These are my favorite articles to write and study when kicking off an off-season. They’re snapshots of what we saw unfold in relation to where players were drafted and where they ended up. Fortunately, this article highlights running back steals. These players outproduced their draft day average draft position (ADP), surprising managers with far better results than expected.
In order to be a “steal”, these players had to not only best their ADP, but do it either during a particular stretch of the season, in chunks, with hopes for the future or just all around crush for your roster. If you drafted these players as mere bye week fillers, you were rewarded majorly. Well done (and count your lucky stars).
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Who else was a Fantasy Football Steal at the RB position in 2023? Comment below, and we’ll discuss in the chat.
Remember to check in with the @RazzballNFL team of writers as we host our Tuesday evening show, where we hit on all things offseason fantasy football. Join Bobby LaMarco @BobbyLaMarco, Matt Stiles @stiles08, The Lineup Builder @Derek_Favret, and me, Sky Guasco @SkyGuasco at 9 pm EST/6 pm PST for the show as we answer all your questions thus keeping you engaged for the 2024 season while looking back at what coulda, shoulda, woulda been in 2023. Come for the analysis, and stay for the laughs!
*Positional Finish indicates the player’s fantasy finish at the position in PPR. The average draft position (ADP) that is inside the () is the positional ADP the player was drafted based on the Razzball consensus ADP this preseason.
Running Back Steals
Check out my article from two weeks ago that discussed my rationale for placing Mostert at the top of this list. You can find it and all of our free football content at Running Back Awards (razzball.com)
Williams was barely on anyone’s radar during draft season because Cam Akers was the Rams’ starter. Quickly, however, HC Sean McVay realized Williams was capable of doing what he’d hoped Akers could do and more. Akers landed in Minnesota, and Williams went on a rampage after the LAR’s bye in Week 10. From Weeks 12-17 (missed Week 11), Williams was the RB2 overall in PPR formats behind only Christian McCaffrey. K-Willy (no?) scored over 30 PPR points twice – one of which was in Week 17, aka the Fantasy Football Championship. Drafted in the 14th Round (if at all) and ending the season as the RB7 overall, but RB2, when it matters most, almost earned him my RB Fantasy MVP and the top spot on this list, but CMC and Mostert were just a notch better. Williams might be drafted at his peak next summer; be careful of that. However, perhaps there’s room to grow in what should return as a potent offense in LA.
White was one of the biggest surprises in all of fantasy this season. Not much was expected of Tampa’s offense with Baker Mayfield coming in. However, the Buccaneers surpassed expectations, even beating the defending NFC Champion Eagles in the Wild Card Round. Part of their success was the emergence of White in the backfield. While the Bucs were tied for last in the NFL for rush yards per attempt at just 3.6, White had a quiet 990 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.
He had the second-most carries behind only Derrick Henry. This was overshadowed by his receiving work, though. He had the third-most receiving yards and was tied for seventh-most targets among running backs with 70 targets. That was less than five fewer than Austin Ekeler, Travis Etienne and Jahmyr Gibbs. More impressively, White was 4th in RB receptions with 64 behind only Breece Hall, Alvin Kamara and CMC. In his first two seasons, White had seen 128 targets.
He’s caught 114 of those. That’s 89%. It’ll be interesting to see how the Tampa offense looks with former OC Dave Canales taking the Panthers’ head coaching job, but if the Bucs don’t bring in significant competition during the NFL Draft or Free Agency, expect White to be of value again this summer.
Like White (above), Cook broke out by doubling his workload and output in his second season. However, it feels like perhaps White hit his peak in 2023, whereas Cook still has room to grow. Lil’ Dalvin (c’mon, that’s not bad) was fourth in rushing yards and ninth in carries but lacked explosive plays, which he grew to love by his brother in Minnesota. Yung Cook (…?) took just 10 of his 237 carries more than 20 yards. Of the 23 RBs that saw at least 200 carries, J. Cook scored the fewest rushing touchdowns with only two.
Although, like White, he was buoyed by his receiving work, earning the eighth-most receiving yards among RBs. Of the 46 RBs that saw at least 30 targets, Cook had the highest yards per reception with 10.1. If there’s ever a time that the Bills don’t use Josh Allen as the goal line back or bring in two washed veterans (Latavius Murray and Leonard Fournette) to take the remainder of the short-yardage, Cook has a chance to be a Top-5 fantasy RB. His touchdowns should go up by default next season.
Assuming he retains the same opportunities otherwise, he’ll be Top 10 once again. If you see him fall to the Third Round in PPR leagues, reach for him!
Warren almost completely supplanted Najee Harris in the Steelers’ backfield, and if not for a late-season surge by the latter, that may have been the case heading into 2024. Warren has gear Harris doesn’t. Mike Tomlin likes his bruisers, and that’s Steelers Football, but the explosion Warren brings simply isn’t matched by Harris. Warren had a modest 149 carries. Of all running backs with less than 180 carries, Warren had the second-highest yards per attempt (5.3) behind only De’Von Achane (7.8, LOL). Harris was at 4.1.
That said… who knows what I’m about to say next? Any guesses? Are we sensing a pattern…? Yep! You’re correct! His fantasy output benefited greatly from his receiving work (similar to both White and Cook above). Warren ranked fifth in both targets (74) and receptions (61) among RBs. Unlike White and Cook, however, he somehow did not score through the air and had just four rushing touchdowns. But as they say, “the best ability is availability.” Warren played every game and was an RB2 or better in nine games as the backup to Harris.
I expect more “Thunder and Lightning” approach for these two, but less 50/50 and more 60/40 leaning in Warren’s direction. Let drafters chase Harris’ 1,200/8 numbers. I’d rather take a discount on Warren who has far more upside.