Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
Volume was huge for Harris during his impressive fantasy rookie campaign when he played a whopping 171 more snaps than the next closest RB yet ranked 48th in fantasy points per opportunity. Coaches were already talking about lessening Harris’ workload earlier this summer, which will be made easier by the emergence of rookie Jaylen Warren.
With Ben Roethlisberger no longer around relying on dump-offs and playing for a team with one of the worst offensive lines and quarterback situations in all of football, Harris is unlikely to justify his lofty ADP.
Najee is now even riskier in drafts with news of him recovering from a recurring foot injury.
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Mixon
Over-drafted is a better way to describe Mixon than a true “bust,” but it won’t be easy for him to return value at such a high ADP while continuing to leave the field on passing downs. Mixon is a threat to score double-digit touchdowns again running behind an improved Bengals offensive line (and it helps to have a QB who just easily led the league in YPA), but Cincinnati’s refusal to use him as the team’s passing-down back hurts his fantasy upside.
Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott is the first starting running back in decades to see his rushing yards per game decline in five straight seasons and has a concerning career workload (historically RBs start showing a noticeable decline when reaching 1,500 career rush attempts). While Elliott’s weak production last year can be partially blamed on playing through a torn PCL, don’t forget he was bad before suffering the knee injury.
While Dallas could remain stubborn and keep Zeke as its feature back, it’s clear he’s not the team’s best option at the position.
Los Angeles Rams: Cam Akers
As impressive as Akers’ early return from his Achilles tear was last season, he also looked like a shell of his former self while getting just 2.6 YPC over 67 rush attempts in the playoffs. He finished last among 105 running backs in rush yards over expectation by a wide margin. While it’s entirely possible Akers returns in 2022 with more explosion further removed from the injury, history suggests this may just be the new him, unfortunately. Moreover, Rams running backs haven’t combined for better than a 12.5 percent target share in any of the past three seasons, and a whopping 80% of the team’s touchdowns came via the pass last year.
While Sean McVay has typically liked to use a feature back, the Rams have been splitting work with the starters evenly between Akers and Darrell Henderson this summer. Henderson has durability issues, but he also may be the team’s best running back. Akers is already dealing with a soft-tissue injury and is a real risk being drafted as a borderline top-20 RB.
Arizona Cardinals: James Conner
Conner has a long injury history and has missed multiple games during every season of his five-year career. While Chase Edmonds is gone, Eno Benjamin has impressed and is expected to take over as Arizona’s passing-down back (and if not him, then newcomer Darrel Williams).
Conner still has nice touchdown potential, but losing receiving work would be huge to his fantasy value (he’s only surpassed 755 rushing yards once and has never reached 1,000 during his career). The volatile Conner has proven to be a better fantasy pick when he’s coming off a down season, but he enters 2022 with high expectations.
Baltimore Ravens: J.K. Dobbins
The average RB dip in fantasy points per game in the season following ACL surgery has been around 17 percent since 2009, and Dobbins hasn’t exactly appeared back to full strength this summer. He's clearly Baltimore’s best running back, but he may not be close to 100 percent until the second half of the season (if not next year) and plays for a Ravens team that loves to split carries with its running backs. He also has a quarterback who’s capable of rushing in scores and has targeted his RBs an NFL-low 12.9 percent since 2017.