- The Fantastic Four: Tier 1 kicks things off with four clear options to choose from atop the fantasy running back rankings.
- Nine RB tiers to dig through: 72 running backs are tiered in order to help identify key targets in fantasy drafts.
- Utilizing tiers to extract value: As drafts progress beyond the first couple of rounds, using the tier system can allow fantasy managers to pass on options at the top of tiers to address other needs and still come back to get a similar player closer to the bottom of that tier in the next round(s).
Estimated reading time 13 minutes
Breaking fantasy football rankings down into tiers helps fantasy managers better understand what separates each grouping of players and how to value each player at the position for this coming season.
Be sure to check out the rankings page for updates as the offseason progresses.
TIER 1: Workhorse roles with high-end receiving upside
Only two running backs averaged over 20 PPR points per game in 2022, Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler, as each posted with double-digit top-10 PPR finishes last season. They were the only running backs to see five or more receptions on average per game last season and as long as they’re on the field, there should be no concern about their ability to provide the return on investment that fantasy managers will have to spend in drafts to acquire them in 2023.
Bijan Robinson‘s rookie year expectations are incredibly high, but at the same time, probably fair. Touted as a “generational back” and selected inside the top-10 of the NFL draft is a massive endorsement for a running back, and that stock raises even higher due to Robinson landing with the most run-heavy offense from that had one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league last year. While Arthur Smith didn’t deploy one running back in a workhorse role on a weekly basis last season, he has a history of doing so when the talent calls for it, as he deployed Derrick Henry in that role during his time as offensive coordinator with the Titans, which bodes very well for Robinson. Adding to the upside is the potential to catch passes out of the backfield. While not a huge part of Robinson’s college success, Desmond Ridder targeted the running back position on 23.5% of his dropbacks, which was the second-most for quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks last season, albeit on one of the smaller sample sizes of just four games.
Saquon Barkley had a big bounce-back year in 2022, finishing the season as PPR’s RB5 after dealing with significant injuries in the two previous seasons. Barkley is the only running back who averaged over 20 touches per game while also seeing over 3.5 receptions per game last season, and with that level of volume again in 2023, fantasy managers should be just as happy to land him as the other three in this tier.
TIER 2: More workhorse backs with slightly lower receiving upside
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