2023 Fantasy Football Preview: RB Rankings, Risers, Fallers, Sleepers
No position has as much variance from season to season in fantasy football as running backs.
Although the names in the top five and top 10 frequently change, the end result stays the same – an elite running back can be the biggest factor in propelling your team to a fantasy championship.
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. Andrew DiCecco’s running back preview ran Tuesday.
Last week’s Part 1 focused on quarterback rankings.
For my money, he’s the best pure RB in the NFL – elite vision, contact balance, footwork, etc. He’s close to perfection for what you want from your lead back and he’s in a good environment, surrounded by a plus-offensive line, a quarterback who should stabilize the offense and enough firepower to keep defenses from keying on the run game. Also, no more Kareem Hunt to pilfer snaps away.
The ultimate Swiss Army knife plus the NFL’s best offensive system equals a whole truckload of fantasy football points for McCaffrey, as long as the seven-year veteran avoids prolonged trips to Injured Reserve. You can make an argument for McCaffrey as No. 1 in PPR leagues. He should be no lower than 3.
Though I think Ekeler’s average of 19 touchdowns over the past two years isn’t sustainable, the 250+ touches and big chunks of rushing yards and receptions are doable for the 28-year-old Chargers weapon. Even if his numbers dropped by 10-15 percent, they’d still be good enough for Ekeler to be top-3 – that’s how productive he’s been.
The Falcons have a pretty good offensive line and a smart offensive coach who’ll rack up the mileage early on Robinson – an elite rookie talent who can do everything – while they figure out their QB situation. Remember Saquon Barkley’s 2,000-yard, 15-touchdown rookie season? That’s what I’m expecting from Robinson.
Sure, he hasn’t shown yet that he can handle a lead-back workload, but guess what? He’s the lead back, and the options behind him aren’t threatening. He averages 5.7 yards per touch during his career and 5.1 yards per carry — better than Saquon Barkley’s career averages, which have been dropping over the past few years. He’s on a one-year deal, so you know Dallas plans to ride him as much as possible.
ON THE RISE
Was on pace to exceed 1,000 yards from scrimmage last year coming back from an ACL repair as a rookie and in 2023 will be the top ball-carrier for the Ravens, which is typically a significant point-scorer in fantasy football. The change in offensive scheme shouldn’t change the outlook for Dobbins, who’s averaged 5.9 yards per carry in his 23 career games.
After logging 1,100 yards and five TDs in 13 games as a rookie, the capacity for the hard-charging Texans halfback to increase production by 20 percent is there if he can play 17 games. He’s a better option in standard scoring leagues but don’t be surprised if Pierce catches the ball a little more this season. He makes tons of yards after contact and the Texans will give him the ball in heavy doses as they work in new QB C.J. Stroud.
With few other options after Davante Adams, the Raiders force-fed Jacobs nearly 400 touches last year – a number that should scare Jacobs fans from drafting him in the top 10, despite the his ridiculously productive season. He’s still a good player, but Jacobs’ sudden jump from a 1,200-yard-type RB to over 2,000 yards last year screams of being an outlier that’ll be nearly impossible to replicate.
The free-agent departure of David Montgomery opens the door – finally – for the shifty, elusive Herbert to see a major increase in snaps. He might not have lead-back responsibilities, but he can make a lot from a little, evidenced by his 5.7 yards per carry last year. More than 1,000 total yards is doable for him, maybe even double-digit touchdowns.
The Steelers’ backup isn’t built to be a No. 1 but he’s more explosive and dynamic than Najee Harris, so he’ll steal about 7-to-10 touches per game and could see an increased role if Harris continues to struggle. Grab him way, way late.
He’s fallen pretty far from two years ago, when he appeared to be an emerging dual threat. But even though he’s the No. 2, Gibson is still a pass-catching threat who has good open-field explosion and can help you in deep PPR leagues. Eric Bienemy’s offensive concepts and Ron Rivera’s insistence on running should provide good opportunities for Gibson to get touches.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Watch Part 2 of ITB’s 2023 Fantasy Football Preview Series featuring Adam Caplan, Geoff Mosher and Andrew DiCecco: