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Fantasy Football: These RBs were first-rounders in 2022 — here's why they won't be in 2023

These four runners all possess varying degrees of fantasy football star power — star power that propelled them into the first round of 2022 drafts. Dalton Del Don explains why that won't be the case next season.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

Dalvin Cook headshot
Dalvin Cook
RB - NYJ
2022 - 2023 season
1,173
Yds
69
Y/G
4.4
YPC
8
TD
81
Long

Cook was hardly a fantasy bust in 2022, totaling 1,468 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022. His efficiency, however, dropped dramatically; instead, he relied on volume for his success. He played every game for the first time in his career but averaged 20+ fewer rushing yards per game than the previous season while his target share fell outside the top-20 backs.

Put differently, despite nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage and double-digit touchdowns, Cook wasn’t a top-12 fantasy RB per game. He put up top-12 RB stats during just five weeks in 2022 (he had more the previous season while missing four games).

Cook will be 28 years old next season and just had the most stuffed runs in the NFL while playing on a Minnesota offense that was top 12 in yards per play. If all that’s not worrisome enough, Cook reportedly isn’t interested in taking a pay cut and is a candidate to be released on a Vikings team badly in need of cap space.

Given his decline, injury history and age, Cook won’t sniff the first round of fantasy leagues again regardless of where he plays in 2023. In fact, he’s just barely a top-20 RB on my board next year.

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris headshot
Najee Harris
RB - PIT - #22
2022 - 2023 season
1,034
Yds
60.8
Y/G
3.8
YPC
7
TD
36
Long

Harris played 2022 through a Lisfranc injury suffered in the preseason, so there’s optimism for a 2023 bounce back. Still, after sitting at 3.9 YPC over two years in the league and seeing a predictable, dramatic decrease in receiving production in comparison to his rookie year, Harris isn’t going to cost a 2023 first-round fantasy pick.

Pittsburgh’s offense should improve with Kenny Pickett’s growth, but it was bottom-six in both yards per play and points per game last season. Moreover, the Steelers are likely to increase Jaylen Warren’s role during his second year in the league, as he got a full 1.1 YPC more than Harris in 2022. Warren also ranked top five in yards created per touch and Juke Rate as a rookie.

Harris’ early 2023 ADP has been around the mid-third round.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon headshot
Joe Mixon
RB - HOU - #28
2022 - 2023 season
814
Yds
58.1
Y/G
3.9
YPC
7
TD
40
Long

Despite losing passing-down work to Samaje Perine and missing three games, Mixon saw 20 more targets than any other season of his career. It resulted in a good — not great — fantasy campaign, as Mixon finished as the RB9 in points per game in 0.5 PPR leagues. Mixon will turn 27 years old over the summer and played 20 fewer snaps than Perine in the Conference Championship game thanks in part to legal issues.

Charges have been dropped, but it’s a situation that could linger and create enough uncertainty for Mixon to fall to the mid-late second round in early 2023 fantasy drafts. Regardless, he shouldn’t be going ahead of Breece Hall and Travis Etienne, and I fully expect that to change come August.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry headshot
Derrick Henry
RB - BAL - #22
2022 - 2023 season
1,538
Yds
96.1
Y/G
4.4
YPC
13
TD
56
Long

Henry was the No. 3 fantasy back in points per game last season despite dealing with an awful QB situation at times. His production took a noticeable dip after he seemingly suffered a mid-season injury, but he also finished strong while topping 100 rushing yards in each of his final four games and setting career highs in receptions and targets.

The Big Dog is clearly a special player and will be entering a contract year, so Henry’s not an easy fade. But there’s no doubt he’s also entering the typical decline phase of a running back’s career at 29 years old and with 1,750 career rushing attempts.

Henry is going at the end of the first/beginning of the second round in early fantasy drafts, and he’ll be highly debated throughout summer.

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