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Five Backup Running Backs That Can Be Difference Makers in 2023

Digging through the waivers and benches in your league to try and find some value in your running back room? @timbmartens has five affordable ball carriers you should keep in mind for 2023.

The running back position is the most volatile of any on your fantasy football roster. Running back injuries occur every season and can cripple a championship team into a mediocre, middling squad.  

Making sure you have depth on your team, whether handcuffs or upside players, is a must for every dynasty owner. The odds are high that you will be dealing with a running back injury during the season, whether for a few games or a large portion of the year. 

With this in mind, let’s look at five running backs currently listed as backups on the depth chart that have the upside to be an impactful player on your 2023 fantasy season. While situations will need to change for them to become a valuable asset, these players are all also more affordable than your starting running backs. So, let’s dive in and find some value for your bench. 

D’Onta Foreman, CHI

Currently listed behind Khalil Herbert on the Bears’ depth chart, Foreman was signed as a free agent this past spring on a one-year deal with the Bears. This is a crowded and murky backfield in Chicago with Herbert, Foreman, and rookie Roschon Johnson.  

But Foreman has been an excellent back when he has found an opportunity in his NFL career. While his first few seasons were riddled with injuries, his last two seasons in Tennessee and Carolina have been great for an affordable back. 

In 2022, after Christian McCaffrey was traded to the 49ers, Foreman and Chuba Hubbard took over in the Panthers’ backfield. In that stretch of 11 games, Foreman rushed for 877 yards and five touchdowns with 4.59 yards per attempt. This included five games of 113 rushing yards or more.  

David Montgomery moved on to Detroit this past offseason. If Foreman gets a chance to take on goal-line roles and gets a significant chunk of carries for the Bears, he will be a very good flex option with RB2 upside. Again, the Bears’ backfield is murky. Foreman is a must-own if he emerges as a guy who gets an opportunity in their offense.  

Gus Edwards, BAL

Baltimore’s current running back situation is a bit up in the air. And J.K. Dobbins currently sitting out training camp is concerning. Just ask head coach John Harbaugh: 

“You know, I don’t know. It’s a fair question, and there is a point in time when it does become a concern,” Harbaugh said. “J.K. and I talked last night. We talk a lot. He wants to be out there, and he needs to be out there, just like any player does. Other than that, there’s nothing else I can really add. I don’t know when he’s going to come back, but I know I’m going to be really happy when he does.”, Ryan Mink

Even putting the contract dispute with Dobbins aside, Dobbins has been hit hard with injury issues throughout his NFL career. While we are excited about the prospect of Dobbins, availability has not been his strong suit in the NFL.  

Meanwhile, Edwards continues to be a reliable and consistent back when he has been healthy and seeing opportunities in Baltimore. Entering his fifth year with the Ravens, Edwards has averaged 5.2 yards an attempt. In his longest stint of games started, which was six games in a row in his rookie season, Edwards rushed for 539 yards in those games.  

With Lamar Jackson healthy entering 2023, Todd Monken bringing a new balanced scheme to Baltimore, and Dobbins having contract issues with the team, Edwards is someone you want to own. Justice Hill, Melvin Gordon, and Keaton Mitchell are still running around in that backfield, but Edwards is the top candidate to take over the backfield if Dobbins isn’t playing.  

Tyler Allgeier, ATL  

Yes, Allgeier is clearly the backup in this Falcons offense. When your team drafts a generational prospect like Bijan Robinson in the top ten of the NFL draft, your role is undoubtedly diminishing. 

But, should anything happen to Bijan in his rookie season, the Falcons will be turning to their second-year back. And that back was much more productive than many realize.  

Here’s a list of running backs for you: Dameon Pierce, Antonio Gibson, Cam Akers, and Isaiah Pacheco. What do all of these running backs have in common? They all scored fewer fantasy points than Allgeier last year (0.5 PPR format) and are much more expensive to acquire.

Allgeier was a reliable and solid running back during his rookie season. The numbers were never eye-popping, but he was a solid flex option throughout the year. This includes having 13 or more fantasy points per game in the season’s final four games.  

For Allgeier to see playing time, an injury would likely have to occur to Bijan. But if that were to happen, unfortunately, Allgeier is reliable and a solid back in Atlanta.  

Elijah Mitchell, SF

This one may come as a surprise, considering who is ahead of him on the depth chart, but Mitchell is still a guy I want on my bench in all my leagues. Yes, he is already dealing with an adductor strain in training camp, but when Mitchell has been healthy, he has been a highly productive running back. 

The need for the 49ers to trade for Christian McCaffrey was directly related to Mitchell’s injury issues early in 2022. Before Mitchell was out, he was the perceived starting back for the NFC West powerhouse and had already had a successful rookie year with the team with 963 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games.  

Even after the team traded for CMC, Mitchell was able to return and grab some carries in the Niners’ offense, averaging 6.10 yards per carry in the four games he played post-trade. And while we can worry about Mitchell’s injury history, McCaffrey hasn’t had a clean bill of health in his whole career, either. 

If Mitchell gets quality playing time, this is still the Kyle Shanahan 49ers offense. You want shots at any running back that may be involved here. And right now, Mitchell is an affordable piece you can add that could pay major dividends later.  

Rashaad Penny, PHI

Before the Lions selected Jahmyr Gibbs at twelfth overall in the 2023 draft (a pick that shocked Dan Toomey and me on our draft live stream), D’Andre Swift wasn’t thought to many as being a lead back in the NFC East. But with the Gibbs pick and, as a result, Swift being traded to Philadelphia, the Eagles backfield shifted. 

But prior to this, the Eagles running back signing they committed to was Rashaad Penny. A former first-round pick and Seattle Seahawk, Penny has probably been known more for his injury history than his success on the field. And that is still a reality. 

However, the talent is evident when Penny can play. If you were lucky enough, like me, to be rostering him at the end of the 2021 season, you know exactly what this is like. In the season’s final five games, Penny got the lead back duties in Seattle and ran for 135-plus yards in four of those five games, averaging 7.29 yards a carry. He won fantasy teams their championships that season.  

The sample size is small and in different bursts, but the talent is there behind a fantastic Eagles offensive line. Maybe D’Andre Swift will finally break out and stay healthy in that offense, but I doubt Swift will be the lead guy in Philly. Grab Penny where you can. 

Am I way off-base? Are there different backup RBs you like more than these guys? Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @timbmartens, and let me know what you think! 

If you want even more tools to have a leg-up in your league, join the NerdHerd today for access to our DynastyGM tools! Join today and use code “martens” for a 15% discount on your subscription! 

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