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12 Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers & Breakouts (2023)

12 Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers & Breakouts (2023)

Today we zero in on the all-important RB position. Running backs are often the engines propelling fantasy teams to championships. So which RBs should you be targeting in 2023? Our featured experts combed through the expert consensus rankings (ECR) and identified running backs that could break out this season and which are primed to be sleepers that make a fantasy impact.

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Fantasy Football Running Back Breakouts

Which one player inside the top 35 of our half-PPR consensus RB rankings has the greatest potential to give fantasy managers the greatest return on investment?

James Conner (RB – ARI)

“James Conner is time and again overlooked on fantasy draft day, and that’s after finishing top-10 in half-PPR in 2021 and RB20 in 2022. This season his only competition is Marlon Mack, and he was only brought in on a one-year contract as a veteran backup to provide a little stability in that mess of an RB room. The last seasons that Mack brought in fantasy-relevant stats were 2018 and 2019. Look for Conner to approach top-10 points once more in what could be his last season with the Cardinals, and one in which they will be leaning on the running game early while Kyler Murray gets back into playing shape.”
David Biggs (Drink Five)

Cam Akers (RB – LAR)

“Cam Akers fits the mold of a breakout running back in 2023. Akers has little competition for carries like he has had in years past. Akers had 100-yard games in the final four weeks of 2022 with an already bad offensive line last year. The return of Matthew Stafford should help take the pressure off the run game and even give Akers opportunities for targets in the backfield. Let’s not forget that Akers is in a contract season, and he will step up to produce in any attempt to get his next payday. ”
Steven Pintado (The Fantasy Coaches)

“The Rams’ Cam Akers is one of my favorite breakout candidates heading into the 2023 fantasy season. After falling out of favor with the team’s offensive coaching staff early last season, he battled to flip the narrative, finishing strong as fantasy’s RB4 in half-PPR scoring formats from Week 13 onward. Head coach Sean McVay has spent the offseason praising Akers, who faces very little competition for touches in the Rams’ backfield following the departure of Darrell Henderson. ”
Justin Sablich (5th Down Fantasy)

Kenneth Walker III (RB – SEA)

“Kenneth Walker III, before the NFL Draft, was considered by many to be a slam dunk 2nd round fantasy selection after his rise to prominence in his rookie season. After Rashaad Penny went down last season, Walker was the RB8 for the remainder of the fantasy season. Then the Seahawks decided to bring in Zach Charbonnet, and there was the fall from grace happening before our eyes with Walker. Now going in early round 4, that is an outstanding value. The Seahawks and Pete Carroll want to run the football. That much is known. Walker is a guy that will either be on the field for 70% of the Seahawks’ snaps or gathering 23-plus carries, which he did a year ago and stands to do again with the indefinite shoulder injury to Charbonnet. Walker is dealing with his own minor groin injury at the moment, but if Charbonnet continues to miss time, the next men up are DeeJay Dallas and 7th-round pick Kenny McIntosh? Yeah, they aren’t too big of a threat for Walker, who I will gladly select in round 3, let alone round 4.”
Ed Birdsall (Talking Points Sports)

James Cook (RB – BUF)

“ECR: 30 ADP: 8.02. The biggest question is, what kind of workload will this team give him with Damien Harris in the mix? With spurts of explosiveness and his receiving ability in his favor, he could emerge as the Day 1 starter. Cook’s efficiency was solid, averaging 6.2 yards per touch. He could finish as an RB1 in fantasy if he is in fact heavily involved in the high-powered offense this year, but you don’t have to draft him as one with an ADP of 8.02.”
Marc Shannep (Fantasy Knockout)

Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS)

“Antonio Gibson is only two spots higher in the ECR than his teammate Brian Robinson Jr. Yet, Gibson has significantly more upside. The former Memphis star had a down year in 2022 but should rebound this season after Washington released J.D. McKissic. Eric Bieniemy turned Jerick McKinnon into a low-end RB2 last year despite having only 72 rushing attempts, thanks to his role in the passing game. More importantly, the coaching staff has repeatedly mentioned Gibson’s new role in the offense. After finishing as an RB1 in his rookie and sophomore seasons, Gibson could easily return to that top-12 production in a contract year.”
Mike Fanelli (FantasyPros)

Miles Sanders (RB – CAR)

“Miles Sanders is the RB in the top 35 consensus rankings with the greatest potential to give fantasy managers their return on investment. Sanders joined a team with a top-10 rushing offense that made D’Onta Foreman a solid fantasy asset last year. He will receive the majority of the work, and all indications point to him seeing an increase in his pass-game involvement. Being a workhorse back with a good offensive line and an increased load in the passing game could lead to the best season of Sanders’ career and great value for fantasy managers who take him at his current draft price as a mid-range rb2.”
Dylan Licciardo (FF Gamers)

“The polarizing Miles Sanders is going to be a three-down back in Carolina. Last year he proved that he could handle it, with 1,269 yards and 11 TDs, and that was with other weapons, including QB Jalen Hurts, stealing touches and TDs. This year, he has the run of the backfield and will be leaned on heavily by a rookie QB. He might have limited TD opportunities, but touches and catches will make up for that! I love his potential for over 1,000 yds rushing and 50+ catches.”
Adam Dove (The Fantasy Couriers)

Previously, our analysts took a look at the most overrated and most underrated players, the top rookies, the top breakout candidates, the safest picks, the biggest questions for each NFL team, and more.

Fantasy Football Draft Kit

Fantasy Football Running Back Sleepers

Which sleeper candidate outside the top 35 in our half-PPR consensus RB rankings has the most upside relative to his draft cost?

Evan Hull (RB – IND)

“Evan Hull is not even being drafted in most fantasy leagues, and his impressive college career seems to have flown under most folks’ radar (likely since he was at Northwestern). He is very clearly talented, but that’s not the only ingredient for fantasy success… opportunity can sometimes matter even more. With Zack Moss breaking his arm in training camp and Jonathan Taylor still on the PUP list and with unresolved contract issues, it’s likely that Hull gets immediate playing time and may very well end up being the rookie surprise of the year when we look back at the 2023 season. Kenyan who?”
David Biggs (Drink Five)

Roschon Johnson (RB – CHI)

“Roschon Johnson has been a sleeper since the Bears drafted him during the NFL draft. Johnson has a terrific skill set in the passing game that beats Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman. Johnson might get off to a slow start in a three-way committee but eventually shine quickly. Johnson’s blend of size and speed will fit perfectly with the Bears’ offense. He has the most production in the passing game and is an elite blocker. Johnson should, at some point, take over and beat out his ADP. ”
Steven Pintado (The Fantasy Coaches)

De’Von Achane (RB – MIA)

“De’Von Achane could simply not have asked for a better landing spot than the Miami Dolphins. Achane brings elite speed to the table, get him into space, and watch out, as highlighted by his abilities in the return game. What stands in front of him in his quest to win this job are Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., two running backs that have had issues in the past with staying on the field (Wilson is hurt already in camp). Consider me not too concerned there. The biggest threat to Achane seems to be the Dolphins’ longstanding flirtation with Dalvin Cook, who would immediately hamper Achane’s immediate upside. If Cook stays away, Achane will be the starting running back before long for a Dolphins offense that every fantasy manager will want a piece of. Another concern could be when Cook signs, and if it isn’t with Miami, will Achane’s price shoot to unreasonable ranges? If Achane is still in the RB40 range, count me in. If Achane starts pushing low-end RB3 range (RB36), I would have to think about it before diving in.”
Ed Birdsall (Talking Points Sports)

“The minute the Dolphins sign Dalvin Cook or another veteran running back, De’Von Achane‘s fantasy outlook drastically changes. However, he has the most upside given his RB43 ranking at this time. Last year the Miami backfield scored a combined 352.2 half-point PPR fantasy points. Had one running back received 60% of that workload, they would have been the RB12 in 2022 and the RB8 in 2021. The rookie should have no trouble earning the lead role over Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. Despite the Dolphins having two top-seven wide receivers in 2022, they can easily support a top-15 running back too.”
Mike Fanelli (FantasyPros)

“At the time of writing, rookie De’Von Achane is the back to roster from a Dolphins backfield that currently consists of mediocre veterans Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. Miami has been rumored to be pursuing Dalvin Cook, but he’s also been strongly tied to other teams including the Jets. Other free-agent veterans like Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette remain possibilities, but Achane seems to have the ability to lead a Dolphins running scheme that scored 352.2 half-point PPR fantasy points last season. It’s also worth mentioning that the third-round pick the Dolphins spent on Achane was the highest the team has used on a back since Kenyan Drake.”
Justin Sablich (5th Down Fantasy)

De’Von Achane is primed to come into the league and dominate! He is a pure weapon on the Miami “Speed” Dolphins and will be used as so. Don’t worry about his size, 5″9′ 188lbs. He is a player that is strong and can run in between the tackles, as was shown in college, where he ran against the SEC powerhouses. He is a steal at his current draft position (#43).”
Adam Dove (The Fantasy Couriers)

Tank Bigsby (RB – JAC)

“ECR: 51 ADP: 13.03. Tank Bigsby is the complement to Travis Etienne. Where Bigsby can immediately help the Jaguars is in the red zone, an area where Etienne struggled last season. Bigsby has an NFL-ready frame (6’0″, 216 lbs.) and is a great RB to prioritize drafting in the final rounds of your draft.”
Marc Shannep (Fantasy Knockout)

Khalil Herbert (RB – CHI)

“When looking outside the top 35 RBs, fantasy managers want to find a running back with the potential to be the primary back for their team. There is a current starting NFL back on a great rushing offense that is being valued outside the top 35, and that is Khalil Herbert. While the depth chart may be murky, Herbert is the back that has been getting the starting reps in the offseason, and he has shown great potential when given a chance on the field previously. When a depth chart is unknown, fantasy managers can find great value. Herbert possesses all the skills to be a great fantasy back; combined with a solid running quarterback, he could easily return massive value for fantasy managers willing to take the risk.”
Dylan Licciardo (FF Gamers)

Samaje Perine (RB – DEN)

“RB 38 Samaje Perine (DEN) is my sleeper RB of this season. Look for him to be a 3 down back early in the season. It would not surprise me if he keeps the lead role for the entire season. He will compete with Javonte Williams for carries this season, but Williams is still nursing a knee injury, which will lead to more early touches for Perine to showcase his talents. ”
Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire)

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