The Candidates to Be the Overall RB1 in 2023
Welcome to our “No. 1 Overall” series for 2023, where we take a look at which players are most likely to finish as the top fantasy scorer at their position. Up today: RBs.
This series is as simple as it sounds. We’re going to go through the RBs — in tiers — that have the best chance of finishing as the overall R1 in 2023. Let’s get to it.
Check out the other articles in this series:
- Running back
- Wide receiver (coming soon)
- Tight end (coming soon)
Keep in mind these are not fantasy RB rankings, but a tiered list of players most likely to finish as the overall fantasy RB1 in 2022.
Tier 1 Overall Fantasy RB1 Candidates in 2023
- Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
- Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
I’ve already written an entire article about who should be the 1.01 in 2023, and Christian McCaffrey’s name sits atop the list, CMC finished in the “plus” in terms of Fantasy Wins Added in 14 of 16 games last year and was the overall third-most valuable fantasy player in 2022 despite switching teams halfway through the season.
As for Ekeler, he was the fantasy MVP last year and overall RB1. Yet he’s being drafted too low:
Ekeler looked like he could be a holdout risk, but that apparently got resolved Tuesday morning. After not scoring many rushing TDs the first four years of his career, Ekeler has scored 12 and 13 the last two years, respectively, and he caught an insane 107 passes in 2022.
Tier 2 Overall Fantasy RB1 Candidates in 2023
- Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
- Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
- Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Taylor was the overall fantasy RB1 just two years ago, and he didn’t get a fair crack at it again in 2022 due to injury. He belongs in this tier. For what it’s worth, he looked much better for a month post-injury, posting three straight fantasy RB1 games in Weeks 10-12 before injuries popped up again.
Barkley needs more work as a receiver in 2023 to make this leap, but it’s obviously within his range of outcomes (91 receptions as a rookie in 2018). On the rushing front, though, he was the best he’s ever been in 2022, rushing for 1,312 yards and 10 TDs.
Robinson is the wild card. I could have put him in Tier 1, because it certainly seems like he could push for 400 total touches if all the cards fall right, but I’m not convinced that Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson won’t still get some work. CMC and Ekeler take Tier 1 by themselves given that 100-plus receptions is a known ceiling of theirs.
Tier 3 Overall Fantasy QB1 Candidates in 2023
- Breece Hall, New York Jets
- Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots
- Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
- Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
- Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Etienne was Jacksonville’s go-to choice near the end zone last year, as he had 43 red zone rush attempts, sixth among RBs. He is also a home-run hitter, earning 40% of his yards on breakaways runs (rushes of 15-plus yards).
Stevenson also had big-play ability last year, checking in at 36% for his breakaway rate. He was also nearly impossible to tackle, gaining 801 yards after contact on 210 rushes (3.81 yards after contact average). For a frame of reference, Derrick Henry averaged 3.6 yards average contact last year.
Pollard is looking like the guy in Dallas for 2023, though his postseason injury (a broken fibula) does make you wonder if he’ll be the same explosive playmaker moving forward.
Hall is also coming off an injury, but he was trending in the right direction as a rookie — straight to fantasy superstardom status. His fantasy points by week last year: 12.1, 13, 15.2, 15.8, 27.7, 20.1 and then 13.2 in a half-game. That’s linear growth, baby. And now the Jets offense will actually be in scoring position often with Aaron Rodgers at the helm.
Tier 4 Overall Fantasy RB1 Candidates in 2023
- Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
- Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
I actually have these two players ranked ahead of those in Tier 3 of this group, but this article is not about rankings — it’s about likelihood of finishing as the overall RB1 in 2023.
Neither of these two players catches enough passes to be a significant threat for the overall fantasy RB1 title. Sure, Henry was two years ago, but two years is an eternity for RBs — especially those that touch the ball 350 times per year. A 2,000-yard, 20-TD season would need to happen for these two to punch their ticket to overall RB1 land.
Both are talented enough to do it, but the odds are a bit longer. Fair or not, the RBs who catch passes just have an easier path to upside.
Tier 5 Overall Fantasy RB1 Candidates in 2023
- Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks
- Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions
- Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
- Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
- Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Walker had 51 red zone rushing attempts last year, third among all RBs, but he got competition in the form of Zach Charbonnet in the draft. Jahmyr Gibbs replaces D'Andre Swift in Detroit, but David Montgomery is there to play TD spoiler. Aaron Jones is uber-talented, but the post-Aaron Rodgers world in Green Bay is a big question mark, as is Dalvin Cook’s future team (assuming the Vikings cut bait, as has been rumored).
Mixon perhaps belongs in Tier 4, but the Bengals are simply built to pass. Joe Burrow will throw 35-plus TDs, there just might not be enough scoring left over for Mixon to have a realistic shot at overall fantasy RB1.
Tier 6 Overall Fantasy RB1 Candidates in 2023
- Miles Sanders, Carolina Panthers
- D'Andre Swift, Philadelphia Eagles
- Isiah Pacheco, Kansas City Chiefs
- Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
- Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
These players have a fighting chance to finish as the overall fantasy RB1, but I wouldn’t count on it. Pacheco gets a mention simply for being an RB in an Andy Reid offense. If he takes over a three-down role, it’s fully possible.
Mattison would have a shot if Cook departs Minnesota, and Swift could do it if Jalen Hurts doesn’t run near the end zone as much (highly unlikely, but it’s always possible the team looks to protect its star QB).