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2023 Fantasy Football RB Rankings: Early Analysis

Dameon Pierce - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Until just a few years ago, running back picks would dominate the first round of fantasy football drafts. But the early 2023 Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates that times have certainly changed. Both Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC) and FantasyPros ADP show that currently only three of the top-12 overall picks are running backs. This is a drastic change from past seasons when we would often see three-quarters of the first round feature RB choices in most drafts.

The explanation for the shift in RB drafting is more timeshares and committees, a perceived lack of durability at the position, and less surefire top-end options. In 2019, a total of 12 RBs had more than 245 rushing attempts. Only four running backs reached that number of attempts in 2020, and five surpassed the mark in 2021. In 2022, eight RBs had more than 245 carries, but three of them are not playing for the same team anymore.

Here is a look at some highlighted players from my latest set of early RB ranks with the FantasyPros rankings widget following at the bottom of the article. For access to my full rankings and our staff rankings, sign up for the RotoBaller Fantasy Football Season Pass and enter promo code KING at checkout for an additional discount.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy football rankings for 2024 fantasy football drafts:

 

Fantasy Football RB Rankings: The King’s Early Insights for 2023

Ranks denoted in the analysis are based on when this article was published but are subject to change in the widget below, as they will be regularly updated.

Saquon Barkley (PPR Rank of No. 3 at RB)

Now that he has signed a one-year deal, Saquon Barkley jumps up five spots in my ranks. He should soon become the fourth RB to appear in the top-12 overall. The allure of the one-year deal, which also includes notable incentives, should be a significant motivator for Barkley to deliver another terrific all-around season. Once Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler are off the board, Barkley gets a slight nod over Bijan Robinson from me because he is more proven.

Tony Pollard (No. 5)

I have already nabbed Tony Pollard in three early drafts at the later end of RB1 runs. The Dallas front office has cleared the path for him to be a true featured RB with no significant competition. Published reports have indicated that the Cowboys intend to lean significantly on Pollard this season. If you can land him as a No. 1 RB after picking a top wide receiver in the first round, be very satisfied. I already like my Ja’Marr Chase/Pollard and Tyreek Hill/Pollard builds.

Breece Hall (No. 13)

I am well aware of the potential of the second-year Jet, yet I cannot bring myself to rank Breece Hall as an RB1 based on his somewhat uncertain outlook for the beginning of the season. Hall could be a difference-maker later in the season, but a potentially slow start to the year from an early RB pick can also stifle early-season success.

Miles Sanders (17)

I will be good with landing Miles Sanders as an RB2. He finally became a better short-yardage and goal-line runner in 2022, rushing for a career-high 11 TDs. Look for Sanders to be more of a heavy volume guy in Carolina after working in committees with the Eagles. He should be an important supporting player for Bryce Young as a runner and receiver, and I expect the Carolina offense to perform respectably.

Kenneth Walker III (18)

He will still be the lead back for the Seahawks, and Kenneth Walker is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Walker also improved as an inside runner late in the 2022 season. But Seattle will certainly give rookie Zach Charbonnet some important carries in short-yardage situations while also utilizing him as a receiver out of the backfield.

Walker still has upside, yet statistical consistency can be an issue as the Seahawks look to have Charbonnet complement him. There may be some weeks where Walker will be outshined, so he could be more of a boom-or-bust fantasy RB2 in 2023.

Dameon Pierce (19)

The Houston offense should certainly be improved, yet it’s difficult to project just how much better it will be this season. Dameon Pierce should be the lead ball carrier, though, and he flashed significant potential as a rookie in 2022. From Weeks 3 through 10, Pierce rushed for 80-plus yards six times. He should at least be an adequate RB2 this season with regular work, and Pierce may outperform expectations if the Houston offense starts to gel. He is a tough and determined runner with real promise.

Alexander Mattison (21)

I think many fantasy analysts and players are underrating Alexander Mattison, who is positioned for heavy volume without much competition for work. The Minnesota offense can pave the way for a lot of TD opportunities, and the team’s decision-makers believe Mattison is ready to get his deserved shot as a starter. Mattison may not be as flashy or explosive as Dalvin Cook. If the Vikings are willing to give him the opportunity, I will certainly do the same when targeting back-end fantasy RB2s.

Cam Akers (23)

The concerns about Cam Akers’ Achilles continue to evaporate, and he led the NFL in rushing from Week 13 forward last season. I am less concerned about his health than I am about the state of the Rams’ offense. Matthew Stafford showed some serious signs of slippage last season when he was available. This year’s Rams may play from behind often, and rushing TD opportunities won’t consistently be there. The offensive environment does temper my optimism about Akers a bit.

James Cook (30)

James Cook is at the top of the range in which we start to get into more RBs with less certain workloads and outlooks. Cook is very worthy of consideration as a potent flex play. He is an RB that should emerge as a more natural fit in a top passing offense while also getting some quality touches as a runner. Cook will operate in a timeshare, yet he does have some upside potential because of his versatility as a projected pass-catcher and runner.

Devon Achane (39)

The rookie’s game is based on speed, which makes him an ideal fit for the Miami offense. Devon Achane is not built for consistent work, yet he can come through with some spike statistical weeks from your flex position.

 

Scott Engel's fantasy and betting analysis is also featured at The Game Day.



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