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Fantasy Football 2023: Perfect draft strategy for picking running backs

2M7AC7F Santa Clara, United States. 08th Jan, 2023. San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) runs against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Sunday, January 8, 2023. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 38-13. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler are the exceptions: Both backs have stood out with their receiving production and rushing touchdowns, and neither of those seems likely to stop this season.

A few great running backs are falling to Round 2: With wide receivers moving up draft boards this year, players who would typically be picked in the first round have fallen to Round 2.

Round 6 is the best time for an RB2: Several three-down backs have slipped down draft boards and are still available at this point.

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The perfect draft by position series looks at the strategies used in my perfect draft strategy by pick series and those used during my personal fantasy drafts.

This article compares how good these players are and when you can get them compared to others. And because picking a running back at any point is generally okay, this will focus on the five best points to target the position.

This advice primarily applies to 12-team leagues, but similar logic can apply to other sizes, with any significant exceptions noted. To try some of these strategies on your own, check out our new mock draft simulator.

For help on strategy by pick numbers and league sizes, rankings, or more details about the players, check out the rest of my summer content below. For rankings with better filtering along with auction values, check out our draft rankings page.

Check out PFF's 2023 Fantasy Draft Kit for even more content to help you dominate your league.

Player Profiles
Rankings: PPR | Half-PPR | Standard | Superflex | Best Ball
Dynasty Rankings: PPR | Rookie | Superflex | Superflex Rookie
Position Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE
Sleepers: Top-10 | QB | RB | WR | TE
League Winners: Top-5 | QB | RB | WR | TE
Breakouts: RB | WR | TE
Position Draft Strategy: QB | TE

 14-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy
12-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy | Picks 1-3 | Picks 4-6 | Picks 7-9 | Picks 10-12
10-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy | Picks 1-3 | Picks 4-7 | Picks 8-10

Preseason Recaps: Week 1 | Hall of Fame Game


Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Thursday, August 17

1. Early First Round

Top Target: Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler

While some elite wide receivers will likely produce this season, it’s impossible to replicate the kind of production McCaffrey and Ekeler have become known for. 

McCaffrey and Ekeler were the only two running backs to average 21.0-plus fantasy points per game last season. No one else finished above 19.5.

The duo has more seasons of 340-plus fantasy points (5) than the rest of the league's running backs combined (3).

All other running backs have been more volatile from one season to the next, whereas the top players at other positions have been more dependable.

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