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Running Back Draft Values, Breakouts & Busts (2024 Fantasy Football)

Running Back Draft Values, Breakouts & Busts (2024 Fantasy Football)

While the 2023 NFL season is over, fantasy football is a year-long thing. Therefore, it’s never too early to look ahead to next year.

Today, I look back at the 2023 season, highlighting some of the top ADP values, breakouts, and busts at the running back position while also taking an early look at potential candidates in these areas for the 2024 season.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

2023 General Review

The 2023 running back position was a wild one for fantasy players. Christian McCaffrey was the RB1 in ADP and finished the year as the top-scoring running back in half-point PPR scoring. However, only three other running backs drafted in the top 10 finished the season as an RB1 – Bijan Robinson (RB3 ADP vs. RB9 finish), Derrick Henry (RB7 vs. RB8), and Travis Etienne Jr. (RB9 vs. RB3). The other six top-10 finishers had only one player (Joe Mixon) with a previous RB1 finish.

2023 Top ADP Values

David Montgomery (DET)

Many thought Montgomery would struggle in Detroit after the team drafted Jahmyr Gibbs. Instead, the former Iowa State star became one of the best draft values at the running back position. He was the RB29 in ADP but finished the year as the RB13 despite missing three games. Montgomery averaged 14.2 half-point PPR fantasy points per game, only 0.2 fewer fantasy points than the rookie. While Gibbs should take on more of a role in 2024, the veteran running back is still worthy of an RB2 selection.

Breece Hall (NYJ)

The concern with Hall entering the 2023 season was his health. Despite not starting the year on the PUP list, the Jets eased their star running back into the offense. Thankfully, he got taken off the pitch count in Week 5, totaling 177 rushing yards and 26.9 half-point PPR fantasy points. Hall ended the year on fire, averaging 22.6 fantasy points per game over the final five weeks, totaling 22 or more in all but one contest. He should be the second running back drafted next year behind Christian McCaffrey.

2023 Top Breakouts

Kyren Williams (LAR)

While Cam Akers was the presumed RB1 in Los Angeles, Williams came out of nowhere and had a massive season. The second-year running back missed four games with an ankle injury and sat out the meaningless Week 18 contest. Yet, Williams was still the RB6, averaging 19.9 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. The only running back to average more fantasy points per game than him was Christian McCaffrey. Unless the Rams add someone of consequence in the offseason, Williams should get drafted as a top-six running back.

Rachaad White (TB)

White was a polarizing fantasy draft pick. Many argued that he would succeed because of the featured role. Others said the second-year running back was too inefficient. White started the year slow, scoring fewer than 9.4 half-point PPR fantasy points in four of the first five contests. However, he scored 11.3 or more fantasy points in all but one of the final 12 contests, playing a significant role in the passing game. After ending the season as the RB7, fantasy players should have high hopes for him in 2024.

2023 Top Busts

Austin Ekeler (LAC)

Unfortunately, Ekeler’s production abruptly fell off a cliff in 2023. While the veteran spent most of the year either injured or playing in a poor situation, his efficiency severely declined. His yards per rushing attempt dropped from 4.5 in 2022 to 3.5 last season. Despite his route participation rate remaining nearly identical, Ekeler saw his target per route run rate drop by 8% and his target share decline by 3.6% from 2022 to 2023 (per Fantasy Points Data). His days as an elite fantasy running back are over.

Tony Pollard (DAL)

After he finished the 2022 season as an RB1 despite sharing the backfield with Ezekiel Elliott, many had Pollard in their top-five running backs this year. Unfortunately, the former Memphis star was a massive flop despite accounting for 67.9% of the team’s backfield touches. Pollard was the RB22 on a points-per-game basis in half-point PPR scoring but averaged fewer fantasy points per game than Brian Robinson Jr. Maybe he wasn’t healthy coming off a broken leg. Yet, Pollard shouldn’t get drafted as a top-20 running back next year.

2024 NFL Draft Guide

2024 General Preview

We are seeing a turnover at the running back position. Several older running backs that were once top-10 staples will no longer get drafted that high. According to Underdog Fantasy ADP, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley were the only two running backs in the top 13 who didn’t play on a rookie contract last season. While guys like Dalvin Cook and Kareem Hunt are off the fantasy radar, running backs like Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, and Derrick Henry could have career-low ADPs in 2024.

2024 Potential ADP Values

James Conner (ARI)

The knock against Conner is his injury history, having missed four games in back-to-back years. However, the veteran could be one of my favorite running backs to draft next season if he returns to Arizona. The Cardinals have made him a featured running back the past two years, finishing no lower than the RB10 in half-point PPR scoring either season. Arizona is rebuilding and likely won’t invest much in the running back position, giving Conner another year as the featured guy.

Jerome Ford (CLE)

Unfortunately, Nick Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury early in the season. While the veteran will return in 2024, he will likely start the year on PUP. Ford played well as Chubb’s replacement, ending the season as the RB17, averaging 11.1 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. The young running back will be one of my favorite targets when using a Zero-RB draft strategy. He has an ADP of RB41 on Underdog Fantasy, making him a bargain. Ford should start next season as the Browns’ No. 1 running back.

2024 Potential Breakouts

Tyjae Spears (TEN)

While the Titans haven’t ruled out Derrick Henry returning, the veteran will likely play elsewhere next season. That would be excellent news for Spears. The former Tulane star played a significant role in the passing game, totaling 70 targets, the third-most on the team. More importantly, he ranked 10th in yards after contact per rushing attempt (2.92) among running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts (per Fantasy Points Data). If Tennessee can improve its offensive line in the offseason, Spears could have a massive sophomore-year breakout.

Zamir White (LV)

Josh Jacobs averaged 3.5 yards per rushing attempt this season after averaging 4.9 in 2022. With a new regime calling the shots, Las Vegas might let him walk in free agency, opening the door for White to have the starting role. The second-year player was the RB8, averaging 14.1 half-point PPR fantasy points per game during the four weeks as the starter. With Antonio Pierce back as the head coach, expect whoever is his starting running back to be valuable for fantasy players.

2024 Potential Busts

De’Von Achane (MIA)

The former Texas A&M star will be a polarizing pick during draft season. Achane was the RB4 on a points-per-game basis, averaging 16.1 half-point PPR fantasy points per contest. However, he was wildly inconsistent, scoring 21 or more in five games. By comparison, the rookie averaged only six fantasy points per game in the other six contests. He likely won’t have a featured role next season after struggling with injuries in 2023. Therefore, there is no reason for Achane to get drafted as a top-10 running back.

Nick Chubb (CLE)

Unfortunately, Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury in Week 2, making it the second significant knee injury in his career. Reportedly, he won’t be ready to start the 2024 season. More importantly, the star running back recently turned 28 years old and likely will struggle to return to his superstar level of play. Yet, Chubb is the RB17 in Underdog Fantasy ADP, getting drafted ahead of Aaron Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson, and David Montgomery. The veteran running back is off my draft board for next season, especially at his current price.

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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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