Yards Created: 2024 Post-Draft Breakdown


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Yards Created: 2024 Post-Draft Breakdown

With the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead at the running back landscape as we enter the season.

This year’s rookie running back crop was predictably filled with a ton of Day 3 (Round 4-5) talents. From a top-down perspective, this is the weakest RB class in my time charting Yards Created. But my hope is the group is not as bad as the infamously unproductive 2014 class that had Bishop Sankey and was filled with busts. I hope this rookie crop will outperform and give us better depth than the similarly weak 2019 class with Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery, Miles Sanders, and Tony Pollard.

These rookies are entering a completely changed running back landscape in fantasy football, where multiple factors are reducing the position's value.

The bottom line is that running backs just aren’t getting the massive lead roles they once were. Committee backfields across the league are taking off. Combined with a deeper receiver pool than ever, we see that running backs getting pushed further down draft boards.

For example, take a look at the number of running backs that have played on at least 45% of their team’s snaps (in the games they were active for) over the most recent seasons.

Amount of running backs that played at least 45% of team snaps – since 2015

2015 – 33

2016 – 39

2017 – 34

2018 – 38

2019 – 37

2020 – 37

2021 – 37

2022 – 40

2023 – 42

Last season marked a new high. We saw 42 different running backs hit the 45% threshold of their team’s snaps – and that’s 12.1% higher than the previous eight-year average (36.9).

This year’s running back class will only add fuel to the fire. Between the talent drain at the position, one extra game during the regular season, and attrition that happens every season – committees are here to stay.

The best fantasy gamers are already adjusting and becoming more comfortable drafting from these murky situations. This season specifically sets up incredibly well for Zero or Hero RB roster builds with the sheer amount of committee depth to choose from in the mid-to-late rounds of your seasonal/best ball contests.

So, which running backs stand out from this year’s rookie class?

2024 RB Class Rankings

These rankings are driven by Yards Created data, draft capital, and then landing spot. Getting early opportunities as a rookie is always a good thing, but a “crappy landing spot” can quickly turn the other way with injuries.

These rankings are specifically made with dynasty rookie drafts in mind, but the fantasy outlooks can be broadly applied for this season.

I charted Kimani Vidal, Isaiah Davis, and Rasheen Ali after the draft, and their data was added to the Yards Created database for subscribers.

All YC data are from the running backs’ final season. No previous seasons were included in the charted data.

1. Carolina Panthers Jonathon Brooks (4.79 YC per carry | 3rd-best in class)

Yards Created breakdown

A torn ACL last November cut short what was a breakout campaign for the talented Jonathon Brooks in his one year as a starter in Texas. After playing behind Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson for years, Brooks decided not to transfer. And it paid off.

Brooks posted top-3 marks in the class in both YC per carry (4.79) and missed tackles forced per carry (0.39). He has developed the ability to seemingly teleport in his jump cuts, and that skill, paired with his quick feet, makes him an ideal fit in a zone-blocking scheme.

The top-6 RBs in the class by MTF per carry are – Lloyd (0.43), Brooks (0.39), Wright (0.36), Benson (0.36), and Irving (0.32).

Brooks has the quickest feet in the class in that he does not waste movement, and he has the athletic ability to shake defenders consistently. Brooks is the most NFL-ready RB in this class when he's back healthy. The only smaller red flag is that Brooks does not have great long-distance speed. He got caught from behind a few times when running in open space, but I don’t view home-run speed as a needed trait. Burst and elusiveness in tight spaces are far more important in the NFL.

Brooks’ passing down ability wasn’t as showcased as much as it should have been. He’s very difficult to bring down in one-on-one situations in the open field against linebackers, and his elusiveness in space should immediately earn him targets. He also happens to be the best pass protector in the class. He posted the top mark in the class by pass protection execution rate (95%). I don’t want to overinflate the importance of blocking because we want our RBs running routes when they’re on the field, but Brooks ticks that box with a perfect score.

Fantasy football outlook

For the first time in modern NFL draft history, only one running back was taken in the first two rounds. Jonathon Brooks joined the Panthers at #46 overall.

Brooks’ injury rehab will be important to monitor this summer, but he should be on track to play in September. He had surgery on December 1 last winter, which puts his 9-month minimum return to play date at August 1. He can spend all of training camp ramping up. He doesn’t turn 21 years old until July this summer.

Second-round runners are often very productive in their first season.

Since 2013, a total of 27 RBs were selected in Round 2 and played at least four games in their first year. Among this group, 12-of-27 (44%) scored inside of the top-24 RBs in fantasy points per game in their rookie season.

A deeper look under the hood is even more promising for Brooks’ first year outlook strictly based on draft capital.

Brooks is the 15th second round runner to go inside of the top 50 picks (from 33 to 50 overall) since 2013. Among the 14 previous second round top-50 overall selections at RB in the draft, nine have gone on to finish as a top-20 scorer in fantasy points per game as a rookie. That’s 64.3%. On average, these running backs saw 15.5 opportunities per game (carries + targets).

Only two former top-50 picks failed to finish as top-35 scoring running backs in their rookie season since 2013 – Derrick Henry and Ronald Jones.

Brooks has an extremely high floor given his strong Yards Created data and early draft capital. The downside here is that Bryce Young is coming off an all-time bad rookie season and it’s up to new HC Dave Canales to work his magic on another reclamation project. It’s not impossible. However, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin aren’t walking through that door.

Diontae Johnson and Xavier Legette are decent upgrades, though. Legette’s profile is sketchy, but at least his final season production dwarfed anything Jonathan Mingo ever did at Ole Miss. Johnson still isn’t a consistent player. However, there are reasons to be optimistic. At the very least, Johnson has the quick separation skills this offense sorely lacked last season. And hey, things can only go upwards from here.

Carolina finished 30th in points scored per possession (1.19) last season. Only the Jets (1.13) and Patriots (1.10) were worse. Because their offense was so inept, the Panthers' running backs rarely had any touchdown upside. The team ran the fourth-fewest plays inside their opponents' 10-yard line (red zone) with 3.2 per game.

Between their (formerly) mediocre talent in the backfield and a terrible offense, the Panthers RBs only scored 14.9 Half-PPR FPG as a combined unit (tied – third-fewest) last season. Brooks will revitalize this group, but the big question is what they will get out of Young.

Brooks is the locked-in rookie RB1 now post draft. I had him ranked at #2 pre-draft behind Trey Benson. Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, and Rashaad Penny are not imposing backfield competition in the short- or long-term.

2. Arizona Cardinals Trey Benson (4.57 YC per carry | 6th-of-17 in class)

Yards Created breakdown

Benson’s 4.57 Yards Created per carry isn’t a world-beating figure, but he flashed strong elusiveness with 0.36 missed tackles forced on a per-carry basis. That tied with Jaylen Wright as the 3rd-best mark in the class.

There aren’t many running backs who can play with the one-cut, slashing run style that Benson possesses. You need to have angle-erasing speed, and Benson has the juice. Combined with his incredible athletic ability and elusiveness, he has a mixture of talent that generates big plays.

I’m not usually one for comparisons, but Travis Etienne kept coming back to my mind when I charted Benson. They both win in similar ways. Benson is going to absolutely shred the NFL ifb he’s utilized heavily in an off-tackle, gap-blocking run game. Benson was a killer in FSU’s pin/pull scheme.

Benson sees the field well in the open field when a lane is cleared, but he did show a tendency to freeze a bit or be overly patient when running inside. That did lead to a few negative plays. This is nitpicking, really. Everything else surrounding Benson’s profile is largely positive. For every play that Benson kind of spaces out, he has two runs where he’s creating yards that most running backs wouldn't.

Fantasy football outlook

At #66 overall, Trey Benson joined the Cardinals' exciting, new-look offense. Along with blue-chip WR Marvin Harrison Jr. and emerging star TE Trey McBride, Arizona has built a great group of weapons around Kyler Murray.

Benson was one of four RBs to be drafted on Day 2, and that marked the fewest taken in Rounds 2-3 since the rookie classes of 2021 (two Day 2 RBs) and 2016 (three). Relatively speaking, this was a lighter group than usual. At least 5 RBs have gone in Rounds 2-3 in nine of the last 12 drafts.

The recent history of rookie running backs drafted in Round 3 is much sketchier than that of those taken in Round 2.

Since 2013, a total of 32 RBs were taken in the third round and have played at least four games in their rookie season. Only six of 32 (18.8%) finished top-24 in FPG in their first year. They are Alvin Kamara (RB4 – 2017), Kareem Hunt (RB5 – 2017), De’Von Achane (RB4 – 2023), David Johnson (RB17 – 2015), Antonio Gibson (RB18 – 2020), and Tre Mason (RB23 – 2014).

In total, just nine of 32 RBs (28.1%) taken in the third round of the draft have gone on to finish top-36 among running backs in FPG in their rookie season – that’s a borderline FLEX-worthy starter. Exactly 50% of all third-round running backs fail to finish inside of the top-50 in FPG as rookies.

So, can Benson be an outlier?

James Conner is blocking his immediate pathway to touches and is coming off of another underrated year of his own. Over the last three seasons, Conner has quietly ripped RB6, RB10, and RB13 scoring campaigns by Half-PPR FPG. Conner’s 80 rushing yards per game set a new career-high last season and ranked third-most behind only Christian McCaffrey (95.3) and Kyren Williams (91.2).

Conner was more of a workhorse and not a bell cow, which could open up a pathway for Benson to earn snaps right away on passing downs. In fact, Conner ranked a lowly 31st in route share (36%) and 33rd in target share (7.3%) at the position.

Benson will have to “earn” the starting role from the vet, but there is a very good chance that he’ll get a chance to start at some point this coming season. Now 29 years old, Conner has missed at least three games in five of the last 6 seasons.

Sure, he does not have the cleared runway to break out immediately like Brooks. However, Benson’s spot long-term is fantastic. Conner will be a free agent in 2025. I’m targeting Benson aggressively in the back end of the first round of dynasty rookie drafts.

3. Miami Dolphins Jaylen Wright (5.44 YC per carry | 2nd-best in class)

Yards Created breakdown

Working as a part of the Volunteers’ three-man committee with Jabari Small and Dylan Sampson behind him, Jaylen Wright led Tennessee’s backfield with 133 carries last season. It was a small sample of work that needs context, but Wright’s bag is full of moves at the second-level of the defense.

At 5.44 YC per carry, Wright scores in the 80th percentile all time. I don’t grade on a curve, but his creative ability really does stand out in this group. Wright is a rare breed of speed, power, and elusiveness – he can win all three ways. He has explosive speed to the edge to blast by defenders, and then he can consistently churn his legs forward for 2-3 extra yards.

The thing is, Tennessee’s offense isn’t real. (Sorry, not sorry, Volunteers fans.) Their spread-based attack heavily uses condensed WR splits and bunch formations to the wide side of the field, resulting in one of the most contrived offenses I’ve ever seen. This is not an excuse for Wright at all, but instead, it offers an important bit of context.

Overall, Wright saw six or fewer defenders in the box on exactly 80% of his carries. That’s unreal. You can nearly count on one hand how often he saw eight or more defenders stacked (9% of the time). As a result, Wright saw nearly 2.0 yards blocked every time he took a carry – which is the 2nd-best mark in the class.

At the next level, he will face a learning curve just to get used to a “normal” offense. The good news is that he’s very young — Wright just turned 21 years old.

While he will not be an every-down runner to start his career, Wright is going to be a threat in the passing game immediately. He catches the ball cleanly and has excellent athleticism to cut upfield quickly, and string moves together in space. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a consistently featured part of Tennessee's passing attack. Half of his receptions came in two games – vs. Alabama and Florida.

His ceiling is as high as any RB in this class as he develops more consistency.

Fantasy football outlook

Wright was the fifth running back selected in the draft (#120 overall), but he lands here because of his immense long-term upside in Miami.

De’Von Achane and Raheem Mostert are co-starters and offer up gigantic competition for Wright to overcome as a rookie, but neither Achane nor Mostert are pictures of perfect health. Mostert is now 32 years old, and Achane has missed multiple games in each of his last two seasons. Achane hurt his foot in his final year at Texas A&M and missed two games, and then he missed multiple contests last season with a knee injury.

Of course, Achane was the RB4 in fantasy points per game last season while splitting work with Mostert (RB3). If Achane stays healthy for 16 games and gets a little bit bigger slice of the pie, then he will have league-breaking upside this season.

Last year, Miami’s duo played in eight full games together. In those contests, Achane and Mostert split snaps exactly down the middle at 48.5% apiece. Mostert led them in carries (96 to 83), while Achane was used a bit more as a receiver, with 33 targets to Mostert’s 21. Importantly, the veteran was the clear lead RB in the red zone. Mostert took 20 carries (8 TDs) inside the opponents' 10-yard line, while Achane had 10 (5 TDs).

This data from Ryan Heath further shows Achane’s upside:

Wright has a long pathway to success as a rookie, but he will be in the cat bird’s seat in 2025 to co-lead the backfield with Achane. As far as committee backfields go, this is the top one to target. Miami’s RBs put up a staggering 31.5 Half-PPR FPG last season – the most in the league in a landslide over San Francisco (28.4).

Wright will greatly benefit from Miami’s zone-blocking rushing attack where he’s taught to aim toward one direction based on the concept – inside, outside, or wide zone. According to our Fantasy Points Data, the Dolphins called a zone-blocking run on 52% of their rushing plays last season (7th-most) and averaged a league-high 6.2 YPC on those carries. HC Mike McDaniel will know how to get Wright in space quickly so he can show off his athletic ability and thumping run style in space. It's the best possible spot for his talents.

4. Green Bay Packers Marshawn Lloyd (5.66 YC per carry | best in class)

Yards Created breakdown

Even though he had just 116 carries last season after transferring from South Carolina the year prior, MarShawn Lloyd made the most of his opportunities.

With 5.66 Yards Created and 0.43 missed tackles forced, Lloyd posted the top marks in the class.

Lloyd is an explosive runner with excellent start/stop acceleration and ideal size as a compact 221 lbs. He ran with terrific vision in USC’s gap-blocking scheme and showed a unique ability to create on his own in the second level once he got through his blocks.

The bad news? Well, Lloyd rarely carried the ball with any consistent volume last season. It wasn’t his fault. USC’s Air Raid scheme emphasized Caleb Williams, and the Trojans were the 9th-most pass-heavy offense in college. As a result, Lloyd handled 10 or more carries in just 4 of 11 games last season.

His 5.66 YC per carry is impressive, but the smaller sample does help him a bit. Their offensive scheme helped lighten up boxes, too. Not only were defenses always aware of Williams’ arm talent to all levels of the field, USC ran a very RPO-heavy offense that gave Lloyd a ton of lighter fronts. He only saw eight or more defenders in the box on just 15% of his carries (3rd-lowest rate).

This is the context behind his production. At the end of the day, Lloyd’s sample shows a back capable of much more than getting just 10-12 touches per game. Beyond his production profile, the only minor red flag is that Lloyd is a major work in progress as a pass protector. His 50% pass protection execution rate is the worst mark in the class.

Fantasy football outlook

At 88 overall, Lloyd was the fourth RB selected. He came off of the board just six picks after Blake Corum.

Lloyd will be behind Josh Jacobs for this season, but I’m not sure the veteran's future in Green Bay is set in stone after that. By total contract value, Jacobs agreed to the top deal in this year's free agent market — sort of. He inked a four-year, $48M contract ($12.5M guaranteed) with some pretty important stipulations. According to PFT, Jacobs is due $14.5M in 2024. That’s a lock. After that, his deal is basically a series of three one-year team options until 2027. The Packers owe Jacobs a roster bonus next March.

For this season, Jacobs sets up well to be the Packers' early-down and short-yardage grinder while Lloyd fills out a lowercase version of the vacated Aaron Jones role to the best of his ability. I’m excited about Lloyd’s talent, but Jones is the most underrated RB in the game. They’re big shoes to fill.

It sounds like the Packers are preparing Lloyd for a big role, and that he’s got the inside track to open the season as the RB2 behind Jacobs.

“I would like to get him out there as much as possible,” said OC Adam Stenavich after the draft. “He’s got a skill set that’s a little bit different than AJ’s as far as his speed. He’s not quite the bruiser that (Dillon) is obviously, but he’s got a different type of skill set. So it’ll be nice to get him the ball in space and just see what he can do. I think he’s gonna add a good explosive element to the offense, for sure.”

HC Matt LaFleur is excited to see what Lloyd can do as a receiver after he turned his 13 receptions for an astronomical 232 yards (on 18 targets) in his final season at USC.

One thing is for certain – the Packers always employ a two-back system. Lloyd is going to have a role as a rookie. Here’s Green Bay’s backfield usage since LaFleur became the head coach:

2019 – Aaron Jones (62% snap rate) | Jamaal Williams (35% snap rate)

2020 – Jones (52%) | Williams (40%) 2021 – Jones (60%) | Dillon (42%)

2022 – Jones (58%) | Dillon (48%)

2023 – Dillon (51%) | Jones (49%)

The most likely scenario is a 60/40 split with Jacobs/Lloyd and there is the potential for a true 50/50 split if Lloyd shows out. The flipside to this coin is that the Packers are banking on Jacobs bouncing back from a down 2023 season. He was a shell of himself last year.

Jacobs scored -4.4 fewer Half-PPR points than he should have based on expected fantasy points. Among the 49 running backs with at least 100 carries, only Austin Ekeler (-4.9 FPG below expected) and Tony Pollard (-4.6 FPG) were more unlucky/inefficient than Jacobs.

Jacobs fell to just 2.29 yards after contact per carry, which was third-worst among 35 RBs with at least 150 carries. This is after he crushed two years ago to the tune of 3.23 YAC per carry (8th-best) two years ago.

According to FP Data, Jacobs was arguably the best running back in the game in 2022. He was absolutely stellar in the Raiders' zone-blocking system, averaging 4.83 YPC and a 66% success rate on those carries (the best). Last year, those figures cratered to a lowly 3.36 YPC (and a 49% success rate).

This Packers group is due for a positive TD correction – especially if Jordan Love takes another step. Flukishly, Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon scored just four rushing TDs on 29 carries inside-the-10 last season. That’s “good” for a 13.7% scoring rate on those carries. Not great! Jacobs has been a decent goal-line RB over the last three seasons, turning his 66 carries from inside-the-10 into 21 TDs (31.8%).

I’m significantly lower on Jacobs (ADP: RB9 | Ranked: RB13) and higher on Lloyd (ADP: RB46 | Ranked: RB43) in my best ball rankings. Fire your mid-2nd dynasty rookie picks at Lloyd all summer.

5. Los Angeles Rams Blake Corum (3.35 YC per carry | 14th-of-17)

Yards Created breakdown

After a very productive two-year stretch with 505/2708/45 rushing in 27 games as the Wolverines’ starter, Corum’s Yards Created profile is a huge disappointment.

Overall, his 3.35 YC per carry grades out in the 3rd percentile since 2016. Corum has enough speed to get to the edge and decent contact balance for his size, but he wasn’t elusive in 2023. He averaged just 0.15 missed tackles forced per carry – the 2nd-worst mark in this class. It’s a huge worry.

The effects of a torn meniscus and sprained MCL sustained at the end of the 2022 season certainly seemed to linger year over year.

Corum does have one calling card – an important one – and it’s his vision. No matter the blocking scheme, he’s rarely out of place. While he’s limited and undersized as a runner, Corum will be ready to handle carries in Week 1 due to his extensive understanding of both gap and zone-blocking concepts. He’s very good at making sure the 3-4 yards blocked are earned.

As a direct result of Michigan’s scheme, Corum ran into more 8-man boxes than any RB in the class last season (50%). The Wolverines actually play with the quarterback under center, and that comes with heavier personnel packages, which naturally leads to more defenders in the box to match the offense's formation.

At the end of the day, volume is the most important thing when projecting fantasy football outcomes. On the upside, maybe Corum will turn out as a DeVonta Freeman clone.

Fantasy football outlook

With the 83rd overall pick, the Rams finally found some solid depth in their backfield. Kyren Williams broke out last season because he played so well, and there weren’t any quality backs behind him. Ronnie Rivers and Zach Evans aren’t going to cut it.

For dynasty fantasy football, this is a pretty big blow to Corum’s stock. Williams is signed through the 2025 season and he turns just 24 years old this summer. Relatively speaking, Corum is an older rookie. Despite this being his third year in the NFL, Williams is only three months older than Corum.

The Rams clearly have an archetype that they’re looking for. Williams was more elusive in college at Notre Dame, but he and Corum are very similar prospects with weaker Yards Created data:

Right after the draft, Los Angeles GM Les Snead made it clear that Corum will immediately work in to keep Williams fresh. “It's a tough league; it's a 17-game season plus playoffs, might go to 18 games one day,” Snead said. “So we always felt like we needed to have as many quality runners as possible so we don't just totally run down Kyren, and we have one or two, or even three guys that can contribute, keep everyone fresh, and let's go and try to impose our will.”

Williams missed four games with a midseason ankle injury last season, and HC Sean McVay most certainly didn’t try to keep his running back fresh when he returned to the field. In his final seven starts (including playoffs), Williams (82%) trailed only Christian McCaffrey (85%) in snaps, and no running back took a higher share of his team’s carries (73%). CMC closed out the season as the RB1 by a distance (22.5) but Williams (20.1 FPG) had a three-point lead over RB3 Raheem Mostert (17.1).

That epic volume drove his RB2 campaign, but Williams was an extremely efficient runner in the Rams system. McVay has shifted away from his zone-blocking scheme and now heavily utilizes duo/man-blocking concepts as the foundation of their run game. Williams absolutely dominated in this system with a league-best 62% success rate on those carries, according to FP Data. The NFL average is 48%. A whopping 61% of Williams’ carries were off of man/gap blocking concepts last season – which was the third-highest rate among 49 qualifying RBs.

Williams was also very effective when the Rams did use zone blocking, even though it was relatively less often than the league average. On zone carries, Williams trailed only De’Von Achane (9.4 YPC!!) with 6.25 yards per carry. His 56% success rate tied Christian McCaffrey for the 5th-best rate.

This is all to say that Corum’s pathway as a rookie is largely tied to an injury to Williams. Now, the big question is how many snaps the Rams want Williams to take off every game to keep him fresh. McVay has largely preferred to roll with one RB as a bell cow throughout the years.

Two years ago, the Rams were forced into a committee backfield because Cam Akers was working back from a torn Achilles, and Darrell Henderson was largely ineffective. It’s basically the only time in the McVay era where he went with a true split backfield, and it was only out of necessity. Akers played 53% of the snaps, while Henderson’s snap rate was 47%, and Williams mixed in for 30% in the eight games he played.

With Corum in the backfield, they won’t have to change up their offense when Williams needs a breather. This season, Williams is most likely to be dipping from the nearly the best role in fantasy with 80-90% of the snaps to the 70-75% range.

NOTE: There is a massive drop-off from this point on. I would not consider any of these running backs any earlier than the 3rd round of rookie drafts.

6. Buffalo Bills Ray Davis (4.41 YC per carry | 7th-of-17)

Yards Created breakdown

After transferring out of Temple and Vanderbilt, Ray Davis played his fifth and final year of eligibility with Kentucky, and he had his best season yet.

I was impressed with Davis’ quick processing pace and agility as a runner, although he lacked the patience to allow his blocks to develop at times. He ranks out smack dab in the middle of the class in both YC/A (4.41) and missed tackles forced per carry (0.26). Davis doesn’t have elite speed, and he relies on a blend of elusiveness and contact balance to make you miss.

In fact, 44% of Davis’ missed tackles were forced via elusiveness (cuts, jukes, etc.), while another 31% were from power alone.

This is not to say that Davis can’t run behind zone blocking effectively. However, he ran almost exclusively in gap/pulling blocking schemes last season.

Davis played in a three-down role for the Wildcats last season, and he trailed only Bucky Irving in routes, targets, and receptions in this class.

Fantasy football outlook

Ray Davis was right in the middle of a fourth-round RB run, when six runners came off of the board within 15 picks from 120-134 overall. Davis enters a Bills backfield that is wide open behind starter James Cook, and there is a chance here that the rookie carves out a role in the red zone early.

Cook saw consistent usage in between the 20s, but he was far from being an every-down player. In fact, a total of 23 RBs saw a higher share of their team’s snaps than Cook (54.5%) last season. Overall, Cook saw 46% of the Bills carries (28th).

Touchdowns are hard to come by for Bills running backs because Josh Allen is Superman near the goal line. In fact, Cook scored just one (1!) touchdown on his 18 carries inside the opponents' 10-yard line last season. Meanwhile, Allen scored 14 TDs on his 23 carries, and Latavius Murray mixed in for one fewer carry (17 total – 4 TDs) than Cook.

Davis is the Murray replacement, and Allen is still the goal-line back. Time is a flat circle. Davis will complement Cook on some early downs as the thumper to Cook’s lightning, and he has three-down upside if Cook were to miss time.

7. Denver Broncos Audric Estime (4.62 YC per carry | 5th-best in class)

Yards Created breakdown

Estime turned out to be one of my favorites to watch in this class – a throwback of sorts. He has a surprising blend of nimble feet and excellent vision for a back at nearly 6 feet, 220 pounds. Estime plays even bigger than his size as he routinely shoves off smaller defenders and shows natural power to fight through contact to gain extra yards.

In a weaker class, Estime’s 4.62 Yards Created per carry on 210 attempts really stands out. Trey Benson, Jonathon Brooks, Jaylen Wright, and MarShawn Lloyd are more creative runners, but they all come from totally different schemes. Wright and Lloyd basically never ran with the QB under center and rarely saw heavy boxes as a result of their spread-based scheme. Benson and Brooks were almost exclusively in the shotgun for all of last year.

Estime was in the opposite situation. He saw eight or more defenders in the box on 44% of his carries (the second-highest rate), and he actually has experience running with the quarterback under center.

The big question here is how often he mixes in on passing downs. Estime had one or fewer receptions in half of his games last year, and he only recorded more than 2 catches twice. Unlike Braelon Allen, though, Estime actually uses his size to his advantage as a pass blocker. His 75% pass protection execution rate is tied with Blake Corum for the 2nd-best mark in the class. His blocking will absolutely earn him some trust early as a rookie.

Fantasy football outlook

The Broncos are going with a wide-open competition in their backfield. Javonte Williams was not effective coming off of a major knee injury (ACL + LCL tear) last season, and my sense is that he’s about to be replaced by some combination of Audric Estime and Jaleel McLaughlin. Williams is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Williams was one of the least effective running backs in the league last season, no matter which way you slice it. The burst and elusiveness that made me fall in love with him at UNC is no longer there. His 0.14 missed tackles forced per carry ranked a lowly 44th-of-49 RBs, and he was inefficient compared to his teammates.

Here is how Williams stacked up next to Jaleel McLaughlin and Samaje Perine in yards per carry and success rate by blocking scheme, according to Fantasy Points Data:

Yikes. Of course, we’re dealing with two vastly different sample sizes, but Williams ranked dead last on the Broncos in both yards per carry and success rate on his attempts.

The news keeps getting worse for Williams because he was not as effective on passing downs as his teammates, either. Among the 48 RBs to see at least 25 targets last season, Samaje Perine (2.22) and Jaleel McLaughlin (1.98) ranked #1 and #3 in yards per route run with Breece Hall (1.99) sandwiched in between them. Williams averaged 1.51 YPRR.

Due to his ineffectiveness, HC Sean Payton cut Williams’ role to close out last season. Williams played on just 44% of the Broncos' snaps in his final four contests after he was on the field for 55% of the snaps in Weeks 1-14.

It should come as no surprise that Denver added even more competition here. The bad news is that we have three players (Williams, McLaughlin, and Estime) battling for carries, with Perine sticking on the field for long-down-and-distance work, with a rookie QB in Bo Nix at the helm. I only know for certain that I will not be drafting any of Javonte at his ADP on Underdog (RB32 – 105 overall). I have him ranked at RB38.

I’m also not sure that Perine will be on the roster Week 1, especially if McLaughlin continues to progress. Denver can save $1.5M this season by cutting Perine before the season. He turns 29 in September.

Estime’s chances of getting on the field early are probably higher than you think.

8. New York Giants Tyrone Tracy (4.77 YC per carry | 4th-of-117)

Yards Created breakdown

A sixth-year breakout after he switched from WR to RB in his transfer from Iowa to Purdue in 2022, Tyrone Tracy has one of the most interesting profiles in this class.

On the one hand, he and MarShawn Lloyd have the fewest carries in the class, with 113 apiece. We’re working with a small sample here, but Tracy showed enough to get a little bit excited.

His 4.77 Yards Created and 0.35 missed tackles forced per carry both rank fourth-best in the class. He showed excellent elusiveness and quick feet to make instant cuts, as 57% of his total missed tackles forced were by his elusiveness alone – like on jukes.

There was some inconsistency with Tracy’s processing in his first real year as a running back. There were more than a handful of plays where he missed easy cutback lanes and open holes, and those negative plays hurt his Yards Created figures. I tend to lean more on the positives — what can you do well, and will that skill work repeatedly at the next level? His elusiveness in the open field really stood out. When he strung moves together, he sent defenders flying.

As a recently converted WR, Tracy is going to face a steeper learning curve, and he’s going to have a little less time than most rookies. As a result of getting 6 years of eligibility, Tracy will be an “older” rookie. He turns 25 in November.

Fantasy football outlook

Tracy enters the Giants backfield with the inside track on the #2 job behind Devin Singletary. The biggest head-scratcher during free agency was the New York Giants handing the veteran $16.5M over three years. New York is paying Singletary $9.5M guaranteed over the next two seasons, making him the 14th-highest paid player at the position.

By midseason, Singletary had outplayed Dameon Pierce to the point where it became obvious that the Texans needed to make a change last season. The Texans run a zone-heavy blocking scheme, in which Pierce struggled mightily to a lowly 2.19 YPC (31.5% success rate). The veteran Singletary gave Houston some much-needed consistency, as he averaged 4.39 YPC (47.6% success rate) on his zone carries.

Over the final 10 games of last season, Singletary ranked 10th among running backs in snap rate (69.4%), and he was a decent fantasy RB2 on that volume with 12.2 Half-PPR FPG (RB21) in this span.

Looking forward, Singletary has never averaged more than 12.7 carries or 2.4 receptions per game at any point in his career. That might change now. HC Brian Daboll is reuniting with his guy from his time as the OC of the Bills, and there is a high chance that the Giants view Singletary as their bell cow, with Tracy mixing in as a change-of-pace runner.

Fourth rounds of rookie dynasty drafts are meant for Tracy. I’m fine bumping him into the late third round if you’re not sold on the WR pool at that point.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Bucky Irving (4.08 YC per carry | 11th-of-17)

Yards Created breakdown

Irving benefited greatly by running behind Oregon’s offensive line led by C Jackson Powers-Johnson and two mauling tackles. The Ducks cleared a class-high 2.19 yards blocked per carry for Irving.

Coupled with a spread scheme, Irving ran into mostly light boxes. He saw eight or more defenders in the box on just 18% of his carries last season. A great offensive line and light fronts are a big part of the reason why Irving averaged over 6.25 YPC in back-to-back seasons.

Even with that context, it’s not all doom and gloom. Irving has some moves in the open field with his quick, dicing cuts. Overall, 0.32 missed tackles forced per carry is respectable. That’s the 5th-best mark in the class.

Irving offers consistent hands as a receiver after he led all college running backs in receptions (56) last season, but that figure also needs context. Oregon runs so many designed screens that just won’t happen as often at the next level. The Ducks called a screen on nearly one-quarter (23%) of their passing plays last season.

Fantasy football outlook

The Buccaneers added some much-needed depth to their backfield after playing dusty options behind Rachaad White last season. A Fantasy Points favorite in drafts, White broke out as the RB13 (14.1 FPG in Half-PPR) thanks largely to his massive role as a receiver. Only Breece Hall (76), Alvin Kamara (75), and Christian McCaffrey (74) had more receptions than White (64).

White (61%) was one of only four running backs that ran a route on at least 60% of their team’s pass plays, along with McCaffrey (71%), Bijan Robinson (66%), and Kyren Williams (63%).

While he will always be an asset in the passing game, White left much to be desired as a runner last season. It’s not pretty.

Among the 23 running backs that carried the rock at least 200 times, White ranked dead last in yards after contact per carry (2.24), missed tackles forced per carry (0.14), and he was 22nd in explosive runs of 10 or more yards (2.2%). Only Josh Jacobs had fewer explosive gains, by a nose hair (2.1%).

That’s nightmare fuel.

Now the big question is whether or not the undersized Irving is a real threat to White’s bell cow role. White was the RB4 in snap rate (79%) last season and has a new OC in Liam Coen, who is coming over from Kentucky as their offensive coordinator in 2023. Coen most recently spent time with the Rams as their OC in 2022.

With extremely poor rushing metrics from last season, a new coach in town, and real competition behind him – I’m officially concerned about White in fantasy football this season. Irving is likely a handcuff-only back, but there is a chance that White plays himself out of his bell cow job unless he dramatically improves on the ground next season.

10. Los Angeles Chargers Kimani Vidal (4.33 YC per carry | 8th-of-17)

Yards Created breakdown

Vidal was a sledgehammer back in his final season at Troy, carrying the rock 15 or more times in 13-of-14 games. He needed all the volume he could get because his offensive line routinely struggled. Vidal’s 4.33 Yards Created per carry places him right in the middle of the class, but the Trojans' blocking was suspect, with just 1.21 Yards Blocked per carry.

Only Clemson’s blocking for Will Shipley (1.15 YB per carry) was worse in this class.

A north-south zone runner, Vidal showed solid burst and speed when he actually did get a clear lane into the second-level. He’s not very laterally elusive, but he instead relies on the natural leg power he generates on his compact frame at 5’8”, 215 pounds.

Vidal’s 0.30 missed tackles forced per carry are nothing to write home about, but an incredible 71% of those evaded defenders were through power alone.

He recorded only 18 receptions across 14 games last season, and the majority of those catches came in two games, when he took in a bunch of designed quick flat routes or check/release routes while chipping pass rushers. While he may not offer much as a receiver, Vidal did show well as a pass blocker with the fourth-best pass protection execution rate (72%) in the class. Brooks (95%), Corum (75%), and Estime (75%) are the only backs with better PPE marks.

Fantasy football outlook

Vidal gets a huge boost in these rankings based on his opportunity. The Chargers are going into the season with additions Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, along with Isaiah Spiller, a holdover from the previous regime. Spiller might not make the team.

The problem is that Vidal was a sixth-round pick, and running backs drafted after Round 4 rarely pop for fantasy football as rookies. Over the last 10 years, just three running backs that were drafted in Round 5 or later have finished inside of the top-24 in fantasy points per game in their first season. They are Karlos Williams (Round 5 – 2015, RB19 FPG finish), Jordan Howard (Round 5 – 2016, RB9), and Elijah Mitchell (Round 6 – 2021, RB11).

It’s just very rare for a lowly drafted player to get enough opportunity really matter for fantasy football as a rookie running back.

Two undrafted free agents Phillip Lindsay (RB12 FPG Finish – 2018) and James Robinson (RB8 – 2020) have hit inside of the top-24 fantasy finishers in the last 10 years.

Since 2013, there have been 104 running backs taken in Rounds 5-7 of the NFL Draft. Only three – Aaron Jones (14.8), Chris Carson (14.4), and Kyren Williams (13.0) – have gone on to average more than 12.5 PPR points per game in their careers. Isiah Pacheco (11.3) will join that list this season and make it four.

Vidal’s Yards Created data was promising enough in a weaker class to add a little fuel to the fire, but don’t get too crazy here and push him way up your draft board.

Best of the rest (RB11-RB20)

11. Philadelphia Eagles Will Shipley (3.89 YC per carry | 12th-of-17)

Last year, he split carries (178 to 167) in favor of the hulking Phil Mafah to form a good one-two punch for a Clemson team that sputtered due to poor QB play and awful blocking up front.

The Tigers offensive line didn’t live up to their usual standard last season, and that’s part of the reason why Shipley’s production dipped in 2023. Overall, Clemson opened up just 1.15 yards blocked per carry for Shipley. That’s the lowest mark in the class.

Quickness and decisive cuts upfield are Shipley’s main calling cards. His ability to knife through holes and maintain his acceleration is impressive. However, he won’t rack up a ton of missed tackles due to his smaller frame. Shipley has a little power, but elusiveness is his game.

Shipley is one of a few in this class with extensive experience as a three-down player. He finished fourth in the class in routes run per game – behind Irving, Davis, and Laube. He’s a tough cover for underneath linebackers and consistently showed strong separation skills on option routes.

His rushing metrics aren’t anything special, but the context surrounding him matters. Shipley often saw prohibitive blocking in front of him.

Given better offensive line play in the NFL, Shipley has some hidden upside. His blocking was so inconsistent that it really hindered his ability to get into the second level of the defense. Shipley is a jack of all trades – but a master of none.

Shipley landed in an absolute worst-case scenario for the next few years. Saquon Barkley is the Eagles' bell cow and will only leave the field when he needs a drink of water. Barkley got the most fully guaranteed money ($26M) of the free agent RB crop, followed by D’Andre Swift ($15.3M).

The good news is that Shipley will finally get some good run blocking. The Eagles are losing future Hall-of-Famer C Jason Kelce, but four of their five starters from last season are returning. Over the last three seasons, Philadelphia has finished 2nd (2.17), 1st (2.46), and 1st (2.26) in adjusted yards before contact per carry. Importantly, this metric takes out non-designed QB runs – like scrambles and kneel downs.

11. San Francisco 49ers Isaac Guerendo (4.27 YC per carry | 8th-of-17 in class)

After sitting behind Braelon Allen at Wisconsin, Guerendo transferred to Louisville for the 2023 season, splitting carries with Jawhar Jordan (181 to 132 – in favor of Jordan).

At 221 pounds, he’s an absolute unit to bring down when he gets into his top gear. His angle-erasing speed is his calling card. However, he showed inconsistent decisiveness in the Cardinals' zone-based run game. A class-high 70% of Guerendo’s carries were off zone blocking.

Overall, Guerendo’s Yards Created profile is nothing special and grades out in the 32nd percentile since 2016. He’s certainly a speed and power runner. Guerendo has tighter hips, which means he lacks elusiveness in the open field. In fact, 65% of his missed tackles were forced by his speed alone. He certainly has the top-end gear to make for a potential home-run hitter.

Of course, Kyle Shanahan loves Guerendo – a fast, straight-line runner who performs best off of zone blocking. As a rookie, Guerendo has a 0% chance at being a relevant fantasy football player unless CMC gets hurt. With that said, he’ll be given every opportunity to beat out Elijah Mitchell, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Mitchell has missed 21 games over the last three seasons with various knee injuries.

12. New York Jets Isaiah Davis (4.30 YC per carry | 9th-of-17)

Davis absolutely shredded the FCS at South Dakota State to a league-high 1,578 rushing yards across 15 games. He absolutely benefitted from the level of his competition as the Jackrabbits' offensive line opened up a class-high 2.45 Yards Blocked per carry, but Davis showed consistently good vision in their heavy gap-based blocking scheme. He’s a bit upright as a runner, but Davis’ bigger frame gives him the pop to run extremely hard through contact.

Pierre Strong recently came out of South Dakota State and scored worse than Davis in both Yards Created (4.30 vs. 4.15) and missed tackles forced (0.29 vs. 0.11) on a per-carry basis.

The downside is that Davis likely offers zero upside on passing downs. Last season, Davis recorded more than two receptions in just 2 of 15 games, and he graded out very poorly in pass protection execution rate (51%).

13. Las Vegas Raiders Dylan Laube (3.22 YC per carry | 16th-of-17)

Laube’s main appeal for fantasy football will come on passing downs. His ridiculous 68/699/7 receiving in just 8 games turns your head a bit. New Hampshire is an FCS school – so there is that. The level of competition is bad. And FBS Central Michigan forgot that screen plays existed when they played against Laube. For what it’s worth, Laube led the Wildcats in every receiving category last season – targets, catches, yards, and TDs.

While Laube offers upside as a receiver, he’s a limited runner. His Yards Created outlook is pretty bad. Laube’s 3.22 YC per carry is the second-worst in the class. He’s got quick cuts in his bag, but Laube is undersized and lacks natural power.

Ideally, the Raiders view Laube as the Ameer Abdullah replacement and upgrade on passing downs, and that pairs well with Zamir White as the early-down grinder. Ponzi scheme RB Alexander Mattison got $1.6M guaranteed on a one-year deal with Vegas this summer, which likely assures him a roster spot as depth.

14. New York Jets Braelon Allen (3.66 YC per carry | 13th-of-17)

Unlike most of the running backs in this class, Braelon Allen stuck with one college squad. However, after a nice freshman season, Allen plateaued as a sophomore and junior in Wisconsin.

Allen’s Yards Created profile was very disappointing. For being so well built at a shade over six feet and 235 pounds, Allen goes down on first contact entirely too often. Due to his size, Allen doesn’t have much lateral quickness. His 0.21 missed tackles forced per carry ranks 5th-worst in the class.

The Badgers did change their scheme entirely year over year — going from a heavy under-center attack to way more shotgun and zone blocking concepts. Allen does not possess the lateral quickness to bend around linebackers to work outside zone effectively.

Allen’s future fantasy upside will come down to how often he’s scoring TDs at the goal line. With his size, you’d think Allen would be a great pass protector, at least. That’s not really the case. His 53% pass protection execution rate just shows more inconsistency.

Not only is Breece Hall the locked-in starter, but Allen will also have to beat out last year’s fifth-round pick Israel Abanikanda and this year’s fifth-rounder Isaiah Davis. By Yards Created, Davis is straight up better than Allen. The only thing separating Allen and Davis is the 39 pick margin between them at the end of the 4th and 5th rounds.

15. Baltimore Ravens Rasheen Ali (3.31 YC per carry | 15th-of-17)

Ali has decent straight-line speed when the lane is cleared, but he did not show out as an overly creative or elusive runner. In fact, Ali is one of the least elusive players in my database. He’s very stiff in the hips. Ali’s 0.13 missed tackles forced per carry ranks 2nd-worst – out of 98 RBs – ahead of only Pierre Strong (0.11). He’ll have to beat out Justice Hill and the explosive Keaton Mitchell even to have a chance to see the field behind Derrick Henry this season. Don’t waste a rookie dynasty pick on him.

NOTE: Closing out the top-20 – RB16 Blake Watson / RB17 Jawhar Jordan / RB18 Jase McClellan / RB19 Cody Schraeder / RB20 Dillon Johnson

Shout out to Scott for his notes on Blake Watson in his epic pre-NFL Draft article. Watson is obviously not a lock to make the Broncos roster, but he did get a $250K guaranteed salary for 2024, and that’s a significant chunk of change for an undrafted free agent. Most UDFA salaries range from $100,000 to $150,000. Like we discussed in the Audric Estime (RB7) section, Denver is overhauling their backfield, and Watson will get a chance to compete. I’d make Watson a 5-8% FAAB waiver add after your rookie drafts.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.