“Around the Ben” Position Rankings: Running Back (Part 2 of 2) 2013
Welcome back ladies and gents for Part II of the RB rankings. This portion of the list will contain most of the RBBC RBs, the misfits, as well as players that have great upside, but are blocked by one or more RBs in front of him. These are the guys you should aim to put in your flex spot or top RB replacement. For some of the RBBCs, it should be a priority for you as an owner to grab both the RBs to maximize their effectiveness, other RBBCs you would be better served staying away from.
Tier 4: Upside 1 material, but limited by other RBs on their tails, or being behind RB1s.
26.) Shane Vereen – Vereen serves multiple roles for the Patriots, and with Danny Woodhead gone to San Diego and Aaron Hernandez’s career over, due to sheer idiocy, Vereen will be relied upon more so than in past seasons. He’s a shifty back with good hands, and has proven he can move the chains and score when called upon. He’ll still take a backseat role to Ridley, but his backseat role could easily formulate into a 500/5 season rushing-wise, and 225/2 receiving-wise.
27.) Johnathan Franklin – Franklin (4th rd) was the best back in the 2013 NFL draft, but landed on a team that drafted Eddie Lacy a few rounds earlier. This is a situation where both would be in the top 25 if they landed on different teams, but since they didn’t, they’ll curb one another’s upside until one runs away with the job. Franklin is the better burner, and has the better hands, but not as physical between the tackles. For this season, expect some frustration from Franklin, but expect a 600/5 rookie rushing campaign from him, and likely another 2 receiving TDs.
28.) Eddie Lacy – Lacy (2nd rd) is in the same boat as Franklin, on the same team. The difference is Lacy is the better power back and thumper. He doesn’t have break away speed, or the hands that Franklin does, but given Lacy will see the lion’s share of goal line touches, he’ll likely lead the Packers in rushing TDs. Assuming his turf toe clears up, he’ll get 750/8 rushing in his rookie season. If you draft Lacy or Franklin, you MUST ensure you lock up the other.
Tier 5: Injury prone RBs, who could be value picks
29.) Lamar Miller – The fast and furious show in Miami will feature Miller as lead back, now that Reggie Bush is gone. Daniel Thomas is Mr. Irrelevant with his concussion concerns, leaving only Miller’s injury prone label standing between him and full status starter. More of a downhill runner with straight line speed at 212 lbs, Miller also doesn’t have elusiveness or the ability to bounce it outside. Given his limitations, expect a flex option line of 800/5, but he could go down if over utilized in his first season as starter.
30.) Ahmad Bradshaw – His best days are definitely behind him after a combined 6 surgeries on his feet and ankles, but he still has some left in the tank. Going to Indianapolis may rejuvenate his fantasy stock some. Bradshaw will split carries with Vick Ballard, but as the better pass catcher, and Indy’s goal line back, Bradshaw is the better of the 2 RBs if he stays healthy. He is definitely worth a shot in the dark as a mid-round pick, and should produce 645/6 rushing and 250/3 receiving this season.
31.) Chris Ivory – Ivory is the best play maker on his team. The problem is that team is the Jets. He has the potential to be a borderline RB1, but his team, and some health concerns, sap his upside. He has the makings of a good power runner, and could be a sleeper to go 800/5, but given the Jets woes (and I’m not trying to bash them here) and unwillingness to realize Sanchez’s time as starter should have been over 2 seasons ago, it’s more realistic that Ivory goes 600/4.
Tier 6: Pure Flex options with upside
32.) Jacquizz Rodgers – There is something about bowling balls in today’s game, and Rodgers is just further proof that short running backs can have value. Not only has he proven he can run through the tackles, he can also lower the boom (See: Rodgers vs. Thomas), and make defensive players miss. This season he’ll be utilized as pass-catcher out of the backfield and SJax’s backup, but one of the better backups in the league as well. This season, I envision Rodgers going 400/3 rushing wise, and 400/4 receiving wise. Look for him in one of my later rankings as well.
33.) Andre Brown – Entering the season as the Giants likely RB2 behind David Wilson, Brown is the bigger thumper of the two. He’ll likely be utilized as goal line back and 3rd down back. If he can stay healthy (big if), he will definitely be flex worthy, with a 550/7 stat line, given he proved last season he can get into the endzone from close in.
34.) BenJarvus Green-Ellis – This ranking is going to surprise a good number of people, but the Bengals didn’t draft Bernard to play second fiddle to Law Firm. Yes, BJGE is going to enter the season as RB1 and will lead the Bengals in rushing yards, but by season’s end I’d put 50 bucks on Bernard being top tiger in Cincinnati. Green-Ellis is still a lock for 800/6, and a solid flex play, but lack of usage in the passing game hurts his value. On another team, where he’d be feature back, he’d be in the top 25 no question, but Cincinnati is the beginning of the end for BJGE.
35.) Mikel Leshoure – The Lions promised Leshoure he’d be feature back going into the 2013 season, but then Reggie Bush happened, and that promise went to waste. All hope is not lost, as Leshoure is entrenched as the Lions 3rd down back, as well as goal line back, where he proved tough between the tackles last season. He just isn’t very useful in the passing game, thus his stock takes a hit. Draft Leshoure as a cuff for Bush, and expect a 475/8 season from the TD vulture.
36.) Rashard Mendenhall – Apparently the Cardinals are trying to do with RBs what the Jets do with QBs: hoard. This is going to be the most frustrating backfield to get a sense of, as the Cardinals have 4 RBs. Mendenhall will open the season as RB1 in AZ, and likely produce a 600/5 season, but he’s not the back to own in this quartet, nor do I see him staying healthy the entire season.
37.) Ryan Williams – If I had to take any Cardinals RBs, he would be it, at least for this season. Expectations were high for Ryan Williams coming out of Virginia Tech, but then he only played in 5 games over his first 2 seasons, and is now labeled as ‘injury prone.’ If he proves he can stay healthy for an entire season, Mendenhall may be phased out of the RB1 role really quickly, as Williams has the best pure skill set of any RB in Arizona. For this season, I’ll project him as 550/5 back and draft him in the later middle rounds, but will be sure to nab a backup plan for him as well.
38.) Zac Stacy – St. Louis is going to be yet another RB frustration this season, but Stacy (5th rd) looks like the best of the bunch. His limitations are his non-reception skills, and that he doesn’t have home run speed, but he is great between the tackles, and can put linebackers on the turf. With Pead suspended the first game of the season, Stacy should get first crack at RB1 duties, and it may not take long for him to be feature back in St. Louis this season. I’ll peg him for a 700/6 season, but this is going to be a frustrating season to own any Rams RB.
39.) Isaiah Pead – If it was only between Pead and Daryl Richardson, Pead would be my favorite, as he has the better skill set. As it stands, Stacy is the most polished, balanced back in St. Louis, so Pead drops some. Like Stacy, he won’t be used much in the pass game, severely limiting his upside, and with a suspension the first week of the season, he may be no better than second RB in St. Louis. With all that said, Pead should still produce a 640/5 season as the Rams ease Stacy into the starter’s role.
40.) Vick Ballard – Ballard is the type of backer that needs a ton of goal line touches, or a ton of touches period, to be of use in fantasy, but given Bradshaw’s propensity for surgeries, Ballard may be forced into the starter’s role. If Ballard sees a good number of goal line touches, or Bradshaw goes down again, he could go 700/7, but as long as he plays second fiddle to Bradshaw, expect more of a 400/4 season from Ballard. Worthy handcuff material.
41.) Joseph Randle – Wiry top, Big 12 backs, no matter the potential, are good bets for injuries, and Randle (5th rd) out of Oklahoma State fits that mold. The one thing g0ing for Randle is he is almost certain to see some games as starter, given Murray’s injury history, but if Murray does stay healthy, then Randle will be keeping Murray’s bench spot warm. His ability to burst into the secondary is his main asset, and if he gets into the open field enough, he’ll be tough to catch. This season, given the Cowboys pass heavy offense and Murray hands down as RB1, Randle may be lucky to sniff 400/2, and possibly another receiving TD.
Tier 7: Keep an eye on, but limited upside, or blocked
42.) Michael Bush – Bush is the guy everybody forgets about on draft day, then when someone finally does draft him, the rest of the league is like, “That was my next pick, dude.” In reality, Bush is very serviceable in fantasy, as he steals carries from starters every game, fills in admirably when the feature back goes down, and is an absolute TD vulture. He’s not the fastest RB out there, but when Forte gets nicked up again, Bush will take over and produce. Another 500/6 season is in store, and Bush is a must handcuff for Forte owners.
43.) Johnathan Stewart – Averaged 5.4 yards/carry in 2011, but has had injuries since then. Four mouths to feed in Carolina. If you can predict who gets the most touches, let me know. Hint: It likely is Cam Newton in the red zone. In this quagmire of a backfield, expect nothing more than 600/4 in the rushing game, and 200/2 in the receiving game for Stewart. If you draft one Panthers RB, grab them all, but most importantly you must have Cam Newton if you want any use out of the Panthers backfield.
44.) Danny Woodhead – If you draft Mathews, draft Woodhead as well, as Mathews is a walking injury. Woodhead is useful in the pass game, and can be a short-term starting RB, but I don’t see him as a four down back for an entire season. Depending on his usage, and Mathews’ health, Woodhead should go 300/2 rushing, and 400/2 receiving, as Rivers has a knack for throwing the ball to his RBs. His upside is a short-term injury replacement or bye week filler.
45.) Mark Ingram – Will he ever live up to his potential, or will he fizzle out like teammate Pierre Thomas? Ingram is the most talented RB on the Saints, but has vastly underproduced. Coming off off-season knee surgery, he looks as if he will be limited early in the season, and until he rediscovers his Alabama days, he is nothing more than a running back you draft and hope he finally realizes his potential.
46.) Bernard Pierce – Should anything happen to Rice, grab Pierce, as he is the backup with the best pure skill set. Even with a fully healthy Rice, Pierce will serve as change of pace back, will produce 400/3, and should be drafted by all Rice owners. He is an example of why the NFL combine can sometimes mean naught.
47.) Marcel Reece – Fullback by name, Reece makes a living filling in for McFadden when he goes down, and from having great hands. Given the quarterback (Matt Flynn) in Oakland, and McFadden almost a lock to miss time, you could do worse than draft Reece as a 5th RB. Flynn will need to get rid of the ball short and quick, so Reece could easily post a 350/2 rushing season to go with 500/3 receiving.
48.) Fred Jackson – Jackson has finally been taken out of feature back duties, but will still get the tough, between the tackles yards and steal TDs from Spiller. This may be Jackson’s last season, and if it is, then Jackson should produce 450/4 in his last hurrah.
49.) Daryl Richardson- The final Rams RB is also the one left with the short end of the stick for carries. Richardson has 3rd down back written all over, but could still have some value, as he has the best hands of any Rams RB. Richardson’s upside this season is 500/2 in the rushing game, and 350/3 in the passing game. Should anything happen to Pead or Stacy, Richardson’s stock would go up, however, skill set is the most lacking of the three.
50.) Andre Ellington (6th rd)/Stepfan Taylor (5th rd) – Depending upon the health of Mendenhall and Williams, either or both of these guys could be steals on draft day (depending on who emerges above the other). Given Ellington has shades of C.J. Spiller to his game, he’s the better fit should the Cardinals need an emergency feature back. Draft him and stash him, but also grab Taylor in the last round, or off the WW as a second option. Both names are more dynasty league names, however.
Other names to keep an eye on:
Marcus Lattimore – Lattimore (4th rd) was drafted as the heir to Gore’s throne. He has tons of upside, but won’t play much, if at all this season, and could be one hit to the knees away from being done.
Ronnie Hillman – Looks to be Montee Ball’s backup, and could produce a sneaky stat line if given enough touches.
Mike Goodson – Will open as Ivory’s backup, but given Ivory has some injury questions of his own, Goodson may see some valuable touches. Just tread carefully given the team.
Bryce Brown – Was a fantasy starter when McCoy went down last season, but with McCoy back and healthy, Brown will merely be backup and occasionally see some passes thrown his way in Chip Kelly’s inaugural season. If McCoy does get injured again, grab Brown.
Shonn Greene – Now out of New York, his situation actually got worse, as he’s now the backup to CJ2K, and will only be utilized in short yard and goal line touches. He’s a fringe flex option, and if he continues to struggle between the tackles, he’ll remain on the WW for the majority of the season. CJ2K is too explosive to be phased out.