How to Pick the Best DFS Running Back (RB): 2023 Guide


Finding a competent running back for 2023 is all about finding a RB that sees a ton of volume. Opportunities will be more important for a running back than just about any other factor, especially if they’re getting touches in the red zone. Oftentimes a runner will receive even more opportunities when his team is ahead, so paying attention to game script will ensure you’re able to find a running back that will get touches late into the game.

Few DFS running backs can foreseeably deliver big time value each week. That’s why the pros often pay up for a consistent marquee back.

Fortunately, rushing performance is more predictable than performance at other positions — especially when you choose one of the NFL’s elite backs. Why? Because a top player’s volume is one of the most predictable aspects of daily fantasy football.

Scoring for DFS Running Backs

We’ll begin with how RBs score points.



Per Rushing Yard



Per Receiving Yard






Any TD



100+ Yards Rushing



100+ Yards Receiving






Two Point Conversion



Core DFS Running Back Strategies

  • Touches are opportunities, and opportunity ([PrjO]) is the #1 factor for RB fantasy points
    • The number of touches is even more important than the matchup.
    • Look at the last four games to assess touches. Make sure the player’s snaps are not trending downward.
    • If you can afford it, look for 25+ opportunities per game. There’s just a few of them and they’re worth paying up for, whether you’re playing a cash game or GPP.
    • Avoid RBs with less than 15 projected touches unless they are exceptional values.
    • If you’re going to pay up, you ideally want a running back who gets at least 3 out of 4 team carries ( [RushShrL4] > 75% ).
  • Another key factor is yards per rushing attempt( [PFFYpaRushingSummary] ).
    • Elite power runners average over 5 yards per carry.
    • Just don’t get fooled by backs who break off a few long runs but average less than 4 yards per carry otherwise.
    • When assessing yards per attempt, also consider a back’s ability to break off for long runs ( [PFFBreakawayPercent] ). You ideally want to see this number above 20%.
    • Warning: In some ways, yards per carry is over-rated. Different running backs, for example, get the ball in specific situations. A goal-line back’s yards per carry may never be high, yet he could have far more fantasy value due to his scoring probability.
  • Always consider the likely game script.
    • Running backs on strong offenses get plenty of late-game carries. The reason is simple: Teams run more when they’re ahead in order to protect the ball and run the clock down.
    • According to, teams rush almost half the time when leading and only one-third of the time when behind.
    • Depending on the season, only about 35% of rushing touchdowns are scored by a team that is behind.
    • The last thing you want, especially in a cash game, is your RB sitting on the bench in the second half because his team is down 2+ scores. If you’re RB isn’t a 3-down back who catches passes, make 100% sure he’s facing a favorable game script.
  • Give weight to RBs with a higher-than-average number of red zone opportunities ( [RedZnOppsL4] ).
    • Red zone carries matter. Almost 9 in 10 rushing touchdowns occur when the RB is in the red zone.
    • Two-thirds of rushing touchdowns start from the 5 yard line or less.
    • Touchdowns are worth 60 yards of rushing, making them highly necessary. Make sure your back gets carries in the red zone.
    • You want to see running backs get over half the available touches in the red zone.
    • And in case it wasn’t obvious, red zone rushes are more common when a team is ahead. Hence, the importance of game script.
  • Try to steer clear of RBs that appear on the injury report, especially if due to a lower body injury and especially if in a cash game. Even if they play, history shows that their performance generally suffers.
  • Being a home favourite is correlated with superior DFS RB performance.
    • When teams are behind, they throw the ball much more. It’s no surprise then that home faves get more touches.
    • Look for RBs where the team is a home favorite by more than 3 points.
  • Pass-catching RBs are extra valuable on DraftKings with its 1-point-per-reception format. In fact, targets are better than rushes.
    • Pass-catching backs are more consistent because they don’t depend on positive game flow as much as non-targeted backs. A pass-catching RB like D’Andre Swift can rack up points even if the Lions are getting hammered.
    • Expected game flow is key when evaluating any RB, especially those backs who don’t play every snap.
      • For example, 3rd down backs that catch passes can get a lot of work when a team is trailing. In fact, these lower profile pass-catching RBs can be great GPP values if they’re cheap enough.
      • Fun Fact: The number of targets per game that a receiver got in his prior season has a 0.70 correlation with the number he’ll get in his current season, according to past data from That’s a dramatically higher correlation than yards per carry (0.17), and slightly higher than rushing attempts per game (0.67).
  • Pro Tip: Look for cheap talented 2nd string RBs that project 15+ opportunities and are filling in for the injured starter. (See NFL Fantasy Football Injuries). If the price is attractive, they’re usually worth taking. If the RB is forecast for 15+ carries at a near minimum salary, he’s often a must-start—even if he’s highly owned.

Vegas Odds and DFS Running Back Selection

  • A big point spread ( [Spread] ), like -7, implies significantly more production from the running back position.
  • Conversely, if a team is a big dog, you better have a damned good reason to make an exception and pick a back on that team.

Stack Considerations

  • If you can help it, and barring a huge expected blowout, avoid starting a running back and wide receiver on the same team.
  • Stacking a good running back with a top defense (on the same team) can make logical sense.

Cash Game Running Back Considerations

  • Running back production is more consistent than receiver production from game to game. That makes RBs valuable in the flex position of cash games (head-to-head or 50/50 contests). They tend to get more opportunities than cheap WRs of the same price.
  • Statistically speaking, you should avoid RBs who are away underdogs, particularly in cash games.
  • Optimal running back selection varies depending on whether you play on DraftKings or FanDuel. Avoid RBs with few goal-line touches in FanDuel cash games.

GPP Running Back Considerations

  • To have any hope of winning a GPP, you must hit big on your RB1.
  • Pro GPP players are successful, in part, because they locate cheap RB2 production.
  • In tournament play, you want RBs with high ceilings ( [CeilingL4] ).
  • Large GPPs are essentially lotteries, albeit skill-based lotteries (if that’s a thing). Winning them requires you to take risks and go against the grain. But if you have to side with the crown and play the chalk, running back is the position to do it.
  • Stacking a QB and pass-receiving RB can make sense.
    • The best QBs tend to get ahead and hand off to their RB more, later in the game. That may not be great for a quarterback’s passing stats, but it’ll be a nice boost for any 3-down back. Of course, those late QB passing yard losses should be offset by multiple targets to the RB earlier in the game.
    • The QB/pass-catching-RB stack offers respectable correlation, albeit nowhere as good as stacking a QB with his top wide receiver.
  • Draftkings awards three bonus points for 100+ yard rushing games. That gives slight extra value to top-notch RBs if they exceed 100 yards regularly.
    • Look for RBs that have a higher chance of getting the 3 bonus points for 100+ yards of rushing.
      • 55% of the time, 100-yard rushers are on favourites.
      • But, almost 80% of the time, RBs that hit the 100 yard mark were from winning teams, according to Fantasy Football Consultants.
    • Look for teams that are 4-point favourites or more. Statistically, the chances of winning a game are materially lower if a team is favored by 3.5 or less.
    • Scan the [YardsL10] field to see how many 100-yard-rushing games a player had in his last 10 games.
  • Pro Tip: Stacking RB and DST on 4-point faves is a viable stack in GPP.

Other DFS RB Selection Criteria

  • It may seem obvious but having an offensive line that creates “open area” for the runner is essential, research finds.
    • Data from the NFL Big Data Bowl, as cited by Football Outsiders, suggests that “the results of a running play can be almost entirely predicted using the movement of the blockers and defenders.” Who the running back is, matters far less.
    • The [PFFRBLK] field gives you a good sense for how proficient an offensive line is at run blocking.
    • Favor RBs on teams with an above average run blocking. A talented RB can be held back by a weak offensive line.
    • Tip: Leverage PFF’s stats to compare a running back’s RBLK (run blocking) grade to the defense’s RDEF (run defense) grade to create your own matchup. (Don’t forget to check if any key D-line or linebackers are missing.)
  • All running backs are fast but some are just freaks (case in point). That’s a key factor — because the single greatest factor determining yards gained on a run play is “effective acceleration,” according to research from Harvard’s Matt Ploenzke.
    • Players who reach their fastest speed quicker (e.g., Alvin Kamara) tend to rack up more yards per play.
  • Strategy varies slightly by DFS site:
    • In DraftKings, the PPR format means you can generate points via passing.
    • In Fanduel a touchdown scoring RB who gets goal line carries is usually more valuable.
  • For an extra boost, find a running back with 3+ receptions in their last 3 of 4 games, or a median number of receptions ( [MedRecL4] ) of 2 or more in the last 4 games.
  • RB is one of few positions where great performance in a game is somewhat correlated with great performance in the next game.
  • Rushing defense ( [PFFRUND] )is a factor, but not a top factor. RBs hit value more consistently if facing a below-average rushing defense but that shouldn’t be your main consideration. Remember, weak defenses are already baked into the price of an RB.
  • Consider the defense’s pass stopping ability ( [PFFPRSH] and [PFFCOV] ) as well. When facing a top notch pass defender, a team will have to run the ball more, a positive for running back production.
  • Value can also be found in RBs who get less carries but do more with the ball.
    • Yards after contact per attempt ( [PFFYcoAttempt] ) shows how slippery and productive a RB can be after he clears the offensive line.
  • When it comes to weather, heavy snow, heavy wind or heavy rain are the only weather worth caring about. These elements make coaches more conservative, in which case they run the ball more. These elements also lead to more receptions for a running back.
    • Pro Tip: Many people avoid these games so RB ownership is lower, a consideration for big GPP tourneys.

DFS Running Back Fades

  • Don’t over-focus on trying to find big play running backs. Runs over 20 yards happen less than once per game.
  • Running backs have a higher injury rate than other players. That makes it a bit less risky to fade a highly-owned running back, relative to other positions.

Best Value RB Plays from Latest Season



Fantasy Points


Joe Mixon  I  CIN, Week 9




Cam Akers  I  LAR, Week 16




Josh Jacobs  I  LV, Week 4