Running back wasn’t always such a volatile position in fantasy football, believe it or not. There was a time where the starter got all the carries then, if he landed on the injury report, the backup got all the carries. They were coveted assets that rarely changed teams in free agency but, when they did, they hit the ground running like Curtis Martin. 

Everyone did the NFL combine and backs were routinely selected in the early picks of the NFL Draft. What a glorious time for fantasy football. As you know, that mythical time for bell cows and handcuffs, sunshine and rainbows, is mostly over. 

Committees and niche roles rule the day when it comes to fantasy football running backs. Teams are hesitant to give backs big, long-term contracts so you see loaded free agency classes like we saw this year. And, based on most predictions, no running back is expected to go in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. 

It’s not all doom and gloom however as there are some winners in free agency this year. Let’s take a moment to appraise the landscape from a dynasty fantasy football RB perspective to see who may have gained some value and who may have lost some. 

I already wrote about fantasy football QB winners and losers. So now, below are my NFL free agency winners and losers at the running back position.




NFL Free Agency Winners: Fantasy Football Running Backs

Derrick HenryIt was looking bleak there for a moment for King Henry. Giving speeches and saying his goodbyes to the fans in Tennessee had us wondering if he was done entirely. But then he landed with the Baltimore Ravens on a two-year deal paying him $16M - that $8 million per year is the fourth highest of any free agent running back. 

And the landing spot isn’t too shabby for fantasy football either - it’s certainly better over the short term than the Tennessee Titans. And, at 30 years old, the short term is all that matters for Henry. Generally speaking, the Ravens wouldn’t be an ideal landing spot for the average back in fantasy because Lamar Jackson hasn’t historically dumped it down to the RB, opting to run it himself or look for a chunk pass play down field instead. 

But here’s the thing - Derrick Henry hasn’t been a big route runner historically anyway. The Ravens are a great run team behind fullback Patrick Ricard and Henry should benefit from running the RPO with Lamar Jackson. Plus, Todd Monken will mix in some RB screens for Henry like he did last year for guys like Justice Hill (13 screens) so it’s not like he won’t catch any passes. As far as landing spots for Henry’s skill set, this is the perfect match. 

Joe MixonYou might be wondering how Joe Mixon is a “winner” after finding himself on the verge of being cut. And he might not personally feel like a winner given this ending to his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, the team that drafted him. But there are two reasons Joe Mixon actually ended up as a fantasy winner so far this offseason. The scheme. And the competition. 

Folks will argue about whether the Bengals or Texans have the better offense/quarterback right now. And there are arguments to be made for both sides. But I’m not even sure that’s what matters most for fantasy production. It’s the scheme for the Texans that is better suited for running the football. Look at what the 49ers and Dolphins do - that’s the basis for the scheme Bobby Slowik brought over from San Francisco. 

The 49ers have an elite left tackle in Trent Williams and a fullback in Kyle Juszczyk. The Dolphins have Terron Armstead and Alec Ingold. And the Texans have Laremy Tunsil and Andrew Beck. That zone running scheme with those pieces is friendly to the RB, especially in yards before contact. Christian McCaffrey led the league in total yards before contact and DeVon Achane led the league in yards before contact per attempt. 

But Devin Singletary wasn’t that far off as 594 of his 898 rushing yards also came before contact. This scheme plays to Mixon’s skillset, and he shouldn’t need to worry as much about creating for himself. Which has been one of the bigger complaints among the metrics community regarding his efficiency. 

The competition factor also skews in Mixon’s favor. The Bengals clearly like Chase Brown. Enough that they were willing to move on from Mixon and sign a cheaper back in free agency, anyway. There’s no doubt that Mixon would have faced stiff competition for touches had he remained in Cincinnati. 

Instead, he goes to the Texans where journeyman Devin Singletary just beat out Damien Pierce. Pierce has struggled in pass protection over the first couple years so Mixon should be in line for the bulk of the pass work, at the very least. And the Texans liked their trade for Mixon so much that they turned around and gave him a new three year deal worth $27 million with $13 million guaranteed. 

The Bengals gave Zack Moss two years, $8 million, with $3 million guaranteed. Singletary went to the Giants at three years $16.5 million with $9.5 million guaranteed. Not bad for Mixon, a guy that was supposedly about to be released.

Chuba HubbardNow, he still needs to survive the draft. The Panthers have picks 33, 39, 65, and 101 that they could make a splash with. But we’re looking at this from a pure free agency standpoint so it’s hard not to call Hubbard a winner so far. 

Last year Miles Sanders was brought in by GM Scott Fitterer, coach Frank Reich, and RB coach Duce Staley. All three were fired which Sanders described as “super difficult”. From that point on, Hubbard was the main back. This offseason they not only didn’t bring in major RB competition in a loaded free agency class, but they beefed up the offensive line big time. 

The Panthers signed guard Robert Hunt to a five-year, $100 million dollar contract and guard Damien Lewis to a four-year, $53 million dollar deal. Both contracts were top five in guaranteed money for any offensive lineman this offseason, with Hunt’s deal being #1 at $63 million. That’s good news for whoever ends up being the starting RB for this team and Hubbard is currently in the driver’s seat. 

It’s also worth noting that the Panthers in 2023 were dead last in screen passes to the RB so the only way to go is up (the Panthers called 9 RB screens last year while Dave Canales called 21 with Tampa Bay). 

Zamir White - I considered Rico Dowdle for this spot. But Jerry Jones essentially said they “don’t have an established running back” on the roster and will likely address it in free agency or the draft. That was AFTER they brought Rico Dowdle back. Plus, they lost Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadiasz. I know we’re supposed to ignore the draft for this exercise but it’s hard to ignore those statements. 

Zamir White on the other hand is a winner in three ways. First, they let Josh Jacobs walk. Which is obviously monumental. Second, they brought in Alexander Mattison on a cheap deal. With all the great free agent RBs and draft options, this is arguably the least threatening deal they could have made. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t. 

And then, on top of that, they brought in Gardner Minshew who should stablize that offense some. As of this moment, Zamir White is looking like a pretty big winner through early free agency. 




Fantasy Football Running Backs: Other Winners 

Bijan RobinsonWe have to mention Bijan escaping the clutches of Arthur Smith and Desmond Ridder into the gentle guiding hands of Kirk Cousins. Cousins was already arguably the least mobile QB before the Achilles so there should be a lot of dump downs and goal line for Bijan.

Josh JacobsImmediate offense upgrade to a coach that used to draw up plays for Derrick Henry. LaFleur also likes his RB screens (Aaron Jones was on pace for 23 targets on screens which would have been top 5 among RBs). Probably deserves a spot above but felt a little too obvious. 

D'Andre SwiftNick Sirrianni does not like RB designed passes and Jalen Hurts likes taking it himself when he scrambles. And he’s the best QB sneaker in the league. The Bears much improved offense is a solid spot.  

Gus EdwardsIf you liked Gus Edwards with Greg Roman on the Ravens, you will probably like Gus Edwards with Greg Roman on the Chargers. He has a clearer path to starting at least. 

Zack Moss - Moss went to journeyman backup to likely starting for the Cincinnati Bengals (even if the driving force was that Joe Mixon was too expensive). He'll compete with Chase Brown for touches in a much-improved situation. 

Rachaad White, Kyren Williams, Javonte Williams, James Cook, Travis Etienne, Alvin Kamara, James Conner, Isiah Pacheco, Nick ChubbAs we mentioned, this was a LOADED free agent class of running backs. So anyone who lived to die another day is a winner to some degree. Especially guys like Rachaad White and Travis Etienne where there have been some rumors that they want to lessen their workload. The draft still looms for these guys, but they are safe for now.




NFL Free Agency Losers: Fantasy Football Running Backs

Brian RobinsonWe talked about this in the intro. In the modern NFL, it’s rare that teams will use a pure three down back. For every Christian McCaffrey, there are two teams splitting the work. So our job in fantasy is to find the guys who can produce fantasy points despite splitting. And, thanks to the work of Scott Barrett, we know that targets are definitively more valuable than carries in all formats.

So, the addition of Austin Ekeler, one of the best pass catching backs in the league, is not great news for Brian Robinson. Especially when you consider that the running back rotation is typically decided by the running back coach and the Commanders RB coach is Austin Ekeler's former head coach from the Chargers in Anthony Lynn. Ekeler actually told us himself that Lynn is a big reason he signed there and he expects the rotation to be similar to his early career splitting with Melvin Gordon.

Players HAVE had great fantasy seasons without catching many passes, like LeGarrette Blount on the Patriots and Jamaal Williams on the Lions. But those were great offenses so they each scored 18 TDs. Maybe the QB that Washington takes at two overall is a star right from the rip but it’s hard to project this offense to offer that kind of production. 

Devin SingletaryLook, Motor did get a nice little payday. So, he’s a winner in that respect. But it has to hurt a little bit that the up-and-coming Texans opted to pay Joe Mixon instead of him. We talked earlier under the Mixon section on why the Texans are such a good landing spot for the RB. So, the ideal situation would have seen Singletary staying in town. Instead, he goes to New York. Now, the Giants did add Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor so they are trying to improve that offensive line. But running is often the luxury of the winning team. 

Most books have the Giants slated to win 6.5 games vs. the Texans at 9.5. And that’s likely because the Giants set to star the year without starting QB Daniel Jones, who has had a rough past couple years to say the least. Last year he started six games and didn’t throw a touchdown pass in five of them. I have a hard time believing that Saquon Barkley couldn’t get it done in New York, but Singletary will come in and crush it. 

Aaron JonesAaron Jones salvaged a starting job after being released. And there is something to be said for that. But this isn’t quite like the Joe Mixon situation where he lucked into a better opportunity. Jones was already part of a young ascending offense and now he lands in Minnesota where the QB is either going to be Sam Darnold or a rookie.  

Ty Chandler got the worst end of this deal of course but Jones has to be mentioned here after Josh Jacobs took his job. That’s a tough pill to swallow but at least he will get two revenge games after landing with a division rival. 

Tyjae SpearsThere were a lot of running backs who were briefly at the top of their depth chart. But the narrative had us holding out extra hope for Tyjae Spears. The idea of course was that they liked what they had in Spears, so they were letting the older Derrick Henry move on. If you aren’t going to pay Henry, you aren’t going to pay another veteran back meaningful money to come in and start, right? Wrong. 

The Titans signed Tony Pollard to a three-year deal worth $21.75M to come in and be the starting back. That contract overlaps directly with the three years Spears has left on his deal in Tennessee. If they had signed another bruiser back to complement Spears, like a Gus Edwards, AJ Dillon, or D’Onta Foreman, we could stomach that in the fantasy world. At least the pass work would be there. 

But Tony Pollard’s skillset unfortunately overlaps with Spears all while being the move proven player. Just not a great situation for Tyjae’s value.

Roschon JohnsonJohnson was in line to split the backfield with Khalil Herbert and possibly win out the job. And that’s in an offense going away from the pure rushing QB Justin Fields to the young Caleb Williams (most likely). Well, the team decided another key part of this upgrade was going to be bringing in D’Andre Swift on a three year deal. In the case of Khalil Herbert, at least he can leave in free agency after this season. Much like Tyjae Spears, Roschon is now stuck with an overlapping contract on his three years. Not great, Bob.




Fantasy Football Running Backs: Other Losers

Saquon BarkleyHard to call a guy escaping the Giants a loser but there were simply better landing spots for fantasy football production, like the Texans. See our notes on D’Andre Swift and Joe Mixon above for why.

Dameon PierceThere was a glimmer of hope for Pierce that maybe the Texans would give him another crack at it. But, at the end of the day, Joe Mixon got paid more than both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss to start for the Texans.

Austin EkelerAustin Ekeler has never had 1,000 yards rushing. But at least he was still the starting back and preferred goal line back. Now with Brian Robinson there is a clear division of powers. 

Raheem Mostert/DeVon Achane - Losing a lineman like Robert Hunt that another team pays $100 million dollars to can’t be a good thing. They’re also expected to lose center Connor Williams. The scheme is good so hopefully they will still be hyper efficient.  

Rhamondre StevensonWe want our guy to be the focal point. Or at the very least to get the pass work. Antonio Gibson is a converted WR so we can guess where he will contribute in this backfield. Maybe they just signed him to return kicks though - we will have to see.

AJ DillonHe tested free agency. And he ended up signing to be a backup behind Josh Jacobs? At least there was an argument before that Dillon was the better short yardage back than Aaron Jones - now there is nothing he is better at.

Kenneth GainwellSimilar situation here for Gainwell. He’s a good pass catcher. And they added Saquon Barkley, who is a great pass catcher.

Chase BrownThere was a moment there where we thought maybe Chase Brown would be the clear starter. The Zack Moss signing pours cold water on that. 

Tyler AllgeierArthur Smith may have been the only thing keeping his value afloat.