The big wave of Free Agency is over, as is the 2023 NFL Draft. Now it’s time to look forward. Over the next few articles, I’ll be looking at team’s fantasy units by conference, ranking the groups. Today I’m continuing with a look at NFC Running Backs, looking at my Top 8 units. Groups appear in ascending order. To check out Part 1, click HERE.
No. 8: Green Bay Packers
On the Roster: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Lew Nichols, Patrick Taylor, and Tyler Goodson
About: As we begin the second half, I start with the Packers. Green Bay has two good running backs in Jones and Dillon. Jones had a better season in 2022 than you might remember, rushing for a career-high 1,121 yards and catching 59 passes. He didn’t have as many touchdowns, but he’s still the best skill position player on the Packers. Dillon is a great complimentary back, rushing for more than 750 yards in each of his last two seasons. Beyond that great one-two punch, the Packers don’t have much. So, I have them top half, but with it being unclear how the offense will run in the first year without Aaron Rodgers, I didn’t feel they should go higher.
No. 7: Minnesota Vikings
On the Roster: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, DeWayne McBride, Ty Chandler, and Kene Nwangwu
About: The Vikings are a team that could be too low but could also be too high. The Vikings made a strong move in the off-season by bringing back Mattison. He’s been a solid contributor and backup for a few seasons. The team also has a couple of strong developmental prospects in Chandler and McBride. The rating here hinges on Cook. He’s rushed for more than 1,100 yards a season in the past four years as the main back for the Vikings. He’s also entering his seventh season and carries a big contract. There are persistent rumors the Vikings will release Cook. If that happens, this backfield ranking is too high. If he stays and continues running hard, the Vikings could again have a top backfield.
No. 6: Detroit Lions
On the Roster: Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery, Craig Reynolds, Mohamed Ibrahim, and Jermar Jefferson
About: The Lions are in the midst of remaking their backfield. D’Andre Swift is in Philadelphia, and Jamaal Williams is now in New Orleans. In their place are former Bear Montgomery and the talented Alabama rookie Gibbs. Montgomery was a solid signing, as he rushed for 3,609 yards and 26 touchdowns in four seasons. He’ll be a decent hammer for the Lions. Gibbs, taken No. 12 overall, rushed for 926 yards and seven touchdowns while catching 44 passes last season for Alabama. I love Gibbs’ potential and the pairing with Montgomery. They could be another team that ends up being too low by year’s end.
No. 5: New Orleans Saints
On the Roster: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller, and Eno Benjamin
About: The Saints have an incredible Top 3 options in the backfield, beginning with Kamara. In his first four seasons, Kamara caught at least 80 passes each year. While his receiving numbers have been lower the past two seasons, he’s still been a solid contributor as a receiver and rusher. In the last two seasons, he’s run for nearly 900 yards. The danger here is a looming possible suspension, but the Saints have options. They signed Williams, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Lions in 2022. In addition, they snagged Miller, a promising rookie back. I like the combination and options in New Orleans.
No. 4: Seattle Seahawks
On the Roster: Ken Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh, and Chris Smith
About: The Seahawks return Walker, who had a strong rookie year. He rushed for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns, starting 11 games. He looks like a solid, long-term asset at the position. Then the Seahawks doubled down, drafting Charbonnet in the Third Round. Charbonnet, out of UCLA, came into the draft as one of the better prospects. His draft landing spot didn’t make a ton of sense for fantasy players, but it gives the Seahawks a strong one-two punch. They also have Dallas as a pass-catcher and McIntosh, another rookie, to provide depth. Given their options, the Seahawks easily made my list of the Top 4 options.
No. 3: Atlanta Falcons
On the Roster: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarralle Patterson, Caleb Huntley, and Avery Williams
About: The Falcons got a generational talent in Robinson, snagging him in the First Round as they build an impressive young offensive core. That gives the Falcons an incredible set of running backs. Robinson ran for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2022 at Texas. He’s a Top three dynasty back already. That would probably be enough to vault the Falcons up the charts, but we also have Allgeier and Patterson. Allgeier, a Fifth-Round selection in 2022, rushed for 1,035 yards as a rookie. Behind them is Patterson, who has been a strong producer as a runner and pass-catcher the past two seasons in Atlanta. The only question is how Arthur Smith will use his embarrassment of riches in the backfield in 2023.
No. 2: Philadelphia Eagles
On the Roster: D’Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, and Trey Sermon
About: I don’t think any team in the NFL has a Top 4 backs like the Eagles, who added Penny in Free Agency and Swift via trade during the draft. They join Gainwell and Scott, who, along with Miles Sanders, formed a tenacious backfield trio in 2022. Swift is explosive as a rusher and pass-catcher, while Penny has produced well in the past two seasons for the Seahawks. Both have struggled with injuries, but with the depth of the Eagles’ backfield and their incredible offensive line, I expect big things. Looking at the overall depth and top-end potential, I ended up slotting them just above the Falcons.
No. 1: San Francisco 49ers
On the Roster: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, and Tyrion Davis-Price
About: The 49ers are my top backfield because they not only have depth but also have the best running back in football. Maybe Robinson is a better pure runner, but no one does what McCaffrey does, and he’s found the perfect franchise to unlock his potential in the 49ers. Last season he had a game with a rushing touchdown, passing touchdown, and receiving touchdown. He’s simply been incredible there. And Mitchell is no slouch. He struggled with injuries in 2022, but as a rookie, he rushed for 963 yards and five touchdowns. Beyond that, the 49ers have solid depth prospects in Mason and Davis-Price and a scheme led by Kyle Shanahan that always maximizes rushing production. It’s the best unit in the NFL.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.