Fantasy football 2022 free agency preview: Many will be left behind running back musical chairs

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Running back has long been one of the most sought-after positions for young footballers. You get the ball, you can score touchdowns, and you can even catch passes sometimes. So the top athletes, who aren’t picked to play the role of quarterback, have long gravitated toward that position. But with the way they’re treated by the NFL, you have to wonder if that’s going to change in the future.

Just three years ago, Todd Gurley was Fantasy’s leading running back per game and last year he couldn’t find a job. Dozens of other former stars in the position have had to accept backup roles, or at least contracts that suggest they are backups, just to stay in the league. And judging by the 2022 free agent class, their ranks are about to swell. Former superstars David Johnson, Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell are all unrestricted free agents, although none are listed to be considered anything close to a starter in 2022 unless something goes terribly wrong for a team.

What is the point of this to launch an article on Fantasy Football? It’s that there’s likely to be some pretty wild swings in value depending on just who gets a job in the next two months. Below, I’ll rank my top 10 running backs available on the open market as well as some of the leftovers that might have an impact. Then I’ll review who has a need and try to play matchmaker. Then, in two weeks, we can all sit down and see how much the NFL appreciates these backs.

Best free running backs

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Sporty line

Others to watch out for: Darrel Williams, Cordarrelle Patterson, Devonta Freeman, Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, Duke Johnson

Five best opportunities

Arizona Cardinals

Conner and Edmonds had 2,030 total yards and 20 touchdowns last year. If a back produced even 60% of those numbers, it would be a Fantasy start. And it’s not a one-year thing. In 2020, Edmonds and the Kenyan Drake produced 1,942 yards and 15 touchdowns in 16 games. Kliff Kingsbury’s offenses have produced big running numbers, and any back who wins even 60% of the work there could be a star.

Best Fit: Conner returns without Edmonds.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s a bit of an unknown because Tampa Bay currently has Kyle Trask as the starting quarterback, Ke’Shawn Vaughn as the No. 1 running back, Cameron Brate as the tight end, and Tyler Johnson as the No. 2 receiver. Bucs have a lot of holes to fill. But the right back could take a huge chunk of the workload due to the lack of competition, and I’d expect Tampa Bay to be busier assuming they don’t have a Pro quarterback. Bowl.

Best Fit: Fournette returns without Jones.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons caught lightning in the bottle for the first half of the season with Cordarrelle Patterson, but I’d be really surprised if they settled for a Patterson-Mike Davis duo again in 2022. On the one hand, Patterson s passed out in the second half of the season, and he’s about to turn 31. They’re one of the most likely teams to draft a running back, but if they don’t, there could be a ton of targets and ranges available for a running back.

Best Fit: Melvin Gordon

Miami Dolphins

With Mike McDaniel taking over in Miami, there will be plenty of parallels between the 49ers’ success in the running game and what McDaniel is trying to do with the Dolphins. They have a lot of work to do on the offensive line before this all makes sense and they still have Myles Gaskin on the roster. For this reason, I don’t expect a big splash in this post. It might even be a ripple like bringing in former 49ers Mostert and Wilson. I think the fact that Gaskin is still around may mean they’re just looking for a start back.

Best Fit: Ronald Jones.

Houston Texans

The Texans have already re-signed Rex Burkhead, but it’s highly unlikely they expect him to be their leader. I would expect them to bring in someone to share in-game work and handle most of the transmission work. They could just bring David Johnson back to do it, but I guess they would like to get younger. I wonder if another former cardinal could do the trick.

Best Fit: Chase Edmonds.

Sneaky potential landing spots: Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills,

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