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Factoid

Changing of the guard

Running backs dominate the action early in free agency

These initial days of free agency serve as a reminder that change can come quickly at running back. With injuries being common, players wearing out faster and teams reluctant to get caught in bad contracts, there’s more shuffling at this position.

Consider the chart below. It shows the top 20 running backs from the 2022 season. Of the top 13 players on the list, only two are still under contract with the team that held their rights two years ago at this time. And one of those guys (Nick Chubb) is overpriced as he comes back from a major knee injury, creating the potential he could be released if he doesn’t agree to restructure his contract. So of the top 13, Rhamondre Stevenson is the only truly entrenched guy.

Five other players in the top 20 are still under contract with the same team, but one of those guys also has a bad contract. (Alvin Kamara isn’t the player he was in the past, and the Saints are likely trying to figure out how best to get rid of him and his contract.)

Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard and Saquon Barkley were all franchise tagged a year ago. They’ve signed with new teams now, as have Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones. Christian McCaffrey and Joe Mixon, meanwhile, have been traded (McCaffrey started the 2022 season with Carolina before being shipped to San Francisco.)

D'Andre Swift, Antonio Gibson, Gus Edwards and Devin Singletary didn’t finish with top-20 numbers two years ago but have also signed contracts with new teams.

For fantasy purposes, it’s something to keep in mind in dynasty leagues. When mulling whether to select a running back, best not to get too concerned about him being seemingly blocked on the depth chart by a veteran. At this position, lineups don’t tend to stay the same for long.

TOP-20 RUNNING BACKS FROM 2022
PlayerYardsTDPPR'22'24
Austin Ekeler163718378.7LACWas.
Christian McCaffrey188013356.7Car.S.F.
Josh Jacobs205312330.3L.V.G.B.
Derrick Henry193613308.8Ten.Balt.
Saquon Barkley165010284.0NYGPhil.
Nick Chubb176413283.4Cle.Cle.
Aaron Jones15167254.6G.B.Min.
Rhamondre Stevenson14616251.1N.E.N.E.
Tony Pollard137812248.8Dall.Ten.
Dalvin Cook146810245.8Min.FA
Joe Mixon12559239.5Cin.Hou.
Jamaal Williams113917229.9Det.N.O.
Leonard Fournette11916228.1T.B.FA
Najee Harris126310227.5Pitt.Pitt.
Miles Sanders134711220.7Phil.Car.
Alvin Kamara13874219.7N.O.N.O.
Travis Etienne14415211.1Jac.Jac.
Kenneth Walker12159202.5Sea.Sea.
James Conner10828202.2Ari.Ari.
Jerick McKinnon80310198.3K.C.FA

—Ian Allan

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