The TRUTH: Top 10 RBs in 2023 (Fantasy Football)

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The TRUTH episode series kicked off last week with some very interesting findings about the top 20 QBs. Andy, Mike, and Jason are now dissecting all the data regarding running backs to find out what they meant for fantasy teams in 2023. If you can handle it, in this article you’ll find the cold, hard truth about the top 10 RBs.

You can watch the whole episode on YouTube here:

Before we start, let’s take a quick look at how the TRUTH algorithm categorizes players’ performances, considering half PPR scoring:

  • Great Games are 21+ points.
  • Good Games are 12+ points.
  • Bust Games are under seven points.
  • Missed Games are not considered by the consistency score.

Running Backs Overview

It’s important to note that running backs were less efficient and less involved in the passing game in 2023. This season saw the fewest total RB receptions since 2014 and RBs in general scored the lowest fantasy points per reception since 2011.

We did see a resurgence in overall rushing volume. But despite the increase in attempts, the rushing leader was Derrick Henry with 280 carries, which is the lowest for a league leader ever. This means the volume is being spread around RB committees and rushing QBs. That’s why we also saw the fewest rushing TDs in the last six years.

So yes, it was a tough season for running backs. Let’s take a look at the truth behind the 10 best players at the position in 2023:

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1. Christian McCaffrey | 49ers

Age: 27.6 | ADP 1.01/RB1
16 games – 272/1459/14 + 83 targets for 67/564/7
2023 Consistency Rank: 1
1st Half: 1  / 2nd Half: 2

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
50% 94% 0%

No surprise here: CMC is really good. He is the best RB out there. He had a perfect season with zero bust games. He was truly a difference-maker for fantasy even if you had to pay the very first pick to get him. Since 2017, the only players that have had at least 50% great games, 90% good games, and zero bust games are Todd Gurley in 2018 and Christian McCaffrey in 2019. The fact that he did it once again this season is simply amazing.

CMC was so good and consistent this season that over 50% of fantasy championship games included him. Despite having crossed the 27-year-old threshold, he should once again be the 1.01 in fantasy drafts next season.

2. Raheem Mostert | Dolphins

Age: 31.8 | ADP 11.10/RB45
15 games – 209/1012/18 + 32 targets for 25/175/3
2023 Consistency Rank: 4
1st Half: 9  / 2nd Half: 7

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
33% 60% 13%

Raheem Mostert surprised everyone in 2023. He was one of the biggest values in drafts this season despite his age. He scored more touchdowns this season than he had in the rest of his career. His performance helped a lot of people get to the fantasy playoffs, but the problem was that he abandoned them in championship week. The real question is what to expect next season from the Dolphins’ backfield. We also have to talk about rookie RB De’Von Achane here to paint the full picture: Achane finished 24th overall due to the games he missed, but he was great in 45% of the games he played (12% more than Mostert). Achane averaged only 3.9 fantasy points in the four games he played against top-16 rushing defenses, but he averaged over 23 points in the seven games he faced bottom-16 defenses. This data can be noisy and hard to trust, because there are a lot of variables in play, such as rookie involvement in certain games, game plans in major matchups against tough opponents, and of course, injuries. 

There are injury concerns with Achane, but only a few fantasy assets can put up 50 points in one game and he is one of them. Most people might once again draft him over Raheem Mostert next season, but their usage should be balanced. Mostert is still under contract, and even if the pendulum swings a little bit more towards Achane, this high-volume committee should stay productive in 2024.

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3. Travis Etienne Jr. | Jaguars

Age: 24.9 | ADP 3.05/RB10
17 games – 267/1008/11 + 73 targets for 58/476/1
2023 Consistency Rank: 14
1st Half: 3  / 2nd Half: 32

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
29% 53% 24%

It was a tale of two seasons for Travis Etienne in terms of consistency. He dominated bottom-16 defenses and that was why he had such a consistent first half of the season. The workload was there for Travis Etienne. Tank Bigsby was no threat to his volume, so we can be confident that Etienne will continue being the guy. He has the utilization and the talent, but he was a little inefficient on the ground. During that first half of the season, he was living on touchdowns. But there were nine weeks in which he didn’t score a TD and he averaged just 8.5 fantasy points in those games.

This season wasn’t what everybody expected from Jacksonville and it’s very hard to get a top-tier consistent RB from a team that loses a lot of games and misses the playoffs. But Travis Etienne is just 25 years old, so next year should be better for him. However, there is an important question that needs to be answered: is Trevor Lawrence capable of turning this franchise into a winning one? Or is he going to be a middle-of-the-pack QB? This might be what determines if Travis Etienne can be a great RB for fantasy or just a fine one.

4. Breece Hall | Jets

Age: 22.6 | ADP 4.03/RB14
17 games – 223/994/5 + 95 targets for 76/591/4
2023 Consistency Rank: 9
1st Half: 14  / 2nd Half: 10

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
29% 53% 18%

There were doubts about Breece Hall during the draft season. He was still recovering from a torn ACL and the Jets had just signed Dalvin Cook. These doubts made him drop to the fourth round, where some brave fantasy managers took him and reaped the benefits. During the first month of the season, he was very underutilized. He only had eight carries per game during those first weeks but once he got healthier, his volume took off. However, the situation in New York was very complicated this season. The offensive line was the league’s second-worst, and we all know what happened to Aaron Rodgers in his first drive as a New York Jet. Breece had to do his best in this unfavorable environment and it wasn’t easy for him. That’s why he was not very efficient despite having so many carries.

But we know who Breece Hall really is. He should be drafted around the back end of the first round next season. He won’t get as many dump-offs as he got this season, so he might not repeat that crazy amount of targets, but with Aaron Rodgers back and some very urgent improvements to the offensive line, Hall’s efficiency should go up considerably.

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5. Joe Mixon | Bengals

Age: 27.4 | ADP 3.10/RB13
17 games – 257/1034/9 + 64 targets for 52/376/3
2023 Consistency Rank: 8
1st Half: 15  / 2nd Half: 9

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
12% 53% 6%

Joe Mixon was one of the least sexy running back picks during draft season but he was a value pick at the back of the third round. He only busted in six percent of his games (only CMC had fewer bust games) and he got more consistent as the season progressed. The Bengals’ season was an atypical one. They started slow and then Joe Burrow got injured, but despite that, Mixon was very good.  He broke a lot of tackles and always managed that extra yard or two.

Joe Mixon restructured his contract, assuring us that he will still be there next season and he should continue being a trustworthy, consistent, and productive running back. He is the only RB in fantasy to finish in the top 12 in each of the last three seasons. So why doubt him again?

6. Kyren Williams | Rams

Age: 23.3 | ADP: Undrafted
12 games – 228/1144/12 + 48 targets for 32/206/3
2023 Consistency Rank: 2
1st Half: 7  / 2nd Half: 1

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
50% 83% 8%

This waiver wonder is the only RB in the top 10 who played fewer than 15 games this season. He finished as the sixth running back despite missing a considerable amount of time, and was the single most consistent running back during the second half of the season. Kyren Williams was a complete revelation and he should be a first-round pick in 2024 drafts. Whenever he was on the field, he was unstoppable. He plays as a centerpiece in a great offense, coached by a very smart man who can scheme successful plays for an RB with Kyren Williams’ skillset.

The only RBs that have scored 15 TDs in 12 or fewer games over the last 40 years are Priest Holmes in 2004 and Kyren Williams in 2023. Only a true workhorse running back can achieve these kinds of numbers. Sean McVay fooled us all into thinking Cam Akers would be the lead back, and that’s why Kyren Williams became the first RB to go undrafted by fantasy managers and finish with more than 20 fantasy points per game. Let’s just hope McVay doesn’t surprise us once again next season.

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7. Rachaad White | Buccaneers

Age: 25.0 | ADP: 7.02/RB28
17 games – 272/990/6 + 70 targets for 64/549/3
2023 Consistency Rank: 7
1st Half: 19  / 2nd Half: 5

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
6% 65% 24%
Rachaad White #1 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on after his team's 34-20 win against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 17, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Rachaad White really got better and more consistent as the season progressed. He was the RB2 from Week 7 on, averaging 21.8 opportunities, over 100 total yards, and 15.9 fantasy points. At the beginning of the season, he looked like a risky play, scoring under five fantasy points in three of the first five games. He was very ineffective on the ground, averaging only 3.64 yards per carry, which is the lowest for a top-15 RB over the last five years. But his role in the passing game changed in Week 7 and his fantasy value skyrocketed. If Baker Mayfield is back as the Bucs’ starting QB, Rachaad White should continue being a solid fantasy asset due to his involvement as a receiving back.

8. Derrick Henry | Titans

Age: 30.0 | ADP: 2.02/RB6
17 games – 280/1167/12 + 36 targets for 28/214/0
2023 Consistency Rank: 11
1st Half: 6  / 2nd Half: 17

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
18% 65% 29%

King Henry’s consistency dropped dramatically from the first to the second half of the season. He busted an alarming 29% of the time. Despite being the league’s lead rusher, if you had him on your roster, there were many weeks he was the reason your fantasy team lost. He had his lowest yards per carry since 2020 but still showed flashes of his vintage self in some games.

He will be one of the toughest players to project next season. Not only because of his age and his volatile performances in 2023 but also because his future is a mystery. Will he be a Baltimore Raven? A Dallas Cowboy? Both teams should provide him with a lot of opportunities. Derrick Henry is an outlier, but when will the wheels fall off? Depending on the landing spot, he will be a high-risk/high-reward draft pick next season.

9. Bijan Robinson | Falcons

Age: 21.9 | ADP: 1.08/RB3
17 games – 214/976/4 + 86 targets for 58/487/4
2023 Consistency Rank: 12
1st Half: 17  / 2nd Half: 8

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Great Games Good Games Bust Games
12% 53% 18%

Bijan’s season was very peculiar. He was a very high draft pick as a rookie, which is usually risky, but the fantasy community was pretty confident in his talent. However, Arthur Smith (a.k.a. Arthur Sith) was committed to not using talented players. Bijan Robinson will have a new head coach next season and if he is used properly, he will be a high-floor/high-ceiling, league-winning RB for fantasy, and his ADP may be lower than it should be, due to recency bias and all of this uncertainty.

But it’s not all about the coach. Bijan Robinson‘s utilization in the passing game was elite. He had 86 targets but he only caught 58, due to poor quarterback play. This is a matter that should be addressed by the Falcons this offseason. Based on talent, Bijan Robinson should be a workhorse and have many more opportunities to score touchdowns. We only need him to be better coached and receive passes from a more competent signal caller. Kirk Cousins…we’re talking to you.

10. Jahmyr Gibbs | Lions

Age: 21.8 | ADP: 3.08/RB12
15 games – 182/945/10 + 71 targets for 52/316/1
2023 Consistency Rank: 16
1st Half: 27  / 2nd Half: 12

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Great Games Good Games Bust Games
33% 47% 27%

Just like we did with Miami’s running backs, we can’t talk about Jahmyr Gibbs without mentioning David Montgomery. When you have such a powerful RB committee, some volatility is expected. They both had their games, but even though Montgomery finished three spots below Gibbs, he was fifth in consistency. Let’s take a quick look at him:

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
7% 64% 7%

Montgomery’s chart screams “trustworthy back.” You knew what you were getting out of him almost every week. However, Jahmyr Gibbs was the RB13 from Weeks 7 to 16, averaging 18.9 fantasy points per game and finishing five times inside the top three. So his ceiling is much more interesting than Montgomery’s. The truth is that both were really good and next season they should still be used similarly. Deciding which Detroit RB to draft will be a matter of roster construction and taking the better value at ADP.

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