Running Back Danger Rankings: 32-17

Jagger May

The NFL Draft is finally upon us and despite a highly touted RB class, the 2023 class is slightly disappointing for the RB position. However, it’s not for the lack of incoming talent, but the current depth and lack of available jobs. We’ve witnessed the position lose value in both fantasy and real NFL and it’s safe to expect a few of your favorite rookies to slip to Day 3.

Despite the lack of available snaps, the current landscape isn’t so safe either. So we’ll look at the NFL’s current depth charts and assess the current backfields in danger of being usurped by younger talent in this year’s draft to assess value for the future.

A team unlikely to draft a running back means their current starter would rank low on this “danger scale,” while a team almost certain to draft a running back means their current back is very dangerous to own right now. We’ll go in reverse order, meaning these are some of the “safer” backs to own in dynasty leagues. Remember, this is not a ranking of the value of these backs, but only their danger level.

32. Breece Hall, NYJ

Breece Hall is as close to the RB1 as it gets when you don’t count Bijan Robinson. The Jets backfield is secure with not just Hall, but Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight as a change-of-pace back and true 2nd stringer. It’s unlikely that a team that is this ready to be a contender would draft someone else to shake up the backfield if (more like when) they land Aaron Rodgers. Look for them to sure up holes in their offensive line and defense to only benefit the current fantasy situations of players instead of hurting them.

31. Jonathan Taylor, IND

Jonathan Taylor may have had a down year, but the Colts have many areas to address (like quarterback) before they even consider drafting talent that is likely better than the blue-chip prospect they already have rostered. Taylor is the type of running back that takes the pressure off a rookie QB to sustain drives and you should consider him more like a building block and anything added as a compliment.

30. Saquon Barkley, NYG

Saquon Barkley is an intriguing player to own because I don’t think he’ll be replaced this year but they could draft his replacement for next year. Barkley is a blue-chip stud even going into his second contract and likely has a few more years of production. A younger prospect could dip into his production, but it’s unlikely that he’ll get less than 15 touches a game barring injury, and should be safe on any fantasy roster.

29. Kenneth Walker, SEA

Kenneth Walker is a young Top-5 RB and the only reason he’s not behind Hall is that Pete Carroll and company have proven that they’re committed to a strong running game and unafraid to draft and use multiple running backs. Often to the detriment of QB fantasy production (See Wilson, Russell.) Walker is a safe asset, but don’t be unsurprised if Carroll pulls the trigger on likely talented fallers like Zach Evans

28. David Montgomery/D’Andre Swift, DET

Detroit signing Montgomery may have killed D’Andre Swift’s value, but I do think it kept Monty’s the same while stabilizing both of their values for the season. Like it or not, Detroit is ready to win their division, and to compete any other draft pick needs to sustain their momentum for the future or plug holes for the now, so RB is likely a safe position during the draft.

27. Josh Jacobs, LV

Josh Jacobs signs the franchise tag and will be a Raider for another year, but he likely falls under the same category as Saquon Barkley because he’s an RB with value on the team he’s on right now while having the talent to withstand any draft to replace him this season. Moreover, he’ll hold value for any team he signs for in 2024 as well.

26. Najee Harris, PIT

Whether you love or hate Najee Harris, the Steelers spent a 1st rounder and he and Jaylen Warren provide the Steelers with enough to make them address any other area in the draft besides their backfield. Harris’ efficiency was abysmal in 2022, but that was after a lisfranc injury and there isn’t much chatter to warrant any worries for a Volume King like him to be usurped.

25. Christian McCaffrey, 49ers

Some may argue why Christian McCaffery would even be considered this high, but I’d like to remind you that the 49ers are still run by Kyle Shanahan and he doesn’t seem to care about our fantasy teams, has Super Bowl aspirations, and are willing to trade for everything to get it. Elijah Mitchell is still likely a quality RB2, but organizational tendency should never make anyone too comfortable in this zone.

24. Travis Etienne, JAC

Travis Etienne has been a dynasty darling with likely inflated value and it’s probably more than reasonable to not be completely comfortable with Etienne as your lead back. Doug Pederson has been clear on his preference to use multiple backs from the increase of JaMycle Hasty’s usage towards the end of 2023 to his very own statements. It’s not about Etienne’s talent, it’s about coaching tendency in a modern NFL that utilizes multiple backs.

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23. Rhamondre Stevenson, NE

Rhamondre Stevenson is a productive running back with both receiving and touchdown upside on a run-first team that just came off an RB1 season. But he plays for the Patriots. The depth behind Stevenson is thin no matter how positive you are on Pierre Strong or Kevin Harris and I wouldn’t be surprised if this organization pulls the trigger on an RB on Day 3 that could potentially compete with Stevenson. Say what you want about the Patriots, but they’ve gotten the most out of budget RBs and you should never feel too comfortable owning one.

22. JK Dobbins, BAL

Truth be told, I don’t know what the Ravens are right now and that’s baked into my reasoning for making Dobbins as “at-risk” as I have him. He’s a solid a back with good pedigree, but even new OC Todd Monken uses multiple RBs in his system and the organization could be primed for a reset. Moreover, the Ravens have aging and replaceable depth which could make room for a usurper in an organization with a run-first identity.

21. Aaron Jones/AJ Dillon, GB

What even are the Green Bay Packers right now? That’s the question I ask myself whenever I try to value any position in this offense and it’s an even bigger negative when considering a position as disposable as running back. The Packers technically have a competitive roster if you think Jordan Love is good, but that is a BIG if. So this makes the Packers, and thus this backfield, a complete wildcard.

20. Javonte Williams, DEN

Javonte Williams has been a Dynasty darling since he was drafted by the Broncos two seasons ago, but there needs to be a large dose of reality baked into his value: There’s a new Coaching regime in Denver and Willaims has a serious injury. Sean Payton not only costs a lucrative contract, but high-value draft capital, and Denver is ready to compete. Payton has enough picks and depth in other areas to afford to spend a luxury pick and draft someone ready to play right now which can hurt Williams’s value for Denver’s roster, and thus your fantasy rosters. He was a very talented roster, but he’s also injured enough to miss time well into next season.

19. Derrick Henry, TEN

Derrick Henry has been solid as a rock for both the Titans and our Fantasy Rosters since DeMarco Murray retired, yet we must still face the reality of age and the likelihood that Tennessee is in a transition phase that could benefit from unloading a salary at a luxury position. Henry would likely hold value no matter what team he’s on but don’t be surprised if his replacement is drafted and he likely finds himself in the DeMarco Murray role.

18. Alvin Kamara, NO

This is likely too safe a ranking for Alvin Kamara when you consider his legal situation, but I’m baking in the value of Jamaal Williams signing a rather lucrative contract. Kamara has value even with Williams when he plays, but the when is the question mark considering his upcoming legal troubles, age, and contract. It makes sense for an organization to draft a 2nd-contract RB’s replacement when they believe they can still compete and arguably overpaid a QB.

17. Nick Chubb, CLE

Nick Chubb is the ordinary Derrick Henry on a team that needs him less. He’s been a fantastic rusher for the Browns since he was drafted, but is on his second contract and has replaceable production when you consider the game will likely be in Watson’s hands. Despite Chubb’s rushing prowess, he provides little in the passing game and the Browns could afford to draft someone with a more well-rounded skillset despite his rushing upside.

We’ll be back with part two in the next few days, focusing on the RBs who are most in danger of losing playing time or being replaced.

jagger may
Running Back Danger Rankings: 32-17