Without further ado, I present part 2 of the fantasy football running back rankings.
15.) Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars
After four years of backing up fantasy star Adrian Peterson, Gerhart finally gets his own opportunity as a feature back in Jacksonville. Sure he is not in the best situation, the most athletic, or surrounded by the best talent, but he is a surefire starter who will see upwards of 20 touches a game in a run-focused offense. His 4.7 career yards per carry may be tough to replicate for the entirety of 2014, but Gerhart could easily end up in the neighborhood of 4.5 in a soft AFC South.
14.) Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
A trendy sleeper option, Ellington has a ceiling of a high RB2/low RB1 but is currently falling between the fourth and sixth rounds in most fantasy drafts. Ellington has all the physical tools to be a productive back, but Arizona appears reluctant to give him enough touches for him to truly dominate. He has learned all three WR positions in training camp this year, which is a very positive sign he will become a top fantasy back.
13.) Gio Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Often compared to Ellington, Bernard is a very similar back in an eerily comparable situation. Bernard will likely be the feature back in the Bengals offense which should warrant sufficient touches for him to be a productive fantasy running back. Both players may very well end up in the top 10 at the end of the year, but the organizational challenges keep them out of that tier for now.
12.) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
After averaging 3.5 yards per carry in his breakout 2013 season, Bell is found highly on many draft boards this year. While I do not think he is worth a top 10 spot, I also think his much criticized YPC will also increase this year. Despite being a true starter, the newly-signed Legarratte Blount will pilfer a touchdown here and there and steal a few carries a game. Overall Bell is still one of the safest picks in the draft.
11.) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a strong preseason performance against the Buffalo Bills, Martin appears to have found his 2012 form and is poised for a breakout in 2014. After returning from an injury plagued 2013, the “Muscle Hamster” is still a riskier pick for fantasy owners this season. While he may not be worth a first round pick in a standard league, Martin is solid in the second round and provides excellent value beyond.
10.) Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
Another 2013 fantasy surprise, Stacy also comes into the 2014 as one of the top running backs in the draft. While I do not believe his upside is as high as many other backs, he is one of the safest pick. Stacy is going to see 20 touches a game, and all the goal line action in the Rams offense. His reliability makes him so coveted, with 1000 yards rushing and 8 TDs being conservative predictions his season ending totals.
9.) Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Offseason talk regarding Morris’ receiving capabilities has diminished his draft value in fantasy football. To the credit of pundits and fans, Morris is one of the worst receiving backs in the new Redskins offense. However, everyone is overlooking the fact that he is also by far the best blocking running back on the roster as well. Morris will see plenty of playing time on first and second down, as well as the short yardage work. From what we have seen in his first two years, there is no reason to believe that he will fail to produce this year.
8.) Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Ball, a popular breakout candidate for 2014, is a very interesting prospect because the hype surrounding his prospective season stems not from his talent or 2013 campaign, but from the incredible successes of his quarterback, Peyton Manning. Manning turned Knowshon Moreno into a fantasy football star and many are expecting him to do the same for the former Wisconsin Badger. As long as Manning is on the field, and Ball can avoid his issues fumbling the football, the is no reason not to think Ball will end up in the top 10 at the end of 2014.
7.) Demarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
With an extensive injury history, Murray very well may be the ultimate boom/bust running back heading into the 2014 season. When he has seen the field, Murray has been very effective not only as a rusher, but also as a receiving threat. Reports are indicating that Murray is expected to play an even larger role this season, becoming more of an offensive focal point. While Murray is a safe bet to end up a top-five running back, he is also equally likely to miss eight games this year. Be wary of drafting him as your RB1, but do not be afraid to pick him up in the second/third round either.
6.) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Barring any injury, Lynch is one of the few true RB1 available in all of fantasy football. The artist known as “Beast Mode” will be a first round pick and will produce accordingly. Because he is one of the larger injury risks of the six bona fide RB1s, coupled with Seattle’s effort to pass the ball more often, Lynch falls just outside of the top 5.
5.) Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
That being said, Forte is, in my mind, the biggest injury risk out of all the top running backs. After six years in the league, Forte has never finished with fewer than 203 rushing attempts and 44 receptions in a season. He is one of the most versatile backs in the NFL, but also one of the most worn down. Few have handled Forte’s workload over the past years, and there is a risk that a major injury is waiting for him in 2014.
4.) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
As a second year pro, Lacy is not as much of an injury risk as Lynch or Forte, since he simply has fresher legs. While he is not as talented as the aforementioned, a full year with a healthy Aaron Rodgers will certainly benefit him in the running game, and create more goal line opportunities.
3.) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Last year’s top-scoring fantasy running back remains one of the best options around which to build your team in 2014; however, he has the more uncertainty than other highly-ranked prospects. Chemistry and cohesion concerns define in a new offensive line in Kansas City and a tougher schedule in 2014 may limit Charles production, but overall, he remains one of the best options in the game.
2.) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
As a fantasy cornerstone over the last seven years, there honestly is not much to say about Peterson that has not already been said. Despite the mileage, Peterson durability is remarkable. Selecting him at number one is not only one of the safest picks in the draft, but likely one of the safest decisions you will ever make in your life.
1.) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
If you’re willing to take a riskier pick at number one, McCoy has the highest ceiling of every running back in the draft. Chip Kelly’s offense perfectly suits his skill set and another year of familiarity with the system and quarterback Nick Foles will likely pay dividends for McCoy. It isn’t hard to imagine him totaling over 2000 yards from scrimmage and 12+ touchdowns this year. While he is more of an injury risk than Peterson or Charles, do not overthink this decision. McCoy is fantasy’s number one running back.