After laying the groundwork this offseason with full Dynasty player rankings, I wanted to circle back and provide some tiers for added context to those ranks.

Some really quick methodology here if you are new to how I do tiers.

I make my Dynasty tiers based on a blend of age, fantasy performance, career arc, team situation, and fantasy archetype.

There is some overlap to actual player rankings, but these tiers do not specifically follow the rankings but rather those archetypes.

The purpose of tiers not being a carbon copy of player rankings is to spot a potential arbitrage situation and shop in different buckets based on how you are constructing your team in startups. They are also useful when looking for trade opportunities.

A veteran starter that can accrue points immediately might be worth more based on where a current roster is. Other times, it might make sense to chase more youth and upside for the future.

While these tiers will largely be a condensed view of the subset of tiers themselves, you can read more immediate detailed thoughts on every player in the 2023 running back rankings.

Dynasty Fantasy Football Tiers, 2023:

Overall Running Back Outlook:

Age is a catalyst for analysis among all of the positions in fantasy, but it has no larger impact on perceived value than it does for running backs.

Over the past 30 years, 65.2% of all RB1 scoring seasons have come from backs 26 years old and younger. Just 27 of the 360 total individual top-12 seasons over that span have come from a back age 30 or older.

That has skewed younger over the past decade, with 69.2% of the RB1 scoring seasons over the past 10 years coming from backs 26 or younger.

When looking at the pantheon of the position and the true players that impact seasonal outcomes, there have been just 14 running backs over the age of 27 to turn in a top-three scoring fantasy campaign in a given season over the past 30 years. The last time that occurred was in 2015.

The last time a running back over the age of 27 was the highest-scoring running back overall came back in 2007.

2022 did push back with no runner under the age of 24 inside of the top-12 scorers, so you do not have to make hard lines on player age.

But those top-down numbers do highlight the fragility of the position from a longevity stance, and your league mates will price that into any potential transactions involving running backs approaching their late twenties, let alone pushing the door on 30.

Running backs largely shine their brightest early in their careers while wide receivers take more of a runway to takeoff and sustained flight.

We are in a unique state of the position at the running back position. Even with the added 17th game, we are not seeing many old-school, three-down, running backs.

Even with the season expansion, we have only had 12 running back seasons over the past two years in which a back reached 300 touches.

The yearly supply of do-it-all backs that are carrying fantasy rosters is a shallow pool each season. While that subset of players greatly influences the outcomes for their rosters, they have been a scarce resource.

Paired with the opening notes on positional longevity, that makes it hard to overly invest in running backs from a Dynasty stance. Especially in a startup league compared to wide receivers.

Due to a stretch where the producers at the running back position are on the “older” range of the age spectrum and the position itself being impacted by committees and a surplus of viable candidates, the top of the position is as thing as it has ever been for fantasy.

*Player Age = Age on 9/1/2023

Tier 1A Running Backs:

  • Bijan Robinson (Age: 21.6)
  • Breece Hall (22.3)
  • Jonathan Taylor (24.6)

With the market value the highest at the start of a career for running back, Bijan Robinson is already in contention for the top spot at the position despite not logging an NFL snap.

Robinson is as clean of a prospect as they come. He received the invested draft capital to back things up and landed in the league’s best running game as part of that investment.

Robinson just turned 21 years old in January. His yardage and touchdown production increased every season of his collegiate career. He has a 95th percentile career production score in my prospect model.

Atlanta running backs led the NFL in rushing yards (2,209) and yards per carry (4.9). They ranked second in expected points added per carry (0.04), were third in success rate (44.0%), and third in rate of carries to result in a first down or touchdown (25.7%).

Breece Hall may have the start of his sophomore season stunted due to a recovery from ACL surgery in November, but what he showed as a rookie was a true alpha ceiling.

Hall averaged 5.8 yards per carry and 11.5 yards per reception with five touchdowns. No running back in the league averaged more yards per touch than Hall’s 6.9 yards per touch that handled as many opportunities as he did.

Hopefully, we can squeeze out multiple seasons from Aaron Rodgers in New York.

Jonathan Taylor already has an RB1 overall scoring season on his resume and is in the final season of his rookie contract.

Historically, offensive skill players playing with rookie quarterbacks do not deliver front-end scoring seasons for fantasy. On the other end of the spectrum, historically hyper-mobile quarterbacks also have opened up running games and increased efficiency.

It will be hard for Taylor to be worse than last season. Among the 42 running backs with 100 or more carries last season, Taylor was 39th in EPA per rush (-0.16) and 37th in success rate (34.4%).

Tier 1B Running Backs:

  • Jahmyr Gibbs (Age: 21.4)
  • Kenneth Walker (22.9)

Both backs here check off the boxes we are looking for on the age and draft investment front.

The question that separates these two backs from the front three is can either punch all of the way up and ever have a real shot to lead the position in fantasy scoring over a season?

Jahymr Gibbs received elite draft capital this spring and landed in an advantageous spot to potentially lead the position in receiving as early as year one.

Gibbs was the best speed and space back in this draft class. The only thing that potentially stands in the way of Gibbs delivering a truly alpha season is that his archetype has wide margins and often has their overall touches capped by the coaching staff.

The apex outcome for Gibbs is something like Austin Ekeler, but there is also an outcome in which he is C.J. Spiller.

Kenneth Walker is a home run rusher and delivered a stretch as an RB1 already during his rookie season.

After Rashaad Penny was lost for the season a year ago, Walker was third in the NFL in carries (205), fifth in rushing yards (904), and tied for fifth with eight rushing scores while even missing a game.

The rub is he came across some red flags and Seattle once again invested into a back with similar draft capital this spring to potentially prevent Walker from receiving the same workload that floated him through his volatile rushing style.

His 31.1% success rate ranked 60th while 23.7% of his carries failed to gain yardage (63rd).

Walker was a non-factor as a pass catcher. He was 103rd in receiving grade among running backs per Pro Football Focus in 2022, and his 0.67 yards per route run ranked 57th at the position.

In games in which Walker scored a touchdown, he averaged 19.9 points per game and was the average RB11 in weekly scoring. In games without a touchdown, he averaged 9.2 points per game and was the average RB33.

Tier 2 Running Backs:

  • Christian McCaffrey (Age: 27.2)
  • Saquon Barkley (26.6)
  • Tony Pollard (26.3)
  • Austin Ekeler (28.3)

This tier of backs is a touch older than the previous backs and is approaching that age apex range discussed in the open, but they already have credible production for us to lean on.

The only thing that has stopped Christian McCaffrey from being a fantasy stud has been injuries. Over his past five seasons, he has been the RB3, RB1, RB1, RB5, and RB2 in points per game.

Playing a full season (he did rest Week 18) for the first time since his rookie season, Saquon Barkley was the RB5 overall and in points per game last season.

Barkley was third in the NFL in touches (352), fifth in yards from scrimmage per game (103.1), and tied for 10th position with 10 total touchdowns.

Tony Pollard does not have as robust of a resume as the other backs here, but his front-end outcome is just as strong now that he has a runway to fully control the Dallas backfield.

Pollard’s touches and yardage have now gone up from the season prior in all four years of his career. With 232 touches last season, there is still room for that streak to continue with the Cowboys releasing Ezekiel Elliott.

Austin Ekeler has been a top-12 scorer in points per game in each of the past four seasons, closing as the RB6, RB12, RB3, and RB1 in per-game scoring over that span.

He had a career-high 311 touches and led the NFL in total touchdowns (18) for the second consecutive year.

There are minor concerns here with him approaching 30 and in the final season of his contract with the Chargers.

After the whispers this offseason that Ekeler was looking for a huge contract or a trade as an avenue to getting that contract, we could see Ekeler have a change of scenery as early as next season.

Tier 3 Running Backs:

  • Josh Jacobs (Age: 25.6)
  • Rhamondre Stevenson (25.5)
  • Najee Harris (25.5)
  • Travis Etienne (24.6)
  • J.K. Dobbins (24.7)
  • Javonte Williams (23.4)
  • D’Andre Swift (24.6)
  • Cam Akers (Age: 24.6)

This tier of backs still has multiple years before reaching the age apex range. Everyone here is still on their first NFL contract or playing on some sort of tag this season.

Josh Jacobs led the NFL in rushing yards (1,653) and yards from scrimmage (2,053).

He handled a career-high 393 touches last season, which also led the league. He played 74.5% of the offensive snaps, which trailed only Saquon Barkley (75.4%) among running backs.

After 53 total receptions over his first two seasons, Jacobs has 54 and 53 receptions in the past two seasons.

Only two backs have led the league in rushing in back-to-back years since 2000 and the Raiders have yet to make a long-term commitment to Jacobs.

Rhamondre Stevenson accounted for the elusive feature back season in New England.

He had 49.4% of the team’s rushing attempts. That was the highest rate for a New England back since 2019 and the second-highest rate over the previous 10 seasons.

Stevenson handled 35.6% of the team touches, which was the highest rate for a New England back since 2016.

As a pass catcher, Stevenson drew 88 targets, which was second on the team behind Jakobi Meyers’ 96. It was the third-most targets for a New England back over the past 30 seasons, trailing just two James White seasons. Only Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey were targeted more out of the backfield last season.

The Patriots have pulled the rug on us before, but with no major additions to this backfield this offseason, Stevenson appears poised to have another large role in 2023.

Najee Harris has shown the ability to be a three-down back in each of his first two NFL seasons. The only question is how much his production has been anchored strictly through volume.

Over the past two seasons, there have been 74 running backs with 100 or more carries. Harris has a run of 10 or more yards on 8.1% of his carries, which ranks 60th among that group. No running back with a lower rate of explosive runs than Harris over that span has as many carries as him.

We had similar questions with Jacobs after his first two years in the league and Harris is still at no real risk of giving away his job this season.

Travis Etienne handled 255 touches for 1,441 yards and five touchdowns during his first regular season in the NFL.

Now we need to see if he can increase his receiving role like he did in college. Etienne did not have a single game last season with more than three receptions.

While J.K. Dobbins has flashed over his rookie contract when healthy, he does enter the 2023 season in the final season of his deal with just one career game having more than 15 carries. He also had just 25 career catches in 23 regular season games.

We are in a volatile position with Javonte Williams. It is expected he will be limited this season after he suffered tears in both his ACL and LCL as well as the posterolateral corner of his right knee.

His upcoming season appears to look a lot like what we saw from Dobbins a year ago. We could be entering the final season of Williams’ rookie contract with a small sample of efficiency but a lack of tangible volume.

Unlike Dobbins, this current Denver regime does not have any ties to him. That is a potential rain cloud, but Williams is still only going to be 24 years old next season.

D’Andre Swift has a wide range of outcomes for 2023 and beyond for Dynasty.

Swift has been productive on his limited NFL sample, averaging 5.5 yards per touch over his three years in the league.

The downside is that Swift has missed multiple games in all three years in the league and has exceeded 15 rushing attempts just twice so far in his early career.

Over the final six games of the season, Cam Akers led the NFL in rushing (512 yards), was eighth in expected points added per rush (0.05), and 10th in success rate (45.2%) carrying the football.

While that late-season success is something the Rams hope is a sign of what a healthy version of Akers can provide and can carry over into 2023, he is in the final season of his rookie contract with only fleeting moments of the Rams fully committing to him over the course of that contract.

Tier 4 Running Backs:

  • Nick Chubb (Age: 27.7)
  • Alvin Kamara (28.1)
  • Derrick Henry (29.7)
  • Joe Mixon (27.1)
  • Dalvin Cook (28.1)
  • Aaron Jones (28.7)
  • James Conner (28.3)

Here we are hitting our tier of backs that have shown us RB1 production but have reached the age that has gamers on high alert. Any of these backs can outkick their current market value and still not see their future value rise.

Nick Chubb is the most alluring player here for win-now rosters. Chubb posted career highs in carries (302), rushing yardage (1,525), yards from scrimmage (1,764), and total touchdowns (13).

He has now averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry in all of his five seasons in the league.

Chubb handled 56.8% of the team’s rushing attempts in 2022, which was his highest rate since his second season in the league in 2019. He may be tasked to extend that workload further since the depth chart has been thinned out here.

Derrick Henry is knocking on the door of 30. He has shown dips in efficiency in recent seasons but has remained a workhorse.

He led the NFL in rushing attempts (349) for the third time over the past four seasons while leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage per game with 121.0 per game.

In the final season of his contract and Tennessee in a potential transition phase as a franchise, does Henry has any reduction in touches this year, and where is he moving forward?

Aaron Jones was efficient again in 2022, racking up 1,516 yards and seven touchdowns on 272 touches. Jones caught another 59 passes.

He now has increased his reception total every season of his NFL career. With 5.6 yards per touch, Jones has averaged over 5.0 yards per touch every year of his career.

Where things keep Jones as an RB2 for fantasy is that he still lives solely as his touchdowns go.

Jones now has 45 career games without a touchdown and has been an RB2 or better in just 12 of those weeks.

AJ Dillon is a thorn in that department. Dillon out-carried Jones 10-to-2 inside of the 5-yard line in 2022 and 20-to-8 over the past two seasons.

Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara all had down seasons in 2022. Paired with their age there are warning signs up on all of them.

We are not even sure where Cook will play this upcoming season, Kamara could face a suspension, and there continue to be rumors surrounding the Bengals asking Mixon to take a pay cut or signing another veteran back still on the market.

James Conner has a clear path to a feature role in 2023, but the Cardinals could be a factory of sadness on the field while we still have never gotten a full season out of Conner over his career.

Tier 5 Running Backs:

  • Rachaad White (24.6)
  • Dameon Pierce (23.5)
  • James Cook (23.9)
  • AJ Dillon (25.3)
  • Isiah Pacheco (24.5)
  • Khalil Herbert (25.4)
  • Alexander Mattison (25.2)
  • Antonio Gibson (25.2)

The backs here do not have a large sample size of fantasy production, but all have shown enough upside to make them potential values.

The backs here are only a stone’s throw away from Tier 3. They just have a smaller body of work and have more fragility due to either lower draft investment, offensive environment, and current backfield competition.

Rachaad White has dodged several bullets this offseason and is still standing as the feature back for the Buccaneers at the moment.

After being selected in the third round (91st overall) a year ago, he struggled behind an anemic offensive line and running game top-down.

Among 42 backs with 100 or more carries in 2022, White ranked 38th in yards per carry (3.8 YPC) and 42nd in the rate of runs for 10 or more yards (6.6%).

White has legitimate pass-catching chops as a prospect to create a high floor in full-PPR formats, but the Tampa offensive line does not look much better on paper while the offense as a whole could be bad again in 2023 under the combination of Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask.

Dameon Pierce had a polarizing rookie season.

Through 10 weeks, Pierce was third in the NFL in carries (165) and fifth in rushing yards (722). The downside is that he had just three rushing scores over that span due to the Houston offensive environment and was averaging 2.4 catches per game.

He then rushed for 167 yards in the next four weeks before being shut down for the season.

Over that front stretch at his best, Pierce had accounted for 79.7% of the Houston rushing attempts. The addition of Devin Singletary compromises that workload while we still cannot count on a major spike in the passing game or touchdowns.

James Cook only totaled 110 touches during his rookie season, but he averaged 6.2 yards per touch.

27.0% of Cook’s 89 carries resulted in a first down or touchdown, which ranked sixth among 66 running backs last season with 50 or more carries.

In the passing game, Cook averaged 1.43 yards per route run, which was 16th among all backs to run 100 or more routes for the season.

The downside is that the Bills still have Josh Allen as a goal-line threat while the team added Damien Harris and Latavius Murray as bangers to prevent Cook from accruing a large workload or the money touches.

Isiah Pacheco had just 47 touches through Week 9 but then closed the year as the primary ball carrier for the Chiefs.

From that point forward, Pacheco was seventh among all running backs in success rate (44.4%) and seventh in yards per carry (5.0).

Just 7.9% of his carries over that span failed to gain yardage, the lowest rate among 44 backs to have 50 or more carries over that period.

Just 8.7% of his carries gained 10 or more yards (30th) while Pacheco played 50% of the offensive snaps in just three games (with a high of 57%).

With Jerick McKinnon returning to the team and the ghost of Clyde Edwards-Helaire still lingering around, Pacheco still has some fragility.

Especially since Pacheco was underserved in the passing game. 83.7% of Pacheco’s fantasy output came via rushing, which was sixth among the top-48 scorers at the position.

AJ Dillon has not lived up to expectations so far and has settled in as more of a touchdown-dependent FLEX play while sharing a backfield with Aaron Jones. He is best kept as a contingency bet should anything happen to the latter.

Over the early part of Dillon’s career, he has averaged 18.3 points per game with a touchdown as opposed to 6.6 points per game without. Over the past two seasons, just 6.3% of Dillon’s runs have gained 10 or more yards, which is dead last among the backs that have as many carries as him over that span.

Khalil Herbert is a high-floor and high-ceiling rusher.

17.1% of his carries last season went for 10 or more yards, which trailed only J.K. Dobbins. Just 13.2% of his carries failed to gain yardage, which was the fifth-lowest rate in the league.

While Herbert has incredible upside should he be the lead back with the Bears, he also stands to be part of a massive backfield committee with D’Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, and potentially even Travis Homer on passing downs.

Herbert does not have ties to this regime while the team had an opportunity to extend his role in a lost season last year with David Montgomery in a walk year.

Pairing that with the moves that the Bears have made this offseason does not inspire a lot of confidence that we will see Herbert take over this backfield without injuries.

Alexander Mattison stands to gain a lot of ground should the Vikings trade or release Dalvin Cook in the upcoming weeks after June 1st.

Mattison has been a strong volume producer when Cook has missed time, but Mattison has also been lackluster in the efficiency department.

Over the past two seasons, 74 running backs have had 100 or more rushing attempts. Among those backs, Mattison ranks 68th in yards per carry (3.7), 45th in success rate (37.5%), 43rd in explosive run rate (9.1%), and 42nd in yards after contact per carry (2.78).

Tier 6 Running Backs:

  • David Montgomery (Age: 26.2)
  • Miles Sanders (26.3)
  • Rashaad Penny (27.6)

These backs are just a smidge older than the previous tier, but they have more job stability than most of that previous group.

David Montgomery has shown that he is just good enough to remain a viable source of production and just pedestrian enough to prevent a true allure of spike fantasy asset without a source of a major workload.

Montgomery has posted over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in all four of his NFL seasons, but his rushing yardage per game has dropped from the season prior in each of the past two seasons.

Sharing a backfield with Jahmyr Gibbs makes Montgomery a bet that will be forced to lean on touchdown output or an injury to the rookie giving him contingency upside.

Miles Sanders bounced back with career-highs with 1,269 rushing yards, 1,347 yards from scrimmage, 11 touchdowns, and 279 touches.

Sanders has been one of the most touchdown-dependent fantasy backs in his career since his receiving output has dwindled each season in the NFL.

Sanders averaged 20.3 points per game last season in weeks with a tip to the end zone as opposed to 6.0 points per game in his weeks without a score.

A move to Carolina opens up the door for Sanders to catch more passes, but he still takes a step of faith in that department while playing in a projectable worse NFL scoring offense.

Rashaad Penny has been a hyper-efficient back the past two seasons in Seattle but just has not been able to stay on the field.

He has the highest EPA per rush (0.13) among all running backs with 100 or more carries the past two seasons while leading all of those 71 backs in yards after contact per carry (4.43) and overall yards per carry (6.2).

The Eagles led the NFL with 85.1% of their running back runs coming from shotgun a year ago. Penny has a limited sample of just 62 attempts from the shotgun the past two seasons, but he has averaged a gaudy 7.0 yards per carry on those attempts.

The bugaboo for Penny is that he also has struggled to stay on the field. Penny missed 12 games a year ago and has not appeared in more than 10 games in a season since his rookie campaign in 2018.

Tier 7 Running Backs:

  • Kendre Miller (Age: 21.2)
  • Tyjae Spears (22.2)
  • Devon Achane (21.9)
  • Zach Charbonnet (22.6)
  • Roschon Johnson (22.6)
  • Tank Bigsby (22.0)

Our secondary tier of rookie backs has the strongest appeal after the two-man tier of Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs. You can find all of the pre-draft writeups on these prospects here.

For immediate production, Roschon Johnson and Devon Achane have the cleanest path in working their way to the top of ambiguous backfields.

Kendre Miller can receive an immediate boost should Alvin Kamara officially be served a suspension while the Saints could move on from Karama outright if his performance is on par with the past two seasons.

Tyjae Spears has long-term medical concerns with an arthritic knee condition, but with Derrick Henry potentially out of Tennessee after (or during) this season he can have a short-term window to cash in on elevated opportunity.

Both Zach Charbonnet and Tank Bigsby are more likely to serve as thorns and operate as ancillary roles behind higher-profile backs also on their rookie deals.

While they likely will end up being a nuisance to Travis Etienne and Kenneth Walker, injuries and missed time for those backs would spike their value.

Tier 8 Running Backs:

  • Damien Harris (Age: 26.6)
  • Devin Singletary (26.0)
  • Elijah Mitchell (25.3)
  • Brian Robinson (24.4)
  • Tyler Allgeier (23.4)
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (24.4)
  • Jaylen Warren (24.8)
  • Michael Carter (24.3)
  • Kenneth Gainwell (24.5)
  • James Robinson (25.1)

These are our backs that have shown that they are in the handcuff zone and largely contingency bets that need their depth charts thinned out to receive a large enough workload to have standalone value.

Elijah Mitchell is the top option in this area given what we have seen from him when he has been the lead back in San Francisco. He also is the best backup tied to an expensive running back.

Tier 9 Running Backs:

  • Leonard Fournette (Age: 28.6)
  • Jamaal Williams (28.4)
  • Kareem Hunt (28.1)
  • Ezekiel Elliott (28.1)
  • Jeff Wilson (27.8)
  • Gus Edwards (28.4)
  • Samaje Perine (28.0)
  • Raheem Mostert (31.4)
  • Jerick McKinnon (31.3)

This tier of backs is filled with veteran backs that do not have clear standalone value but have been good enough over their careers to earn roster spots and compete for touches in a backfield. They are no longer backs that demand a high workload but carry enough cache to push for a role in an offense.

We are still waiting to see where Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott, and Kareem Hunt end up this offseason. All could end up serving as touchdown vultures for a younger back we are excited for.

Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert cannibalize each other and were at their best when the other was absent with Miami last season. The addition of Devon Achane complicates that split further, even if either were to miss time this season.

Two players here have an opening to an immediate larger role to open this season.

Samaje Perine was one of the biggest winners of the offseason. At what appears to be the worst outcome, Perine is a dual threat back in a part of a Sean Payton committee backfield.

At best, Perine is a dual-threat workhorse while Javonte Williams is absent for a portion of the season if not longer.

Jamaal Williams gives the Saints a reliable workhorse if Alvin Kamara misses any time and allows for a combination that could get Kamara more touches out in open space like in his early career.

Tier 10 Running Backs:

  • Jerome Ford (Age: 24.0)
  • Chase Brown (23.4)
  • DeWayne McBride (22.1)
  • Hassan Haskins (23.8)
  • Pierre Strong (24.7)
  • Chuba Hubbard (24.1)
  • Zamir White (24.0)
  • Isaiah Spiller (22.1)
  • Israel Abanikanda (20.9)
  • Zach Evans (22.4)
  • Chris Rodriguez Jr. (23.9)
  • Kyren Williams (23.0)
  • Eric Gray (23.8)
  • Evan Hull (22.8)
  • Deuce Vaughn (21.8)
  • Malik Davis (24.8)
  • Ty Chandler (25.3)
  • Tyrion Davis-Price (22.9)

Our final tier of backs is our deeper swings are younger players that could luckbox into opportunity.

Jerome Ford and Malik Davis currently carry the largest handcuff appeal right now. Both Cleveland and Dallas are still potential landing spots for those available backs we mentioned in the tier prior.

Chase Brown has the most three-down potential among the reserves currently behind Joe Mixon.

Given Alexander Mattison’s inefficiency, either DeWayne McBride or Ty Chandler could push for rushing work if those issues continue in a post-Dalvin Cook offense.


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