Workhorses are almost extinct.
Only 4 RBs -- Jonathan Taylor, Najee Harris, Joe Mixon and Antonio Gibson -- reached 300 touches last year. The same number hit that threshold in 2020.
Almost every backfield is split to some degree. That makes it especially important to sort through the situations and determine what we can reasonably expect.
So let’s dig into the names you need to know as we enter fantasy draft season. The “top fantasy target” for each team below is the best value at ADP, not necessarily the highest-ranked player in that backfield.
Top fantasy target: James Conner
Others in the mix: Darrel Williams, Eno Benjamin, Keaontay Ingram, Ronnie Rivers
Conner, 27, re-signed in Arizona for 3-years, $21 million ($13.5 million guaranteed) following an RB5 finish. He’ll handle the vast majority of rushing work, but there is some uncertainty to his receiving role. While Conner excelled as a pass catcher down the stretch, it’s worth noting that he snagged only 5 passes over the first 8 games with a healthy Chase Edmonds.
Our lean is that Conner retains a sizable receiving role after averaging 10.1 yards per catch and totaling 32 grabs over his final 7 regular season games. DeAndre Hopkins’ 6-game suspension figures to help.
The mystery starts at the #2 spot, where Darrel Williams, Eno Benjamin and others will battle for leftovers. Upon observing training camp, Eric Williams of Fox Sports believes Darrel Williams will get the “first shot.” The former Chief posted games of 19 and 21 carries last year, and while his efficiency overall underwhelmed (3.9 YPC) he’s easily the most established option.
Benjamin enters year 3 with only 40 career touches (all in 2021). A 2020 Round 7 pick, he doesn’t have the pedigree of a likely breakout, but he’s only 23. HC Kliff Kingsbury also praised Benjamin in June, saying he “looks like he could be a starting running back.”
Ingram (6’0, 215) arrived in Round 6 this year; Rivers (5’7, 195) signed as an UDFA. Both are clear long-shots for redraft value, but the lack of depth chart clarity provides some hope. GM Steve Keim complimented Ingram’s special teams ability after the draft, so he might start out there.
Conner’s a fine target in Round 3, while Williams/Benjamin are low-risk fliers boosted by Conner's injury risk.