What 2022 Can Tell Us About The 2023 Fantasy Season: Running back

By Rhys Knott

Understanding trends is a key component of a successful fantasy season. With NFL football just hours from returning, Rhys Knott takes a look at what we can learn from last year’s fantasy performances to help us to a title in 2023 – beginning with Running Back:

A Confusing Falcons Backfield

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Fascinatingly (or confusingly, depending on your point of view), the teams who called the most running plays in 2022 didn’t necessarily have running backs who had the most rushing attempts.

Last season nobody ran the ball more than the Falcons. But 17 players had more carries than their lead running back, Tyler Allgeier. The Falcons are fascinating in fantasy terms this season too. They drafted the human highlight reel Bijan Robinson, AND still have Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson (along with a fullback, but who drafts fullbacks in a fantasy team?). Here’s the fascinating part; Allgeier caught 16 of 17 targets in 2022 and averaged 8.7 yards per reception. So much like Robinson and Patterson, he is a receiving threat out of the backfield.  

Robinson caught 60 passes in college for Texas, alongside his 539 rushing attempts! Patterson only caught 21 passes in 2022 (he did miss four games though). In 2021 he caught 52 and five of those went for touchdowns.

Further Flogging Of Workhorses?

Derrick Henry had more carries than any other back in 2022 (it’s nice to know some things never change), racking up 349 rushing attempts, almost 22 per game! Henry also caught a career high 33 passes in 2022. However, the 2023 outlook seems uncertain in Tennessee. There was some chatter that they tried to trade both Henry and Ryan Tannehill during the offseason. So, it’s difficult to know if either of them will still be in Tennessee beyond the trade deadline. But if last year’s leading rusher feels comfortable catching passes, he’ll be valuable wherever he’s playing.

Josh Jacobs was second in rushing attempts to Henry; he also caught a whopping 53 passes in 2022! Jacobs carried for 1,653 yards last season and led the league with 2,053 yards from scrimmage. There’s obviously a new quarterback in Vegas, but Darren Waller and Mack Hollins leaving in free agency seems to strengthen Jacobs’ importance as an offensive weapon alongside Davante Adams.

Nick Chubb was the only other back in the league over 300 attempts in 2022. His 302 attempts saw him ranked third overall. Not much has happened on the offensive side of the ball in Cleveland. While they have signed Marquise Goodwin and drafted Cedric Tillman it seems unlikely they will change to a more pass heavy offence. Chubb did score 32% of their touchdowns last season after all.

Year Two For Big Blue

Saquon Barkley (who is an interesting fantasy case all on his own) managed to play in 16 games last season, ending the season fourth for carries with 295. There has been a lot of turnover on the Giants roster in the offseason. Jon Feliciano moving to the 49ers seems like it will impact the run game. And the influx of new pass catching options does hint at a new, more pass heavy offense for Big Blue in 2023.  

In Brian Daboll’s second season with Josh Allen in Buffalo, the QB improved drastically. From throwing just 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a rookie Allen threw 20 of the former and 9 of the latter. If Daniel Jones doubles his number of touchdowns this season, he’ll be up to 30 scoring passes – and that could cut into how often the Giants run the ball. But Barkley led the team in receptions last year too though, so he’ll be a factor in the offense one way or another. However, his injury history may cause the Giants to limit his usage. He’s on the franchise tag this season and if he makes it through another full season, he’s going to cost someone a lot of money when it’s time to agree a new deal.

Mobile QB's Muddying The Waters

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Najee Harris battled a few injuries last season but still made it onto the top five rushing attempts. That’s one reason there’s renewed optimism around the Steelers. A healthier Harris should be even more reliable. And there’s a new, exciting offensive line in Pittsburgh headed into the 2023 season. That should make life easier for both Harris and Kenny Pickett. Harris only caught 41 passes last season, 33 fewer than in his rookie season. And that’s the one thing that could derail the Steelers offense, Matt Canada’s play calling.  

But back to the teams who figure to run the ball a lot in 2023. The Bears, Eagles, Commanders, Browns, Cowboys, Ravens and Giants were the teams hot on the heels of the Falcons last season. All because they have quarterbacks who are also a threat to run.

And that leads us nicely back to the fascinating or confusing part. Or the fascinatingly confusing part; with offensive coordinators who aren’t afraid to call quarterback runs – and quarterbacks who aren’t afraid to pull the ball when there’s nobody open – the running backs are no longer the golden geese they once were. So good luck with that!

Feature Image Credit: Chris Unger/Getty Images



Rhys has been watching the NFL for 30 something years and still hasn’t managed to pick a team to support. When he’s not fixatED on pass rushers you can find him blithering on about most sports on Twitter @wrhys_writes