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Fantasy Football: Ranking the NFL’s most elusive running backs

Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Chubb tops the charts: The Browns running back is consistently able to produce over expectation, leading the pack in this regard.

Hoping for a return to health: Javonte Williams and Breece Hall have put up some staggering numbers as elusive backs, and they figure to do so again if they can return healthy for 2023.

The Tony Pollard hype train doesn’t stop: Finally, in a prime spot to lead the Cowboys’ backfield, Pollard faces high expectations to continue building upon his high-end efficiency metrics.

Estimated Reading Time: 9 mins

Volume is king when it comes to running backs in fantasy football, but it isn’t the only thing that matters in the quest to pile up fantasy points. What each running back does with the ball in their hands, and what they do with each carry, is what can help fantasy managers separate the compilers and those who exceed expectations.

Below is a ranking of 15 of the NFL’s most elusive running backs heading into the 2023 season. The primary focus will be on the backs who create the highest rate of missed tackles and are able to add the most yards after contact. These are key metrics to pay attention to, as they are also among the more stable metrics for the running back position when looking at sticky data from one year to the next.

2023 rookies are not included.

1. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

Chubb is the only NFL running back to rank inside the top three at his position (minimum of 200 carries) in both missed tackles forced per attempt (0.21) and yards after contact per attempt (3.81) since 2021. He has been a top-10 running back in fantasy points per game in each of the past four seasons, having posted more than 4,000 yards after contact in that span. The 27-year-old Georgia product has shown no signs of slowing down, even earning the highest rushing grade of his career (90.7) in 2022.

2. Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos

Williams missed a large chunk of this past season, but in his rookie 2021 season and parts of 2022, he continued his elusive ways from his time at North Carolina, where he set the PFF record for broken tackle rate in 2020. In 2021, Williams earned a 98.7 elusive rating, a top-five mark at the position. While he didn’t meet the minimum snap threshold in 2022 due to injury, he was well on his way to finishing in that range again, earning a 116.3 elusive rating.

No running back has forced more missed tackles per attempt (0.26) over the past two seasons (minimum of 200 carries), and he also ranks seventh in yards after contact per attempt (3.4) over that span. Here’s hoping Williams fully recovers for the start of the season so he can get back to maximizing fantasy points once again.

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