There are several ways to dominate your fantasy football draft. One of those ways is finding running backs outside the top 24 that end the year as an RB1.
Last year Tony Pollard (RB30), Rhamondre Stevenson (RB34) and Jamaal Williams (RB50) all had an ADP outside the top-24 running backs, according to FantasyData. Yet, all three ended the 2022 season inside the top-12 running backs. Meanwhile, Josh Jacobs was the 23rd drafted running back last season but finished the year as the RB3, averaging 17.8 half-point PPR fantasy points per game, a career-high.
Which running backs drafted outside the top-24 have a chance to finish as an RB1 this year? Let’s look at five potential candidates.
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RB3s with RB1 Potential (2023 Fantasy Football)
David Montgomery (DET) – ADP 72.7 | RB28
Last season, David Montgomery was the RB23, averaging 10 half-point PPR fantasy points per game, totaling 201 rushing attempts for 801 yards and five touchdowns while splitting the rushing workload with Khalil Herbert and Justin Fields. Meanwhile, he has been a consistent RB2 despite playing on a poor offense, never finishing lower than the RB25 any year in his career.
More importantly, Montgomery is replacing Jamaal Williams and his 22 goal-line touches from last season (the second most in the NFL) in Detroit. Last year, Williams led the NFL in rushing touchdowns (17) and was the RB8. While he won’t have the same touchdown luck, Montgomery is a better player and can do more for the Lions than Williams.
James Cook (BUF) – ADP 83.3 | RB31
The fantasy football community had high expectations for James Cook last year. Unfortunately, he was only the RB45, averaging six half-point PPR fantasy points per game. However, things could change this season with Devin Singletary out of town. The Bills signed Damien Harris in free agency, but the veteran has missed 24% of the games over the past three years because of injury.
Meanwhile, 13.5% of Cook’s rushing attempts went for 10 or more yards last season. He also finished first among RBs in breakaway run rate (12.1%) as a rookie. Buffalo is determined to run the ball more this season. Cook only needs a few lucky break goal-line touchdowns to potentially finish inside the top 12.
Antonio Gibson (WAS) – ADP 93.3 | RB34
Antonio Gibson has two top-12 finishes on his resumé. However, he was a bust last season, averaging only 9.5 half-point PPR fantasy points per game, the lowest average of his career. The addition of Brian Robinson Jr. played a role in Gibson’s decline, but so did the dysfunctional playcalling.
Meanwhile, J.D. McKissic is no longer around, opening the passing game role for the former Memphis star. Last year, Eric Bieniemy turned Jerick McKinnon into a low-end RB2 despite having only 72 rushing attempts, thanks to 56 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns, both career highs. The Commanders’ coaching staff has repeatedly mentioned Gibson this offseason. He could have another RB1 finish in 2023.
Zach Charbonnet (SEA) – ADP 112.7 | RB40
No one should ever root for injuries. However, ZachCharbonnet is one injury away from a top-12 finish. Last year, Kenneth Walker III was the RB6, averaging 14.9 half-point PPR fantasy points per game after taking over for an injured Rashaad Penny. Charbonnet would have similar success if Walker suffered a season-ending injury.
The rookie averaged seven yards per rushing attempt last season at UCLA, putting him in the 92nd percentile. Furthermore, he finished third in yards after contact per attempt (4.15) last year among running backs with at least 190 rushing attempts. While it will take a season-ending injury to Walker for Charbonnet to become an RB1, the rookie running back is still a bargain at his ADP.
De’Von Achane (MIA) – ADP 117.3 | RB41
If the Dolphins end up signing Dalvin Cook, De’Von Achane’s fantasy upside becomes next to nothing. Many called the former Texas A&M star this year’s Dameon Pierce after getting drafted by Miami. Last year, the Dolphins’ running backs combined to score 352.2 half-point PPR fantasy points.
If the rookie earned only 60% of that fantasy production, Achane would have been the RB12 last year and the RB8 in 2021. Furthermore, he would have been the RB8 last season and the RB6 the year before, with 65% of that fantasy workload. Assuming the Dolphins don’t land Cook, Achane will have no trouble beating out Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. for the lead role in Miami’s backfield.