NFL Draft News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Running back rankings for the 2024 NFL Draft

2NHPT5D TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 25: Florida State Seminoles running back Trey Benson (3) runs with the ball during the game between the Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles on November 25, 2022 at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• Pre-draft is the time to shoot your shot: With landing spot and draft capital yet to be solidified, there are a few names at the top of my rankings that I’m rooting for good landing spots.

Trey Benson leads the way right now: Benson brings what I want in my rookie RB1, but draft capital and landing spot will determine if he stays in this spot post-NFL draft.

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The NFL draft is right around the corner and with so much draft content available, it’s time to finally solidify some pre-draft fantasy rankings for this year’s class.

This year’s running back class lacks a true consensus for how these guys are expected to shake out in terms of draft capital and landing spot, but there are some interesting assets to sort through, nonetheless. These dynasty rookie rankings will take into account each player’s college career, production profile, projected draft capital and personal bias for what I think about these players after watching their tape while combining everything else to sort them out.

Check out some of the other fantasy-related work on this year’s running back class:

1. Trey Benson, Florida State

Benson offers one of the more ideal profiles of this year’s incoming running back class — from his analytics to his athletic profile combined with his age and size, Benson offers everything fantasy managers would want out of a pre-draft rookie RB1. As highlighted previously, Benson boasts a lot of strengths in terms of analytical data points without a lot of weaknesses. Specifically, his career missed tackles forced per attempt (0.39) is the best mark among all qualifying college running backs since 2014.

Benson also delivered a strong combine performance, which included delivering a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and some explosive plays as a result, which included both an 80-plus-yard run and an 80-plus-yard reception in 2023. Benson also improved his receiving ability in 2023 from a yards-per-route run standpoint (1.46) to a top-five mark among the FBS backs in this class (min. 20 targets). Benson is now the betting favorite to be the first running back drafted after previously tracking outside of the top 100. It’s no doubt that his strong showing at the combine helped his case to move up teams’ boards and will help keep him atop this ranking post-draft.

2. Jonathon Brooks, Texas

The majority of big boards, including here at PFF, have Brooks as the top running back in this year’s class, and when picking between him and Benson, it's tough to separate them. For all the reasons that Benson tops the list, Brooks does as well, including a strong analytical profile, good athleticism and size, and he hasn’t even turned 21 years old yet. Brooks doesn’t have quite the sample size in college as Benson, with just one year as a starter, but that is understandable considering he shared a backfield with Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson before finally getting his shot in 2023.

With his first starting opportunity, Brooks posted an excellent 91.9 PFF rushing grade that ranked 12th in the FBS and third in this year’s class. He also brought in 25 receptions for 286 receiving yards for a respectable 1.50 yards per route run – fourth among this year’s class. Brooks is coming off a torn ACL in 2023 but is on track to be back healthy for the start of this season, which should keep his draft capital on pace for one of the top running backs drafted as well. 

Jonathon Brooks career ranks among RB prospects since 2018:
Metric Value Historic Prospect Rank
Missed tackles forced/attempt 0.34 95th percentile
Yards after contact/attempt 4.13 87th percentile
Rushing grade 93.2 83rd percentile
Yards per route run 1.50 81st percentile

3. Audric Estime, Notre Dame

Estime ranks outside of the top-five running backs on the PFF big board but is a personal favorite with a lot to like before draft capital and landing spot are solidified, helping vault him up these pre-draft fantasy rankings. Estime consistently improved as a runner over his time with Notre Dame, culminating in a 94.0 PFF rushing grade in 2023 — a top-three mark in the FBS — while topping off some exceptional career numbers for his position. 

Estime posted a 92.1 PFF rushing grade versus a stacked box for his career, which ranks as the best mark among all running back prospects since 2018. His career PFF rushing grade overall (95.3) ranks among the 93rd percentile of prospects while his 4.1 yards after contact per attempt ranks among the 85th percentile. He also earned top-three career grades in this class on early downs (94.5) and in goal-to-go situations (75.4) while being the highest-graded back in this class on zone concept run plays (93.1). Estime’s biggest red flag is that he ran a 4.71-second 40-yard dash time at the combine, however, he did improve that number (4.58 seconds) at his pro day. It’s still far from a great score and is ultimately likely to hurt his draft capital, but it’s hard not to get excited about Estime when looking at his career as a whole.

Audric Estime’s career ranks among RB prospects since 2018:
Metric Value Historic Prospect Rank
Explosive run rate 19.1% 84th percentile
Missed tackles forced/attempt 0.28 75th percentile
Yards after contact/attempt 4.05 85th percentile
Rushing grade 95.3 93rd percentile
Rushing grade vs stacked boxes 92.1 100th percentile

4. Blake Corum, Michigan

Corum boasts one of the most impressive track records and sample size for this year’s class and is likely going to get decent draft capital to help his cause for future fantasy value. The Michigan workhorse owns the best single-season PFF rushing grade (96.2) among all running back prospects since 2018, and his career rushing grade (96.7) ranks among the 98th percentile of those same qualifying prospects.

Corum wasn’t as efficient in 2023 as he was in 2022 when he posted that historic PFF rushing grade mark, but he still delivered an FBS-leading 27 rushing touchdowns (22 coming in goal-to-go situations) and consistently delivered positive runs for his team at a high rate despite lacking in other key analytical categories where some of his peers performed well. One area, specifically, was Corum’s career explosive run rate (12.4%), which ranked among the 12th percentile of prospects since 2018. Additionally, he registered a poor 3.04 career yards after contact per attempt (18th percentile) and 0.23 missed tackles forced per attempt (45th percentile), as he just lacks in the potential game-breaking categories in comparison to others in this class. With a volume-heavy role, he should still be a very effective back for fantasy, however, landing in a backfield where he’s forced to split touches, he’ll be a tougher sell with that lack of big-play ability.

5. Bucky Irving, Oregon

Irving is one of the smallest, and quite possibly one of the shiftiest and most elusive, backs in this year’s class. Irving is right up there with Benson in terms of career missed tackles forced per attempt (0.36) and ranks behind only Benson, Bijan Robinson and Javonte Williams all-time among backs with at least 300 carries. Despite his small frame at 5-foot-9 and 192 pounds, Irving did an excellent job at creating yards after contact, posting 3.81 per attempt for his career (75th percentile) to go along with that elite missed tackles rate. 

Irving’s biggest issues are going to be size and athleticism after posting a really poor 2.16 relative athletic score which isn’t going to help his draft capital. However, from purely a data standpoint, he didn’t post any lower than the 75th percentile in key rushing or receiving metrics, which includes a 1.39 yards per route run total as he brings a strong receiving element to his game as well. Irving is an intriguing prospect who is likely to struggle for opportunities in the NFL, but a prime landing spot combined with his rushing and receiving ability would make him one of the more desirable fantasy options in rookie drafts.

6. MarShawn Lloyd, USC

Lloyd has been an explosive back over his three college seasons at both South Carolina and USC, where he has been able to deliver an 81st percentile mark in his explosive run rate (18.3%), which was also highlighted at the combine. Lloyd ran an impressive 4.46-second 40-time at 220 pounds, making him an intriguing prospect who teams could be looking to take a swing on late Day 2/early Day 3.

As one of the more athletic running back prospects in this class, it was at least somewhat concerning that Lloyd was unable to earn a larger role as a receiver. Despite running nearly 200 routes this past season, he was well below average in target rate. This was the case during his time at South Carolina as well and could speak to him still being a work-in-progress as a route runner and receiving threat, which could ultimately hurt his fantasy upside in the NFL.

7. Jaylen Wright, Tennessee

Wright has a decent body of work despite being just a one-year starter, as he's handled at least 85 carries in his three seasons at Tennessee, totaling nearly 2,300 rushing yards to go along with 18 rushing touchdowns. While Wright’s touchdown total was down from 2022 (10) to 2023 (four), he was able to deliver a career year in PFF rushing grade (91.2), yards after contact per attempt (4.35) and missed tackles forced per attempt (0.32).

Wright is the No. 2 running back on the PFF big board. Pre-draft, he’s not as exciting for me as a back to get a prime landing spot or draft capital. Wright’s experience as a receiver is limited at best and has been relatively ineffective in that role, ranking 15th percentile in career yards per route run (0.66). He was also below average compared to the rest of this class facing stacked boxes, in goal-to-go situations and on late downs, as highlighted here.

8. Ray Davis, Kentucky

One of the oldest prospects in this class, as he’ll be turning 25 years old during his NFL rookie season, Davis has at least built up a strong body of work during his collegiate career across three separate programs since 2019, including Temple, Vanderbilt and finally Kentucky. In his final college season, Davis delivered a 91.4 PFF rushing grade to go along with 1,131 rushing yards, and 14 rushing touchdowns. 

His consistency as a runner, delivering strong rushing grades in nearly all five of his college seasons, is a particular standout for him, as his offensive lines after leaving Temple failed to crack even the top-95 run-blocking units in the FBS in any of the past three seasons. As a result, Davis had the third-lowest percentage of his career rushing yards come before contact (30.9%) among this year’s class,and the second-lowest yards before contact per attempt (1.5), making his strong production that much more impressive. Davis lacks explosiveness in his game, ranking among just the 13th percentile of prospects since 2018 in explosive run rate (12.7%) while also ranking as just average in yards after contact per attempt (45th percentile) and missed tackles forced per attempt (61st percentile). His age alone is going to keep him from being the apple of any dynasty manager’s eye when rookie drafts roll around.

9. Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

Allen has had a productive career for the Badgers, playing significant snaps across three years with the Badgers. He has totaled nearly 600 career carries and just under 3,500 rushing yards to go along with 35 rushing touchdowns. Allen, much like Corum and Davis mentioned earlier, comes in below average in terms of career missed tackles forced per attempt (52nd percentile) as well as a sub-20th percentile explosive run rate (12.9%).

While he isn’t great at making defenders miss, he does have good size and he’s been able to utilize that size and strength to deliver above-average 3.66 yards after contact per attempt for his career as a three-year starter (64th percentile). Allen compares similarly to 2022 fourth-round pick Hassan Haskins, although Haskins had graded slightly better for his career at Michigan, they share a similar outlook coming into the draft.

10. Tyrone Tracy Jr., Purdue

Tracy is a dual-threat athlete out of the backfield, having played mostly receiver at Iowa before transferring to Purdue in 2022. Tracy’s ability to contribute in multiple aspects of an offense makes him a valuable piece worth considering in fantasy rookie drafts as he holds the potential to carve out a role for himself regardless of where he lands, which should create fantasy relevance, even if just in deeper leagues.

As a runner, Tracy posted a career 91.2 PFF rushing grade (66th percentile) that included a career-high 90.5 rushing grade (78th percentile) on his largest workload out of the backfield in 2023. Tracy’s ability to create with the ball in his hands is evident even as a runner, earning a career 4.20 yards after contact per attempt (90th percentile) and 0.39 missed tackles forced per attempt (98th percentile). He also added an excellent 23.1% explosive run rate (97th percentile) to help his case despite the smaller sample size as a runner — 147 career runs ranks last in this class. Tracy shares the same birthday month and year as Ray Davis, meaning he’s going to be 25 years old in his rookie season which isn’t exciting for dynasty managers, but he projects for some decent short-term fantasy potential in the NFL.

Honorable mentions

11. Isaac Guerendo, Louisville

12. Kimani Vidal, Troy

13. Will Shipley, Clemson

14. Jase McClellan, Alabama

15. Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss

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