Running back is considered by many people to be the most important part of a fantasy roster. If you have played fantasy football since the early 2000’s then you remember the days where running backs would own the first and maybe even the second rounds. There was no such thing as a running back by committee (RBBC), and now they are everywhere.
The few true bell cow backs go in the first 15 picks; after that owners are left searching for guys who might get 15 carries a game. Heck, for a few years Darren Sproles was a 4th rounder and he has never had a 100 carry season. Things have changed a lot in fantasy football over the past decade, but one thing has stayed the same; the elite running back is just about the most valuable thing in all of fantasy football.
Tommy, Joe and I have now ranked the running back position. If you agree, disagree or have any questions, use the comment section below.
Note: Rankings and comments were completed prior to the news about LeGarrette Blount’s sprained MCL
|49||Roy Helu Jr.||44||47||50|
|Players marked NR were not ranked.|
1. Which RBs are you most willing to reach for during your draft?
Andy: I loved Isaiah Crowell early on. The camp injury to Duke Johnson may force me to reach for him even earlier than I was planning to previously. He has great talent, and if he doesn’t fumble has the potential to be a top 10 running back. The longer Johnson stays out of camp the more Crowell is going to creep up my draft board. I also like Ryan Mathews a lot this season. Sproles was viable some weeks last season as primarily a pass catcher and Mathews has huge upside in that offense if DeMarco Murray goes down with an injury.
Joe: LeSean McCoy. Rex Ryan has a reputation as a run-first coach. But unlike some coaches, his Jets’ teams have literally rushed more times than they have passed. Six years as the Jets’ skipper, Ryan’s offenses have averaged 513 rush attempts per season – more than any other team in that stretch, and McCoy will be the centerpiece of those attempts.
Tommy: The top 5 are a cut above the rest in terms of expected production and risk, but Jeremy Hill is the one player outside the top 5 who is most likely to top the RB ranks at season’s end. I would consider him at 6 overall. Todd Gurley is the other player I might reach for. He is extremely risky and will likely be unstartable for the first 2-4 games of the season, but he is a truly elite talent who should be a top 3 overall pick someday.
2. Which RBs will you be looking to avoid this season?
Andy: When it comes to some later picks it is Shane Vereen. He went from the highflying offense in New England to New York. I don’t see him getting nearly enough work to make him a viable option this season. Even if Rashad Jennings gets injured, Andre Williams would be expected to be the running downs back and Vereen might just get a few extra carries. When it comes to early round guys I dont see myself drafting Matt Forte where he is currently going. He has age, his defense and the new offense all working against him this season. I would much rather have one of the elite receivers or Rob Gronkowski in that area.
Joe: Jonathan Stewart hasn’t played a full season since 2011. Consider also that he has never been the primary or sole back in Carolina’s offenses during that time. I’m secretly cheering for him, but I don’t want the headache. There are enough backs this season that have question marks as it is.
Tommy: Lesean McCoy is not the player he was two years ago, and moving from the Eagles dynamic offense to the Bills won’t help him either. He should be a mid-to late second round guy going too early for my taste. Andre Ellington is being drafted as an RB 2 because he still sits atop the Cardinals depth chart, but he proved last year he cannot handle the workload. He is best suited for a change of pace role and should be valued as such.
3. Which “average joes” are you willing to settle for if you pass on the top RB options?
Andy: In my mock drafts where I avoid running backs early I find myself happily settling for someone like Lamar Miller as my number one and a Isaiah Crowell or LeGarrette Blount as my number two. I see Blount and Crowell both as solid number two backs this season getting roughly 15-20 carries a game. To bring a new name into the discussion, I would be really happy to settle for Frank Gore as my top running back if I loaded up elsewhere. The talent isn’t what it used to be, but he is a lot more talented than Dan Herron who was good at times last year. He can still catch passes and pass block so I don’t see him splitting too much time with other backs.
Joe: Lamar Miller is going as a late third or early fourth rounder. Perhaps his fantasy forecast became cloudy when Miami drafted rookie Jay Ajayi. However, Miami admits that it kept Miller’s leash short last season, only rushing 216 times; yet he racked up over 1000 yards with a 5.1 YPC. Now the Dolphins are negotiating an extension. Both Knowshon Moreno and Daniel Thomas are gone. He’s in a talented young offense. Moreover coach Joe Philbin promises more carries for Miller.
Tommy: I like LeGarrette Blount. Anybody who complains about Belichick being unpredictable is not really paying attention. When the Pats play against a top-notch run defense, they don’t use their big back much unless they are clock killing in the fourth. While this can be frustrating, the potential for high-end numbers in the games where Blount is featured make him well worth the price tag. Belichick’s decisions are not whimsical. Just be prepared to bench Blount when the matchups aren’t right. The other average Joe who I really like is T.J. Yeldon. I think his role will be such that he is able to provide consistent points despite the poor offense.
4. Who are some late round lottery ticket RBs that you feel may hit it big this season?
Andy: Cameron Artis-Payne is a guy who, when Jonathan Stewart eventually gets injured, will get a bulk of the carries and help teams win a few weeks. The handcuff players like Juwan Thompson and Knile Davis also have huge upside when their starters get injured. We all have Tre Mason ranked late, but don’t be surprised if they hold Todd Gurley out or ease him in over the first few weeks of the season, giving Mason a chance to provide for fantasy owners early in the season. I don’t know who it is right now, but also keep an eye on who looks to be the week one starter in New England. With Blount and Brady suspended week one someone has to move the ball in that offense.
Joe: David Cobb. Traditionally I’m not a big fan of rookies, but incumbent Bishop Sankey did not do much in 2014 to solidify his role as the lead back – so much so that the Titans drafted Cobb. And with another rookie under center (Marcus Mariota), the run-game should be a focal point of the offense.
Tommy: I am not going to tout any of the rookies here because the best are being drafted in the mid rounds more so than the late rounds, but I think there are quite a few with potential to be starting by season’s end. I like Steven Ridley’s chances to overtake Chris Ivory at some point, and the fact that he may start the year on the PUP list will make his price tag extremely low. Montee Ball and Juwan Thompson are two more players being overlooked who could see more game action than C.J Anderson investors like. Lastly, all the buzz in Detroit is surrounding Ameer Abdullah, but if Joique Ball can’t go, Theo Riddick may stand to gain just as much. With his dirt cheap price tag, owners need to be ready to pounce late.
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