Running back is the most volatile position in fantasy football. In fact, in 2022, we had nine running backs in the top 12 in scoring who weren’t top 12 the year before. Last year we saw two players likely drafted as an RB3 or later crack the top 12, Tony Pollard and Jamaal Williams and Rhamondre Stevenson was a low-end RB2 in average draft position (ADP), so he was close to making it three.
There are a couple of guys on my radar that are currently in the RB3 range in FantasyPros expert consensus rating (ECR) that I think can make the leap to RB1. Here they are…
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RB3s (or later) with RB1 Potential (2023 Fantasy Football)
Here are players that provide the opportunity to jump tiers at the running back position.
Javonte Williams (DEN) | ECR-RB26
Williams is a bit of a cop-out answer here because he is barely an RB3, and if we get news in August that he’s looking good in camp, his ADP will shoot him up. My co-host on the Armchair Fantasy Show, Ryan Cearfoss, had an excellent point when discussing Williams on a recent show. He said last season that there were two perineal RB1s who were historically “injury-prone.” One of them we penalized and drafted him in later rounds — the other one was a top 5 pick. I’m talking about Saquan Barkley and Christian McCaffery.
Similarly, this year, we have two guys who were highly drafted last season. Both had season-ending injuries; one is being drafted late, — Javonte Williams, — and the other is a consensus top 5 pick, Breece Hall. One could argue that Williams’ situation is better than that of Hall’s in that his head coach is an offensive guy who has historically used his running backs in the passing game. Whereas the Jets are built around defense and time-of-possession, and while Hall will likely get a huge workload on the ground, we all know the value of running backs who can catch 60-to-70 passes. I don’t know if that type of passing game usage is in the cards for Hall.
Of the names in this article, Williams is by far the most likely to end the season as an RB1, so if his ADP doesn’t go up before your draft, jump on this value.
Zach Charbonnet (SEA) | ECR – RB44
Brian Ford, host of the Dynasty Saturday Night Five, has long been a Charbonnet truther, whereas I’ve been on the opposite side of that coin with my belief in Kenneth Walker. However, I’d be irresponsible not to see a path to RB1 for Charbonnet. Brian’s largest sticking point, and it’s one that cannot be argued, is Walker is not a pass catcher, and that is something that Charbs has shown some proficiency in. There’s no denying that Charbs is the more complete back, which could lead to more opportunities on the field, especially in two-minute and four-minute situations before halftime and the end of the game.
There is some strong analytics that point to Kenneth Walker not being able to repeat the season he had in 2022, none more damning than
And finally, while I never like to draft a player with injuries in mind, let’s face it, running backs get hurt more than any other position. Even if Walker were to miss only a handful of games, Charbs immediately becomes a must-start with high-end RB1 potential. Charbonnet is one of those unique running backs who can be more than just a handcuff. There is a very real possibility that he has stand-alone value, similar to a Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt-type dynamic from a few seasons ago, where both running backs finished in the top 12. Currently ranked as RB44, he’s a player you can stash on your bench but has the potential to be a starter if things go right.
Jerome Ford (CLE) | ECR – RB64
Ford is basically free at RB64 and most likely does not have the pedigree to reach RB1 status, but if you’re in those late rounds looking for that diamond in the rough, you could do worse than Ford. Last year’s RB2 and RB3 for the Browns are no longer on the team — Kareem Hunt is still unsigned, and D’Ernest Johnson is in Jacksonville. That leaves the No. 2 duties behind Nick Chubb wide open. Ford’s value will come in the passing game, and even though he has yet to show us he can be a 50-60 catch player, the fact the Browns did not go out and get a pass-catching back should tell us all we need to know.
At 5-foot-11, 210lbs, with 4.4 speed, Ford has the physical size and speed to be a good 1b to Chubb’s 1a. His pass-blocking skills were considered one of his strengths coming out of college, and if that proves to be the case, then we will see him in the backfield on third downs and in the 2-minute drills. At RB64, Ford’s upside is huge. Will it be enough to be an RB1? Slim chance. But would I be surprised if he was? Absolutely not.
Other Notable Names
- Devon Achane (MIA)
- David Montgomery (DET)
- Antonio Gibson (WAS)
- Damien Harris (BUF)
- Jerick McKinnon (KC)