We learned this offseason that the running back position is not valued as it once was in the NFL, but the players that play running back these days are still some of the most special athletes in the world. They run the ball on first down, act as wide receivers on second down and then have to block on third down. No matter what paychecks say, offenses are still being run through running backs.
Four of the top five scrimmage yards leaders last year were running backs. No running back had a better season than Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders, who broke out in a big way with 2,053 scrimmage yards and 12 touchdowns. Some believed he was on the trade block after extended action in the Hall of Fame Game last year, yet he ended up being the best running back in the NFL.
Which running backs are set to break out in 2023? Below, we will examine just that. We will also include CBS Sports fantasy projections, and Caesars Sportsbook player props should they be available.
The rookie out of Rutgers had a large amount of hype surrounding him last preseason, and he still turned in an impressive campaign. Pacheco racked up 960 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in 2022. He also rushed for 197 yards in three playoff games, which were the fourth-most postseason rushing yards recorded by a rookie drafted outside of the top 100 in the Super Bowl era. Pacheco even scored a touchdown in Super Bowl LVII.
Pacheco recently appeared on the "All Things Covered" podcast with Bryant McFadden, and included himself when asked to list . He's got some work to do when it comes to NFL greatness, but Pacheco is a big-time breakout candidate for the Chiefs offense this year.
Isiah Pacheco rushing yards Over/Under: 775.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
Isiah Pacheco rushing touchdowns Over/Under: 5.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
CBS Sports consensus position ranking (PPR): No. 29
CBS Sports fantasy projections: 169 carries, 834 yards, 5 rushing TDs, 23 receptions, 239 yards
With the release of Dalvin Cook, Mattison is going to have the opportunity to take over Minnesota's backfield. Fantasy footballers are very aware of who Mattison is, but maybe they aren't privy to just how good Mattison has been when given opportunities. Mattison has made six career starts. Do you know how many scrimmage yards he averaged in those starts? 115.6!
The Vikings went an incredible 13-4 last season, and while some regression is expected, that doesn't mean the Vikings aren't capable of going back to back as NFC North champs. I really like head coach Kevin O'Connell, and see him as an offensive mind who can get the most out of his running backs. At 25 years old, Mattison is set up for his best NFL season yet.
CBS Sports consensus position ranking (PPR): No. 16
CBS Sports fantasy projections: 198 carries, 736 yards, 9 rushing TDs, 29 receptions, 194 yards, 2 receiving TDs
With Leonard Fournette gone, White figures to be the new No. 1 back in Tampa. He recorded 771 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in his rookie season, including 290 receiving yards on 50 catches. There are two things I like about White's situation in 2023: I'm not in love with the Buccaneers' other backs, and White should pick up some extra PPR action. In 2022, he ranked 11th in receptions among running backs. Where will White rank in 2023? Could he be top five?
CBS Sports consensus position ranking (PPR): No. 22
CBS Sports fantasy projections: 170 carries, 621 yards, 3 rushing TDs, 55 receptions, 332 yards, 2 receiving TDs
Herbert recorded 788 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in 2022 despite missing four games. His incredible mark of 5.7 yards per attempt ranked first among all running backs, and fifth in the NFL behind four quarterbacks -- including Justin Fields.
As you'll recall, the Bears were dynamite on the ground last year, and averaged a league-best 177.3 rushing yards per game. With David Montgomery gone, Herbert is going to have a chance to step up and lead this backfield. Chicago did go out and sign D'Onta Foreman in free agency and drafted Roschon Johnson, but Herbert is the player who is set up to receive the bulk of carries. He's been a nice spot starter in fantasy. Let's see what he can do in 2023.
Khalil Herbert rushing yards Over/Under: 675.5 (Over -115, Under -115)
CBS Sports consensus position ranking (PPR): No. 34
CBS Sports fantasy projections: 154 carries, 852 yards, 5 rushing TDs, 14 receptions, 94 yards, 1 receiving TD
I've found myself taking Warren in several fantasy drafts this year. Maybe he's more of a flier to "break out" compared to Mattison or Pacheco, but the Steelers are going to find a way to utilize this weapon.
Warren recorded 593 scrimmage yards and one touchdown in his rookie season while averaging 5.6 yards per touch. He's more explosive than Najee Harris, and while I'm not arguing that Warren will overtake his starting role, I do feel as though he will get touches as the Steelers offense grows, and ultimately surprises people in 2023. Keep an eye on him.
CBS Sports consensus position ranking (PPR): No. 38
CBS Sports fantasy projections: 129 carries, 601 yards, 3 rushing TDs, 30 receptions, 231 yards