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Pre-Summer Fantasy Football RB Outlooks: NFC East And AFC East

In a game where workhorse runners are becoming rarer, parsing backfield situations and running-back-by-committees is critical in fantasy football. This week, we’ll be highlighting some of the starter and handcuff situations for each team, starting with the NFC East and AFC East. Of course, things can change in the coming months, but this should give a good idea of where each backfield stands as camp approaches.


NFC East


Dallas Cowboys

Following his first 1,000-yard rushing season (1,007 yards on just 193 carries) and a career-high 12 total touchdowns, Tony Pollard is locked in as the clear lead back for the Cowboys after having the franchise tag placed on him while Dallas cut Ezekiel Elliott. Free-agent signing Ronald Jones should probably be considered the primary backup given his experience, and he could make for an intriguing option if Pollard were to miss time. But also keep an eye on sixth-round rookie Deuce Vaughn, who is undersized but was a big-time playmaker at Kansas State. And second-year back Malik Davis did a nice job in limited action last season.


New York Giants

Saquon Barkley was also franchise tagged, and we’ve heard that he is not at all happy about it. So that’s something to keep in mind if he’s nicked up during this season. However, when on the field, Barkley is set to be a workhorse, engine of the offense for the Giants and should again be someone that puts up huge numbers. Veteran Matt Breida has the inside track on the backup job, but keep an eye on fifth-round rookie Eric Gray out of Oklahoma. Gray has good size (5’10”, 207 pounds) and showed promising all-around ability with the Sooners.


Philadelphia Eagles

As training camp approaches, the backfield situation for the Eagles might be the most uncertain in the league. Former Seahawks’ first-round pick Rashaad Penny was signed during free agency, and his only issue has been staying healthy—he could be awesome behind Philly’s offensive line. Miles Sanders walked in free agency, but the Eagles still have incumbents Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott, both past contributors—as well as intriguing former 49ers’ third-round pick Trey Sermonwho has been spoken highly of by head coach Nick Sirianni despite being a healthy scratch guy last season. It was a deep enough group, then the Eagles acquired the dynamic D’Andre Swift from the Lions during the draft. All five guys can be big contributors, and it’ll be a key situation to watch throughout the summer.


Washington Commanders

Brian Robinson Jr. looked set to be Washington’s lead back after a solid rookie season during which he overcame major controversy, and he probably remains the favorite for early-down duties. However, head coach Ron Rivera said recently that he wants to get more touches for Antonio Gibson, and Gibson—heading into the final year of his rookie deal—feels like a fit in Eric Bieniemy’s offense, perhaps similar to the way Jerick McKinnon has been utilized in Kansas City. Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez was added in the sixth-round of this year’s draft and the team reportedly had a high grade on him, but overall the Robinson/Gibson duo will likely lead the backfield in 2023.


AFC East


Buffalo Bills

Devin Singletary was not retained during free agency, leaving second-year running back James Cookto lead the backfield of one of the best offenses in football. However, the Bills did add a potential hammer in former Patriot Damien Harris (who killed Buffalo throughout his career), and it wouldn’t be a total shock if Harris leads the backfield in carries this year. For Cook, involvement as a receiver could be critical. Nyheim Hines can get more involved after he was acquired in a midseason trade in 2022, but his contributions might come more as a returner. And Latavius Murray is another downhill runner that gets the job done and seems to find a way to fantasy relevance, so don’t count him out from making an impact.


Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins have an uncertain backfield entering 2023, as the team brought back both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. during free agency but also added Mike McDaniel favorite Devon Achane—yet another speedster in Miami—out of Texas A&M in the third round of the draft. Mostert noted that McDaniel was “apologetic” that the team didn’t run the ball more last season; but we might be looking at a three-way committee backfield where no player emerges as an RB1/2 option. This is another team to watch closely during the preseason.


New England Patriots

People have been upset over the years about RBBC approaches for Bill Belichick teams, but the legendary head coach has made it very clear that he loves Rhamondre Stevenson. Former Jaguars and Jets running back James Robinson was signed, and we’ll see if Pierre Strong or Kevin Harris can take a step forward in their second NFL seasons. But after Damien Harris left for Buffalo, things have looked very promising for Stevenson from a fantasy perspective.



New York Jets

Breece Hall is returning from a torn ACL that cut short a scorching start to his NFL career during his rookie season. It’s interesting that the Jets were apparently in on Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round, and there have been whispers of wanting to add a veteran, but this should be Hall’s backfield in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. Michael Carter is entering his third NFL season and has proven to be a solid contributor, and Zonovan Knight came on strong late in 2023, but fifth-round pick Israel Abanikanda out of Pitt is an interesting player to watch as perhaps more of a true backup to Hall.