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2023 Fantasy Football Draft Rankings: Top 10 Running Backs w/ Notes

2023 Fantasy Football Draft Rankings: Top 10 Running Backs w/ Notes

While the 2022 NFL regular season ended, it’s never too early to look ahead to the 2023 campaign. That’s especially true when it comes to fantasy, which never sleeps!

Andrew Erickson, Pat Fitzmaurice, and Derek Brown check in to provide you with their early 2023 fantasy football draft rankings. Take a look at who falls into their consensus early top-10 rankings at the running back position. We’ll provide player notes for each pick, and you can find our full early 2022 redraft fantasy football rankings below.

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2023 Fantasy Football Draft Rankings: Running Backs

Check out our early consensus top 10 running back rankings and player notes courtesy Andrew Erickson:

1) Christian McCaffrey (SF – RB)

CMC was traded to the 49ers prior to the team’s Week 7 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. But it didn’t take long for him to take on a massive role, going for 40-plus fantasy points in just his second game in a San Fran uniform. He would go on to lead all running backs in fantasy points scored from Weeks 8-17 averaging 20.5 fantasy half-points per game (also first). From Week 8 onward (13 games including postseason play), CMC averaged 19.5 points per game and 17.3 expected fantasy points per game. Both would have ranked first among all RBs in 2022. McCaffrey averaged nearly 20 touches per game – 76% average snap share in non-blowout games – while catching nearly five balls per game as PFF’s third-highest-graded running back. Even with the 49ers opening the season with a very crowded offense in 2023, McCaffrey while healthy is the best bet to see the highest production among the talented group in the Bay Area.

2) Jonathan Taylor (IND – RB)

2023 was a year to forget for the consensus 1.01 in fantasy football drafts. Jonathan Taylor underperformed as the RB30 in 11 games averaging 12.6 fantasy points as the RB18 when healthy. JT’s usage was that of a top-8 running back – 8th in expected points per game, 4th in touches per game (20) – but a lack of touchdowns decimated his fantasy stock in the Colts’ anemic offense. After scoring a combined 33 TDs through his 1st two seasons, Taylor scored just four rushing TDs in 2022. But I’d expect a bounce-back effort from Taylor in 2023. He will be healthier in 2023. When Taylor first returned from injury (Weeks 10-13) he ranked as the RB3 overall. And he’s primed for positive TD regression entering the final year of his rookie deal.

3) Austin Ekeler (LAC – RB)

No player has scored more touchdowns over the past two seasons, than Austin Ekeler. The Chargers’ red-zone machine scored 18 TDs (5 receiving, 13 rushing) a year after scoring 20 touchdowns in 2021. Simply put, those that faded Ekeler due to TD regression narratives got burned this past season. And the touchdowns were just part of Ekeler’s RB1 finish in half-point scoring, as he lead all RBs in receptions and targets, which substantially boosted his fantasy numbers. Ekeler was fully unlocked as a receiver with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams combining for 13 missed games. Until the Chargers WRs can prove they can stand the test of a 17-game season, Ekeler will remain the focal point of LA’s offense. Especially if the Chargers fail to make any worthwhile addition in their backfield, because nobody currently on the depth chart is “forcing” their way onto the field.

4) Bijan Robinson (FA – RB)

Anytime a running back draws first-round buzz in today’s NFL, you better pay attention. That’s the case with Texas running back Bijan Robinson, who is the consensus No. 1 RB across all draft publications. B-Rob finished the 2022 season as PFF’s second-highest-graded rusher in the FBS, tallying 18 rushing TDs and 1,575 rushing yards en route to a 37% dominator rating in his final year as a Longhorn. He forced 104 missed tackles (40% broken tackle rate) which have shown to be super predictive of success rushing at the NFL level. And among last year’s class, only Breece Hall posted a higher dominator rating (40%). But only citing Robinson’s junior year hardly captures everything he could accomplish at the college level. As a true freshman, he ranked second in the FBS in yards after contact per attempt (6.09). His 27% career dominator rating ranks top-5 in the 2023 Draft Class. Factor in that Robinson also finished 3rd among RBs in yards per catch (16.5) with zero drops and there’s no question as to why he’s the 1.01 already in rookie drafts. At 6-foot, 220 pounds, Robinson has the requisite size and all the tools to be a three-down running back who never leaves the field.

5) Saquon Barkley (NYG – RB)

Saquon Barkley was finally healthy in 2022 and reaped the rewards of playing in a much better offensive environment. The 2023 free agent finished as the RB5 overall and in points per game, as he was able to recapture his explosive upside as both a rusher and receiver. Barkley finished second in overall touches (352) and backfield opportunity share (80%) behind only Josh Jacobs through 17 weeks. He also scored 10 rushing TDs with 23 carries inside the 10-yard line. In 2021, Barkley totaled just 13 red-zone touches all season. Let Barkley’s return to glory show that you want to target young impending FA RBs in improved offensive situations that project to earn high volume with proven records of production.

6) Kenneth Walker III (SEA – RB)

Kenneth Walker III stood as the RB8 from Weeks 6-17 after Rashaad Penny was placed on IR with a season-ending injury. The rookie was the RB9 in points per game. If you remove the two games he missed due to injury (Weeks 13/14) he averaged 16.4 fantasy points per game, which would have placed him as the RB8 in points per game. I was out on Walker early on during the draft process, but his early injuries throughout the preseason eventually made him a draft-day steal. We all knew that Rashaad Penny was never going to be “the guy” for the long run based on his injury track record and that Walker would likely take over RB1 duties as an uber-talented second-round pick. He did just that and got absolutely FED after returning from a late-season ankle injury. Walker was either consistently playing 70 percent-plus snaps or carrying the ball 23-plus times. And at times, we even saw Walker earn a large number of targets while leading the backfield in routes run. Needless to say, he’s got “the” fantasy RB1 overall upside in 2023.

7) Travis Etienne Jr. (JAC – RB)

From Weeks 7-17 – removing the game versus Baltimore when Travis Etienne left with an injury – the Jaguars running back averaged 15 fantasy points per game (RB8 in points per game) and was the standing RB10 in total half-points scored. ETN would proceed to finish the 2022 fantasy regular season tied for 5th in carries inside the 10-yard line (23), but he only scored four touchdowns on those carries. He’s primed to see his TD numbers climb with the backfield all but his from the get-go in 2023 in ascending offense. Etienne also just scratched the surface of how he can contribute in the passing game. The receiving “role” has been his in terms of routes run most weeks in 2022, but targets did not always follow with Trevor Lawrence preferring Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Evan Engram – who all stayed healthy in 2022. If one of those guys goes down in 2023 we will probably see ETN see a boosted receiving role. The second-year rusher averaged a 22% target rate per route in 3 of his last four games played and No. 2 running back/pass-catcher JaMycal Hasty is a restricted free agent.

8) Nick Chubb (CLE – RB)

Nick Chubb just put together the quietest 1,525 rushing-yard seasons in recent memory. The Browns running back averaged 5 yards per carry (again) and posted a career-high 13 touchdowns. He finished the year as the RB6 overall with a top 10 backfield opportunity share (64%), but the majority of his fantasy production actually came prior to Deshaun Watson returning to the lineup. During Weeks 1-12, Chubb was the RB4 overall and in points per game. From Weeks 13-17 with Watson at quarterback, he was the RB23 overall and RB33 in points per game. These splits likely won’t carry over into 2023 based on Watson likely boosting the offense’s overall efficiency making Chubb a near-bust-proof draft pick based on his track record of consistency. Chubb also has a chance to capture a larger role as a receiver with Kareem Hunt likely gone in free agency. In Week 18, Chubb played a season-high 75% snap share, ran a route on 71% of dropbacks and caught 5-of-6 targets (22% target share) for 45 yards.

9) Rhamondre Stevenson (NE – RB)

Damien Harris is an impending free agent, which suggests that Rhamondre Stevenson‘s role/production in 2023 will be more of what we saw from Weeks 5-16 (RB13 in points per game) when Harris was either not active or not 100% when playing. Even when Harris played alongside Stevenson, the Patriots RB finished third in route participation (58%) and targets (82) among running backs. And remember Stevenson’s strong 2022 campaign en route to an RB10 finish was not fueled by touchdowns. In fact, Stevenson was one of the worst RBs converting from inside the 10-yard line as he scored just thrice despite 19 goal-line carries. His teammate Harris scored thrice from inside the 10 – on just 6 carries. If Stevenson experiences positive TD regression, he undoubtedly will build off a strong sophomore season.

10) Josh Jacobs (LV – RB)

Josh Jacobs was arguably the most valuable fantasy asset during the fantasy football regular season based on his finish as the RB2 overall in relation to his super cheap draft-day ADP. The market was convinced that Jacobs would become part of a dreaded RB-by-committee under new head coach Josh McDaniels, but that was hardly the case. He was a full-blown bellcow for the Raiders leading the NFL in touches through 17 weeks. The 24-year-old is slated to hit free agency, so it will be interesting to see if he returns to the Raiders or signs a big deal elsewhere after leading the NFL with 1,653 rushing yards.

Consensus 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Rankings

2023 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

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