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Top 8 Fantasy Football RBs | The Elite 8

Top 8 Fantasy Football RBs 2023

  1. Bijan Robinson
  2. Jonathan Taylor
  3. Nick Chubb
  4. Derrick Henry
  5. Rhamonde Stevenson
  6. Najee Harris
  7. Jahmyr Gibbs
  8. Dameon Pierce

The Counselor is a big believer in the Robust Running Back Strategy when it comes to fantasy.

As a general rule, you want to spend 3 of your first four picks on elite Running Backs in order to build a dominating roster.  This year that is easier to do than before because both Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers are taking up more and more of the early draft slots.  In prior years, you’d see 8 Running Backs come off in the first round, but this year that number is closer to 4 or 5.  So that works to your advantage as you are able to find first-round Running Backs in the second round and second-round running backs in the third and fourth rounds of your fantasy draft.

Here’s what we think are the eight best Running Backs in the early rounds this season.

#1  Bijan Robinson (RB-ATL) – Draft Position #5 – Scores 84 CUDDY Points.

Make no mistake here, Atlanta spent their first-round draft pick, a top 10 pick, to draft Bijan Robinson into an offensive scheme that ran the ball more than any other team last season!  Last year Atlanta ran the ball 559 times, so even if Bijan is only used for half of the team’s run plays, that means a volume of 277 rushing attempts, he would only be behind Jacobs, Henry, Chubb, and Barkley in rushing volume last season.  Let’s also remember that Bijan is a better pass catcher than either Henry or Chubb so I would expect a minimum of 50 pass attempts heading his way as well next season.  This means his floor is well over 300 opportunities with the ball on a team with a great offensive line (PFF ranks them as 7th best).  I have been hearing chatter that some think Tyler Allgeier is going to be competing for touches against Bijan.  Allgeier is nothing more than a backup; although there is so much rushing volume on this team he could still be a fantasy-relevant player.  Still, there is no competition here – Bijan is the starter, and he will DOMINATE!

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

#2  Jonathan Taylor (RB-IND) – Draft Position #8 – Scores 45 CUDDY Points.

Do I think Taylor is a great Running Back? Yes.  Do I think he will bounce back from last season’s disaster? Yes.  Am I worried that all the negative chatter from Running Backs around the league will negatively affect his performance?  Probably.  For me, it was very disheartening that neither Josh Jacobs or Saquon Barkley were able to lock down a long-term contract for the upcoming season.  JT is in the final year of his rookie contract, and how hard is he going to play if he knows the best he’s going to receive is a franchise player, a 1-year contract extension when all is said and done?  This doesn’t mean he’s going to be bad, but I think it takes out some of the upside you would expect from a player on a contract year in the prime of his football career.

#3  Nick Chubb (RB – CLE) – Draft Position #11 – Scores 74 CUDDY Points.

Nick Chubb is in the best situation he has had in his NFL career.  First of all, he’s got the best Quarterback he’s ever played with in Deshaun Watson.  Also, Kareem Hunt is no longer on the team and that was a big reason why I stayed away from Chubb in prior years.  So who else is in this backfield?  Jerome Ford (rookie), Demetric Felton Jr, and John Kelly Jr. so there is NO competition for touches and Chubb should get another elite level of rushing volume in 2023.  Likewise, the opportunity for him to take a larger role in the passing game is there as well.  Last season Kareem Hunt commanded 44 targets so those are up for grabs as well and I could see 50+ targets heading Chubb’s way this season, further boosting his value.

#4  Derrick Henry (RB – TEN) – Draft position #14 – Scores 44 CUDDY Points.

At this point, we know what the Tennessee offense is.  Don’t let the addition of Deandre Hopkins fool you, Tennessee will run the ball and they will run it often with Derrick Henry.  It is important to mention that Henry is the oldest RB on this list at age 29 and that makes me very nervous and is one of the reasons why his CUDDY score is lower than many of the others on this list.  Also, like JT, Henry has been very vocal about the contract issues RBs are facing right now, and this isn’t surprising because he is also on the last year of his contract with Tennessee.  They also drafted Tyjae Spears in the third round who I think they consider as a possible replacement for Henry.  I’m not sure how many shares of Henry I’ll have, given that I like the players around him better, but he’s still the King and will command volume and that’s what I want from my elite RBs.

Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire)

#5  Rhamondre Stevenson (RB – NE) – Draft Position #17 – Scores 64 CUDDY Points.

Right now Stevenson’s situation looks fantastic!  They got rid of Damien Harris in the offseason and right now his backfield competition is Ty Montgomery and Pierre Strong.  So things look very good for Stevenson to be a workhorse on a team that looks like it will have to lean on the running game to power the offense.  However, Bill Belichick is still the coach of this team and Belichick HATES your fantasy team.  I’m sure he’s going to screw up this situation by bringing in one of the free-agent RBs out there (Fournette worked out with the team this past week) so expect something to happen.  Still, Stevenson has the youth and the production to be successful even if they bring in a washed RB to back him up. It’s kind of weird spending a 2nd round pick on a New England Running Back (I’ve never seen a RB from this team go before the 6th round) but he still looks good, just recognize the risks and if a second RB is brought in, I expect his value will fall to the 4th-6th round.

#6  Najee Harris (RB – PIT) – Draft Position #23 – Scores 77 CUDDY Points.

Harris got a raw deal last season.  He was dealing with a foot injury for the first half of the season, he had a crappy offensive line to run behind and he was playing with a rookie QB.  It’s no wonder that he was disappointed last year.  Still, he improved over the course of the season and was the RB4 over the second half of 2022, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.  This year his offensive line will be better and his Quarterback will be better so he should bounce back nicely.  Najee has been amongst the most durable and reliable players during his first two seasons, missing zero games while handling 579 carries and 115 targets during that time.  There is a chance that Jaylen Warren can be a pest in this situation but the Steelers love their workhorse RBs and Harris will eat.  I love him especially if you can get him in the third round.

(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

#7  Jahmyr Gibbs (RB – DET) – Draft Position #28 – Scores 70 CUDDY points.

The more I think about his situation the more I like Gibbs.  Detroit drafted him 12th overall in the first round when they didn’t have to (they had a second pick at #20 and could have taken him there) and did you see how excited that draft room was when they got Gibbs?  It was like they just won the Super Bowl they were jumping around and carrying on.  Clearly, they feel that Gibbs can be the player that D’Andrew Swift was never able to become.  I’ve heard comparisons that his skillset is CMC like and they will use him all over the field in both the rushing and passing game.   Gibbs certainly has the talent to be successful in both.  I think the goal line role will belong to Montgomery because he is bigger, but Gibbs will have the valuable passing down work on a team with limited passing options (at least until Jameson Williams returns in week 7).  I think he is a fantastic choice in the third round!

#8  Dameon Pierce (RB – HOU) – Draft Position #42 – Scores 89 CUDDY points.

You may notice that Pierce scores more CUDDY points than Bijan Robinson, does that mean he’s a better player?  No, that is not the case.  Pierce is being rated against 4th round players and Bijan is being rated against first-round players, so the level of competition is not as high for Pierce as it is for Bijan.  What this is saying is that Pierce is the best player for you to select in the 4th round and he should be great once again.  Even though he’s playing with a rookie QB, I think we can all agree that CJ Stroud is a better QB than Davis Mills could ever hope to be.  This is a team that lacks any real passing weapons, so the offense will operate through the run game, and that will benefit Pierce with excellent volume.   They did bring in Devin Singletary to this backfield but I’m not really concerned about him as Singletary is not that good (and was only able to secure a 1 year, show-me contract).  Pierce exceeded everyone’s expectations in 2022 and I expect the same thing to happen again in 2023.

So when it comes to the Robust RB strategy, you should try to come away with at least two of these guys in the first 4 rounds.  Optimally you want to have 3 of them and that’s easy to do with Pierce being available in the 4th round or later in most drafts!  We love all of these guys and recommend all of them, but if it’s a choice between two of them, take the guy with the higher CUDDY score – that’s the better option.

Better yet, get the 16 Rounds+PLUS app and know the CUDDY scores of all the players and when they are being drafted.  Use Draft Mode in the app to break down the top 250 list based on the size of your league and your draft position so you know what round you need to target each player in. Grab the plus tool app here: https://thefantasyfootballcounselor.com/16-round-plus/

Thanks for reading and good luck with your drafts this season!

Joseph Robert
Joseph Robert
Joseph Robert's outside of the box, LION mentality has created the strongest and most loyal fan base in the fantasy football industry! @fantasyfootballcounselor