chubb might be their ticket to success this season amidst the circus.
Najee Harris +1600
Harris did not have the rookie season I was hoping for. Things have changed a lot for year two though with Ben Roethlisberger retired and either a rookie (Kenny Pickett) or Mitch Trubisky in the pivot (I am not sure which would be better). Harris had 300+ carries last season and for this year’s Pittsburgh team to be competitive they probably need him to carry it more not less. The opportunity should be there, similar to Chubb above, just with less drama around the team. Durability should not be a concern.
Josh Jacobs +3000
I feel like Jacobs is under the radar coming into the season. The Raiders made a major addition to their passing attack in the form of WR Davante Adams and I love QB Derek Carr to have a great season but the new coach always made sure the Patriots were running the ball effectively when he was there and most of the time he did not have a back as good as Jacobs to work with. He probably doesn’t set all-time records for usage but I can see him being in the mix all season long and maybe has the benefit of the Raiders being in a lot of close games.
Christian McCaffrey, Breece Hall +4000
These players could not be more different coming into the season. Three years ago McCaffrey was the best running back in the game posting a 1000/1000 season that won fantasy leagues. He got a big deal and has struggled with injuries ever since. Carolina is desperate to win so there is no reason to try and take it easy with him. That payoff is definitely worth a shot if you think he can stay healthy. Versatility is his thing he can be explosive too.
On the flip side, Hall is just a rookie walking into a decent situation with the Jets. He was super productive at Iowa State and I think he is “plug and play” into an offense that should be better every which way this season. There needs to be some improvement at QB too though or else he will see too many odd-man fronts. That is the thing that worries me the most, too little respect for the passing game.
Saquon Barkley +5000
This one is all about that payoff. Barkley has never been as productive as he was when he was a rookie and led the NFL in yards from scrimmage, but there is a new coach in town though and he was able to give the Bills a dynamic running attack. Sure, it was not all running back generated but I like Brian Daboll to get more from Barkley than what we have seen from previous regimes. It is worth taking a flyer.
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