When it comes to drafting running backs for the 2013 Fantasy Draft, all fantasy owners must basically focus on the top 20-25 in the league.
To help with your draft this season, Fantasy Buzzer did a quick breakdown of the talent available.
All NFL Preseason rankings (no matter what the source) are based on past player performance, statistical analysis and conjecture.
The fact that we don’t believe that Adrian Peterson will be within 600 yards of his amazing 2012 performance when he rushed for 2,097 yards will no doubt frustrate many fantasy owners, but please come back at the end of the season and thank us for being correct.
The following top running backs can be broken down into (FOUR) categories:
- Must Own
- Top Notch
- Rock Solid
- Best of the Rest
Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin
Coming into the 2013 season, there is very little that separates these four running backs from one another. Just about every expert expects Adrian Peterson to blow away the competition, but that’s never what happens to the backs that just broke the 2,000 yard mark the following season.
Another 2,000 yard season is pretty much out of the question. It’s not impossible, just HIGHLY unlikely. Only 7 players in NFL history have ever run for 2,000 yards and no player has ever done it twice. This takes nothing away from the awesome power of A-P, just don’t count on another 2,000 yard gem. Without a doubt, Peterson will be close to the top, but it would not be a shocker to see Doug Martin or Arian Foster score around the same amount of fantasy points as A-P.
If I had the top pick, I would be very tempted to grab Peterson, but I think Foster plays on a much better team and might have more chances to score in the red zone. Last season’s health scare with Foster is a concern, but it seems to have been an anomaly and is hopefully behind him.
Doug Martin is a stunning talent who plays on a bad team. During his rookie campaign, Martin netted 1,454 rushing yards to go along with 11 rushing touchdowns and still appears to be improving.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has been a pillar of consistency during his last two seasons in Seattle. With Pete Carroll running the “run first and ask questions later” approach, there no reason that Lynch can’t rush for more than 1,300 yards and ring up another double-digit rushing touchdown performance.
Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, C.J. Spiller, Alfred Morris, Steven Jackson
Jamaal Charles could just as easily be on the must own list. No running back is likely to benefit more from an offseason coaching change than Charles. Kansas City coach Andy Reid is going to work Charles until the wheels fall off and he should. The 26-year-old had a wildly inconsistent season in 2012, but still put up monster numbers. It seemed that the Chiefs spent half the season tinkering instead of trying to win games, Reid will bring stability to the running game and we might see Charles reach his full potential.
Reid’s old team, the Philadelphia Eagles, has a new head coach that’s all about the run and that’s suits LeSean McCoy just fine. Philly Coach Chip Kelly feels the need for speed and McCoy loves the up-tempo offense. McCoy is driven to succeed after missing four games and dealing with multiple injury issues during the 2012 season. This is the perfect situation for a bounce back season and another 1,300 yard plus performance for McCoy.
Ray Rice is the most dangerous running back in the NFL. Not only is he a top-notch runner, but he has terrific hands and is a very accomplished ball catcher. During his last four years in the league, he’s averaging 1,267 rushing yards per season and 610 receiving yards per season. He is a MUST-OWN in PPR leagues and a fantasy monster in standard scoring leagues. Look for a sizable BUMP in his receiving numbers now that Baltimore is without Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.
The Bills completely misused C.J. Spiller in 2012, yet he still managed five 100-plus-yard rushing games and finished the season with 1,244 yards. Spiller only had 207 rushing attempts during the 2012 season while averaging 6-yards-per-carry. The Bills new offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, vowed to feed Spiller the football “until he throws up.” We’re pretty sure that Hackett meant that in a good way.
Alfred Morris finished his 2012 rookie season second in the league with 13 rushing touchdowns. He also finished second in the league with 1,613 rushing yards after a staggering 335 rushing attempts. This fantasy workhorse is a shoe in for all of the goal line work and will likely be called upon to rush at least another 300 times. The Redskins know how to move the ball and Morris has a nose for the end zone – This guy is a fantasy point machine. It’s amazing that after his 2012 season, many experts still have him barely ranked inside the top ten.
Even more people will wonder why the 30-year-old Steven Jackson made our TOP-NOTCH list and I’m more than happy to explain. After wasting year after year playing for the hopeless St. Louis Rams, Jackson still continued to ring up 1,000 yard-plus seasons. Now that he’s playing behind a formidable offensive line in Atlanta, this is his time to shine. If a giant garden slug like Michael Turner can post 800 yards and ten touchdowns behind the Falcons line, imagine what Jackson can do. Call me crazy, but sign him up for 1,300 yards and at least 14 touchdowns and you can thank me later.
Trent Richardson, Stevan Ridley, Matt Forte
I will be the first one to admit that the Browns Trent Richardson surprised the heck out of me last year. I saw great promise in Alfred Morris, but despite all of the accolades, I didn’t think Richardson had the right stuff. I knew he had the talent, but I doubted his toughness and he proved me wrong. During his rookie campaign, he played through injury time and time again and finished the season with a very respectable 950 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns in 15 games. However, his extensive laundry list of injuries never seems to go away. Rib injuries, ankle problems, lingering leg pain and now he’s dealing with a bum right shin. Richardson insists he not injury-prone, but the writing is on the wall and he does seem to present more risk than other first round running backs.
You were a happy camper if Stevan Ridley was your running back last season. For the first time in years, head coach Bill Belichick put his trust into a single running back and was rewarded for his patience. Ridley averaged 4.4 yards-per-carry last season while racking up 1,263 yards to go along with an impressive 12 touchdowns. The Patriots receiving issues are well-documented and Ridley should see an increased role in the offense to go with more goal line opportunities.
Matt Forte is a ROCK SOLID option who is an excellent runner and perhaps an even better receiver. He’s very dependable when it comes to racking up the rushing and receiving yards, but doesn’t have much luck when it comes to finding the end zone.
BEST of the REST:
Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore, David Wilson, Chris Johnson
After sitting out the last ten games on the 2012 season with a foot injury, Maurice Jones-Drew is ready to make up for lost time. He has a great deal to prove to fans and fantasy owners that he still has the right stuff to be an elite runner in the NFL. Expect a bounce back year for the 8th year pro who plays for an absolutely dreadful Jaguars team. He’s the only true offensive weapon on the team, so he will have plenty of opportunities to try and reestablish himself.
Many pundits expected a real slow-down from Frank Gore last season – He proved them all wrong by rushing for 1,212 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. The fire is still there and so are his pass-catching skills. He’s still a top-15 back with top ten potential.
There’s no denying that the Giants David Wilson is a very talented runner, but his lack of pass blocking skills are becoming more and more of a problem in New York. Wilson spent much of last season in the Tom Coughlin doghouse for fumbling. Now Coughlin is publicly criticizing him for his inability to block and protect the quarterback. The good news for fantasy owners is that Andre Brown is the only other alternative and he’s going through his own bout of “Fumble-Itus.”
Chris Johnson is fantasy poison – His 1,243 rushing yards during the 2012 season are VERY deceptive. During the first six games of last season, he broke the 100-yard rushing mark just once and didn’t score a single touchdown. During the last six games of the season, he broke the 100-yard rushing mark just once and scored just two touchdowns. His arrogance and “blame every one else attitude” could force your fantasy team into the toilet – STAY AWAY!
Injury Watch Running Backs:
DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, Reggie Bush
The Cowboys are supposed to focus more on the run during the 2013 season. DeMarco Murray says he’s finally at 100%, but he has been too fragile to trust. He’s great when he’s healthy, but he seems to spend more time on the sidelines than playing. He is a fantasy risk even for your second tier running back.
Same story with Darren McFadden – he’s an amazing talent who’s been battling the injury bug since his college days at Arkansas. Is this the year he finally stays healthy, don’t bet your fantasy life on it.