Fantasy Football rest-of-season RB rankings: Christian McCaffrey remains No. 1

Every so often it's important to do a Shuffle Up, to re-rank players as if the draft were happening today.

The draft salaries you see are unscientific in nature, more gut feel than anything although it's also a mix of observational and data analysis. Players at the same salary are considered even. The idea is to show how the players relate to one another in tiers, where talent clusters and where it drops off.

Disagreements? Good. That's why we have a game. I welcome your respectful commentary at @scott_pianowski.

*Players with an asterisk indicate injury.

The Big Tickets

$44 Christian McCaffrey

$39 Travis Etienne Jr.

$39 Jonathan Taylor

$38 Kenneth Walker III

$38 Bijan Robinson

$38 Breece Hall

$37 Tony Pollard

$37 Austin Ekeler

$37 Alvin Kamara

$36 Saquon Barkley

  • McCaffrey is breaking fantasy through seven weeks, and although he carries obvious injury risk, you can say that about anyone at this position. McCaffrey's played 18 games with the 49ers, racking up 2,036 yards from scrimmage, 78 catches and 21 touchdowns. He's the biggest cheat code in the league.

  • Etienne underscores how important volume and role are to a fantasy back's value. His rushing and receiving efficiency have both dropped significantly (and he's down 1.1 yards per touch from last year), but he leads the NFL in carries, and he's bumped up his receiving volume by about 45%. There's no one pushing for his work; Etienne is one of the last remaining bell cows.

  • That volume/efficiency chat from the Etienne blurb also applies to Kamara, who's caught an absurd 35 passes through four games. These plays are not beating anyone — he's making just 5.1 YPR on those receptions — but they're keeping Kamara in good fantasy stead, despite the worst per-touch numbers of his career. Derek Carr's limitations help to feed Kamara's bottom line.

  • Hall survived everything he needed to for those opening six weeks — a horrendous schedule and the Jets oddly bringing in Dalvin Cook. New York steered into Hall over the last two games (42 touches), and the second-half schedule is much easier, even if the Browns lie in wait for Week 17.

  • Eventually, I expect Taylor to become the heavier side of something close to a 70-30 split in Indianapolis. I also trust Shane Steichen's schemes and Gardner Minshew is more willing to throw to his backs than Anthony Richardson was.

  • Hopefully, Ekeler can get rolling by playoff time, when the schedule comes together nicely. In Weeks 15-17, the Chargers draw the Raiders, Bills (down key run-stopping personnel) and Broncos (Yahtzee!).

Legitimate Building Blocks

$32 Derrick Henry

$31 D'Andre Swift

$31 Isiah Pacheco

$31 Aaron Jones

$30 Josh Jacobs

$27 Joe Mixon

$26 Raheem Mostert

$25 *David Montgomery

$25 Jahmyr Gibbs

$24 *Kyren Williams

$23 Rhamondre Stevenson

$23 James Cook

$23 *De'Von Achane

  • Henry is one of the big names at the trade deadline, though not many of the prime contenders have a glaring need at running back. Baltimore jumps to the head of the line, but in the past, the Ravens have generally been frugal at this position. Henry managers know "anywhere but here" is the best landing spot for their back, given how broken the Titans' offense looks right now.

  • Pacheco is another back trading efficiency for volume, though his limited-time efficiency was so good as a rookie, it was unrealistic to expect him to maintain it in a bigger role. Pacheco has double-digit touches in seven straight weeks (only six backs can say that, though byes muck it up a little), and he's also offering a fair amount of touchdown equity (four in his last five games). It would be a stretch to call Pacheco a home-run pick, but he's definitely out-kicking his ADP.

  • There's no fully satisfying answer on Mostert. He's fun, often electric, when he's on the field. It's probably a mistake to expect a full season from him. The offense is generally a fun zone — even if Miami has struggled against some of its stronger opponents — and the backfield isn't really as crowded as you might think. I get trying to trade Mostert while his seasonal rank is high, but it might be difficult to find a fully invested trade partner. Some players feel like forced holds.

Talk Them Up, Talk Them Down

$21 Brian Robinson Jr.

$21 Javonte Williams

$20 Dameon Pierce

$18 Alexander Mattison

$17 *James Conner

$16 *Jerome Ford

$16 Najee Harris

$15 Rachaad White

$12 Gus Edwards

  • As bad as the runout has been for Pierce, the Texans have been playing behind a makeshift offensive line most of the year. Houston plays its first game post-bye this week, which should reveal a lot about where Pierce is headed for the balance of 2023.

  • Arizona's offense is below average but Conner should step into a full-time role as soon as he's activated, and perhaps the eventual arrival of Kyler Murray will help the offense's buoyancy.

  • Edwards always gives you something; he just rarely blows up. He's had double-digit touches in five straight games. But he's still stuck on two touchdowns for the year, and he's only caught four passes (including last week's miracle, an 80-yard catch-and-run). J.K. Dobbins was injured in the season opener; since then, Edwards has been the RB18, RB42, RB38, RB35, RB35, and RB6 in half-point PPR charting. Edwards is useful. Just be realistic about what the ceiling is.

Some Plausible Upside

$11 Tyjae Spears

$11 Tyler Allgeier

$11 Jaylen Warren

$11 Zack Moss

$9 Roschon Johnson

$8 Chuba Hubbard

$7 Miles Sanders

$6 *Khalil Herbert

$5 Kareem Hunt

$5 AJ Dillon

  • Spears would obviously be an instant fantasy winner the second a Henry trade went down, though the Titans offense has a sinking-ship feel to it, too. Even if Henry stays, Spears has made a case for additional playing time, averaging a juicy 5.5 yards per carry.

  • Carolina is another team I'll be watching closely as it returns from a bye; Hubbard has been a much better runner than Sanders this year and deserves to be the primary back even when both are available. Winless teams need to make difficult choices sometimes, and there's no tank factor with the Panthers — they don't have their first-round pick. Let your best players be your best players.

  • Dillon came into the league with a reputation as a pile mover, and he averaged 3.1 yards after contact as a rookie. That number has dipped to 1.7 this year. Dillon is also a zero in the passing game, with just five receptions on the year, and even when Aaron Jones was out, Dillon cracked the top 30 just once. Bottom line, we're looking at an ordinary player, and an overrated one.

Bargain Bin

$4 Jaleel McLaughlin

$4 *Zach Charbonnet

$4 D'Onta Foreman

$3 Kenneth Gainwell

$3 Cam Akers

$3 Emari Demercado

$3 Jeff Wilson Jr.

$3 Ezekiel Elliott

$2 Justice Hill

$2 Elijah Mitchell

$2 Joshua Kelley

$1 Antonio Gibson

$1 Jamaal Williams

$1 Devin Singletary

$1 Samaje Perine

$1 Rico Dowdle

$1 Tank Bigsby

$1 Latavius Murray

$1 Dalvin Cook

$1 Kendre Miller

$1 Jerick McKinnon

$1 Clyde Edwards-Helaire

$1 Pierre Strong Jr.

$1 Jordan Mason