Fantasy Football RB FFPC Draft Rankings
Last update . Sep 08 . 10:35 AM EDT
If not for a dicey contract situation, he might be the no-brainer RB1 in all formats this season. Ekeler wanted a long-term extension, then a trade, but ultimately he agreed to play for the Chargers this season after they added $1.75 million in incentives to his expiring contract. Ekeler is a pro, so he’ll show up and do his job this year, but one wonders if he’s a bit less likely to play through injury or lay it all on the line for a franchise that doesn’t want to show him a long-term commitment. He was the fantasy RB1 last year after finishing as the RB2 in 2021, gaining a total of 3,195 yards and 38 touchdowns in the process. We should see more of the same from Ekeler in 2023.
McCaffrey actually saw a slight dip in touches (19.7 vs. 19.2) after the trade to San Francisco, but his fantasy production saw a positive bump from 16.9 to 19.3 points per game (half-PPR) thanks primarily to a spike in touchdowns. He was able to score more in fewer snaps (85% vs. 68%) because the 49ers’ used him efficiently and tried to feature him whenever he was on the field. The reduction in snaps should be good for his overall health and durability. The one glaring concern is his usage in the four games in which Elijah Mitchell played. In those games, McCaffrey averaged 15.0 touches, which paled in comparison to his 21.6-touch average he had with Mitchell sidelined. His carries took the biggest hit (10.5 with Mitchell vs. 16.7 without Mitchell), while his receiving role remained relatively unchanged. In the four games they played together, Mitchell actually out-touched McCaffrey 8-to-7 inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. If both backs are healthy, it appears that the 49ers want to give a significant amount of work to Mitchell to keep from overworking McCaffrey. CMC still has major weekly upside given Mitchell’s propensity to get injured and the likelihood that the 49ers lean on McCaffrey in close games, but he’s not a shoo-in to see 19+ touches per game this season.
Chubb is arguably the best pure runner in the league. He has finished as the fantasy RB6 and RB10 (due to a few missed games) in the last two seasons, but his per game averages have been remarkably consistent. He averaged 15.5 and 15.3 points per game (half-PPR) in 2022 and 2021, respectively. He was sixth in both yards after contact per attempt and broken tackles per attempt after finishing second and fourth, respectively, in 2021. He set career-highs in carries (302), rushing yards (1,525), and total touchdowns (13), and should continue to see major usage with Kareem Hunt no longer in the picture. Since 2019, Chubb has seen 20.1 touches without Hunt in the lineup, and that has led to a bump in fantasy scoring (15.0 vs. 16.7). Specifically, I’m excited about his receiving opportunity in 2023. The Browns have a top-ten offensive line and should continue to feature Chubb as the centerpiece of the offense. He’s one of the safest picks at his position.
The Cowboys used the franchise tag on Pollard, so he’ll remain in Dallas for another season. In 16 games, Pollard finished as the fantasy RB7 and had the ninth-highest per game average, all while playing in a timeshare with Ezekiel Elliott. Per PFF, he had the fourth-highest run grade and the ninth-highest receiving grade among running backs. Per Pro Football Reference, he led the league in yards after contact per attempt (2.6) and was 15th among running backs in rush attempts per broken tackle (17.5). In other words, he's really, really good. With Elliott gone, Pollard’s RB7 ADP is entirely justified.
As the No. 8 overall pick in the 2023 draft, Robinson is one of seven running backs since 2010 to be drafted inside the top ten. As rookies, the other six backs averaged 296 touches for 1,510 total yards and 11.7 touchdowns, so Robinson’s RB3 ADP certainly seems justified. Considered the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley, Robinson should immediately become the centerpiece of the Falcons’ offense. My only question is whether Arthur Smith will use him properly (and effectively) after squandering the talent of Kyle Pitts last season. Atlanta’s offensive line was a top-five unit according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards, and Robinson was reportedly lining up all over the formation in OTAs, so the rushing and receiving production should be there. However, Tyler Allgeier posted the sixth-highest rushing grade at PFF as a rookie, so he’s no slouch–it’s possible that Smith elects to somewhat limit Robinson’s snaps as he acclimates to the NFL. I still expect him to lead this backfield from the get-go, but given Smith’s recent history, I don’t think Robinson is a no-brainer fantasy pick in the first round.
Barkley was the fantasy RB5 last season after a 13-game, RB33 finish in 2021. In 2022, he basically returned to his 2018-19 production. Barkley and the Giants had been unable to come to terms on a long-term contract, but as camp opened, the two sides agreed to a one-year deal that potentially pays Barkley more than he would have made under the franchise tag. His ADP should creep back up into the first round.
Fading the then 28-year-old Derrick Henry in 2022 turned out to be a mistake. He played 16 games, amassed 1,538 yards and 13 touchdowns on 349 touches, and smashed his career high with 33 catches for 398 yards. His 1,936 total yards was the second-highest of his career. He finished as the fantasy RB4 in half-PPR behind only Austin Ekeler, Christian McCaffrey and Josh Jacobs. On a per-game basis, he finished just 0.5 fantasy points per game out of the RB2 spot (McCaffrey). Given his age (still sub-30 at 29-years-old) and light usage early in his career–just 501 total carries in his first three seasons–there should still be quite a bit of tread left on Henry's tires. His advanced stats–fourth in both yards after contact per attempt and broken tackles per attempt–showed no signs of a decline. We know he's going to be the Titans' workhorse–he's one of two backs (Jonathan Taylor) to average more than 20.0 touches per game in each of the last two seasons–in an era when true bellcow running backs are a rarity. He led his position in yards per route run, so the Titans should continue to involve him in the passing game.
After a summer where a few Raider beat writers openly wondered if he’d be able to keep his job, Jacobs turned in the best season of his career, racking up 2,053 total yards and 12 touchdowns on 393 touches, finishing as the fantasy RB3 for the year. Other than a quarterback change, the pieces remain in place for another big season for Jacobs–though given his contract situation, Jacobs may not see it that way. The Raiders have a good offensive line and the team didn’t bring anyone that could threaten Jacobs’ stranglehold on the starting job. However, the Raiders slapped Jacobs with the franchise tag and it’s not clear if he’s willing to play under the tag after the Raiders’ offseason. The window for an extension has passed, so Jacobs has to decide if he’s willing to forgo millions of dollars by taking his holdout into the season.
The Lions made Gibbs the second running back off the board when they took him with the No. 12 overall pick. Four running backs have been drafted in the No. 8 to No. 15 range since the 2010 season and they have averaged 211 touches for 1,009 yards and 6.0 touchdowns as rookies (in 13.8 games played). Gibbs has 4.36 speed and racked up 1,370 total yards in his final (and only) season at Alabama, including 44-444-3 as a receiver. (Appreciate the shoutout, Jahmyr.) The Lions have a great offensive line and a strong running game, but after the team brought in David Montgomery to replace Jamaal Williams (262 touches, 1,066 yards, 17 touchdowns), it’s unlikely that Gibbs sees a huge (18+ touch) workload. He is a threat for 70+ catches and 1,200 total yards, however.
As a rookie, Stevenson was fourth in yards after contact per attempt and second in broken tackles per attempt, per Pro Football Reference. These were positive indicators that led to a fantasy RB10 finish in 2022. It was especially impressive considering he didn’t start a game until Week 6 and only started seven games in total. Stevenson finished 9th in yards after contact per attempt and third in broken tackles per attempt and posted the 13th-highest PFF rushing grade. With Damien Harris gone, Stevenson has little competition for touches though the Patriots are always a threat to use a committee when one isn’t really necessary. The offensive line was a mediocre run-blocking unit, but the fact that the Patriots actually have a coordinator in charge of the offense (Bill O’Brien) should help the offense as a whole. He’s a solid pick near the second/third-round turn.
What is an RB in Fantasy Football?
The running back lines up in the backfield and is the player who handles the majority of the team’s carries. More recently teams have started implementing a more committee-based approach to this position, which entails multiple guys pitching in. Fantasy managers have also become accustomed to scat backs or change of pace backs and these players are generally smaller in stature and are better pass-catchers. They provide the offense with a different skill set and are not as equipped to handle rush attempts up the middle. For fantasy football, running backs typically have the highest ceiling of any position. Guys like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara who not only are excellent rushers, but extremely productive pass catchers are cheat codes. 10 years ago, running backs were the building block for any championship team, but now, with the shift towards the passing game and full-PPR leagues, running backs have lost some of their appeal. However, the elite guys still carry league-winning upside.
Who is the best fantasy RB?
This very much is based on scoring format. In standard scoring leagues, Jonathan Taylor is most likely the consensus No. 1 pick. He paced the position in 2021. Many expect him to be the odds-on favorite to lead the league in rushing and he should have 15+ touchdowns again in 2022. He’s not used as heavily in the passing game as others, but his overall yardage should be comparable. While any running back can get injured at any time, the perception is that he’s a safer choice than Christian McCaffrey. However, in PPR scoring leagues, Christian McCaffrey is, without a doubt, the best fantasy player on the planet. His upside is substantial because of how frequently he’s used in the passing game. He has a 1,000/1,000-yard season to his credit and has over 100 receptions in a single season. He's struggled with injuries the last two seasons, but when he’s healthy, fantasy managers are essentially getting two players with one selection. He’s a top-10 running back while also playing the part of a mid-range WR2. Fantasy managers can debate about injury prone and if he’s worth the risk, but when McCaffrey is healthy, there’s not a single player that can rival his upside.
How Many RBs Should I have on my Roster?
The running back position is annually hit the hardest by injuries. It is the most physically demanding position and it’s common for guys to miss 1-2 games each season. Due to this fact, fantasy managers should have plenty of replacement options available. Most leagues require two starting running backs with the upside for a third in the form of a flex play. With three possible starters, fantasy managers should plan on having around 4–6 running backs on their squad. If you start off heavy on running backs with two early selections, you might be able to get by on the lower end. If you wait on running back until the later rounds, you should be adding more potential starter-worthy players late in hopes of getting lucky.
What is Zero RB Strategy?
Zero-RB is a strategy that seeks to benefit from the high rate of injuries that typically occur among running backs. By avoiding this position in the first 5-7 rounds of your draft, you’re able to load up on quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end. This strategy will allow you to create positional advantages at these three other positions. While your running back group will most likely be worse than your league mates, if you are able to hit on a backup running back or waiver wire addition at the position, it can send your lineup into overdrive. It makes sense when implementing this strategy to target backs who have a wide range of outcomes and who are one injury away from a significant increase in their workload. The increase in PPR leagues is also making this a more viable strategy because there are plenty of pass-catching backs that are often devalued in fantasy leagues but carry plenty of weekly consistency. With more and more teams using multiple backs instead of just one workhorse, fantasy managers have more options to find quality running backs.
When Should I Draft an RB?
This is largely dependent on what scoring format your league operates under. If it’s a standard scoring league, it’ll be important for you to attack the running back position earlier than later. In this type of format, running back is the most important position, so it’s important to get a player you can consistently depend on. If it’s a PPR scoring league, fantasy managers have a little more flexibility in how they want to form their roster. In full-PPR leagues, it can make a lot of sense to wait on running back until the fifth or sixth round and target backs who will have consistent volume in the passing game, such as Chase Edmonds, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kareem Hunt, and Tony Pollard. These decisions will often be driven by how your draft board falls, but in PPR scoring leagues, you have a lot more flexibility in when you want to attack the position because there are more viable options later and because the PPR settings increase the value of receivers and tight ends, making it a more reasonable decision to select those positions first.
What Should I look for in Drafting Fantasy RBs?
What fantasy managers are looking for in their running back is greatly determined by what kind of scoring format they’re playing under. In standard scoring leagues, it’s important to not only chase volume, but runners on good offenses because this will increase their touchdown scoring potential. Players who offer a high number of touches per game provide fantasy managers with a safe floor. In PPR scoring leagues, fantasy managers should be looking at targets and high-value touches. High-value touches are defined as any touches inside the red zone. These are especially important because they come with higher scoring potential. Someone like D’Andre Swift did not have the number of overall carries as Jonathan Taylor, but his high number of receptions per game helped him make up the difference. Receptions are significantly more valuable than carries in this setting unless the carry comes with a high rate of scoring, such as being a carry inside the five or 10-yard line. In general, fantasy managers should be prioritizing running backs who have a high number of overall touches with preferably their fair share coming in the form of targets. Running backs who have a three-down skill set are also highly desirable because they rarely come off the field.
Do Different Scoring Formats affect RBs?
The different scoring formats will play a big factor in how you value the running back position. Certain players are more and less valuable depending on what scoring format they’re being used in. In standard scoring leagues, running backs who don’t catch a lot of passes are not downgraded as they would be in PPR. This works in the opposite direction for running backs who do catch a lot of passes. Fantasy managers will want to target overall touch totals and touchdown potential in standard leagues. In PPR leagues, they’ll want to focus on targets and high-value touches. These two different criteria will result in some players that fit into both and other players who are best in one format or the other. It’s important to recognize which scoring format you’re playing in so you can target the right kind of player.
M/U = 4for4 matchup ranking (Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed). 1 = Worst Matchup, 32 = Best Matchup