2013 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Back
This is the first in a series of posts ranking players' fantasy potential for the 2013 NFL season.
We will start with running backs, arguably the most important position in fantasy football.
1. Adrian Peterson, MIN (279*) - Peterson silenced any doubts about his ability to return to full strength last year by posting a strong sixteen game season. Tough and athletic as they come, Peterson continues to be the league’s most reliable back. Add in 40 receptions last season, which make him especially attractive in the PPR format, and AP seems to be a safe selection at number one.
*Number is the total projected points for the 2013 NFL season (via ESPN Fantasy Projections)
2. Arian Foster, HOU (261) - Lingering back injury issues are a concern, but assuming he can return to full health, Foster will again be a force. He led the league with 15 touchdowns on the ground last season, and while backup Ben Tate will get some touches, Foster’s production will still be central to the Texans’ success. Foster is a safe pick with some potential upside to surpass projections.
3. Doug Martin, TB (226)- Martin came out of nowhere midway through last season and exploded into the fantasy football scene. Martin plays in many ways like a young Ray Rice, as he is a serious threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. While his production was a little inconsistent after a midseason explosion against Oakland, the opportunities will be there, and expect Martin to take full advantage of them in his second season.
4. Marshawn Lynch, SEA (233)- Lynch has been extremely consistent over the past two seasons in Seattle, and Pete Carroll wants the Seahawks to remain a running team. He has only missed one game over that two season span, while finishing in the top five in both touchdowns and rushing yards last season. There is every reason to expect similar numbers this season.
5. Jamaal Charles, KC (228)- An explosive, versatile back, Charles has the potential to really put up points. He is however just a single season removed from ACL surgery, so injury issues remain a concern. His run attempts may go down slightly under pass-happy Andy Reid, but he will have plenty of opportunities to catch the ball out of the backfield. As long as he is on the field, Charles is always a threat, just one that comes with some slight risk.
6. Ray Rice, BAL (232) - At this point in his career, Ray Rice may almost get overlooked. People are always searching for the new flashy, homerun-hitter back, but all the while Rice provides consistent production. Entering his sixth season Rice continues to be Baltimore’s featured back, although Bernard Pierce will likely take some touches away. He remains a serious pass-catch threat out of the backfield, and therefore a serious threat to compile a lot of yards and put up points.
7. C.J. Spiller, BUF (227) - Expect C.J. Spiller to get a lot of carries this season. His attempts have gone up each of the past three seasons, and with Fred Jackson on the decline, the trend is likely to continue. Spiller is exceptionally fast, and his breakaway speed makes him a serious fantasy threat week-in and week-out, as does his ability to continue after contact. Spiller is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, adding to his value in PPR leagues.
8. LeSean McCoy, PHI (200) - No one quite knows what to expect out of the Eagles offense under Chip Kelly, but a steady dose of McCoy is expected. Despite a disappointing campaign in 2012, McCoy remains the unquestioned star of the Eagles backfield and should benefit from new and different opportunities under Kelly. With the team low on receiving options, McCoy may see even more opportunities in that area. Reports out of training camp say that McCoy is an excellent fit for the offense, so all signs point to a big season from Shady.
9. Trent Richardson, CLE (226) - The biggest concern with Trent Richardson is health. The Browns’ remain underwhelming offensively and much of their production is going to fall to Richardson. While he is quite capable, a heavy workload wears on a back’s body, so one can only hope that the Browns don’t run him into the ground. Otherwise, Richardson established himself as one of the league’s best catching and most versatile backs. He also benefits from being the team’s top goal-line option.
10. Alfred Morris, WSH (219) - Alfred Morris snuck up on a lot of fantasy owners last year, but it’s safe to say that won’t happen this season. After averaging 100 yards a game in his rookie season, Morris is high on a lot of lists. He remains the Redskins lead back, so again look for the yards to pile up. Robert Griffin’s proclivity to run the ball in the redzone may minimize Morris’ touchdown totals however. Still, Morris is a top 20 fantasy player.
11. Matt Forte, CHI (182) - When Matt Forte plays he is excellent, but when is the key word. Forte has missed five games over the past two seasons, and has been a game-time decision for a couple others. He remains a serious pass-catch threat out of the backfield which adds to his value, but the Bears don’t always utilize him in the redzone. He has ten total touchdowns over the past two seasons, so he leaves a little to be desired in that area as well.
12. Steven Jackson, ATL (192) - Jackson should benefit greatly from a change of scenery. Yes he is getting old and his production has tapered off over the past couple years, but Jackson remains extremely consistent, and having the support of a respectable offensive line, not to mention other offensive options around him, should help his numbers. He will also likely benefit from more scoring opportunities than he did in the Rams’ dismal offense.
13. Stevan Ridley, NE (181) – Ridley benefits from an excellent offensive line, and ample touchdown opportunities. While he doesn’t catch many passes, he is likely to go above ten touchdowns for the second straight season, making him a fantasy asset.
14. Chris Johnson, TEN (172)– While this isn’t the same Chris Johnson that was a consensus top pick just a few seasons ago, Johnson still has high fantasy value. He still has the ability to break open the big run, but Shonn Greene is likely to take away some of Johnson’s touchdown touches. Johnson will have to do the bulk of his fantasy damage breaking off big runs and catching passes, which he has not had a problem with in the past.
15. Frank Gore, SF (178) - If Gore can stay on the field, then he will produce. Even at 30, he remains one of the league’s most consistent backs, compiling 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. The 49ers’ offensive line is excellent, and Gore benefits from doing his work behind their wall. He won’t get a ton of touches, but if he stays healthy enough for around 250 total touches, expect solid stats.
16. Maurice Jones- Drew, JAX (172) – MJD is coming off an injury, and recovery is always a concern. With that being said, Jones-Drew looks ready for a bounce-back season in a contract year. He will again get a heavy load in Jacksonville’s offense, and will look to put up similar numbers to his 2011 season. While at this point there is some risk with this pick, there is still a lot of upside as well.
17. David Wilson, NYG (164) – Wilson is a pick based on potential. He scored only four touchdowns and ran for 358 yards last season, but the Giants’ backfield has opened up and the spot is his for the taking. While Andre Brown will still be involved in the Giants’ ground game, there is all the potential for a breakout season from Wilson, who possesses the size and speed to be a starting back.
18. Darren McFadden, OAK (168) – So much potential, but so many injury issues. McFadden has never played more than 13 games in a season, and has missed over ten in the past two seasons combined. When he is on the field, he can be explosive, and is always a threat to bust one open. But at this point, it is difficult to justify the gamble that his selection has become. Although starter-level potential is there, he might be best served as a back-up back.
19. Demarco Murray, DAL (151) – There is no one in the ‘Boys backfield to challenge Murray for touches; his biggest concern is staying healthy. Murray has a past riddled with injury issues, including missing six games last season. When he plays he provides Tony Romo another weapon in the passing game, and is always a threat to bust a big run. He will get opportunities as long as he is on the field.
20. Darren Sproles, NO (154) – Sproles is as likely to score receiving as he is rushing. He is probably the NFL’s best receiving back, and as a piece in the explosive Saints offense he has the potential to put up a lot of points.
21. Chris Ivory, NYJ (128)– Ivory will at least get opportunities at the Jets’ lead back.
22. Reggie Bush, DET (155) – Bush may fit in well with the Lions’ potentially explosive offense.
23. Lamar Miller, MIA (138) – Miller will get a chance to fill Bush’s shoes.
24. Rashard Mendenhall, ARZ (133) – Mendenhall with look to resurrect his career in Arizona.
25. Ryan Mathews, SD (140) – Fantasy owners are still waiting on that big breakout season from Mathews.
Build the bench
26. Deangelo Williams, CAR (128)
27. Montee Ball, DEN (162)
28. Le’Veon Bell, PIT (133)
29. Vick Ballard, IND (106)
30. Giovani Bernard, CIN (129)
31. Eddie Lacy, GB (147)
32. Mark Ingram, NO (103)
33. Ahmad Bradshaw, IND (128)
34. Andre Brown, NYG (113)
35. Daryl Richardson, STL (110)
36. Shane Vereen, NE (128)
37. Mike Leshoure, DET (101)
38. Ben Tate, HOU (70)
39. Fred Jackson, BUF (69)
40. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN (127)