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5 Impact Rookie Running Backs (2024 Fantasy Football)

The days of rookie running backs presenting league-winning value are probably gone.

The fantasy community, our average leaguemates, are getting sharper.

We’re investing in talent, explosiveness, and freshness over perceived workload, and it’s paying off (sometimes).

However, just because you had to draft Bijan Robinson in the first round last season doesn’t mean he wasn’t an impactful player for you. He absolutely was. Same with Jahmyr Gibbs.

This year’s rookie RB class is interesting because not many were taken early in the NFL Draft. In fact, just four RBs were selected in the first 119 picks.

While I don’t anticipate any of these rookie running backs being fantasy football league winners, there is absolutely value to be had with this group, especially late in our fantasy drafts. Let’s dive into five fantasy football rookie running backs that are likely to make an impact on your 2024 league.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs

Let’s use last year’s rookie RB class as a jumping-off point to guide our 2024 rookie investments.

Last season, seven rookies finished as top-50 RBs:

The likelihood that multiple rookies will finish as top-10 RBs isn’t super high; however, that doesn’t mean that rookie RBs can’t be of service. When we’re building a roster, we should always think about the “What if?”.

What if Kenneth Walker, a running back with a notable injury history, gets injured and misses a game? Would that make Zach Charbonnet start-worthy?

Well, in 2023, Charbonnet’s best game of his season came in week 13, which Walker missed due to injury. Rookie RBs can often be valuable handcuffs or players who would see an increased role if the player ahead of them on their depth chart misses a game.

To me, the theme of 2023’s rookie RB class is “Talent Trumps All.”

Bijan Robinson shared a backfield with a 1,000-yard rusher and for a head coach who seemed to derive enjoyment from the torture of fantasy managers. Talent won – Robinson was the RB9.

Jahmyr Gibbs took a backseat to a very capable David Montgomery, but Gibbs’ talent propelled him to an RB10 finish.

De’Vone Achane missed nearly seven whole games due to injury. Well, his talent won because, in 10 games, he scored enough fantasy points to be the RB24.

OK… so which 2024 rookie RBs are talented?

If only it were that simple.

I’m going to get into my favorite rookie RBs in just a second, but if I may attempt to “Teach a man to fish,” I’ll say my best advice is to watch some film, read some articles from your favorite analysts, and find a few rookie RBs whose skillsets and situations you like.

Here are a few rookie RBs I think could make an impact this season.

Trey Benson (RB – ARI)

Benson was the second RB selected in this year’s draft, the Cardinals took him with the second pick of the third round.

Although James Conner (RB – ARI) is the top dog in the Arizona backfield for now, Benson’s explosiveness could demand touches early. I prefer Benson’s situation to that of Jonathon Brooks because Brooks will be competing with both Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders.

Where Conner can provide consistent downhill running, Benson’s 4.39 40-yard dash speed could help Benson carve out a role in Arizona’s offense early.

I’m higher on Arizona’s offense this season than most. They return a healthy Kyler Murray, host of young weapons and added Marvin Harrison Jr. If Benson earns a role, fantasy returns could be more fruitful than expected.

Benson’s currently the RB39 per FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings. That’s behind Austin Ekeler, Gus Edwards, and Ezekiel Elliott. I’m strongly considering Benson’s fresh legs if he’s available in this tier.

Tyrone Tracy Jr. (RB – NYG)

Tracy played six seasons of college football. For the first four of them, he was a receiver at Iowa. For the final two, he was a running back at Purdue. Tracy’s positional versatility is an automatic asset in terms of fantasy value.

The Giants signed Devin Singletary to a three-year deal this offseason, the likelihood Singletary gets beat for a job outright is small.

However, the third down running back role can be a great one for fantasy managers because it often generates screen and check down passes, where the running back has a few yards of space to work with after the catch.

Last season, in college, Tracy led all 2024 rookies in yards after contact per attempt (4.44, minimum 50 attempts).

This season, as a rookie, Tracy has a feasible path to delivering immediate fantasy value as a pass-catching and big-play threat.

Audric Estime (RB – DEN)

The Broncos selected Estime in the 5th round of April’s draft.

In two seasons as a starter at Notre Dame, Estime tallied more than 2,200 yards, scored 30 touchdowns, and averaged more than six yards per carry. He’s also 5’11, 221 pounds.

He’s going to fall in drafts because his NFL Combine 40 yard dash time was 4.71 seconds. However, at his Pro Day, Estime ran in the 4.5’s. 40 times are far from be-all end-all numbers.

I really like his situation in Denver.

Javonte Williams led the Broncos in carries in 2023, but he’s a free agent after this season, so the Broncos are going to be planning for the future. Estime has the size and talent to carve out a spot in that future.

Estime’s value is tempered because Jaleel McLaughlin’s acumen as a pass catcher will take Estime off the field for some of those passing plays. However, Estime’s value skyrockets if Williams (who’s dealt with his share of injuries) misses a game this season.

Estime is currently ranked as the RB65. That’s Kenneth Gainwell territory. Yes, please.

Isaac Guerendo (RB – SF)

While 40 times aren’t always an indicator of future success, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Guerendo, who posted the fastest 40 time of all RBs at the 2024 Combine.

Guerendo ran an impressive 4.33 40.

He’s also six feet tall, 221 pounds, and will be 24 years old at the start of the season. Don’t let the impressive 40 time fool you into thinking he’s some little gadget guy. Guerendo has the size and experience to earn carries early if anything were to happen to Christian McCaffrey.

Guerendo is currently the RB81 behind Israel Abanikanda and Jordan Mason, to name just a couple of players I’d take after Guerendo.

Will Shipley (RB – PHI)

Shipley excelled as both a runner and receiver at Clemson. In his final two seasons, the 2024 5th round pick totaled 2,009 rushing yards and hauled in 69 receptions.

Obviously, Saquon Barkley is getting the first crack at snaps, especially meaningful ones in the red zone and at the goal line.

However, Barkley’s bill of health is far from clean. He’s played 16 games just twice in his six-year NFL career. Shipley slots in as the handcuff here because Kenneth Gainwell has looked uninspiring in his first three seasons.

I doubt Shipley will add much value with Barkley healthy, but there is a chance. I think anyone would agree it’s in the Eagles’ best interest to make sure Barkley is healthy for a potential playoff run. That could mean avoiding overworking him in the regular season.

Shipley’s currently ranked as RB74. Sign me up.

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