Back in 2007, 14 of the top 15 NFL players off the board according to fantasy football ADP were running backs (the other was Peyton Manning). It was a simpler time then, with monster three-down backs like LaDainian Tomlinson and Priest Holmes. In the modern era, NFL backfields are more split and finding elite fantasy football running backs becomes more challenging. Plus, there are big-name NFL free agent RBs like Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, and Kareem Hunt threatening to split workloads further. Nowadays, what’s most important for our 2023 fantasy football rankings is figuring out which running backs will have the high-leverage roles for pass down and goal line situations. It’s also crucial to note who the running back handcuffs might be so that we can be there ready to hit the waiver wire when the next fantasy football sleepers wake up and NFL pre-season projections get smashed. 

Last week, we dropped our NFL Target Totem Pole for fantasy football pass-catchers. This week, we are dropping another one of our super top-secret fantasy football tools for Fantasy Alarm Member eyes only - the RB Questionnaire. The goal here is to figure out which backs might have which roles to help us decide who to scoop up in fantasy football drafts. Here’s a quick look at the basic roles first.

  • First Down - This is the “starter”. There are only so many touches in a given game so being the first guy to go out to start the game or to start each drive is key
  • Pass Down - Most of us play some PPR formats so these are seriously high-leverage snaps. Some teams use the same guy, some teams have a dedicated pass down back.
  • Short/Goal Line - Touchdowns are worth points in every format so being the goal line back is always going to be a high-leverage situation as well.
  • 2 Minute Drill - This is different from “pass down” though these players often overlap. In a two-minute drill, you not only want your best players in but they need to be well-rounded as there is no time to substitute. They need to be able to pass block and they need to know all the audibles. 
  • Late Lead - This is a scenario where you are eating clock, trying to seal the game. Some teams might use the starter all the way through, while others sometimes bring in a backup to mop up.
Key3 Down
 Run Down Specialist
 Pass Down Specialist

Now, these roles are not always set in stone, even during the season. Sometimes the work is split evenly, sometimes it’s not. This chart is simply to help us get a visual representation of what we THINK might happen here so that we can not only identify potential bell-cow backs but also know who the “next man up” is in case of injury. If there is somewhere that YOU disagree with on the chart? GOOD. If you are right, that is a place you might be able to get an advantage in your fantasy football league. A lot of folks (myself included) thought that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels would have split backfields once again - they didn’t so Josh Jacobs and Rhamondre Stevenson were huge values. Here is the chart for this year and, below that, some notes. As with everything in our 2023 Fantasy Football LIVING Draft Guide, I will be updating this as news and information comes out so make sure to check back in periodically.


2023 Fantasy Football NFL Running Back Questionnaire

      Injury Benefit 
 1st DownPass DownShort/Goal Line2 Minute DrillLate LeadRun DownPass DownNOTES
CardinalsJames ConnerJames ConnerJames ConnerJames ConnerJames ConnerKeaontay IngramKeaontay IngramNo true pass down back on roster
FalconsBijan RobinsonBijan RobinsonBijan RobinsonBijan RobinsonBijan RobinsonTyler AllgeierCordarelle PattersonHigh draft capital spent on Bijan
RavensJK DobbinsPatrick Ricard/JK DobbinsDobbins/Gus/LamarRicard/Dobbins/HillDobbins/EdwardsGus EdwardsJustice HillHill 3 targets in 2 min drill, no one else had any
BillsDamien HarrisJames CookDamien Harris/Josh AllenJames CookDamien HarrisLatavius MurrayNyheim HinesMobile QB hurts RBs
PanthersMiles SandersMiles SandersMiles SandersMiles SandersMiles SandersChuba HubbardChuba HubbardGM specifically mentioned Sanders pass catching
BearsKhalil HerbertKhalil HerbertD'Onta Foreman/ Justin FieldsKhalil HerbertD'onta ForemanRoschon JohnsonRoschon JohnsonCould be 3 headed monster
BengalsJoe MixonJoe MixonJoe MixonJoe MixonJoe MixonChase BrownChase BrownChris Evans could be pass cuff
BrownsNick ChubbNick ChubbNick ChubbNick ChubbNick ChubbJerome FordDemetric FeltonFelton categorized as WR on some sites
CowboysTony PollardTony PollardTony PollardTony PollardTony PollardDeuce VaughnMalik DavisVery thin depth chart
BroncosJavonte WilliamsSamaje PerineJavonte WilliamsSamaje PerineJavonte WilliamsTony JonesTony JonesJavonte returning from serious injury
LionsDavid MontgomeryJamhyr GibbsDavid MontgomeryJamhyr GibbsDavid MontgomeryCraig ReynoldsCraig ReynoldsHigh draft capital spent on Gibbs
PackersAaron JonesAaron JonesAJ DillonAaron JonesAJ DillonAaron JonesAJ DillonInjury to one gives full role to the other
TexansDameon PierceDevin SingletaryDameon PierceDevin SingletaryDameon PierceMike BooneDare OgunbawalePierce graded poorly in pass blocking
ColtsJonathan TaylorJonathan TaylorJonathan TaylorJonathan TaylorJonathan TaylorZack MossEvan HullDeon Jackson was interesting last year as well
JaguarsTravis EtienneEtienne/Bigbsy/HastyTravis EtienneTravis EtienneTravis EtienneTank BigsbyJamycal HastyEtienne led 2 minute drill over Hasty 9 targets to 3
ChiefsIsiah PachecoJerrick McKinnonIsiah PachecoJerrick McKinnonIsiah PachecoClyde Edwards-HelaireClyde Edwards-HelairePacheco 22 carries running clock
ChargersAustin EkelerAustin EkelerAustin EkelerAustin EkelerAustin EkelerJoshua KelleyIsaiah SpillerThin depth behind Ekeler
RamsCam AkersCam AkersCam AkersCam AkersCam AkersKyren WilliamsZach EvansAkers most carries, most routes for Rams
RaidersJosh JacobsJosh JacobsJosh JacobsJosh JacobsJosh JacobsZamir WhiteBrandon BoldenJosh Jacobs dominated all facets
DolphinsJeff WilsonRaheem Mostert/De'Von AchaneJeff WilsonRaheem MostertDe'Von AchaneJeff WilsonDe'Von AchaneMostert 9 targets 2 minute drill
VikingsAlexander MattisonAlexander MattisonAlexander MattisonAlexander MattisonAlexander MattisonDeWayne McBrideKene NwangwuZero pass snaps for Ty Chandler last season
PatriotsRhamondre StevensonRhamondre StevensonRhamondre StevensonRhamondre StevensonRhamondre StevensonKevin HarrisPierre StrongPierre Strong or Ty Montgomery could have pass role
SaintsAlvin KamaraAlvin KamaraJamaal Williams/ Taysom HillAlvin KamaraJamaal WilliamsKendre MillerKendre MillerPending suspension for Kamara
GiantsSaquon BarkleySaquon BarkleySaquon BarkleySaquon BarkleySaquon BarkleyMatt BreidaMatt BreidaDrafted rookie Eric Gray
JetsBreece HallBreece HallBreece HallBreece HallBreece HallZonovan KnightMichael CarterMichael Carter 13 tgts in 2 min drill, Hall 9 before injury
EaglesRashaad PennyD'Andre SwiftRashaad Penny/Jalen HurtsD'Andre SwiftBoston ScottD'Andre SwiftKenneth GainwellBoston Scott 18 carries running clock
SteelersNajee HarrisNajee HarrisNajee HarrisNajee HarrisNajee HarrisJaylen WarrenJaylen WarrenJaylen Warren zero targets in 2 minute drill
49ersChristian McCaffreyChristian McCaffreyChristian McCaffreyChristian McCaffreyElijah MitchellElijah MitchellElijah MitchellElijah Mitchell only 3 carries in "clock run" situations
SeahawksKenneth WalkerWalker/CharbonnetKenneth WalkerKenneth WalkerZach CharbonnettZach CharbonnettKenneth WalkerBoth handcuffs for each other
BuccaneersRashaad WhiteRashaad WhiteRashaad WhiteRashaad WhiteRashaad WhiteChase EdmondsKe'Shawn VaughnThin depth chart
TitansDerrick HenryDerrick HenryDerrick HenryDerrick HenryDerrick HenryTyjae SpearsTyjae SpearsHassan Haskins arrested
CommandersBrian RobinsonAntonio GibsonBrian RobinsonAntonio GibsonBrian RobinsonChris RodriguezJaret PattersonBrian Robinson very limited pass-catching

NFL RB Questionnaire Notes 

Arizona CardinalsThe Cardinals are doing a “bridge year” and are projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. Because of that, they haven’t loaded up at RB so James Conner is in line for a lot of work. But the Cardinals also might not be lighting up the scoreboard.

Atlanta FalconsIf you are going draft an RB at 8 overall, it’s because you believe he is special. Bijan Robinson will be a focal point of this offense but Tyler Allgeier remains a strong handcuff.

Baltimore RavensThe talent of JK Dobbins is exciting but the opportunity hasn’t been great. Lamar Jackson has been hesitant to throw to the RB and he vultures goalline work. So we have to hope new OC Todd Monken changes that up.

Buffalo BillsJames Cook flashed in a pass down capacity last year but the heavy lifting, especially a the goal line, will likely be done by Damien Harris and Josh Allen.

Carolina PanthersThe Eagles threw the fewest balls of any team to the RB last year and Jalen Hurts had the second-most goal-line carries of any QB. We did a full write-up on why we love Miles Sanders at ADP but here is a quick peek at what the GM Scott Fitterer thinks.

Chicago BearsThe mobile QB likely hurts whoever wins the job but ambiguous backfields like this can present opportunity in fantasy. 

Cincinnati BengalsRumors been swirling that Mixon could be released if he doesn’t take a pay cut. If he stays, he should be a bargain where he’s going in drafts. 

Cleveland BrownsOur own Howard Bender has always recognized the talent of Nick Chubb. With Kareem Hunt gone, here’s how we feel this year.

Dallas CowboysThis depth chart is thin so they could bring someone in - perhaps Ezekiel Elliott could be back. If not, Tony Pollard is in line for a BIG role.

Denver BroncosThe question at the end of the day is this - how healthy will Javonte Williams be? Samaje Perine should have some standalone value either way but everything rides on Javonte’s recovery from the knee injury.

Detroit LionsThe Lions moved on from both Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift for an upgraded version in David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. We expect a similar split. 

Green Bay PackersThis one is pretty set: Aaron Jones skews pass downs, AJ Dillon skews run downs. It’s all up to Jordan Love now to provide a productive offense.

Houston TexansDameon Pierce is a great runner but he graded outside the top 120 backs in pass blocking per PFF. New Texans OC Bobby Slowik worked for PFF for three years which might be part of the reason they brought in Devin Singletary for pass downs. 

Indianapolis ColtsJonathan Taylor is a star and Nyheim Hines is now gone. The only question is whether new mobile QB Anthony Richardson goes the route of other mobile QBs who don’t dump down the RB and steal goal-line work.

Jacksonville JaguarsTravis Etienne is the starter but he ceded some work to JaMycal Hasty last year.

Kansas City ChiefsThe Isiah Pacheco buzz last year proved right as he proved a hard runner but Jerrick McKinnon is still the pass down guy. 

Los Angeles ChargersAustin Ekeler is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league. The only concern is that they supplement him with an early down back. Zeke Elliott played with Kellen Moore in Dallas…

Los Angeles RamsCam Akers led this team in carries and pass plays. He got pretty hot to end the season as well with back-to-back-to-back 100+ yard rushing games.

Las Vegas RaidersJosh Jacobs might not be happy about it, but the franchise tag keeps him in town where he had a monster workload last year.

Miami DolphinsThere have been rumors of Dalvin Cook coming to town. If not, this could be a three-headed monster.

Minnesota VikingsAlexander Mattison has served well as the backup to Dalvin Cook and now he gets a shot at the role. Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu have flashed in their limited chances - they also drafted plodder DeWayne McBride.

New England PatriotsFor the first time ever, the Patriots backfield was not split as Rhamondre Stevenson took the bulk of the work. It’s worth noting that in Week 1, Ty Montgomery got 20+ backfield snaps and four targets before getting hurt.

New Orleans SaintsAlvin Kamara is looking at a potential suspension here though he did plead down from a felony to a misdemeanor. Jamaal Williams and Taysom Hill will steal some goalline work either way.

New York GiantsMatt Breida is quietly a pretty solid handcuff behind star back Saquon Barkley

New York JetsBreece Hall could start slow coming off a torn ACL - Michael Carter had 13 receptions in two-minute drills last year while he was out so he would be the most appealing if that happens.

Philadelphia EaglesRashaad Penny has never had 10 plus receptions which would bode well for D’Andre Swift/Kenneth Gainwell - if they liked throwing to the RB. Nick Sirianni only dialed up 11 screens to RBs total and Jalen Hurts often takes it himself rather than dumping it down.

Philadelphia Steelers - Some have touted Jaylen Warren as a pass down back but Najee Harris got nine targets in two minute drill situations last year. Warren got zero. 

San Francisco 49ersIt’s the CMC show with Elijah Mitchell remaining a valuable handcuff. 

Seattle SeahawksKenneth Walker was looking like a star until the team added another back in the second round. Zach Charbonnett could push Walker for pass work - or even a full-on split.

Tampa Bay BuccaneersLeonard Fournette is a free agent so Rachaad White currently looks like the man. It is a thin depth chart though so they could add someone. 

Tennessee TitansDerrick Henry got the most work in all phases last year which is likely the case again. Tyjae Sharpe is the next man up considering Hassan Haskins’s legal trouble. 

Washington CommandersThis one seems pretty obvious - Brian Robinson on run downs, Antonio Gibson on pass downs.