In the actual NFL, the running back spot may be the most devalued position today. In fantasy football, on the other hand, that couldn't be further from the truth.
Running back is arguably the most important position in fantasy, with wide receiver being the only true competition. They may not put up as many points as quarterbacks, but the greater variance between them makes having a good running back much more important. There's a reason why running backs are often in consideration for many teams' top overall pick in fantasy football drafts.
That said, there are still some running backs to avoid in the fantasy world this year. Whether it's due to having a crowded backfield, a subpar offensive line, or just not having any great rushers, some teams have backfields to avoid. With that said, here are five of those teams whose backfields you should avoid in your fantasy leagues in 2023.
Other teams land on this list mostly because they spread out their carries too much, thus limiting the points any one running back can get. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though, are on this list for a very different reason: their run game is virtually non-existent.
Tampa Bay's run game was historically awful last season, finishing last in the league in yards per game (76.9), yards per carry (3.4) and touchdowns (five). While last year was particularly bad, the Bucs' run game has been subpar for at least the past three years. With Leonard Fournette now departed and a shaky offensive line, they're facing an uphill battle to improve that run game.
But what's most concerning with the Bucs' run game is that they hardly even use it. Tampa Bay had the fewest rushing attempts in 2022, second-fewest in 2021, and fourth-fewest in 2020. Maybe they place more of an emphasis on the ground game with Tom Brady officially retired, but that's not certain.
Second-year back Rachaad White is the Bucs' top option, but with so much going against him, taking him in fantasy is a big risk.
The Kansas City Chiefs also aren't a very run-heavy team (they don't need to be when they have the best quarterback in the game), but they aren't quite as unbalanced as the Bucs. Kansas City ranked 23rd in the league with 417 rushing attempts last year, and had pretty similar totals the previous two years as well. Not the most attempts, but certainly workable.
Instead, what lands the Chiefs on this list is that they have a running back by committee. 2022 seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco will get the most carries after his strong rookie campaign, but Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire will get touches out of the backfield as well. However, if the Chiefs were to trade Edwards-Helaire, as has been rumored for a while now, then that could free up some carries for the other two.
Still, that's just a hypothetical and not something to depend on. Even if it were to happen, the Chiefs' pass-happy offense makes their running backs particularly unappealing.
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The Baltimore Ravens seem like a very strange choice at first glance. They've been one of the best rushing teams in the league over the last few years, and averaged the second-most rushing yards per game of any team last season with 160 yards per contest. That said, there are some things to consider beyond those stats.
First, Baltimore doesn't have a true standout back, with J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards both coming off subpar, injury-plagued seasons. Second, quarterback Lamar Jackson accounts for a huge chunk of the team's rushing production, which is great for his fantasy stats, but not so much for the running backs. Third, the Ravens will likely have place more emphasis on the passing game this season with a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken and a plethora of new receivers.
So while the Ravens' running backs may look compelling on the surface, there are more drawbacks than benefits when it comes to taking them.
In a lot of ways, the Buffalo Bills are on this list for a very similar reason as the Ravens. They also have strong rushing stats on the surface, but a lot of the same problems make their running backs less than ideal fantasy options. Much of their rushing production comes from a dual-threat quarterback, in this case Josh Allen, and they employ a running back by committee.
James Cook is the top option, and could be in for a strong sophomore season as he looks to prove that he can be a lead running back option. With Allen taking up so many carries, though, it's difficult to fully endorse Cook, or any other Bills running back, as a legitimate fantasy option.
For the third straight entry, we have a strong rushing team whose running backs aren't as attractive due to a dual-threat quarterback, Jalen Hurts in this case. However, the Philadelphia Eagles get the top spot for a very simple reason.
Philadelphia also has a running back by committee, but unlike the other teams on this list, their running back room is mostly new. Two of their running backs, D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny, are new acquisitions, while Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott also figure to get plenty of touches. That's just simply too many mouths to feed for any one back to be a strong option. It would be difficult to balance even without Hurts getting so many carries.
Again, the Eagles are a fantastic rushing team in real life and nothing can take that away. But from a fantasy perspective, there are plenty of reasons to avoid their running backs.