Week 16 is upon us and by most of every fantasy league are out of the playoffs. But the NFL is still on and there are notable changes coming down the road worth thinking about because players changing teams is where a significant amount of fantasy value lies – there’s no way to know just how a player will produce on a new team and the inclination is to undervalue them.
The 2019 draft class proved to be even more RB-rich than expected and most are finishing up their rookie contracts.
Let’s take a quick look at the pending free agents running backs when the NFL’s 2023 season starts on Wednesday, March 15 at 4 p.m. ET. Some will be signed by their own teams, but most likely head on to new teams. Here are my Top-6 running back free agents.
1.) Josh Jacobs (LV) – The Raiders declined his fifth-year option – oops – and the 25-year-old rusher hits the market red-hot. He is currently the leading rusher in the NFL and became a workhorse in a Josh McDaniels offense that historically used committees. The ex-Alabama back spent his first three seasons as good and never great. This season he’s on pace for 2,250 total yards and 13 touchdowns. The Raiders may want to re-sign him but can they afford it? He’ll be the hottest fantasy-related free agent in the spring.
2.) Saquon Barkley (NYG) – The Giants did use their fifth-year option on the star pick in 2018 and now that is up. Barkley’s done himself a giant favor by finally blowing up after two down years marred by injuries. He’s on pace to match his monster rookie season that held 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns. The players are buying into HC Brian Daboll’s offense, but Barkley is arguably the only weapon there and the team has many other needs. He is only 25 years old and appears to have shaken the injury curse of 2020 and 2021. He’ll command a high price since the durability argument is harder to make now that he is healthy and productive in the middle of a mediocre team.
3.) Miles Sanders (PHI) – Another 2019 draftee finishes up his rookie contract and as a second-rounder, there was no fifth-year option. And like his classmates, he’s saved the best for last. Sanders never rushed for more than 867 yards or totaled more than 1,327 yards. He’s already rushed for 1,110 and totals 1,182 yards with three games left to play. He’s been solid but stuck in a committee backfield that hasn’t often given him the work of a true full-time back. He’s been busier this year, but still only logged two games with more than 18 carries. He can be a full-time back or fit into a committee elsewhere.
4.) Tony Pollard (DAL) – The fourth-rounder from 2019 supplied the No. 2 role behind Ezekiel Elliott until this year when the Cowboys have the No. 1 fantasy backfield and Pollard is 1B to Elliott’s 1A. Or is that reversed? Elliott is signed through 2026 but 2023 is the first season they have a potential out. Pollard will attract plenty of attention if he reaches free agency but the Cowboys may end up sticking with the younger Pollard and releasing Elliott. The only thing that is certain is that whoever owns him next season will be paying him more than the $797,000 that he cost the Cowboys this year.
5.) David Montgomery (CHI) – The third-rounder from 2019 reaches the end of his rookie contract. He’s ending this year with roughly where he lands in most seasons – about 1,100 total yards and seven scores. He’s been saddled with arguably the worst offensive line for the last four seasons and he brings receiving skills as well. Montgomery hasn’t played in a stable offense during his time in Chicago, but has shown enough that he’ll draw interest if the Bears elect to let him go. The Bears are perpetually rebuilding and have Khalil Herbert, so they may let him go.
6.) Devin Singletary (BUF) – Another third-rounder from 2019, Singletary has been a member of a committee for all four years and that’s ended with around 750 rushing yards and 250 receiving yards with four or five touchdowns each year. He has remained the primary back, such as it is in Buffalo, but the Bills added James Cook in the second round last April as a younger version of Singletary. The position rarely rates higher than an RB3 but it is a powerful offense and any starter has fantasy value. If Singletary leaves, he’ll join another committee while Cook likely gets a younger No. 2 behind him.
Other 2023 free agent running backs: Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams, Raheem Mostert, D’Onta Foreman, Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson, James Robinson, Damien Harris, Latavius Murray.