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2023 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings & Tiers

December 11, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) scores a touchdown against Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Logan Ryan (26) during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

  • The elite three: Tier 1 kicks things off with three clear options to choose from atop the fantasy running back rankings.
  • Nine RB tiers to dig through: 72 running backs are tiered in order to help identify key targets in fantasy drafts.
  • Utilizing tiers to extract value: As drafts progress beyond the first couple of rounds, using the tier system can allow fantasy managers to pass on options at the top of tiers to address other needs and still come back to get a similar player closer to the bottom of that tier in the next round(s).
Estimated reading time 13 minutes

Breaking fantasy football rankings down into tiers helps fantasy managers better understand what separates each grouping of players and how to value each player at the position for this coming season. 

Be sure to check out the rankings page for updates as the offseason progresses.

TIER 1: Workhorse roles with high-end receiving upside

1 Christian McCaffrey SF
2 Austin Ekeler LAC
3 Bijan Robinson ATL

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.

TIER 2: Workhorse backs continued

4 Tony Pollard DAL
5 Nick Chubb CLV
6 Saquon Barkley NYG
7 Jonathan Taylor IND
8 Josh Jacobs LV
9 Derrick Henry TEN

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, but with potential holdout concerns, his ADP has taken a hit, dropping into the second round in most drafts.

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 as long as he’s on the field. Much like Barkley, Jacobs could potentially hold out for a contract extension this season, though, given his lack of leverage, it’s less likely than with the Giants and Barkley. Still, there is a bit more risk with Jacobs now than some of the other backs ranked ahead of him.

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. Not only should Pollard push for 250-300 carries, if healthy, but he should also absorb more work in the receiving game and at the goal line to allow for a legitimate shot at an overall RB1 finish this coming season.

Henry and Chubb should both push for nearly 20 touches per game, if not more, this coming season. Henry is in line for another large workload but has also seen his efficiency dip a bit recently, so he gets falls near the end of this second tier. Chubb’s elusiveness and effectiveness have been just as good, if not better than any running back in the league, 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.

TIER 3: Fringe RB1s and contenders

10 Breece Hall NYJ
11 Rhamondre Stevenson NE
12 Joe Mixon CIN
13 Aaron Jones GB
14 Najee Harris PIT
15 Travis Etienne JAX
16 Jahmyr Gibbs DET

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.

TIER 4: Starters with weekly RB1 upside

17 Alexander Mattison MIN
18 Dameon Pierce HST
19 J.K. Dobbins BLT
20 Cam Akers LAR
21 Miles Sanders CAR
22 James Conner ARZ
23 Rachaad White TB
24 Javonte Williams DEN

With the release of Dalvin Cook this offseason, Alexander Mattison’s has an opportunity to be a workhorse running back. He’ll have a real chance to completely absorb the same role that Cook left vacant in his departure, which should allow for consistently strong fantasy production on a weekly basis.

Cam Akers and Rachaad White are set to potentially break out this season with larger roles in their offense, making them great RB2 options that come at a decent price in drafts. 

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.

TIER 5: Starters with competition and question marks

25 Kenneth Walker III SEA
26 James Cook BUF
27 Isaiah Pacheco KC
28 Dalvin Cook FA
29 Rashaad Penny PHI
30 Brian Robinson Jr. WAS
31 D’Andre Swift PHI
32 Khalil Herbert CHI

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.

D’Andre Swift was replaced in Detroit in the draft and traded to Philadelphia shortly after, but optimism is high that Swift can bounce back on a Super Bowl-contending offense. Swift’s RB2 ADP highlights that optimism, but if Rashaad Penny is healthy to start the year, he should prove to be more than enough of a threat to lead the backfield in carries, designating Swift to a primary receiving back role. While that can be valuable in PPR leagues, the Eagles tended to not rely on passes to their running backs in 2022 — which, considering the number of weapons they have in the passing game, is less than ideal for Swift, who figures to be the fourth-best receiving option on the team at best.

There are plenty of unproven starters within this tier that could outperform their ADP once the season starts. James Cook and Khalil Herbert both 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 two 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 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.

TIER 6: High-end handcuffs and receiving specialists

33 Samaje Perine DEN
34 David Montgomery DET
35 Alvin Kamara NO
36 Jerick McKinnon KC
37 A.J. Dillon GB
38 Jamaal Williams NO
39 Zach Charbonnet SEA
40 Antonio Gibson 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. RB35 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.

TIER 7: Mid-tier handcuff options

41 Devon Achane MIA
42 Jaylen Warren PIT
43 Tank Bigsby JAX
44 Raheem Mostert MIA
45 Damien Harris BUF
46 Devin Singletary HST
47 Tyler Allgeier ATL
48 Kendre Miller NO

Raheem Mostert and Devon Achane are likely the only backs in this group who don’t really fit the handcuff label and instead should be considered in a running back by committee backfield, where anyone has a chance to emerge as the top back at some point this season. Mostert is certainly capable of handling a decent workload, but the Achane addition in the third round of the draft should get him plenty involved as well. As a team that showed less tendency to run the ball last season, the potential for touches just doesn’t line up enough to move the Dolphins’ backs much higher in the rankings.

Rookie Tank Bigsby earned Day 2 draft capital this offseason and could work his way onto the field in a fantasy-relevant role right away this season. While Etienne is still the clear favorite back in Jacksonville for fantasy football, Bigsby is a legitimate threat to push for a significant role in 2023.

Another rookie, Kendre Miller, could have a more prominent role early in the season, if/when Kamara’s suspension comes in, giving him a chance to compete for snaps with last season’s rushing touchdown leader, Jamaal Williams.

TIER 8: Low weekly floor handcuff options

49 Eric Gray NYG
50 Michael Carter NYJ
51 D’Onta Foreman CHI
52 Roschon Johnson CHI
53 Jerome Ford CLV
54 Gus Edwards BLT
55 Tyjae Spears TEN
56 Zamir White LV
57 Chuba Hubbard CAR
58 Pierre Strong NE
59 Joshua Kelley LAC
60 Chase Edmonds TB

These last two tiers are for the deep roster leagues that will want to add depth at the running back position and understand that the weekly production floor is bound to be low. Barring injuries to starters and anyone else above them on the depth chart, this group is going to be more than likely on waivers in most leagues, however, there could be some hidden values to target. 

With rumors of Barkley potentially sitting out in New York, rookie Eric Gray, or even Matt Breida, could be in for a significant boost in touches. Stay tuned to training camp news and notes to learn which one has the edge. For now, Gray is a favorite target late in drafts as a back with rushing and receiving upside coming out of college.

TIER 9: Top free agents and limited roles 

61 Ezekiel Elliott FA
62 Leonard Fournette FA
63 Kareem Hunt FA
64 Sony Michel LAR
65 Kenneth Gainwell PHI
66 Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC
67 Jeff Wilson Jr. MIA
68 DeWayne McBride MIN
69 Sean Tucker TB
70 Cordarelle Patterson ATL
71 Ronald Jones DAL
72 Israel Abanikanda NYJ

Some big name free agents remain unsigned, and while there’s at least a chance they can sign somewhere to be the primary running back, those spots aren’t widely available right now, so it makes for a difficult bet to make. It’s likely going to be an injury that causes a team to bring them in at this point, so fantasy managers need to weigh how much that is worth betting on come draft time. There are likely to be better options at other positions to take swings on late in drafts, but depending on roster construction, a need at the position could be satisfied with this group.



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