2024 CFL running back rankings: Brady Oliveira leads the way for the Blue Bombers

2T0GF03 Vancouver, Canada. 06th Oct, 2023. Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Brady Oliveira celebrates his rushing touchdown against the B.C. Lions during overtime CFL football action, in Vancouver, on Friday, October 6, 2023. Credit: The Canadian Press/Alamy Live News

• The top-ranked QB room and the top-ranked RB room: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers placed first in our quarterback rankings, and now Brady Oliveira helps them do the same in these running back rankings.

• Saskatchewan will field a much-improved running back group: The Roughriders this offseason signed A.J. Ouellette, who led the CFL last year with 64 missed tackles forced on just 191 carries.

• Looking for more summer football grades and data? Subscribe to PFF Premium Stats to access UFL numbers all season long.

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

With the 2024 CFL season just about to get underway, the starters are all but locked in. Let’s take a look at how all nine running back rooms rank.

1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Brady Oliveira was arguably the best player in the entire CFL last season, which is why Winnipeg ranks first here. Oliveira finished the season with a 90.9 PFF overall grade and a league-leading 93.7 rushing grade. He led all running backs in explosive runs (47) and was stuffed for no gain or a loss on a mere 7.3% of his rushing attempts (despite rushing 50 more times than any other running back). Oliveira also added 10 explosive receptions as a pass-catcher.

Oliveira is as bell-cow as bell-cow gets, but backup Johnny Augustine can fill in fine in a pinch. He had seven explosive runs last season on just 47 carries and picked up a majority of his yards after first contact. 

2. Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Roughriders massively upgraded their running back situation this offseason by signing A.J. Ouellette. The former Argonauts player led the CFL last year with 64 missed tackles forced on just 191 carries. His 89.3 PFF overall grade ranked second in the CFL, and he didn't fumble once.

Ouellette figures to get a majority of the Riders' snaps, but backups Thomas Bertrand-Hudon and Frankie Hickson can provide some relief for the former East All-Star. Both have some good CFL experience, but the Roughriders will ride Ouellette in the run and pass games as much as they can.

 Click below for PFF's CFL recap content from the 2023 season:

All-Star Team | Offensive Line Rankings | Awards

3. Toronto Argonauts

Losing A.J. Ouellette was tough for the Argonauts, but they responded in a big way by signing former All-Star Ka’Deem Carey. Carey leads the league with 3.9 yards after contact per carry over the past two seasons and is tied for the highest rate of forced missed tackles over the same period. His 94.3 PFF rushing grade ranks second among running backs in that two-season span.

Toronto also has a very capable backup in Daniel Adeboboye. He played limited snaps last season but managed to force 11 missed tackles, record seven explosive runs and put up an 89.3 rushing grade on just 41 rushing attempts. 

4. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The Tiger-Cats enter the season with one of the top bell-cow running backs in the CFL. No running back has played more snaps than James Butler’s 1,734 over the past two seasons. Butler ranked second in the CFL last season with 63 missed tackles forced on rushes. He was also the top receiving back in the league, leading the way in receptions (63), yards (533), missed tackles forced (24) and explosive receptions (10).

The Ti-Cats don’t have much depth behind him, with guys like veteran backup Ante Litre as well as former San Diego State running back Greg Bell. But that may not matter if the team continues using Butler as much as last year. 

5. Calgary Stampeders

Ka’Deem Carey's departure was a tough loss for the Stamps, but it was an acceptable one based on what running back Dedrick Mills showed last season. Mills started for much of the season despite some injuries and finished with the second-highest rushing grade in the league (92.7). He gained more than 62% of his yards after first contact and forced 36 missed tackles on 142 carries.

Behind Mills is the small and shifty Peyton Logan, who has forced an incredible 40 missed tackles on just 98 touches over the past two seasons. Logan should get more opportunities this year now that he’s not stuck behind two elite backs, but the Stampeders' backfield will fully belong to Mills. 

6. Edmonton Elks

Much like the Elks' season in general, it was a tale of two stretches last season for starting running back Kevin Brown. Through his first eight games, Brown had just 341 yards on 73 carries and was averaging 2.9 yards after contact per carry. Over the next six games, Brown recorded 648 yards on 86 attempts and was averaging 4.3 yards after contact per attempt. He slowed down the stretch, as did the entire Elks offense, but that middle part of the season was promising for them.

Edmonton may give some touches to Javon Leake, last year’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player, but Brown will likely be the bell-cow in Edmonton. If he can get close to that midseason form, he could be one of the best in the CFL. 

7. British Columbia Lions

The Lions recently cut 2023 starting running back Taquan Mizzell, which means they must feel pretty good about offseason signing William Stanback. The veteran rushed for more than 1,000 yards in both 2019 and 2021 but, after an injury derailed his 2022 season, was unable to get back to that level this past year.

Stanback’s 80.8 PFF rushing grade ranked just ninth among starting running backs, and he tied for the lowest missed tackles forced rate. But he’s a former two-time CFL All-Star and the Lions are banking on him being able to return to form. They signed a young American running back to back him up in Jordan Terrell, but this should be a Stanback-focused BC rushing offense in 2024. 

8. Montreal Alouettes

The Alouettes decided to let William Stanback walk in free agency this offseason but felt confident enough in their depth that they didn’t bring in a starting running back to replace him. Instead, they’ll likely look to use the two-headed attack of last year’s backup Walter Fletcher and Jeshrun Antwi.

Neither running back stood out last year, but Fletcher has shown the most promise, forcing 39 missed tackles on 157 carries over the past two seasons as a backup. He also has 25 explosive runs in that span. Antwi’s numbers in that stretch are just 23 missed tackles forced and 17 explosive runs on virtually the same number of carries.

The Alouettes may look to deploy both early on to see if either establishes themselves as a number one starter. 

9. Ottawa Redblacks

The Redblacks had one of the most promising young running backs in the league last year in Devonte Williams. Unfortunately, he’ll be out for the season with a torn Achilles. The team brought in two ex-NFL running backs in Ryquell Armstead and Kylin Hill, as well as Canadian Amlicar Polk, to try to replace him. Neither have any Canadian football experience, but Armstead looks to have the leg up out of the preseason.

If he, or either of the others, can seamlessly transition to the CFL, it will provide a steady hand for this new-look Ottawa offense that could make for a quick turnaround after all their struggles last season.  


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