8 bounce-back running back candidates [2024]

Finding running backs who can bounce back from bad seasons, particularly at good value, can make all the difference in your fantasy fortunes.

Fantasy analysts have a tendency to copy and paste results from the previous year into their rankings the following season. But we have to be mindful of players who are candidates for bounce-back seasons.

Finding the right players who are primed for bounce-back seasons but who are still being ranked based on the previous year’s results can make all the difference in your fantasy fortunes.

Here are eight bounce-back running back candidates for the 2024 season.

Austin Ekeler, RB/Washington Commanders

Ekeler is an aging back coming off a season in which he finished as a high-end RB3 for fantasy. He’s going to Washington where he will share duties with Brian Robinson Jr. But make no mistake about it, Ekeler will be featured in the passing game under new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Jayden Daniels, and he comes packed with upside. Gone are the days of Top 5 fantasy production. But he’s due for a big rebound.

Josh Jacobs, RB/Green Bay Packers

In Jacobs’ first three seasons in the league, he was a perennially dependable RB2, and if you drafted him to be that, you were pleased with your ROI. Then came his breakout fourth season and everyone got a little high on the fumes. As a side note, I hope you sold high because his stock wasn’t going to go anywhere but down from there. Last year, he collapsed with the rest of the Raiders offense and finished as a middling RB3. Jacobs signed a contract with the Packers this offseason and he should undergo a successful bounce-back campaign. Just make sure you draft him as the RB2 with upside that he is.

Jonathan Taylor, RB/Indianapolis Colts

It’s hard to call Taylor a “bounce back” player considering his “bounce back” was last year after returning to the lineup after missing the first four weeks and then playing sparingly in the next two. When he was right, he was dominant. But he still finished as an RB3 as a result of missing time. Now, he’s locked and loaded as an RB1 for a real bounce-back season.

Aaron Jones, RB/Minnesota Vikings

Jones will reach the dreaded age of 30 this season after battling some injuries last year. He is also changing teams and will not be with as good of quarterbacks as he played with in Green Bay. Still, assuming he stays healthy this year, he’s bound to improve from the high-end RB4 season he put together in 2023. I would not select him as anything more than a lower RB2, and ideally as an RB3 if he falls in your drafts. But he ought to be used, particularly in the passing game, for an offense that might not have a QB who can push the ball downfield.

Saquon Barkley, RB/Philadelphia Eagles

Barkley was by no means bad last year, so he’s on the lower end of what would be considered “bounce back” candidates. He was a high-end RB2 on a bad Giants offense. Now he switches teams in the division to a better offense and a better overall organization and he has mid-RB1 upside.

Ken Walker, RB/Seattle Seahawks

Walker had the slightest of dips in production from his rookie season to his second, so he barely qualifies for a bounce back season. But I like his outlook for a much-improved third season. There’s a new coaching regime in place in Seattle and although Zach Charbonnet is still in the fold, I like Walker’s chances of carrying the bulk of the load as he did last year. I don’t expect an RB1 season from Walker, but I do think finishing in the Top 15, with random spike weeks, is within the realm of possibilities.

D’Andre Swift, RB/Chicago Bears

Swift spent the first three years of his career in Detroit before being shipped to Philadelphia for one season. He signed with the Bears this offseason and will be featured in a retooled offense. The team will heavily utilize him in both the run game and the passing attack led by rookie Caleb Williams. He finished as a lower-end RB2 last year and he has the potential to break the Top 15 this season.

Najee Harris, RB/Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee came to camp slimmer and hungry to prove himself in this, his contract season. The team declined to pick up his fifth-year option and thus this could be an audition year for Harris. We’ve seen backs succeed in this situation before and I expect Harris to take advantage of it. Is he RB1 capable? Probably not with Jaylen Warren there. But Warren will not prohibit a strong RB2 finish from Harris.