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Running Backs to Avoid (2023 Fantasy Football)

Mar 15, 2023
Running Backs to Avoid (2023 Fantasy Football)

Every year fantasy players find out that there is turnover at the running back position. In 2021, James Conner was the RB5, averaging 15.9 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. However, the veteran was only the RB20 in 2022, averaging 13.6 fantasy points per contest.

Similarly, Ezekiel Elliott was the RB6 in 2021, averaging 13.4 fantasy points per game. Yet, the former Ohio State superstar was only the RB19 last season, averaging 11.8 fantasy points per contest, a career low.

Last year there was a couple of surprise running backs to finish inside the top 12. History tells us that at least one or two will regress in 2023. However, which running will it be? Here are five running backs I am not drafting next year.

Running Backs to Avoid

Josh Jacobs (LV)

The Raiders declined Jacobs’ fifth-year option last offseason, making the veteran running back a free agent after the 2022 season. However, the former Alabama star had a career year. He was the RB3, averaging 17.8 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. Furthermore, he averaged 19.7 percent more fantasy points per game than his previous career-best average in 2020. More importantly, Jacobs had a massive increase in volume last season.

Over the first three years of his career, the star running back averaged 244 rushing attempts per year. He never had more than 273 in a season. Yet, Jacobs was second in the NFL with 340 rushing attempts in 2022. Furthermore, the veteran led the league in rushing yards with 1,653. He had 115 more rushing yards than any other player last year. The Raiders placed the franchise tag on the veteran running back as they try to work out a long-term deal. However, should fantasy players draft Jacobs next year? Over the last 10 years, five running backs had 390 or more touches in a season. Four of them struggled the following year, while Jacobs is the fifth.

Alvin Kamara (NO)

While he had been a superstar running back most of his career, Kamara struggled last year. Over the first five years of his career, the veteran running back averaged 13.4 scrimmage touchdowns per season. However, Kamara had only four touchdowns in 15 games in 2022. Furthermore, the former Tennessee star has seen his yards per rushing attempt average drop lately. After averaging five yards per rushing attempt over the first four years of his career, the veteran running back averaged only 3.9 yards per rushing attempt over the past two years.

Last year Kamara had the worst fantasy performance of his career. He ended the year as the RB18, averaging only 12.2 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. By comparison, the veteran running back averaged 18.4 fantasy points per game over the first five years of his career, averaging at least 14.9 fantasy points per contest every season. More importantly, Kamara is facing a hefty suspension to start the 2023 season after allegedly beating a man in Las Vegas in February 2022. Even if the running back only gets a six-game suspension, fantasy players shouldn’t expect much when he returns.

Joe Mixon (CIN)

The former second-round pick ended last season as the RB12, averaging 15 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, Mixon’s production is hideous if you dive into the numbers. The former Oklahoma Sooner had 53.1 fantasy points and five touchdowns in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers. That game accounted for 25.4 percent of Mixon’s fantasy points last season and 55.6 percent of his touchdowns for the year. The veteran running back averaged only 12 fantasy points per game in the other 13 games he played in 2022. Furthermore, Mixon averaged 3.9 yards per rushing attempt last season, down from his average in 2021.

By comparison, the star running back averaged seven yards per rushing attempt in the Week 9 contest. Yet, he averaged only 3.5 yards per rushing attempt for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Mixon could be a potential cap casualty this offseason. His name has been in the news for the wrong reasons the past few weeks. More importantly, Cincinnati needs to sign Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins to massive extensions over the next few months. The Bengals can save up to $10 million by releasing the veteran running back. Even if Mixon returns next season, fantasy players should expect him in a near 50-50 timeshare instead of a featured role.

Jamaal Williams (DET)

Every year fantasy players, including myself, hope D’Andre Swift breaks out and becomes an RB1. Yet, that didn’t happen in 2022. Instead, Williams became a star in Detroit. The veteran running back had 17 rushing touchdowns last season, breaking Barry Sanders’ team record while leading the NFL. However, Williams had only 13 career rushing touchdowns entering the 2022 season. Furthermore, he had his first 1,000-yard rushing season and a career-high 262 rushing attempts. While his career year resulted in Williams being the RB8 last season, averaging 12.9 half-point PPR fantasy points per game, fantasy players should be cautious about drafting the veteran running back next season.

Williams averaged 2.6 rushing touchdowns per year in his career before last season, scoring four or fewer every year. Furthermore, he had 153 rushing attempts and only three touchdowns in his first year in Detroit (2021). Yet, his rushing attempts increased by 41.6 percent, while his touchdown production was nearly six times as much last season. Williams was the RB43 in 2021 and averaged 3.9 yards per rushing attempt. By comparison, he was the RB8 last year and averaged 4.1 yards per rushing attempt. More importantly, 46.4 percent of his fantasy production last year came off touchdowns. Williams won’t have the same level of touchdown production in 2023.

Isiah Pacheco (KC)

Last year Pacheco was the final running back drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft. The former Rutgers star was a popular late-round dynasty rookie draft pick. He ended his rookie season as the RB35, averaging 7.6 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. Pacheco was productive at the end of the regular season, averaging 58.3 rushing yards and 9.9 fantasy points per game during the fantasy playoffs. Furthermore, he played well in the playoffs, averaging 65.7 rushing yards per game. However, now is the time to sell high on the former Rutgers star in dynasty leagues, as his perceived value is much higher than his actual value.

Rarely do running backs drafted outside the first three rounds have long fantasy careers. Pacheco nearly went undrafted last year and won’t be the exception to the rule. He scored fewer than 6.5 fantasy points in roughly 50 percent of the games last year. Furthermore, the rookie had only two games with more than 12.4 fantasy points during the regular season. Pacheco averaged fewer fantasy points per game than his teammate Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Kenyan Drake. More importantly, the Chiefs aren’t committed to the rookie running back.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

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Mike Fanelli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @Mike_NFL2.

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