Today I’ll be taking you through my redraft running back rankings. These are set up for a half-PPR league, so minor adjustments to heavy pass-catchers and early-down runners should be made if you’re in a PPR league. I finished 2022 as the third most accurate expert on FantasyPros, so I hope that you can use these rankings with confidence.
You can find my full rankings, including dynasty, at ffdfantasyfootball.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, but you can also hit me up on Instagram @thefantasyfirstdown, where I answer all questions. And, of course, you can check out my quarterback breakdown here.
To make things a little easier, I’ve broken things up into tiers, grouping players who are, in my opinion, close in value. Where you actually draft these players in drafts really depends on your specific league settings, so I won’t be covering that here. These rankings are for a half-PPR league but can easily be adjusted for PPR by slightly increasing the value of pass-catchers.
Tier 1: The All-Purpose Weapons:
- Christian McCaffrey (SF)
- Austin Ekeler (LAC)
- Jonathan Taylor (IND)
- Saquon Barkley (NYG)
- Bijan Robinson (ATL)
This year there is no stand-out running back, but I’d happily head into the season with any of these guys as my 1st round pick. CMC blew the injury-prone narrative out of the water and was the RB1 from weeks 8-17 after his trade to the 49ers. Austin Ekeler is a little TD-reliant and is entering the age where drop-off can occur, but he’s been a top-two running back each of the last two seasons, so he deserves to go high. Jonathan Taylor was a major bust last year, primarily due to injury, but he also didn’t play up to his 2021 RB1 standards.
Expect a big bounce-back this year. Saquon Barkley had that exact bounce-back in 2022 with his first top 5 finish since his rookie season. If he can stay healthy (and that’s a big if), with some TD regression in an improving Giants offense, he’s a threat to be the RB1. Bijan Robinson is the big question mark, and I can have no argument against taking him above JT and Saquon. He will be the go-to weapon in one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses, with a passing attack that will require his skills as Mack Hollins and Scotty Miller are slated to be the WR2 and WR3 in Atlanta.
Will the touchdowns be there, though? That’s the main concern. But high-1st-round draft picks nearly always finish in the top 10 running backs in their rookie year, so his floor is safer than most realize.
Tier 2: The Workhorse Runners:
Derrick Henry can easily be taken in the top 5 RBs if you want the security of a safe rushing floor, and in non-PPR or leagues with points for carries or first downs, he deserves to go in the top 3. On the other hand, in PPR, he’s closer to the RB8 due to his lack of receiving work. I’m concerned about this offense’s general effectiveness this year, but the new O-line should open up enough holes to keep the King near the top of the fantasy charts, assuming he can stay healthy and avoid age drop-off in his age 29 season.
Nick Chubb has huge upside with Kareem Hunt out the door, but this offense could easily shift to a pass-heavy one due to the influx of wide receivers and an improved Deshaun Watson. Chubb is somehow yet to finish in the Top 5, so drafting him higher than this is projecting something he’s never done in his first five seasons. Josh Jacobs had a true breakout season as the Raiders rode him all season long. With Derek Carr out the door, it’s hard to know how this team will adjust, but there’s a significant chance Jacobs remains a core part of the offense and that makes him a safe, strong option for the early 2nd round.
Tier 3: The Up-and-comers:
These runners all have major upside but significantly more risk than those in the earlier tiers. Tony Pollard has yet to prove he can handle a workhorse role, and I’m very nervous about his usage. He has typically struggled in short-yardage situations, so while the increased touches should mean more fantasy points, I’d temper expectations around just how many more he’ll get. Travis Etienne was excellent last year, but 5 TDs is a very low number for an every-down back, especially in a playoff-quality team.
This year should see regression on that front, though the drafting of Tank Bigsby could mean a drop in usage which is a little scary. He’s one I could see myself dropping further down as the season approaches. Breece Hall is a huge boom-bust option. He was excellent to start the year, but ACL injuries do have a lingering impact on explosiveness, and it’s very possible Hall just isn’t the player he was in his rookie season.
Rhamondre Stevenson is finally free of Damien Harris. He has very little competition for touches now, but it’s unusual for Bill Belichick to fully hand the reigns to a running back, so I’m not confident he is the true workhorse his talent deserves. Expect Ty Montgomery to be an irritation on passing downs and a minor role for one of the 2nd year runners in New England.
Tier 4: The Former Stars:
- Najee Harris (PIT)
- Kenneth Walker (SEA)
- Joe Mixon (CIN)
- Alexander Mattison (MIN)
- James Conner (ARI)
- Aaron Jones (GB)
All of these players have Top 5 finishes on their resumes except Walker, who was the RB6 from Week 6 onwards last year, and Conner, who has multiple Top 10 finishes. Every one of these players could recapture the magic, but the cards are stacked against them for a variety of reasons. Harris and Walker are at risk of losing touches, Mixon has been rather ineffective and could see the Bengals sign some help, Conner is in an ugly offense that may struggle to score and need to throw a lot, and Jones is in a committee on a team with a new QB, he’s also getting older.
That first sentence was entirely true until Dalvin Cook left and Alexander Mattison shifted into this tier. He’s less talented than Cook, but that workload should be enough to put him into the high RB2 range if he can stay healthy all season and avoid the inclusion of a new veteran signing.
Tier 5: New Homes or Now Healthy:
This tier has a heap of upside, but it’s full of unproven players. Miles Sanders is one I really like, but he’s yet to prove he can handle a full workhorse role. While the Panthers’ offense has been very good to its runners, it’s possible the addition of some proper pass-catching depth and a rookie quarterback could change all that. Jahmyr Gibbs has huge upside as a first-round rookie, but we just don’t know how his split with David Montgomery will look.
JK Dobbins is way too risky with his lack of receiving chops and the possibility this offense shifts to a passing focus. Cam Akers hasn’t looked great when the Rams were good. How will he cope now that they’re badly lacking weapons not named Cooper Kupp? The volume will be there, but that’s all.
Tier 6: The One-Trick Ponies and The Boom-Busters:
- Dameon Pierce (HOU)
- David Montgomery (DET)
- Dalvin Cook (FA)
- D’Andre Swift (PHI)
- Rachaad White (TB)
- Isiah Pacheco (KC)
- Javonte Williams (DEN)
- James Cook (BUF)
- Khalil Herbert (CHI)
- Brian Robinson (WAS)
- Alvin Kamara (NO)
- Rashaad Penny (PHI)
This isn’t a true tier (in that Dameon Pierce and Rashaad Penny aren’t particularly close in value), but there’s no obvious jump in value at any point, making it natural to place all of these RB3-types together. Pierce is an interesting one for me. He’s getting a lot of buzz as if he’s the clear Texans workhorse, but that’s evidently not the case. Signing Devin Singletary was no mistake, and he’ll certainly take a lot of valuable third-down and change-of-pace touches in a middling offense that lacks the upside to support a two-down runner.
This spot will be way too high if that plays out, but Pierce does have more upside than most if he can grab hold of an every-down role. David Montgomery, D’Andre Swift, Isaih Pacheco, James Cook, and Rashaad Penny all sit on committees on explosive offenses. That makes their value very hard to predict. They’ll likely have a lot of weekly variances and end up as season-long RB3s, but the upside is there if any can grasp an every-down role. Rachaad White, meanwhile, finds himself as the possible workhorse back for a rebuilding offense.
The volume may be there, but will the output match it? I doubt it. Dalvin Cook, Javonte Williams and Alvin Kamara all come with massive question marks thanks to their unknown team, injury situation and possible suspension, respectively. If the latter two play the whole season, they’ll be an absolute steal this low, while Cook will need to get pretty lucky to return to RB1/2 status, but with his pedigree, it’s hard to not take a shot. Finally, Brian Robinson and Khalil Herbert are likely to lead the way in ugly committees. They’re, at best, zero-RB options you can ride until one of your handcuffs or late-rounders booms.
Tier 7: The Best Back-ups and The Zero-RB Fillers:
- Jamaal Williams (NO)
- Samaje Perine (DEN)
- D’Onta Foreman (CHI)
- Zach Charbonnet (SEA)
- Elijah Mitchell (SF)
- Damien Harris (BUF)
- AJ Dillon (GB)
- Kendre Miller (NO)
- Raheem Mostert (MIA)
- Antonio Gibson (WAS)
- Tyler Allgeier (ATL)
- Devin Singletary (HOU)
- Jerick McKinnon (KC)
If you’re in this region and you’re filling your bench, you’ll be wanting the upside picks like Perine, Charbonnet, Mitchell, Dillon and Allgeier. If the starter in front of them gets injured, they become a must-start option. They’re also flex options if you get into bad bye-week trouble. On the other hand, if you’re taking a zero-RB approach, there’s a range of options depending on whether you favor TDs or receptions. Williams, Harris and Mostert may all prove to be viable weekly options, given the red zone usage of the former two and the possibility Mostert is a starter.
Meanwhile, Gibson, Singletary and McKinnon may have a valuable third-down role worth gambling on if you’ve gone hard on other positions. Kendre Miller is the wildcard. If Alvin Kamara is suspended, he could well be the number one guy in New Orleans. It’s not a high probability, and the upside isn’t amazing, but he’s so talented I think it’s worth a shot if you’re needing a possible RB2-type.
Tier 8: Cross Your Fingers and Toes:
- Devon Achane
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Leonard Fournette
- Jeff Wilson
- Roschon Johnson
- Chuba Hubbard
- Jaylen Warren
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire
- Jerome Ford
- Joshua Kelley
- Tank Bigsby
- Tyjae Spears
- Kareem Hunt
- Gus Edwards
- Chase Edmonds
- Kenneth Gainwell
- Zack Moss
- Michael Carter
- Ty Montgomery
We’re really living on a prayer with these guys. Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Kareem Hunt are the former studs who could have some value if they land in the right spot, but all three are really slowing down at this stage of their careers and lack much upside. On the other hand, there are some explosively talented rookies available in this range too. Devon Achane is lightning in a can, but he’s in an ugly committee and will need to really own touches between the 20s and on third downs as he lacks the size to get goal-line carries.
Tyjae Spears is a major injury risk, but if he’s healthy, he could be busy on passing downs and become the Derrick Henry handcuff and rotational sub. Roschon Johnson and Tank Bigsby are both fine rookie prospects who may luck into a role, but it seems unlikely. Then there’s a slew of middling handcuffs here in Hubbard, Warren, Edwards-Helaire, Ford, Kelley, Edwards, Edmonds, Carter and Moss.
They all have slightly different usage/upside profiles, but ultimately they’re bench fillers. Finally, there are some more very late zero-RB options in Wilson, Gainwell and Montgomery. It’s hard to love any of them, but they should provide some sort of weekly floor if they win the third-down role.
Next week I’ll be back with a breakdown of my wide receiver rankings. Remember to check out my full rankings for all positions at ffdfantasyfootball.com