As much as we love talent, projecting available carries for particular players is a very fruitful endeavor. Whoever is getting the touches is going to score the fantasy points, and roster turnover generates fantastic year-to-year opportunities in fantasy drafts.
Analyzing Available Carries For 2023
Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes
What exactly are available carries? Simple: look at the running backs who departed from a team during the offseason, and total how many carries (and carries inside the 5-yard line) they received in 2022. Luckily, our friends at 4for4 have already done this work for us – if you do not have a subscription to them, we suggest you consider purchasing one (we get no fee or affiliate commission – they are simply a quality fantasy football website, especially for the accuracy of their rankings).
We’ve already analyzed available targets for wide receivers here, so let’s explore all the teams who are coming into 2023 with 120 or more available carries:
|Team||Available Carries||Available Carries Percentage||Available Carries Inside 5||Available Carries Inside 5 Percentage|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||197||57.4%||10||76.9%|
Key Additions: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs
Key Departures: Jamaal Williams, D’Andre Swift, Justin Jackson
It’s a brand new backfield in Detroit, but we already have a good idea as to how it’s going to shake out.
Currently being taken as the RB14 in the late 3rd/early 4th round, Gibbs’ ceiling (especially with only the 26-year-old Montgomery as major competition) is as high as any running back from RB6 and onward.
His collegiate receiving profile is on par with Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey, and the Lions have the 4th-most available targets in the league. It’s within the reasonable range of outcomes that Gibbs plays the role we all hoped D’Andre Swift would have – a role that made Swift a top-20 selection in 2022 fantasy drafts.
David Montgomery is looking to be the new Jamaal Williams as a two-down grinder and goal-line back. Detroit has an astonishing amount of available carries inside the 5-yard line (33, more than double the 2nd most) but there is serious regression potential for that statistic: Williams’ 28 such carries were the most in NFL history since they were tracked.
Montgomery was okay last year – he was the RB25 in expected points and finished as the PPR RB24. But he is not going to be the reason the 12th overall pick’s touches are limited unless Gibbs has issues with fumbling or pass protection.
Montgomery’s current ADP is RB28 in the 8th round, so some risk is baked into the cost. Drafters will be relying on Montgomery becoming Jamaal Williams 2.0 or Gibbs somehow faltering. Consider taking James Cook or Javonte Williams in that range over Montgomery, though he’s a decent selection at his current price. Amon-Ra St. Brown and Gibbs can’t gobble up all of the 630 available opportunities (403 carries plus 227 targets) in this above-average offense.
Key Additions: Samaje Perine
Key Departures: Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray
Javonte Williams may technically be ready for Week 1, but as we learned with 2022 J.K. Dobbins that doesn’t always mean much. The first year back from ACL tears for football players is notoriously difficult, especially for running backs.
Despite being a very intriguing prospect, Williams hasn’t yet lived up to the hype. After a solid rookie year, Williams was stuck in a struggling Broncos offense before suffering the injury.
The good news? He’s relatively affordable (going as the RB29 in the 8th round) and was still a promising, high draft pick who will be playing his third NFL season at just 23 years old.
While we wonder if Williams will be ready for Week 1 after a serious knee injury, Samaje Perine is set to be a legitimate fantasy asset in Denver. Take a look at how Perine performed in games that Joe Mixon missed last year, courtesy of the Rotoviz Game Splits app:
The Bengals weren’t afraid to use him as a workhorse, and it’s likely there’s at least a 50/50 split between Williams and Perine to begin the season (if Williams is even ready).
With precious few other options in the backfield, Perine is an awesome Zero RB pick as the RB34 at the end of the 9th round. If Sean Payton can right the ship, Perine will have standalone value and possesses RB1 upside if Williams’ continued rehab doesn’t go according to plan.
Key Additions: Miles Sanders
Key Departures: D’Onta Foreman, Christian McCaffrey
We touched on how Miles Sanders is a major regression candidate a few weeks ago, and since then his price has risen over a full round to the end of the 5th. It’s obvious he won’t get as many scoring chances going from arguably the best offense in the NFL to one of the potential worst, so the hope for him is he operates as a true three-down back.
He saw the most receiving work of his career under Duce Staley (now on the Panthers’ staff), but let’s not forget the fantasy community wondering why Staley insisted on using multiple backs when he was in Philly:
Hope for Miles Sanders is Panthers PAID him to hand over a true three-down role. Duce Staley reunion (although Staley also mixed in Jordan Howard + Boston Scott in Philly)
Still, can wait 2+ rounds later for Akers, White, Conner: Fellow hopeful workhorse RBs in bad offenses.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 31, 2023
Meanwhile, Chuba Hubbard was excellent last year, rushing for 4.9 yards per carry and averaging 10.1 yards per reception. Don’t forget that Hubbard was one of the few running backs to rush for 2,000 yards in a collegiate season. While Sanders has played well in recent seasons, Hubbard may be able to force his way on the field by being more effective as a receiver.
Key Additions: DeWayne McBride
Key Departures: Dalvin Cook
With Dalvin Cook finally released, it’s apparently Alexander Mattison’s backfield in Minnesota. He’s likely to dominate touches early on in the season, but we don’t have much evidence he’s actually good:
Over the past two seasons, 74 running backs have had 100 or more rushing attempts.
Among those backs, Mattison ranks:
-68th in yards per carry (3.7)
-45th in success rate (37.5%)
-43rd in explosive run rate (9.1%)
-42nd in yards after contact per carry (2.78)
— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) June 8, 2023
His price might approach the 5th round now, and at that price, he’s a likely trap. This situation is giving “2021 Mike Davis” vibes, where converted wideout Cordarelle Patterson took over the backfield because default incumbent Davis (5th/6th round ADP that year) proved to be ineffective.
At this time last year, we highlighted Dameon Pierce as a potential “2022 Cordarrelle Patterson” and the Vikings’ backup runners are darkhorse candidates to be 2023’s version.
Ty Chandler (4.38 40, 93rd percentile speed score) is worth a shot at the end of drafts, and 7th-round rookie DeWayne McBride has a workhorse pedigree.
He’s an early declare (21 years old), and was downright awesome last season as the 2022 Conference USA Player Of The Year at UAB:
Bummed about the Dalvin Cook news? Here’s 8 minutes of DeWayne McBride highlights to help cheer you up.
In 2022, McBride ranked:
⚫️ 1st in rushing yards (1,713)
⚫️ 1st rush yards per game (155.7)
⚫️ 1st in yards per carry (7.35)
⚫️ 2nd in rushing TDs (19)#Skol https://t.co/Wbf5iTgGxz pic.twitter.com/idd92X5Oek
— Tyler Ireland (@TylerIrelandNFL) June 8, 2023
It’s tough to be enthusiastic about Mattison after rushing for 3.7 yards per carry over the last two years. In addition, he averaged just 5.1 yards per target in his first season with head coach Kevin O’Connell. Chandler looks poised to threaten Mattison for receiving work while McBride could usurp some early down work. To add insult to injury, both backs may also be more athletic than Mattison.
Their ADPs will surely rise a bit, but they become good dart throws on a potentially explosive offense with a narrow touch distribution and ambiguous backfield with many available carries.
Key Additions: D’Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny
Key Departures: Miles Sanders
Though Miles Sanders is gone, the arrival of D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny make this a crowded backfield with Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott still on the roster.
As an early 7th-round pick (RB21) in current drafts, you’re betting on Swift’s talent and pedigree if you’re taking him in that range. Swift is undeniably gifted, but there is risk at that price.
Remember, this is a team that threw to running backs on only 12.1% of their pass attempts last year – dead last in the NFL. That number might not change much with A.J. Brown/DeVonta Smith’s continued dominance and a full season of Dallas Goedert anticipated in 2023.
The rushing touchdown upside may not appear high given Jalen Hurts’ quarterback sneaks at the goal line (under 30% of their carries inside the 5-yard line are available). However, the sheer volume of goal-line carries available renders that number misleading. Only six running backs had more carries inside the 5-yard line than Miles Sanders (13). If Swift can take Miles Sanders’ scoring role, he’ll pay off at ADP.
It might be prudent to target the cheaper options. Rashaad Penny (10th-round ADP as the RB37) has averaged an insane 6.2 yards/attempt on 176 carries over the past two seasons.
Kenneth Gainwell (16th-round ADP as the RB58) was trusted by the Eagles when the lights were brightest in the playoffs:
|Player||Divisional Round||NFC Championship||Super Bowl|
|Miles Sanders||17 Carries, 90 Total Yards, 0 Targets||11 Carries, 45 Total Yards, 1 Target||7 Carries, 16 Total Yards, 1 Target|
|Kenneth Gainwell||12 Carries, 121 Total Yards, 2 Targets||14 Carries, 74 Total Yards, 3 Targets||7 Carries, 41 Total Yards, 4 Targets|
Garbage time helped in the first two playoff games, but he still received 5 opportunities in the 1st half against both the Giants and 49ers (when the games were potentially in doubt). He even matched Sanders’ opportunities in the all-important Super Bowl. The best guess is the available carries left by Sanders are dispersed between Swift and Penny with Gainwell continuing to steal a little work.
Key Additions: Deuce Vaughn
Key Departures: Ezekiel Elliott
It’s the Tony Pollard show until proven otherwise in Dallas, who emerged as one of the biggest winners of the NFL draft. A reminder of his splits when receiving at least 10 carries per game over the past three seasons:
Dallas will certainly want him to absorb some available carries, but there will definitely be a 2nd RB who gets work – the Cowboys obviously aren’t giving Pollard 200+ more touches. It could have simply been Zeke’s contract and draft capital winning out, but the Cowboys didn’t trust Pollard to be the alpha until the 2nd half of last season.
This, despite entire seasons of evidence Pollard was better than the former Buckeye. With nearly 70% of the carries inside the 5-yard line available, Pollard won’t have to rely as much on big plays to produce big fantasy days.
7th-round selection Deuce Vaughn is a nice story, but a 5’5″, 179lb running back with a 5th percentile speed score is not worth any real investment. He could take some passing-down work (116 career receptions in 3 years at Kansas State) but is unlikely to receive meaningful carries or goal-line work.
Vaughn and 2022 UDFA Malik Davis (9th-percentile speed score, will turn 25 this season) are currently free in drafts, but look for Dallas to add another back to help mop up the available carries here.
Key Additions: D’Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson
Key Departures: David Montgomery
Many were hoping this would be Khalil Herbert’s backfield, but the Bears then selected Roschon Johnson out of Texas in April’s draft. A 4th-round pick, Johnson wasn’t able to aggregate gaudy numbers behind Bijan Robinson, but his advanced stats were impressive.
Khalil Herbert’s current price is in the 11th round as the RB40, and he excelled last year with Justin Fields helping open up running lanes:
Just a reminder that Khalil Herbert led all running backs in rushing yards over expectation per attempt last year.pic.twitter.com/7o9jTfroIr
— Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge) May 30, 2023
One of 2022’s pleasant surprises, Bears signee D’Onta Foreman is nearly two rounds cheaper than Johnson. He was 6th in rushing yards over expectation last season and is a potential way to grab a piece of this ambiguous backfield in deeper leagues. The Bears are once again set to be among the most run-heavy teams in the league.
Two potential “buyer beware” warnings here:
- The Bears may not throw enough to make any of their backs PPR contributors, thus further relying on rushing yards and touchdowns. Hopefully, their D.J. Moore acquisition and grabbing a tackle in the first round point to a more balanced approach.
- Justin Fields took nearly half of Chicago’s 2022 carries inside the 5-yard line. The Bears’ offense will either need to be much better or their backs need to get more of the team’s goal-line carries. Otherwise, there’s going to be major competition for a handful of running back touchdowns.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key Additions: Sean Tucker, Chase Edmonds
Key Departures: Leonard Fournette
There’s no way around it, Rachaad White was pretty bad last season. But so was Leonard Fournette:
even tho Leonard Fournette was a much better fantasy asset, he wasn’t much better in any of those categories himself in 2022:
– 52nd in PFF run grading
– 65th in YCO/A (2.31)
– 63rd in elusive rating (31.7)
— 𝘾.𝙃. 𝙃𝙚𝙧𝙢𝙨 🦈 (@HermsNFL) June 7, 2023
In a way, that’s a good thing for White: Fournette was just as bad as White but was still the overall RB14 with the 10th-most expected points among running backs. The difference? Opportunity, which went heavily in Fournette’s favor last year.
But we would’ve liked to see a potentially exciting rookie like White significantly outplay an older Leonard Fournette. That did not happen, and it opens up White to real competition this year.
Even worse, the Buccaneers are going to reduce their play volume with Baker Mayfield probably starting. Regression is certain from the league-leading 68.8 plays per game and 751 pass attempts in 2022. Without Tom Brady, the team will likely be forced to become more balanced.
There are worse gambles than White (7th/8th round ADP as the RB26), but once again we can take a shot at a cheaper option: Sean Tucker.
He went undrafted this year due to injury concerns, but his profile should give White reason to sweat:
Tucker amassed 56 receptions in his final two collegiate seasons (95th percentile target share amongst running backs). On this offense that’s going to struggle to score touchdowns, receptions are the best way to fantasy production.
Showing workhorse capabilities in college, Tucker may very well take a chunk of Tampa’s available carries. Tucker’s UDFA status creates an uphill battle but the athletic, productive, 21-year-old rookie is currently free in 2023 fantasy drafts. He and Edmonds may be enough of a thorn in the side of White to cast the latter into the RB3/flex wasteland.
Key Additions: Damien Harris, Latavius Murray
Key Departures: Devin Singletary
Damien Harris is projected to take a solid chunk of Singletary’s rushing role, but James Cook is the more exciting option:
Per request, missed tackles forced/attempt vs. Rushing Yards Over Expected (via @tejfbanalytics)
– Bengals, Buccaneers, and Commanders should consider their backfields wide open
– I can promise you James Cook is better than Damien Harris, guys
— Ryan Heath (@QBLRyan) May 28, 2023
Cook also got much better and earned more touches as the season progressed last year. He was a legitimate piece of the offense from Week 11 and onward:
Unfortunately, no Bills running back is going to have a very high touchdown ceiling. Between Josh Allen’s dominant goal-line role (a mere 7 available carries inside the 5-yard line) and a passing-dominated offense, Cook’s path to high-end RB2 status will be through the air.
Cook’s current price is not prohibitive (9th-round ADP as the RB30) and his floor appears solid. Their 1st-round selection of Dalton Kincaid confirms to us they want to continue to be pass-heavy, and hopefully, Cook is a big part of that.
Key Additions: N/A
Key Departures: Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson
Nick Chubb will get all he can handle in terms of Cleveland’s available carries, but how many more can he take after a career-high 302 last year? Unfortunately, he’s a perennial trap with his top-18 ADP. It’s almost impossible to live up to that price without a receiving role (1.6 receptions per game in 2022). He also really hurt fantasy managers during the stretch run/playoffs last season:
There will be far too much opportunity created by Hunt’s (123 carries, 44 targets) departure for Chubb to handle alone. Enter 2022 5th-round pick Jerome Ford:
“Speaking of Cleveland running backs, people doing Best Ball drafts right now should spend a late round pick on Jerome Ford before his ADP rises. It will be he, and not D’Ernest Johnson, who will be Nick Chubb’s back-up. They like Ford a lot.” https://t.co/oLarRkS7V9
— NFL Beat Writers (@32BeatWriters) March 7, 2023
Ford’s ADP is currently in the 14th round. He’s worth a flier as the backup to a 27-year-old Chubb with lots of mileage in a Kevin Stefanski offense. Cleveland didn’t spend a single draft pick on a running back (despite the departures of their 2022 RB2 and RB3). The offense is expected to take a leap forward after Watson’s lukewarm debut in Cleveland.