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Fantasy Football: Potential running back winners in NFL free agency

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26) scores a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

  • The Detroit Lions could be a fantasy gold mine: Jamaal Williams finished the season as RB13 thanks to his 17 touchdowns. It’s possible another back could find even more success in their offense.
  • Miles Sanders is the top available running back: While Sanders could return to Philadelphia, he could have other opportunities to find success in the 2023 season.
  • See where the backs rank: See where the free agent backs currently rank in the way-too-early fantasy rankings.
Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Ahead of free agency, here are the five teams that available running backs should try to join to maximize their fantasy value. All 32 teams were considered, looking at available snaps, run rates for the offenses, salary cap space for the teams and offensive line quality.

Each of these teams has at least one running back hitting free agency. While it is reasonable to think these teams could re-sign their own players, I also suggest one running back each team could sign from a different team.

1. Detroit Lions

The Lions are the only run-heavy team with a good offensive line, cap space and carries available.

  • The Lions' offensive line ranked ninth in PFF's run-blocking team grade in 2022.
  • Detroit is retaining four of its five starting offensive linemen from 2022, as well as Halapouilivaati Vaitai, who spent 2022 on injured reserve. All five registered 65.0-plus PFF run-blocking grades in their most recent season.
  • The Lions have the seventh-highest rate rush rate (46%) over the last two seasons in the first half outside of two-minute drills.
  • Two of the Lions' top three running backs from last season are hitting free agency — Jamaal Willaims and Justin Jackson.
  • D’Andre Swift is their main back remaining on the roster, but he spent most of the season playing 40% of offensive snaps or less.
  • Detroit is in the top half of the league in effective cap space, per Over The Cap
Suggested Target: Miles Sanders

2. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons were the only team to run on over half of their plays last season.

  • Atlanta also has the second-most cap space heading into free agency, allowing them to win a bidding war if it decides to spend on a running back.
  • Chris Lindstrom and Matt Hennessy are two of the only five interior offensive linemen with 90.0-plus PFF run-blocking grades over the last two seasons, and both are under contract for 2023.
  • The main drawback to the Falcons is all of their running backs from 2022 are still under contract, which includes Cordarrelle Patterson, who will be turning 32 years old before the end of the month. If Atlanta pursues a free-agent running back, it would likely replace Patterson in the offense.
  • A free agent would likely have to split time with Tyler Allgeier, who improved as his rookie season progressed.
  • A running back in a timeshare would still have the opportunity for double-digit carries and a receiving role behind some great offensive linemen.
Suggested Target: David Montgomery


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