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Draft A Running Back In The Second Round In 2023? How To Win Your Fantasy Football Drafts

Tony Pollard - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

You must select a running back in the second round of fantasy football drafts. 

That is not me telling you. That is the draft board. We are seeing a receiver boom like never before in the first round of fantasy drafts. With over half the picks in the first round typically being receivers, you often see only three backs go in the first round. 

By far, the best value to be had in the second round is the running backs. In past years, you needed to use your first-round pick on a running back to have a top-10 option. Now, you simply need to select one in the second round -- and laugh about it all season long. 

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Why You Must Draft an RB in Round 2 of Fantasy Football Drafts

For years, if you wanted to draft a running back like Jonathan Taylor, Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and others (we will get to them all), you had to use a first-round pick. In most years, you’d have to use a top-five pick. But it is not just the perception of paying less this year for an asset in past years. 

If half the first round is receivers, that position is naturally more thinned out than running back. Regardless of what site you draft on, the average is three running backs gone in the first round. Right now on FFPC, there are only three running backs going in the first 15 picks.

There are seven receivers on average gone at that point. But on other sites, the number can jump into the double digits. When weighing your options, you have to consider -- do you want a secondary receiver or one of the elite options at running back?

This is why I have prioritized taking a receiver in the first round and then a running back in the second round. It allows me to leave the draft with a top-10 (usually more like top-seven) option at each of the most vital positions in the game. No position (receiver, quarterback, or tight end) provides a better second-round value than the running backs that can be had at that point of the draft. 

While there is talent at running back after the second round, they come with more concerns and less upside. It is possible to find the RB1 and multiple top-five options at the position in the second round. That is not the case at receiver since the position has already been so heavily targeted in the first round. I am just not going to take a QB or a tight end not named Travis Kelce over the elite running backs available in the second round. 

Hopefully, by now, you are sold and see the value in taking a running back in the second round. But now the question becomes, which players specifically should you be targeting? 


The RBs to Target in the Second Round of Fantasy Football Drafts

Jonathan Taylor was the consensus first player off the board last season, and now you can get him in the second round. Not only can you get him at a big discount from a year ago, but I would argue he is in a better situation now than last year. Shane Steichen, who was the OC of the best rushing attack in the league with the Eagles last season, is now the head coach. Plus, Anthony Richardson at QB should help create a lot more rushing lanes than statue Matt Ryan did.

Once Ryan was benched, the wheels fell off, and the Colts' offense completely bottomed out. Plus, Taylor was battling multiple ankle injuries that cost him six games. Still, Taylor averaged 20 touches per game, the fourth-most in the NFL. Coming off his worst season as a pro has led to him falling into the second round. Still, he has been a top-six fantasy back in his two prior seasons. He is a screaming value in the second round. 

Nick Chubb has always been a player I was lower than the consensus on due to a lack of involvement in the passing game. Well, that changed a bit last year when he posted the second-most targets (37), catches (27), and receiving yards (239). As of now, Kareem Hunt is gone, and there is no clear threat to take away as much work as Hunt has in the past. 

But as a runner, Chubb is as consistent as they come. He’s topped 1,400 yards in his last two full seasons and 1,200 in the last three seasons he played at least 14 games. He has also averaged over 17 touches per game in four straight seasons. That is a volume worth paying up for. 

I know he got worse with Deshaun Watson. That entire offense, Watson especially, looked terrible. But I think a six-game sample size at the end of the year in some bad weather (and after a very long layoff) is to be expected. I mean, even Michael Jordan wasn’t Michael Jordan when he returned at the end of the year after an 18-month layoff. If Watson can bounce back, the Browns can be one of the better offenses. Chubb would play in the best offense of his career. Oh, and there are rumors they want him to be more of a pass-catcher. Gladly draft Chubb in the second round.

Tony Pollard is another player that I am bullish on this season. Last season, Pollard finished as the RB8 in overall points and PPG -- while seeing a whole lot of volume go to Ezekiel Elliott. Well, the former star has been cut, and the Cowboys haven’t brought in a whole lot of competition for touches. So last year's RB8 could be in store for a whole lot more volume -- and yet, he is available in the second, sometimes even the third round.

For those who have concerns if Pollard can handle more volume -- last year, he had more volume than he has ever had in his career. He posted a career-high in runs of 10-plus yards (16 percent) and runs reaching 25-plus mph (22 percent). Not only did he not lose efficiency, he was more explosive than ever. He has the potential to finish as the overall RB1 like many of these second-round backs do. Take advantage of the discount and target him. 

Saquon Barkley returned to form last year, finishing as the RB5 in total points and fantasy PPG. He had nine games with over 18 fantasy points, the second-most at the position. Barkley averaged 22 touches per game (third-most) and was one of just seven running backs with over 1,400 scrimmage yards and double-digit touchdowns. You can say he was a fantasy stud.

While he did become a bit slower down the stretch efficiency-wise, he sees so much volume that he has to be one of the top fantasy running backs drafted. For a long time, he has been a top-five pick. Now, coming off his best year since his rookie season, you can get him in the second round. Sounds like a great buying opportunity to me. 

While you do have to worry about a potential holdout, there is still time for him and the Giants to settle this. You can now use it as a tiebreaker between him and some of these other top running backs. I would not start worrying until we get closer to the season. 

Josh Jacobs started the 2022 season playing a large role in the Hall of Fame game and ended it as the third-best running back in fantasy football. He led the league with 1,653 rushing yards and was second in touches per game, averaging 23.1 touches. Jacobs led the NFL by seeing 50 percent of his team's total touches, 79 percent of Vegas’ rushing attempts, 80 percent of their rushing yards, and 100 percent of their rushing touchdowns. He also had a very high ceiling, leading the position with four games of over 30 fantasy points.

Jacobs was a league winner in every sense of the word. But despite that, he is available in the second, sometimes third round of drafts. A potential holdout is a risk. Just like Barkley, he means far too much to his offense as well. Fortunately, there is a lot of time to figure things out. Jacobs is a strong value once again this season. 

Derrick Henry is another back I have often been lower on than consensus because of a lack of pass-game usage. Now, he is going later than he has in past years, despite the fact of posting career-high usage in the passing game. He posted career-high targets (41), catches (33), and receiving yards (398), as well as a career-best 2.2 yards per route run and a 23 percent target rate. 

I get the concern about his age and career workload, but below are the running backs who have matched the same concerns as Henry and posted an RB1 season. Henry has the lowest amount of touches of them all. Plus, he has not shown huge signs of decline. Even if he is not at the peak of his abilities, he is still a perfect back that will see a ton of volume. I am willing to bet on Henry this season at the cheapest draft cost to acquire him in a very long time. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio. 

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