Top Running Backs (RB) For Fantasy Football 2023
Rostering one of the top fantasy running backs (RBs) can make a championship-winning difference.
Each of the players we’re here to discuss has:
- a long track record of production
- tons of stats that’ll make your eyes pop
- and good reasons to expect they’ll repeat their dominance in 2023
And at least one of them looks like a value in best ball ADP so far.
Curious to see where we have these players ranked?
Check out our 2023 fantasy football rankings!
Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
Since 2018, McCaffrey ranks third in targets (434), first in receptions (362), and second in total scrimmage yards (7,396) among all NFL RBs.
Injuries plagued CMC in 2020 and 2021, causing him to appear in only 10 games in that stretch.
Despite missing that time, he leads all RBs in total PPR points (1,431.0) and PPR points per game (18.12) over the past five seasons.
McCaffrey dominated work with the Panthers, but the 49ers sport a lot more talent.
Workload Challengers for 2023?
He still garnered 15.1 carries and 6.2 targets per game over 12 full outings with San Francisco (including the playoffs). Those numbers dipped to 11.4 carries and 5.8 targets over five games with RB Elijah Mitchell, though.
Despite that competition, CMC led RBs with 21.7 PPR points per game after joining the Niners in Week 7.
McCaffrey won’t get the workloads he did in Carolina. But he’ll get enough to remain among the top fantasy running backs for 2023.
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler asked for a trade this offseason over discontent with his contract. He and the Chargers finally settled the dispute which means fantasy managers don’t have to worry about a holdout.
This is great news, considering he’s one of the top fantasy running backs.
Ekeler leads all RBs in receiving yards (3,169) and ranks tied for first with McCaffrey in receptions (362) since 2018.
Can He Keep It Up?
The Chargers let go of OC Joe Lombardi this offseason, a coach that gave Ekeler 132 opportunities (carries + targets) in the red zone over his two seasons on the job. That helped Ekeler lead RBs with 38 total TDs over that span.
The franchise replaced Lombardi with OC Kellen Moore, who oversaw a Cowboys’ offense that ranked top 10 in red-zone scoring rate in 2021 and 2022.
Much of that success came via the Cowboys feeding RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. They combined for 150 red-zone opportunities since 2021.
Assuming Moore uses Ekeler the same way, fantasy regression concerns fly out the window.
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Barkley had a hot start to his NFL career, registering 21.7 PPR points per game and 3,469 total scrimmage yards over his first two seasons.
Unfortunately, injuries caused him to miss 22 of 50 possible games across 2019-21.
As such, he entered 2022 as a question mark.
Luckily for the Giants and fantasy managers, he returned to workhorse form.
Our preseason selection as Comeback Player of the year ranked third in carries per game (18.4), ninth in targets per game (4.8), and fifth in PPR points per game (17.6) among all NFL RBs.
How’s that for a bounce-back season?
Issues to Overcome
And the Giants’ offensive line ranked 24th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards, making Barkley’s performance even more impressive.
Barkley and the Giants have some work to do on his contract, after the team franchise-tagged him.
But as long as Barkley finds himself on the field in Week 1, he’ll have a strong case for being a top fantasy running back again.
Looking for long-term outlooks on these RBs?
Jonathan Taylor, Colts
At this time last year, Taylor was coming off a season in which he ranked first in carries (332), rushing yards (1,811), yards per game (106.5), and total TDs (20).
Unfortunately, ankle injuries limited him to 11 games.
Still, he finished fifth in rushing yards per game (78.3) and carries per game (78.3) and 13th in PFF elusive rating (min. 100 carries) last season.
And he did so for a 4-12-1 Colts team that made one of the most controversial midseason HC changes in NFL history. All told, Taylor’s 2022 campaign doesn’t look so bad.
What Does New Coaching Staff Bring?
The team’s transition to new HC Shane Steichen should help get Taylor back on track in 2023.
Steichen is coming over from being the OC of a run-heavy Eagles’ offense.
The Eagles ranked 30th and 23rd in pass rate in Steichen’s two seasons. They also ranked first and fourth in rushing yards per game.
It’s reasonable to expect a similar offensive approach with rookie QB Anthony Richardson set to be under center for the Colts.
As such, Taylor is staring down an opportunity to return to his old ways and produce mega-numbers in 2023 in his new offensive ecosystem.
Bijan Robinson, Falcons
The mononymous Bijan enters the NFL poised to join the ranks of the top running backs for fantasy football.
Check out more about Bijan Robinson and the rest of this year's NFL Draft class in our Rookie Guide.
The eighth overall pick lands in a nice situation. Falcons HC Arthur Smith only cares about one thing: running the football.
He spent 2019-20 as the Titans OC, feeding RB Derrick Henry league-leading carry totals each year.
And check these numbers out for Atlanta’s 2022 offense:
- second in team rushing rate (55.3%)
- third in Football Outsiders’ Rushing Offense DVOA
- fifth in PFF offensive line run blocking grade
Oh yeah, and Bijan recently spoke about how Smith is using him all over the field in OTAs as both a runner and a pass-catcher.
The only downside here: Robinson is already going second among RBs in ADP in both Underdog Fantasy and FFPC drafting. So if you want him, you’ll need to grab him in Round 1.
Derrick Henry, Titans
It’s tough to say how much Henry has left in the tank.
He turns 30 in January and only has one year left on his contract.
But for 2023, we still feel good about his chances to produce.
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2018, Henry has led all NFL RBs in carries (1,464), rushing yards (7,101), and rushing TDs (68).
Henry has tallied 20 more rushing TDs than the closest player (Browns RB Nick Chubb: 48).
Henry Continues to Dominate Work
Moreover, he has stayed above a 77.6% share of Titans RB carries in each of the last 4 seasons.
Despite the Titans’ offensive line ranking 18th in adjusted line yards, Henry finished second among RBs in rushing yards (1,538) last season.
He also ended 2022 first in yards after contact (1,257) and fourth in yards after contact per attempt (3.60) among RBs (min. 100).
Basically, Henry is really good at making fantasy football magic happen for himself.
And the veteran is going near the end of Round 2 in best ball ADP on multiple sites. You can even get him early in Round 3 at times. That makes it easier to take on any risk that comes with Henry's age.
Too late to sell Derrick Henry in dynasty?
Josh Jacobs, Raiders
Jacobs is coming off of an unreal 2022.
He led the league in:
- rushing yards (1,653)
- yards per game (97.2)
- total touches (393)
- total scrimmage yards (2,053)
But can he sustain it?
Well, he ranks top 5 in each of those categories since entering the league in 2019.
Jacobs probably won't lead the league in all those categories again, but his 2022 season was likely more breakout than fluke.
He also ranked:
- first in Football Outsiders’ effective yards
- first in PFF rushing grade
- second in yards after contact (1,156)
- eighth in yards after contact per attempt (3.40)
There’s little reason to doubt Jacobs and exclude him from the list of the top fantasy RBs.
Who else belongs among the top fantasy running backs?
What About Those Tricky Backfields?
The RBs above hold clear leads on their teams' rushing workloads. But there might not be so much clarity for the:
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Chicago Bears
- Houston Texans
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Miami Dolphins
- New Orleans Saints
- Seattle Seahawks
Matt and Jared break down how to project and draft those backfields in this video ...
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