This is the second in a series of posts ranking players' fantasy potential for the 2014 NFL season. This post focuses on running backs.
1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: The addition of Darren Sproles may cut into his catches slightly, but LeSean McCoy does it all, and will have ample opportunity to do so in the Eagles’ offense. One of the league’s most elusive runners, McCoy fits perfectly in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo system. He took home his first NFL rushing title last season, his first under Kelly, and ‘Shady’ will have every chance for a repeat performance in 2014.
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: With over 2,000 carries under his belt, durability becomes a question with Peterson. While his best years may be behind him, Peterson can still produce. He has recorded double-digit touchdowns in each of his seven professional seasons, and is a virtual lock to put up 1,000 yards on the ground. Expect similar numbers this season, as a Peterson selection is about as solid as they come.
3. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Cheifs: While Andy Reid’s offense doesn’t afford Charles a ton of traditional carries, it does provide him ample opportunity in the passing game. Charles caught seven touchdowns last season, in addition to the 12 he got on the ground. Charles is one of the league’s biggest play-making threats, and as a guy that can put up points both on the ground and through the air, Charles is always a threat.
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4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: Forte is a beast, and like Charles, he is a major factor in the passing game. Forte had close to 600 yards receiving last season, while compiling 12 total touchdowns. He is Chicago’s clear-cut go-to-guy in the backfield, and as long as he remains healthy, he is positioned for a big season for the Bears.
5. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers: Lacy’s track record is short, but he was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013, and is ready to pick up where he left off last year. In his first season, Lacy recorded 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. With a healthy Aaron Rodgers leading the Packers’ offensive attack, Lacy could be ready to steak his claim as one of the league’s best backs.
6. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: What really needs to be said about Beast Mode? The dude is productive, consistent, and ultra-physical. He leads the league with 35 total touchdowns on the ground over the past three seasons, and is a lock to put up at least 1,000 yards. Lynch has also gotten over 300 carries each of the past couple seasons, so the opportunities are there. The defending-champion Seahawks are committed to the ground game, and Lynch will continue to be the brunt of their attack.
7. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Martin missed a good chunk of last year with injury issues, so he should be fresh and ready for 2014. He should get ample opportunity in Lovie Smith’s run-heavy system, so a return to 2012-form (1,400 yards & 11 touchdowns) is feasible.
8. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: After a successful season in 2013, Bell is ready to shoulder the rushing load for the Steelers. He is a big runner who showed off some soft hands last season, catching 45 passes for 400 yards. The Steelers like to utilize their feature back, and Bell could be in line for a 1,000+ yard, 10 touchdown season in the Steel City.
9. Demarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: Injury issues keep Murray, a solid all-around back, from being higher on this list. He has missed six games over the past two seasons, and concerns about his ability to stay out on the field are legitimate. When he is out on the field however, Murray is a productive player who posted ten touchdowns and over 1,400 yards from scrimmage last season.
10. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals: The presence of BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the biggest drawback to a Bernard selection, as Green-Ellis may take away some touchdown touches. Bernard looked good in his first year last year, both rushing and receiving the ball. He totaled eight touchdowns and largely looked the part of a feature back. If given the opportunity, 2014 could be a breakout season for Bernard.
11. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos: With Knowshon Moreno gone, Ball will have an opportunity to prove he can carry the load for Denver. Last year, Ball posted four touchdowns and 559 yards on only 120 attempts, and all of those numbers figure to increase this year. Ball will get to run behind a solid line and face defenses that are completely concerned with how to stop Peyton Manning. Opportunity awaits for Ball, it will be up to him to take advantage of it.
12. Arian Foster, Houston Texans: Foster was the cream of the crop as far as running backs are concerned over the past few years, but Foster is coming off of serious back surgery, and no one is quite sure what to expect out of the once-dominant back. While he may not approach his 17-touchdown total from 2012, a healthy season should see a return to form for Foster; expect around 10 touchdowns and 1,000 yards.
13. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins: Morris is one-dimensonal, but he is good at what he does. With 20 touchdowns over the past two years, Morris can get the ball into the end zone using his size and strength. He doesn’t catch a lot of passes and is not much of a threat in the open-field. But, as long as Washington’s offense is clicking, Morris is a threat to put up points.
14. Rashard Jennings, New York Giants: With David Wilson out of the picture, Jennings becomes the Giant’s go-to-guy in the backfield. Jennings has bounced around a bit, scoring eight total touchdowns over the past two seasons with the Jaguars and Raiders, but he will have an opportunity to show his worth with the Giants this season.
15. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Even at 31 years old, Gore remains a solid selection option. He is coming off of three straight seasons of scoring at least eight touchdowns, but more importantly, three straight seasons of playing all 16 games for the Niners. While he is not a threat to pass-catch, Gore does his damage on the ground, and he should be in line for another similar (1,000 yards, 8-10 touchdowns) season.
16. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams: 2013 was a breakout season for Stacy, who took over the starting job in week 5 and received at least 20 carries in every game after that. In his first season, Stacy tallied 973 yards and eight total touchdowns, numbers that will likely increase in 2014 with a year of experience under his belt.
17. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills: Spiller is supremely talented, but that talent hasn’t always translated to numbers in Buffalo. The addition of Bryce Brown, and presence of Fred Jackson call into question just how much a workload Spiller will receive this season. His touchdown totals are a concern, but if Spiller gets his fair share of carries, he is a real threat to post points.
18. Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals: Another second-year back, Andre Ellington has a chance to have a big impact this season if he is given the opportunity. Carries are a concern with Ellington, who will likely have to share the ball with Jon Dwyer and maybe even Stepfan Taylor. In his 118 attempts last season, Ellington averaged 5.5 yards per carry, and totaled four touchdowns.
19. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions: Hard to believe that Reggie Bush is 29 years old, but even in his advanced age he remains a constant threat. Bush had 1,000 yards rushing last season, and another 500 receiving yards. If he is on the field he is going to find a way to be productive. The presence of Joique Bell in Detroit’s backfield hurts Bush’s fantasy value however, as he may not get a full workload.
20. Ben Tate, Cincinnati Bengals: Tate will be the starting back on a team lacking a dynamic passing game, so he figures to get a steady workload. No longer being behind a stud in Arian Foster should help Tate’s numbers to expand (771 yards, 4 touchdowns last season0. Injury issues are a concern however, as he has missed 24 games over the past four seasons. If healthy however, Tate will get a lot of touches.
21. Ryan Matthews, San Diego Chargers: Matthews has never been able to have a big, breakout fantasy year, but last year may have been his best. He put up 1,200 yards and scored seven total touchdowns, but Matthews is prone to injury issues, and the Chargers have options in the back field. At this point, Matthews may make a low-end RB2.
22. Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars: Gerhart got his money in the offseason, and now he will have an opportunity to produce like a feature back for the Jaguars, who are accustomed to the fantasy success of Maurice Jones-Drew. The problem is that the Jaguars offense doesn’t move the ball all that well, and Gerhart may not have too many touchdown opportunities. Also, how will he handle a heavy workload, after only recording 86 carries over the past two seasons?
23. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots: Tom Brady and the Patriots move the ball on offense, and the team figures to have a good amount of solid scoring opportunites. Many of those opportunities will go to Ridley in the absence of LeGarrette Blount, so he will have the opportunity to equal, or surpass his total of seven scores from last season. n
24. Chris Johnson, New York Jets: Gone are the days of CJ2K. As Johnson enters his first season away from the Titans, many are wondering what he has left. He remains a threat in the receiving game, as he scored four touchdowns through the air last year, and still has some speed. As the jets’ primary back, Johnson can be expected to approach 1,000 yards and around eight touchdowns.
25. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans: First-year back Bishop Sankey will have a chance to show his stuff for the Titans this year, with Shonn Greene his only backfield competition. Sankey is strong and athletic and has potential to make immediate fantasy impact.
26. Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
27. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
28. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
29. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
30. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saitnts