If you imagine building your dynasty squad like making a cake, running backs are the final icing. Why is that? Since running back is the least stable position on a year-to-year basis, you don’t want to build your cake with a foundation that might not hold the other layers and toppings.
Running backs are essential for winning fantasy championships, but if you aren’t investing in the right guys once that foundation is set, you are setting yourself up for disaster.
Age is crucial when it comes to running backs. Age adds stability for a position with such a low age production apex. As we get deeper into rankings, age is thrown out the window, and the need for 2023 production is more prevalent.
Let these rankings help you find the best mixture of stability and high-end production to win championships for years to come.
RB Tier Rankings
Value Estimation: 3 First-Round Picks
|1||21.3 Years Old||Bijan Robinson||Atlanta Falcons|
Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
He’s in a prospect bucket that includes Adrian Peterson, Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey. Plus, he’s the fourth youngest running back in the entire league. He is easily the Dynasty RB1.
All those previously mentioned names have multiple 18+ PPG seasons, and it shouldn’t take Bijan Robinson long to get there.
Value Estimation: 2+ First-Round Picks
|2||22.0 Years Old||Breece Hall||New York Jets|
|3||21.2 Years Old||Jahmyr Gibbs||Detroit Lions|
|4||27.0 Years Old||Christian McCaffrey||San Francisco 49ers|
|5||24.3 Years Old||Jonathan Taylor||Indianapolis Colts|
Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions
Before the 2023 NFL Draft, there were only three running backs selected in the top 20 to put up multiple seasons with more than a 10 percent receiving yard shares in Reggie Bush, McCaffrey and Barkley.
All of them put up more than 20 percent target shares as rookies. That is precisely where Jahmyr Gibbs is headed. His youth, mixed with a high-end receiving profile, gives him a high floor and a tantalizing ceiling.
Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
McCaffrey may be the oldest running back in these top two tiers, but he’s never had a season below 20 PPG since his rookie season. He’s never had a target share below 20 percent.
His age isn’t ideal, but the production that comes with him in a Kyle Shanahan offense is impossible to overlook.
Value Estimation: 2 First-Round Picks
|6||26.3 Years Old||Saquon Barkley||New York Giants|
|7||28.0 Years Old||Austin Ekeler||Los Angeles Chargers|
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler‘s 17.9 percent target share was the second-highest in the league last season and only trailed McCaffrey. His ability to earn targets comes in an offense with one of the highest passing volumes in the league led by Justin Herbert.
Even without talking about how it was his second straight season going above a 50 percent carry percentage, the production that comes with that speaks for itself.
Value Estimation: Premium First-Round Pick
|8||25.3 Years Old||Josh Jacobs||Las Vegas Raiders|
|9||24.3 Years Old||Travis Etienne||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|10||25.2 Years Old||Rhamondre Stevenson||New England Patriots|
Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Only Jamaal Charles had put up more than 2.50 rushing yards per team attempt with less than a 50 percent carry percentage in his second season until Travis Etienne did it in 2022.
Etienne’s rushing efficiency is fantastic, but if we’re going to get a massive production outcome for Etienne, his receiving usage needs to increase.
Value Estimation: First-Round Pick
|11||27.4 Years Old||Nick Chubb||Cleveland Browns|
|12||26.1 Years Old||Tony Pollard||Dallas Cowboys|
|13||22.6 Years Old||Kenneth Walker III||Seattle Seahawks|
|14||25.2 Years Old||Najee Harris||Pittsburgh Steelers|
Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
We’ve never seen more than a 40 percent carry percentage from Tony Pollard, but with the Dallas Cowboys‘ backfield relatively empty, it doesn’t take much projecting to get there.
When we add that he’s earned more than 10 percent of his team’s targets in a non-full-time role, there is legitimate upside in 2022 for Pollard. The profile doesn’t come without flaws, but the upcoming production on a good offense is quite intriguing.
Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks
After being the 14th running back drafted in the first two rounds to eclipse a more than 60 percent carry percentage last season, we thought the Seattle Seahawks were excited to deploy Kenneth Walker fully — even if the receiving profile had its downsides.
But with Seattle taking another running back in the second round (Zach Charbonnet), the high-end production gets even harder to see.
Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
Going from 17.7 PPG as a rookie to 13.0 PPG in his second season was startling beyond just the fantasy points. Najee Harris‘ carry percentage dropped from 74.6 percent to 54.4 percent, and his target share fell from 14.1 percent to 9.3 percent.
His efficiency was also not ideal. Harris’ situation could lead to a better season this year, but the talent profile shows risk.
Value Estimation: Late First-Round Pick
|15||23.1 Years Old||Javonte Williams||Denver Broncos|
|16||27.8 Years Old||Alvin Kamara||New Orleans Saints|
|17||26.8 Years Old||Joe Mixon||Cincinnati Bengals|
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
There might be a suspension looming, but it’s unclear when and how many games it will be. We do know that Alvin Kamara was one of just six running backs to put up a more than 15 percent target share last season. His carry percentage only trailed Barkley amongst the group.
The ability to earn a lot of targets and have adequate rushing game numbers leads to high-end production. Remember, the latter half of the season is much more important than the first half.
Value Estimation: Early Second-Round Pick
|18||29.4 Years Old||Derrick Henry||Tennessee Titans|
|19||24.4 Years Old||D’Andre Swift||Philadelphia Eagles|
|20||28.5 Years Old||Aaron Jones||Green Bay Packers|
|21||24.4 Years Old||JK Dobbins||Baltimore Ravens|
|22||23.3 Years Old||Dameon Pierce||Houston Texans|
|23||21.6 Years Old||Devon Achane||Miami Dolphins|
|24||22.4 Years Old||Zach Charbonnet||Seattle Seahawks|
D’Andre Swift, Philadelphia Eagles
Running backs that end up on a second team before their rookie contract is finished typically have a poor hit rate.
While that’s still true with D’Andre Swift, he’s shown he can earn valuable targets at a higher rate. In the past two seasons, he’s never had less than a 14 percent target share. Since he’s entering a better-rushing offense with the Philadelphia Eagles this season, there’s upside to be had.
Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans
One of the main concerns with Dameon Pierce’s profile was if he would survive the draft under a new coaching regime. Thankfully he did, as the Houston Texans never selected a running back.
Coming off a year where he was just the 10th rookie to post a more than 70 percent carry percentage, the heavy workload is his to lose. He’s also the only one of those 10 without an RB1 season. That could change as soon as next season.
Devon Achane, Miami Dolphins
While it may seem unlikely for a 188-pound back to hold a high workload, we saw Devon Achane go for more than a 60 percent carry percentage in his junior and final season at Texas A&M.
Value Estimation – Second Round Pick
|25||28.0 Years Old||James Conner||Arizona Cardinals|
|26||27.8 Years Old||Dalvin Cook||Minnesota Vikings|
|27||26.1 Years Old||Miles Sanders||Carolina Panthers|
|28||24.2 Years Old||Isiah Pacheco||Kansas City Chiefs|
|29||26.0 Years Old||David Montgomery||Detroit Lions|
|30||24.4 Years Old||Rachaad White||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|31||23.9 Years Old||Cam Akers||Los Angeles Rams|
|32||21.7 Years Old||Tank Bigsby||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|33||24.2 Years Old||Brian Robinson||Washington Commanders|
|34||25.1 Years Old||Elijah Mitchell||San Francisco 49ers|
|35||24.9 Years Old||Antonio Gibson||Washington Commanders|
|36||25.1 Years Old||AJ Dillon||Green Bay Packers|
|37||20.9 Years Old||Kendre Miller||New Orleans Saints|
|38||26.3 Years Old||Damien Harris||Buffalo Bills|
|39||21.9 Years Old||Tyjae Spears||Tennessee Titans|
Isiah Pacheco, Kansas City Chiefs
When you go for over 40 percent of the team’s carries and put up 1.99 yards per team rush attempts on the league’s best offense, there is always going to be something to like. When Isiah Pacheco didn’t end up getting any competition added via the NFL Draft, we had even more reason to believe the backfield could run through him. Running backs in one of the league’s top offenses are always going to have their rightful intrigue.
David Montgomery, Detroit Lions
David Montgomery had never put up less than a 60 percent-plus of his teams carries until his fourth season with the Chicago Bears where he put up a 38.3 percent carry percentage. He joins an up-and-coming offense on a three-year deal without anyone who clearly dominates the carries in front of him. There is plenty to like with Montgomery’s profile at his current price tag.
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers
After a fantastic and surprising rookie season, Elijah Mitchell’s efficiency on the ground only improved, putting up a 90.1 PFF Rushing Grade in 2022. He also proved that he could still be a factor even despite injuries and McCaffrey being added to the offense. When a running back show us they can continue to be good in a strong rushing offense, we should be paying attention.
Damien Harris, Buffalo Bills
It may seem slightly shocking to have Damien Harris above James Cook, who was drafted in the second-round last year. But Harris’ lowest carry percentage of his career is still nearly double what Cook’s was as a rookie. Which even if we project ahead for Cook, it’s still hard to see him surpassing what we’ve seen Harris do each of the last three seasons. It’s also not like James Cook’s 5.6 percent rookie target share makes him some massive receiving weapon. Give me the guy with more projected usage in a strong Bills offense.
Value Estimation – Third Round Pick
|40||25.1 Years Old||Khalil Herbert||Chicago Bears|
|41||24.9 Years Old||Alexander Mattison||Minnesota Vikings|
|42||23.1 Years Old||Tyler Allgeier||Atlanta Falcons|
|43||23.7 Years Old||James Cook||Buffalo Bills|
|44||20.6 Years Old||Israel Abanikanda||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|45||22.3 Years Old||Roschon Johnson||Chicago Bears|
|46||22.1 Years Old||Zach Evans||Los Angeles Rams|
|47||27.3 Years Old||Rashaad Penny||Philadelphia Eagles|
|48||27.7 Years Old||Samaje Perine||Denver Broncos|
|49||28.1 Years Old||Jamaal Williams||New Orleans Saints|
|50||24.5 Years Old||Jaylen Warren||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|51||25.7 Years Old||Devin Singletary||Houston Texans|
|52||27.1 Years Old||D’Onta Foreman||Chicago Bears|
Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
Typically, players that don’t show they can handle workloads in the NFL, don’t. So even if Dalvin Cook isn’t the starting running back for the Minnesota Vikings in 2023, it’s hard to say Alexander Mattison has some high ceiling. There’s been 29 running backs to have less than a 40 percent-plus carry percentage in each of their first four seasons, while only two of them eclipsed a 40 percent-plus in any season after that: Austin Ekeler and Jamaal Williams. We would need an unlikely leap from the Mattison profile.
Jamaal Williams, New Orleans Saints
Having the lowest target share of your career in Year 6 typically doesn’t lead to the most productive season of your career. But thanks to a career high and whopping 6.1 percent TD Rate, we got 13.1 PPG out of Williams in his final season in Detroit. Unfortunately, as a running back, the ability to earn targets has a lot higher stability than simply scoring touchdowns.
Value Estimation – Fourth Round Pick
|53||31.1 Years Old||Jerick McKinnon||Kansas City Chiefs|
|54||24.0 Years Old||Michael Carter||New York Jets|
|55||23.7 Years Old||Jerome Ford||Cleveland Browns|
|56||24.2 Years Old||Kenneth Gainwell||Philadelphia Eagles|
|57||24.1 Years Old||Clyde Edwards-Helaire||Kansas City Chiefs|
|58||22.6 Years Old||Evan Hull||Indianapolis Colts|
|59||27.5 Years Old||Jeff Wilson Jr||Miami Dolphins|
|60||23.6 Years Old||Eric Gray||New York Giants|
|61||22.5 Years Old||Chase Brown||Cincinnati Bengals|
|62||31.1 Years Old||Raheem Mostert||Miami Dolphins|
|63||21.8 Years Old||Isaiah Spiller||Los Angeles Chargers|
|64||23.9 Years Old||Chuba Hubbard||Carolina Panthers|
|65||21.6 Years Old||Deuce Vaughn||Dallas Cowboys|
|66||23.7 Years Old||Zamir White||Las Vegas Raiders|
|67||28.1 Years Old||Gus Edwards||Baltimore Ravens|
|68||27.8 Years Old||Kareem Hunt||Free Agent|
|69||21.9 Years Old||DeWayne McBride||Minnesota Vikings|
|70||27.8 Years Old||Ezekiel Elliot||Dallas Cowboys|
Michael Carter, New York Jets
The New York Jets passing offense takes a massive leap going from Zach Wilson to Aaron Rodgers next season. Michael Carter may never put up the 40 percent-plus carry percentage he did as a rookie now that Breece Hall is there, but someone who earns targets at an adequate rate in a productive passing offense is always going to have their intrigue.
Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals
The prospect bucket for Chase Brown has an abysmal hit rate, but being a running back in one of the league’s best offenses gives us intrigue. Especially one where the running back in front of him on the depth chart is facing some legal issues. There is a clear path to gained value for Brown and it’s not like he even needs to do anything for that to happen.
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