Tyler’s NFL Fantasy Rankings 2023 – RB

Welcome to the second entry of my fantasy football rankings for the 2023 NFL season. These are my own personal rankings, as we enter crunch time of the fantasy drafting season!

Do you agree with my rankings, or is there someone you think I’ve got it all wrong about? Let me know!

PS – Stick around to the end to see how you can win a free NFL jersey of your choosing!

All rankings are based on 0.5PPR scoring, 6pt rushing/receiving touchdowns, 1 point per 10 rushing/receiving yards, 4pt passing touchdowns, and 1 point per 25 passing yards.

Let’s talk Running Backs!

1. Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers

If this is surprising to you, welcome to fantasy football. Jokes aside, Christian McCaffrey is the perfect fantasy football running back. He is a truly elite receiving back, which makes sense, as the son of a Super Bowl-winning wide receiver. McCaffrey averages 6 receptions per game, giving him not only plenty of opportunities to make big plays, but also bolstering a solid floor in PPR or half PPR leagues. That’s what makes receiving backs so reliable, each and every week they have a reliable 2-4 points just from catching the ball. This means when Brock Purdy dumps off an uninspiring 1-yard pass to his star halfback, we can add another 0.6 points to his total for the day. 
And let’s not forget we’re talking about “Run CMC”. He is an incredibly talented rusher, too. In Kyle Shanahan’s beautifully schemed system, I expect big things, especially now that he’s fully assimilated with the team. I wouldn’t even be remotely surprised to see CMC put up a line of 1200+ rushing yards, 100 receptions for 750+ receiving yards and 12 total TD’s. 
He’s the best running back in fantasy, and in most fantasy leagues, he’s the favourite to be the 1.01 in your draft.

2. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

When your Mum says “we have Christian McCaffrey at home”. Everything I just said about the San Francisco superstar, think that again, just slightly downgraded. The Chargers aren’t as good as the Niners, and Austin Ekeler isn’t as good as Christian McCaffrey, but the formula is the same. Ekeler will probably have 200+ rush attempts and 100+ targets again, so his floor is incredibly safe. And then the upside comes with his touchdowns. Austin Ekeler scores a lot. As a dual-threat running back, he comes alive in the redzone. In the last two seasons in LA, he has put up 20 and 18 total touchdowns respectively. That is huge for fantasy football. Yards are awesome, but for every 60 of those, it just takes one touchdown, and Ekeler will get you plenty of those.

3. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

In terms of pure rushers, there are few people who can come close to Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns. And the best news for his fantasy football prospects, there is nobody else clogging up the backfield anymore. Kareem Hunt is gone. According to the projected depth chart, the two running backs behind Chubb are Jerome Ford and Demetric Felton Jr., who have less than 50 rushing yards combined in the NFL. Felton Jr. will pick up a handful of snaps on 3rd and long, but Nick Chubb essentially has this backfield to himself. Say it with me folks: ‘no more vultured touchdowns’. Plus, Deshaun Watson, whether we like it or not, is the most talented QB that he’s ever shared the backfield with, which means that a full season of him will create more scoring opportunities. Chubb has elite talent, and he finally has the opportunity we’ve all been waiting for.

4. Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons

Without question, the player I am most excited to watch in the 23/24 season is Bijan Robinson. The running back came out of Texas with quite a lot of NFL-hype, but the amount of fantasy football hype is even bigger. Not only is he an incredible talent, he also got drafted into a backfield that doesn’t have a standout back. Cordarrelle Patterson is getting older and Tyler Allgeier didn’t do enough to secure his role. Robinson is built to be a workhorse back, at 6’0 and 215 lbs, and I would expect to see him to start his career strong. In dynasty fantasy leagues, I have Bijan as the most valuable running back, but in redraft he isn’t much further down. When they give this kid the ball, watch, because he’s going to be entertaining as hell.

5. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

In terms of raw footballing talent, Saquon Barkley is up there with the best of the best. He is a superstar in open space, and is elite as both a rushing and receiving threat. There are two limiting factors on his value in fantasy football; his health and the offense. While the Giants are not below average in points scored, (tied for 15th), they ranked 26th in the NFL for passing yards in 2022. When Saquon Barkley is on the field, he is the biggest focus of the defense by a landslide. For what it’s worth, I do think that the addition of Darren Waller will help with that, but he will still have defenses stacked against him. If Barkley is healthy for the full season he is guaranteed to be a top 10 RB, with legitimate #1 RB upside. Unfortunately, I think he has a more difficult path than the guys above him on this list and the re-injury risk worries me.

6. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

There have been some notable changes to the Raiders offense over the last few months. They no longer have Derek Carr at quarterback, swapping instead to Jimmy Garoppolo, they also no longer have star TE Darren Waller, who they traded for reasons unbeknownst to me. These two things both represent downgrades to the passing game. Plus, they used their franchise tag (and an expensive one at that) on Josh Jacobs, indicating that while they don’t want to commit the long-term investment on the RB position, they still want the full benefit of another year from him.

All of this leads me to believe that Jacobs is going to carry the ball a tonne this season.Think DeMarco Murray’s last season in Dallas. Last year Jacobs carried the ball a huge 340 times. If they give him that level of volume again, he’ll be poised for another absolutely huge year in fantasy. He also catches the ball more than you might realise, which shouldn’t change with Jimmy G. The only reason I can’t put him higher than #5 is that I, unfortunately, don’t know how good the game script will be for running the ball if the Raiders struggle this season.

7. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have a new RB1, and they traded away their previous one to make sure there are no more questions. Tony Pollard has been a good fantasy football RB for multiple years now, but the problem was always volume. However, it’s been trending in the right direction every year and now it’s time for the final step (101, 129, 169 and 232 touches from 2019 through 2022 respectively). This season I am hoping to see him break 275 rush attempts and 75 targets, so that we can see the true potential of Tony Pollard as an RB1, which isn’t unrealistic coming off the back of last year’s campaign. In full PPR leagues he will still be ranked behind Saquon for me but he will be further ahead of the players that follow him on this list.

8. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

In modern fantasy football, where points per reception has become the norm, it’s easy to disrespect pure rushers. As I showed with my Nick Chubb ranking, I acknowledge that running the ball is still a very valuable thing – as long as you get the valuable carries (or all of them!) in your offense. Derrick Henry is a huge part of this Tennessee scheme and the sheer volume will allow him to remain a mainstay of fantasy rosters for another year. He is 6’3, 250lbs and does not go down easy. If for no other reason, Derrick Henry is a top 10 RB, because you know that you are absolutely guaranteed to get a couple of week-winning performances a year.

9. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

If you look at this list without context and see that I’ve ranked Joe Mixon at 9, you might not think I’m a big fan of his, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s outside of the top 12 in ADP on most platforms, so I’m higher on him than most. In terms of draft value, I absolutely love Mixon this year. You can usually pick him up in the mid-late third round and he is destined for huge volume. The Bengals RB has a very realistic expectation of 200+ carries and 60+ targets in an elite Super Bowl-contending offense. Mixon is a talented back, both on the ground and in the passing game, with star players all around him. If you find yourself going with WR’s or a QB (if you’re playing in a superflex league) with your first couple of picks, I strongly recommend targeting the Bengals halfback for your RB1.

10. Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots

Just a couple of weeks ago I’d have been even more enthusiastic about this pick, but even after the acquisition of Ezekiel Elliott, I still believe that Rhamondre Stevenson is an RB1 as we head into the season. The Patriots back is a strong runner with the ball in his hands, but is also a very solid receiving back. He has the body type and skillset to handle a three-down workload and after having 88 targets last season, it would be ridiculous to think that the addition of a post-prime Zeke will suddenly completely take away from Stevenson. Elliott will get some touches but the Patriots starter is Rhamondre and he has the ability to be a very good fantasy asset, so don’t be scared off.

11. Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions

If I had to plant my flag in one running back that I would just love to have on my team in every league, it would be Jahmyr Gibbs. The Lions rookie running back is an electric athlete, who can put up numbers on the ground and in the passing game. I will admit, his body type may not suit running between the tackles, but he is fantastic getting around the edge, and is significantly better than David Montgomery at catching and when in open space. 
You might have to spend a 3rd round pick to add Gibbs to your team, and he does admittedly represent a more risky choice than the likes of Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones around him, but boy will he be a fun player to own. This kid is explosive and fun to watch. At the end of the day, Detroit spent the 12th overall pick on a player, they’re going to get him involved – and soon. Once he has settled in, I could see him putting a real stamp on this offense and leaving Montgomery in the dust.

12. Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

This doesn’t feel glamorous or exciting the way that drafting Jahmyr Gibbs does, but that’s okay. Some fantasy players might just straight up avoid him because they’ve been disappointed after an elite start to his fantasy career, but Najee Harris deserves some love as a back-end RB1. In his rookie season, Harris had a fantastic year, rushing for 1200 yards and 7 touchdowns. Last season he didn’t drop off much from that, with 1034 yards and another 7 scores. 
However, the thing that disappointed fantasy owners was the reduced receiving work. After seeing a huge 94 targets in year one and catching 74 of them (for 467 yards and 3 scores) he was given just 53 targets in 2022, which he turned into 41 receptions for 229 yards and 3 TD’s. This fall in receiving production definitely hurt, but he was still solid on the ground, and if the passing work increases again to anywhere even close to his 2021 numbers, Najee will be a top 12 RB. Jaylen Warren is making a good case for some reps, but Harris is the starter and we’ve already seen that if he gets work in the passing game, he can be a legit top-5 back in fantasy.

Think you’ve got what it takes?

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