It’s never too early to start preparing for your next fantasy football draft, and I’ve got just the tools to help you get a head start on the competition. I’ve been hard at work analyzing the running back landscape for the 2023 season and have compiled my early rankings and player notes to give you a leg up in your league. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or new to the game, these rankings and notes will provide valuable insights on each running back’s potential for the upcoming season with updates from the fallouts of NFL Free Agency and the NFL Draft. From proven studs to up-and-coming sleepers, there’s something for everyone. So buckle up and get ready to dominate your league with my early fantasy football rankings and top players to avoid.
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Fantasy Football Draft Players to Avoid
Javonte Williams was limited to just 4 games in his second year after tearing his ACL, LCL and PCL in Week 4 against the Raiders. The injury may end up being a blessing in disguise as Williams may have struggled mightily in the Denver Broncos atrocious offense. Even before his injury, Williams ranked as the RB35 in points per game (9.0) despite ranking as the fantasy RB12 in expected points per game. And Williams’ underlying metrics were still elite, as his 116.3 PFF elusive rating ranked first among all RBs with at least 45 carries. Considering the time frame of Williams’ injury, the expectation should be that he is back by the start of the year, but the severity/complexity of his knee injury is eerily similar to J.K. Dobbins from the past year. Williams could easily come out of the gates sluggish, and the moves that Broncos have made this offseason reflect that narrative. They’ve added Samaje Perine and Tony Jones Jr. to the backfield.
Alvin Kamara had a year to forget in 2022 with QB/TE Taysom Hill seeing an increased role as a backfield rusher in the Saints offense. Hill earned more touches inside the 10-yard line (8 vs. 12) which limited Kamara to just two rushing TDs. AK41’s receiving usage also fell off a cliff toward the end of the year. From Weeks 13-18, Kamara never caught more than two passes. His target share fell from 22% to 11%. The days of him being a game-breaker as a receiver seem to be long gone as he has seen his pass-catching numbers fall off drastically compared to his first four years in the NFL when he was averaging nearly 90 receptions per year. The overall lack of TDs and receiving was heightened more so when Kamara’s poor rushing efficiency failed to make up for his loss in other production. The Saints running back ended the year second-worst in the rushing EPA (-41). Before the schedule eased up over the last four games, Kamara had just two games with 65 rushing yards. He still managed to finish as the RB15 in points per game (12.8), which might need to be his new fantasy expectation when he plays in 2023. Because there are serious question marks about Kamara’s availability in regards to a potential suspension on events from last year’s Pro Bowl. The general ambiguity will make him very risky to draft in the early rounds.
2022 was another year of ultimate teasing by D’Andre Swift. The Lions running back came out of the gates red hot, but got hurt. And when he returned, the Lions refused to give him the featured role in the backfield, opting to use Jamaal Williams as their goal-line battering ram instead.
Swift was still uber-efficient on a per-touch basis – fourth in fantasy points per touch, third in yards per carry, 23rd in points per game and 19th in yards after contact per attempt – but the lack of touchdowns and overall touches was soul-crushing. Swift seemed to never be 100% healthy at any point during the year, which likely influenced his reduced role. And Detroit’s lack of willingness to get Swift involved was a sign of things to come as they would eventually trade him to the Philadelphia Eagles for a future Day 3 pick.
With a full bill of health heading into 2023, Swift will again be productive on a per-touch basis in his new offense. But be warned that his injury history and draft capital spent on Swift guarantees him nothing under a new coaching staff in Philadelphia. Fantasy managers should also be aware that Swift and fellow newcomer Rashaad Penny are both solid rushers, posting identical success rates last season.
Swift also won’t be used as often in the passing game, after the Eagles finished dead last in RB target share last season (12.1%) and total RB targets.
We may have finally seen the end of Dalvin Cook‘s elite status among fantasy RBs in 2022. The Vikings star RB finished dead last among all ball carries in rushing EPA and rushes for zero or negative yardage. Cook ended the season as the RB8 overall and RB10 in points per game despite earning the league’s 4th-highest opportunity share (78%). With Minnesota re-investing in the running back position with Alexander Mattison returning, we could see Cook’s role on offense reduced in 2023.
Fantasy Football Draft Rankings: Running Backs
ADP – Average Draft Position