Editor’s note: This article was published prior to the Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook signings.
For my top 55 fantasy running backs, you’ll see a detailed write-up for every player to better understand how I view their role for the 2023 season.
Running backs are organized into tiers, and these rankings are intended for half-PPR or full-PPR fantasy scoring. We’ll have full fantasy rankings on The 33rd Team in mid-August.
Tier 1: Elite Fantasy RB1s
1. Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
Christian McCaffrey was second among running backs with 108 targets and 85 receptions last season. McCaffrey also carried the ball 244 times — no other running back with 75 or more receptions carried even 205 times in 2022.
In short, McCaffrey has the most unique and fantasy-relevant role in the NFL on one of the league’s most efficient offenses. Assuming the 49ers’ starting quarterback is Brock Purdy or Sam Darnold, both of whom will check the ball down frequently, McCaffrey is the running back to select at the top of fantasy drafts.
Because he was traded from Carolina to the 49ers midseason, there’s a chance McCaffrey will be even more integrated into this offense’s playbook in 2023. While Austin Ekeler’s reception uptick occurred due to injuries to the entire Chargers’ receiving core, McCaffrey always played with at least two of WRs Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and TE George Kittle.
Still, he averaged more than five receptions per game in the nine games played with at least a 50 percent snap share. That includes removing his partial performance from his first game with the 49ers (29 percent snap share) and his brief appearance in Week 18 when the 49ers demolished the Cardinals.
2. Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
Unlike Harris, Robinson is explosive, shifty and an excellent pass-catcher. The Falcons have a premium offensive line and should keep defenses honest with WR Drake London and TE Kyle Pitts in the receiving game. However, QB Desmond Ridder is not the archetype to check the ball down frequently to running backs. This team is unlikely to be near the top of the league in total touchdowns.
Still, the floor is a top 10 RB, and the ceiling is RB1 overall. He’s the safest running back pick in fantasy football. He is arguably the best talent at the position in an above-average situation.
3. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler is the only running back to post at least 21 PPR points per game in each of the past two seasons. Part of the reason is that his 38 total touchdowns since 2021 rank first at the position by a margin of 12. James Conner is second with 26 in that span.
There are a few concerns with Ekeler, keeping him as my RB3. He’s 28 years old, with a smaller frame (5-foot-10, 200 pounds), and is coming off back-to-back seasons with at least 204 carries and 94 targets. That workload catches up to most running backs, particularly smaller ones like Ekeler.
New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore comes from Dallas, where they routinely employed a running back committee. Whether that’s Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller or bringing in a veteran like Dalvin Cook or Ezekiel Elliott, there’s a moderately high chance Ekeler is splitting some of those valuable goal-line opportunities.
Finally, while Ekeler’s league-leading 107 receptions from last season demonstrate his elite receiving ceiling, it occurred due to multiple receiver injuries. The Chargers drafted Quentin Johnston in Round 1 to provide additional depth and play-making ability, so Ekeler’s receiving upside should be lower than in 2022.
Despite those concerns, Ekeler is a pass-catching back with a decent run game role, playing on one of the NFL’s best and fastest-paced offenses, which keeps him near the top of these rankings.
4. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Saquon Barkley has a better role than nearly every running back in fantasy football, with last year’s 295 carries and 76 targets reaffirming he’s one of the NFL’s last true bellcow backs.
While Barkley had the third most touches per game among backs, his 10 total touchdowns last season ranked 10th at the position. The Giants offense should be better in Year 2 of the Daniel Jones-Brian Daboll era, so we could see improvement from Barkley’s 17.8 PPR points per game last season, which ranked fifth.
5. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Chubb has two seasons with around 1,500 rushing yards and three seasons with double-digit touchdowns. He’s in for a strong season, with last year’s 1,764 total yards and 13 TDs as a nice expectation if he plays 17 games again.
While Chubb will never be a strong pass-catcher for fantasy football, he’s in a good spot to put up his first season above 300 receiving yards to complement his elite rushing profile. A realistic stat line that could cement Chubb as the RB1 overall is 1,600 rushing yards, 45 receptions for 300 receiving yards and 12-15 total touchdowns.
6. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
Derrick Henry has at least 1,500 rushing yards in three of the past four seasons, an unreal rushing stretch. He’s reached double-digit rushing touchdowns each of the past four seasons, too.
Henry even emerged as a surprising pass-catching option in 2022. His 398 receiving yards were nearly double his previous career-high. Superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins will help keep defenses honest, providing Henry with more favorable running lanes.
However, the already patchwork offensive line suffered another blow when starting right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere was suspended for the season’s first six games due to gambling. Henry will turn 30 before the season ends and plays behind one of the league’s worst blocking units.
Fortunately, he has made a career out of proving skeptics wrong, and based on his contract, this looks like the last time the Titans will employ Henry as their starting runner. He should comfortably average more total touches per game than every other back in 2023. He has a soft fantasy playoff schedule, too.
In Weeks 15-17, he faces the Texans twice, along with the Seahawks. Both units were top-four in fantasy points allowed to running backs last season.
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Tier 2: Low-End RB1 Types
7. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
Tony Pollard has never reached 200 carries in a season, dating back through college. He’s an explosive runner and slick pass-catcher, but it’s an uphill battle for him to see the volume that the surrounding running backs in these rankings are likely to see.
While Dallas’ depth chart is currently barren, it’s almost a certainty the Cowboys will sign a veteran to take some of the workload off Pollard. Pollard was the RB8 per game last year, averaging 15.6 PPR points despite only running 12 times per game and catching 2.4 receptions per game.
Those numbers likely tick up in 2023 now that Ezekiel Elliott is gone and Pollard is on the franchise tag. Pollard should be one of the NFL’s most efficient backs, and the Cowboys had the No. 1 and No. 4 scoring offenses during the past two seasons, so the touchdown upside is evident. However, unless he sees pass-game usage on par with Ekeler, it’s incredibly difficult to imagine Pollard as a top-3 fantasy running back.
8. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
While Jonathan Taylor has demanded a trade, it’s hard to picture which team would take on the final year of his rookie contract and give up draft capital. For now, the assumption remains Taylor will stay with the Indianapolis Colts.
>> READ: Best Trade Fits for Taylor
All Taylor analysis should start with new quarterback Anthony Richardson rather than the back’s injury-riddled 2022 campaign. Taylor is not unique; most backs have injury concerns when they’re getting 20 touches per game.
With Richardson, a highly mobile quarterback, there will be far fewer checkdowns to running backs because he’ll scramble for 5 yards instead.
Think of 2022 Miles Sanders as the parallel. He was given 15 highly efficient carries per game, with almost nothing in the receiving game. Sanders finished with 11 rushing TDs, and averaged just 12.2 half-PPR points per game, finishing as the RB16.
Taylor should get closer to 18-20 carries, which makes it difficult to project anything more than 15-16 points per game. With minimal pass-game usage and Richardson vulturing a few at the goal line, Taylor does not look like a first-round pick in fantasy football.
9. Breece Hall, New York Jets
If we knew Breece Hall would be healthy for Week 1 and that Dalvin Cook wasn’t signing with the Jets, Hall would have a good case to be in the Robinson range of these rankings.
Hall’s ACL recovery is ahead of schedule, according to every major media outlet. Even if he’s eased in to start the season, Hall still put up 16.4 PPR points per game last year despite averaging only seven carries per game through September.
In fact, Hall only reached a 60 percent snap share in three of his seven games and was below a 30 percent snap share in two of them. Hall has plenty of margin for error with his workload and recovery for fantasy football.
A healthy Hall with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback should result in top-three fantasy numbers by the fantasy playoffs, where all the money is won.
The injury adds risk to his profile, but we are trying to finish first out of 12 teams rather than fifth or sixth, so we want to chase the ceiling outcomes with these players rather than the most likely.
10. Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Travis Etienne is the workhorse back in one of the NFL’s best offenses, and he carries premium Round 1 draft capital with him. Once James Robinson was off the team after Week 6, Etienne reached a 70 percent or higher snap share in eight of 11 games.
He topped 100 rushing yards in five of those contests, and despite having a smaller-than-expected receiving role, still finished the season with a respectable 316 yards through the air.
He’s a home run hitter with the ball in his hands, yet he only scored five total touchdowns on 255 touches. There’s serious untapped touchdown upside.
While third-round pick Tank Bigsby is joining this backfield, Etienne is better in every way. Bigsby most likely will be relegated to a breather-back role.
Advanced metrics also back up Etienne’s rushing prowess. Next Gen Stats had Etienne as the fourth-best runner in rushing yards over expected per attempt in 2022. He was only the RB19 per game from Week 7 onward — when he took over as the starter — but that was mainly due to his lack of touchdowns. Bet on the Jaguars offense and Etienne’s talent this season.
11. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Mixon is the clear workhorse on an elite Bengals offense. He set career-highs in targets (75), receptions (60) and receiving yards (441) in 2022. He averaged at least 15 carries per game in the past five seasons.
Yet, he was out-snapped in two of the Bengals’ three playoff games last season by Samaje Perine. Mixon restructured his contract to remain with the Bengals, and he’s surrounded by three largely unproven backfield mates.
There is still a chance the Bengals sign another back to ease Mixon’s workload. He lacked a consistent ceiling in 2022, with only two games above 19 fantasy points. Yet, he had five games below 12 PPR points.
Mixon has put up back-to-back seasons with at least 17 fantasy points per game, is coming off career-high receiving usage and remains on a Joe Burrow offense. Mixon’s talent is concerning, but he should not be faded due to the situation.
12. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs had a borderline historic 2022 season. His 393 total touches were the fifth most of the past decade, and his 2,053 scrimmage yards were the ninth most through the past 10 seasons.
Unfortunately, there are red flags with Jacobs for 2023 that prevent me from sliding him in as my RB3, despite his RB3 per game finish in 2022 (19.3 PPR points per game).
To begin, Jacobs isn’t practicing with the team and is threatening to hold out and miss games due to his lack of a longterm contract. New Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is mediocre and will be playing behind the worst offensive line of his career. He’s struggled with injuries throughout his career, and facing constant pressure in 2023 will not do him any favors.
Non-elite running back talents like Jacobs usually struggle in the season after a massive workload, and his league-leading 393 touches certainly qualify.
13. Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
Our own Ryan Reynolds has labeled Harris as “this year’s Josh Jacobs.” Harris often is passed over in fantasy drafts due to a lack of upside, yet he has most of the pieces in place for an elite fantasy season.
He has Round 1 draft capital to insulate him, a much improved Steelers offensive line and a quarterback in Kenny Pickett who could make a leap forward entering Year 2.
Harris led the NFL with 381 touches as a rookie with 74 of those coming through the passing game. Last year, he struggled with a foot injury before the season, which could have hampered him early on. Harris rounded into form down the stretch. He reached 80 rushing yards in six of his final nine games.
We’ve seen him put it together as both a runner and receiver before, but it’s looking increasingly likely Jaylen Warren will cut into his workload enough to prevent an elite fantasy outcome. The Steelers offense should be better than last year, but it’s almost certainly not a top unit yet.
Harris likely will put together a 2023 season somewhere behind his stellar rookie season (RB7 per game) and his disappointing 2022 campaign (RB18 per game).
14. Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots
Rhamondre Stevenson was given 210 carries last season behind one of the NFL’s better offensive lines. Because Mac Jones is a stationary quarterback surrounded by below-average receiving talent, many pass plays ended in dump-offs to Stevenson.
His 17.3 percent target share ranked fourth among running backs last year. The Patriots once again have among the league’s worst receiving corps, so a high target share is likely once again.
While there is currently minimal competition for touches in this backfield, the Patriots have been bringing in veterans for tryouts. I’d expect someone like Leonard Fournette or Ezekiel Elliott to sign here.
Stevenson had 279 touches but only managed six total touchdowns, a number that should rise due to more competent coaching — Matt Patricia was severely underqualified to lead this offense as a play-caller last season. The overall workload should decrease from last season, but a few more touchdowns should mostly balance it out.
15. Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions
The Lions selected Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th pick in this spring’s draft. He will be playing behind a top offensive line alongside a statuesque quarterback in Jared Goff, who has a penchant for checking the ball down.
While Gibbs is undersized (roughly 199 pounds), he put up strong counting stats in college. He was second at Georgia Tech in total receiving yards as a freshman and came just 24 receiving yards behind the team’s leader in his sophomore season. He transferred to Alabama as a junior and immediately led the team in rushing yards and receptions while ranking third in receiving yards.
Think of him as a slightly smaller Alvin Kamara with better long speed. Or, a faster Ekeler. Either way, Gibbs should be highly fantasy-relevant in Detroit, even if he cedes the majority of the goal line carries to the much bigger David Montgomery.
The Lions had the most PPR fantasy points per game among all NFL backfields in 2022 despite D’Andre Swift missing significant time.
McCaffrey’s rookie season saw him command 117 carries and 113 targets (RB10 finish). I’d anticipate Gibbs’ rookie year to be similar but slanted more toward rushing work. An efficient 125-175 carries, 55-75 receptions and several long touchdowns should propel Gibbs to a low-end RB1-type fantasy finish.
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Tier 3: One Red Flag Holding Them Back
16. D’Andre Swift, Philadelphia Eagles
While many view Swift changing teams as a positive because he’s on the Eagles — the team that led the NFL in rushing touchdowns by a considerable margin — I’m concerned the Lions gave up on him.
Talented players changing teams isn’t usually a positive for their fantasy outlook. Detroit was clearly tired of Swift’s injuries and inconsistent play. Still, Swift delivered spike weeks with three games above 21 PPR fantasy points in 2022.
Turning back toward the trade, there’s a lot to like for Swift in Philadelphia. Running back competition is minimal. The oft-injured Rashaad Penny, pass-catching backup Kenneth Gainwell, undersized Boston Scott, and 49ers flameout Trey Sermon comprise the remainder of this backfield.
Jalen Hurts has never targeted running backs at a high rate, but someone with Swift’s talent likely will shift that calculus, at least slightly. Swift always mixed in for goal-line carries and red zone targets in Detroit, so there’s significant scoring upside for him in an Eagles offense that scored 32 rushing touchdowns in 2022 — eight more than any other team. The Eagles have a great offensive line, allowing Swift to remain efficient on the ground and demonstrate his big-play abilities.
Swift is tough to project, as he could find himself in a timeshare that lacks target volume. There’s also a real possibility he gets 200 carries and 45 receptions on the NFL’s top-scoring offense. He’s a risky but tantalizing pick in the middle rounds.
17. Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks
Kenneth Walker began his rookie season behind Penny and took off once Penny missed time due to injury. As the starter from Week 5 onward, Walker paced for 302 carries, 1,405 rushing yards and 30 receptions in a 17-game season.
He has home run speed and above-average vision while playing in a surprisingly strong Seahawks offense. The line is a strength, helmed by two offensive tackles who performed well as rookies, for Walker.
The massive thorn in his side is new Round 2 rookie Zach Charbonnet. Charbonnet is the better pass-catcher and is a threat to Walker’s goal-line role. This is one of the more frustrating situations for fantasy, and Walker almost certainly needs a Charbonnet injury to have true fantasy upside.
To learn more about why Walker’s archetype often struggles in fantasy football, this research piece provides context into the fantasy points scored by non-pass-catching workhorse backs.
18. David Montgomery, Detroit Lions
This is likely the highest you’ve seen Montgomery in fantasy rankings. His track record is stellar. Through four seasons, he’s averaged 229 carries, 39 receptions, 1,212 total yards and 7.5 touchdowns.
He’s never had fewer than 235 touches in a season, showcasing his durability. The Lions signed him to a three-year deal with $11 million in guarantees, a true investment in him.
While Gibbs is the better player, Montgomery has 25 pounds on him and is the favorite for goal-line work. Gibbs weighing 199 pounds will also cap his total volume, so Montgomery projects for around 250 touches heading into this season.
The Lions have a top offensive line, and the immobile Goff should target Montgomery often whenever he’s on the field. Montgomery likely provides low-end RB2 production each week, but should anything happen to Gibbs, Montgomery would be a locked-in top-8 fantasy option.
19. James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have a problematic offensive line, and Murray won’t return until midseason at the earliest. This offense will struggle to score touchdowns and matriculate the ball downfield.
Fortunately for Conner, he should see ample opportunities in the passing game, and his pure usage could very well be top-10 at the position. Conner might not be a starting option early in the season, but when Murray returns, I’ll be interested in this fast-paced offense that will be routinely playing from behind.
Conner’s career-high 55 receptions from 2018 are within play for 2023, and he managed 46 receptions through 13 games last season.
Conner is 28, and there will be injury concerns each season, but he could surge late in the season and become a key piece for those winning fantasy championships. He is also one of the few running backs where I’m comfortable projecting heavy volume, hence his inclusion in the top 20.
20. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
There is uncertainty with Kamara’s suspension, though most indications are it will happen sometime during the season. At times last season, Kamara had one of the best roles in all of fantasy.
New quarterback Derek Carr could elevate this offense, and the offensive line still looks strong on paper. The Saints also have the easiest schedule according to our own internal metric, so they could blow out many of their opponents, leading to Kamara touchdown spikes.
If you’re worried about his suspension and the enhanced backfield competition, I wouldn’t fault any low-volume drafter for avoiding him in their main home league. However, he’s the latest running back in fantasy drafts with a clear top-12 upside.
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Tier 4: Hoping For RB2 Fantasy Production
21. Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
For those familiar with my work, it was no secret I was high on Cam Akers coming out of college. An Achilles tear derailed his career, but at the end of last season, he looked like he was finally turning the corner.
Akers played at least 70 percent of the running back snaps in five of six games from Week 13 onward, averaging 17 carries, 85 rushing yards, 17 receiving yards and a touchdown per game during that period. His 17.7 PPR points per game during that stretch were fifth most, and while he’s unlikely to hold up to that much volume in 2023, it’s a glimpse into his upside.
The Rams’ offensive line remains in tough shape but should be better than last year. Additionally, Matthew Stafford is healthy again, which elevates the entirety of the offense. The running back room has no major competition. Undersized pass-catcher Kyren Williams and seventh-round rookie Zach Evans are Akers’ main competition.
If this were nearly any other running back, he’d be going in Round 4 or 5 of fantasy drafts. Because it’s Akers, who has a long track record of letting down fantasy managers, it’s OK to exercise caution. Still, he shouldn’t fall outside the top 25 running backs in any format.
22. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Jones has either put up double-digit touchdowns or 1,500 or more scrimmage yards each of the past four seasons while playing with Rodgers. The move to Jordan Love is a steep one, and Jones’ typical workload of 210 carries and 50 receptions becomes significantly less appealing if he’s no longer attached to a high-scoring Packers offense.
Jones is getting up there in age, too, as he turns 29 in December. His pass-catching role is fantasy-friendly, but even the goal-line work is uncertain, as A.J. Dillon had seven rushing touchdowns to Jones’ two last season.
Jones looks like he’ll experience significant dips in receptions and touchdowns. Unless Love is a competent starter, it’s hard to see Jones paying dividends in fantasy.
23. Miles Sanders, Carolina Panthers
Sanders is a flawed but exciting player. His pass-blocking deficiencies will always put an artificial cap on his receiving workload, but the speedy back is one of the NFL’s better pure runners.
Last season, he had a career-high 15 carries per game, turning that into 1,269 rushing yards (5.0 YPC) and 11 rushing touchdowns. However, even on the Eagles offense, with a top offensive line and Hurts in front of him, Sanders was still just the RB21 per game in PPR leagues (12.7 PPR per game).
Carolina invested a decent amount of money into him, and its offensive line is solid, but this team is in Bryce Young’s hands. It’s tough to see Carolina expanding Sanders’ pass game workload if that results in Young taking unnecessary hits from defenders.
It’s likely Sanders gets a similar workload to last season but experiences a slight dip in efficiency and touchdowns.
24. Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans
Dameon Pierce received at least a 50 percent snap share in 12 of his 13 games as a rookie. Those 12 games come out to a 296-carry, 1,284 rushing yards and 41-reception pace in 17 games. This was as a fourth-round rookie.
The Texans have a premium offensive line, a rookie quarterback in C.J. Stroud, who is likely friendly to backs in the receiving game and minimal competition for touches. The undersized and underwhelming Devin Singletary is the only possible threat to high-value touches.
Pierce’s advanced rushing stats were all elite in 2022. His broken tackles per attempt were tied for first in the NFL with Aaron Jones, and his missed tackles caused per attempt ranked ninth, according to our flagship tool, The Edge.
However, he faded down the stretch, and the Texans’ offense should once again struggle to put up points because they’re trotting out the league’s worst batch of receivers.
25. Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rachaad White caught 50 passes from Tom Brady as a rookie, but unfortunately for White, Brady has been replaced by Baker Mayfield. Fournette saw significantly more opportunities in the passing game with 73 receptions.
Most advanced rushing metrics viewed White as a below-average player, and this Buccaneers offense scored the second-fewest points in the NFC last year — with Brady.
This is an offense to avoid in fantasy football. While White could see serious volume, it’s hard to see him scoring more than a handful of touchdowns. Should Tampa Bay bring in additional running back competition, White’s profile indicates he would once again be relegated to a frustrating committee.
Despite all these concerns, White looks like Conner, another workhorse back with pass-catching upside on a terrible team. White has more role fragility, hence his lower ranking, but he could sneak into the top 15 fantasy backs if Mayfield can orchestrate an offense that scores two touchdowns most Sundays.
26. Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
Dalvin Cook’s declining efficiency is often noted when discussing Alexander Mattison. That is funny considering Mattison has averaged 3.7 and 3.8 yards per carry in the past two seasons, while Cook was at 4.7 and 4.4 during the same stretch.
Mattison is a career backup who has a shot to “start” for a solid Vikings offense. However, there’s a real chance the team signs someone, and Mattison is not a particularly good talent in his own right. Most likely, he is the 1A in a gross committee.
Many point to the fantasy points he’s scored whenever Cook has been hurt, but that sample is slanted heavily in his favor. Mattison has reached a 50 percent snap share in five career games. Three of those games were against the Lions, and four of those five were against defenses that gave up a top-three amount of fantasy points to running backs.
He definitely has fantasy potential if he’s the team’s workhorse, but that’s too thin of a possibility to rank him within the top 25.
27. Isiah Pacheco, Kansas City Chiefs
Isiah Pacheco is a feel-good story from 2022, as the seventh-round rookie forced his way into more and more playing time with Kansas City.
He has elite long speed, and he could earn more work in his second NFL season on both the ground and through the passing game. His biggest hurdle currently is the 31-year-old Jerick McKinnon. Pacheco has an outside chance at a workhorse role in the NFL’s best offense.
Last season, Pacheco’s poor pass-blocking was evident, but there’s a chance the noted hard worker can improve upon this aspect of his game during the offseason.
Pacheco earned significant playing time from Week 10 onward, and during that nine-game stretch, he paced for 238 carries, 1,196 rushing yards, 221 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in a 17-game season.
His fantasy points during that stretch were 11.7 per game, good for 26th at the position, so there’s definitely some projection needed to turn him into an every-week fantasy starter. The bet on Pacheco is a bet on Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, along with a step forward in playing time in his second season.
29. Dalvin Cook, Free Agent
Cook has at least 1,383 total yards each of the past four seasons and still has the requisite long speed to break big runs. However, he’s about to turn 28 and is not on an NFL team. If he is signed by Miami, he moves into the top 15.
If a team like the Jets signs him, Breece Hall tumbles in the rankings, and Cook would remain outside the top 25. This is a situation to monitor for a veteran whose running instincts sharply declined last season via most advanced rushing metrics. His ranking is fluid, and I’ll follow this situation closely.
Tier 5: Major Concerns Present, Upside Is There
29. Zach Charbonnet, Seattle Seahawks
Charbonnet is a big, moderately athletic back who put up strong numbers at UCLA before the Seahawks drafted him in Round 2. He’s a threat to Walker’s goal-line work and is the favorite for the pass-catching role in this offense.
It’s tough to see him being consistently fantasy-relevant outside of a Walker injury — Walker’s nagging groin injury could plague him in-season, but there’s a slim chance he scores more fantasy points even if both remain healthy.
Should Walker go down with an injury, Charbonnet would easily command at least 15 carries and three receptions per game in a top-scoring offense, placing him in the RB1 fantasy conversation.
If his shoulder injury requires surgery or will keep him out for all of training camp, he’ll drop further in these rankings, most likely into Tier 6. For now, think of him as the perfect running back for your fantasy bench, who you can probably spot-start in a pinch.
30. Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
Javonte Williams averaged 12 carries and 19 receiving yards per game in each of his first two seasons. In college, he was also a committee back, sharing work with Michael Carter (Jets’ backup) at North Carolina.
Williams’ 2022 knee injury suffered a week into the season was similar to the one J.K. Dobbins suffered during the 2021 preseason. We all remember how frustrating Dobbins was last year.
Given his workload baseline already wasn’t high, it’s tough to see how Williams is highly fantasy-relevant in 2023. Sean Payton, the Saints’ new coach, has a history of creating offenses that get the best playmakers the ball in space.
While that may be Williams in 2024, it’s probably still a year too early to bet on his comeback.
31. J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Dobbins missed all of the 2021 season after tearing nearly every ligament in his knee. His 2022 season reflected this major injury, as he only received 92 carries across eight games, visibly limping during multiple breakaway runs.
Still, he managed 5.7 yards per carry. Dobbins is among the NFL’s most talented pure runners. While he’s never been given high rushing volume, he’s demonstrated an ability to be hyper-efficient on his touches and should be healthier in 2022.
That should is a major question mark though because he’s not practicing yet. It’s tough to know if it’s a setback or a new injury, but it’s quite problematic given Dobbins’ injury history. There is no good reason a 2021 preseason injury should be lingering 24 months later.
New offensive coordinator Todd Monken has a history of pass-heavy schemes that involve the running back in the passing game. If healthy, there’s a real shot for Dobbins to get two or three receptions per game, along with 15 efficient carries each week.
He could be a poor man’s Nick Chubb tied to Lamar Jackson. Dobbins was a player I wanted to bet on prior to the news he was missing the start of training camp. Now, he has fallen down the rankings and will need a series of good news to slide back into Tier 4 or Tier 5.
32. Rashaad Penny, Philadelphia Eagles
If we knew Penny would play 17 games, he’d be ranked much higher. He’s one of the NFL’s best pure runners, and the Eagles’ offensive line is a wrecking crew that should open wide lanes for his home run speed.
Swift should see all the pass-catching work. Penny has never reached 10 receptions in a season. But I’d expect Penny to receive at least half the goal-line touches when healthy, so double-digit touchdowns are on the table. The ceiling is a better version of Miles Sanders from last year, while the floor is Penny receiving seven to 12 carries per game and being touchdown-dependent.
Of course, health needs to continually get brought up with Penny because he’s topped 85 carries just once in a season when he had 119 in 2021. Still, his 5.7 career yards per carry demonstrates his elite ability to break off big runs.
33. James Cook, Buffalo Bills
James Cook is under 200 pounds, so he’ll need to rely on big plays in the passing game to deliver fantasy value. As a rookie, his target share was just a shade under six percent, which was outside the top 45 at running back.
However, his targets per route run was an elite 30.2 percent, behind only Hall, Ekeler, Swift and McCaffrey. I’d expect Cook’s target share to rise while his efficiency falls in 2023. Josh Allen has never targeted running backs heavily, and Cook will likely fall behind Allen, Damien Harris and Latavius Murray in the goal-line carry pecking order.
If Cook isn’t getting heavy pass game usage and isn’t getting goal-line carries, it’s tough to see this archetype hitting. The reason Cook isn’t farther down the rankings is his Round 2 draft capital, along with playing in a high-scoring Bills offense.
34. Samaje Perine, Denver Broncos
Javonte Williams’ injury opens a path for Perine to be the Broncos’ workhorse back early in 2023. Perine had three heavy-usage games last year and put up 30.2, 19.3 and 21.5 PPR points in each of them.
He was targeted seven times in two of those games and had at least four receptions in all of them. Perine’s 240-pound frame also puts him in the mix for goal-line carries.
As mentioned earlier, Williams has never averaged more than 12 carries or 19 receiving yards per game in his two NFL seasons. So even when he returns from injury, Perine is likely a flex play. During the first few weeks of the season, Perine should be a top-20 option at the position.
35. Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears
Despite getting drafted in Round 6 two years ago, Khalil Herbert flashed as a rookie and in Year 2. He adds little as a pass-catcher but is one of the best runners in the NFL.
He routinely forced his way into the mix — even when Montgomery was healthy — and Herbert finished with 731 rushing yards despite only starting two games due to injury.
In the two games he topped a 50 percent snap share in Montgomery’s absence, he finished with at least 20 touches and 101 total yards in each of them. There is still minimal competition for carries in Chicago. I’m anticipating 15 efficient carries per game with occasional receiving work.
He’s likely touchdown-dependent, but the Bears offense should be much-improved this season.
36. Brian Robinson, Washington Commanders
Brian Robinson was shot in an attempted carjacking last preseason, missed the first four games and then averaged 17 carries per game (sixth best in the NFL) upon returning for the next 12 games.
He was inefficient by yards per carry but graded out well as a rusher, according to PFF. His rushing workload likely decreases with a new coaching staff. Eric Bieniemy came over from the Chiefs to be Washington’s new offensive coordinator.
However, there is real bellcow upside with the second-year runner. Robinson handled high volume as a rookie and was a surprisingly competent pass-catcher in college (35 receptions at Alabama in 2021). If Antonio Gibson goes down with an injury, Robinson could be like James Conner for fantasy football, where he’s getting a filthy amount of inefficient touches on a bad offense, which ultimately pays off in fantasy because of volume.
37. Antonio Gibson, Washington Commanders
Gibson took a backseat to Robinson down the stretch. While Gibson is a more dynamic athlete with a stronger pass-catching background, it’s tough to rank him over the guy who severely out-touched him during his rookie season.
Robinson had 50 percent more total touches per game when they overlapped, though Gibson had about three times as much receiving work.
There’s a chance Gibson’s workload decreases further because Robinson will be entering Year 2 and likely won’t be dealing with a preseason gunshot wound again. However, with a new offensive coordinator, there’s some chance Gibson becomes the preferred back in Washington.
Gibson’s 14 fantasy points per game from 2020 and 2021 is the upside if Robinson gets hurt, but rookie bruiser Chris Rodriguez could also just slide into most of Robinson’s touches, should that become the case.
38. De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins
Hines had 85 carries and 63 receptions in his first year. Achane’s 190-pound frame is unlikely to support any type of workhorse role on the ground. However, he averaged more than 20 touches in college, so there’s potential for 150 carries and 85 targets in 2023, making him an every-week fantasy starter.
39. Jamaal Williams, New Orleans Saints
If/when Kamara is suspended, Jamaal Williams should be starter material in fantasy football. Even when Kamara is active, Williams is probably ahead of rookie Kendre Miller. Williams is the type of player who rarely makes mistakes, and coaches love him.
Even before his breakout 2022 campaign, where he had more than 1,000 rushing yards and led the league in rushing touchdowns, Williams had averaged 160 touches and 741 total yards in his first five seasons (2017-21).
The Saints have a strong offensive line, and Williams’ long track record of production suggests he’s likely to be flex-viable for much of the 2023 season.
Tier 6: Fun Dart Throws
40. Damien Harris, Buffalo Bills
Damien Harris is a bruising back with 202 carries and 15 rushing scores in 2021. He’s dealt with injuries throughout his career, but he’s been efficient when called upon. James Cook is at least 20 pounds lighter, and Murray is probably behind Harris for early down work and goal-line carries.
Harris has the potential to replicate his 2021 season should the Bills ease up on Josh Allen’s goal-line runs. Because of the slight possibility, Murray plays ahead of him and because Bills runners haven’t scored many fantasy points alongside Allen, Harris fell just outside Tier 5.
41. Kendre Miller, New Orleans Saints
He’s an explosive runner who doesn’t offer much in the receiving game. He was tough to bring down in college, by most advanced rushing metrics, and the Saints offensive line should suit his style nicely.
He has the potential to be some version of Rashaad Penny after the Saints selected Miller in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft, but he is probably buried behind Kamara and Williams on the depth chart.
Since we see rookie runners outperform expectations each season, his RB41 ranking as the Saints’ current RB3 is aggressive.
42. Jerick McKinnon, Kansas City Chiefs
McKinnon took advantage of Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s injury and ineffectiveness, along with Pacheco’s poor pass blocking. McKinnon was the main pass-catcher in this backfield, and his nine scores through the air are tied for the most by a back in the modern era.
He should once again see a few carries per game, along with several receptions most weeks, though his touchdowns should decrease a lot. Still, McKinnon warrants getting drafted after three games with more than 22 fantasy points and at least eight fantasy points in 10 of his 17 games.
He’s a weekly flex play and a good candidate to outperform touchdown expectations each year because of Mahomes, but six or seven scores are more likely in 2023.
If Pacheco gets injured, McKinnon becomes an every-week top-20 fantasy option. His ranking would be slightly higher were he not already 31 years old.
43. Leonard Fournette, Free Agent
Fournette’s 14.2 PPR points per game were 13th best among running backs last season. Only Ekeler and McCaffrey had more than his 73 receptions. Unfortunately, he was largely a product of Brady.
Fournette isn’t on a team right now, and he’s 28, but it’s tough to see him falling out of the league after 262 touches for 1,191 total yards last season. Nearly any landing spot will cause his ADP to spike. He’s consistently been a player the NFL is higher on than fantasy managers regarding his talent level.
44. Jeff Wilson, Miami Dolphins
Wilson enjoyed career-highs across the board in 2022, finishing with 176 carries, 37 targets and 1,045 total yards. It’s tough to know if he or Mostert gets the bulk of the early down carries, but I give Wilson the current nod for two reasons.
He out-touched Mostert in the majority of their overlapping games, and he’s nearly four years younger than Mostert (31). Achane should grab third-down duties, but as long as the Dolphins don’t sign a veteran back like Dalvin Cook, Wilson is in the mix for 12-15 efficient touches per game, mainly on the ground.
45. Raheem Mostert, Miami Dolphins
Wilson is my slight favorite to see base-down work ahead of Mostert. However, Mostert’s career highs in carries (181), targets (42) and total yards (1,093) should not be ignored.
Mostert is a health risk, though so is Wilson. While Mostert probably won’t be fantasy-relevant early in the season, an injury to Achane or Wilson would make Mostert a weekly RB2 play.
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Tier 7: Backups, Optimism, Realistic Expectations
46. Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons
In a classic team-building blunder, the Falcons selected Bijan Robinson after fifth-round rookie Allgeier totaled 1,174 total yards as a rookie.
Allgeier is certainly the breather back now, though the Falcons’ run-heavy offense could potentially yield eight to 12 weekly touches for Allgeier after Robinson gets his 20 touches.
Allgeier is most likely a premium handcuff, who we saw succeed as a starter in 2022. However, given the Falcons’ premium offensive line and run-heavy game plans, there’s some chance Allgeier is flex-viable regardless of Robinson’s health.
47. Tank Bigsby, Jacksonville Jaguars
Bigsby should be the direct backup to Etienne in Jacksonville after getting selected in Round 3 of this year’s draft.
While Bigsby isn’t going to push Etienne for reps, there’s still room for him to get some base work. There’s almost no chance Bigsby is fantasy-relevant while Etienne is healthy, but his all-purpose skill set should put him in the RB2 conversation if Etienne goes down.
48. Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers
The undrafted rookie totaled 105 touches for 593 yards last year, stealing more work from Najee Harris than nearly anyone expected. He’s the direct backup who could occasionally deliver double-digit fantasy points when Harris is active.
Most likely, he’s the clear backup with an all-purpose skillset. The Steelers’ offense should be much improved from last season, so Warren has RB2-type upside if Harris misses time.
49. Roschon Johnson, Chicago Bears
Roschon Johnson carried 123 times and brought in 23 receptions as a freshman at Texas in 2019. Then, he sat behind Robinson for the next three seasons. He’s the best pass-catching back on the Bears roster, so he should see the field earlier than most rookies taken in Round 4.
There’s a chance he takes on an enhanced rushing load too, especially if something were to happen to Khalil Herbert. There shouldn’t be too many running back targets from Justin Fields, but that skill set should help Johnson be active on game days and continually audition for increased involvement in the offense.
50. A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers
I do not understand the excitement surrounding Dillon. He’s never topped 11 carries or two receptions per game, and the Packers offense should be low-scoring. He’s never reached 11 PPR points per game, which is needed to crack the top 30 for fantasy.
There is some contingent upside should Aaron Jones get injured, but we can say that about nearly every secondary runner in each backfield. Most likely, Dillon is a touchdown-dependent option who should receive most of the team’s precious few goal-line carries.
51. Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers
The former top prospect was once again effective in a change-of-pace role in 2022. He now has at least 600 total yards in back-to-back seasons to begin his career. While Miles Sanders is atop the Panthers’ depth chart, he’s been a major injury risk his entire career and has passing-game limitations.
When Sanders is healthy, Chuba Hubbard should see eight to 12 touches per game. If anything happens to Sanders, I’d expect 10-15 carries and two to three receptions per game behind a strong offensive line. He’s a great ZeroRB target who should provide something each week, even with Sanders active.
52. Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers
After exploding for 1,100 total yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, Elijah Mitchell dealt with injuries and a McCaffrey trade last year, so he finished with only 286 total yards.
Mitchell looks like the backup on a potent 49ers offense, and McCaffrey likely cedes five to 10 carries each week to Mitchell. Should McCaffrey miss time, Mitchell could be right back to his 2021 ways when he averaged 15.0 PPR points per game, 16th best at the position.
53. Devin Singletary, Houston Texans
The Bills did not appear anxious to re-sign Singletary after four seasons, so the Texans landed him for relative pennies (one-year, $2.75 million deal). He’s small, slow and an underwhelming pass-catcher.
Fortunately for him, the Texans have a great offensive line, and Dameon Pierce is still unproven. Stroud is not particularly mobile, and the wide receiver room is probably the NFL’s worst, so there could be ample checkdown opportunities whenever he’s on the field.
54. Jerome Ford, Cleveland Browns
Jerome Ford is 220 pounds and was taken in Round 5 by the Browns last season. He never saw the field aside from special teams responsibilities, but with Kareem Hunt gone, Ford looks like the direct backup to Chubb.
Ford totaled 220 receiving yards in his final season at Cincinnati, and any back with size and pass-catching ability can smash in fantasy football given the opportunity. The Browns could bring in another veteran for competition, but right now, Ford is the entrenched backup in what should be an improved Browns offense.
55. Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers
Kelley had twice as many touches as any other Chargers backup last year. He’s competent in all phases, and if Ekeler gets injured, he could be in line for 15 touches per game in one of the NFL’s best offenses.
The reason he’s not ranked higher is due to the Chargers possibly bringing in a veteran runner, and Isaiah Spiller is live to usurp Kelley for backup duties.