Running (Back) to the Championship

Running backs are crucial to Fantasy success. Just ask the person who owned Adrian Peterson in your league last year.

My personal strategy is draft RBs early and often. Granted, this year I had the 10th pick out of 10 and I went a little buck wild, picking four straight backs. With my first three picks, I grabbed Alfred Morris, Stevan Ridley and Lamar Miller. I then paused to evaluate my life decisions up to the current moment, and then, I did something unprecedented in our league history.

I drafted Reggie Bush. Part of my strategy was to secure a more than capable backup in case Miller turns out to be a bust, or one of the previous three went down. I also wanted to screw with a couple people in my league who had yet to draft their second or even first RB.

For clarification, our league has 2 RB slots and a flex position. I always fill the flex with an RB, because unlike WR matchups that vary wildly pending on the week and teams they are playing, the running back will normally get a consistent load of carries.

Do I regret this strategy? Not at all. I ended up with more than capable receivers and a steal at QB with Stafford in the 8th.

There are obviously exceptions to my RB strategy if the value is there, but for the most part, it’s smart to load up on the RBs early. This running back class isn’t deep by any means, but there are plenty of options to load up on, if you’re willing to take the risk.

Sometimes, taking risks wins championships. Our league mocked and ridiculed the owner that selected Doug Marin early in the draft. We must have played the Family Guy clip of the live studio ostrich laughing over one hundred times. He had the last laugh, of course, when he torched league and took the championship. Also, the closest I’ve ever been to crying over fantasy football happened when I put up 140+ points in a non-ppr league and LOST, because damn Doug Martin and Joique Bell racked up a combined 80 points.

While the notion seems preposterous now, drafting Adrian Peterson was perceived as a risk too, albeit not as big as selecting Martin. Fresh off an ACL tear and recovery, nobody really knew what to expect of a guy making an absurdly quick comeback from such a devastating injury.

Another thing to think about when drafting Running Backs is that circumstances change quickly.

Remember when Steve Slaton was the starting RB for the Texans? Where are you drafting him this year? Oh, that’s right he hasn’t played in the league since 2011.

Alfred Morris wasn’t even drafted in many leagues last year. I took Roy Helu. What a steal.

So, pay attention to the waiver wire and don’t be afraid to take risks, even if it means ridicule by peers for a couple hours. You’ll be the one laughing in December.

Without any further adieu, the 2013 Running Back Rankings.

Running Back Rankings:

1. Adrian Peterson- Obviously.

2. Jamaal Charles- Not Arian Foster. Aside from his ACL tear, he has been consistently healthy in the Chiefs’ backfield. Adding Alex Smith will not only boost his PPR numbers, but it will open up running lanes as well. Smith can move the ball downfield with accuracy, which takes the burden of moving the entire offense from Charles’ shoulders. Expect similar yards to last year, with a healthy bump in TDs.

3. CJ Spiller- Still not Arian Foster. The Bills have said they are going to run CJ ‘til he pukes. He’s already running a lot, and he is explosive. Sure Fred Jackson is a threat, but he’s an injury time bomb waiting to happen, and you better believe they are going to turn to CJ for big plays. If Manuel can stay healthy, the passing attack will take pressure off the run game, leaving room for CJ to run wild.

4. Doug Martin- Still not Arian Foster. He’s young and there is no serious threat to vulture touchdowns. The passing game is stable/threatening enough to keep pressure off Martin. Martin is also involved in the passing game. Expect another stellar season from Quail Man.

5. Arian Foster- Okay. Finally. Here he is. I’m sure I have garnered some bad looks and thoughts at this point, but like Outkast said in “Heyya”, I’m just being honest. Arian Foster is a beast. He is also overworked, and on an offense whose AARP cards will be in the mail shortly. Foster is battling both calf and back problems, and a backup running back that is more than capable of stealing yards. All this aside, the Texans look to Foster any time they get inside the 5, and he’s Arian Foster.

6. Alfred Morris- Obviously not for PPR, but in terms of quality RB production, he deserves to be right here. To the Shanahan haters: do you remember Terrell Davis? I do. Morris is quick, explosive, can bounce outside and run it up the gut. With RGIII’s mobility limited by the coaching staff, especially in the first couple weeks, expect more carries and bigger yards.

7. LeSean McCoy- Chip Kelly is implementing a run-first offense. The most obvious beneficiary? Mr. McCoy.  He is still young and will thrive with the Eagles fast new offense, and with Vick at the helm, expect read options and dump passes galore. LeSean has top-three potential this year.

8. Trent Richardson- He’s a workhorse, and as long as he stays healthy, expect all of his stats to improve. The Browns have a top-ten O-Line, and Trent has been lighting it up in the preseason. He also shed some weight in the offseason to improve his speed and agility. He has improbable potential to be a top-five back if he and the line stay healthy, and Weedon doesn’t screw things up to badly.

9. Marshawn Lynch- Beast mode. Only reason he isn’t higher is because of the division he’s running against.

10. Ray Rice- This is a very unenthusiastic pick for me. I know, he’s Ray Rice and he does a lot, but he doesn’t excite me like he did last year. He is a PPR dream this year: Boldin and Pitta are both gone, and Torrey Smith only shows up in games every once in awhile. So he has that going for him. The things to be worried about? Like Foster, he is overworked, and approaching the mark where backs typically slow down. Also, the Ravens love Bernard Pierce. They are planning on giving him about 16 carries a game this year, which significantly cuts into Rice’s load. Lesson here: If you draft Rice, draft Pierce. (The person in my league who let Pierce fall to me will be regretting that decision)

11. Stevan Ridley- Ridley tied for the third most TDs in the NFL last year, with (gasp) Adrian Peterson. With most of Brady’s favorite receivers gone, Gronk potentially out for awhile and Woodhead in San Diego, Ridley’s carry load will increase, as will his receptions, yards and TDs. Big year ahead of this guy.

12. Matt Forte- I’ve never been a huge Forte fan, but this year that’s turning around. He’s been an animal in preseason, which doesn’t always equate to regular season success, but it’s still nice to see. Trestman’s offense should greatly benefit Forte owners in PPR leagues, and as long as Marshall is on the field, opponents will have to respect both the pass and run, leaving some big holes for Forte. Just remember, Bush is still circling Forte’s TD wagon.

13. Chris Johnson- He quietly filled this same ranking last year, with everybody questioning how many k’s he would rack up. His numbers will improve this year as the Titans actually invested in a quality O-Line. Look at that! That means Locker won’t spend every moment of the game fearing for his life, which could lead to a decent pass attack. I’ll say CJ1.4k.

14. Steven Jackson- He will benefit from supporting a real passing attack. Not really much to say. I don’t like him as much as most experts.

15. Reggie Bush- He is obviously way higher in PPR leagues. He will compete with Sproles this year for most thrown at running back. The advantage of picking Bush? He’s also their go-to on the ground. I’m expecting a monster year from him. At least 1,700 all purpose yards.

16. Maurice Jones-Drew- He is real life Jumanji. You roll the dice, but you have no idea what you are going to get. He could lead you to the fantasy promise land, or trap you like Robin Williams in the bottom of your league. He’s looked good so far, but his health will dictate his performance. Also, he still plays on the Jaguars, who some how seem to get worse and worse each year.

17. Lamar Miller- He is my sleeper of the year, if it’s possible to use that term on him. I love Lamar Miller. I drafted him third round when his ADP is around 50. He’s only 22, he has big play ability, he trained with Frank Gore in the summer, and he averaged 5 yards a carry last year. The Dolphins organization is baffling me right now. They actually think Daniel Thomas is on the same level as Miller. Not even close. Miller will be a true 3-down back in no time, and I think he has the potential to be a top-10 back this season. Get excited.

18. Eddie Lacy- I heard he was fat. Well, DuJuan Harris is out for the year with a knee injury, and Jonathon Franklin isn’t anything to write Grandma about. So as long as the Packers don’t rent out the RB position to another wide receiver for Rodgers to throw to, he will probably have a Ryan Grant-esque (in his prime) type of season.

19. DeMarco Murray- I said it last year, and I’ll say it again now. He’s going to get injured. It’s science. Until that point, he will produce strong numbers. Just be sure to have a strong backup.

20. Darren McFadden- “Are you feeling lucky, punk?” That’s what Clint Eastwood would say if he randomly appeared next to you in your draft. Here’s the deal. He was rated as a top 5 back last year. This year, he’s in the fantasy expert doghouse. Did he lose that talent? Nope. People are just terrified of his injury history. The Raiders redesigned their offense to allow him to run to his style, he’s in a contract year and he’s “fuming” about last season. Personally, I think he could be the pick of any draft, IF he stays healthy.

21. Frank Gore- As a 49ers fan, I’ve never drafted Frank Gore. That should say something. He scares me, and the Niners’ offense isn’t exactly a powerhouse with Crabtree out for quite sometime. Gore is injury-prone, and there are two backs sitting in the wings just waiting for their chance. Still, he’s going to put up 1,000 yards and 6-8 TDs. In my humble opinion, he is a 4th round pick AT BEST.

22. Darren Sproles- Sproles was a top-ten back the last time Sean Payton was in charge. He’s obviously going to rack up receiving yards as one of Brees’s favorite targets, but his ground game depends on the production of Mark Ingram.

23. David Wilson- Meh. Let’s just say I’m glad I took my four backs when I did.

24. DeAngelo Williams- Normally, I stay away from Panther’s running backs like Miley Cyrus stays away from class and personal decency. Seriously, she needs to be put away. But, with J-Stew starting the season on the PUP, DeAngelo has some upside. He’s a steal at his current ADP.

25. Shane Vereen- Mr. Utility himself. Here’s the dealio, folks. Nobody really has any idea what role Vereen is going to play in the Pats offense this year; we just know it will be pretty big. Backup to Ridley, Wide Receiver, TE, water boy, 3rd base… the possibilities are endless in Belichick’s offense. It says something that experts are drafting him above other starting backs.

26. Chris Ivory- The poor man’s Marshawn Lynch. That’s what Rex Ryan is calling him. I’m not buying it. I’ve heard discrepancies in Jets’ reports ranging from making him an every down back to limited carries in a committee backfield. Ivory will be the starting running back for a team that has no QB and a Hungry Hungry Hippo with a megaphone as a coach. Chris Christie might need to call in the coast guard early this season…

27. Daryl Richardson- He’s on the small side and rushing against defenses with likeness to the Great Wall of China, but Richardson still has potential. He’s quick and can maneuver easily around defenders. Fischer also labeled him the starting RB in St. Louis. He has some hefty shoes to fill.

28. Montee Ball- Don’t get too excited about Ball this season. Right now the battle for the number one spot is a three-horse race (get it?) It’s going to be a committee all year long unless any of them get injured; in which case, I hope they are treated better than real racehorses. Also, hey. Peyton Manning is the QB. Definitely a pass-first team.

29. Andre Brown- Not a fan of this guy either. Ball control issues will plague him all season long, and he will be splitting time with David Wilson, unless one of them decides to step up.

30. Ahmad Bradshaw- The number one guy, but Vick Ballard will get his fair share of carries. Injuries are always a concern, but Luck’s passing attack should open up some decent holes for him.

31. Ryan Mathews– Just woof. I was stoked about this guy before the Chargers acquired Woodhead. Mathews believes he can be a top-five back in the league. Every time I think of Ryan Mathews, I think of that Bud Light fantasy bottle commercial, where the guy with the Chargers shirt says, “My Bud Light fumbled at the three yard line.” It was the only negative comment in the entire commercial. Don’t be the guy with that Bud Light.

32. Rashard Mendenhall- Hopefully Bruce Arians isn’t planning on a big running game this year. Of course Mendenhall has top 20 potential, but running on glass legs behind a weak O-Line won’t do him any favors. Draft with extreme caution.

33. Giovani Bernard- If the Law Firm wasn’t standing in his way, Bernard could be a top fifteen pick. But sadly, BenJarvus isn’t looking to handoff the reigns anytime soon. Eventually, Bernard will overtake the starting position, so he is a great stash for the later weeks.

34. Jonathan Dwyer- Apparently the number 1 guy while Bell is recovering, but Tomlin isn’t exactly consistent with his RB play. Nor does he have any reason too be. I’m pretty sure Katy Perry is singing about the Steelers’ backs in her song “Hot ‘n’ Cold.”

35. Mark Ingram- According to sources, the best running back in camp, which leads me to believe he will be responsible for most of the carries this season. Sean Payton wants to establish a more dominant ground game, for what reason, I have no idea. It’s like Dairy Queen moving into the fast food industry. Just unnecessary. Still a player worth snagging in a later round.

36. Ben Tate- Classic Arian Foster handcuff, Ben Tate. One of the most frustrating players in all of Fantasy Football, but if you own Foster, you need to pick up Tate. Or, if you want to piss off the person who has Foster, you can pick him up too.

37. Ronnie Hillman- 3-horse race, where Elway is betting on Ball. Good pick up for the early weeks, but don’t count on his productivity to last.

38. Bernard Pierce- The Fantasy handcuff to own this year. The Ravens love Ray Rice, but they will be moving him around and taking away carries to give them to Pierce. If Rice goes down, he will be the every down back and has the potential to put up near elite numbers.

39. BenJarvus Green-Ellis- He’s aging and the Bengals drafted Bernard for a reason. Not the player to own come fantasy football playoffs.

40. Danny Woodhead- I actually think I like Woodhead better in San Diego than I did in New England, which is crazy to say because of the differential in QB talent. But, it makes sense for this year. Rivers is going to be throwing short more often, which means Woodhead will see a ton of targets. The Chargers also named him their 3rd down and big play back, so there’s that too.

41. Bryce Brown- He went berserk for a couple weeks last year when McCoy was out. He is still struggling to cut his runs up the gut, and he gets bottled up quickly when he starts bouncing too many runs out to the outside. He is explosive, and could have a big impact in Kelly’s offense if McCoy goes down.

42. Fred Jackson- CJ Spiller is the Bills workhorse. FJ will vulture a few TDs here and there, but will most likely tire himself out pretty quickly, leaving CJ as the true 3-down back he is capable of being.

43. Shonn Green- The Jets didn’t want him. That’s saying something. CJ is much more talented, but Green will inevitably and inexplicably take away carries and a couple TDs in Rex Ryan’s shit show of an offense.

44. Vick Ballard- Didn’t impress anyone last year while splitting time with Donald Brown, who may not even make the team this year. The only significant time to play Ballard is when Bradshaw gets hurt.

45. Isaiah Pead- Still has a chance to prove himself, but right now it’s Richardson’s job to lose.

46. Le’Veon Bell- Out at least 6 weeks with a knee injury, and when he comes back he will still most likely split time with the other Steelers’ backs.

47. Isaac Redman– His last name is pretty offensive.

48. Jonathon Franklin- With DuJuan Harris out for the season, Franklin becomes the true number 2 back. He wasn’t terribly impressive in camp, but he has big play abilities. His true value will come if Lacy misses playing time for injuries/being fat.

49. Mikel LeShoure- As a backup to Reggie Bush, he won’t see a ton of playing time, since Bush can catch passes unlike Kevin Williams.

50. Christine Michael- Better than Turbin, he is the truth and #2 in Seattle. If Skittles can’t play the rainbow, Christine will taste the benefits.

Other RBs to keep an eye on

Jonathon Stewart- Once he comes off the PUP, expect DeAngelo Williams to fall.

Kenjon Barner- If DeAngelo goes down, he will be the #1 back in Carolina. We all saw what he could do in Oregon.

Joique Bell- If Bush or LeShoure goes down, he’s your man

Lance Dunbar- When, and I mean when, not if, Murray goes down, he will be #2. That’s right. Now more suffering through the insufferable Felix Jones.

Jacquizz Rodgers- As long as the Falcons don’t re-sign Turner, he’s a great pick-up for a S-Jax injury.

LaMichael James/Kendall Hunter- When Frank Gore misses time, Hunter has the preferential treatment, but James has the superior talent.

Rashad Jennings- I would look elsewhere for a McFadden replacement, but he proved adequate when MJD went down last year.

Michael Bush- Why Matt, your dinner plate isn’t empty. Mind if I vulture the leftovers?

Cierre Wood- Who? Texans third string running back, and with Foster and Tate both battling injuries… who knows what could happen?

Knowshon Moreno- Quietly, the third in the Broncos backfield, but he is the most experienced and successful of the bunch. Keep an eye on him if the Ball experiment doesn’t work out.

Wide Receivers tomorrow

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