Fantasy football backup RB rankings: Is it mandatory to insure the top backs?

AP Photo/Brett Duke

Fantasy football insurance is a tricky animal.

On one hand, you want to protect yourself from injuries by warehousing your star player's backup.

On the other hand, the opportunity cost of expending that roster spot could cost you a valuable waiver pickup.

The fact is insurance is a valuable tool if used correctly.

Some backups are very good players, while others are not. In the event of an injury, some would be positioned for a clear path to a large share of touches, while others would see only a slight uptick in work. When evaluating insurance, the best game plan is to select players with high ceilings should the player ahead of them on the depth chart miss time.

For example, if Dalvin Cook goes down, Alexander Mattison would handle a feature back role in Minnesota and would be in the RB1 discussion. If Najee Harris goes down, however, some combination of Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Jeremy McNichols and perhaps Mataeo Durant would share touches, and none would be a clear fantasy starter. If you selected Harris and not Cook, don't cross Mattison off your draft board and force a dart throw at Snell. Pick the guy who can win you a league championship, not a player who would barely be worth flex consideration.

Below is an examination of the 2022 running back insurance landscape, with a 1-to-32 ranking of the top RB backups for each team, as well as some thoughts on how the backfield might look if the starter goes down.

For updated insurance information and advice throughout the season, be sure to keep up with our fantasy depth charts.

Running back insurance rankings

1. Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings (RB1 if Dalvin Cook)

Mattison is the top insurance back in fantasy football, and you have to look no further than the 2021 season for the evidence. Cook missed four games (none consecutively), and Mattison produced 518 yards and three touchdowns in his place. No running back had more fantasy points during those four weeks. Minnesota is expected to pass more under new coach Kevin O'Connell, but Mattison has proven effective as both a rusher and receiver and likely would defer only a handful of touches to Kene Nwangwu and perhaps rookie Ty Chandler. The 24-year-old would be a no-brainer RB1.