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Top 36 Running Backs
This is the first draft of the season, lots of finickiness and changes to come.
1) Jamaal Charles (KC) – Charles led the position in scoring despite having the tenth most carries. His 693 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 70 catches made the difference for Charles. With his mix of a relatively young age, low career touches and dynamic ability, I like Charles’ odds of producing as a top-5 running back once again.
2) LeSean McCoy (PHI) – The way the Eagles offence operates under Chip Kelly now, I really like McCoy as one of the safest picks you can make in fantasy football this coming year. He is going into just his sixth season and like Charles can make an impact running and catching the ball and is possibly the most elusive running back in the game. The addition of Darren Sproles may mean a few less touches overall for Shady, but he is still great at getting into the end zone, scoring 38 total touchdowns in his last three seasons.
3) Adrian Peterson (MIN) – Despite playing with a groin injury for much of the season and missing two games at the end of the season due to the issue, Peterson was still able to muster close to 1300 yards with touchdowns on the ground last season. Peterson may be wearing down a bit, but is still the most talented overall running back in the NFL.
4) Matt Forte (CHI) – Matt Forte surprisingly ran for more yards in 2013 than Marshawn Lynch, but finished second overall at the position in fantasy points due to 12 total touchdowns compared to Lynch’s 14. It was actually a career season for Forte and his best since his rookie campaign when he went for 1238 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. I like Forte again in 2014 as the Bears have an amazing offence that forces opposing team to defend its elite receivers as a first priority.
5) Eddie Lacy (GB) – There is certainly a history of running backs not being able to reproduce their stellar rookie stats in sophomore season (guys like Forte and Moreno come to mind off the top of my head), but I like Lacy’s odds of being just as good again this year if not even better. His 4.1 yards per carry average has room to grow while playing inside of an offence that knows how to move the ball quickly and get into the red zone. Lacy is also a solid pass catcher with 35 catches on 44 targets in his rookie campaign for 257 yards. I am expecting an additional 200 total yards from Lacy in 2014 while scoring another 10-12 touchdowns.
6) Marshawn Lynch (SEA) – The main reason for having Lynch down at number five at the position is that he is averaging 300 carries the past three seasons and had over 400 total touches last season due to the Superbowl run. I still think Lynch is an extremely safe pick because of his talent and the style of offence that the Seahawks play but a breakdown could be coming.
7) DeMarco Murray (DAL) – Murray had his best season yet in 2013 with 1121 yards and nine touchdowns on 217 carries while catching 53 balls for 350 yards and a score. The biggest problem with Murray is still health issues as he did miss two games while the next biggest problem is the incompetency of the Cowboys, who should be giving him more than 217 carries over a 14 game period. Murray carried the ball 15.5 times per game in 2013, where as LeSean McCoy averaged just fewer than 20. It is no secret that Murray is an elite level talent he just needs to stay on the field and have the ball given to him.
8) Le’Veon Bell (PIT) – Bell showed a lot of promise in his rookie season with 860 yards and eight touchdowns coming from 244 rush attempts and also so talent as a pass catcher with 45 receptions on 66 targets for 399 yards. All of those stats also came in just 13 games for Bell so a full 16 game season likely would have given Bell closer to if not over 1000 yards on the ground alone. The Steelers are likely going to depend on Bell again this coming season so I am expecting him to total close to 1500 yards while scoring a potential 10 touchdowns; he could easily be a top-10 running back with upside.
9) Montee Ball (DEN) – Montee Ball is poised to take over as the lead running back for the Broncos with Moreno now a Dolphin. There are many positives about Ball’s potential in that he will rarely see a full box with Peyton Manning under centre and looked very good at times last season. Ball could end up being the best sophomore running back of 2014.
10) Doug Martin (TB) – Martin was given the ball a minimum of 20 times in his first four starts before the ball and was then given 16 and 11 respectively in the game after the bye, so his usage is certainly not a concern for me going into 2014, my biggest concern is the Tampa Bay offence. The Buccaneers appear to me to be a team with a high level of talent that hasn’t seen it all come together yet. I don’t know that we can expect Martin to reproduce his rookie year of 1454 yards and 11 touchdowns, but I do think he is the best option the Bucs have and should have around 1200 yards with 8 or so touchdowns if able to play a full season again.
11) Arian Foster (HOU) – Health is the major concern when considering what to do with Arian Foster. He is coming of a season where he able to play just 7 games before having his season ended, but he still has one of the highest upsides at the position of anyone in the league when healthy. Despite a very high usage rate in a five-year career, the 27 year old still has the potential to run for 1500 yards while adding solid pass catching numbers and knows how to find the end zone. I really like Foster as a mid to late second round pick if he comes into the season with his current health issues dealt with. The Texans not bringing back Ben Tate could be a sign of the Texans confidence in Foster.
12) Zac Stacy (STL) – After much speculation from the fantasy community over who would be the lead back for the Rams in 2013 (most picked Daryl Richardson), it ended being rookie Zac Stacy who was very productive with 973 yards rushing with seven touchdowns while adding about 150 more with a touchdown in the passing game. I along with many others think that the Rams can be a much improved team in 2014 despite how tough their division is and think that Stacy can take a step forward as well.
13) Reggie Bush (DET) – Bush barely cracked the 1000 yard plateau last season and had just four rushing touchdowns but was able to bolster his numbers with 506 receiving yards and three touchdowns. I really like Bush as a player and want him to be a top-10 running back, but until he can find his way into the end zone more often, I just don’t see it happening. Back up runner and teammate Joique Bell is the main obstacle for Bush, as Bell finished the 2013 season with eight rushing touchdowns on just 166 carries and was the go-to guy for Detroit in the red zone. I still think Bush can improve in his numbers in his second season in Detroit don’t know that he is going to be able to crack the too-10 at the position as long as Bell is stealing touchdowns.
14) Alfred Morris (WAS) – Morris took a step back in his sophomore season with Washington, rushing for about 400 less yards and six less touchdowns on 49 less attempts than his rookie campaign. Despite this drop off Morris still ran for 1275 yards while the rest of the Washington team went up in flames around him and was constantly playing from behind. If Morris can do what he did last season considering what a mess his team was, I like his odds for improvement in 2014.
15) Ryan Mathews (SD) – Mathews shocked the world by playing in all 16 games for the Chargers last year and made the best of it by rushing the ball a career high 285 times for 1255 yards and six touchdowns. It is still hard to trust Mathews as his history if injury is still larger than his history of health, but 2013 was certainly a big step in the right direction. If Mathews can stay on the field for 16 games once again he has a good chance of being a top-10 running back, (#11 overall in 2013), he just needs to find the end zone a few more times.
16) Giovani Bernard (CIN) – Bernard showed what a dynamic play time after time last season, rushing for just under 700 yards while adding over 500 receiving yards with eight total touchdowns. The Bengals will undoubtedly try to get Bernard more in his sophomore season while hopefully cutting down on the 220 carries Green-Ellis was handed.
17) C.J. Spiller (BUF) – One of the biggest busts of the 2013 season and easily the player I drank the Kool-Aid on more than any other player last year as I had him ranked in my top-5 backs. I still have high hopes for Spiller and think he could be awesome this year but am tempering my expectations. Last year I targeted Spiller as an RB1 and was burned by him. This year I am hoping to get him as an RB2 with upside.
18) Frank Gore (SF) – Gore just keeps chugging along for the ‘49ers and is actually younger than I thought at 30 years old (though this is like 60 in running back years). He has averaged about 1150 yards and 8 touchdowns the past three seasons and as long as he is healthy and running behind the ‘49ers o-line should not have much of a drop of this season. A low upside, but rather safe pick at a volatile position.
19) Chris Johnson (NYJ) – With the help of 345 yards and four touchdowns in the receiving game last season, Johnson was somehow able to finish as the 8th best running back in football, just behind Adrian Peterson. I don’t expect Johnson to be a top-10 running back again this season and his value is very much subject to change depending on whether or not he gets traded or cut by the Titans, which is looking very likely.
20) Shane Vereen (NE) – The majority of Vereen’s production comes in the passing game, as he caught 47 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns last season in just eight games. He may not be as trustworthy on a weekly basis as Stevan Ridley, who should get the bulk of the teams carries, but there will certainly be weeks where he is going score and put up some solid numbers. If Ridley continues to fumble Vereen could see some additional work as a rusher as he did run for 4.7 yards per carry on his 44 carries last season.
21) R Bishop Sankey (TEN) – Off the rookie running backs drafted in the 2014 draft, Sankey has quite possibly the best chance to produce in the coming season. The Titans starting running back before drafting Sankey was Shonn Greene, so the opportunity to get a solid work load is definitely among the best. The Titans also have a fairly talented O-line that added another offensive tackle in the first round of the draft before taking Sankey in the second round.
22) Andre Ellington (ARI) – Ellington showed flashes last year of being a very good running back, namely his 154 yards with a touchdown game against the Falcons. He is also a great pass catcher with 39 catches for 371 and a touchdown. The biggest obstacle for him getting the bulk of the work for the Cardinals was the presence of Rashard Mendenhall who has since retired from the game, so that bodes very well for a breakout season. He isn’t a very big running back though so he is not going to be a bell cow, but should see a nice jump in carries from his 118 in 2013.
23) Steven Jackson (ATL) – Atlanta made some moves to improve their O-line this off-season but still has a ways to go in that area. Until they show that they can help out their running backs in the trenches, Jackson could struggle to get his yards per carry back above four.
24) Stevan Ridley (NE) – Ridley should return to his role as the first and second down running back for the Patriots with Blount out of town now. His leash is going to be very short once again so if he continues to fumble he won’t be the starter for long.
25) Ben Tate (CLE) – Tate is finally going to get a chance to show what he can do as a lead rusher over a full season. Going to Cleveland may not have been the ideal place for a potentially very good running back to land, but it is where Trent Richardson went for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns just two years ago. Tate should be a rather safe #2 running back in fantasy.
26) Ray Rice (BAL) – It has been a weird off-season for Rice, as I’m sure most if not all of you have seen the tape of him and his now-wife in casino that has resulted in Rice going to court. The fact that they are now married should help put this behind him and hopefully return to form in 2014. I don’t think Rice will return to his 2011-2012 form but it’s also hard not to imagine he will improve from his extremely disappointing 2013.
27) Rashad Jennings (NYG) – Jennings’ signing in New York suggests that he will be the starting rusher for the Giants come week one, with David Wilson and Peyton Hillis behind him. He was solid for the a very bad Raiders team last season with more than 700 yards and six touchdowns on 163 carries. Jennings is also a talented pass catcher. I think Jennings can be quality low end #2 running back.
28) Toby Gerhart (JAC) – Gerhart is now the bell cow in Jacksonville and should serve as a great RB3 option with upside. Gerhart is a bruising runner who has spent his entire career behind Adrian Peterson and has a chance to prove that he can be a starting running back. I trust his ability to amass yards as he is a downhill runner who can break tackles and catch a few balls, but its hard to think he will have many touchdowns in the Jaguars offence.
29) Knowshon Moreno (MIA) – Moreno has agreed to a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins where is going to be the teams lead back. The team has showed little faith in young running backs Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller, so it is hard to imagine that Moreno won’t be the go to runner of the ‘Fins this season. While I am happy as a Dolphins fan that we have a veteran runner with a pretty solid track record, I don’t like his fantasy potential too much as the Dolphin’s O-line is one of the worst in football and few teams showed interest in Moreno despite coming off the best season of his career.
30) Joique Bell (DET) – Bell has resigned with the Lions and will again be running along side Reggie Bush in what their team is claiming will be a balanced attack between the two runners. I imagine Bush will still get more carries than Bell, but Bell has shown a very good ability to get into the end zone as he had eight rushing touchdown last year. He also had more receiving yards than Bush in 2013 but it was Bush who caught the touchdowns. I am expecting Bell to do similar things to what he did last season.
31) Maurice Jones-Drew (OAK) – Jones had just one 100-yard game last year and while the Jaguars were again awful as a team, Jones played at a career low level averaging just 3.4 yards per carry (career average is 4.5). Currently a free agent, Drew is hard to trust as a fantasy starter considering the 2012 injury and the large workload he has had in his career.
32) Fred Jackson (BUF) – Its only a matter of time before Jackson falls off and CJ Spiller takes over as the true work horse for the Bills, who admitted this off-season that they were surprised by how productive he was. I doubt I would draft Jackson as a top-3 RB for your team unless I had picked Spiller and want to lockdown his backup.
33) Chris Ivory (NYJ) – While his numbers don’t jump off the screen at you, Ivory did have over 800 yards last season on a 4.6 yards per carry average. This year he will be the running mate of Chris Johnson, but Ivory seems to have a bruising running style that seems to match what the Jets like to do. Health is also a risk with Ivory, so considering the addition of Johnson, Ivory might need to drop off this list.
34) Pierre Thomas (NO) – Thomas led all running backs is catches last year and that was with Darren Sproles still on the roster. He is a serviceable runner with great hands and could be a surprise this season in total yards but remains a concern for touchdowns.
35) Trent Richardson (IND) – Richardson is a player than could end up being a huge steal for those who draft him if he can take a big step back towards what he was in Cleveland. With Luck at the helm the Colts are going to be a passing offence for the foreseeable future, but Richardson can also catch passes which was one of the things he was actually okay at last season. With a full off-season and training camp to get used to playing inside the Colts system, I just cannot see Richardson being as bad as he was in 2013.
36) DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – The Panthers have the worst receiving core in the league at the moment, despite drafting a wide receiver in the first round of the draft. They could largely depend on the running game in 2014. Williams might see a high level of work by default.
Just Got Cut) Shonn Greene (TEN) – Greene was pushed off the list with the drafting of Bishop Sankey by the Tennessee Titans.