2024 Fantasy Football Running Back Tiers: Christian McCaffrey Leads the Way

Jan 28, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first half of the NFC Championship football game at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 28, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first half of the NFC Championship football game at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Tiers: Quarterbacks | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

The 2024 NFL season is fast approaching, so it’s time to look at fantasy positional “tiers.” Unlike my PPR player rankings, tiers group players of similar value. So, if you miss out on a particular player on a tier in your draft, you can see other players on that same tier who are good alternatives.

I’ve covered the quarterback teirs, so now let’s look at the running backs. With the number of true featured runners dwindling, backs have lost some of their past luster in drafts. This should change strategies, as managers can wait and still land productive runners in rounds 4-5 and beyond.

Tier 1 – The Elite

Christian McCaffrey, 49ers

McCaffrey has a chance to finish his career as one of the best fantasy running backs ever, even on the same level as greats like LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk. For that reason, I have him on his own tier. He’ll be the consensus top overall pick in the majority of drafts too, making McCaffrey the most valued asset in fantasy football once again.

Tier 2 – High RB1s

Bijan Robinson, Falcons
Breece Hall, Jets
Saquon Barkley, Eagles
Jahmyr Gibbs, Lions

Robinson had a good but not great rookie season, finishing ninth in PPR points. Still, I can see him pushing into the top three in Year 2, as he’ll no longer be “handcuffed” under new offensive coordinator Zac Robinson. Hall finished second in points among runners last season, and that was after coming off a serious knee injury. Barkley, who finished as the RB12 in 2023, should push into the top five or 10 behind a solid Eagles offensive line. Gibbs will continue to split work in Detroit with David Montgomery, but he has top-five upside.

Tier 3 – Mid RB1s

Jonathan Taylor, Colts
Travis Etienne, Jaguars
Kyren Williams, Rams

Taylor had his ups and downs last season, but he finished strong with 17-plus points in three of his last four games. He also won’t lose work to Zack Moss, who is now with the Bengals. Etienne, last season’s No. 3 runner, will be picked in Round 2 or 3. Williams was a superstar last year, scoring 15 touchdowns in 12 games. He does lack durability, however, and the Rams drafted Blake Corum. That makes Williams a bit of a risk, but he's still a top-25 pick.

Tier 4 – Low RB1s

Josh Jacobs, Packers
Derrick Henry, Ravens
Rashaad White, Buccaneers
Isiah Pacheco, Chiefs

Jacobs is coming off a bad season, especially compared to what he accomplished in 2022, but signing with the Packers is a positive for his fantasy appeal. Henry is entering his age-30 season, but he still finished as the RB8 last year and has little competition for touches in Baltimore. White might struggle to duplicate the RB4 finish he had last year, but he’ll remain a top-50 overall fantasy selection. White is also a strong pass catcher, which benefits his value. Pacheco is the featured back in Kansas City and could push into the top 10.

Tier 5 – High RB2s

De’Vone Achane, Dolphins
James Cook, Bills
Alvin Kamara, Saints
Kenneth Walker, Seahawks

Achane was a fantasy superstar at times as a rookie, but his ceiling could still be limited with Raheem Mostert in the Miami backfield. Still, he has RB1 potential. Cook was solid once Joe Brady took over the Bills offense last season, averaging more than 16 points. He should remain the team’s lead back, even with the addition of rookie Ray Davis. Kamara averaged almost 20 touches per game last season and should still be in the RB1/RB2 mix. Walker hasn’t truly busted out in the stat sheets, but he’s been a steady No. 2 option.

Tier 6 – Mid RB2s

Joe Mixon, Texans
Zack Moss, Bengals
D'Andre Swift, Bears
Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
James Conner, Cardinals

Mixon’s move to Houston could affect his touches to a degree, but he’s still a solid No. 2 option. Remember, he finished as the RB6 last season. His replacement in Cincinnati, Moss, will be a popular breakout candidate. I can see him easily finishing in the top 15-20 runners as their featured back. Swift was the RB20 with the Eagles in 2023, and he’ll push for that sort of finish now that he’s in Chicago. Stevenson didn’t put up great totals last season, but he also missed five games. In PPR formats, he should push back into the RB2 range even with Antonio Gibson in the mix. Conner was a league winner for managers at the end of last season, but he missed four games and could lose some work to rookie Trey Benson.

Tier 7 – Low RB2s

Zamir White, Raiders
Jonathon Brooks, Panthers
Aaron Jones, Vikings
Raheem Mostert, Dolphins
David Montgomery, Lions

This tier includes sleepers/breakouts White and Brooks, who could see a featured role for their respective teams. Jones missed six games a season ago, but he was a star down the stretch and figures to be the top back in Minnesota. Mostert is coming off a career year that saw him score 21 touchdowns, so regression is imminent. Montgomery was the RB17 in 2023, but he’s likely to play second fiddle to Gibbs.

Tier 8 – High RB3s/Flex

Najee Harris, Steelers
Tony Pollard, Titans
Austin Ekeler, Commanders
Javonte Williams, Broncos
Brian Robinson Jr., Commanders

Harris hasn’t been able to return to the elite fantasy status he enjoyed as a rookie, and the emergence of Jaylen Warren makes him hard to trust as more than a flex. Pollard, coming off a disappointing final season in Dallas, could find himself in a committee with Tyjae Spears. Ekeler and Robinson Jr. will share the work in Washington, limiting both their ceilings, and Williams finds himself in a crowded Denver backfield that could limit his upside.

Tier 9 – Mid to Low RB3s/Flex

Devin Singletary, Giants
Nick Chubb, Browns
Jaylen Warren, Steelers
Tyjae Spears, Titans
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

Singletary could be a nice bargain in fantasy drafts, as he knows Brian Daboll's offense well and has little competition for touches. Chubb is coming off a serious knee injury, so it’s tough to project him as more than a No. 3 fantasy runner. If he can re-claim his previous form, however, Chubb would be a major bargain. Warren was more efficient than Harris last season, so he’s not too far behind his teammate in the rankings. The Titans will use both Pollard and Spears in their backfield, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the latter was more effective in the stat sheets. Zeke is back in Dallas, but he’ll be part of a committee with Rico Dowdle and others.

Tier 10 – High RB4s/Handcuffs

Trey Benson, Cardinals
Tyler Allgeier, Falcons
Gus Edwards, Chargers
Jerome Ford, Browns
Zach Charbonnet, Seahawks
Chase Brown, Bengals
Blake Corum, Rams
J.K. Dobbins, Chargers

This tier includes handcuffs and backs who will compete for depth-chart positioning in camp. Benson, Allgeier and Ford will all be valuable insurance, while Edwards and Dobbins will compete for the top spot in Los Angeles (though a committee is imminent). Charbonnet, Brown and Corum will also be seen as handcuffs, though all three could push for standalone value.

Tier 11 – Mid to Low RB4s/Handcuffs

Ty Chandler, Vikings
Rico Dowdle, Cowboys
Chuba Hubbard, Panthers
Antonio Gibson, Patriots
Alexander Mattison, Raiders
Kendre Miller, Saints

This tier is also full of committee backs and potential fantasy handcuffs, including guys like Chandler, Dowdle and Hubbard. Each of them, and Gibson, could also push for standalone flex value. Miller could be a deep sleeper if Kamara is forced to miss some playing time.

Tier 12 – RB5s

Bucky Irving, Buccaneers
Jaleel McLaughlin, Broncos
Kimani Vidal, Chargers
MarShawn Lloyd, Packers
Ray Davis, Bills
Kenneth Gainwell, Eagles
Elijah Mitchell, 49ers
Khalil Herbert, Bears
Jaylen Wright, Dolphins
Keaton Mitchell, Ravens

Welcome to the “dart throw” tier! This group includes potential handcuffs and several young running backs competing for touches with their respective teams. Vidal is an interesting option, as he’ll have the one-dimensional Edwards and the injury-prone Dobbins ahead of him on the Chargers depth chart. Fellow rookies Lloyd, Davis, and Wright are late fliers, but none of them will open the season higher than second on their teams.


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Michael Fabiano

MICHAEL FABIANO

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Formerly of CBS Sports, NFL Network and SirusXM, Michael was the first fantasy analyst to appear on one of the four major TV networks. His work can now be found on SI, Westwood One Radio and the Bleav Podcast Network.