The first ADP update of the 2023 season is here. I am here to discuss each position and pick out risers or fallers who stand out. The articles will speculate on what to expect moving forward. This initial article will not have the 2023 rookies as they were not included in January 2023 ADP.
I will have additional articles as the off-season progresses with updated ADP. For now, let’s look at January’s (2023) ADP. The ADP was from 1QB mock drafts. This article will focus on running backs.
When a startup draft kicks off, you will have to implement a strategy. There are multiple strategies to choose from. To keep it simple, we can work off the premise of having a win-now or first-year punt strategy. There is no right or wrong strategy. The goal is to win championships, not necessarily hoard young talent.
If you want to win now, then you draft the aging players. If you want the first-year punt then you draft younger, hopefully proven, players to build around.
There are a handful of running backs who are true difference-makers for your team. If you play in a PPR league, then Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler are gold. You may play in a PPC (point per carry) league where Derrick Henry is gold. Durability is a major advantage for running backs. Injuries happen, it is a part of the game. This likely is why players may favor wide receivers because of the perceived shelf-life.
Here is January’s (2023) ADP for running backs:
The screenshot when through round 15 which concluded with RB60. If you would like to see more, click here.
- Oldest RB1 drafted: Austin Ekeler (27.9)
- Youngest RB1 drafted: Breece Hall (21.6)
- Median RB1 drafted: 24.9 years old
- 40% (RB1-RB24) of the top 60 running backs were drafted in the first six rounds
Running backs who may provide points went early. Running backs who have question marks fell into a gray area. An example is Tyler Allgeier who had a phenomenal four-game end-of-season stretch accumulating 483 scrimmage yards. He was a fifth-round NFL rookie selection and this likely raised concern from dynasty mock drafters. The Falcons are not heavily invested despite a rookie season that rivaled Kenneth Walker who has first-round ADP.
Allgeier and Michael Carter both impressed in their rookie seasons and finished as RB29. The Jets drafted Breece Hall in the first round following Carter’s campaign. The concern that the Falcons will find their guy in the 2023 NFL Draft looms over the dynasty landscape.
Notable Running Back Selections
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL: RB32, ADP 96.83
Elliott has never finished below an RB2 in his career and has five of seven seasons concluding as an RB1 – to be fair his RB13 finish came with only playing ten games. The Cowboys notoriously fed Zeke. He is younger than a few notable players being selected before. So why the fall?
He was outplayed by Tony Pollard. We can argue Pollard has been a better running back for the last few years, but volume does matter for production. Jerry Jones might have backed himself in the corner with the contract given but I digress. Elliott will be turning 28 before the start of the 2023 season and may find himself on a new team. He has zero guaranteed salary for the next four seasons with a minimal dead cap hit compared to the cap savings.
Antonio Gibson, WAS: RB38, ADP 117.50
Once a decorated dynasty asset, Gibson has fallen to be the 38th running back selected off the board. I do believe he was propped up with Ron Rivera and the notion he would be his “Christian McCaffrey.” The emergence of rookie Brian Robinson is another variable likely attributing to Gibson’s fall. Robinson accumulated 205 rushing attempts in only 12 games.
Gibson will have a pass-catching role which leaves value in a PPR league. He did set a career-high in receptions in 2022. Drafters understand his situation and how Rivera prefers an old-school two-running-back system.
Derrick Henry, TEN: RB14, ADP 41.33
I believe Henry is a notable draft selection because he is currently 29 years old and was drafted before the fifth round. If you believe in the shelf-life for running backs is true, Henry has exceeded expectations, but has to be nearing the end, right? This is a topic I will tackle this off-season. Back to Henry.
He was selected before running backs like Pollard, Javonte Williams, and JK Dobbins. There is no denying Henry may provide another 300-touch season in 2023. Looking forward to starting in 2024, you may have lost your fourth round startup investment.
Running Back Risers
When looking at risers, it is important to understand younger running backs will naturally be drafted higher. I will identify notable risers and not necessarily mention how Jeff Wilson Jr was being drafted at pick 180 and is now at pick 139.
Rhamondre Stevenson, NE: RB13, ADP 39.00
One year ago, his ADP was at pick 99.0 and currently it is at pick 39.0. This change results from finishing as the RB7 and having over 1,400 scrimmage yards. There is a notion Bill Belichick utilizes a running back by committee system. This may be true, but there is always a favored running back. Stevenson had 279 touches and enters his third NFL season in 2023.
He may have performed at his ceiling.
Tony Pollard, DAL: RB15, ADP 42.00
The Cowboys have had a role for Pollard since his rookie season. Year after year, the role grew. I mentioned how we could argue he was a better running back than teammate Ezekiel Elliott. He finished the 2022 season as the RB8. His ADP changed in one year from 87.50 to 42.00
He is due a contract and may find himself on a new team for the 2023 season. This may have influenced his ADP swing. Regardless, I am not sure if it matters. The Cowboys finally came to their senses and utilized Pollard’s skillset.
Saquon Barkley, NYG: RB5, ADP 13.67
This is a notable selection because he was simply being drafted lower in 2022 than he should have. This may have been a result of his injuries. Barkley is a top talent at the position and his bounce-back 2022 season brought people back to reality. Last January his ADP was at pick 20 (February: 31.50) and now he is being selected at the turn of the first round.
Rumors of a contract extension loom. Barkley seems to be the focal part of the offense and a leader for the Giants.
Running Back Fallers
Contrary to how young running backs rise, older running backs will fall. I noted how Gibson was a faller so I will not mention him again in this section. Let’s look at additional notable fallers outside of aging running backs.
Javonte Williams, DEN: RB16, ADP 43.67
A lot of things can change in one year. For Williams, it is losing his RB1 and round one startup status. He was being drafted at 12.00 and currently is 43.67. That is a drastic change likely resulting from tearing his ACL in the fourth game of the season. The ACL is no longer a death sentence, but the recovery process is notable. We know Williams will play and will likely come back to similar strength. The major concern is when that will happen.
This past year we saw JK Dobbins come back in week three following his 2021 ACL tear. However, after a few games, he had an additional surgery to help clean out the knee. He came back in week 14 and subsequently finished the season with 400 scrimmage yards over the last four games.
Drafters may have no concern about Williams’ talents. The concern falls if he will be playing during 2023 season – and if he does, how much production should we expect?
David Montgomery, CHI: RB28, ADP 85.33
If you are looking for the prototypical RB2, you have found it in Montgomery. He was being drafted at pick 40.67 but is now going at pick 85.33. This may be due to the uncertainty of his future. He is also due a new contract.
His skill set is the reason for the fall. Pollard is due a contract but is being drafted early. Montgomery will not blow you away, but he has proven to handle a workload with decent receiving ability. This feels like an example of a running back who was being drafted early because of perceived job security not because of talent.
Cam Akers, LAR: RB21, ADP 68.17
Stating the obvious, the Achilles injury may have resulted in Akers being a faller. A former RB1 to being a fringe RB2 is interesting. Akers finished the season with four straight 100-yard games. It does appear he is back to being the running back the Rams believed him to be when they drafted him in the second round.
There are multiple variables attributing to running back risers and fallers. Simply being healthy and young will help catapult a running back (Stevenson) into the early rounds. They do need to prove it on the field for the pick to be worthy. Being old (Elliott) or having injuries (Akers) will attribute to an ADP faller.
The nuance in running back evaluations creates an area with players to fade and players to exploit an edge. This is why we have zero running back theorists and have people who love their running backs. The perceived shelf life is an underlying factor as well.
Compared to wide receiver ADP, it is easy to understand the running back ADP in terms of risers and fallers. The face value makes sense. The information to pull from the ADP is the young running back risers and fallers. Why are they happening? Variables like scheme, talent, and usage are evident.
There is no right or wrong way to play as long as you are winning. Startup drafts set the tone for your future. Trading is always a possibility. Your team is not set in stone when the draft concludes. A main point to conclude with is understanding if the ‘hype’ is warranted or not. Fall in love with the reality of a situation, not the idea.
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