By Mikey Ostrowski

It happens every April. You’re watching the NFL Draft with your dynasty roster in mind. You’ve got 1 or 2 running backs that could suddenly find themselves in a timeshare if the wrong rookie gets selected… and it happens. Your guy’s value takes a hit and every bit of hope you had for a “workhorse year” is all but gone.

Unfortunately, this tragedy has (or will) happen to most of us and it’s never an easy thing to stomach. However, you can be proactive and try to get peak value for some of the players that may be in danger of a timeshare ahead of the draft. It’s tough to predict exactly who will take a value hit, but there are always signs to help us predict who it may happen to.

There is always at least one “out of the blue” team that takes a running back on day two (or day one… shout out to the 2021 Jacksonville Jaguars), but in this article I will focus on the four teams that seem likely to take a running back despite having a fantasy-relevant RB already in their backfield.

The New York Jets: Michael Carter

Michael Carter was a popular pick at the 1st/2nd round turn in many dynasty drafts last year, but nobody was taking him with the expectation that he’d be an every-down back. Sure, he played very well in 2021, but it’s hard to imagine them giving him full control of that backfield. Appearing in 14 games, Carter managed 964 scrimmage yards on 183 touches, and added 4 rushing touchdowns as well. It was definitely a solid stat line for the rookie, but he was consistently in a backfield committee, and it seems that this is the trend that the Jets will look to roll with in 2022.

The Jets will make four selections within the top-38 draft picks. It is no secret that they have many needs, but I think they’ll put a lot of focus on surrounding Zach Wilson with an arsenal of talent. There’s not a chance in hell that they spend one of their top-10 picks on a running back, but there is a realistic possibility of them selecting one of the top two at #35 or #38. Many consider Breece Hall to be the top do-it-all back in this class, but Kenny Walker is arguably the better pure-runner. I could definitely see them selecting him and using Walker and Carter in the same way that the Browns use Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. While there’s still going to be a lot to love about Carter in that situation, it will undoubtedly bring down his overall value. If you want to capitalize on his hype, it may be a smart idea to shop him ahead of the draft.

The Philadelphia Eagles: Miles Sanders

This one may be a head scratcher to some, especially with how good Sanders looked towards the end of last season, but I’d call Philly a dark horse candidate to snag a day-two runner. In 2021, Sanders totaled 754 yards on 137 carries and an additional 158 yards on 26 catches. Unfortunately for him and the Eagles, Sanders did not find the endzone a single time despite touching the ball 163 times. While it’s safe to assume we’ll see some positive regression in the touchdown category, I do have my doubts that Sanders will be the Eagles’ long-term solution at running back.

Sanders is in a contract year and given his uneven play and durability issues (missed 9 games in the last two seasons), he may be in danger of having to switch teams in a year’s time. If Philly decides to think forward on this one, they may opt to bring in one of the top backs of the 2022 class. I personally think it’d be more likely that they wait until next year’s draft, but if Hall or Walker happen to still be on the board at pick #55, they could opt to pull that trigger.

Even if the Eagles don’t draft a rookie, you still need to consider shopping Sanders. Philadelphia recently re-signed Boston Scott, and with Kenny Gainwell having an admirable rookie season, Sanders could see a downward trend in touches. This is a messy backfield, and the addition of a rookie could make it even messier. Unless you’re incredibly desperate at the running back position, I’d settle for any top-15 rookie pick or a future 1st rounder in a 1-for-1 deal for Sanders.  

The Baltimore Ravens: JK Dobbins

Social media was freaking out when Melvin Gordon went to Baltimore for a visit. Obviously if the Ravens sign him, we likely will not see them bring in a rookie. However, if they can’t strike a deal with MG3, I would say that it’s likely that they buy into a running back in the NFL Draft. Dobbins had a good rookie year, totaling 925 scrimmage yards despite being in the team’s RB2 role, and was slated to be the RB1 in 2021 after the Ravens decided to part ways with Mark Ingram. Unfortunately, Dobbins tore his ACL before the season started and he missed the entire year.

The number of injuries that happened to the Ravens’ backfield in 2021 was one of the craziest things I had ever seen, and I get the feeling that they’re going to prioritize depth at the position moving forward. On day two, they own picks #45 and #76. I find it unlikely that they’ll select one at #45, but #76 could be a sweet spot for the right running back. Even if they don’t select one there, I wouldn’t rule out a round-four running back, as they own two top-14 picks to start off day three. I don’t think they’d bring someone in to be the RB1 ahead of Dobbins, but I could definitely see them going for a pass-catcher like Tyler Badie or Rachaad White to spell Dobbins (and Gus Edwards) on 3rd downs. Dobbins’ pass-catching opportunities will be far and few in between, and given the status of this offense, it’ll simply be too hard to bank on him being anything more than an inconsistent RB2 in fantasy.

There most definitely is a JK Dobbins fan club member in nearly every league and you may be wise to reach out to him and see if he wants to take Dobbins off of your hands. His current value, according to KTC, is pick 1.03… and I’ve gotta tell you, if someone offered me a top-5 rookie pick for Dobbins, I’d smash accept.

The Washington Commanders: Antonio Gibson

Something that no Gibson owner wanted to see: Washington hosted Breece Hall AND Kenny Walker for a top-30 visit. Pair this with them re-signing JD McKissic and suddenly you’ve got a ton of panicked Gibby fans.

Gibson has been incredibly solid for fantasy football (and Washington) over the last two years, so it’s definitely a head-scratcher as to why Washington would feel the need to bring in one of 2022’s best young running backs in the draft. Sure, we could write this off to them doing their due diligence, but when there’s smoke, there’s fire. In 2021, Gibson carried the ball 258 times for 1,037 yards and 7 touchdowns. Despite McKissic being out with injury all year, his role in the passing game was modest at best (42 catches, 294 yards and 3 touchdowns) and was definitely an aspect that we were hoping to see more from him. Regardless, he was a rock-solid option in fantasy and not many people were complaining about having him on their team.

Washington owns pick #11 in the first-round and there is virtually no chance that they use that pick on a running back. Their next pick comes at #47 (they don’t have a 3rd round pick) and even this would feel like a total stretch to say that they’ll grab a running back. However, they do clearly have interest in the top two running backs of this class, and if one of them is still hanging around at that point in the draft, they may seize the opportunity. We’ve got to remember that almost no running back’s workload is safe in the NFL when it’s draft season. These teams don’t care about fantasy value… They care about winning and putting together the best roster possible. If the Commanders feel that adding a top-tier talent to their backfield will help them win games, they’ll do it.

Of the four running backs listed in this article, I would say that Gibson is the least at risk, but it’s something worth monitoring during the NFL Draft. It’s something that we’d hate to see (as this would bring down Gibson’s value, McKissic’s value, AND the rookie’s value), but it is something that we may have to stomach through. According to the consensus, Gibson is worth a little more than Dobbins is. If you can afford to gamble on your other running backs, it may not be the worst idea to accept a top-3 pick as a return for Gibson. Just remember, even if they don’t draft a running back, McKissic is tied to Washington for the next two years and will take a large majority of the passing-downs away from Gibson… so he may be an outright sell candidate anyway.

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