Just because there is still confetti stuck to the uniforms of the Kansas City Chiefs players and the champagne is still dripping down the locker room walls doesn’t mean it’s too early to look ahead to 2023 drafts and start anticipating the next six months of the NFL offseason. In fact, if you’re already drafting leagues or Best Ball teams for 2023, you can find some of the best values of the entire offseason before the market corrects some of the mis-priced players who are being drafted by some arbitrary ADP algorithm on fantasy sites.
For this piece, we will look at 2023 running back values, particularly backs who are being drafted way below what their potential value could be for the 2023 season. For these players, ADP is taken from all NFBC drafts conducted between January 1 and February 12, 2023. Who are the players surely to see their stock rise in the months to come? Without a crystal ball to tell us their future context, these are the players who could easily pay off their draft position.
Dameon Pierce (ADP: 57.8, RB23)
From Weeks 3-10 last season Pierce was 10th in fantasy points per game among all running backs who played at least seven games in that stretch. In those weeks, he rushed for more than 100 yards on six occasions and crossed the plane four times. Add in 20 receptions in that stretch of games and you’re looking at a running back who was on his way to a dominant rookie season. But injuries plus the Houston Texans trying to lose forced Pierce to a part-time role and then to the bench for the last four weeks of the season so the positive momentum was replaced by stagnation when he could not play.
Fast forward to 2023 and the assumption is that the Houston Texans will have much more competent quarterback play (they pick second in the 2023 NFL Draft), which hopefully opens up the field more for Pierce and his powerful running style. In 2022, Pierce had the ninth-most stuffed runs of any running back (44) because a lackluster Texans’ offensive line couldn’t open up the gaps far too often. The general consensus is that the Texans will spend quite a bit of draft capital on their franchise quarterback and some offensive line help to protect him. That all sounds like a much better environment in 2023 for Pierce and a foundation upon which he can build any gains from last season.
Tyler Allgeier (ADP: 85.8, RB29)
Tyler Allgeier was an absolute monster in the most important weeks of the fantasy season in 2022 (Weeks 15-18). In half-point per reception leagues, Allgeier ranked fifth in fantasy points per game (16.3), beating out guys like Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, and James Conner – guys who all have more established pedigrees. Rookie Allgeier took advantage of an increased snap share during the fantasy playoffs to show that he is a name worth considering much earlier than RB29 in 2023.
The context for Allgeier ended up being about the best thing that could have happened for him. Despite a losing record in 2022, the Falcons ran the ball 55.3% of the time, second most in the NFL, trailing only the Chicago Bears. It was a major offensive philosophy shift from 2021 when the team rushed only 39.1% of the time, but a pure, hard-nosed rusher like Allgeier made them rethink that plan. Allgeier ranked 65th among running backs in targets with just 17 last year, so he has shown he will have to do most everything with his legs. But he was 12th at the position in both evaded tackles and breakaway runs, showing that he has the shiftiness in addition to the bully-ball size to get yards in a variety of ways.
Isiah Pacheco (ADP: 102.3, RB34)
Fresh off an impressive 15 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LVII, the price of admission for Pacheco is likely to soar over the next few days. Good. This is a guy who took a while to establish his place as the primary rush option for the Chiefs, but he was a major weapon in their playoff run. He impressed against a daunting Eagles’ run defense. He showed us his receiving bona fides against the Bengals with five catches for 59 yards. And over time he became a more preferred option in the red zone even after Jerick McKinnon had his dominant touchdown-scoring streak in the second half of the season.
During the regular season, Pacheco ranked 10th among running back in true yards per carry. But perhaps more important to Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, he ranked number two overall at the position in run blocking. As much as he could truck guys over when he was carrying the ball, he carried that ferocity into pass-blocking as well. Both Ronald Jones and Jerick McKinnon are free agents heading into 2023, and the likelihood that they will both be back is slim. That leaves the door wide open for Pacheco to grab hold of a 65% share of running back touches in one of the most dangerous offenses in football.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire? Hahahahahaha. Good one.
Alexander Mattison (ADP: 146.8, RB43)
Alexander Mattison may not have received much of a workload in 2022, but he has two things going his way in 2023. First, he is a free agent this year, so if he is not happy with what happens in Minnesota, he can walk to another team that is much more willing to give him more than the 22% snap share he saw last season. The second thing revolves around the brewing Dalvin Cook situation. Cook, you may recall, came out last week and said he would not be interested in taking a pay cut to help a team that is trying to get younger (especially on defense) and move toward an oversized passing attack. Cook makes $14 million next season and still has more than $60 million remaining over three more years.
Mattison surely won’t be that expensive if the Vikings decide to cut bait with Cook and sign Mattison to a longer deal. The Vikings can cut Cook for just over $6 million of dead cap space next season, and that must be weighing heavily on them and whether or not they want to spend all that money for a running back’s age 28-30 seasons. Mattison might make that decision easier for them. In six career games without Dalvin Cook in the lineup, Mattison has almost 700 total yards and five touchdowns. Still just 24 years old, if the Vikings don’t lock him down as at least a 1B in their running back room, someone surely will.