The 2021 running back class was headed by Najee Harris out of Alabama. He was drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers and finished the season as the overall RB4 in half-PPR scoring. While Harris has already established himself in the NFL, fellow draft class members like Travis Etienne Jr., Elijah Mitchell, Kenneth Gainwell, Javonte Williams, Rhamondre Stevenson and Trey Sermon are looking to take the next step in 2022. Not all situations are created equally, so here are the second-year running backs best poised for a fantasy football breakout this season.
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers
Mitchell was drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the 49ers and was viewed as an afterthought last year in a crowded backfield. Due to injuries to the players in front of him, Mitchell got his shot and didn’t waste it. He finished the season as the overall RB25 after playing in only 11 games. Mitchell ran the ball 207 times for 963 yards and five touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 137 additional yards and one more touchdown. That could be considered his breakout season, but I think with a full workload, he gets even better in year two and could finish as a high-end RB2 or a low-end RB1 this season.
Travis Etienne Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars
Etienne Jr. was drafted with the 25th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Jaguars. The selection was a surprise as UDFA James Robinson had a great previous season. Regardless, Etienne didn’t end up factoring into the offense as he suffered a Pedal Lisfranc Sprain that sidelined him the entire season. He appears to be healthy for the season and will look to breakout in his second season as he gets to play with his college quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots
Stevenson was drafted out of the University of Oklahoma in the fourth round of last year’s draft. He split time with Damien Harris in the backfield but showed flashes of promise. Stevenson played in 12 games and had 133 carries for 606 yards and five touchdowns. He brought in 14 of his 18 targets for 123 additional yards. Stevenson is part of the infamous Bell Belichick backfield that is hard to trust in fantasy, but he is poised for a better season in 2022. Training camp reports are usually taken with a grain of salt, but if there is any truth to the rumor that Stevenson is impressing in camp and getting more time with the 1s, he could be in line for a breakout.