2024 Fantasy Rankings: Top 10 RBs

By Chip Bayless (click Howie for more Chip)

 

 

 

1) Christian McCaffrey

CMC is the perfect fit for Shanahan’s system. From his athleticism, vision, speed, receiving ability, to even his passing prowess, the 49ers have made it obvious that their entire offense centers around the increasingly versatile Christian McCaffrey.

For the second (maybe third) time in his career, McCaffrey enters the season likely as fantasy football’s undisputed top overall pick in PPR formats, and for good reason.

The 49ers have shown the ability to get virtually any running back they plug in going (see Jeff Wilson Jr., Trey Surmon, Raheem Mostert, Jerrick McKinnon, etc.), so finally having one of the most-talented players in the league to in their backfield to pair with their athletic offensive line yielded massive rewards in 2023.

McCaffrey has the explosiveness to take any well-blocked run to the house, the strength to stiff-arm defensive lineman and DBs alike, and the short-area quickness to crumple any defender like they’ve just been told they are the father of all of Antonio Cromartie’s kids.

McCaffrey’s insane skillset resulted in the following rankings among running backs in 2023:

CMC did all of this despite facing the most eight-man boxes of any RB, so its unlikely defensive coordinators will figure out some magic formula for slowing down the 49ers’ offense and their multitude of weapons.



McCaffrey’s volume could end up being the best in the league next year, as the dynamic Stanford product finished 2nd to just Kyren Williams among all RBs in snap percentage (per FantasyPros) while also ranking 2nd to only Derrick Henry in carries.

His dual-threat usage should only increase in Year 3 on the 49ers. Whether its runs up the middle, wheel routes, or the 49ers’ elite screen game and creativity like they showed during the Super Bowl on this insane play, CMC will get the ball no matter the situation:

Moreover, McCaffrey’s insane production last season was beyond what the 49ers talented offensive line and creative scheme provided, as CMC led the NFL in rush yards over expected with 349 (per Next Gen Stats) while no other player even cracked 280.

McCaffrey’s volume should remain productive too, considering the 49ers were the NFL’s 2nd-highest scoring offense in 2023, and San Fran ranked 5th in rushing yards before contact and yards before contact per attempt (per Pro Football Reference).

Since the 49ers also have George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk, teams can’t load the box and focus on CMC, leaving defensive coordinators with many sleepless nights as they try everything they can to slow down this offense.

 

 

2) Kyren Williams

Much like CMC, Kyren Williams appears to be the perfect fit for his young offensive guru’s offense, and that fit paid tremendous dividends in 2023 as Williams trailed only the aforementioned McCaffrey in fantasy points per game among running backs.

Like McCaffrey, Williams is a true every-down back, capable of being a feared between-the-tackles bruiser, a receiving mismatch, and a goal-line magician.

Among last year’s HBs, Williams ranked:

  • 1st in rush yards per game (per ESPN)
  • 2nd to only CMC in fantasy PPG
  • 3rd in rushing yards
  • 3rd in rushes resulting in 1st downs (per ESPN)
  • Tied for 5th in rushing TDs
  • 5th in yards per carry (per Next Gen Stats)
  • Tied for 6th in rushes for 20+ yards (per ESPN)
  • 6th in rush yards over expected (per Next Gen Stats)

Williams achieved those rankings, many of which were top-5 or top-10, despite finishing 13th among all backs in carries.

Much like the 49ers’ offense, there’s no room for defensive coordinators to lock in on containing Williams, as evidenced by the fact that Kyren Williams faced the fewest eight-man boxes of any 2023 back according to Next Gen Stats.

If defenses do try and focus on stopping Williams, a former #1 overall pick by the name of Matt Stafford will likely uncork a deep ball to a wide open Cooper Kupp or Puka Nacua.

With the 8th-highest scoring offense in 2023 that also ranked 7th in yards per play (per Pro Football Reference), Williams will have plenty of productive touches in space, and he should vulture some easy touchdowns at the goal line via Kupp or Nacua getting dragged down at the one inch line.

Injury is the only thing that should stop the elusive and powerful Williams in 2024 considering he was top-5 in the majority of efficiency metrics for running backs and plays in one of the top offenses in the NFL.

 

 

3) Breece Hall

Let me preface this with the fact that I owned Breece Hall in a league last season so this is heavily biased, but what he did once he was finally unleashed in Week 5 following his recovery from his torn ACL can’t be ignored.

Once Hall received more than 12 carries in a game, he went on to score double-digit fantasy points in every game except for Week 15 against Miami (and he made up for that by posting 40 burger for the managers that stuck with him the ensuing week).

During the fantasy playoffs, Hall put on a masterful performance that likely won many fantasy managers their respective leagues. He scored 43 points during many league’s quarterfinals in Week 16, 28 points during many semifinals and championships in Week 17, and 29 points during fantasy championships in the final week of the season.

Hall demonstrated elite vision, agility, strength, and startling breakaway speed for a player who was just a year (arguably not even) removed from ACL reconstruction.

It feels like Hall just needs one crease and he’s capable of taking any touch to the house, and he loves breaking tackles like Woody Johnson’s company loves giving you ovarian cancer and mesothelioma just so he make enough money to buy the worst looking chain you’ve ever seen designed in the shape of his name, in case his dementia-riddled brain forgets that like it forgets what football is.

You’d think Woody would use his humanity-deletion skills (that chain costed a minimum of 100 African miners) to throw some grass on MetLife so Aaron Rodgers doesn’t snap every twig in his body while he’s tripping on ayahuasca, but Woody knows what he’s doing (all you’ve got to do is check his Super Bowl trophy case to see the man builds willing organizations).

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Regardless, Hall’s combination of skills resulted in him achieving these rankings (among 2023 RBs):

  • 2nd in total fantasy points & 6th in PPG
  • 2nd to only CMC in total scrimmage yards
  • 1st in receptions
  • 1st in receiving yards
  • 1st in YAC
  • 6th in yards after contact & 12th in broken tackles (per Pro Football Reference)
  • 3rd in broken tackles on receptions
  • Tied for 3rd in receiving TDs

In the offseason the Jets finally addressed their offensive line woes like Johnson & Johnson puts asbestos in baby powder, acquiring two studs – one of which absolutely dominated on tape as Lamar Jackson’s starting right tackle for a feared Ravens offense.

Everyone expects the Jets to be better in 2024, and Hall already demonstrated an ability to do much more than just what his blocking allows, as he ranked 5th last season in rush yards over expected (per Next Gen Stats).

 

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With a theoretically fully healthy Aaron Rodgers, formidable outside weapons to take the pressure off, and a defense that creates turnovers aplenty resulting in more Jets offensive possessions, the sky is the limit for the youthful Breece Hall who is now a full year removed from ACL reconstruction and physical rehabilitation.

 

4) Bijan Robinson

Now paired with a new head coach who isn’t obsessed with using top-10 draft picks like they’re practice squad players, and now with a legitimately NFL-caliber passer at quarterback in Kirk Cousins, Robinson and the rest of the Falcons offense should finally be unleashed in 2024.

In 2023, Bijan validated all the scouts, fans, and fantasy owners alike who were clamoring about his talent and didn’t question the top-10 selection of a running back in the modern passing era.

Robinson showed in 2023 he has the short-area quickness, the deep acceleration, the durability, and the receiving ability to be a top-5 every-down back in the NFL. That should be considered maybe the most impressive achievement since the invention of the toilet considering Arthur Smith’s Donald Trump-like logic and critical thinking skills.

With hurdles, one-handed grabs, and constantly creative tackle-breaking ability, Robinson burst onto the scene in just his first NFL season on his way to ranking, among 2023 RBs:

  • 9th in total fantasy points
  • Tied for 2nd in targets, trailing only Breece Hall
  • Tied for 3rd in receiving TDs
  • 4th in receiving yards
  • 6th in total scrimmage yards (per Pro Football Reference)
  • Tied for 6th in receptions
  • Tied for 6th in rushes for 20+ yards
  • 12th in rush yards over expected per attempt (per Next Gen Stats)

Bijan also scored double-digit fantasy points in 82% of his games while cracking 100 total yards in nearly half (41%) of them. Robinson was clearly consistently involved in the passing game too, notching at least two catches in 76% of his weeks.

Again, without Arthur Smith and with Kirk Cousins, Bijan should be able to find greater success in 2024 and should be on the field even more as Tyler Allgier will likely see much less work.

That is music to the ears of anyone who believes in Robinson, as Robinson tallied the 5th-most RB snaps just last season.

Atlanta doesn’t exactly have the worst offensive line either – they did rank 8th in rushing yards before contact per Pro Football Reference.

With two true outside threats in the passing game in Drake London and Kyle Pitts, the sky is the proverbial limit for this Cousins-led Falcons offense in 2024, and the team’s newfound passing prowess should open up countless lanes for the talented Bijan Robinson to work his magic.

 

 

5) Isiah Pacheco

As an every-down back in one of the league’s best offenses, playing with the best quarterback in the league, its difficult to rank Pacheco any lower than here considering Gibbs will still cede significant touches to Montgomery, the Eagles have shown a constant willingness to abandon the run and misuse running backs throughout the past few years, and James Cook plays in an offense that is even less dependent on the run and more passing heavy than the Chiefs.

Pacheco also has one of the most talented and well-coached offensive lines in the league to work with as well, and they often create gaping holes for Pacheco’s furious feet, which often leaves hapless defenders in Pacheco’s wake diving at his ankles.

He also has underrated deep speed for an RB with his Marshawn Lynch-like physicality as he has legitimate home run ability to pair with his strength, like he showed on this play where he beat the entire “elite” Jets defense to the endzone:

Despite missing two games in 2024, here’s how Pacheco ranked against his peers at the position:

With Travis Kelce, a further-developed Rashee Rice, and now a speed demon in Hollywood Brown on the outside, its nearly impossible for defensive coordinators to place any semblance of focus on containing the Chiefs rushing attack with the best QB in the league (and maybe ever) leading the offense.

Pacheco’s red zone proficiency is particularly attractive in such a potent, Mahomes-led offense with ample scoring opportunities. Last season, Pacheco ranked 4th in red zone rushing yards and 8th in red zone rushing % (per Pro Football Reference).

Like Taylor Swift deleting years of humanity at will with private jet fuel, Pacheco should feast again in 2024 as long as Mahomes stay healthy, regardless of injuries to any other offensive pieces.

After all, the Chiefs did run the ball the 9th-most on first down of any team (per NFL.com) and ranked 9th in total yards per game, 7th in yards before contact per attempt (per Pro Football Reference), and 9th in yards per play (per Pro Football Reference).

 

 

6) Jahmyr Gibbs

Due to the Eagles showing a random willingness to abandon the run throughout the past few seasons, and Jalen Hurts vulturing goal-line carries at will as a result of the Tush Push, Gibbs barely edges Saquon for the 7th spot on this year’s list.



Gibbs is quite literally always one open lane or a few good blocks away from taking any touch to the house, no matter the distance and situation, like he did against the Ravens defense last season on this play where he uses his pure speed to go untouched to the end zone:

He is one of the most explosive backs Detroit has ever had, and his penchant for home-run hitting leaves coaches desperate to find ways to get the ball into his hands no matter the down and distance in hopes that he might be able to bail the offense out by just outrunning everyone to the end zone.

Among last season’s RBs, Gibbs ranked:

For those worried about Gibbs ceding too many high-value touches to Gibbs, you’ll want to remember that Gibbs did finish with a 57% average (missed games aren’t factored in) snap share compared to Montgomery’s 48% in 2023 (per FantasyPros).

Furthermore, the Lions offensive line is so dominant and the Lions run the ball so well and so often that there’s plenty of room for both backs to feast should this season feature a true two-way split all the way through.

In 2023, the Lions ranked inside the top-1o in both yards before contact and yards before contact per attempt, and gave up the 5th-fewest sacks (according to Pro Football Reference). They also finished 3rd in total yards and 8th in percentage of drives ending in an offensive score (per Pro Football Reference).

Dan Campbell has made it clear he’ll put his mouth on the lower half of your body to win (technically true), and that means he needs the Lions to be a tough, run the ball down your throat football team at its heart, and the Lions made it clear with their 1st-round investment in the speedy Gibbs that he is at the core of that heart.

With a full season of lessons learned and now another full offseason of an NFL strength and conditioning program, Gibbs should avoid any semblance of a sophomore slump and will finish as a top-10 fantasy RB as long as he avoids missing significant (more than three weeks) of time due to injury.

If Montgomery misses any significant time and Gibbs remains healthy, he’ll likely finish inside the top-5.

 

 

7) Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley is one of the most talented players in the NFL regardless of position, and we’ve never seen him run behind anything other than a terrible offensive line, and he’s never had a capable passing attack to balance the offense.

Now, Barkley will be surrounded by elite players on his side of the ball for the first time in his career. Instead of Daniel Jones, Barkley now gets to work with one of the top-5 quarterbacks in the NFL in Jalen Hurts.

Instead of an injured Sterling Shepard and a cast of unproven youngsters, the Eagles have a two top-20 receivers in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith to force defenders to fear the Eagles passing attack rather than consistently stack the box.

Essentially, Barkley going to Philly is like putting a saltwater fish back in the ocean after you stupidly threw it in a fresh water tank built on top of a nuclear waste dump owned by the Maras.

Finally, Barkley will get to use his video game-like speed/strength combination in an offense that matches his talent level.

Whether its a hesitation step to let a defender cruise by, a stiff arm that sends someone flying, or a spin that leaves crumpled bodies, Barkley has quite literally every move in the proverbial running back bag.

In 2023, among backs, Barkley finished:

  • 9th in fantasy PPG and 13th in total points
  • Tied for 3rd in receiving TDs
  • Tied for 6th in rushes for 20+ yards
  • 7th in yards after contact (per Pro Football Reference)
  • 8th in rush YPG
  • 16th in rushing yards
  • 8th in carries

Given how much better the entire Eagles roster is compared to the New York Giants, we could see the best version of Saquon we’ve ever seen.

In 2023, Philly ranked 4th in yards before contact, 6th in rush attempts, 7th in total scoring, and ran the ball on first down the 3rd-most of any team according to NFL.com.

With the best offensive line and quarterback he’s ever worked with, Saquon will finish the season within the top-5 RBs rather than outside of it as long as he can stay healthy and as long as the Eagles don’t randomly abandon the run like they’ve done at times throughout the past few years.

 

 

8) Travis Etienne Jr.

The Jags offense revolves around Etienne’s skillset almost as much as the 49ers offense relies on CMC. Like CMC, Etienne is a do-it-all back that can be both a tenacious between the tackles runner and a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. His strength and toughness for a back his size is especially impressive.

Check out this play from last season where Etienne broke through arm tackles from defensive lineman and linebackers alike before bursting through the hole to beat all defenders to the end zone:

The Jaguars also show a willingness to use Etienne as their goal-line back too, increasing his scoring opportunities. Overall, his stiff arms are deadly, and his cuts and vision are elite.

Travis Etienne also possesses the breakaway speed to take any well-blocked run to the house, forcing his coaches to constantly figure out new and creative ways to get him the ball in space.

Here’s how Etienne’s stats stacked up against last season’s RBs:

  • 7th in fantasy PPG and 3rd in total points
  • 3rd in total touches
  • 4th in rushing yards
  • 4th in carries
  • 5th in receiving yards
  • 5th in YAC
  • Tied for 6th in receptions
  • 7th in rushing TDs
  • 7th in targets
  • 9th in scrimmage yards

Etienne is in the prime of his career, as evidenced by his remarkable efficiency and consistency, and he is one of the top-5 receiving threats out of the backfield in the NFL.

In addition the impressive list of stats above, Etienne also finished 4th in broken tackles on receptions and 6th in YAC per catch, according to Pro Football Reference.

Looking for one final Etienne stat to convince you to draft him in the first round? He led the NFL in broken tackles in 2023, with a whopping 31 (per Pro Football Reference).

The only concern is the Jaguars offense has been trending slightly down over the past two seasons, and the offense Etienne belongs to might be one of the least potent on this list as the Jaguars ranked in the bottom half of the league in both scoring percentage and rushing yards before contact (versus most teams RBs belong to on this list are at least inside the top-15 in one or both of those categories).

 

 

9) James Cook

Due to Josh Allen and the overall passing potency of the Bills’ offense, Cook rarely is game-planned against and focused on. In 2023, Cook faced the fourth-fewest eight-man boxes according to Next Gen Stats.

With the Bills’ effective passing game keeping defenders at bay, Cook is able to use his top-notch vision and quickness to knife through defenses, like he did on this play that ended in him flipping into the end zone for a wide-open score:

In 2023, Cook used his Saquon Barkley-like suddenness to accelerate past defenders and cut on a dime, finally breaking into the elite RB category towards the end of the fantasy season.

Among last year’s RBs, Cook managed the following achievements:

  • 12th in total fantasy points
  • Tied for 3rd in receiving TDs
  • 3rd in passer rating when targeted (per Pro Football Reference)
  • 3rd in scrimmage yards (per Pro Football Reference)
  • 4th in rushing yards
  • 8th in receiving yards
  • 8th in yards after contact (per Pro Football Reference)
  • 10th in carries
  • Tied for 12th in rushes resulting in 1st downs (per ESPN)
  • 13th in catch %

Cook’s TD rate should improve in 2024 as he finished with a staggeringly low TD rate last season, scoring only twice on the ground despite running for over 1,000 yards, which most would agree is a statistical anomaly akin to Ben Simmons putting a basketball through a rim (even with Josh Allen stealing red zone and goal line scores).




Cook also ranked top-10 in receiving yards and TDs amongst running backs despite finishing outside the top-10 in targets, and the Bills coaching staff without a doubt recognized Cook’s efficiency as the season wore on. You can expect the determination to get Cook the ball to continue in 2024.

Just how off the charts was Cook’s efficiency last season? He finished 2nd in receiving success rate (per Pro Football Reference), 3rd in rush success rate (per Pro Football Reference), 4th in yards per touch (per Pro Football Reference), and 5th in YAC per reception (per Pro Football Reference).

After Cook’s Week 5 dud against Jacksonville where he received a season-low five carries and a season-low of eight total touches, Cook went on to record at least 10 total touches in every game, had at least 70 total yards in 75% of his weeks, and averaged 14 fantasy points per game – including five games with 100 total yards.

Expect the talented youngster to get the ball even more in 2023, and be equally or possibly even more productive with another season of NFL experience under his belt.

Cook’s starting role in one of the NFL’s best offense on its own warrants top-10 RB consideration, as the Bills finished 6th in total scoring, 5th in rushing attempts, and ran the ball on first down more than any other team in the NFL (per NFL.com).

 

 

10) Raheem Mostert

In the face of all the doubters due to his age and being burned by Mostert in the past, the speedy veteran went on to post a career-best season in one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NFL.

Mostert’s combination of phenomenal vision, strength, and surprising explosiveness, fit perfectly in the Dolphins high-octane offense. So often it seems like Mostert simply glides through the open hole and away from defenders with his smooth running style.

His balance is among the best in the league, and its truly incredible to watch him bounce off of countless defenders sometimes, like he did on this long run against the Panthers:

In 2024, Mostert finished, among RBs:

  • 4th in fantasy PPG & 5th in total fantasy points
  • 1st in rushing TDs with 18 (no other player had more than 14)
  • 4th in rush success % (per Pro Football Reference)
  • Tied for 6th in yards after contact per attempt (per Pro Football Reference)
  • 8th in rush yards over expected (per Next Gen Stats)
  • 10th in rushing yards
  • 8th in passer rating when targeted (per Pro Football Reference)
  • Tied for 1st with CMC for total scrimmage TDs

Considering the statistics above and the fact that he ranked top-5 in fantasy PPG and total points, it is absolutely mind-blowing that sites like ESPN have Mostert ranked as low as the 30s in terms of RBs and have Achane listed above him in the face of Achane’s obvious durability issues and injury history. That’s like believing Ben Simmons will improve a basketball team.

It’s noteworthy Mostert’s efficiency was off the charts in 2023 as he achieved all of the above statistics despite finishing outside the top-15 in rushing attempts.

Although some would argue its unlikely Mostert comes close to his 2023 production due to his high TD rate and efficiency, he still plays in the same insanely productive offense that features Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the outside and Mike McDaniel’s creative play calling to take the pressure off (Mostert didn’t even rank inside the top-30 in percentage of eight-man boxes faced, per Next Gen Stats).

Furthermore, Miami ranked 2nd to just the San Francisco 49ers in yards per play and had the 3rd-highest percentage of drives ending in an offensive score in 2023, according to Pro Football Reference.

Mostert’s opportunities will be there in 2024 due to his every-down skillset (even if Achane steals more touches) and breakaway speed within a creative and successful offense with a high TD rate.

Like last season, the only risk with drafting Mostert would be injury or if the Dolphins decide to deploy more of a committee approach to the backfield. Regarding those risks, all we have to evaluate them on is recent performance.

Based on the fact that Mostert was a critical element of the Dolphins offensive attack and ranked 5th in total fantasy points among backs in the most recent fantasy season, there are no signs yet of those potential risks significantly impacting him. Age hasn’t seemed to take its toll yet either as Mostert was clocked as the NFL’s 10th-fastest ball carrier in 2023 (according to Next Gen Stats).

 

 

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