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Identifying the Top RB1 Candidates for 2023 Fantasy Football

Drafting the running back who scores the most total Fantasy points can be the edge that wins a Fantasy Football championship. It is as simple as that. Identifying which running back that will be is far easier said than done. Across the last 10 seasons, there has not been a repeat running back who scores the most total Fantasy points in points per reception (PPR) leagues. Injuries, opportunity, total touches, declines in stats, and offensive schemes are some of the variables as to why there has not been a repeat RB1 for at least a decade.

In order to truly project who can be the best running back for Fantasy, we can start by looking at what it took in the past to be the best scoring player for the position. From there, we can look at averages and see who hit those averages this past season. Finally, we can project forward to who truly fits the mold and most importantly why they fit the mold to be a candidate as the overall RB1.

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Overall RB1s (PPR): 2013-2022

RB1 History
Click on table to enlarge


  • Outliers that impact the data:
    • 187 rushing attempts by Alvin Kamara (2020)
    • 1,811 rushing yards by Jonathan Taylor (2021)
    • 142 targets to Christian McCaffrey (2019) / 51 targets to Jonathan Taylor (2021)
    • 116 receptions by Christian McCaffrey (2019) / 40 receptions by Jonathan Taylor (2021)
    • 1,005 receiving yards by Christian McCaffrey (2019) / 360 receiving yards by Jonathan Taylor (2021)
    • 29.5 Fantasy PPG by Christian McCaffrey (2019)
  • 70% of the sample size hit 1,200+ rushing yards
  • 80% of the sample size hit 70+ receptions
  • 70% of the sample size hit 18+ total touchdowns
  • Every running back averaged 21+ Fantasy PPG
  • The lack of one statistical category needed to be heavily compensated by another statistical category

Who Hit the RB1 Averages in 2022?

Taking a look at the most recent season, we can look to see which running backs were able to hit the averages of the different statistics we found from the overall RB1s in past seasons. Some running backs may have hit one, or many of these categories. Keep in mind that health is the biggest factor at the end of the day and could have impacted certain running backs not making this list from last season.

  • 265.7 rushing attempts
    • Derrick Henry, Titans (349)
    • Josh Jacobs, Raiders (340)
    • Nick Chubb, Browns (302)
    • Saquon Barkley, Giants (295)
    • Najee Harris, Steelers (272)
  • 1,260 rushing yards
    • Josh Jacobs, Raiders (1,653)
    • Derrick Henry, Titans (1,538)
    • Nick Chubb, Browns (1,525)
    • Saquon Barkley, Giants (1,312)
    • Miles Sanders, Eagles (1,269)
  • 13.3 rushing touchdowns
    • Jamaal Williams, Lions (17)
    • Austin Ekeler, Chargers (13)
    • Derrick Henry, Titans (13)
  • 106.1 targets
    • Austin Ekeler, Chargers (127)
    • Christian McCaffrey, 49ers (108)
  • 80.7 receptions
    • Austin Ekeler, Chargers (107)
    • Christian McCaffrey, 49ers (85)
  • 735.6 receiving yards
    • Christian McCaffrey, 49ers (741)
  • 4.3 receiving touchdowns
    • Jerick McKinnon, Chiefs (9)
    • Austin Ekeler, Chargers (5)
    • Christian McCaffrey, 49ers (5)
    • Aaron Jones, Packers (5)
  • 383.66 total Fantasy points
    • N/A
  • 24.32 Fantasy points per game (PPG)
    • N/A

2023 Overall RB1 Candidates: Hitting the Statistics

We can use the historical averages as baselines to try and project 2023 overall RB1 candidates, but we have to remember the outlier impacts. I actually believe simply using the percentages previously listed, and projecting who fits those molds makes more sense. So let’s start there and list who can possibly hit those in 2023. Determining if they fit comes from opinions based on opportunity, volume, teammate competition, history of that running back’s statistics, perceived skillset, and other variables. Not in any specific order:

  • 70% of the sample size hit 1,200+ rushing yards. Candidates in 2023:
    • Jonathan Taylor, Colts
    • Derrick Henry, Titans
    • Josh Jacobs, Raiders
    • Bijan Robinson, Falcons
    • Saquon Barkley, Giants
    • Nick Chubb, Browns
    • Najee Harris, Steelers
    • Miles Sanders, Panthers
    • JK Dobbins, Ravens
    • Christian McCaffrey, 49ers
    • Dalvin Cook, Free Agent
  • 80% of the sample size hit 70+ receptions. Candidates in 2023:
    • Austin Ekeler, ChargersChristian McCaffrey, 49ers
    • 70% of the sample size hit 18+ total touchdowns. Candidates in 2023
      • Very tough to determine this without over-projecting touchdowns for players. So this will be skipped

2023 Overall RB1 Candidates: Best Bets

Following the dive into 10 years of data, calculating the averages, identifying the percentage trends, looking at last year, and then projecting stats for this year – who fits the mold in 2023? Way easier said than done, even after all of what was listed. What is known:

  • The running back needs to stay healthy
  • The running back needs to have a solid balance of rushing and receiving statistics OR completely smoke what of those subcategories
  • The running back needs to have high volume (rushing attempts + receptions)

My best bets:

Saquon Barkley, Giants

This take can be changed and changed often leading up until the season, but Saquon Barkley is currently my RB1 for my projections. 57 receptions paired with 1,312 rushing yards last season makes it clear that he is a true workhorse with balanced statistics. The talent is absolutely there, he was healthy last year, this Giants offense keeps improving under Brian Daboll and Barkley did it back in his rookie season (2018). Currently, there are concerns of a potential holdout on Barkley’s end due to contract disputes, but I am projecting as if he plays the entire season until there is any solidified concerns.

Christian McCaffrey, 49ers

Following his move from Carolina to San Francisco, Christian McCaffrey averaged 21.67 Fantasy PPG as a 49er. This was the fourth time through six seasons he has averaged 21+ Fantasy points. The potential for high receiving volume has and will continue to propel CMC, who is an easy candidate to score the most total touchdowns in this 49ers offense. Skillset, history of production, and the system make CMC the most obvious of candidates.

Austin Ekeler, Chargers

I am lower than the consensus this year on Austin Ekeler. I do believe he will be solid, but I have him closer to RB10 than RB1. My concerns center around a new Offensive Coordinator, the potential for regression in touchdowns, and also the potential regression in the receiving numbers to go down with everyone now healthy and LA drafting a wide receiver in the first round this year. We have to acknowledge the massive receiving volume Ekeler has seen from Justin Herbert through the last two seasons. We have to credit the total touchdowns in the last two seasons with 18 and 20. Should these notes stick, he is an obvious candidate.

Nick Chubb, Browns

Nick Chubb has been credited (very fairly) as the best “pure runner” in the NFL. 4/5 seasons played have resulted in over 1,000 rushing yards, he has never averaged less than five yards per carry in a season and the combination of efficiency + explosiveness has been consistent. The offensive line is top three, and now that Deshaun Watson is heading into his first full season as the Browns’ starting quarterback this may mean keeping defenses honest for the first time maybe ever in Chubb’s career. With Kareem Hunt out of the picture, there is the chance for a bump in receiving for Chubb as well.

Bijan Robinson, Falcons

Call it rookie fever, I call it agreeing to the tag “generational talent”. 157.83 scrimmage yards per game at Texas in 2022 screams workhorse running back, and that is what Bijan will be in Atlanta. The Falcons were #1 in rushing attempts in 2022, and the 8th overall pick investment in Bijan Robinson says all you need to know. This is a talent that has the full skillset both on the ground and through the air to be one of the best in the game, year one.

Jonathan Taylor, Colts

2022 was disappointing for Jonathan Taylor due to injury, following a great 2021 season. In 2021, JT was #1 in rushing attempts (332), rushing yards (1,811), total TD’s (20) and various other categories such as evaded tackles, yards created and breakaway runs. There are question marks with a rookie quarterback in Anthony Richardson, but there is no concern of this team now being pass emphasized with a mobile quarterback. Due to what JT did in 2021, the lack of competition for touches and the skillset to run it back in the statistics he has excelled in qualifies him. 

Josh Jacobs, Raiders

Another running back with concerns due to contract disputes, but we will move forward projecting Josh Jacobs to play the full 2023 season. A career year in rushing attempts (340), rushing yards (1,653), receiving yards (400) and Fantasy PPG (19.3) was not just great for Jacobs but great compared to all running backs. The leader in rushing yards for 2022, has quietly also caught 53/54 balls the last two seasons as well. This offense changed at quarter back, but Jacobs should continue to have a workhorse role.

I am hoping you walk away from this knowing what it takes to finish as the RB1 in total Fantasy points, and that it helps you do your own projecting of who fits the mold for this coming season. Doing that sort of exercise can help you come draft day in your Fantasy leagues. Hitting on the running back position can be an indicator to getting you that championship at the end of the day, which is a goal of ours here at Fantrax.

For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!

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