Born To Run
2023 Fantasy Football Preview: RB Rankings, Risers, Fallers, Sleepers
It’s typically the most volatile position in the fantasy football realm, yet one would be remiss to avoid selecting a running back with one of their first three picks.
This year’s crop offers a bevy of enticing first-round options, and even if you’re one to wait on the backfield, there are viable starting options aplenty throughout the second and third rounds.
Part 2 of the Inside The Birds 2023 Fantasy Football Preview series continues with a previews of running backs, with top-five rankings, risers, fallers, and sleepers. Geoff Mosher’s quarterbacks preview runs Thursday.
Last week’s Part 1 focused on quarterback rankings.
GETTY IMAGES: When healthy, 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey’s run and catch acumen make him an elite fantasy football star.
The do-it-all weapon carries durability concerns, but McCaffrey – who played in 17 games and the entire 2022 postseason – is a league-winning pick playing a full season in the high-flying 49ers offense. Look for McCaffrey, who accumulated 416 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns in three playoff games, to pick up where he left off from last season.
Ekeler is a PPR dream, reeling in 107 receptions a season ago. The dual threat might not shoulder the bell cow volume as some others, but Ekeler still cleared 200 rushing attempts in consecutive seasons.
The NFL’s purest runner, Chubb has combined for 2,784 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He also played in all 17 games last season, logging more than 300 carries, so volume is assured. The timeshare concern with Kareem Hunt is null and void. He doesn’t offer much as a receiver, but Chubb is the safest RB1.
Three-down runner with immense upside, Robinson is a player you’ll have to be willing to swing the bat for mid-to-late first round, which could pose as a risky proposition given the extremely brief sample size. I’d point to Tyler Allgeier’s productive 2022 campaign – when the rookie rolled up 1,035 rushing yards on just 210 carries – as a floor for Robinson, who could conceivably assume 280-300 carries.
You worry about the mileage as he’s been the centerpiece of the Titans’ offense for so long. While a decline is imminent, I don’t think it’ll be this season. Sure, Tennessee’s porous offensive line leaves much to be desired. But factoring usage and value – Henry is going anywhere between the mid-to-late second-round – sign me up.
ON THE RISE
In the fantasy domain, volume reigns supreme. White is in a rare situation in which there won’t be much competition for touches. White – you may remember – forced a timeshare in the Bucs backfield as a rookie, splitting time with since-departed veteran Leonard Fournette. The 24-year-old White, who caught 50 balls in 2022, is going around the seventh round – supreme value for a player who could potentially provide RB2 returns.
I’m avoiding any and all Cardinals skill players if possible. Heading the backfield of a lethargic offense, Conner reprises his role of the previous two seasons. Sure, on the surface, Conner would appear to a value pick on volume alone, but game script, age, and injury history should be enough to influence a look elsewhere.
Much has been made regarding Gainwell’s prominence in the Eagles’ backfield throughout the summer. Gainwell, who has racked up his share of first-team snaps, already appears to locked into a situational role. The uber-talented D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny loom large, however, which ultimately impacts Gainwell’s ADP and, presumably, sustained volume. And while a crowded Philly backfield is primed for a timeshare, it’s worth noting that both Swift and Penny have been hampered by injuries.
Explosive home-run hitting rookie who should thrive in Miami’s outside zone scheme. Adding to his appeal is that those atop the depth chart – Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson – have durability concerns. Here is your chance to get a potentially electric piece of a high-octane Dolphins offense at a reduced cost.
The Bears’ fifth-round rookie will finally have the opportunity to step out of the immense shadow cast by college teammate and 2023 first-round pick Bijan Robinson. Johnson is a tough, downhill runner who boasts excellent contact balance. While Johnson isn’t exceptional in any one area, his low mileage and gritty play-style figures to amount to a goal line and short yardage role, and his pass-blocking prowess should propel him toward leap-frogging veteran D’Onta Foreman as Chicago’s No. 2 back behind Khalil Herbert.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Watch Part 2 of ITB’s 2023 Fantasy Football Preview Series featuring Adam Caplan, Geoff Mosher and Andrew DiCecco: