Fantasy football draft season is upon us, and the predominant top-two picks in most standard drafts have been Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry. It makes sense — JT was the best RB last year, and King Henry dominated the previous two seasons before breaking a bone in his right foot last Halloween. With both expected to be ready for Week 1 in 2022, many fantasy owners have been wrestling with the decision of which top-tier RB to choose if they land the No. 1 pick.
The short answer, of cou miami dolphins shirt rse, is that you can’t really go wrong either way. In stand Ezekiel Elliott ard leagues, these two are the creme de la creme. But understandably, you want to make the best decisions on every investment in every round. That requires careful analysis and tireless preparation, two things deeply woven into Sporting News Fantasy’s DNA.
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Let’s dive deeper into the debate of whether you should draft Taylor or Henry at No. 1 in standard leagues before getting into whether any other RB — maybe Austin Ekeler or Najee Harris — should go over Taylor in PPR formats. If you're interested in more help while drafting, check out RotoBaller's premium "Who To Draft?" tool, which they've made available to SN Fantasy readers for free. Use discount code "SPORTING" to become a RotoBaller subscriber and get access to all their award-winning, game-changing tools, stats, and analysis.
2022 STANDARD RANKINGS:
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Who should be the No. 1 overall pick in standard fantasy drafts: Jonathan Taylor or Derrick Henry?
The case for Taylor
In 2021, Taylor enjoyed a massive breakout. He led the NFL in rushing yards (1,811), rushing touchdowns (18), yards from scrimmage (2,171), and total TDs (20). He also separated himself from the field in total carries (332) and average yards per game (106.5). Quite simply, he combined superior Hoodies talent with opportunity.
At 22, Taylor rushed for 552 yards more than the No. 2 rusher last season (Nick Chubb) and over 600 yards more than Joe Mixon at No. 3. Taylor also scored 59.3 more fantasy points on the season than the second-best fantasy RB, Austin Ekeler.
How does Taylor do it? Basically, he’s good at just about everything. He has phenomenal vision, burst, and cutting ability. He’s strong but stable and can fight through contact. He has good hands, catching nearly 85 percent of his 90 targets through his first two seasons. He rarely coughs up the rock, posting just five total fumbles over his first 640 touches.
Taylor netted 5.5 yards per carry last season, tying Chubb for the most efficient average of backs with 120 or more rushing attempts. Indy’s offensive line helped the young stud a great deal and should be strong again this year despite losing two starters. PFF ranks the Colts line No. 10, while FantasyPros grades Indy’s schedule as a three out of five. The Titans have a better schedule — ranked a four out of five — but a much worse offensive line.
Of course, the elephant in the room is going to be health. Taylor played all 17 regular-season games in ‘21 and looked fine despite the massive usa Washington Football Team shirt ge. That gives him an automatic edge over Henry, a workhorse back who suffered an injury to one of his most vital body parts. Given JT’s clean bill of health — and the fact that he’s 23 — he sure seems like the better bet than a 28-year-old Henry coming off a major injury.
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The case for Henry
Of course, nobody will call you a donkey for opting instead for King Henry. The back-to-back rushing champ in 2019 and ‘20 Los Angeles Chargers jersey , Henry easily led the NFL in every major rushing stat category the last time we saw him play a full season. Before getting hurt last year, Henry averaged 21.9 stand Denver Broncos shirt ard fantasy points per game; Taylor only averaged 16.4 in that same eight-game span.
While Taylor was dominant last season, Henry was arguably even better in ‘20. In one fewer game Henry had 46 more carries and averaged almost 20 more rushing yards per game (126.7). That 126.7 per-game average trails just 10 players total throughout the history of the NFL. Check out the full list:
Like we said this time last year, Henry will get the ball early and often, but he will really be turning on the afterburners as we get closer to fantasy playoff time. In September of ‘20, he averaged a mere 3.9 yards per carry. That December, when the weather got colder and defenses started wearing down, he bumped up to 5.9 yards per carry. This has been a common theme over the course of his career and certainly during his 2,000-yard rushing season.
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The case against Henry
The biggest difference between Taylor and Henry, besides health and age lies in the passing game. While Taylor proved his ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield last season, it remains to be seen if Henry will ever truly materialize as a stud receiving back. He caught just 19-of-31 targets in 2019 and averaged only six yards per reception. He did haul in 18-of-20 targets last season before getting hurt, but that’s still a pretty small pre-injury sample size.
We’re not talking PPR here — that will be discussed a little further down this column — but receiving yards still count for points in standard leagues. Taylor’s 2,171 yards from scrimmage in ‘21 bested Henry’s total yardage from ‘20 by 30 yards thanks to JT netting 246 more receiving yards. Taylor also scored 20 all-purpose TDs last season, while Henry maxed out at 17 in ‘20 and 18 three years ago.
It’s also imperative to pay attention to injury risks and the age factor. Given Henry’s importance to the Titans offense — and Tennessee’s shot at contending — it would be somewhat surprising to see him garner another touch count in the 330-370 range. No team will mortgage their short-term playoff success or long-term outlook by overusing a stud back coming off a major injury sustained less than one year ago.
As our rankings show, we give Ta Tampa Bay Buccaneers shirt ylor the edge as the No. 1 RB in standard leagues. Even before he got hurt last season, Henry was averaging fewer yards per carry (4.3 to JT’s 5.5) and yards per catch (8.6 to 9.0). He’s younger, healthier, and has a better offensive line. At 5-10, 226 pounds, he might not have the size of the 6-3, 250-pound Henry, but he more than makes up for that with across-the-board skills, speed, hands, and volume.
2022 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
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Are any other RBs worthy of the No. 1 overall pick?
You could absolutely argue Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook should be in the top tier — both backs have demonstrated their elite skills profiles through the years — but both backs also have injury histories. CMC has played just 10 total games over the past two seasons, while Cook has never played more than 14 games. He's also coming off a season where he scored just six times.
If you draft either of these players, you should almost certainly draft their handcuffs (Chuba Hubbard/D'Onta Foreman for McCaffrey and Alexander Mattison). If you dra Jerome Bettis ft either No. 1 or No. 2, get a good pair of noise-canceling headphones to block out the unlimited heckling your leaguemates will subject you with throughout the season. A case can be made for either Taylor at Henry as first off the board — but passing on either of them for a wild card with health risks could have dire consequences.
Who should be the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy PPR drafts?
Taylor at No. 1 seems to be pretty concrete across the board, regardless of format, but PPR leagues have yielded vastly different results at No. 2. Indeed, that’s where the true question marks begin: who is the second-best PPR option in fantasy football?
We must consider much more than just sheer rushing ability when ranking backs in PPR leagues. With each reception counting for a point or even just a half-point, a strong three-down receiving back jumps way up in value. Similarly, a back with elite pass-catching ability also has more opportunities to score TDs.
So, who should go 1-2-3 out of the top tier of RBs in PPR drafts? Let’s dive right into the top five candidates.
2022 PPR RANKINGS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Top 200 | Superflex
The case for Jonathan Taylor as the No. 1 pick in a PPR
Don’t get cute. Taylor is not just the No. 1 standard RB, he’s also the No. 1 PPR back. His sheer all-purpose yardage numbers and TD volume make him a can’t-miss pick, especially considering his age (23) and his health (he played all 17 games last season). Whether on the ground or through the air, JT has proven he’s the most all-around dominant player at the position
Taylor had the most elite skills, the gaudiest stats, the best health, and the highest usage last season. For all these reasons, he maintains an automatic edge over everyone else in this tier. At 23, he sure seems like the best bet regardless of format.
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The case for Austin Ekeler as the No. 1 pick in a PPR
Ekeler finished second with 343.8 PPR points in 2021. He’s easily one of the best receiving backs in football, as evidenced by his 70 receptions for 647 yards and eight TDs through the air. He finished with a whopping 20 scores and 1,558 all-purpose yards.
Still, Ekeler’s injury history could make drafters squeamish. The 27-year-old played just 10 games in ‘20 and has been dinged up countless times throughout his Shop All Back To School three prior years as a pro. That’s the main reason he has yet to make a Pro Bowl appearance or receive any high NFL honors. Ek could also be due for some touchdown regression — his previous career high for TDs in a season was 11 in '19, a year in which he also scored eight receiving TDs.
Besides Taylor, Ekeler was the only other back to average 21.0 PPR points between Week 1 and Week 17 last season. The Chargers have a top-12 offensive line according to PFF and a top-five offense according to ‘21 stats (scoring and yardage), so the fantasy goodness should carry over to ‘22 as long as Professor Ek stays healthy. That said, there are enough obvious risks here to preclude Ekeler from going ahead of Taylor.
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The case for Najee Harris as the No. 1 pick in a PPR
Picking Harris at No. 2 overall seems like a damn good option, and it's tough to blame anyone who ranks Pittsburgh’s back over Ekeler. In his rookie season, Harris led the NFL with 381 touches, and his 1,667 scrimmage yards trailed only Taylor among RBs. At just 23, he was the focal point of the Steelers’ otherwise-dreadful offense, garnering 307 rushing attempts (second) and 94 targets (tied for first among all RBs).
Harris hauled in 74 receptions last season, leading all RBs by four. What troubles us, though, is that Harris only averaged 6.3 yards per reception and 3.9 yards per carry. Pittsburgh has clear issues at QB (moving from retired Big Ben Roethlisberger to either Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett) and offensive line (ranked the third-worst line by PFF).
We don’t doubt that Harris will enjoy another volume-heavy campaign — we just remain skeptical of his ability to capitalize on his touches. He scored 10 touchdowns last season and averaged 4.4 yards per touch last season. His individual potential is massive, but his actual fantasy ceiling — at least for now — seems capped at No. 3.
The case for Derrick Henry as the No. 1 pick in a PPR
According to our friends at FantasyPros, Henry has a current ADP of No. 5 overall in PPR drafts. Regardless of format, you should be pretty pleased if you land Henry in the middle of the first round. Some might even suggest he’s the third-best or fourth-best option in PPRs despite a limited pass-catching history.
No running back was more dominant than Henry in the 2.5 seasons between 2019 and Week 8 of '21. He’s so utterly dominant on the ground that he could finish No. 1 in PPRs with just 30-40 catches. The problem is he’s never finished a season with 20. He was well on his way last year, catching 18-of-20 targets, but a broken bone in his foot changed everything.
King Henry could easily be the rushing champ again before his reign ends, but don’t waste a top PPR pick on a volume-dependent back with little receiving pedigree less than nine months removed from a foot injury.
The case for Christian McCaffrey as the No. pick in a PPR
Hey, remember this guy? McCaffrey was the consensus No. 1 pick in standards and PPRs for many years running before he ran into myriad injuries the past couple seasons. CMC has played just 10 games total over the past two seasons. When he’s on the field, he’s still one of the very best dual-purpose backs in football. He just struggles to stay out there from start to finish each campaign.
If you like high risks with potential sky-high rewards, look no further. The Panthers recently traded for Baker Mayfield, so the Carolina offense could be in for some major positive regression this season. McCaffrey has hovered around a 90-percent catch rate over the past two seasons, and he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 9.0 yards per catch over seven games last year. He was on pace for 90 catches and 1,906 scrimmage yards before the injury bug once again reared its ugly head. McCaffrey lost time to hamstring and left-ankle injuries last year after suffering from a right high-ankle sprain, shoulder, and thigh injuries in '20.
Everyone loves upside and potential steals, but there seems like way too much potential downside to grabbing CMC before No. 6 or 7 — and even then he's a risk.
The PPR verdict
As our rankings show, we give Taylor the edge as Ed Reed the No. 1 RB in PPR and standard leagues. He’s young, healthy, super-skilled, and has very little competition for touches both on the ground and through the air. Matt RYa should only improve the stud RB’s chances to duplicate his dominant run from a season ago.
At No. 2, we’ll go with Harris by a nose-hair over Ekeler just because of volume and injury history. Be sure to check out our full RB PPR rankings and RB tiers before you draft!