With Underdog fantasy football season approaching, it becomes crucial to finalize your rankings before heading into the draft room.
Curating the rankings using Underdog ADP, expert tier rankings, personal tier rankings, and boom/bust potential, the running back position offers a considerable amount of mid-round value although the position is as volatile as ever.
2023 Hello Rookie Staff Rankings
Top Rated RBs
1. Austin Ekeler
Los Angeles Chargers | Underdog ADP: 8.6 (RB2)
With the best composite score on my rankings, Austin Ekeler is a sure-fire top 5 RB this season. In a high-powered Chargers offense that will put up 3-4 touchdowns per game, Austin’s red zone work and ability to catch out of the backfield makes him a first-round selection yet again.
While there were talks of the running back finding a new home this offseason, incentives were added to his contract this offseason, thankfully, as Los Angeles is the perfect fit for his playstyle.
After finishing top two in fantasy PPG over the past two seasons, there isn’t a backup running back nor a subpar offensive line stopping Ekeler from stringing together another top-tier fantasy season for the Chargers.
2. Christian McCaffrey
San Francisco 49ers | Underdog ADP: 4.0 (RB1)
Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery. That was the case for CMC, as he strung together his most productive season since 2019 with the Panthers. A versatile running back that can do just about anything on the field, McCaffrey finds himself in a familiar predicament with the uncertainty at QB.
While it would be beneficial if Brock Purdy were the one to suit up for the red and gold, neither Sam Darnold nor Trey Lance should hinder his fantasy production enough to drop him outside of a top 5 pick in an Underdog Best Ball draft.
While the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan possess a copious amount of talent between Samuel, Aiyuk, Kittle, Mitchell, and McCaffrey, the most talented halfback in the league should be able to receive a similar workload to his 2022 campaign, making him an ideal RB1 for your squad.
3. Bijan Robinson
Atlanta Falcons | Underdog ADP: 9.8 (RB3)
Robinson’s Underdog ADP has shot down from 10.4 to 9.8 in under a week. Due to the sheer amount of opportunity he should receive in the Falcons’ offense, this has a similar aura to Saquon Barkley’s rookie season with the Giants when he finished as a top 3 RB in all league formats scoring 15 total TDs.
Most NFL analysts have admitted that Robinson is a once-in-a-decade type of running back, even comparing him to Marshall Faulk and Marshawn Lynch at times.
With an expected increased target share and considerable bulk of the ball-carrier work alongside Tyler Allgeier, Bijan finishing as a top 10 positional player with close to 350 total touches is starting to gain traction, therefore moving his ADP lower. Get on the Bijan train before it departs.
4. Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns | Underdog ADP: 17.0 (RB5)
If waiting until round two for a running back, Nick Chubb is the essential selection. With the absence of Kareem Hunt and the lack of receiving weapons for Deshaun Watson, Chubb should amass the most amount of targets and receptions in a single season.
While I wouldn’t expect him to catch the ball over 80 times, mirroring my projections for the top three running backs, Chubb’s 30-40 point weeks and ability to break out for those 60-yard rushing TDs will single-handedly win weeks for an Underdog squad.
With the upside of the RB1 and the floor of a back-end top-10 player at his position, Nick Chubb might be the safest bet for a player going outside of round one.
5. Rhamondre Stevenson
New England Patriots | Underdog ADP: 26.6 (RB9)
While we are still waiting for the Dalvin Cook news to arrive on our doorstep in the coming days, Stevenson has the workload, ability, and trust in his organization to finish as a top 5 running back this season.
The 25-year-old dominated last season, running for over 1,000 yards while becoming a top target on this Patriots roster. With the anticipation of a 100-target season and the potential to become the Patriots’ first three-down back in what seems like an eternity, Rhamondre possesses a quietly impressive ceiling.
Even though Dalvin Cook’s appearance in the backfield would drop Stevenson outside of my top 5, a higher TD share and more efficient route running should give the former Sooner the boost he needs to finish among the best RBs in fantasy football.
Rookie RBs to Draft
Detroit Lions | Underdog ADP: 40.8 (RB14)
Gibbs becomes the next productive Alabama running back to make their mark in the NFL. With a similar frame and playstyle to Alvin Kamara, the Lions, and their front office idolized him heading into the NFL draft. The swing to take him at 12th overall shifted his fantasy football projection and shot him down all the way to the RB14 projection on Underdog.
Holding the 14th RB spot on my personal rankings as well, this season is expected to bring a mix of highs and lows for the RB, in contrast to Bijan’s more favorable situation in Atlanta. Due to the absence of Jameson Williams and the lack of chemistry regarding the new one-two punch of Gibbs and David Montgomery, I could see some lackluster weeks for a player drafted inside the top 4 rounds.
However, his unique upside as a pass-catching back shouldn’t sway you against drafting Jahmyr, especially if you already have a top 5 running back in your pocket.
New York Jets | Underdog ADP: 213.0 (RB67)
Starting running back coming off an ACL injury? Brand new offensive scheme that should support two running backs? The need for a change of pace playmaker out of the backfield during the winter in New York?
While Robinson and Gibbs headline the rookie RB class this season, Abanikanada is the sleeper that will make some noise in the middle of the season. Similar to Isiah Pacheco and Tyler Allgeier last season, I don’t expect Israel to make an impact until the mid-way point when he becomes more comfortable as a 5-to-10 touch back.
However, as a change-of-pace running back with quick jump cuts and the ability to gain extra yardage from seemingly nothing, a top-40 RB season isn’t out of the question for the rookie, especially if the Jets want to limit Breece Hall’s snaps after the ACL injury last season.
Whether drafting him as an essential handcuff to Hall or based on the high upside I just shared, spending your final selection on Abanikanada could pay off later in the fantasy season.
RB Draft Strategy
Volatility within the running back landscape in the NFL has gradually influenced the realm of fantasy football over recent seasons. Between Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, David Johnson, and Saquon Barkley drafted as the RB1, to 6th and 7th-round running backs taking over as the starters mid-way into a season, it is nearly impossible to project which RBs will stay on the field for the majority of a 17 game season.
However, my boom/bust projection is an essential category when discussing running backs, as it is normally safer to take a player with a higher floor in the earlier rounds yet a high ceiling in the later rounds.
If waiting for the middle rounds of Underdog drafts to select your starters, here are a few names you can’t let slip past your draft spot.
Carolina Panthers | Underdog ADP: 63.5 (RB20)
The RB15 last season with A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert on the roster with Jalen Hurts rushing for 760 yards and 13 TDs, Sanders finds himself on a rebuilding team that needs a player like him more than ever.
The 26-year-old’s capability of a 300-touch player hasn’t been tapped into yet. However, with Carolina’s new QB, Bryce Young, and the lack of weapons surrounding him, Sanders could turn into one of the premier pass-catching RB in the league this season.
A fairly high ceiling and high floor due to the opportunity he should receive. Miles is a fantastic pickup that can go as high as the 5th round.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Underdog ADP: 84.8 (RB27)
Currently my RB18, Rachaad White is the best bargain in Underdog Best Ball drafts at the moment. The coaching staff has already told him to expect increased receiving work, including what should be increased rushing numbers.
Although he isn’t the most efficient runner (3.73 YPC in 2022), White’s upside as a pass catcher for an offense that is led by Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask should automatically insert him in the RB20 range alongside Ken Walker, Dameon Pierce, and Joe Mixon.
2nd out of all RBs in catch rates and 16th in routes run, a James White type of season could be upon us in Tampa Bay for White.
Washington Commanders | Underdog ADP: 102.9 (RB34)
While I’ve had to temper my expectations for Gibson in the past due to the Washington Commanders’ inability to move the ball down the field, he still remains a top-15 running back talent-wise.
Finishing as a top 15 player at the position in 2020 and 2021, last season was a disappointment partly due to a revolving QB door and the emergence of Brian Robinson. However, with either Sam Howell or Jacoby Brissett starting for Washington, Gibson could be targeted over 70 times this season, automatically placing him in the top 20 at RB.
Although Gibson is more of a high-ceiling, high-risk player, he undoubtedly will be the most talented player on the board multiple times throughout your Underdog draft. If you already have a solid core of starting RBs and WRs, I’d take a shot on the upside Gibson presents in an Eric Bienemy offense.
Detroit Lions | Underdog ADP: 83.9 (RB26)
Sitting around the 7th round in Underdog, Montgomery will be playing in an offense that is tailored for running backs to thrive for the first time in his career. Taking a backseat last season to Justin Fields and a sprinkle of Khalil Herbert, Montgomery joins the Lions and newly drafted Jahmyr Gibbs in the backfield.
While Gibbs should receive most of the targets out of the two, Montgomery should dominate the goal line and finish in the upper tier of rushing TDs this season.
Finishing with 5 TDs or more and 800 rush yards or more in every season with the Bears, I’m expecting a solid RB20 finish for David this year, which is a low-risk pickup in the 7th or 8th round.