Is 2023 The Year of The Late-Hero RB?

Jun 6th 2023

Tom Strachan

With every year the field gets slightly more in tune with the micro-strategies that help take down large contests such as Best Ball Mania IV. With ADP pushing wide receivers and quarterbacks up like never before, we can look to flip the thinking process of some of these common builds to try and adapt them to the draftboards we’re being presented with. Hero RB in particular looks primed for a flippening in 2023, with the common process of one running back in the first two rounds, now looking like we can stretch where that Heroic Running Back is selected. For more on Hero RB and how it performed on Underdog in 2022, and it's outlook for 2023, check out this video -

Derrick Henry

It’s entirely possible that in a few week's time, Derrick Henry’s ADP will have climbed from the early parts of Round 3 up and into Round 2, where he’ll be available as part of a more traditional Hero RB build, but right now with him in Round 3, we can consider him for a non-traditional build. The Titans look a mess right now, but year after year Mike Vrabel finds ways to get more out of the roster than we expect and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he has them competitive for 2023. Henry is coming off a career-best 4.5 forced missed tackles per game in 2022, as well as seeing his average time to line of scrimmage hit 2.70, which was the fastest of his seven-year career. Year after year people are wary of Derrick Henry, but with the Titans having very little else on offense, perhaps it’s time for one last legendary season from him.

Josh Jacobs

With an ADP of 27.2 it’s very possible that like Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs doesn’t hang around in the third round for too long. After all, Jacobs was the RB3 in half PPR points per game in 2022, putting up an average of 18.5 per game. The Raiders have since changed quarterback, moving on from Derek Carr to Jimmy ‘The Checkdown’ Garoppolo, whose average depth of target has been under seven yards in three of the last four seasons. Over Garoppolo’s time with the Niners, each season he played over ten games the running back position always saw 100 or more targets and it feels very possible that Jacobs exceeds the 62 targets he’s seen in back-to-back seasons. We want our Heroic Running Backs to be involved in all areas of the game and with little backfield competition, Jacobs should be kept in the running for ‘Late-Hero’ builds.

Rhamondre Stevenson

It’s hard to bring up Rhamondre Stevenson’s name in the offseason without someone loudly letting you know that Bill Belichick has never even once considered the idea of using a single running back as a focal point. It is true that since the turn of the Millenium, there have been only seven instances of a Patriots running back having a 50% opportunity share or higher, one of which was Stevenson in 2022, and in that same period there has also been a total of 13 running backs to average 15 or more touches per game and if Stevenson was to see that kind of workload for the second season running, he’d be well worth this investment. It’s also worth reiterating that New England currently has nobody behind Stevenson of an impressive caliber. Late-round running backs rarely seize huge amounts of a backfield and Stevenson has proven his ability. Even if Stevenson has to give up a few touches to another back, there’s a good chance this offense allows him to score more than the six touchdowns he had in 2022.

Aaron Jones

With an ADP of 53.9, Aaron Jones has seen his ADP plummet since this time last year when he was a second-round pick. The reasons are obvious enough, with Aaron Rodgers no longer in Green Bay drafters expect the Packers offense to regress and for there to be fewer touchdowns in general, but Jones reworked his contract to stay with the team this year and after AJ Dillon disappointed in 2022, perhaps there are enough reasons to believe in Jones for 2023 after all he had a career-high 258 touches along with 19 touchdowns, that were 9 more than he’s ever scored in a season before. The argument for and against Jones as a Hero RB simply comes down to if you think he can stay as involved in the high-value areas of touchdowns and also targets where he has averaged 3.6 per game over his career.

Breece Hall

With an ADP of 29.6 Breece Hall is exactly the type of running back who could end up fluctuating massively one way or another in the next few months. If Hall continues to make good progress in his recovery from an ACL injury then it’s entirely possible that before Best Ball Mania IV closes, Hall is a fringe-round-one pick. If Hall were to have a setback, then it’s possible he drops to the fourth round or later. With Hall’s recovery from a far less-complex ACL tear than JK Dobbins dealt with, seemingly on track, Breece Hall is an excellent candidate for ‘Late-Hero RB’ builds having displayed elite upside with 15.1 points per game in 2022, and now having a massive upgrade at quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. Even if you’re skeptical of Hall’s ability to make it onto the field early on in the season, we can build a Hero RB lineup with him, and pair him with the likes of Samaje Perine who may be taking a lot of touches until Javonte Williams is ready to return, or even Jamaal Williams who may be the main man in New Orleans if Alvin Kamara is suspended.

JK Dobbins

Ignoring the on-cue tweets from JK Dobbins as he enters the final year of his rookie contract, it’s hard not to be optimistic about his outlook with him a further year away from the ACL injury that ruined the best part of the last two seasons. Former Ravens offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, often used to spread the touches around a lot and it wasn’t uncommon for John Harbaugh to remark after games that he wasn’t sure why the offense moved away from Dobbins at times. Through his rookie contract, Dobbins has averaged 11.2 touches per game, which isn’t close to the volume we want for a Hero RB build, but there is reason to believe things can change with Todd Monken calling plays. In 2016 and 2017 when Monken was the OC in Tampa, Doug Martin averaged 17.1 touches per game and in 2018 Peyton Barber averaged 15.9. When Monken was in Cleveland in 2019, Nick Chubb averaged a whopping 21.3 touches per game. If Dobbins is finally trusted with a large workload, as well as seeing even a slight uptick in the receiving game, with Monken’s love for screen passes well known, then it absolutely could be wheels up for him in 2023.

Joe Mixon

It’s early September and as you open up the BBM draft board for the final of your 150 entries, you can’t help but get a little teary-eyed at the memory of early June drafts where once upon a time you were able to draft the Bengals clear RB1 with the 56th pick overall. You chuckle to yourself remembering how Mixon’s ADP stayed low despite the Bengals moving on from Samaje Perine in free agency and yet even when the Bengals coaching staff talked about Mixon being the guy, drafters didn’t push Mixon’s ADP up further… that was until training camp when as the drafts started to flow even quicker, the folks coming into the draft rooms for the first time this year remarked that it was surprising to see Mixon’s ADP so low and then drove it up higher by routinely clicking him ahead of ADP. Mixon scored over 25% of his points in one game last year, but as long as he’s attached to this offense, we should be drafting him.