Last season we saw a great amount of 1st and 2nd round runningbacks become duds. Who knows what the hell happened to Ray Rice. C.J. “Give him the ball ’till he pukes” Spiller was a colossal disappointment, a lot of people, including myself were very high on that guy. Stevan Ridley is still a fumble machine and was relegated to the Belichick doghouse quite frequently. Trent Richardson appears to be on his way to being a bust, if not already. But as some runningbacks fall of the map, new ones rise to take their place.
1. Lesean McCoy – You combine arguably the most talented tailback in the league, the best offensive line in the league, with an explosive offense and the results you get is the 2014 #1 overall pick in fantasy.
2. Jamaal Charles – Had an absurd year, amassing nearly 2000 total yards and 19 touchdowns in 2013. Though the Chief’s have a more difficult schedule this year, and the offensive line is in flux, losing three starters in free agency and Donald Stephenson due to suspension, Charles is still a stud and should be drafted as a top 3 pick.
3. Adrian Peterson – Even cyborgs like Peterson are subject to the wear-and-tear that being a work-horse running back in the NFL brings. Norv Turner has expressed his dire to get the ball in open space to Peterson through the passing game, making Peterson even more desirable in PPR leagues. Nonetheless, he will be a stud for several more years so draft top 4 as usual.
4. Matt Forte – A major complaint about Forte as a fantasy player in the past was losing goal line touches and his low touchdown counts. Last year was not the case, as he tied his career high in touchdowns (12) and under Marc Tressman’s offense, set career highs as a receiver. He is one of the few remaining elite, volume runningbacks in the NFL and his very reliable.
5. Eddie Lacy – Had an impressive rookie campaign, compiling 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns despite not only suffering a concussion, but Rodgers missing a huge chunk of the season. Coming into his second year, and the return of Rodgers opening up the field, one can expect a very productive year.
6. Marshawn Lynch – Many expressed their concern over the wear and tear of Beastmode the past 3 seasons, amassing 901 carries. He opened the season against the Packers looking as good as ever, en route to 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. While the Packers defense is pretty weak this year, he showed his usual self, showing his power and breaking tackles. He is a bargain at his current ADP.
7. Demarco Murray – Many Murray owners know how talented he is, but likely became very frustrated at the Cowboy’s insistence on moving away from the run game. He averaged 5.2 yards/carry last season. The only knock on his game is his inability to stay healthy.
8. Montee Ball – Last year we saw Moreno step into the Broncos exposive offense and tally 1,038 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 548 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. Now Ball has the opportunity to fill this same role, earning a heavy workload and goal-line carries in an offense that makes it impossible for defenses to stack the box without being punished severely.
9. Zac Stacy – With Bradford out for the year, the Rams will rely heavily on Stacy. His 3.9 yards per rush average is not very impressive, but he is the main guy and coming into his second year. Shaun Hill has proven in the past with Detroit of playing decently, so hopefully he can open up the field a bit and reduce the 8 man fronts.
10. Alfred Morris – While his usage and yard/carry was down from last year, he still put in a solid year. He is a player that won’t single handedly win you a week, but you can rely on him for consistency.
11. Giovani Bernard – One of the more interesting fantasy players this year due to the wide range of opinions of his fantasy impact. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has expressed his desire to get the ball in Bernard’s hands more than last season, but with the Bengals spending a second round pick in runningback Jeremy Hill, this suggests they may lean for a more RBBC approach, which would limit his touches. Though some predict Bernard will be getting close to 300 touches this year. He is an explosive young back with a ridiculously high ceiling.
12. Leveon Bell – It has been quite a while since a Steelers running back has went for over 1000 yards in a season. The offensive line has been a sore spot for this team the past couple years, struggling through a plethora of injuries. This year the line appears to be healthy and their high draft picks are starting to gel. Coming into his second year as a starter as the work-horse back, Bell is in for a great year.
13. Arian Foster – Injuries and off-field problems plagued his 2013 year and put a huge dent in his production. If Foster can stay healthy, the Texans will rely heavily on him and you can expect RB1 production at a bargain price. Alfred Blue appears to be the current #2 back as a handcuff consideration.
14. Ryan Mathews – Quietly rushed for 1,255 yards, many avoided him due to his injury problems, and rightfully so, considering the fact that he had more broken collarbones than touchdowns in the 2012 season.. However, last year he handled a full workload in 2013 and at 285 carries. He looked to have really found his groove and turned thing up a notch in the latter half of the season. I think it is safe to say that he is no more injury prone than any other runningback in the league and the Chargers will look to fully utilize him again next season. Great value to be had here.
15. Andre Ellington – Bruce Arians has expressed his desire to get the ball into Ellington’s hands 20+ times per game. I have my doubts about him, even now he is already dealing with a foot issue that may sideline him for four weeks. The Cardinals are in a tough division, and will have to face very tough run defenses. Ellington is also small for a workhorse back, making the potential for injury higher. There is a ton of potential here, however. Consider Ellington a high risk, high reward pick.
16. Doug Martin – Muscle hamster had a dismal 2013 season, to make matters worse was his 4th overall ADP. He averaged 3.6 yards/carry before going down with injury after 6 games. He is however, one of the few remaining three down backs in the league, still making him a valuable fantasy player. The Buccaneers also added Pro-bowl guard Logan Mankins, whom should help open up some running lanes. If he can bounce back this season and put up rookie season numbers, then he is a bargain at his current ADP.
17. Rashad Jennings – Jennings is a solid grinder that Coughlin prefers, his pass blocking and ball protection should have him seeing a lot of work this year in addition to having no competition for the starting spot. Solid to low-end RB2, limited upside but will be a solid, consistent fantasy player. His ability to catch well makes him a more intriguing pickup for PPR leagues as the Giants will look to implement a west-coast offense.
18. Toby Gerhart – Jacksonville’s offense will likely be lethargic this year, but Gerhart will be the main guy getting the bulk of the carries, making him a valuable fantasy commodity. Mid to low-end RB2 here.
19. Ben Tate – Currently a steal at his current ADP, as the Browns will be leaning on him as their 3-down back with no runningback on the roster showing any signs of challenging him for carries. Unfortunately, with Josh Gordon’s suspension, the Browns are lacking in receiver talent and haven’t shown much ability in the preseason to pass the ball well, so defenses may be able to stack the box against Tate. The common misconception appears to be that Tate is a injury liability, however he has only missed 8 out of 48 games in the last 3 seasons. He has prototypical size, power and speed and will be looking to have a breakout season. RB1 potential is possible.
20. Frank Gore – For the past 3 years I have avoided Gore because I prefer to steer clear of high mileage runningbacks, but time and time again he puts up 1000+ yards, and 8-9 touchdowns. The 49ers have plenty of young talented backs that may cut into Gore’s carries this year however. They remain a run first team so if Gore can hold up again this year, then he will be solid.