Fantasy Football 2023 Draft Coverage: High-Risk, High Reward Running Backs
There are a lot of boom-or-bust players in fantasy football. However, these aren't your typical guys who are boom or bust from week to week. These are high-risk, high-reward guys. They have the upside to be league winners, nonetheless, they come with the risk that they can be essentially useless for you in 2023. We will be covering each position, now we're on to the running backs.
High-Risk, High-Reward Running Backs
D'Andre Swift, Philadelphia Eagles
The 2023 NFL Draft was a whirlwind weekend for Swift and his fantasy owners. Early in the first night the Detroit Lions selected running back Jahmyr Gibbs and sent the fantasy world into chaos. This was a move no one saw coming. Swift owners immediately panicked and began to sell their shares of the talented young back while others saw an opportunity to buy low. The next night the Lions followed suit and traded Swift to the Eagles. There were plenty of upset sellers and happy buyers now that Swift's situation had shifted. Questions still surround Swift and his fantasy value though. His durability and workload are still very much in question.
During his time in Detroit Swift showed flashes of brilliance with an ability to be an electric runner and an outstanding pass-catcher. He kicked off the season last year with 15 carries for 144 yards, three receptions for 31 yards, and one touchdown. He was everything we expected him to be coming out of college. Then the workload immediately became a concern again as it seemed the Lions just didn't want to use him. He never saw 15 carries again and finished the season with just 99 total carries in 14 games. Those 14 games were a career-high as he has missed time in all three seasons of his young career. The assumption is his reps were limited because the team wanted to keep him fresh, but this felt like overkill. He only saw double-digit carries in three games and was great for fantasy owners in all three totaling 403 yards from scrimmage and four TDs on 40 carries and 13 receptions. Still, the coaching staff never seemed to buy in.
Now he is in Philly in another crowded backfield much like the one he shared with Jamaal Williams in Detroit. The questions of whether can he stay healthy and how many touches will he see still linger. Both the upside and the risk still remain. We view this as an incredible buy-low opportunity. The primary back he is competing with for touches is Rashaad Penny who we would be surprised if he plays much more than a quarter of the season. Injuries have plagued him his whole career and limited him to 42 games and 337 carries in five years. He is also limited as a pass-catching threat. Swift will at some point be the clear RB1 behind the best offensive line in football with massive PPR upside this season. The risk definitely looms, but he is well worth the reward this year.
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
We all know what Kamara is capable of. We have seen him be an absolute game-changer over the course of his career. Even as his production has declined a bit after the departure of Drew Brees, he still has shown the ability to win you a week or carry your team for a stretch. At no point has he ever failed to hit 1,000 scrimmage yards in a season in his career and he scores TDs in bunches. However, last year his numbers were down as he scored just four total TDs and saw his receptions fall well below expectations for the second year in a row. His 57 receptions were solid for most backs, but less than we had come to expect from him.
On top of a potential decline, there is a suspension looming for an assault that was caught on video. He'll still be just 28 this season so you can make an argument he's still got it physically. The fact that he's likely to miss at least six games this year is a massive concern. If you acquire Kamara right whether it be through trade or draft, you run a serious risk that you could be without him for a long stretch of the season. Not every team can survive that kind of loss and we aren't sure he'll be worth the wait when he returns. This may be due to a physical decline or a decline in situation. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. He either produces or doesn't.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Cook is another long-time fantasy star who has seen a bit of decline and has health concerns. That isn't what we are going to focus on though. We can accept that he has shoulder issues and isn't quite what he was in his prime. The bigger issue here is we don't know where he's going to be playing this season. The writing has been on the wall all offseason and it's surprising he's still with the Vikings now. It would be a complete shock if he was still in Minnesota come Week 1. The assumption is he will at some point be let go or traded and the primary destinations seem to be Miami or Buffalo. It's tough to have full confidence in a guy when you don't know where he's going to be playing. We've seen him in Minnesota for years so fantasy owners are comfortable with him there. If he headed to Miami they have an explosive offense but do tend to spread the ball around a lot. The Bills haven't been able to get their rushing attack going for years and their QB steals a lot of TDs, but that could be because they haven't had that guy in the backfield. These are just some of the questions that are hanging over Cook this offseason, but at the end of the day, we know he has the talent to be a superstar.