With another memorable Super Bowl now in the books, it’s time for us to pack it up until the next football season rolls around.
Say whaaaaaaaaat? Of course, I’m kidding. You think we can dominate 2023 fantasy football by waiting around for OTAs and mini-camp? No. The answer is no, we absolutely cannot. We gotta stay locked in and ready throughout the year. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of my potential breakout players at the running back position. (Don’t forget to check out my breakout QBs from last week, too).
James Cook, Buffalo Bills
This one’s a catch-22 for me: I love Cook’s situation, but I’m not particularly enthralled by his natural ability at the running back position. Personally, I love running backs in high-powered offenses where other strong players can take some of the pressure off them – I took Austin Ekeler as my No. 1 RB off the board at every opportunity this past season – but I view Cook as a primary backup in the NFL, not a starter.
But again, look at his situation: Josh Allen is one of the best quarterbacks in the world, Sean McDermott is one of the best head coaches and Stefon Diggs is one of the best wide receivers. Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie still have potential at the wide receiver position, as well. So the beautiful balance is there, Zack Moss has already been traded and Devin Singletary is now a free agent.
The door is wide open for Cook, for now. If he hangs on and gets a real crack at the RB1 job, he comes off the board in fantasy in the first 17-25 RBs. Just my own personal opinion? I think the Bills would be better off “going for it” and signing Josh Jacobs to be a real powerhouse within this stacked offense.
Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons
He was already one of Atlanta’s top two this season — the other being veteran Cordarrelle Patterson, of course — and down the stretch, this was really starting to look like “his” offense under enigmatic Arthur Smith. Sophomore QB Desmond Ridder will continue to require seasoning, so Allgeier will be a focal point as Patterson ages and Smith continues leaning on his rushing attack.
The obvious difference from Cook is — where’s the offensive balance when everyone knows Ridder’s passing game will be limited? You get eight or nine in the box defensively, forcing Allgeier to shine entirely with only his raw, natural ability.
In a vacuum, I think Allgeier is a better and more talented player than Cook at the NFL level — but for fantasy? For now, unless the Bills sign a big-time running back, Cook remains in a more favorable offensive situation.
Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles
This one strikes me as pretty obvious with Miles Sanders hitting free agency. Gainwell has always showcased “the bounce” and some explosiveness, and we know about this high-powered Philadelphia Eagles’ offense with Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown and Dallas Goedert – some of the best at their respective fantasy positions.
If Sanders does ultimately decide to sign elsewhere, I’d actually take Gainwell over both Cook and Allgeier. All three have their potential fantasy merits, but Gainwell brings the most upside within Nick Sirianni’s uptempo, high-flying offense.
Isiah Pacheco, Kansas City Chiefs
He already broke out quite a bit this season, so I’m pushing him a little further down my list here. Pacheco was an eye-catcher, right from the get-go. He takes the rock and immediately heads downhill. He’s a no-fear style of rusher, one who bursts through holes and puts his head down in traffic. It’s a beautiful thing to watch when Andy Reid, Pat Mahomes and Travis Kelce are doing their collective thing around Pacheco.
Personally, I’d expect Clyde Edwards-Helaire to slide into Jerick McKinnon’s vacated pass-catching role next season – McKinnon, like Sanders and Singletary, is also a free agent — but I don’t think anyone is a fantasy threat to Pacheco if he’s healthy. He should be a touchdown machine, one who fully benefits from Reid’s multi-faceted offensive attack. Gainwell and Pacheco could be real fantasy stars in 2023 if the chips fall the right way from here on out.
I’ll see ya right back here next week for my breakout wide receivers!
John Frascella is a published sports author who has been covering the NFL for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy football and basketball.