Which RB should be drafted in 2023 after Christian McCaffrey?

The Yahoo Fantasy Football analysts are in agreement that the top-ranked option at running back in 2023 IS Christian McCaffrey. The second spot after him, however, is up for some debate. Andy Behrens, Jorge Martin and Dalton Del Don make their respective case for three key running backs.

Let’s open with the fact that Nick Chubb is the best pure runner in the NFL. He’s never averaged fewer than 5.0 YPC in any season and the man always finishes near the top of the leaderboard in missed tackles (83 last year) and breakaway runs. He’s genuinely as good as it gets.

Chubb played all 17 games last season, finishing fourth in the league in touches and third in carries. There are zero red flags here in terms of health, age or performance. He’s also BetMGM’s current favorite to win the NFL rushing crown, coming off a 1,525-yard season.

The only valid criticism of Chubb is that he’s had only a limited receiving role over the course of his Browns career. However, all signs point to him playing substantially more in passing situations this year, largely because the team’s backfield depth chart is full of bad ideas. Various analysts have done some wish-casting with Jerome Ford throughout the summer, but he’s dealing with a hamstring injury significant enough to put his opening week availability in doubt.

Chubb is set to deliver a league-winning, golden-ticket, OPoY-type season in 2023. For me, he’s much closer to RB1 overall than RB3. — Andy Behrens

First off, how can any self-respecting Yahoo analyst go against our colleague, Austin Ekeler? On the next episode of Ekeler’s Edge, Matt Harmon is going to have to pass along who was on the right — and wrong — side of this discussion.

Kidding aside, Ekeler has the best chance to be 1.01 because he is the only running back who could give CMC a run as the best pass-catching back in the NFL. In the past two seasons, Ekeler has drawn 221 targets and turned them into 177 receptions for a total of 1,369 receiving yards. Far and away the league leader in those categories.

By comparison, McCaffrey accumulated 1,084 receiving yards in the same sample size.

Yes, Ekeler has yet to amass 1,000 rushing yards in a season, but 915 yards on the ground is nothing to sneeze at when combined with the significant passing-game work. He’s also been a touchdown machine, with 38 in the past two seasons.

Ekeler may not look like Derrick Henry near the goal line, but has been money in the red zone. Last year, he was second in the league with 46 rushing attempts in that area and converted 11 of them for scores, which tied with the hulking Henry. Inside the five, Ekeler converted six of 10 attempts for touchdowns.

Who says a 5-10, 200-pound running back can’t be a banger for those toughest yards?

The Chargers’ offense will get better this year, with a healthy Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Will that take away from Ekeler? Look at 2021, when all played healthy and productive seasons, and Ekeler still compiled 1,558 total yards and 20 touchdowns. And Rashawn Slater is back at left tackle to anchor the line and open holes for Ekeler and Co.

There’s more, but I don’t want either of you to say “No mas” like Roberto Duran. Austin Ekeler will be numero uno. — Jorge Martin

Running backs two through eight (by rankings) form their own tier this year, with each having strong arguments to be the second fantasy back off the board. My pick is Tony Pollard, who averaged 19.3 PPR points when given 10 carries last season, which would have been good for fantasy’s RB3.

Again, that’s a 10-carry threshold.

He finished as the RB8 despite seeing fewer than 50% of the snaps in eight games and totaling a modest 232 touches; Dallas running backs combined for 524, and Ezekiel Elliott is gone.

Pollard is more physical than given credit, leading all backs in rush yards after contact per attempt last season. One of only two RBs in the league to rank top-10 in YPC both against zone and man, Pollard is going to explode now that he’s finally unleashed as a lead back. All-Pro guard Zack Martin has also recently reached an agreement to return to a Dallas offense that looks potent after adding Brandin Cooks and a healthier Michael Gallup in 2023.

Pollard won’t become a true workhorse who gets 325+ touches, but he’s averaged 102.3 yards from scrimmage and 0.91 touchdowns during games with a snap rate of more than 50% throughout his career. Now, he’s clearly set up for by far his most opportunities ever.

Nick Chubb, meanwhile, could continue to cede passing-down work and suffered a dramatic drop in production after Deshaun Watson took over. Austin Ekeler is a beast who remains in a prime situation, but the 28-year-old is undeniably entering the RB decline phase. — Dalton Del Don