Sanders is coming off a career-best season and has left a Philadelphia team that was fast-paced, had arguably the league’s best offensive line and gave him the fourth-most red-zone carries last year. While there’s hope he’s more active as a receiver in Carolina, Sanders ranks last in yards per target and catch rate among all qualified running backs since 2020. He also ranked dead last in PFF's receiving grade last season among 60 RBs with 20+ targets. He hasn't recorded a receiving touchdown since 2019.
Yet, Sanders is somehow getting drafted higher than ever despite suffering a huge downgrade in offensive environments.
Mixon had the second-most expected fantasy points among RBs last season, and there’s hope he sees more targets in 2023. But Mixon showed major signs of decline last season when he was toward the bottom of the league in efficiency despite leading the NFL in facing light boxes. Samaje Perine out-snapped Mixon 43-23 in the AFC title game, and Chris Evans appears to be the team’s new passing-down back.
I’d draft J.K. Dobbins over Mixon, and he’s available rounds later.
By all accounts, Williams has made a remarkable recovery from knee surgery; he’s 10 months removed from tearing his ACL, LCL and PLC. But multi-ligament knee injuries are especially concerning. At best, Williams’ workload will be managed, with Samaje Perine taking over third downs.
Williams continues to wear a knee brace, and a setback remains a real concern. Yet, Williams has a higher Yahoo ADP than James Cook.
Akers went from nearly being released to taking over as LA’s workhorse down the stretch last season. But Kyren Williams has emerged this preseason, with some speculating a timeshare in the Rams’ backfield. Los Angeles has one of the league’s worst offensive lines, and the team could easily tank in 2023 should Matthew Stafford and/or Cooper Kupp suffer more injuries.
Akers is being drafted not too far from Dameon Pierce and J.K. Dobbins — two backs I much prefer.
Mostert will see a big jump in ADP with Jeff Wilson Jr. going on IR and Jonathan Taylor not being traded to Miami. But he's still a 31-year-old who has dealt with a ton of injuries and just set a career-high with 181 carries. Rookie De'Von Achane is dealing with a minor shoulder injury and will require patience, but he's Miami's running back with the most fantasy upside this season.
Kamara showed decline last season when he continued to see decreased targets. He’s also 28 years old and guaranteed to miss 22% of the fantasy regular season thanks to a suspension. Sean Payton and Drew Brees aren't around, while Jamaal Williams and Kendre Miller provide more competition for touches. The Saints have a highly favorable schedule, but the rookie Miller could pose a real problem for those who draft Kamara.
Cook could be better after shoulder surgery, but he averaged a career-low 2.3 catches and ranked 35th out of 37 qualified backs in rush yards over expectation last season. He’s also 28 years old and will be learning a new offense after just being cleared to practice.
Of course, Cook’s biggest obstacle to fantasy value this season is Breece Hall, who averaged 97.2 yards from scrimmage on just 14.1 touches per game while playing with an awful QB situation last year. Hall also led all backs in explosive run rate and somehow in air yards too while playing just 6.5 games as a rookie. Hall is an exceptional athlete who’s looked good during his recovery.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris
While a foot injury can partially be blamed, Harris undoubtedly struggled last season. Planned or not, Jaylen Warren turned the Steeler backfield into a full-blown committee during the preseason. Warren outplayed Harris as a rookie last year (he admittedly benefitted situationally), and he looked even better this preseason. Warren took a 60+ yarder to the house recently, while Harris managed one carry that reached 20 yards last year!
The Steelers might have a running back situation.
Seattle Seahawks: Zach Charbonnet
Charbonnet has real fantasy upside in a Seattle offense that could be great in 2023. But the bet here is Kenneth Walker remains the team’s lead back assuming health. The rookie will likely take over on passing downs, but Walker is a beast who saw 100% of the Seahawks’ carries inside the five last season. Walker was admittedly boom-or-bust (you be the judge of his “bust” carries), but coach Pete Carroll leans on his veterans (Rashaad Penny played ahead of Walker until he was injured last year).
White is seeing plenty of fantasy love as the Buccaneers’ likely new workhorse thanks to little RB competition in Tampa Bay. But expectations should be held in check. White is a late third-round pick who’s never reached 200 carries dating back to college and was one of the worst runners in the league as a rookie, finishing dead last in rush yards over expectations. He was also outplayed by dusty Leonard Fournette in the passing game and benefitted greatly from Tom Brady checkdowns.
The Buccaneers are going from providing the most catchable targets in the league last season to Baker Mayfield. He also targets running backs, but Mayfield’s EPA/dropback (-0.12) and CPOE (-7%) were both worse than Zach Wilson's last season; a downgrade doesn’t get any more dramatic than going from the GOAT to Mayfield. Tampa Bay scored the second-fewest points in the NFC last season and is expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2023.
White’s sell-high window in dynasty leagues is now.
Gibson has experienced some fantasy steam this summer, as many expect a bigger workload in 2023. But Brian Robinson outplayed him last season despite being nowhere close to full strength after getting shot. Over the final eight games last season, Robinson was on pace for 330+ touches and 1,400+ yards from scrimmage. Now much healthier, Robinson is built for a big workload and is a more than capable receiver. Robinson over Gibson in 2023.