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9 Running Backs to Draft (Fantasy Football)

9 Running Backs to Draft (Fantasy Football)

Although running backs are given a bad name in the real NFL as a forgotten position amongst positions, a great running back can make or break your fantasy football draft and season. Most teams deal with committees at the running back position. So, finding the correct player within these committees to elevate your fantasy football team is the difference between possibly making the playoffs or winning it all.

This article will share the workhorse running backs in the NFL who you need on your roster. It will also discuss the best handcuffs to draft after you fill your starting lineup to elevate your fantasy football bench.

Let’s start with a running back who can be the RB1 on the season.

Fantasy Football Draft Targets: Must-Have Running Backs

Here are nine running backs to target at different stages of your fantasy football drafts. We’ll start with those players carrying RB1 upside and finish with a few bench stashes with big-time fantasy football upside to draft.

Breece Hall (RB – NYJ)

Breece Hall is my guy, and it’s only May. Hall was recovering from a knee injury last season and is still RB6. He was dealing with Zach Wilson and several Walmart greeters under center, and he was still RB6. Hall had Nathaniel Hackett as his offensive coordinator, and he was still RB6. Do you see where I am heading with this?

Hall was phenomenal last season. He was 12th in weighted opportunities and averaged 20 touches from Week 5 until the end of the season. Hall is a workhorse back who will have Aaron Rodgers under center to help open up the boxes he will face each game. He is the offense’s focal point between rushing attempts and passing targets. Don’t overthink your selection of Breece Hall. If you can draft him, draft him and smile.

Saquon Barkley (RB – PHI)

As an Eagles fan, I could write about this until the end of time. I write this section with a giant smile on my face. We have seen the talent of Saquon Barkley with lesser quarterbacks and offensive schemes. Now, Barkley gets to work hand in hand with Jalen Hurts and Kellen Moore. Inside the 10, the Eagles had a rushing percentage of 74.2%. Don’t expect that to change when you can now add a 231-pound running back.

The “Tush Push” can steal some fantasy points, but the Eagles didn’t sign Saquon to push on Hurts’ gluteus maximus. Instead, they signed him to work hand in hand with Hurts to create nightmares for defensive coordinators.

P.S. Saquon Barkley produced a 100% I5% (inside the five attempts percentage). Barkley doesn’t share the load when he is close to the endzone, and I wouldn’t expect him to with his size and talent.

Joe Mixon (RB – HOU)

I usually don’t love Joe Mixon. However, with his move to the Houston Texans, I am all in on Mixon for 2024. He will be the workhorse back as Dameon Pierce couldn’t beat out Devin Singletary last season towards the end of the year. Now Mixon, immensely more talented than Singletary, enters the picture with an I5% of 84%, the third highest in the NFL last season. He also brings over the 14th-highest TD rate with 3.5% and the fifth-highest XFP/G of 16.7.

Defenses must focus on Stefon Diggs, Tank Dell, Nico Collins and Dalton Schultz. With their focus elsewhere, Joe Mixon will have lanes wider than a particular sea that was “parted” in the past. Don’t leave your drafts without Joe Mixon.

Aaron Jones (RB – MIN)

The Minnesota Vikings threw the ball 68.7% of the time inside the 20-yard line. They no longer have Kirk Cousins; instead, they will turn to Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy. That percentage will need to return to the norm, which is why the Vikings brought Aaron Jones into the mix.

From Week 15-20 last season, Aaron Jones showed he can still handle the load, averaging 21.6 touches per game. He also averaged 120.3 total yards. The Vikings need that type of production, and they don’t believe that Ty Chandler can produce such numbers, so Aaron Jones is here to help elevate this offense through the ground game with his league-best 35.9% stuff%*

*Stuff percentage is a percentage of carries that are “stuffed.” A “stuff” run is any run that does not result in a first down or touchdown, less than four yards on first down, or less than three yards on any other down.

Isiah Pacheco (RB – KC)

One of the biggest winners from the NFL Draft was Isiah Pacheco. The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t address the running back position, forcing us to fade Pacheco. Therefore, in 2024, expect more of his forceful runs to keep the defense honest against Patrick Mahomes and the gang.

Isiah Pacheco’s I5% sits at 60% while his stuff% is 13 best at 44.9%. Pacheco is a North/South runner, the type of runner I want on my fantasy team.

Whenever I can add a workhorse back who seems to gain positive yards on every touch, I run to the podium to draft them.

James Conner (RB – ARI)

Although James Conner is aging, in 2024, he can help you win your fantasy leagues. He sports the 10 best Stuff% while averaging 16 rushing attempts per game. The issue is most people consider him “injury-prone.” The problem is most running backs average 13-14 games a season due to injury. James Conner was right on average. Even with Trey Benson being drafted to Arizona, we believe he is a year away from truly taking the crown in Arizona.

Najee Harris (RB – PIT)

The Steelers did not pick up his fifth year within his contract. If the franchise is smart, they will run him into the ground and let him leave. We call this the DeMarco Murray treatment. The Steelers also brought in run-heavy Arthur Smith, who will want to utilize the run game more than anyone else in the NFL. The Steelers ran the ball at an insane clip inside the 20 (58.4%). Don’t expect anything to change, and take this “boring” pick on your fantasy teams to smash your opponents.

Jerome Ford (RB – CLE)

Nick Chubb is aging and coming from a significant injury that may place him on the PUP to start the season. D’Onta Foreman doesn’t scare me as someone to take over the backfield alone. Jerome Ford can be a late-round draft selection for your team that produces multiple wins throughout the season.

Bucky Irving (RB – TB)

This selection would be a sneaky last pick in your draft. Rachaad White was highly productive for fantasy last season. However, he wasn’t a great running back in real life. The Buccaneers could move to Bucky Irving and his pass-catching abilities more often than not. Do not be surprised if this backfield becomes 50/50 or slightly lean in Irving’s direction.

Remember to read all the fantastic work here at FantasyPros. If you need more help with your fantasy rosters, don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter at @jpep20.

Good luck with all of your drafts!

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