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Must-Have Running Backs: Isiah Pacheco, David Montgomery, Jaylen Warren (2024)

It’s important to know which players to target in your fantasy football drafts, especially as you approach the later rounds. That is certainly the case at running back, a position that is generally full of fantasy football draft landmines and high-upside sleepers. Here are three must-have running backs to target in 2024 fantasy football drafts.


Must-Have Fantasy Football Running Backs for 2024

Running backs were drafted heavily in the first two rounds of fantasy football drafts as recently as five or six seasons ago. Having multiple starting running backs capable of 250 carries each was the norm. In the last handful of seasons, we’ve seen a seismic shift toward wide receivers being drafted en masse in the first few rounds. Still, the running back position remains a hotbed for upside and has plenty of fantasy scoring no matter the format, but you can use less draft capital to select them compared to years ago. We’ll list three backs you should target for fantasy football in 2024.

Fantasy Football Running Backs to Draft

Isiah Pacheco (RB – KC)

In today’s NFL landscape, teams have multiple running backs capable of shouldering the load should the starter get hurt. Of all the running backs on the Chiefs’ roster outside of Isiah Pacheco, none pose any threat to his status as the RB1. Outside of injury, Pacheco is earmarked for 20 touches every week. Some (me) are saying he’s the running back version of Mike Williams — a violent player who assumes an injury risk on seemingly every carry. It’s just the man’s style.

The Chiefs notably have not brought back Jerick McKinnon to take touches from Pacheco and only Clyde Edwards-Helaire remains from last season’s contributors in the Kansas City running back room, so Pacheco could see his fantasy floor come up a little bit more with some added receiving work out of the backfield. Pacheco had a sneaky 49 targets last season and 32 of the 108 running back targets are vacated by McKinnon. His 20+ carry upside and potentially 60+ targets in a Chiefs offense that could jump back into being one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL make Pacheco a strong draft target.

Pacheco’s current standing as RB10 in the FantasyPros’ expert consensus rankings (ECR) represents immense value. If you want to draft an RB1 who can play perfectly off Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ revamped passing game, he’s your guy.

David Montgomery (RB – DET)

Many are asking what has happened to me for having David Montgomery in a “must-have running backs” article, after bestowing the phrase “liquid concrete” after a couple of rocky seasons in Chicago. I’ll admit here — on the record — Montgomery was anything but liquid concrete in his stellar 2023 season in Detroit.

Montgomery finished as the RB15 in fantasy points per game while sharing the running back workload with Jahmyr Gibbs, who is ranked as the RB5 in ECR heading into the summer. You can’t argue with Montgomery’s 1,000 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 2023. You also can’t argue with his RB5 ranking in NFL Next Gen Stats’ rush percent over expected (ROE%) — essentially, how often a back ran for more yards than expected. Montgomery was a workhorse for the Lions. With the team returning virtually every important skill-position player in 2024, that leads us back to the well with Montgomery once again in 2024.

Yet somehow, we can get Montgomery as a screaming value in the middle rounds as the current RB17 in ECR. A 1,000-yard back who scored double-digit touchdowns on a Lions offense that was sixth in the NFL in EPA per rush? Sign me up.

Jaylen Warren (RB – PIT)

The last 18 months have been a true rivalry between the Najee Harris truthers and the Jaylen Warren bulls; reminiscent of famous feuds like the Jets vs. Sharks and the Capulets vs. the Montagues. Before the 2023 season, you had to be on one side or the other; there was no policy of neutrality here. Sure, there were good people on both sides of the argument, and as the 2023 season finished up, there truly wasn’t a clear winner and a loser; both sides were winners in their own ways.

Harris finished as the RB23 and put up his third-straight 1,000-yard season. Warren was one slot ahead of Harris at RB22 with 1,154 total yards and 61 receptions on 74 targets. Between Harris and Warren, it’s Warren who looks ticketed for much more work in 2024. He could leave Harris in the dust if he gets it this season.

In running back and receiving efficiency metrics among the 49 backs with 90+ carries, Warren bested Harris in:

Player Explosive Run Rate % Missed Tackles Forced/Att Yards After Contact/Att Rushing Yards Over Expected/Att Targets per Route Run %
Jaylen Warren 3rd (8.1%) 1st (0.34) 2nd (3.52) 3rd (1.11) 3rd (28.9%)
Najee Harris 10th (5.5%) 19th (0.21) 17th (2.78) 16th (0.31) 24th (18.9%)

This isn’t even to say Harris was bad, because he was very good last season. He did best Warren in ROE% in 2023, but Warren was just clearly better on a per-attempt basis on more than 100 fewer carries than Harris. We talk about how targets per route run for a wide receiver are fantastic indicators of who should be getting on the field more because of what a player does with limited routes. Imagine if Warren was getting 200+ carries. He could be a league-winner for your fantasy teams with that opportunity.

Enter Arthur Smith — the much-maligned former Atlanta Falcons head coach is the new offensive coordinator for the Steelers in 2024. Say what you want about how he mismanaged players getting on the field during his tenure as head coach, but if there’s one thing Smith can do, it’s create a productive and efficient run game. Warren is currently the RB28 in ECR. That is a steal in the middle rounds for somebody who could leave Harris in the dust in 2024 with a little more opportunity.

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Kevin Tompkins is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Kevin, check out his profile and follow him @ktompkinsii

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