Friday, August 22, 2014

Who are the top 15 fantasy running backs?

Today we take a look at one of the bread and butter positions of your fantasy team - running back. There used to be a day in fantasy football where running backs would dominate the first round of fantasy drafts. Not so anymore. Don't overreach for running backs - especially as the upper tier of wide receivers are a key to success this year.  Plus running back is actually a fairly deep category - and the list drops off considerably after the top six or seven at the position. 

1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia - Depending on your league scoring rules LeSean McCoy is a good bet to be the top pick and won’t make it past number five in your draft. The back nicknamed "Shady" is the closest modern-day version of Barry Sanders. McCoy is off a 2,146-yard season last year (including 52 receptions), the most of any player last year and the 4th most over the last half-decade. 

2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota - The great Adrian Peterson won't last long in your draft and I have no problem if you want to slot him #1 on this list. AP, as they call him, is now a full year removed from his ACL tear and he should be more effective with Norv Turner now running the offense (it's a lengthy list of running backs that Turner has turned into fantasy stars). The Vikings also plan to use Peterson much more in the passing game than in year’s past. 

3. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay  To me, Eddie Lacy is a candidate to be the No. 1 running back and in leagues that heavily-emphasize touchdowns I would slot him No. 1. Lacy was the No. 6 running back last year as a rookie despite playing on a clipped offense without QB Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are loaded with weapons and Lacy will have tons of scoring opportunities. Lacy quickly racked up 47 yards last week in preseason. Draft Lacy as high as you want and do it with confidence. 

4. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City -Jamaal Charles has averaged an amazing 5.6 yards per carry over his NFL career (a half yard more than any other active running back), and he was the No. 1 running back last year in most scoring formats. However, I think I would let someone else draft Charles (and he could go No. 1 overall anyway). Kansas City lost three of its offensive lineman, including star tackle Brandon Albert, and there will not be nearly the same scoring chances for Charles that Eddie Lacy will see. 

5. Matt Forte, Chicago - Matt Forte is off a career-best season both in terms of yards (1,933), touchdowns (12) and receptions. There is no reason to think he won’t approach those numbers again this year and Forte is a super safe selection in your draft. 

6. Giovani Benard, Cincinnati - This is a very aggressive ranking for Giovani Benard but I think one that will pay off. Benard is on a very short list of running backs that will approach 70 receptions, he will get a ton of rushing work (new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will have the Bengals running significantly more than they did last year) and Benard is a big play waiting to happen. Benard could end up as a Top 3 running back and if he is there in the second round, draft him. 

7. Montee Ball, Denver – Playing on the NFL’s leading scoring team from 2013, and certainly likely one of its top scoring teams in 2014 as well, has its advantages. With no Knowshon Moreno on the team, the gig is all Montee Ball's to be had. Ball has a chance to lead all running backs in touchdowns as a Bronco. Ball also should be more involved in the passing game than you might think - between Moreno, Ball and Ronnie Hillman, Denver running backs caught 92 balls for 812 yards last year. Ball had an appendectomy on August 5th but that is a nonissue and he is already back and ready to play.

8. DeMarco Murray, Dallas - DeMarco Murray enters 2014 off an impressive 1,371-yards, 10-TD, 53-catch season and he should be even busier this year. Injury concern is the only real issue here but it isn’t enough to stop you from confidently making Murray a core piece to your fantasy team in the second round of drafts. 

9. Andre Ellington, Arizona - After being more of a complement last year to Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Ellington enters 2014 as the Cardinals' featured running back. Ellington may not consistently be a goal-line back, but he is a big play waiting to happen (Ellington averaged 5.5 yards per carry as a rookie last year) and he will be a big-time receiver. Ellington collected 39 receptions last year almost as more of a spot contributor and change-of-pace back. 

10. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle - You may be surprised to see Marshawn Lynch this low in the rankings, and call it a hunch, but I think I am going to let him slide on draft day. Lynch has 988 touches over the last three years and I don't see that level of workload sustaining for another season. Additionally, Seattle has the toughest 2014 schedule vs. the run on paper. 

11. Zac Stacy, St. Louis – After sitting on the sidelines for the first month of his rookie season last year with just one carry, Zac Stacy suddenly found himself as the starting running back for the Rams in Week 5, logging 250 carries and collecting 26 receptions. Stacy was the No. 9 RB from Week 5 on last year. Stacy will again be the workhorse and on a better offensive team (with more scoring chances). The addition of offensive tackle Greg Robinson with the 2nd overall pick in this year's draft is also significant. 

12. Doug Martin, Tampa BayDoug Martin will definitely bounce back some in 2014 (he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last year after being overused with 358 touches as a rookie in 2013), and Martin will be a good sleeper if he falls some in drafts. The Bucs should have better offensive-line play and while new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford if a bit of an unknown as an NFL product, he consistently turned running backs (and quarterbacks) into stars during his 11 years at the University of California. 

13. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh - The narrative on Le'Veon Bell's rookie season can go multiple ways. On the one hand, Bell averaged just a paltry 3.5 yards per carry last year. On the other hand, Bell returned from a Lisfranc injury and missed just three games, while from Week 4 through the rest of the season Bell was the 7th-best fantasy back logging 1,259 total yards with 45 receptions and 8 TDs. Don't reach for Bell but don't be afraid to add him either, especially if he slips due to his recent DWI and marijuana arrest. Bell is a first-time offender and likely won't be suspended (or for many games), and it is possible that the court issues won't be resolved anyway until after the season. 

14. Alfred Morris, Washington - In my mind, the running back tier has really dropped off at this point and I probably will be drafting a wide receiver over these remaining backs. Alfred Morris did rush for 1,612 yards in 2013 as a rookie, which is the all-time single season rushing record in Washington Redskins history, but he dropped to 1,275 yards last year and his TDs dropped from 13 to 7. I believe a repeat of his 2013 season is much more likely than is seeing his 2012 season again – solid, but not elite, and Morris won't add yards via the passing game.

15. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee - Historically speaking, Bishop Sankey should be good for about 832 rushing yards, another 291 through the air for a total of 1,124 yards on 35 receptions with 7 TDs - that is what the average first overall running back in the NFL draft since 1990 has done (excluding Willis McGahee who sat out his rookie season). Sankey was a workhorse at the University of Washington, racking up over 600 carries his last two seasons while never missing a game in college and collecting a TD in every game last year. 

You can get full running back rankings here at Fantasy Football Warehouse..


Anonymous said...

FYI - Adrian Peterson is called AD (All Day) not by his initials AP.

Anonymous said...

He is called both moron.