Backup RB Rankings & Strategy

by Anthony Sarra | Published: August 23, 2023

Fantasy Football offers an overlooked facet: the role of backup and handcuff running backs. While picking bench RBs in later rounds might seem like a gamble, there's a method to this success.

In redrafts, securing a handcuff for lead RBs like McCaffrey, Barkley, and Ekeler becomes crucial. However, there are some backs that could end up securing a starting spot on their team mid-season.

So, let's aim for maximum value as we choose our backup RBs who could significantly boost our chances at a playoff berth in fantasy football.

BACKUP RB UPSIDE RANKINGS

  1. David Montgomery (DET)
  2. Antonio Gibson (WAS)
  3. Jaylen Warren (PIT)
  4. Tyler Allgeier (ATL)
  5. Elijah Mitchell (SF)
  6. A.J. Dillon (GB)
  7. Tank Bigsby (JAC)
  8. Jamaal Williams (NO)
  9. Zach Charbonnet (SEA)
  10. Dalvin Cook (NYJ)

David Montgomery | Trail RBBC (Lions)

Last season, the Lions backfield combined for 25 total touchdowns (Swift & Williams). Now, with highly touted rookie Jahmyrr Gibbs and veteran RB David Montgomery heading the backfield, temper expectations on the 25 total TDs but still value this backfield as a sleeping giant.

More than ever, the “Hero RB” strategy is the smartest way to go in nearly every fantasy football format. Whether redrafts or Best Ball, most veteran players are selecting a top-tier RB and then waiting until the mid-rounds to select their next ball carrier.

David Montgomery, with his 6 or more total TDs in all four years as a Bear, becomes the top option as your RB2 if this route is taken on draft day.

While Gibbs should take away from his PPR worth, Monty is still a top 24 option with gaps in the Lions' receiving core and jumps into the top 10 conversation with co-starter Gibbs out with injury.

UPSIDE RATING: A+

Antonio Gibson | Trail RBBC (Commanders)

It’s time to hop back on the Antonio Gibson hype train. The uber-talented, positionless player enters his fourth season with low expectations.

However, with Eric Bienemy as his new offensive coordinator, I’m expecting a top-24 finish from the athlete who is drafted around the RB30 mark in most drafts.

If starting RB Brian Robinson happens to be plagued with injury, Antonio should be catapulted into the RB15 or better conversation, similar to Montgomery.

Gibson’s still one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, and after witnessing what Bienemy and Andy Reid did with Jerrick McKinnon later in the season with Kansas City last season, bank on Gibson to secure you a playoff spot later this season.

His outstanding PPR value is why Washington might try and make a sneaky playoff push in a weak NFC.

UPSIDE RATING: A

Jaylen Warren | Backup RB  (Steelers)

It’s inevitable. The Jaylen Warren breakout will come soon. Somewhat reminiscent of the scenes in San Diego when Austin Ekeler was bound to overtake Melvin Gordon, Warren should step up for Tomlin and company in his second season.

Scoring just one TD in his rookie season, Warren’s near 5 YPC should translate into an added workload this season. Najee Harris has done well as a workhorse back in Pittsburgh, but in today’s NFL, elite RB duos are trendy, and expect Warren to benefit from this, especially in PPR formats.

Warren doesn’t have much wear and tear from his college days at Utah State and Oklahoma State, so the fresh legs and improved Steelers offense could secure him a top 35 spot as a backup in fantasy this season. If Najee misses time, Jaylen is instantly thrown into the top 12 conversation as a workhorse halfback.

UPSIDE RATING: A

Tyler Allgeier | Backup RB (Falcons)

The Atlanta Falcons are slowly assembling an offense filled with weapons. Bijan Robinson, Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and Tyler Allgeier headline a group that should take a huge leap in 2023 if Desmond Ridder becomes an above-average game manager.

Last season, the Falcons ran the ball down opponents' throats to win games. Expect some of the same this season as they are my favorite to secure an NFC South title.

While Bijan Robinson will command 15-20 touches per game, I’m expecting Allgeier to get about 10 to 12 which could turn into great volume in games where Atlanta finds themselves up and in control of the ball game.

With the rookie Robinson out with injury, Tyler becomes a top-15 option in fantasy. The BYU alum quietly ran for 1,000 yards on nearly 5 YPC in 2022, so don’t expect Atlanta to write him out of the offensive scheme just because of a new arrival.

UPSIDE RATING: A-

Anthony Sarra

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