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Running Backs to Avoid (2024 Fantasy Football)

Writing about players to avoid/potential busts is one of my favorite annual topics in fantasy football. It’s far too easy to fall in love with every player, but realistically, you can’t afford to have equal exposure to every player, especially those high up on the draft board. You need to be more critical and sometimes bearish compared to the consensus on certain player average draft positions (ADPs).

Before the 2023 season, I published two pieces addressing this strategy: Fantasy Football Bust Guide: Draft Strategy & Advice (2023) and Players to Avoid (2023 Fantasy Football). These articles significantly helped position me to sidestep potential pitfalls. In this comprehensive piece, we’ll integrate insights from both articles to help you construct your 2024 list of fantasy football fades.

2024 fantasy football draft kit

Fantasy Football Running Backs to Avoid

As usual, we’ll start by exploring the general characteristics of what makes a player a bust, review the hits and misses from last season and then apply those lessons to the upcoming fantasy football year.

Findings Busts

You know the old phrase…”Strangers are the friends you haven’t met yet?” Well, in fantasy football land, I think there’s a similar idiom. Busts are often the breakouts that fail to fire. Before players are labeled as “busts” after the season (or early-to-middle, depending on how bad the player was) there’s usually a legitimate case for why they are being drafted so highly. The case for unthinkingly drafting “upside” is often accompanied by a significant amount of risk that some drafters overlook entirely. I tend to also agree with this upside-driven approach — if you ain’t first, you’re last, Ricky Bobby — but it’s still important to recognize the risk and sheer bust potential with certain players heading into the 2024 fantasy football season.

In this series of articles, I’ll break down what a bust looks like at each position while calling out which players come with the most red flags that have me overly concerned about their bust potential in 2024. And although I am not an injury expert, I will be coming to the table with some injury notes on players. Because many busts fail to perform due to injuries and it’s not something you should ignore. Especially with the increase in data on injuries from several different experts. I’ll also leverage adjusted games lost due to injuries — a metric that measures injury impact in a similar way to DVOA.

I’ll also do my best to separate bust players from the players listed in my “Buyer Beware” section. Not all players I’m shying away from will be busts. Specifically, with certain positions, as I’ll touch on soon, some players may finish exactly where their ADPs are. But that’s not how I am playing the game. I don’t want players to meet expectations, I want them to exceed expectations. At the same time, I want to circumvent the players who may drastically fail to meet their expectations.

These are the fantasy football busts.

Gabe Davis wasn’t a bust in 2022 because he played like trash. He was the WR27. He scored the same points per game as Zay Jones…who many look back on and are fond of from 2022 as a great sleeper pick.

The same can be said for Calvin Ridley. In a vacuum, a 76-1016-8 stat line as the WR17 is good in his first full season after a lengthy layoff from football. But his Round 3 ADP gave him no cushion. As a result, he was a bust compared to a WR like Jakobi Meyers, who scored nearly the same points per game as a 14th-round pick.

Davis and Ridley were busts because the fantasy football drafting complex ballooned their ADPs to a point where there was little chance for them to exceed their price tags. It’s situations like this you need to stay clear of in 2024. Because when it comes to identifying busts in fantasy football, it’s all about the price you pay and the opportunity cost.

Running Backs

Running back busts tend to be much easier to identify than quarterbacks. Plenty of offensive situations and player takes go into evaluating running backs in fantasy football, creating a wide draft pricing market at the position.

There are a lot of RBs I am much lower on versus the market (ADP/ECR) and vice versa. The coined “RB Dead Zone” looks very different than in years past, with drafters acknowledging how risky RBs that pop in projected volume tend to be. They are being drafted later, with WRs taking precedence over them in the early and middle rounds. But the “dead zone” still exists because RB2s must come off the board at some point, even if it’s later than in the past (including last season). Typically, it’s after the first two rounds that your risk of drafting a “dead zone back” increases substantially. This has changed more this year with some “strong” RBs falling into Rounds 3-4, but the main point remains the same. Being the first to fill your RB2 slot with a subpar rusher isn’t a profitable strategy.

Looking back at the 2023 season, the RB busts are easy to identify.

Austin Ekeler (RB2), Nick Chubb (RB5), Tony Pollard (RB6), Josh Jacobs (RB8), Najee Harris (RB9), Rhamondre Stevenson (RB10), Dameon Pierce (RB13), J.K. Dobbins (RB18), Alexander Mattison (RB20), Javonte Williams (RB21), Miles Sanders (RB22), Cam Akers (RB24), Dalvin Cook (RB27), Khalil Herbert (RB32), Antonio Gibson (RB34), A.J. Dillon (RB35), Jamaal Williams (RB36), Zach Charbonnet (RB37), Samaje Perine (RB38), Rashaad Penny (RB41), Damien Harris (RB45) and Tank Bigsby (RB46).

Injuries played a major role in the many running backs failing to meet expectations. We can’t always easily predict injuries, but it needs to be part of your analysis.

If we leverage the data from FTN’s adjusted games lost due to injuries we can identify the top-nine healthiest RB rooms last year: DAL, ATL, BUF, TEN, PHI, TB, DEN, CIN, PIT.

Don’t expect them to be nearly as lucky for a second straight season — for example, draft Tyler Allgeier even though he seems like nothing more than a handcuff to Bijan Robinson. Take a shot on Ray Davis as a potential red-zone presence in the Bills’ offense that could be more run-heavy under Joe Brady. Tony Pollard/Tyjae Spears. The Titans RB conodrum. When both guys are healthy, it will be frustrating. But chances are they both won’t stay healthy the entire season.

Denver’s backfield? Embrace the inevitable chaos.

The Bengals’ RB debate between Zack Moss and Chase Brown could come down to who stays healthy. Brown got hurt last season, while Moss played the most games (14) of his NFL career.

The health of the offensive line also matters (ask Dameon Pierce). The healthiest O-Lines last season were CIN, BUF, DEN, LAR, TB, PIT, ATL, KC and SF. Keep in mind, if the OL struggles, an RB will need insane volume or special talent to overcome the hurdle.

When you consider the potential regression of health with team offensive lines, RBs and QBs, here are the top 10 teams with the biggest injury red flags that could greatly impact offensive production: Bills, Broncos, Buccaneers, Falcons, Eagles, Cowboys, Bengals, Steelers, Rams, 49ers.

If you are close in rankings between players, opt for RBs not on these teams, especially in the early rounds.

RB Dead Zone

Remember the RB Dead Zone? Well, it took more lives in 2023.

In 2022, 10 RB busts were drafted between RBs 14-28. In 2023, it was slightly less at seven. That was because more RBs in the top 10 (six) finished as busts. This is another reason to proceed with caution when selecting RBs in this range instead of WRs.

The other takeaway was the market overvaluing and projecting roles for certain players — specifically regarding red zone and bell cow usage.

I came to this conclusion last season, with red-zone usage between D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams on the 2022 Lions.

This past year didn’t have many examples of specific red-zone usage projections but rather overall role projections with RBs like Akers, Mattison, etc.

But last year’s busts were more strongly tied to inefficient play and presumed “starters” losing their jobs. Specifically, when it came to RBs playing on either a new team entirely or with new HCs and/or OCs.

I also noticed that real-life RB2s would easily become busts if they played in below-average offenses. Were we surprised that RBs like Khalil Herbert, Dalvin Cook, Antonio Gibson, Samaje Perine and A.J. Dillon were underwhelming as No.2s on their respective offenses? Considering the lack of hype surrounding their respective offenses before the year, maybe we shouldn’t have been so high on them.

Just keep that in mind with your Zero RB targets. If you are bearish on the offenses’ outlet as a whole, there is no need to get overexposed. Great, you stumbled into RB who has a larger role than anticipated, but the situation prevents any worthwhile production. New York Giants perhaps?

Before I move on to specific players, I want to bring back up the RB “roles” discourse. This is where fantasy drafters get into the most trouble with RBs. This has happened to me in the last two seasons with Akers. I was so fixated on his “role” that I forgot to take a step back and acknowledge his downside if the Rams were to take a step back on offense. That’s what happened in 2022. And then last year, the role was there, but it was Kyren Williams‘ time to shine.

This is by far the most important part of identifying RB busts. When the sole reason for taking a running back early is hyper-focused on offense, workload/volume, and team environment, it’s a risky proposition with the risk elevated the earlier you draft the RB.

It’s part of the reason why guys like Pollard, Pierce, Mattison, Sanders and Akers were colossal busts in 2023.

Pollard has never been the featured guy in Dallas’ RB room for the full season and was coming off an overlooked leg injury. Pierce faced more backfield competition than the year before and was playing in a brand-new offense.

Mattison was the poster boy for Dead Zone RB last year and flamed out. He was never an RB who earned touches but rather found the field through Cook’s injuries. He got paid, despite never being a true featured back. Nobody was ever vying for getting Mattison on the field when Cook was healthy. Red. Flags.

Sanders was the other poster boy “bust” candidate last season and lost his job to Chuba Hubbard. He was drafted because he “projected” as a bell cow despite question marks across the offense and his own incomplete game as a receiver. Making bets solely on workload projections is often what leads to drafting RB busts.

Part of this stems from a back’s ability or (inability) to handle a massive workload. It’s a “skill” to touch the ball 300 times and not break down over a 17-game season. It’s also a skill to do it year after year. In 2022, we had 14 RBs with 270+ touches. Nine were busts in 2023 (64%). The majority of them were older RBs.

Fourteen RBs had at least 268 touches last season. The older RBs (26+) include McCaffrey, Mixon, Henry, Barkley, Jacobs and Pollard.

Volume has always been king for RBs in fantasy football. But last season, I noticed that the mantra was being put closer to the test versus 2022.

Every running back who earned 255 touches in 2022 finished as a top-20 fantasy RB. In 2023, that was not the case. Every RB who earned at least 245 touches last season finished as a top-31 RB. Several RBs that had a lot of volume still finished outside the top 20: Najee Harris, D’Andre Swift, Chuba Hubbard, Josh Jacobs, Javonte Williams and Devin Singletary. Something to keep in mind as drafting behind the idea that “volume is king” for RBs is being put to the test. It feels “safe” to draft RBs with projectable volume. But there is an efficient/talent gap that matters when parsing through several of the “volume-driven” RBs.

Last point.

You cannot prioritize running backs on offenses that have not yet proven to be above average while treading lightly on running backs that don’t have a lot of job security. With running backs, ask yourself: What would it take for RB “X” to lose the starting job?

If a potentially traded Khalil Herbert or free agent such as Cam Akers, Dalvin Cook, Kareem Hunt or (insert another dusty running back here) scares you as competition threats, you better temper expectations on that particular player.

Considering all these factors, here are the running backs with the highest chance of busting in 2024.

Christian McCaffrey (RB – SF)

Yes. The consensus 1.01 fantasy football pick in average draft position and Madden 25 cover boy has major bust potential that not enough analysts or the market are even considering. Chances are nobody is going to like my take on the consensus 1.01 in 2024 drafts. I’m going to be lower on McCaffrey. Here’s why.

McCaffrey finished first in touches last season at 339. Including the postseason, the number was 417. Holding this accolade is great the year it happened, but dear lord does the history of RBs after leading the NFL in touches create major concern for McCaffrey after his best fantasy season since the 2019 season.

Leading the NFL in touches is essentially the kiss of death for running backs the following year. Last year, I was very much against drafting Josh Jacobs in this situation.

The results are in the table below. To summarize quickly, only two RBs finished as fantasy RB1s the following year after leading the NFL in touches since 2013. Not No. 1 overall, just as top-12 fantasy RBs. Ezekiel Elliott is the only one over that period to finish inside the top five. The other eight running backs were essentially all season-long busts for one reason or another. Many of them got hurt, and the ones that stayed healthy underwhelmed dramatically.

Historically speaking, the odds are not stacked in McCaffrey’s favor to return fantasy RB1 value in 2024 as the consensus No. 1 overall pick. Note that RBs of his age (27+) that have led the NFL in touches happened only four times. Zero finished as top-five fantasy RBs the following season. And the 400-touch threshold? These were the finishes: RB53, 2 DNPs, RB17, RB6, RB17 and RB2. The only RB to return to glory after seeing 400+ touches was 24-year-old LaDainian Tomlinson.

We’ve seen more RBs straight-up not play than return a top-five fantasy finish after leading the NFL in touches with at least 400.

Then factor in McCaffrey’s injury history — missed most of the 2020-2021 seasons — and the fact that the 49ers are one of the biggest candidates to have worse injury luck in 2024…I’m not taking McCaffrey with the first overall pick.

Year Player (Age) Touches Following Year RB Finish Following year
2022 Josh Jacobs (24) 393 2023 RB27
2021 Najee Harris (23) 381 2022 RB14
2020 Derrick Henry (26) 397 2021 RB14
2019 Christian McCaffrey (23) 403 2020 RB53
2018 Ezekiel Elliott (23) 381 2019 RB4
2017 Le’Veon Bell (25) 406 2018 DNP
2016 David Johnson (24) 373 2017 RB118
2015 Adrian Peterson (30) 357 2016 RB126
2014 DeMarco Murray (26) 449 2015 RB17
2013 LeSean McCoy (25) 366 2014 RB12
2012 Arian Foster (26) 391 2013 RB44
2011 Maurice Jones-Drew (26) 386 2012 RB53
2010 Arian Foster (24) 393 2011 RB4
2009 Chris Johnson (23) 408 2010 RB6
2008 Adrian Peterson (23) 384 2009 RB2
2007 LaDainian Tomlinson+ (28) 375 2008 RB16
2006 Larry Johnson (26) 457 2007 RB17
2005 Tiki Barber (30) 411 2006 RB7
2004 Curtis Martin+ (31) 412 2005 RB28
2003 Ricky Williams (26) 442 2004 Retired
2002 LaDainian Tomlinson+ (23) 451 2003 RB2
2001 LaDainian Tomlinson+ (22) 398 2002 RB2

Kyren Williams (RB – LAR)

2023 was the perfect storm for Kyren Williams. Cam Akers got cut and Williams absorbed nearly every touch in the Rams’ backfield. He was super productive based on his elite “role” in the L.A. offense, facing by far the league’s lowest rate of 8-man boxes (under 5%). Given the injuries he has gone through the last two seasons at his size — under 195 pounds — and the fact that L.A. has added a Williams clone in the form of third-round pick Blake Corum there’s no guarantee Williams will ever get back to his elite fantasy role from 2023.

I don’t think the Corum selection denounces Williams as the RB1, but it gives head coach Sean McVay another option in case the former Notre Dame product suffers another injury. He’s gotten hurt both years he has played in the NFL. Last year, the Rams went right back to him, with nobody else worth much on the depth chart.

Corum changes that equation substantially. He is a do-it-all RB, similar to Williams, even if neither are super explosive athletes.

I’d be strongly fading Williams as a top redraft pick, given the Corum addition, while hyper-targeting the former Wolverine as a premier late-round RB target. Any volume Corum takes on in the Rams’ backfield will hurt Williams’ fantasy value. A lot of his production was tied to his super-high snap share in 2023 (second behind only Christian McCaffrey). It’s coming down.

Williams checks off the red flag boxes found most often in RB busts: Overreliance on rushing TDs (Matthew Stafford‘s red-zone passing TD numbers were underwhelming based on the fourth-most attempts inside the 20), obsession with the projected role over the player himself and injuries. The Rams’ OL also stayed very healthy last year, after being decimated by injuries in 2022. I’d bet the unit finishes closer to average in 2024.

Williams is priced as the RB7 in early best ball ADP and RB6 in early 2024 half-PPR ECR rankings. If Williams beats me in 2024, I bet it will be due to early-season production. So, if you decide to opt for Williams should he slide into Round 3/4, be conscious of when he’s most likely to score his points with the rest of your roster build.

Josh Jacobs (RB – GB)

I initially loved the landing spot for the 26-year-old running back in an up-and-ascending offense. I believed there was great potential for Josh Jacobs to earn a three-down workload with the Green Bay Packers.

That’s why I aggressively ranked him as the RB6 overall after he first signed with the Packers. The rhetoric around Jacobs is based on his bad 2023 season, which was expected based on the sheer volume he took in 2022. Not that it looks like a complete outlier based on his career… with three straight RB1 finishes between 2020-2022. Now one can argue Jacobs has always been a more volume-driven fantasy RB, which is true. He’s shown the ability to handle volume, score TDs and catch passes even if he hasn’t done it in the most sexy way. This hasn’t gone unseen by his new head coach either. HC Matt LaFleur on Josh Jacobs:

I felt the market would be very sour on Jacobs.

Before the draft, the Packers only had Emanuel Wilson and A.J. Dillon on the depth chart behind Jacobs. We also saw offseason reports out of the NFL Scouting Combine from Matthew Berry that they liked Wilson a lot. But not enough to take Jacobs off the field. My reservations turned out to be true, given the Packers re-signed Dillon after he tested the free agency market.

That nuked Wilson as an option and does hurt Jacobs in some capacity. At least it should be considered in his ADP. Dillon was gifted a golden opportunity to earn a big payday as a 2024 free agent during the 2023 season but fell flat. Aaron Jones was injured throughout the season, putting Dillon in position to start before he landed himself on IR after Week 15. But he failed to provide anything of substance, averaging 3.4 yards per carry (fifth-worst) with just two TD scores. His advanced rushing metrics were career-lows across the board and he didn’t have the scores (despite a robust red-zone role) to mask the lack of rushing production.

At age 26, Dillon still has the chance to reclaim the red-zone role on the Packers, which would come at the detriment of Jacobs. However, as bad as he was in 2023, it looks much more like an outlier than a sign of decline for a relatively young and rare-sized RB at 247 pounds. The Packers’ current staff has never shied away from feeding him alongside side Jones, so it’s somewhat wish casting that they will feel different with the Jacobs/Dillon pairing. If anything, perhaps Dillon’s red-zone woes last season will lessen his role in that area in 2024, in favor of Jacobs. Dillon was/is bad. And the super team-friendly contract — one year for $2.74 million — is as cheap as it gets. So after being first down on the Dillon re-signing for Jacobs, I feel a little bit better about the transaction. Dillon coming back suggested the Packers wouldn’t draft anyone better. Wrong.

The Packers drafted MarShawn Lloyd in the third round of this year’s draft. I think he is being drastically overvalued as the potential No. 3 on this depth chart despite his real-life third-round draft capital. I like to assume (like the market) that Lloyd can easily supplant Dillon as the No. 2 RB, but the USC product never totally dominated a college backfield. His yards per play (2.4) is very poor compared to the rest of the RB class. Lloyd never surpassed 150 touches in any season, with only three games of 20+ touches. He also dealt with injuries consistently, which contributed to smaller workloads. Eight fumbles aren’t great for job security, either. I feel the Round 3/Day 2 draft capital is buoying Lloyd’s fantasy value to some extent, but I’m not sure that it’s warranted given that if Jacobs plays well in 2024, he will be back for Green Bay in 2025.

The expectation should be that this will be a platoon as LaFleur has done historically and spoken openly about:

“Typically, we like to platoon those guys, whether it’s two guys or three guys.”

Not exactly music to the ears of Jacobs stans. As I’ve pointed out, Jacobs has been good in fantasy football because he’s been able to take on volume and earned high-value touches that result in fantasy points. And I do think there is a scenario where if Dillon/Lloyd underwhelm as compliments to Jacobs, he could be a rare three-down back in this offense that does it all.

But even in that scenario, I feel like we will get Jacobs to finish in the same range he’s being drafted — RB10. I don’t necessarily disagree with his ranking but find a real lack of inspiration to be excited about selecting him in the third round.

This entire backfield is all projection, and the RB10 status leans more toward the positive side of his range of outcomes. I find myself frustrated evaluating Jacobs, given I’m not over the moon for Lloyd or Dillon. That should make me higher on Jacobs, but I have reservations given his path to a difference-making RB1 season will be only if he completely dusts the other two guys. Not overly convinced after last season — and his entire body of work — that Jacobs is an uber-talented runner who is being propped up by his 2022 outlier season.

Then again, maybe that season was a cumulation of him coming into his own, and last year was the outlier. As you can see, I’m torn. When that happens, I usually won’t draft that player this highly between RB10-12. This is a classic case of an RB who showed serious signs of slowing down but projects as the “starter” on a high-powered offense. Another red flag.

Similar to Kyren Williams, Jacobs’ best production might come early on during the year. However the main difference is that he might be platooned with Dillon from the get-go, and Lloyd during the second half of the season.

Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)

You are just praying that Alvin Kamara continues to see his elite usage as a receiver because the rushing efficiency is long gone.

The Saints RB finished the season as the RB14 overall despite three missed games. He ranked fifth in points per game (15) as his usage as a receiver and inside the red zone was unmatched by the majority of RBs. He was targeted on 34% of his routes — No. 2 in the NFL among RBs. He also played 63% of the offensive snaps from Week 4 onward and averaged just south of 20 touches per game. He led all RBs in catches per game (5.8). But the 29-year-old RB had almost the perfect run out one could ask for. During his suspension, Jammal Williams was beyond awful, and rookie third-rounder Kendre Miller was hurt. A crowded backfield put together during the offseason was completely decimated by the time Kamara returned to the starting lineup in Week 4.

I don’t think that is going to be the case two years in a row.

With Kamara entering his age 29 season, Miller may take on a larger role, specifically as a rusher between the tackles. The long-time Saints running back still can post receiving numbers with the best of them, but his rushing efficiency is starting to dwindle. Last year, Kamara ranked 40th out of 49 qualifying backs in missed tackles forced per attempt, per Fantasy Points Data. He also ranked fourth-worst in rushing yards above expectation per attempt.

And he was very much fueled by a hot start in Weeks 3-9: RB6 in points per game (17.2) versus Weeks 10-18 as the RB17 (13.2). After Week 9, Kamara had just one more top-13 finish than his teammate Miller. His target shared dipped in the second half of the season for the second straight season from 21% to 15.5%.

As I wrote in my dynasty targets piece

“The Saints need to improve their ground attack, and Miller could be the answer in Klint Kubiak’s new offensive scheme, which could be similar to the 49ers’. Kubiak spent last season as the 49ers’ passing game coordinator.

Miller is still super young (turning 22 in June) especially compared to his two older backfield teammates. Heck, according to DLF, he’s the second-youngest non-rookie RB in the NFL, being born just four months before Jets RB Israel Abanikanda. And on a recent Establish The Run podcast, fantasy analyst Evan Silva reported that New Orleans Saints beat reporter Nick Underhill believes the Saints want Miller to be their lead back.”

Still, I will acknowledge that Kamara’s receiving usage will buoy his fantasy value, and that shouldn’t change in a new offense. Klint Kubiak’s last three offenses that he has been part of have ranked 16th (20%), ninth (23%) and fifth (24%) in target share to RBs.

In 2022, Kamara was the RB15 in points per game. I think this is a more realistic outcome for Kamara given the threat of Miller in the backfield. Not to mention, Taysom Hill is always a wild card to act as a red-zone vulture. Over the last two seasons, Kamara has only scored 10 TDs total (five per season). The Saints offense projects to be average to below average, at best, with Derek Carr at QB, which could drastically limit Kamara’s fantasy ceiling.

No RB last season that has five or fewer TDs finished inside the top 24 at the position. Kamara is currently drafted as the RB17.

Aaron Jones (RB – MIN)

My least favorite free agent RB landing spot had to be Aaron Jones to the Minnesota Vikings. Because despite his strong finish — possibly attributed to “fresh legs” — after missing so much time during the year, the Packers were more than happy to let him walk.

The main headline with Jones landing in Minnesota is completely tied to his health, which is a real concern for the 29-year-old RB, who will be 30 in December. Note that zero of his $7 million contract is guaranteed; it’s the same contract Dalvin Cook inked last year with the Jets.

I think the market is overvaluing Jones as the RB18 as the clear-cut RB1 in this offense. Ty Chandler showed last season that he is a very capable No. 2 RB in his own right.

Meanwhile, Jones has never been a touch monster, so he has to win with efficiency. Consider me skeptical that an older RB like Jones, who had the lowest rushing yards over expectation in his last four seasons in 2023, will make me regret not selecting him in fantasy football. Especially in an offense led by Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy. I was “off” Jones last season, to success after he finished as the RB37 overall even with the strong finish. He’s never been a true “featured” RB, specifically in the red zone. Chandler was a perfect 3-for-3 rushing from inside the 5-yard line last season.

Therefore, I see no need to change the script now. Fade Jones after he has posted back-to-back seasons with a 19% or higher bust rate. RBs that posted 19% or higher bust rates from 2021-2022 were Javonte Williams and A.J. Dillon. You didn’t want either guy in 2023.

I’d also like to point out that despite the Vikings’ overall success under Kevin O’Connell, it hasn’t translated to great ROI for running backs. 2022 marked the beginning of the end for Dalvin Cook, and Alexander Mattison was a mega bust in the Vikings’ RB1 role before he was benched last season.

Najee Harris (RB – PIT)

Najee Harris has held off Jaylen Warren the last two years with strong finishes, but after the Steelers declined his fifth-year option, there’s no allegiance to him as a former first-round pick.

Don’t be surprised if Warren usurps him as the Steelers’ RB1 and finishes inside the top-24, where Najee falls outside the top-40 RBs.

From a rushing efficiency standpoint, Warren was superior across the board by any advanced rushing metric compared to Harris. The former undrafted free agent (UDFA) ranked fourth in yards per carry (5.2) and third in rushing yards per carry after contact (3.7) in 2023.

In terms of raw points per game, Warren’s 9.6 (34th) was close to Harris’s 10.4 (32nd) over 18 games played in 2023. Notably, in full PPR formats, Warren outscored Harris, highlighting his potential value in formats that reward receptions.

Warren’s role as a receiver was significant, with 74 targets ranking him sixth among all RBs and showcasing his involvement in the passing game. Despite Arthur Smith’s wrongdoings in Atlanta, he hyper-targeted Bijan Robinson in the receiving game.

As the discussion shifts to the upcoming season, the focus may pivot from Harris’s strong finish — the RB9 from Week 9 onward and RB18 in points per game, finishing second in rushing yards overall (722) — to questions about his ability to fend off Warren for the top spot in the backfield.

Harris’ track record includes strong finishes in the past two seasons, as he finished third in rushing yards from Week 10 onward in 2022. Part of this last-season production has been general regression based on volume, but it’s also been very TD-based. In the second halves of the last two seasons, Harris has scored 13 TDs compared to only two in the first halves.

Have you seen the Steelers’ second-half schedule? Woof.

And how many times should you be willing to draft Harris, knowing he’s going to dig you a hole to start the season? RB33 and RB28 open to the first halves of the last two seasons. Double Woof.

Harris has been top-10 in touches the last two seasons but has not cracked the top 12 fantasy RBs overall as the RB15 (2022) and RB26 (2023), averaging the same points per game as Warren this past season (10) Weeks 1-17.

And with his fifth-year option declined, the Steelers may be open to exploring other options, potentially allowing Warren to seize an ever bigger piece of the RB share. Considering the uncertainties surrounding the Steelers’ offense and the arrival of a new offensive coordinator, Warren’s versatility and explosiveness position him as a compelling option with significant upside versus Harris, who you are hoping salvages a productive season.

In a doomsday scenario for Harris, Warren emerges as the primary back in a two-headed backfield, capitalizing on his receiving skills and efficiency metrics to deliver consistent fantasy production. If Harris struggles or fails to secure a significant role under the new offensive coaching regime, Warren could become the point of the Steelers’ rushing attack, significantly elevating his fantasy value at the former first-rounder’s disposal.

Arthur Smith has also been very unpredictable in terms of red zone deployment. Last year, Tyler Allgeier was used over Bijan Robinson in the red zone. In 2021-2022, he used Cordarrelle Patterson (currently on the Steelers) as a featured weapon in the red zone.

With the Steelers expected to maintain a run-heavy approach under Arthur Smith’s guidance, Warren’s potential to thrive in an enhanced offensive scheme, supported by offseason acquisitions in the offensive line through the NFL Draft (offensive linemen Zach Frazier and Troy Fautanu) adds further intrigue to his fantasy outlook. As the 2024 season approaches, Warren presents a tantalizing option for fantasy managers seeking value and upside in their running back slot.

There’s also a very strong possibility that one of these Steelers RBs misses time, given both stayed healthy for the entirety of the 2023 season. If one guy were to go down, the upside for the other would go through the roof.

Last year, I referenced Clyde Edwards-Helaire‘s bust profile as something to pay attention to. He was inefficient and lost his job outright despite first-round draft capital. Is that not Harris’ career in the last two seasons? And even in the argument for Harris as a big part of a run-heavy offense, he’s displayed over the last two seasons that his volume isn’t enough to make him a difference-making RB. Harris out-scored Warren by 15 half-PPR points in 2023 despite a touch difference of 83 touches.

Give me Jaylen Warren at RB26 over Najee Harris at RB21.

D’Andre Swift (RB – CHI)

I am lukewarm, at best, on D’Andre Swift’s new home in Chicago. I have him ranked as a back-end RB2 (close to consensus), and I’m not sure the market will be swayed in any particular direction to fade/target him given his RB22 ADP. He’s an offseason winner because he got paid to be the Chicago Bears’ starter with some solid money at the very start of the 2024 free-agency period. But Swift, after being ditched by back-to-back teams the last two seasons, becoming just another overpaid RB during free agency would hardly be an anomaly. Last year, it was Miles Sanders. In 2022, it was Chase Edmonds. In 2021, it was Kenyan Drake.

I can’t help but think the better value in the backfield will be Roschon Johnson, who could be the primary receiving back on third downs with his pass-protection chops. The only rookie RB who had more pass-blocking snaps than Johnson last season was Tyjae Spears (who played two more games). That’s rare for any rookie RB, let alone one selected in the fourth round.

And if Swift were to get hurt (stay healthy last season after missing an average of three missed games per year), Johnson would be slated for some massive upside. So, although Johnson is technically a “loser” without a clear path to the RB1 role, the discount on his new ADP will be one to target as a priority handcuff. Again, what are the chances Johnson at 219 pounds becomes the Bears’ goal-line back in 2024 instead of Swift? As a rookie, Johnson had six carries inside the 5-yard line. Only D’Onta Foreman had more (seven).

Meanwhile Swift has been a complete afterthought as a red-zone rusher by the last two teams he played for.

Last year, I was concerned about Swift with the Eagles. He finished where he was drafted in 2023. However, the fact that his production was so front-loaded hurt fantasy managers during the more important part of the fantasy football season. And I cannot get over Swift’s inability to win over a coaching staff. Remember that Kenneth Gainwell was the starter for the Eagles in Week 1 last season. But Gainwell got hurt, and the Eagles couldn’t return to him after Swift posted a monster game in Week 2 versus the Vikings. And yet, Swift was still coming off the field for Gainwell on third downs and inside two minutes throughout the season.

When I ask the question, “Who could be this year’s Miles Sanders,” doesn’t Swift look like a logical candidate? After he (just like Sanders) was sent packing after playing for the Philadelphia Eagles?

I have major concerns about Swift becoming an in-between-the-20s rusher, without a strong percentage of high-value touches between the Bears’ crowded backfield. Bears OC Shane Waldron has never deployed a bell-cow back. During his time in Seattle as the OC, his offenses ranked inside the bottom eight in target share to RBs. And given all the other mouths to feed in the Bears’ offense — Keenan Allen, DJ Moore, Rome Oduzne, Cole Kmet and Roschon Johnson — I don’t think we should be overly optimistic Swift is drowning in receptions/targets.

Therefore, Swift has to get it done through efficiency on the ground, which he failed to do last season in an ideal offense. Swift finished inside the bottom 10 last season in yards after contact per attempt. And without the TD equity, Swift tied with Brian Robinson Jr. and Jaylen Warren with the fewest top-12 finishes in half-PPR last season (three) among top-24 overall finishers.

The contract alone suggests it’s Swift’s job to lose. But the lucrative signing looks more like a luxury pick than anything else given the amount of cap the Bears had to work with.

In other backfields, he probably would be a stronger RB selection. But the Bears have already said that Swift won’t be a bell-cow back. Matt Eberflus called Swift a “weapon back” which suggests unpredictable usage patterns. Keep in mind last year that Swift garnered nearly 70% of the Eagles’ backfield carries and set his career-high in touches (282).

I’m still very much in the camp that Khalil Herbert will be traded at some point entering the final year of his contract, which would lessen Swift’s bust potential in 2024. But I can’t help but recognize Johnson’s size and physicality akin to former Seattle RBs such as Chris Carson. When the weather turns cold in December, I envision a massive workload for Johnson when it matters the most for fantasy football. Note that current Bears RB coach Chad Morton was in Seattle from 2017-2023.

Zamir White (RB – LV)

The 2024 NFL Draft came and went, and the Raiders invested zero high draft picks into RBs. This was a win for Zamir White, especially with Las Vegas bolstering their interior O-Line with Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson. In Round 3, they also drafted OT Delmar Glaze.

The only RB the Raiders drafted was New Hampshire’s Dylan Laube in Round 6. Laube’s intriguing as a do-it-all and pass-catching running back. He produced from the get-go at UNH with a 23% dominator rating, showcasing his early proficiency as a receiver with four receiving TDs and 259 receiving yards. The elite pass-catching production didn’t go unnoticed and aided the 5-foot-10 and 206-pounder to get drafted. White, Alexander Mattison and Ameer Abdullah round out the current Raiders’ running back depth chart. If Laube can show out as a pass-catcher, we could see him usurp Abdullah in that role.

But White is in the driver’s seat as the early down RB1 in the Raiders’ offense after he showed out last season filling in for an injured Josh Jacobs. In White’s four starts, he averaged 14.1 fantasy points (right outside the top 12 in half-PPR) and just under 100 rushing yards per game while logging just under 70% of the offensive snaps and 23+ touches per game. This is why White was one of my top best ball targets early this offseason

It works in his favor that Antonio Pierce is returning as the head coach while Luke Getsy enters as the new OC.

And that’s where the concerns start for White, who profiles as a prototypical dead zone back on the surface. He is being bolstered by projections with “nobody” in the Raiders backfield to compete with. Historically, this isn’t a good bet to make, especially with a new OC that has only come from offenses that have heavily leaned on running back committees on both the Bears and Packers.

Strike 1.

Then you consider White’s not a pass-catcher, which hurts his upside as a true three-down back and in negative game scripts. Both Laube and Mattison can add to the passing game. Meanwhile, White has never been a truly “featured” running back, having never surpassed 170 touches in a season in college or the NFL.

Strike 2.

White would have had a second straight NFL season with almost zero playing time in 2023 if it hadn’t been for Jacobs’ injury. Despite Jacobs’ struggles before his injury, White never saw more than four carries before Week 15. He got the job because of injury, not because he was showing out over the starter.

Strike 3.

It’s easy to write off guys like Mattison and Laube as zero threats to White, but they were brought in by the Raiders’ current regime. They will likely be more involved than many are accounting for, whether it’s warranted or not. I see so many similarities between 2023 Mattison/Pierce and 2024 White that I am concerned about selecting him too aggressively. His price isn’t terrible at RB23, but this is the exact area of running back you want to avoid drafting. Again, we need to proceed with caution when it comes to these small sample-size RBs that move from understudy to starter. Like we saw with Mattison — ironically White’s new teammate — stepping into the RB1 shoes is easier for a few weeks versus the entirety of a 17-game season.

Zack Moss (RB – CIN)

Zack Moss is the closest thing to this year’s Alexander Mattison that I can find.

In my opinion, I don’t think Moss has “earned” true playing time. Last year’s role with the Indianapolis Colts came served on a silver platter. Jonathan Taylor was unavailable during the start of the year after being placed on the PUP list. Rookie Evan Hull was placed on IR after Week 1. Colts Week 1 RB starter, Deon Jackson, played the worst game we’ve seen from a running back that saw a 71% snap share and 18 touches.

The Colts had no choice but to turn to Moss in Week 2 after he broke his arm at the end of July.

Simply put, Moss’ most significant playing time came when Jonathan Taylor was injured for the Colts, highlighting a scenario where Moss might not have ever seen the field had the Colts starter not gotten hurt. In that universe, Moss never sniffs a deal with the Bengals in free agency and is likely a completely forgotten running back like he was last season after the Bills traded him to the Colts for a sixth-round pick and Nyheim Hines.

His underwhelming performance against the Bengals in his last start for the Colts underscores the potential downside of Moss’ abilities. He recorded an 84% snap share in that game. The result? Thirteen carries for 28 yards for 2.2 yards per carry. Woof.

Moss’s career has been as a journeyman RB, where he’s almost always been the inferior back across any depth chart. He started zero games in Buffalo while battling for touches with Devin Singletary (another just-a-guy RB). And after he was traded to the Colts in 2022, he didn’t sniff the field until Taylor was hurt over the final four weeks. His competition for touches? Again. Deon Jackson. Consider me unimpressed.

Projecting him forward with the Bengals, the contract is hardly an indicator of a future workload given it’s only $4 million per season and just $3 million guaranteed.

If I must give Moss his “flowers” I’ll admit that he at least produced at an above-average level when given opportunities in both 2022 and 2023. Should Chase Brown suffer an injury, Moss will have a few decent weeks. But I want to continue to harp on Moss from a season-long perspective, where I just can’t trust the profile.

Remember, nobody ever vied for Moss to get touches at any point during his NFL career. It wasn’t until the Colts were in a “break glass” situation that they turned the volume over to Moss. And given that the Bengals project to run a committee between Brown and Moss while both guys are healthy, I find it hard to believe Moss’s status as a “plodder” will allow him to overcome a lack of workhorse volume. He will have to run hot on TDs, which I am not optimistic he will. Even if he has the red-zone role in the Bengals’ backfield, only the Chiefs posted a higher pass rate over expectation in the red zone last season than the Bengals.

If it’s between running Moss up the gut or letting Joe Burrow/Ja’Marr Chase cook, you know where my lean is.

I already bet the under on Moss’ season-long rushing yards prop set which opened at 850.5 yards. Moss has never rushed for more than 800 rushing yards any season during his four-year career.

I’ll take my chance with Brown especially with him cheaper in drafts. It’s a classic plodder versus RB with juice debate. Give me the second-year RB with juice. NFL’s Next Gen Stats listed Brown with the second-fastest ball carrier time in the NFL last season on a 54-yard TD reception.

I wrote about my love for Brown in my article: 13 Must-Have Dynasty Players: Erickson’s Picks (2024 Fantasy Football).

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)

Since Sean Payton arrived in Denver, all he has done is bring in other RBs like Samaje Perine, Jaleel McLaughlin and now 2024 fifth-rounder Audric Estime. Estime landing in Denver is not ideal for his fantasy prospects, but it’s creating a very messy backfield (similar to last season’s three-headed monster). Especially considering it’s likely a Bo Nix-led offensive unit with not a ton of TD appeal. The only thing we can pray for with these RBs is they should see plenty of targets given Nix’s egregiously low average depth of target (aDOT).

Additionally, the Broncos signed UDFA Blake Watson from Memphis, who profiles as a strong pass-catcher. I’d usually write off any UDFA, especially at RB, but the Broncos embraced UDFA McLaughlin just a year ago. I’d be concerned about how much Williams dominates this backfield.

Payton has come out and been positive about Estime, citing he will be competing for touches behind Williams on first- and second-down.

Last year Williams struggled coming off his torn ACL injury. He was Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) 52nd-graded RB among 59 qualifiers.

Recall, that Williams only missed one game last season despite coming off a knee injury. The Broncos RBs collectively stayed very healthy last year from a total games-played perspective.

Ergo, this backfield could get blown up by ensuing chaos, and there are more than enough bodies behind Williams on the depth chart to pick up the slack. I’d shy away from Williams as the most expensive part, in an offense that could be one of the worst in the NFL with Nix as QB1. I’d much rather take a shot on Jaleel McLaughlin later in drafts as Nix’s projected No. 1 check-down option in the passing game. As I wrote in 2024’s fantasy forecast, Williams desperately needs to increase his routes and third-down role to get to the next level for fantasy. That doesn’t seem likely given the presence of McLaughlin.

Williams is entering the last year of his deal, so the team may ride him into the ground. Or, Payton prefers to use the RBs he has brought in the last two years. There’s just a lot of risk for an RB like Williams, and not much reward in my estimate for a running back who has been subjected to committees in college and at the NFL levels.

When Williams was playing consistently 50% or more of the snaps last season, he was the RB22 overall averaging 11.3 points per game (RB24). But Payton’s sheer commitment to using more than just Williams doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. His 2023 role as the red-zone rusher seems secure (Estime lurking), but how appealing is that in this version of the Broncos offense?

Raheem Mostert (RB – MIA)

Would it shock me if Raheem Mostert buries me at the beginning of the season? Especially given how favorable the Dolphins’ opening schedule is? Not so ever. But I just cannot buy into a 32-year-old RB coming off a season where he scored 20+TDs and stayed healthy for one of the few times in his NFL career. I’m sorry, but something has to give here.

Even if Mostert opens Week 1 as the starter and leads the team in carries/snaps, we know this ride isn’t going to last forever. Mostert will be on the top of every single “sell-high” conversation after Week 1. If you do decide to take the plunge on Mostert, just be prepared to get off the ride sooner rather than later. Note that he is going to be extremely rushing and touchdown-dependent.

As I pointed out in last year’s fantasy forecast…Mostert has never been a running back that Mike McDaniel has tried to feature in the passing game over either De’Von Achane or Jeff Wilson Jr. And if we are being fair, Mostert’s situation is similar to James Conner in Arizona. The drafter selecting Mostert/Conner is betting on the early-season production to be enough. The only difference is Mosert has not only De’Von Achane behind him, but fourth-round rookie Jaylen Wright, vying for playing time and backfield opportunities.

Even though the ADP between Achane and Mostert seems too wide (it probably is), it’s because the market is tuned into the upside/downside profiles of Achane and Mostert. As mentioned before, Mostert would be my top “sell high” after a strong Week 1 outing, conversely, Achane would be my No. 1 “buy-low” target.

Buyer Beware

This section features running backs I am not ready to call full-out busts, but players I have some concerns/reservations about the 2024 fantasy football season. Also, I included some players that are ranked outside the top 30 threshold given the price can make them somewhat agnostic from truly “busting” for your fantasy team. RB35 seems like the max for busts. And it even might be too low. Khalil Herbert was a “bust” last year in the 30s range but still finished the year as the RB41.

Saquon Barkley (RB – PHI) 

The market will likely be high on Saquon Barkley given the immediate upgrade in the supporting cast going from New York to Philly.

The former Giants RB has a chance to run behind holes he’s never dreamed of in an up-tempo offense. And yet, his ADP as the RB5 is the same as it was last season. He’s just cheaper overall as a second-round pick, given the WR demand in Round 1 is higher than last season.

Note that in 2023, despite three missed games playing in an offense that ranked 30th in points and 29th in yards, Barkley still finished RB12 overall and ninth in points per game.

I don’t think there should be much debate about how effective Barkley can be as a rusher in this offense, or whether he will see enough volume to be productive.

It comes down to his distribution of high-value touches between receptions and touchdowns.

In 2023, the “tush push” nuked D’Andre Swift’s TD upside. But two years ago, Miles Sanders scored 11 TDs. Center Jason Kelce is gone, so that raises questions of how effective the “tush push” will even be with Cam Jurgens taking over at center.

If Barkley’s main detractors are solely related to TDs (the hardest stat to project year-to-year), I’ll gladly scoop up the value. What if they acquired Barkley to be featured in the “tush push” to combat injury concerns for Jalen Hurts? Don’t just assume you know exactly how the Eagles will deploy their goal-line offense. Recall that Swift has never been a true goal-line red-zone back, even during his time in Detroit.

But if Barkley stans focus only on the overall situation being positive (showing no concern for lack of pass-game work) then there’s a definite case to shy away.

Because Jalen Hurts (as a mobile QB) isn’t going target RBs in the passing game nearly as often as his immobile counterparts.

Also note that the Eagles have an elite trio of top pass-catchers between DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown and Dallas Goedert. And in Kellen Moore’s last five years as an OC, he hasn’t truly featured the RBs in the passing game: 26th, 26th, 18th, 18th and 27th have been Moore-led offense’s RB target shares across one season with the Chargers and four seasons with the Cowboys.

However, given Barkley should be an every-down back on the Eagles, his reception totals shouldn’t hinder his production too drastically. Swift and Kenneth Gainwell combined for 5.4 targets per game last season.

Ultimately, whether Barkley smashes or not in 2024 will come down to TDs. Considering that’s one of the trickiest stats to project year over year (especially in the case of the Eagles), I feel less pressure to push the draft button on Barkley. In the three years that Hurts has been the Eagles’ starting QB, the top RB on each offense has scored seven, 11 and six TDs (ond receiving TD combined).

The FantasyPros projections have Barkley slated for close to 15 TDs as the RB3 in half-PPR. You shave that closer to 8-10 TDs (closer to the average of the Eagles RB1 the past three seasons), and Barkley falls to RB7.

Last note. The Eagles had the fifth-healthiest RB room last season. And had Gainwell not gotten hurt in Week 1, he could have been the RB1 for Philadelphia the entire season. We also know that Barkley has never been an elite bill of health. He’s coming off another near-300-touch season with three missed games. Chances are we will get some looks at either Kenneth Gainwell, Will Shipley and/or Kendall Milton at some point during the regular season.

Bold take? I think UDFA Kendall Milton comes out as the No. 2 RB for the Eagles. I talked more about his potential here in my Value of Rookies Post NFL Draft.

Derrick Henry (RB – BAL)

As I’ve mentioned before when projecting RB busts (aside from injuries) the biggest red flag is overvaluing roles for certain players — specifically with RBs and red zone usage.

When the sole reason for taking a running back early is hyper-focused on offense, workload/volume, and team environment, it can sometimes be a risky proposition

Last year’s examples: Tony Pollard (didn’t score the TDs), Austin Ekeler (TDs tanked), Damien Harris (huge miss by me), A.J. Dillon (Green Bay’s red-zone RB) etc. Just examples of guys we felt confident would score that came up short.

I think Derrick Henry’s ECR as the RB9/ADP as RB10 is too high for my liking. Sure, I understand the allure of the Big Dog in the Ravens’ offense that produced Gus Edwards and his 13 TDs last season. Gus Edwards was a TD machine last year. In that role, Henry could smash.

Still, that resulted in Gus Bus as the RB32 in points per game. RB19 overall. A 25% bust rate. Second-highest among RBs inside the top 20. The highest bust rate? Derrick Henry at a 31% bust rate. That ranked No. 1 among all RBs inside the top 30 tied with Najee Harris and Devin Singletary.

2022’s 31% bust rate RBs: Miles Sanders.

Henry posted the same rushing success rate as Josh Jacobs. Henry’s 68.6 rushing yards per game was nearly 30 yards down from 2022, and his worst output since 2018.

And Henry’s bust rate came with him rushing for nearly 1,200 yards and 12 TDs last season. He’s already been a player that has been scoring TDs at a high rate, and I feel it’s almost double-counted with his landing spot in Baltimore.

My concerns are more on Henry finally hitting a “wall” as he enters his 9th season at age 30.

There’s also the question of sheer volume with Henry and how run-heavy the Ravens will be in 2024 if they are playing in more close contests.

Baltimore has traditionally operated with an RBBC, an approach that won’t necessarily change under OC Todd Monken even after the addition of Henry.

The Ravens’ commitment to a traditional thunder/lightning backfield does raise eyebrows about the sheer volume Henry might receive. He’s always been an RB that requires 15+ carries before he can truly inflict damage. Edwards only had five games last season with 15+ carries. Only thrice did Edwards handle 50% or more of the team’s rushing share during the 2023 season.

The Titans’ offense ran through Henry. The Ravens may not feel they need to use Henry similarly given they have other threats on offense. The Ravens were also 12th in pass rate over expectation (slightly positive) in Monken’s first season (+1%). That number was much lower (-6%) during the Greg Roman era. The former Titans RB is also a zero in the passing game, making his fantasy value extremely TD-dependent. The Ravens’ O-Line also went under a massive rehaul during the offseason, so it remains to be seen how effective they will be blocking for a runner like Henry.

That makes Henry even tougher to draft as a fantasy RB1 entering age 30 after he saw an identical snap share to a rookie third-round pick — Tyjae Spears — last season.

Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken said he’d love to see the Ravens take some early leads and then grind out the clock by giving Henry the ball repeatedly. The Ravens OC says the most important part of that is keeping Henry healthy for 17 games. Sounds like he won’t be the only Ravens RB seeing action in the backfield.

I also want to note that the Ravens have the fourth-hardest schedule and it starts on opening night when they travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in a rematch of the 2023 AFC Championship Game. They’re followed by matchups against the Raiders, Cowboys, Bills and Bengals. From Weeks 1-5, no team has a more difficult schedule. It’s going to be difficult to replicate the team’s average scoring margin which ranked no. 1 last season (+11.6).

If the Ravens find themselves trailing in any of these contests, the former Titans RB will not be nearly as effective without a commitment to the ground attack. I put Henry in the “buyer beware” section last year as the RB7/RB8, and he shoved it in my face as the RB5 overall and as the RB10 in points per game. Far from a bust in 2023, although it was a bumpy ride.

Entering 2024, I understand the appeal and upside case for Henry. But I don’t think it’s as perfect as his ADP suggests. There are definite flaws in Henry’s fantasy profile, with him checking off several boxes as a dead-zone running back. I’ll completely admit that if he was going later (closer to the Round 4-5 turn), I’d be more open to drafting him with pleasure. But seeing someone like Joe Mixon with a similar upside case going rounds later, I’ll take the better WR in Round 3 and wait at RB.

In the range Henry goes, I like so many other options more such as Travis Etienne Jr., Jaylen Waddle, DK Metcalf or Isiah Pacheco.

Rachaad White (RB – TB)

Rachaad White was one of my biggest hits this past season, even though the road started out quite bumpy. He was a touch monster, finishing the fantasy football season second in touches per game (second overall with 336 touches). He was RB5 overall, 14th in points per game (13.8) and fourth in snap share (78%). White was everything you’d want in a workhorse RB and he delivered with his three-down skill set.

Now the questions regarding what he will do in 2024 are as follows…

Can he keep up with this heavy workload with some lackluster efficiency behind the league’s fourth-worst run-blocking unit per PFF?

Well for starters, the Buccaneers did upgrade the OL with the center Graham Barton in Round 1 of the NFL Draft. But they also lost several key coaches on the offensive side of the ball. And their new OL coach was formerly of the Saints. New Orleans was graded as PFF’s eighth-worst run-blocking unit in 2023. The kicker here is the OL (seventh) and White were both extremely healthy last season. Hard to see that repeating over another 17-game season.

And there’s no doubt that White’s lack of backfield competition was a great aid to his 2023 workload, as the Buccaneers had nowhere to turn but the second-year rusher in the backfield. But they did make a small addition in the 2024 NFL Draft with Oregon’s Bucky Irving in the fourth round. When Irving was first drafted, I (as a White truther in 2023) easily shrugged it off as no big deal. However, after further review, I am not as optimistic.

It’s very possible, that he eats into White’s target share with his pass-catching chops. Irving is quicker than fast with a Devin Singletary comparison. But that Singletary comparison comes with the fact that Irving is not overly athletic. But that’s his only real downfall as he was very productive and efficient at the college level.

Considering the Buccaneers could have drafted a big back to vulture goal-line TDs instead, it’s not the worst RB they could have added from a White perspective.

However, this needs to be addressed. Bucs Assistant GM John Spytek told reporters new Buccaneers OC Liam Coen was part of the decision to draft Irving.

This is noteworthy as Coen did not take his former RB — Ray Davis — in Round 4 (who went a few picks later to Buffalo), whom he coached at Kentucky in 2023. Instead, they stuck to their board and selected Irving. Perhaps not great for White’s three-down workload he benefitted from in 2023. Jason Licht and Todd Bowles have expressed on multiple accounts their hope to lessen the load for White in 2024. Irving seems like part of this plan as a clear upgrade from the Tampa Bay RB2 last season.

And considering White’s calling card last year was more or less based on volume, there should be question marks about him returning his RB12/13 price tag.

I’ve highlighted the fact that chasing RBs with massive workloads isn’t always super profitable the following season. Had it not been for McCaffrey, White would have been the NFL’s touch leader during the 2023 season. And although I believe White’s poor efficiency rushing marks can be somewhat attributed to the Buccaneers’ OL woes, I’m not sure it’s going to improve drastically after two years. It’s going to be a slightly different offense with Coen, so it’s possible that White’s efficiency can improve. Coen has spoken about how there is a larger emphasis being placed on fast-to-the-hole, which would be a dramatic shift for White. He’s been a more patient runner which hasn’t helped his yards per carry and overall efficiency running behind a bottom-10 OL unit.

If we see Coen introduce a Sean McVay-style run game, we could see White post his highest efficiency yet, because it can’t get much worse from what it’s been his first two years in the NFL. Todd Gurley rebounded in a big way in his first year in McVay’s offense during the 2017 season. The University of Kentucky graded as a top-18 run game in the nation, per PFF, in both years that Coen was the OC. And in 2022, Coen was the OC for the Rams and aided Cam Akers in an impressive return to form as PFF’s second-highest graded RB from Weeks 10-18 despite coming off a torn Achilles the year before.

White’s role in the red zone should be secure, but there’s no doubt we will see his total touch count diminish. That means he has to make up the ground either through total TDs (not a great bet to make), as a receiver (possible) or through improved efficiency as a rusher. A new offensive scheme might give him the chance to improve on the latter, but it’s a risk fantasy managers will have to take given that he won’t be nearly as useful if his efficiency doesn’t improve without the top-tier volume.

After weighing the pros and cons of White while constructing this “negative” spin on his 2024 outlook, I feel better about him drafting him as the RB13 (same as his projection in half-PPR). We know the three-down skill set is there, but it’s just a matter of getting him in the right offensive scheme. 2024 in a McVay offense could be exactly what White needs to take the next step into elite RB fantasy territory.

Kenneth Walker (RB – SEA)

In the case of Kenneth Walker, I labeled him as a player to avoid in 2023. He ended up meeting his ADP last year, even after the team added Zach Charbonnet in the second round of the NFL Draft. Walker finished as RB19 and averaged 12.3 points per game (RB20) in 2023.

Still, his production was front-loaded, and it remains to be seen if he can do it again. Weeks 1-7, Walker scored six TDs and averaged 15.3 points per game. Charbonnet was also barely playing during the start of the season. The rookie was in an RB committee nearly the entire season with Walker. And he was more of a nuisance to Walker’s fantasy managers than an actual useful asset. However, he did carve out a larger role as the season progressed.

My pre-draft analysis on Walker was incorrect, regarding his potential to lose red zone work to the rookie. He eventually did, but it didn’t come until the end of the season.

Both Seahawks RBs saw decent red-zone roles during the season, but Charbonnet led the team in red-zone touches after Week 8. He scored one red-zone TD on 22 red-zone carries. Walker scored seven on 38 red-zone carries. In the games they both played after Week 8, Charbonnet was also the more involved receiver, dominating the routes run from Seattle’s backfield. That hurt Walker, who averaged just 10.6 points per game over his last eight games (RB22). They both hovered around a 50% snap share.

But when Charbonnet had the chance to show out in his two spot starts from Weeks 11-12, he underwhelmed. Still, it should be highlighted that he earned playing time as a rookie in Year 1 alongside Walker. He out-snapped Walker in five of their last eight games played together.

I am back in on Charbonnet as a sleeper running back in a new offense run by new Seahawks offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb. But the lesson I am trying to learn is that even as great as his prospect profile and draft capital were, completely supplanting Walker was going to be a tall task for a first-year player. Keep this in mind when it comes to all rookie RBs “stealing” touches from their veteran counterparts.

But now entering Year 2 with new coaches in place, Charbonnet has another crack at the RB1 job.

Hence why Walker is back on the list, given his ADP has not moved as the RB16 overall from last season. Because all the past concerns are still present. And the main difference that doesn’t work in Walker’s favor is that a new coaching staff has no allegiance to him as the “starter” and Charbonnet won’t be entering as a rookie. He already proved last year he could have a role and he earned it alongside Walker. Walker still leaves a lot to be desired from a receiving aspect and that could limit him in a more pass-centric up-tempo offense brought in by Grubb.

Walker will have his moments with his ability as a big-play rusher. Through two seasons, he’s finished inside the top 24 weekly in more than half of his games. If everything stays status quo, Walker is probably going to finish as a middle-to-high-end RB2.

I’d still bet he finished somewhere in the 255-touch range (achieved with just 15 touches per game, very close to his FantasyPros’ projection of 257) and that volume should lock him in as a top-20 fantasy RB based on his efficient running style.

He averaged 17 touches per game in 15 games played in 2022 after starting the year in a committee with Rashaad Penny. In 14 games with Charbonnet in 2023, Walker averaged just south of 16 touches per game. He averaged 12.3 points per game in half-PPR (same as without Charbs in the lineup), which would have been the RB20 in points per game.

As I alluded to in the introduction,

“Volume has always been king for RBs in fantasy football. But last season, I noticed that was being put closer to the test versus 2022.

Every running back who earned 255 touches in 2022 finished as a top-20 fantasy RB. In 2023, that was not the case. Every RB who earned at least 245 touches last season finished as a top-31 RB. Several RBs that had a lot of volume, STILL finished outside the top 20: Najee Harris, D’Andre Swift, Chuba Hubbard, Josh Jacobs, Javonte Williams and Devin Singletary. Something to keep in mind as drafting behind the idea that “volume is king” for RBs is being put to the test. It feels “safe” to draft RBs with projectable volume. But there is an efficient/talent gap that matters when parsing through several of the “volume-driven” RBs.”

Those findings work in favor of Walker over some of these aforementioned guys, because he’s objectively a good running back. He will remain a fantasy RB2, given his explosive rushing ability as PFF’s 11th-highest graded rusher in 2023. But he has to be accompanied by committee concerns with Charbonnet a very capable back in his own right. And given the price disparities between the two Seattle RBs in ADP (RB16 vs RB41), I’m so much more comfortable taking the second-year RB as a sleeper.

Worst case scenario, he’s a high-priority handcuff to target with an obvious three-down skill set behind Walker, who has missed at least two games in his first two years in the NFL.

Jonathon Brooks (RB – CAR)

Only one RB was selected in the second round of this year’s draft. The Carolina Panthers traded up to the 46th overall pick to select Texas RB Jonathon Brooks. Coming off the torn ACL injury, Brooks’s availability for training camp has been nothing but positive. I’m no doctor but that would be on the faster side of a usual nine-month recovery timetable from an ACL injury. Just something to keep in mind regarding the rookie’s availability.

Because the Panthers have the option to ride out veterans Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders from the get-go. Then, they could unleash Brooks as the season progresses. The former Longhorn profiles much more like a strong finisher than a strong starter for just the 2024 season. This needs to be considered in general roster construction, specifically in formats (such as Underdog’s Best Ball Mania V) that heavily favor the prize pools from Weeks 14 and onward.

Be wary that the list of rookie RBs entering the NFL that were immediately productive coming off season-ending injuries is thin. Todd Gurley is the lone success (he missed the first two games of his NFL career), followed by a long list of major RB disappointments.

Given Brooks’ top-50 draft capital, it’s still impossible not to label Brooks an NFL draft winner and bump up his value despite coming off a torn ACL. Even if it takes some time, I can only imagine Brooks’ value increasing as we get more into the 2024 season. Just imagine how high he would have been drafted if he wasn’t coming off a torn ACL.

Brooks’ best ball ADP opened as the RB31 on Underdog Best Ball and it’s settled around RB27. Given the average finish of a second-rounder (RB37), I like taking the shot on Brooks’ league-winning upside even if it’s mostly during the back half of the season.

I love the idea of pairing him with Chuba Hubbard (RB50) or another cheap “starter” on the same roster in case he starts slow. I’d imagine under a brand new coaching staff with all new personnel, the Panthers offense will start sluggish. They also might not want to put everything on their rookie RB from the get-go given his return from the knee injury. He also may not be 100% the same explosive player he was during his final year at Texas to potentially the 2025 season, as often is the case with RBs returning from ACL injuries.

And that’s why Brooks is a player listed here because he could easily be a bust for a fantasy team relying on his early season to be productive. We just saw two younger NFL RBs come return off knee injuries — Javonte Williams and Breece Hall — post-middling starts to the year in 2023. Over the first eight weeks of 2023, Hall was RB15 and Williams was RB29 (RB38 in points per game). Williams was drafted inside the top 28 RBs in 2023, while Hall was more expensive as a top-15 RB. So they did at least meet their ADPs early on. But both guys had already proven success at the NFL level and had much more experience than Brooks’ one-year 11-game sample size. Those backs also suffered their injuries much earlier in the year (October) whereas Brooks tore his in November.

I can’t give Brooks the full-blown bust label given the second-half surge he could provide. I put Hall in this section last season, and he turned out more than okay.

There’s still a chance Brooks can at least return RB3/Flex value while he gets eased back in. However, given the timeline of the injury, it feels appropriate to mention Brooks in the “buyer beware” section.

I read an interesting Twitter thread on Brooks versus Keaton Mitchell, and how the rhetoric around their injuries couldn’t be any different. Even though Brooks didn’t have his surgery until early December after the Big 12 Conference Championship (where he “played” 1 snap). Mitchell tore his in December and had surgery at the end of the month, but he’s viewed as having no shot of playing in Week 1. Logical PUP candidate.

Brooks seems to not be in the PUP list discourse at all, which doesn’t seem appropriate given the timelines we are working with. We are buying what the Panthers coaching staff is selling us regarding Brooks’ immediate and speedy recovery. Do with that what you will. Keep in mind that Hubbard as the RB50 is basically free.

Austin Ekeler (RB – WAS)

In the nation’s capital, Austin Ekeler seems destined for an ancillary role as a straight pass-catcher. His rushing was beyond horrible in 2023, and it remains to be seen if he can recapture some of his youthful rushing juice entering his age-29 season.

The Commanders project to be another split backfield between Ekeler and Brian Robinson Jr., which will likely be in a below-average offense led by a mobile rookie QB.

And Ekeler’s contract guarantees nothing from a workload perspective, given it’s close to what Samaje Perine got from the Broncos last season.

Anthony Lynn is the new run game coordinator for the Commanders and could similarly deploy Ekeler-Robinson to Ekeler-Melvin Gordon circa 2019. Ekeler saw heavy targets back then (92 catches in 2019) but another RB was earning all the red-zone work. That could be Robinson in 2023, which makes him the better Commander RB to target, especially at a cheaper cost. He found success already splitting repetitions with Antonio Gibson last year, who has more juice than Ekeler given the stark age difference.

Robinson Jr. has to be by far one of the best RB values on the fantasy football draft board. He’s being drafted exactly where he was last season despite a strong sophomore campaign.

He finished RB22 overall and was 21st in points per game (12.0). He was the carbon-copy fantasy RB2 that started hot — RB4 Weeks 1-11 and 11th in points per game (13.5) — just to crawl to the finish line (RB51 from Week 12 onward averaging 7.8 points per game).

In his healthy 14 games played, (Robinson missed two games with a hamstring injury), Robinson played 53% of the snaps. He ran a route on fewer than 31% of the dropbacks but still caught 36 passes on 40 targets. The receiving usage with a mobile QB and Ekeler in the fold likely won’t be a large part of Robinson’s 2024 production. But that’s baked into his ADP as a fantasy RB3.

What’s being overlooked is he should benefit from some boosted rushing efficiency in this offense (thank you mobile QB), along with seeing the bulk of red zone work. Note that Ekeler didn’t see his boom in TD production until Lynn was no longer the head coach of the Chargers.

The bearish case on Ekeler is easy to make, given how far he fell from a consensus top-five fantasy football pick in 2023. But we have to keep in mind that his early-season ankle injury played a big role in his declined play (along with the entire offensive environment that was the laughable 2023 L.A. Chargers). Everything about his demise is baked into an ADP outside the top 30 RBs. From a total “bust” perspective, Ekeler’s suppressed cost makes it difficult for him to completely nuke your team. But I just don’t know how fantasy-viable he will truly be to make him a “key” player to target in 2024 fantasy football drafts for reasons I have laid out, even if last year should be written off due to his injuries and horrible offensive infrastructure.

In Ekeler’s three seasons played under Lynn with the Chargers from 2018-2020, his fantasy finishes were RB24, RB6 and RB29. The RB6 finish in 2019 was fueled by eight receiving TDs and over 90 catches, something that will not be easily replicated in the 2024 Washington offense. If Ekeler is fully healthy, he seems at best like a small-win player regarding his ADP. We could see him post decent target share numbers if the remaining pass-catchers outside Terry McLaurin disappoint in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

Nick Chubb (RB – CLE)

The Browns RB has fallen to RB36 in the early offseason rankings, which is 100% related to his devastating knee injury (torn MCL and damaged ACL) suffered in Week 2 of last season. The multi-ligament damage required two separate surgeries (one in September and the other in November).

The latest on Nick Chubb’s return from injury is just basic coach fluff. The Browns staff are happy with the way he is rehabbing but say he has a long way to go. Chubb has even spoken about not having any set timeline for his return to the football field.

Being a 28-year-old RB who gruesomely injured this same knee back in 2015 (although not an ACL injury but an MCL, LCL, and PCL) complicates things. His 2024 projection is two-fold. When will he come back? And how effective will he be? Chubb’s been one of the most efficient RBs in NFL history, getting out of bed averaging five yards per carry. So, in essence, he does have some leeway for his efficiency to drop off because he has been so elite as the NFL’s best pure rusher.

The injury timeline for a typical ACL injury also lines up for a potential availability in Week 1.

Given the Browns didn’t make any major financial moves at RB this offseason it seems like they aren’t overly concerned about the availability of their star rusher to make a return at some point. Although, they did re-work his contract to make it more incentive-based, essentially putting the ball in Chubb’s court in his last year under contract to earn every dollar he can post-injury. There’s no long-term commitment for the Browns with Chubb.

They signed free agents D’Onta Foreman and Nyheim Hines to super-cheap one-year deals. And I get that this is somewhat anecdotal, but among the NFL’s outlier/freaky RBs, Chubb is right up there next to Derrick Henry. If anybody could make a comeback from this injury, I’d push my chips in on Chubb.

Besides, in a best ball context, we are more concerned about how guys do at the end of the season, rather than the start. Chubb’s going to be at his healthiest during the postseason weeks if he ever returns to full form. You can also pair Chubb with another Browns RB if you feel he won’t be ready to open the season.

Many have labeled Chubb a “bust” for the 2024 reason for the reasons I laid, which is why I felt the need to feature him here in this piece. Obvious red flags. But the price of RB36 is appealing.

In the FantasyPros consensus projections, he is RB24. I think this is such a low bar for him to pass. Last year we had horrible RB busts — Austin Ekeler, Javonte Williams, Rhamondre Stevenson, Aaron Jones — finish as top-36 RBs. Two of those RBs missed more than five games.

Final Thoughts

I wrote about Joe Mixon being a target of mine in 2024 fantasy drafts based on his price much more than his profile. Because I can easily admit that he checks off a ton of boxes of a dead zone back. If the price increases closer to August, I’ll be out.

I also recognized that it might not be 100% wheels up for Rhamondre Stevenson in my dynasty targets piece, given he’s somewhat in a make-or-break season entering the final year of his rookie contract at 26 years old. However, I am feeling better about him after new head coach Jerod Mayo spoke glowingly about his starting RB, citing a potential contract extension in the works. Phew. Dodged a bullet.

While constructing this piece for 2024 (looking back on 2023 in retrospect) I also noticed that three of the RBs I was down on last season — D’Andre Swift, Brian Robinson and Kenneth Walker — fizzled out after strong starts. I also was wrong in projecting the early-season downfalls of Alvin Kamara and Breece Hall.

Here’s my main takeaway.

Many of the big early-season RB producers (Walker, Mostert, Etienne, Kamara, Montgomery) were “downgraded” during the draft season because their teams added competition through rookie RBs. But we weren’t considering enough that all rookies tend to have bigger impacts in the second half of their seasons.

Yes, this is the time when the fantasy championships take place, so that’s why rookies should be valued higher as their roles increase (especially in best ball). But in redraft formats, where stacking wins early on puts in a power position in your league…don’t be nearly as bullish on veterans losing work to rookies. With all the hype of best ball favoring the second half more, it’s bled over into how analysts present rankings in redraft. I am 100% guilty of this. Upside wins championships. But discounted veterans can be the drivers that get you into the tournament.

I am coming to the strong conclusion that we need to approach it differently in separate fantasy football formats.

For example, Kyren Williams could be the RB1 through the first eight weeks of this season. Blake Corum isn’t ready, so Williams takes on his role from last season. But then Williams gets banged up and Corum becomes a league winner after taking over the second half of the season. In this example, both veteran and rookie RBs can be excellent picks. It’s adjusting expectations and doing a better job of projecting not just how many points they score…but when they score these points. Given how teams traditionally deploy veterans versus rookies, it’s not too difficult to make small tweaks and adjustments as a result.

It’s all about balancing your roster in such a way that you have the firepower to steamroll your opponents early on and at the end of the season. Breece Hall is an example of a young player coming off an injury who smashes down the stretch. He wasn’t a difference-maker early during the 2023 season. But if he was paired with a strong early producer, it mitigated his lack of sheer production.

Because when it comes to running back production outside the elite guys, there are so many RBs that will have stretch weeks of production. It’s just a matter of pairing the right guys together for optimal roster build.

The list of veterans who are being knocked for rookie additions includes Kyren Williams, De’Von Achane, Josh Jacobs, James Cook, James Conner and Javonte Williams.

Last note on the topic of dead zone backs, players like Gus Edwards and Devin Singletary are the quintessential definition of this archetype. However, the difference is two-fold. One is the price point. Both guys are too cheap (outside top-30 RBs) to “bust.” They can be bad picks if they entirely flop, and there is an opportunity cost to selecting one of these guys over somebody potentially better. But I don’t think we will reflect on the 2024 season and think “Singletary as RB33 and Gus Edwards as RB38” nuked my entire fantasy portfolio. If anything, these look like the guys who could be strong early-season producers, that fizzle out in the second half.

Also, both have previous relationships with the coaching staff in place. Those established relationships make me feel more confident that each guy will have a longer leash on the starting gig.

But they aren’t bulletproof.

The run game could be bad for the Chargers. Running the ball a lot and running effectively aren’t the same. The Giants’ offense could still be a trainwreck.

Still, I think Singletary is a safer bet than Edwards. The ex-Texans RB finished third in the NFL in rushing yards after he took the starting job from Pierce (Week 9 onward).

Roman has also done some interesting stuff with his backfield in the past. When the former Ravens OC lost JK Dobbins/Gus Edwards to injuries in 2021, he trotted out the dynamic duo of Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray. Woof. Le’Veon Bell even stopped in for a quick cup of coffee. Also, when Dobbins and Edwards were healthy in 2022, Dobbins was used over Edward. And when those guys missed time with injuries, they added Kenyan Drake to the fold.

In three seasons with Roman as Ravens OC, Edwards never surpassed 150 carries. His best season by far was last year…in a non-Greg Roman offense. Dobbins’ problems have been heavily tied to injuries, and he is coming off an Achilles tear. He’s said that his recovery has been much easier than his ACL injury, but it remains to be seen. I also note that we just saw Cam Akers come back from an Achilles injury (in the same season). And follow that up by leading the NFL in rushing yards over the last six weeks of the 2022 season. I think Akers’ Achilles injury is overshadowing the fact that he just completely fell out of favor with Sean McVay. Before Akers tore his Achilles again with the Vikings, he was about to take Alexander Mattison’s job in Minnesota. Akers’ fallout is being projected for Dobbins, but the situations are different. He is back with his former OC who has favored him over Edwards (who has his own long injury history).

Given that both Dobbins/Edwards are so familiar with the Roman offense, they will likely be lightyears ahead of rookie Kimani Vidal. And who knows, Isaiah Spiller could be a sleeping giant in this backfield entering Year 3. He was formerly recruited by Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. This Chargers backfield might be a tough code to crack.

You always want to ask this question when it comes to volume: Has this exact coaching staff fed this specific RB? Those were red flags when it came to Mattison and Pierce last season. When a different coach is running the show, we should be very wary of just copying and pasting last year’s backfield results as I have alluded to with many of the RBs mentioned throughout this piece.

Is David Montgomery being overvalued based on the situation? Potentially. The Lions finished 29th in passing TD percentage. A number that could regress positively for the passing game and negatively for the rushing TDs. He is an afterthought in the Lions’ passing game. Career-lows in targets and catches last season. How do we expect Jameson Williams to break out? Less Montgomery TDs would be a start.

But the bullish case for Montgomery is that the Lions offense is set up so well, and Montgomery in positive game scripts provides a pretty high floor. I just don’t see it, without an injury to Gibbs for Montgomery to be as big a hit as last year. He’s being drafted as a mid-range RB2. That doesn’t necessarily make him a bad selection. But I’m not sure I’ll be going to bat to draft Montgomery unless he falls in ADP. Last year, Montgomery was RB29 (73rd overall). Now he’s RB20 (although his overall rank has not moved).

This brings up the question of who could be this year’s David Montgomery. A discounted real-life RB2 that thrives because of a great offensive situation?

Dalvin Cook was the next No.2 highest-drafted running back last season. Mega-bust. A.J. Dillon also busted. Antonio Gibson, bust. Jamaal Williams, bust. Zach Charbonnet was not good. Samaje Perine, bust. Chasing the expensive real-life No. 2 was not super profitable last season. You have to hit on the offense being a top-10 unit. This year’s crop of expensive real-life RB2s after Montgomery include Jaylen Warren, Raheem Mostert, Tyjae Spears, Trey Benson, Brian Robinson Jr., Chase Brown, Blake Corum, Jerome Ford, Zach Charbonnet, Kendre Miller, MarShawn Lloyd, Ty Chandler, Rico Dowdle, Antonio Gibson, Tyler Allgeier and Chuba Hubbard.

Note that these are just based on ADPs, not necessarily projected depth charts with many of these backfields more 50/50 splits than starter/backup.

When it comes to just the overall offensive situation, it’s hard to debate that Dallas’ backfield has real untapped potential. Could the 2024 Cowboys backfield be the 2023 Dolphins backfield?

Be aware that Dallas RBs stayed very healthy last season. It’s very much in the cards given Ezekiel Elliot’s status as the NFL’s active touch leader (2,421 touches) and Dowdle’s inexperience as a workhorse at any level (along with a laundry list of injuries) suggests that chaos could hit this backfield in a hurry.

Meanwhile, second-year RB Deuce Vaughn might have the clearest path to pass-game work in this backfield, given his receiving background. I’m not buying this “Vaughn is talking slot snaps at OTAs” but it at least confirms he will be on the roster. Not always a given, based on his Day 3 capital and lack of rookie-year production. But he’s young (turning 23 years old this season) and has a strong track record of college production with the No.1 dominator rating in the 2023 RB class. Had Vaughn been drafted in the sixth round of this year’s draft….he would be going much higher in redraft and best ball formats. Even though he faces weaker competition now with a full NFL season under his belt.

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