Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

 Log In  | Sign Up  |  Contact      

Which RBs will Rise into the Fantasy Top Ten in 2023?

By Joseph Hutchins | 8/21/23

OK, new assignment. I spent the past couple weeks talking about players I think are overvalued and more likely than not to fall out of the Top 10 this coming season. Now it’s time to discuss the players I think have the best shot at replacing them. Some have been there many times before and others would be making their first appearance, but all of them would be outperforming their 2022 selves should they prove me right. Also, full disclosure: Only two of them have to do that for me to outperform MY 2022 self. LOL!

A quick reminder of the Top 10 fantasy RBs from last season…

Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s Non-PPR league scoring.

  Top 10 Running Backs - 2022
Rank Player
1 Josh Jacobs
2 Austin Ekeler
3 Derrick Henry
4 Christian McCaffrey
5 Nick Chubb
6 Saquon Barkley
7 Jamaal Williams
8 Tony Pollard
9 Dalvin Cook
10 Miles Sanders

Running Backs Most Likely to Rise in 2023:

Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones, GB: Exactly five running backs in NFL history have gained more career yards per carry than Jones (minimum 750 carries). They are Marion Motley, Jamaal Charles, Nick Chubb (!), Jim Brown, and Mercury Morris (by a nose). That’s pretty elite company for a 5th round flier from UTEP, wouldn’t you say? Too seldom used his first two years playing for Mike McCarthy, AJ33 has blossomed under Matt LaFleur and become one of the most reliable fantasy assets playing the most volatile position. He’s been no worse than RB13 since 2019, something only one other RB can boast of (see above).

In fairness to Coach McCarthy, Jones was pretty one-dimensional his first couple years as a pro, hauling in just 35 receptions on 53 targets, a pretty miserable (for a RB) 66% catch rate. This despite playing with possibly the most talented thrower of footballs in the sport’s history. Fast forward to 2022 and the transformation into a true dual-threat became officially complete. Jones snagged 59 of Aaron Rodgers’ 72 intended pigskins last season (an 82% catch rate) for 395 yards and five scores, all Top 10 marks for the position.

It’s absolutely fair to wonder how Rodgers’ abrupt departure will impact his former teammates’ fantasy fortunes moving forward. Most pundits are predicting Green Bay to take a sizable step back in 2023 and I’m not afraid to admit that includes yours truly. Nevertheless, the Pack still possesses a Top 10 offensive line and a perfect complement to the smallish Jones in AJ Dillon. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine Coach LaFleur throwing the ball as frequently as he might have with a future HOF’er under center. Are 275-300 more touches in play here? If Jones gets them, he’s going to be a Top 10 back. Prioritize him on draft day.

Rashaad Penny, PHI: If Jones is one of the league’s most reliable fantasy assets, Penny has to be one of its least. Since being drafted in 2018, the former San Diego St. star has played in only 42 of a possible 82 games and is more than 400 carries shy of that aforementioned career minimum. At the rate he’s going, he simply won’t get there. This would be a crying shame, BTW, considering his current career YPC average (5.7) puts him on pace to...wait for it…tie Marion Motley for best ever! He hasn’t played enough to truly excite fantasy GMs, but when he does, the Aztec alum is one of the most efficient rock toters who ever toted a rock.

If his rarely tapped potential piques my curiosity, Penny’s off-season change of scenery grabs my undivided attention. Having finished out his rookie contract with the Seahawks in 2022, he opted to sign on with the Eagles, who could have won SB LVII and are favored to rep the NFC again in SB LVIII. A lot can happen between now and next February, but it’s safe to say Penny will play for a much better team and behind a much better line in 2023. The Birds’ front ranked 2nd overall in run block win rate last season; meanwhile, the Seahawks ranked a distant 24th.

Philly’s not gambling their championship window on such a fragile foundation, of course, so Penny is joined in the backfield by D’Andre Swift, late of Detroit. The duo replaces Miles Sanders and, I’m guessing, allows Nick Sirianni to throttle back Jalen Hurts’ rushing attempts. My somewhat scientific estimate has Penny touching the ball 200 times this year. At 5.7 YPC…well, that’s pretty easy math. The risk is substantial, but the reward could be shiny.

Kenneth Walker, SEA: In case you’re wondering, I drafted both Jones and Penny this past weekend, putting my money where my mouth would soon be. I rarely invest heavily at the position, preferring to go big on QBs and WRs, then rounding out my roster with best supporting actor types and educated dart throws at RB. Penny was definitely the latter, but now that he’s moved on from Seattle, the teammate he left behind probably qualifies as the former.

Walker should have spent his freshman campaign in a supporting / timeshare capacity, but was thrust into the primary ball-carrying role when Penny suffered a fractured fibula in Week 5. From Week 6 on, the Seattle rook averaged almost 20 carries and 82+ yards per game. This included a prolonged flat stretch from Weeks to 10 to 13 when he averaged only 31 yards/game. All told, and despite the mid-year dip, Walker compiled nearly 1300 yards from scrimmage and nine scores in his first professional season. That is not too shabby for a first-year RB and compares very favorably to the numbers Chris Carson—the last Seattle back to finish in the Top 10—put up back in 2019 (1500 yards v. nine scores).

Naturally, Pete Carroll couldn’t help himself this past April and spent another high draft pick on an additional ball carrier, UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet. You can never have too many running backs, right Pete? Actually, you never CAN have too many running backs in today’s game and I’m not certain Charbonnet’s presence significantly clouds Walker’s 2023 outlook. While defenses focus on stopping the suddenly dangerous Seattle passing game, these two can collaborate to deliver a strong Seahawks run game while simultaneously lowering each other’s’ injury risk. Seattle puts one current and one former RB in the 2023 Top 10.

Draft Buddy - Fantasy Football excel draft spreadsheet