Will Khalil Herbert Be a Top-20 Fantasy Football RB in 2023?

Chicago Bears RB Khalil Herbert has a golden opportunity to breakout. Should fantasy football managers go out of their way to draft him in 2023?

Khalil Herbert enters his age-25 season with his best chance to assume the feature role in Chicago after the team moved on from David Montgomery in March. The opportunity, however, will not come without a challenge: Not only is Justin Fields as dynamic as any quarterback in the game, but D’Onta Foreman was added to this roster following the best season of his career for the Panthers (914 rushing yards with five touchdowns).

Fantasy football managers are understandably cautious about investing in this run game alongside Fields, something that is evident with Herbert being drafted outside of the top 100 overall players and Foreman going another three rounds later.

Did you get a trade offer in your dynasty or redraft league? Not sure what to do? Make championship-winning decisions with PFN’s FREE Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer and Calculator!

Khalil Herbert’s Path to a Top-20 Season

His path to a big season is rather simple, though it is important to not confuse “simple” with “easy.” Despite ranking tied for 36th at the position in carries last season, Herbert was one of eight running backs with multiple 50-yard runs.

In fact, only two backs (Derrick Henry and Travis Etienne) had more runs of 35 yards than the former sixth-round pick. There is no denying the potential Herbert has in the run game, with Fields attracting all sorts of attention. Actually, doesn’t the “young explosive back that was playing behind a much less explosive veteran” thing sound familiar?

Tony Pollard (Seasons 2-3):

  • Carries: 231
  • Rush Yards: 1,154
  • Rush TDs: 6

Herbert (Seasons 1-2):

  • Carries: 232
  • Rush Yards: 1,164
  • Rush TDs: 6

Hey now, we might be onto something. Last season, Pollard, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Kenneth Walker III all easily produced top-20 (per game) seasons at the position with an ADP of RB30 or later, so maybe this ask isn’t too much.

All three of those backs came into 2022 with fresh legs (under 400 career touches) and with proven efficiency. Herbert easily checks both of those boxes and plays in an offense that had two of the 10 most efficient fantasy-point-per-rush-attempt RBs from a year ago, thanks to the attention Fields demands.

Montgomery averaged 229 carries per season during his time in the Windy City, and if Herbert wins this job outright to the point where he approaches that number, a top-20 season is more likely than not to happen.

The Risk Profile of Herbert

There are two sides to every coin, and this Herbert debate is no exception. Those three RBs I mentioned above all played for a team that overachieved in a big way. In addition to all three holding a positive point differential (the Bears were -137 last season), all three of those teams were at least 1.35 ppg better than the spread.

The Bears could make this move, but you need to be aware that a bet on Herbert is, to at least some degree, a bet on this team taking a big step forward.

From a skill-set standpoint, Herbert has what could be a fatal flaw: He doesn’t catch the ball. He didn’t have a big receiving role in college and has 153 yards through the air thus far in the NFL. A large part of Montgomery’s ability to stay fantasy viable during his time in Chicago was the bump he received in the passing game (over 300 receiving yards in each of his final three seasons), and the NFL is packed with versatile backs these days.

Foreman isn’t much of a pass catcher either, so we could be looking at rookie Roschon Johnson and/or Travis Homer getting third-down run. Want to know the best way to cap fantasy running back upside? Cycle through three or four-back rotations.

Final Verdict

It’s easy to look back on 2022 fondly when it comes to the upside of this offense due to the highlight plays, but don’t forget that they finished below league average in yards per play, points, and red-zone scoring rate — explosive with limitations. The addition of DJ Moore should help add consistency to this passing game and, hopefully, open everything up.

I am above ADP on Herbert and have no problem drafting him with the assumption that he will battle weekly for a Flex spot. That said, there are more than 20 backs with a clearer opening day role than Herbert, and that has me struggling to say he can crash the party. The volume downside is too much to ignore, so I can’t fire off the hot take of “Herbert will be a top-20 RB in fantasy football this season,” but I will be happily investing in Round 9.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles