2024 Dead Zone Running Backs: Fantasy Football Draft Outlook (2024)

The traditional running back dead zone was viewed as rounds 3-6, which has consistently been an area of drafts where running backs were outperformed by wide receivers. The success of WR-heavy starts to drafts in major tournaments has pushed more wide receivers to the top of the board and more running backs further down, to the point where rounds 7-10 can be particularly fruitful for running back selections.

Part of the reason for the rise of receivers and the fall of the running backs is the wider awareness of the concept of the running back dead zone and for the second straight year Zero RB or Hero RB teams winning millions of dollars, using strategies that involved fading the dead zone running backs.

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Dead Zone Running Backs (Fantasy Football)

In 2022, 13 running backs had an average draft position (ADP) inside the top two rounds, along with nine wide receivers. Then in 2023, there were 15 wide receivers with a top-24 ADP but only seven running backs. There are currently 16 wide receivers and eight running backs in the top two rounds of Underdog ADP.

Derrick HenryBAL31.535.9
Josh JacobsGB37.130.8
Travis Etienne Jr.JAC38.230.4
Isiah PachecoKC46.139.7
James CookBUF52.442.1
Rachaad WhiteTB5439.2
Joe MixonHOU56.545.7
Kenneth Walker IIISEA62.954.6
Alvin KamaraNO6660.0
Aaron JonesMIN72.267.6
David MontgomeryDET7466.3
Rhamondre StevensonNE77.772.6

In 2022, there were 15 running backs in the dead zone, but that number has fallen to 12 in 2024, with more backs going later than ever before. As we can see in the table below, there were some moderate successes in this range but also some massive failures.

NameADPPositional ADPHalf-PPR PPGHalf-PPR RankHalf-PPR PPG RankDifference in PPG vs. ADP
Jahmyr Gibbs29RB914.8972
Rhamondre Stevenson33.9RB1010.63329-19
Travis Etienne Jr.36.8RB1115.1356
Joe Mixon37.4RB1213.6713-1
Breece Hall44.2RB1314.06103
Najee Harris44.4RB1410.02633-19
Aaron Jones49.2RB1510.34031-16
Kenneth Walker III49.9RB1612.620182
Dameon Pierce54.7RB175.95054-37
Jonathan Taylor57.7RB1813.435144
Alexander Mattison58.7RB197.7364425
JK Dobbins62.3RB2010.710328-8
James Cook65.2RB2112.810174
Miles Sanders70.9RB224.85361-39
Javonte Williams73.1RB239.23137-14

If we accept that the dead zone is a risky area of drafts that may reward us but also may let us down quite badly, we can build around this for running backs we deem worthy of drafting there.

2024 Dead Zone Running Backs Fantasy Football Outlook

Derrick Henry (RB – BAL)

Derrick Henry has faced 120 more 8-man boxes than the next nearest running back over the last three years. While that could work against Tennessee, two-time MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson ranked first in EPA against loaded boxes last year and will keep defenses more honest. Henry might be on the wrong side of 30 for a running back but he still hasn’t rushed for fewer than 4.2 yards per carry across any season of his career. He has also scored double-digit touchdowns in six straight years. If Henry can stay healthy it’s hard to imagine a world where he doesn’t come close to paying off his cost.

NFL defenders halfway through a game with Lamar Jackson & Derrick Henry in the same backfield: pic.twitter.com/s5fa2K2jwQ

— Sleeper (@SleeperHQ) March 12, 2024

Josh Jacobs (RB – GB)

Of all the dead zone running backs, Josh Jacobs could be viewed as the most mispriced. With competition only coming from possible camp-cut candidate A.J. Dillon and third-round rookie MarShawn Lloyd, Jacobs may continue to average over 20 touches per game as he did in 2023. Jacobs is an inefficient player with holes in his game, but sheer volume alone on an exciting offense could elevate him from the players around him in ADP.

Travis Etienne Jr. (RB – JAX)

The half-season warrior Travis Etienne has yet to put things together for an entire season. In 2022, Etienne averaged 14.0 points per game before averaging 10.2 the rest of the way. In 2023, Etienne again thrived over the opening half of the season, averaging 20.5 points in Weeks 1-8 before averaging 13.1 the rest of the season. Doug Pederson has talked about the importance of Tank Bigsby seizing a bigger role, and while it’s possible that allows Etienne to be more consistent, it might also reduce his ceiling somewhat.

Isiah Pacheco (RB – KC)

The Chiefs saw no reason to add to their running back room this offseason, with free agent Clyde Edwards-Helaire re-signed to a minimal deal and 32-year-old Jerick McKinnon still unsigned. Isiah Pacheco isn’t a perfect player, but he’s averaged over 4.6 yards per carry in both of his seasons and caught 44 receptions in 2024 — that’s a valuable amount for fantasy. Pacheco’s ceiling might be capped, but don’t be surprised if he climbs too close to the second round by September.

Where did Isiah Pacheco get a goat 😭

— PFF (@PFF) February 14, 2024

James Cook (RB – BUF)

Buffalo never seemed ready to turn the RB1 duties solely over to James Cook, using Latavius Murray around the goal line while keeping Cook fresh to create explosive plays in the open field. The biggest positives for Cook are that the receiving core has taken a backward step and will be less effective this year, meaning the running game might be required to have a bigger role. Also, Josh Allen is unlikely to rush for 15 touchdowns again, potentially freeing up more for Cook.

Rachaad White (RB – TB)

Outside of adding Bucky Irving, the Bucs left the RB position alone this offseason, giving Rachaad White another opportunity to be a solid fantasy asset after finishing as the RB9 in 2023. White had 60 receptions, the fourth-most among running backs last season. While he’s an inefficient runner, we can live with that if he continues to get the bulk of the work.

Joe Mixon (RB – HOU)

The Texans gave Devin Singletary 19.4 touches per game from Week 10 onwards last year but sought to upgrade from him to Joe Mixon when the option became available. Mixon has scored a combined 37 touchdowns in the last three seasons, making up for some of his inefficiency on the ground. As the sole option in Houston, that kind of return can continue in an ascending offense.

The time is now to go trade for Joe Mixon, according to @NFL_TStrack 👀 pic.twitter.com/BTA1De8G2W

— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) April 1, 2024

Kenneth Walker III (RB – SEA)

The Seahawks’ offense is quite a blank page for 2024 with a new offensive coordinator for the third time in three years, hiring Ryan Grubb away from the college game where he led Washington to the National Championship game. How that offense involves the running game will remain to be seen, but head coach Mike Macdonald has talked about wanting to make establishing the run a core philosophy. Coming from Baltimore it would make sense for him to believe in that. Kenneth Walker’s ceiling will likely be capped by Zach Charbonnet, but we know Walker can be an explosive player, so he’s worth mixing into your portfolio.

Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)

It felt like the window for Alvin Kamara to be fantasy-relevant was closing with him suspended for the first three games of 2023, potentially opening the door for rookie Kendre Miller and veteran Jamaal Williams, but neither earned a role within the offense and Kamara crushed it when he returned. Kamara was the RB6 in half-PPR and led the position with 75 catches. Kamara may continue to lead the trio, but word around New Orleans is they expect Miller to make a big leap this year, which could be trouble for Kamara.

Aaron Jones (RB – MIN)

The Packers moved on from Aaron Jones after looking to get younger at the position. It led to Jones landing with divisional rivals Minnesota very quickly. The Vikings need better running back play after a miserable year from Alexander Mattison. Jones should be able to provide that. The biggest question is whether he can hold up after multiple hamstring issues caused him to only play 10 games in 2023. At age 29, the cliff edge could arrive very quickly.

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2024 Dead Zone Running Backs: Fantasy Football Draft Outlook (2)

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2024 Dead Zone Running Backs: Fantasy Football Draft Outlook (2024)


2024 Dead Zone Running Backs: Fantasy Football Draft Outlook? ›

Christian McCaffrey is expected to be the top pick at running back — and the No. 1 overall pick, in general — for fantasy purposes. No surprise there, especially if he (hopefully) stays healthy throughout training camp.

Who is the best RB for 2024 fantasy football? ›

Christian McCaffrey

Who should I draft as a RB for fantasy? ›

2024 PPR running back rankings
Rank, PlayerBowenDopp
1. Christian McCaffrey, SF11
2. Breece Hall, NYJQ32
3. Bijan Robinson, AtlQ23
4. Jonathan Taylor, Ind54
37 more rows
Apr 29, 2024

Who is projected to be the best fantasy running back? ›

Christian McCaffrey is expected to be the top pick at running back — and the No. 1 overall pick, in general — for fantasy purposes. No surprise there, especially if he (hopefully) stays healthy throughout training camp.

What is rbs in fantasy football? ›

Only running back carries are accounted for, leaving out quarterback and wide receiver rushing attempts. RB1 and RB2 are meant to highlight what the top running backs on each team averaged in carries per week and are not assigned to one specific player, just the back with the most carries each week.

Who is the RB1 in fantasy right now? ›

Player Rankings
RankPlayerNFL Fantasy Experts
1Christian McCaffrey RB - SF1
2Breece Hall RB - NYJ2
3Bijan Robinson RB - ATL3
4Jonathan Taylor RB - IND4
76 more rows

Should you have more RB or WR in fantasy? ›

Conclusion: I will reference the inciting question, "Do Wide Receivers score more points than Running Backs in Fantasy Football", and conlcude that the answer is yes, Wide Receivers definitively score more points than Running Backs. There is more than sufficient evidence that backs the validity of my conclusion.

What is anchor RB strategy? ›

Akin to ships at sea trying to moor themselves in a storm, the “Anchor RB” strategy is centered around selecting a foundational player at the position to “anchor” your core before focusing on high-end receivers for the following several selections, before eventually closing out the draft with one or two more RBs after ...

Who has the most fantasy points as a RB? ›

The Most Fantasy Points in a Game All-Time
  1. Clinton Portis, RB — 55.4 Points. The most fantasy points in a game might not be a household name, but nevertheless, a solid running back by all accounts. ...
  2. Alvin Kamara, RB — 53.2 Points. ...
  3. Shaun Alexander, RB — 53.1 Points. ...
  4. Jerry Rice, WR — 52.5 Points. ...
  5. Corey Dillon, RB — 51.6 Points.
May 22, 2023

Who is the best running back in the NFL history? ›

Top 10 NFL running backs of all-time from Adrian Peterson to Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton ranked after Chiefs' Super Bowl
  • Adrian Peterson. ...
  • Gale Sayers. ...
  • LaDainian Tomlinson. ...
  • Eric Dickerson. ...
  • Jim Brown. ...
  • Barry Sanders. ...
  • Walter Payton. ...
  • Emmitt Smith. Brown changed the way that running backs were viewed.
Feb 6, 2024

Who are the best fantasy football predictors? ›

Who are the best fantasy football predictors? The best fantasy football predictors are Draft Sharks. They've won multiple accuracy awards since 1999 – including the Multi-Year Projection Accuracy Award from Fantasy Pros. That's a competition that measures player prediction accuracy over 3 seasons.

What NFL team gives up the most fantasy points to running backs? ›

The Arizona Cardinals have allowed the most points by a team, with 112,042 points.

Who is the best RB in Week 16 fantasy? ›

Week 16 Running Back Rankings
  • Christian McCaffrey vs. BAL.
  • Bijan Robinson vs. IND.
  • Rachaad White vs. JAX.
  • Jahmyr Gibbs @MIN.
  • Raheem Mostert vs. DAL.
  • Jonathan Taylor @ATL.
  • Travis Etienne @TB.
  • Tony Pollard @MIA.
Dec 24, 2023

What makes an RB1? ›

On average, four running backs under 24 years old make it to RB1 level status. In 2022, there was no running back under 24 to make it as an RB1. The number is the lowest since 2019, and we've seen plenty of years where that number has been as high as five, six, and seven over the last eight seasons.

What does RB 3 mean? ›


Technically, RB2 guys are the last ones you want to start on a regular basis. A RB3 would be someone you expect to keep on the bench for a stretch — a new rookie perhaps. If they end up making waves and parting seas to the endzone, you could move them into your starting lineup.

What is RB1 vs RB2? ›

RB1, RB2: In a 10-team league, an RB1 is a running back who ranks as a top-10 option, while an RB2 is ranked from 11-20 at the position. RBBC (running back by committee): A backfield where two or more running backs share the workload, rather than when there is a featured back, who garners the majority of the workload.

What RB has the most career rushing? ›

Emmitt Smith is the all-time rushing leader of the National Football League (NFL) with 18,355 career rushing yards. The running back, who spent the majority of his 15-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, became the all-time leader rusher in the NFL in the 2002 season.

What is the standard draft in fantasy football? ›

A Standard draft follows a "snake" drafting order. This means that once each team makes a pick, the draft order is reversed in the next round. Each team drafts a player when they are on the clock. In a Salary Cap draft, players are nominated in a "linear" order.

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