In week 2 of Fantasy Fridays, we take a look at the running back position - a fantasy football position that has seen a huge change over the past ten years. The days of a "Bell Cow" running back - with the exception or Adrian Peterson - are over. In today's NFL, most teams use 2 running backs and therefore few running backs hold the individual values they once did.
One place today's running backs still hold great value is in the passing game, especially if you are in a PPR league. Below are my top 24 running backs - keep in mind, these rankings are done based on PPR scoring.
**Note: Positional rankings and fantasy value will be based off PPR leagues
1. Jamaal Charles
As far back as I can remember, Andy Reid's offense has gone through his running backs, and that is a good thing for fantasy owners (see Westbrook, McCoy, now Charles). While Charles did not have the rushing yards of McCoy, he lead all RBs with 12 TDs and added 70 catches for 693 yards and an additional 7 TDs - huge in a PPR league.
2. LeSean McCoy
McCoy (and McCoy) owners love Chip Kelly's offense. McCoy had his best season under Kelly (1,600+ yards, 52 receptions, 500+ receiving yards and 11 total TDs). McCoy finds himself behind Charles for 2 reasons: 1) Charles was a TD machine in 2013 and 2) the addition of Darren Sproles will take away some catches and TDs from McCoy.
3. Matt Forte
Durability can be a concern with Forte, however, when healthy, few RBs have been more productive the last few years than Forte. The one place Forte has been disappointing, has been in the TD category, but that is because he has always had a TD stealing backup. He doesn't have that this year and therefore I see big things for Forte in 2014.
4. Adrian Peterson
Peterson is the one running back that is still a one man show. Peterson had a more human 2013 (1,266) after a superhuman 2,100 yards in 2012, however, 1,200+ yards is still good - and is still obtainable for Peterson. He doesn't offer much in the passing game, but he is still the most consistent runner in the game.
5. Eddie Lacy
Lacy has the potential to be a one man show like AP and after an impressive rookie campaign (1,178 yards, 11 TDs, 35 receptions and 257 receiving yards), I look for bigger things from Lacy. In 2013, with Rodgers out, teams could focus on Lacy. With Rodgers healthy, Lacy should see a lot more space in 2014 and a few more receptions.
6. Arian Foster
Due to some nagging injuries in 2013 that limited Foster to just 8 games, Foster was a bit of a forgotten man. However, when healthy, he is still one of the best around, and from the sounds of it, Foster will see more receptions in Bill O'Brien's offense.
7. Marshawn Lynch
Beyond being a great running back, Lynch is an underappreciated receiver (36 receptions, 316 yards, 2 TDs). I love the way Lynch runs and he produces (1,257 yards, 12 TDs), but at 28, with 1,753 carries on his legs (and the style with which he runs), Lynch does concern me a bit. The Seahawks have a talented young backup in Christine Michael who may be a worthwhile handcuff.
8. Doug Martin
2013 Doug Martin owners are cursing me right this minute, but the guy was injured and on a terrible team. Martin is healthy again and on a very talented offense and I expect to see the 2012 Martin return.
9. Montee Ball
2013 Ball owners (myself included) were burned by Knowshon Moreno's breakout year and Ball's inability to see consistent playing time. However, with Moreno in Miami, Ball should get first crack at all of Moreno's fantasy points and a RB in a Peyton offense will get plenty of opportunities to put up points.
10. DeMarco Murray
Murray and his glass body have disappointed many of fantasy owners over the past few years, but when healthy (a big IF with Murray), he produces. In his 3 year career, Murray is averaging 4.9 YPC and 3+ receptions per game. One of these days Dallas may realize that running the ball is not a bad thing...right?
11. Giovani Bernard
As a rookie, Bernard showed some electrifying ability in both the running game and the passing game, however, his lack of consistent touches made him tough to start. Even with the drafting of Hill, Bernard should benefit greatly from the loss of Jay Gruden and the hiring of Hue Jackson as OC in Cincinnati.
12. Zac Stacy
Stacy was a pleasant surprise in 2013 and with an improved line, more offensive weapons around him and a healthy QB, I expect to see a bump in production from Stacy in 2014.
The Second Dozen
13. Andre Ellington
Going into 2013, I loved Ellington and his fit in Arizona, but the Cardinals never truly committed to he or Mendenhall. Now with Mendenhall and his crazy talk retired, Ellington should be the #1 guy in Arizona and I expect big things. Despite only starting 1 game in 2013, Ellington averaged 5.5 YPC (652 yards) and had 39 receptions for 371 yards (9.5 YPC). Give him 16 starts and he may be a top 5 back in 2014.
14. Reggie Bush
When healthy, Bush is a dynamite (top 5) RB in a PPR league. The problem is "when healthy." In his 8 seasons in the NFL, Bush has started 16 games just once and as a result, surpassed 1,000 rushing yards just twice. However, he still averages 4.3 YPC, 53+ receptions and 400+ receiving yards per year. With the talent on offense in Detroit, his touches may decrease, but his numbers should still be worthy of a starting spot in fantasy.
15. C.J. Spiller
Going into 2013, Spiller was projected for a huge year and was a hot fantasy pick. After an injury riddled season that limited Spiller to 10 games and 202 carries, Spiller has seemingly been forgotten. Don't be fooled though - if Spiller stays healthy, he is without a doubt a top 10 PPR back. Despite his injuries, Spiller still ended 2013 with 933 yards and a 4.6 YPC.
16. Ryan Mathews
If you have played fantasy football for the last seasons, you have likely been burned at one point or another by Ryan Mathews. Another guy with great talent but a shaky production record and a fragile body. In 2013, Mathews finally stayed healthy and finally rewarded his owners (1,255 yards). However, Mathews is still a "Buyer Beware" RB. Along with his fragile body, Mathews loses out on receptions to Woodhead and could now lose some carries to the recently signed Donald Brown.
17. Alfred Morris
Over the last 2 seasons, Morris has averaged 1,444 yards and 10 TDs per year. Those are top 10 numbers. Morris finds himself at 17 however, for 3 reasons: 1) he offers nothing in the passing game (averaging 10 catches for 77.5 yards...per year); 2) he has a new coach in Jay Gruden that struggled to find a role for his backs in Cincinnati; and 3) he has a back on the roster (Roy Helu) who is a good receiving back and capable of taking snaps away from him, especially with a new coaching staff.
18. Le'Veon Bell
All the rankings have Bell in the top 10, but I just don't see it yet. He does catch a lot of balls (45 in 13 games), but he only had 399 receiving yards and 0 receiving TDs to go along with just 860 rushing yards (3.5 YPC). Bell did have 8 rushing TDs, but with Blount in the mix, some of those TDs may be given to Blount.
19. Ray Rice
No player had dropped more in value (on or off the field) in the past year than Ray Rice. After a 4 year stretch of nearly 2,000 all-purpose yards and 8+ TDs per year, Rice had his worst season of his NFL career in 2013 in terms of yards (660), YPC (3.1), TDs (4), receptions (58), receiving yards (321) and receiving TDs (0). At age 27, the question is whether Rice had a bad year or is done as a productive back. I still think he is worth a mid-round flyer. If the Rice of 2009-2012 shows up, you won't regret the pick.
20. Knowshon Moreno
After years of disappointment in Denver, Moreno finally took off in 2013. Was it due to a contract year? The result of Peyton Manning? Only time will tell. He has the talent to be a solid player and solid fantasy starter, but with no contract to motivate him and Tannehill rather than Manning, I expect a drop off in production. As he has been so far in his career, I see Moreno as a boom or bust pick.
21. Toby Gerhardt
After being buried behind the best RB in the game the past 4 years, Gerhart gets the starting nod in Jacksonville and seemingly has little competition. With Peterson ahead of him in Minnesota, Gerhart never saw many touches, but he produced when he did get the ball - 4.7 YPC, 5 TDs on 276 career touches, nearly 20 catches per year and 3 receiving TDs.
22. Ben Tate
For the last 3 years, Tate may have been the favorite "handcuff" pick in the NFL. Despite his backup role, Tate averaged nearly 700 yards per year, 3+ TDs and 20 receptions. If Tate can carry this production over to 16 games as a starter, he may be a top 15 back, but with a new team, he carries some reasonable risk.
23. Steven Jackson
This may seem high for a 30 year old back coming off an injury riddled season with the amount of carries Jackson has on his legs, but before his 2013 injury, Jackson had 8 straight 1,000+ yard seasons. Jackson is a big contributor in the passing game (440 career receptions and 3,515 career receiving yards) and despite his injuries last year, Jackson still had 7 total TDs. Assuming he is healthy (a big if), combined with the return of Jones and White, could mean another productive year for Jackson.
24. Frank Gore
Many are shocked to see Gore all the way at 24, but the reason has nothing to do with his talent and productivity, it has everything to do with his age (31), the fact that he has had both knees reconstructed and the quality young backs he has behind him that will eventually eat away on his touches (Carlos Hyde, Marcus Lattimore, Kendall Hunter).