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

 Log In  | Sign Up  |  Contact      

Running Backs in New Places

By Steve Schwarz | 6/27/24

It’s hard enough to evaluate a player even when we know his production level from the previous year. Now, send him to a new team with a new coach and a new offensive line and it gets really tough putting a number on a running back for the first season… too many unknowns.

Unfortunately, fully 35% of the top-40 running backs from last season (based on FPts/G in PPR leagues) will be in a different color uniform for 2024. That includes five of the top-20 (Saquon Barkley, Joe Mixon, Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry and Austin Ekeler) and 14 backs all told.

The difficultly comes with these unknowns. We knew how his former coach and offensive coordinator used them, but what of the new coaching staff? Is he working behind a better OL or worse? Is he in a time share, RBBC or is he now a primary workhorse? Is he healthy? Does the offense run through him or is he just one of many options?

Let’s evaluate these 14 running backs.

Saquon Barkley – Giants (16.1 FPts/G) to Eagles

Even without retired future Hall-of-Fame center Jason Kelce, Barkley will run behind the best offensive line of his career. He’s a three-down back, but may share some of the receiving work with Kenneth Gainwell. Still, the bigger issue is to what length the team will go to protect Barkley from overwork and injury in preparation for what everyone in Philadelphia expects is a playoff run? Barkley won’t likely match the 371 touches in 2022 or even the 288 touches last season. He will be limited not only by health concerns, but an Eagles’ offense which is loaded with talent; A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert and the running of Jalen Hurts near the goal line a.k.a. the “Tush Push.” OC Kellen Moore presided over a top-10 offense in three of four seasons for Dallas, but disappointed last year for the Chargers. It’s very likely Barkley will be more efficient in 2024, but produce less fantasy value. Beware of over-drafting here.

Joe Mixon

Joe Mixon – Bengals (15.6) to Texans

In the four years with Mixon and Joe Burrow manning the Cincinnati backfield, Mixon never averaged less than 15.6 FPts/G nor more than 18.1 FPts/G. He’ll be in a similar situation in Houston as he was with the Bengals. Both teams produced about 60-40 pass-to-run percentage. Both have good young quarterbacks and both receiving corps are top-10. Mixon is also the best receiving back out of the Mixon, Dameon Pierce and Dare Ogunbowale options. Mixon might struggle to score touchdowns in this offense which only ran for 10 scores last season and four of those were by C.J. Stroud. Mixon should end up being ranked about 15th to 20th at the position.

Josh Jacobs – Raiders (14.1) to Packers

Jacobs disappointed fantasy owners last season after being No.3 in 2022 (19.4 FPts/G) by dropping to No.17 last season. The Packers’ run blocking wasn’t very good last season and may not be much better this season. But what the Packers have that the 2023 Las Vegas Raiders didn’t have is a scary passing game. The threat of the new and improved Jordan Love with four quality young receivers on the outside should help open up lanes for Jacobs. With a disappointing AJ Dillon and rookie MarShawn Lloyd as the only other options, Jacobs should get a solid opportunity to be a three-down back and thrive. A return to top-5 status is very unlikely, but he could and should be a top-12 option which would be a solid improvement over 2023.

Derrick Henry – Titans (14.0) to Ravens

Henry probably fits as well for Baltimore as he did in Tennessee. Although he doesn’t catch the ball like most modern day star backs, what he does is score touchdowns. He’s managed double-digit touchdowns for six consecutive seasons and with Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins heading to the left coast, there will be plenty of touchdowns available. Although Lamar Jackson could probably steal some of them if he wanted, the quarterback has been running less in his “old age.” He’s averaged just .25 rushing touchdowns per game since 2021 compared to .49 in his first three seasons as a starter. Henry is also an efficient runner, particularly when his team is ahead, which the Ravens frequently are. Henry averaged 4.9 ypc when his Titans were ahead last season and 6.2 ypc when they were up by six points or more. The Ravens won 13 games last season and 12 of them by six points or more. Henry could see a lot of “running out the clock” fourth quarter carries unless the Ravens, like the Eagles, choose to protect their aging running back. Still, he should be at the bottom end of the RB1s.

Austin Ekeler – Chargers (13.8) to Commanders

The first thing you should know is that Ekeler DOESN’T want to be a three-down workhorse back. He’s flat out said this the past couple of seasons. He’s like to be a receiving back and a touchdown maker and leave the grinding out work for the younger Brian Robinson Jr. Ekeler produced the worst yards-per-carry of his pro career in 2023 (3.5). He will not be the 900 rushing yard, double-digit touchdown, 100 targets running back from 2021 and 2022. But he could be your No.3 back and useful during bye weeks and as a handcuff for Robinson. His well-known “name” will likely get him drafted before he finds his true fantasy level… don’t be that guy who reaches too soon.

Tony Pollard – Cowboys (13.1) to Titans

Tony Pollard didn’t like the “Batman” role he played last season in Dallas. He was much better as the change-of-pace “Robin” role behind Ezekiel Elliott than as the starter. Curiously, Elliott is back in Dallas, but Pollard is now in Tennessee where he will split time with young Tyjae Spears. Spears and Pollard have similar abilities which makes this more difficult to evaluate. I think Titans’ management wants Pollard to be more the runner and Spears more the receiver, but it should still be 60/40 running for Pollard and 60/40 receiving for Spears. This makes Spears slightly more valuable in full PPR leagues and Pollard in half-PPR leagues. Pollard’s production should drop from even last season’s disappointment.

D’Andre Swift – Eagles (12.6) to Bears

Coming off his first 1,000-yard rushing season, a healthy D’Andre Swift signed on with Chicago and joined a crowded running back room with Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson. However, Swift is the most elusive runner and best receiver of the group and should be the No. 1 option out of the backfield. This offense has been completely overhauled for 2024 with a rookie quarterback, a highly-touted rookie receiver and talented veteran Keenan Allen brought in to help D.J. Moore and new OC Shane Waldron (formerly OC in Seattle). Swift was 24th last season at 12.6 FPts/G and barring a complete failure of this offense should be able to repeat those numbers.

Aaron Jones – Packers (12.4) to Vikings

When Aaron Jones is healthy, he’s really good, just ask the Cowboys after he demolished them in a Wild Card game last year (32.1 fantasy points). The problem… he’s rarely healthy for a full season. He’s played just two full seasons out of seven, limped through numerous other games and is the reason the Packers decided to sign Josh Jacobs. As they say, the No.1 ability is availability. It’s Jones’ job to lose as backup Ty Chandler is a nice piece, but not a workhorse. Jones has a high ceiling if healthy, but could also kill you if he’s not playing. If you draft Jones, make sure to get Chandler later on for insurance.

Zack Moss – Colts (12.0) to Bengals

Zack Moss had his most productive season when called on to start for the injured Jonathan Taylor. In fact, he was the position leader after the first four games, producing 517 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. Then Taylor returned and Moss was the backup again. Moss, the more proven product, should begin the season as the starter in Cincinnati, but Chase Brown was particularly explosive in the pass game last season. The Bengals don’t run the ball as much as the Browns (383 times vs. 518), few do, so there will be less opportunities for Moss. I like Brown at his ADP (119) more than Moss (90).

J.K. Dobbins (11.7) and Gus Edwards (11.1) – Ravens to Chargers

The two former Ravens have jumped to the west coast for 2024. Edwards is a touchdown maker and Dobbins, when healthy (Achilles and ACL injuries the past two season), is the explosive option. Dobbins has shown he can be efficient averaging 5.9 ypc his first two seasons. But the safer option is Edwards who has a career rushing average of 4.3 ypc and should be the Chargers’ goal line guy. Jim Harbaugh’s history as an NFL head coach showed his 49ers teams were top-10 in rushing attempts and yards every season and bottom-10 in passing attempts and passing yards but he didn’t have a Justin Herbert. Beware of rookie Kimani Vidal crashing the party, particularly if Dobbins isn’t ready to go in Week 1.

Ezekiel Elliott – Patriots (10.4) to Cowboys

If this was 2016-2019, then I’d be all over drafting Ezekiel Elliott. But its 2024 and the 29-year-old has a lot of wear and tear on his body after 2,065 rushing attempts and close to 9,000 rushing yards. He hasn’t cracked 4.0 ypc in the last two seasons and is a step slower than “young Zeke.” The Cowboys are Dak Prescott’s team now and the passing game will lead them. Only Rico Dowdle and Malik Davis are behind him, but beware of Dallas making a move at this position before the season or during it. Elliott is a bottom end RB2 at best.

D’Onta Foreman – Chicago (10.1) to Cleveland

Starter Nick Chubb may not be ready for Week 1 after his 2023 Week 2 knee injury, but that doesn’t mean D’Onta Foreman has a path to fantasy-worthy starter in the meantime. Jerome Ford is also in the running back room and he produced 11 double-digit games in Chubb’s absence last season. They also added Nyheim Hines in the off-season and he’s very good out of the backfield. Foreman is probably third on the depth chart without Chubb and fourth with him in uniform. Foreman has little fantasy value at this point.

Devin Singletary – Texans (9.6) to Giants

Who will take over for Barkley in New York? That’s Devin Singletary, formerly of Houston and Buffalo, where he played for then OC Brian Daboll. He’s never cracked 900 yards in a season or more than eight touchdowns, but he’s been a decent receiver, catching between 29-40 balls every season. The rest of the backs in New York won’t be a threat with only second-year player Eric Gray and Tyrone Tracy Jr. behind him. Behind a suspect Giants offensive line, thinking he can be an RB1 is probably too optimistic, but with a very heavy workload, an RB2 with a 108 ADP is inviting.

Draft Buddy - Fantasy Football excel draft spreadsheet