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Fantasy Football: Top 4 breakout running backs, including Rachaad White and James Cook

2K5RFF2 Orchard Park, New York, USA. 9th Oct, 2022. October 9th, 2022 Buffalo Bills running back James Cook (28) during Pittsburgh Steelers vs Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, NY at Highmark Stadium. Jake Mysliwczyk/BMR (Credit Image: © Jake Mysliwczyk/BMR via ZUMA Press Wire) Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News

  • Huge opportunities for two second-year backs: Both Rachaad White and James Cook are set to play an increased role in 2023.
  • Cam Akers is back: After catching fire near the end of last season, Akers finally looks healthy again and is ready to take over in 2023.
  • Dalvin Cook is gone, which means there’s a new RB1 in Minnesota: Alexander Mattison figures to lead the Minnesota Vikings’ backfield, which has allowed for significant fantasy success in the past.
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Each season, there are players who take their game to another level and significantly improve their fantasy production along the way. For the running back position, volume is king and these breakout candidates are all expected to see a significantly larger workload in 2023, which should put them on a path to fantasy success.

Each running back on this list has yet to exceed 10 PPR points per game in a season and will be expected to do so in 2023. Excluded are players like Breece Hall, who is entering Year 2 but was averaging 16.7 points per game before getting hurt last season and was clearly one of the best options at his position already last year.

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

Akers did not start the 2022 season on a great note, playing behind Darrell Henderson in almost every game until Henderson was waived by the team in November. Henderson’s struggles and inefficiencies as a starter were obvious, averaging just 4.0 yards per carry (34th) while posting a 62.3 rushing grade (49th). The team decided to let him go as their season was clearly over at that point. Akers wasn’t that much more impressive than Henderson, even in a smaller role, as he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and a 65.7 rushing grade. However, the team turned to Akers as the lead back in Week 13, and he greatly improved, which also led to better fantasy success than what Henderson was able to achieve in his time as a starter.

Cam Akers season splits in 2022:
Weeks Offensive snap share Rushing grade (RB rank) Fantasy RB rank (PPR)
1-12 31.7% 67.6 (40th) RB66
13-18 73.8% 83.6 (4th) RB4

Akers’ improvement on a larger snap share was significant in 2023, and a clear upgrade from what fantasy managers saw in his return in 2022, when he managed just 2.4 yards per carry for a 39.6 rushing grade. Akers’ bounce back from an Achilles injury appears complete after a long wait, and his numbers as a starter last season are much more appealing for fantasy managers to invest in for 2023. With the fourth-best rushing grade at the position (83.6) from Week 12 on while finishing as the PPR RB4 in that same span, Akers will look to keep it going as he heads into this season as the clear starter for the first time since 2020.

Having never finished a season higher than RB34 in PPR fantasy leagues, Akers should have no trouble surpassing that mark by a decent margin in 2023 as long as he stays healthy. The Rams did not add significant competition for carries this offseason, so the depth chart currently stands as him and multiple Day 3 draft picks. Should Akers continue to play as well as he did near the end of last season, he should have no problem holding off anyone else currently on the roster from leading the team in running back touches by a wide margin on a weekly basis. Akers even started to show more as a receiver late last year, which has never been a big part of his game, but he hauled in 13 receptions through six games for 117 receiving yards on 106 routes run. With Matt LaFleur coming in as offensive coordinator and showing a tendency to target the running back more often, even if he isn’t the primary receiving back, there will be opportunities for Akers to add some production in the passing game.

Needed to break out in 2023


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