Only two running backs averaged over 20 PPR points per game in 2022, Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler, as each posted with double-digit top-10 PPR finishes last season. They were the only running backs to see five or more receptions on average per game last season and as long as they’re on the field, there should be no concern about their ability to provide the return on investment that fantasy managers will have to spend in drafts to acquire them in 2023.
Bijan Robinson‘s rookie year expectations are incredibly high, but at the same time, probably fair. Touted as a “generational back” and selected inside the top-10 of the NFL draft is a massive endorsement for a running back, and that stock raises even higher due to Robinson landing with the most run-heavy offense from that had one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league last year. While Arthur Smith didn’t deploy one running back in a workhorse role on a weekly basis last season, he has a history of doing so when the talent calls for it, as he deployed Derrick Henry in that role during his time as offensive coordinator with the Titans, which bodes very well for Robinson. Adding to the upside is the potential to catch passes out of the backfield. While not a huge part of Robinson’s college success, Desmond Ridder targeted the running back position on 23.5% of his dropbacks, which was the second-most for quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks last season, albeit on one of the smaller sample sizes of just four games.
Saquon Barkley had a big bounce-back year in 2022, finishing the season as PPR’s RB5 after dealing with significant injuries in the two previous seasons. Barkley is the only running back who averaged over 20 touches per game while also seeing over 3.5 receptions per game last season, and with that level of volume again in 2023, fantasy managers should be just as happy to land him as the other three in this tier.
Jacobs has finished as an RB1 in each of the past three seasons but never higher than he was in 2023, when he totaled 330 PPR points as the RB3 overall. Jacobs’ volume as a runner is rivaled only by Derrick Henry as the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans averaged nearly 90% of carries to one running back on a weekly basis last season. That volume level shouldn’t be considered at risk for 2023, keeping him firmly in the RB1 range.
Pollard, Henry and Chubb should all push for nearly 20 touches per game, if not more, this coming season. Henry is likely in line for the largest workload of the three but has also seen his efficiency dip a bit recently, so he gets sandwiched between the younger and more efficient backs. Pollard is in line for a career-high workload in 2023, and all his stable efficiency metrics promise that he can deliver an RB1 return again. Chubb’s elusiveness and effectiveness have been just as good as Pollard and with Kareem Hunt still a free agent, he should see plenty of volume for another big year.
Jonathan Taylor’s 2023 season was cut short due to injury, and while fantasy managers that spent RB1 or RB2 draft capital on him last season are going to be wary of taking another swing at him, he’s still in a great spot to produce RB1 numbers. The issue comes from him potentially losing goal-line touches to Anthony Richardson at quarterback, taking some of that easy touchdown upside away on occasion. There’s also some concern that Taylor already wasn’t a big receiving threat but with a mobile quarterback coming in, he could be even less involved as mobile quarterbacks have a lesser tendency to target the running back position, and it was far from a tendency for Richardson last year at Florida. While still an RB1, he comes in on the lower end for these PPR tiers.
The only thing keeping Breece Hall from moving further up this list as a running back who should see plenty of carries and receiving upside is whether or not he’ll be fully healthy to start the season. If so, expect him to jump into one of the above tiers after posting some elite numbers as a rookie, including 5.8 yards per carry (first), 4.1 yards after contact per attempt (first), an 18.8% explosive run rate (first), 0.28 targets per route run (third) and 2.00 yards per route run (second).
Rhamondre Stevenson not only took over the bulk of the carries for the New England Patriots backfield last season but was also heavily involved in the passing game. Among running backs with at least 200 carries, Stevenson only trailed Ekeler in targets per route run (0.26), leading to 4.1 receptions per game, which ranked fourth among backs with at least 200 carries. He finished as RB8 in PPR last season and while the Patriots may not lean on him as heavily in 2023, his ability to handle all duties should allow enough volume for him to be on the RB1 fringe once again.
Najee Harris, Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones should all see volume-heavy roles again this season as long as they’re in the lineup. Much like everyone else in this tier, they should push for weekly top-12 finishes and have a high enough floor to be considered high-end RB2s at worst.
Travis Etienne and Jahmyr Gibbs excel as pass-catching options and should get enough carries to not be relegated to only a receiving role. The concern that they may cede some high-value goal-line carries to Tank Bigsby and David Montgomery in their respective offenses separates them a bit from the higher ranked players in this tier.
|22||Kenneth Walker III||SEA|
Javonte Williams is coming off an ACL injury and while current news suggests an early return for this season, keep in mind that most news is positive at this time of the year, so it’s best to approach the situation with caution before diving in head first. As the season draws nearer and should Williams appear to have a shot at starting Week 1, then he’ll move up these ranks but until then, it’s best to treat him as a mid to low-end RB2 on the chance that he’ll miss some time.
Dalvin Cook is surrounded by his own cloud of uncertainty heading into the season, as he could potentially be released or traded from the Minnesota Vikings before Week 1, and the landing spot will play a big part in his ranking. For now, Cook’s situation allows him to be a potential value later in drafts with weekly RB1 upside should he stay in Minnesota.
Kenneth Walker III is facing real competition for snaps this season with the Seattle Seahawks drafting Zach Charbonnet in the second round, and while Walker should still lead the Seattle backfield, it’s difficult to imagine him dominating the opportunity share. Charbonnet was PFF’s No.3 running back heading into this draft because of his bell-cow potential and ability to catch passes, which he figures to be the favorite to do over Walker, who did not have much of a receiving profile coming out of college.
|31||Brian Robinson Jr.||WAS|
Alvin Kamara stands out among this group after finishing in the RB1 range for five straight seasons heading into last year, where he finished as RB16 in PPR. RB25 is a far drop for a player with Kamara’s pedigree, but there is a potential suspension looming, which is more than enough reason to avoid him inside the top-24 running backs and arguably even later than that. Without certainty on the length of the suspension, it’s still difficult to drop him down the rankings too far, as he should continue to dominate the running back target share and see more than enough rushing volume to be a valuable fantasy starter every week once he’s in the lineup.
There are plenty of unproven starters within this tier that could outperform their ADP once the season starts, and if they can emerge with a bigger role than expected. Rachaad White, James Cook and Khalil Herbert all spent last season in backup roles but now find themselves as the favorites to step into their team’s RB1 role. The concern for these three figures to be a smaller rushing volume in their respective offenses or a lack of experience that may create some competition for snaps. Experienced players like Chase Edmonds, Damien Harris and D’Onta Foreman could find their way onto the field, which would hold back the top options from too significant of a workload.