With another fantasy football season behind us, many will be looking back at their drafts wishing they could make that one change that could’ve put them above the rest. Hindsight is always 20/20 and we are using it to award the top fantasy running backs in five different categories.
Let’s take a look at the awards at the running back position this year: most valuable player, biggest bust, waiver wire winner, best value pick and best 2023 fantasy football keeper pick.
MVP: awarded to the player that finished with the most fantasy points and brought the most consistent value to his fantasy managers throughout the season.
Biggest Bust: awarded to the player that was touted as a top fantasy football option entering the season but ultimately did not produce enough to support his high ADP.
Waiver Wire Winner: awarded to the player that either had a very late ADP or went undrafted in the majority of fantasy football leagues that emerged on the waiver wire during the season and provided excellent value for fantasy managers.
Best Value Pick: awarded to the player that finished the season much higher than their initial ADP indicated but still was regarded high enough that they were rostered on most fantasy squads. In other words, the biggest steal.
Best 2023 Fantasy Football Keeper: awarded to the player that, based on his ADP and season production, would be the best option for keeper leagues next year. We are assuming you get to keep this player in the round they were drafted.
Fantasy Football Awards
Fantasy Football Awards 2022 | Running Backs
Fantasy Football MVP: Austin Ekeler, Chargers
Since 2019, Austin Ekeler has given fantasy players the highest ceiling of any running back in the NFL. With most leagues being either PPR or half-PPR, Ekeler’s heavy usage in the passing game makes him one of the few elite options every year. The only question surrounding Ekeler this season was his durability. While he only missed one game during the 2021 fantasy season, many were worried he would be hobbled as he was in a 2020 season that saw him play just 10 games.
Austin Ekeler stayed healthy all season and played every game. As a result, it was of no surprise to any when he finished the season as the top running back in fantasy in both PPR and half-PPR. Even in standard-scoring leagues, Ekeler was RB4, making him the obvious choice for fantasy football MVP amongst RBs.
Biggest Bust: Jonathan Taylor, Colts
Just like the pick for MVP, the pick for the biggest bust is also obvious. Coming into the year, few had Jonathan Taylor making it to the second pick. Taylor was expected to run wild on the opposition again, but instead he fell flat.
Taylor finished as RB33 in PPR, RB34 in half-PPR and RB36 in standard leagues. To put into perspective just how bad of a finish that is, the running backs with an ADP (average draft position) around that range coming into the year included: Melvin Gordon, James Cook and Devin Singletary, among others.
While Taylor did miss the last three weeks due to injury in fairness, he produced 20 or more points just twice in his previous 10 games. Add in the fact that he was hurt early in Week 15, which was the first round of the playoffs for many leagues, and it’s clear that Taylor was the biggest miss this year. This isn’t to say the lack of production was his fault, but the lack of production was there.
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Waiver Wire Winner: Jerick McKinnon, Chiefs
Those who have been playing fantasy football for a few years will remember how much everyone salivated over Jerick McKinnon in 2018 after he finally departed the Minnesota Vikings and looked like a solid option for the San Francisco 49ers. Instead, injuries kept him out of action for two years and McKinnon struggled to get much going in the 2020 or 2021 fantasy seasons.
After having an ADP of RB63 and 210th overall, many were expecting more of the same from McKinnon. Through the first 12 weeks, those who slept on McKinnon were right. Starting in Week 13, however, McKinnon exploded into a must-start RB1.
From Weeks 13-17, McKinnon averaged 20.7 fantasy points per week in half-PPR, finishing as a top-six fantasy football running back in three of those five weeks. With most leagues having their playoffs within that stretch, McKinnon likely won a lot of leagues, and with it, he wins the award for best waiver wire pickup.
Best Value Pick: Josh Jacobs, Raiders
Although Rhamondre Stevenson would’ve very easily won this award almost any other year, Josh Jacobs is clearly deserving of this award. Josh Jacobs finished as RB1 in standard leagues and RB3 in both PPR and half-PPR leagues. Jacobs was one of the most consistent backs in the league and, although he faltered in the fantasy playoffs, he was likely the reason many teams were even there to begin with.
Josh Jacobs was a top-10 weekly running back in nine weeks this season, with five of those weeks ending in top-three finishes. Even more impressive, Jacobs was drafted as RB23, or around 47th overall. When others were taking Elijah Mitchell, AJ Dillon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Josh Jacobs was waiting to produce the best fantasy football season of his career. With that, Jacobs more than earns the award for best value pick.
Best 2023 Fantasy Football Keeper: Jamaal Williams, Lions
Coming into this season, not many had Jamaal Williams in mind outside of a late lottery ticket. Well, except for us at FlurrySports, especially in best ball. It didn’t take long for Williams to prove his worth and quickly become one of the top options at running back in the league, even while he was in a committee with D’Andre Swift. Williams was RB7 in standard, RB8 in half-PPR and RB13 in PPR leagues.
Although Williams is touchdown-dependent and struggled in the fantasy playoffs, he has tremendous value in keeper leagues. Williams was drafted as RB50 and around 120th overall. This means he was drafted in or around Rounds 10-12. Williams has a firm grasp of the majority of touches in the red zone.
While Swift is a solid running back as well, the production of Jamaal Williams is all but impossible to find in the late rounds every year. With the Detroit Lions also likely improving as a team again next year, they should be in positions where they need to burn the clock late in the game, only improving the stock of Jamaal Williams.