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Running backs to consider fading in 2023 fantasy football drafts

We take a look at running backs to avoid in your fantasy football drafts for the 2023 NFL season.

Rhamondre Stevenson of the New England Patriots runs the ball during the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

Drafting correctly at running back can make or break your fantasy football season. Every year, managers employ different strategies and one of the more popular and polarizing is ZeroRB. That would mean you fade the top backs and look to acquire your RB1 and 2 later in the draft after the first 8-10 rounds or so. That means a full-out fade of most of the top backs. Here we’re going to look at some backs to fade in the draft, not necessarily if you’re doing ZeroRB, but based on where they’re being selected and their situation.

Fantasy football 2023: RBs to fade

Holdouts and trade requests

It feels important to go over the risk of some top backs who are holding out during camp or have requested a trade. Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor and Las Vegas Raiders RB Josh Jacobs are both in this category. Taylor wants out of Indy and we’re unsure when and if that will happen. Jacobs wants a contract extension and could also be traded before the season begins. The risk is them holding out into the season and missing games. Both players are being drafted among the top-10 RBs in fantasy drafts. So this isn’t to say you should fade them, but if there isn’t any resolution before your draft, proceed with caution.

Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots

Stevenson is being drafted just outside the top-10 RBs after finishing 2022 as RB14 for the Pats. New England doesn’t look much better on offense and the team is rumored to be interested in FA backs Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott. If one of those vets is brought in, that immediately drops Stevenson’s stock. Even if it doesn’t happen, the Patriots likely won’t sport an offense that helps Stevenson get into the top-12 among fantasy RBs. It also feels like Stevenson won’t be able to replicate his production in the passing game from last year. He had 88 targets and 69 receptions for 421 yards and a TD. Again, if Zeke or another back is brought in, Stevenson could be nothing more than a passing-down specialist, lose carries and not see the end zone much on a bad offense.

James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

If you look at some of the rankings on your fantasy football draft website, you’ll see Conner among the top-25 RBs. If you look behind Conner, you’ll see a lot of players who are much better than Conner. A lot of that has to do with the Cardinals outlook for 2023. Kyler Murray is out and may miss most of the season. Arizona’s O/U for wins is set at 4.5 and the under is at -120. If the Cardinals are that bad, you can’t count on 1. Conner to score much and 2. the team to be in a position to run the ball 20-30 times a game. Conner is also 28 years old and usually misses a few games a season. It just doesn’t feel like there’s any upside to Conner compared to some other backs in his range.