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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: The risk and reward for starting a 2023 draft RB-RB-RB

2A5K5XW Green Bay, WI, USA. 20th Oct, 2019. Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs #28 rushes the ball during the NFL Football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. John Fisher/CSM/Alamy Live News

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Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

In the fantasy football world, you’ll often hear strategies discussed like “zero RB” or even “hero RB,” which refers to specific strategic approaches heading into a fantasy draft. While having a set strategy heading into a draft can help a player feel prepared, it’s important to be ready to pivot from the original game plan if things don’t go as planned, or if there’s significant value that falls to you.

With that being said, for those that do want to approach a 2023 fantasy draft by attacking the running back position early and often, there are several strong candidates to consider in each of the first three rounds. With some draft positions yielding better results than others based on current ADP, the position from which fantasy managers are drafting may be more desirable to attempt this strategy than others.

Last season, as highlighted by Dwain McFarland, the optimism for this strategy was much higher, and for 2023, a lot will have to go right to get the players you want and to avoid the risk of those holding out and/or coming off injuries.

Player Profiles
More Rankings: PPR | Half-PPR | Standard | Superflex
Dynasty Rankings: PPR | Rookie | Superflex | Superflex Rookie
Position Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE
Sleepers: Top-10 | QB | RB | WR | TE
League Winners: QB | RB | WR | TE
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

RB scoring

Looking at the three most common forms of fantasy scoring over the past 10 years, running backs have consistently dominated the top-three overall fantasy finishers, and that happens even more in half and non-PPR leagues. This tells us that among skill position players, running backs tend to have the highest production ceilings, especially among the top scorers, in large part, due to the significantly higher rate that they are involved in any given offensive play.

TOP: 3 5 10 25 50 75 100 150
RB 73% 56% 42% 37% 35% 35% 35% 34%
WR 27% 44% 53% 56% 56% 54% 51% 51%
TE 0% 0% 5% 7% 9% 11% 13% 15%


TOP: 3 5 10 25 50 75 100 150
RB 83% 70% 53% 45% 42% 39% 37% 34%
WR 17% 30% 43% 48% 50% 52% 51% 51%
TE 0% 0% 4% 6% 8% 10% 12% 15%


TOP: 3 5 10 25 50 75 100 150
RB 93% 84% 66% 57% 48% 44% 40% 34%
WR 7% 16% 31% 40% 46% 48% 50% 50%
TE 0% 0% 2% 4% 6% 9% 11% 16%

This article will focus on PPR scoring since that is where the ADP is pulled from. With all four running backs that go in the first round having the strongest case to hit that 20-plus PPR points per game total, there isn’t a need to go into much detail there. Instead, we’ll focus on the options in the second and third rounds of drafts to get a better feel for who we’ll want to target for the optimal outcome of this strategy. Hitting on all three running back picks would deliver a massive advantage on a weekly basis, but there is risk involved with a number of the options, which we’ll look at as we work through the choices.

RB archetypes to target

Looking at each of the top-five PPR RB finishers over the last five seasons, the chart below highlights the key metrics that they hit in order to identify the criteria needed for each of the backs going in Rounds 2 and 3 to hit big.

Key metrics from past fantasy running backs who finished inside the top five since 2019:
TOP-5 RBs (since 2019) Carry rate Goal-line carry rate Explosive run rate Route participation Targets per route run Yards per route run
Average 74.8% 85.0% 11.6% 80.0% 0.21 1.44

With these average thresholds in mind, lets take a look at the backs going in rounds two and three, and see if they can make a worthwhile case to start RB-RB-RB in your 2023 fantasy drafts.


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