Over the next 5 weeks, this column will consist of position rankings for the quarterback and running backs. These rankings will be broken down as QB1-16, QB17-31, RB1-20, RB21-40 and RB41-60. Despite these rankings being focused on the MLFS format, the information on each player will be pertinent to your leagues scoring system. Please keep in mind projections are being created in July and in most cases, potential for injury will not factor in to these rankings. I welcome any comments or criticisms in the comments or through whichever medium you prefer.
The running back position has seen a change in value since the NFL began to be a more pass heavy lead. This change, as well as seeing more dual back systems, has resulted in the RB position not having as many elite level talents as prior fantasy seasons. The top-tier still exists, but there is greater parity among players in each of the tiers. There is still immense value in understanding these players, and I highly recommend grabbing your power backs early.
- Adrian Peterson (MIN) – I know there is some discussion on who the number one RB should be, but it is clearly Adrian Peterson. He is the best running back in the NFL, behind a very solid offensive line, and will now have Norv Turner (please see LT) calling the plays for the offense. While it’s not likely for Peterson to see 2000 yards, as he did in 2012, I would easily expect him to crack 1600 rushing, as well as over 400 yards receiving. Peterson is THE #1 overall pick.
Projection: 1612 Yards, 15 TD’s, 56 receptions, 3 ReTD, 457 ReYds.
- LeSean McCoy (PHI) – As with the above, there is some discussion and consideration of swapping the first two spots, but with much do respect to Shady; he is the #2 running back. McCoy will, yet again, benefit from the offensive wizardry of Chip Kelly (can lighting strike twice though?) in 2014. As such, you can expect big things, but I think he’ll see a slight reduction from his 2013 numbers. The signing of Darren Sproles will reduce some of the touches Mr. McCoy will receive; and the loss of Desean Jackson will allow defenders to stack the box more often than they did in previous years. Regardless, you can expect an elite year from the incredibly durable McCoy.
Projection: 1393 Yards, 11 TD’s, 40 receptions, 3 ReTd, 389 ReYds.
- Jamaal Charles (KC) – Charles had an absolutely ridiculous 2013 and led all players at the position with 19 touchdowns. He was one of the top receiving running backs and was the catalyst for the KC offense. This year, it will be more of the same as game manager Alex Smith will continue to work on finding ways to get the ball into the hands of his star player. The big question revolves around the health of Jamaal Charles, as well as the offensive line, which lost three starting players. I would feel good about Charles, but may feel a little more secure with the #4 player. To note, I would in no way ever condone drafting him above Peterson or McCoy.
Projection: 1290 Yards, 8 TD’s, 63 receptions, 4 ReTD, 491 ReYds
- Matt Forte (CHI) – Forte ranks in at #4 after having career highs in 2013. 12 touchdowns, and almost 2000 all-purpose yards seem to indicate Forte to be an easy top 4 selection. The Bears have a better offensive line, a very strong QB who continues to improve, and arguably the best receiver tandem in the NFL. The concern rests with the high snap count (887) that Forte registered in 2013. Typically RB’s tend to drop in the year following such a high involvement in plays, but we don’t see as large of a drop for Forte. Additionally, the running back position greatly slims out after the top 4; so we know that Forte will be a lock for one of the vaunted spots at the top of your roster. One has to begin questioning whether you take Forte at the #4 spot, or if you look at Peyton Manning. This, my friends, is where things become difficult.
Projection – 1284 Yards, 7 TD’s, 64 receptions, 3 ReTD, 510 ReYds.
- Marshawn Lynch (SEA) – Lynch leads all RB’s with 35 touchdowns over 3 years, however he also leads in carries since 2011. These are the stat-lines associated with Beast Mode, and ones you have to be aware of for Fantasy Football. Lynch is a fairly durable runner, having only missed 2 games since 2011, so you should have little worries in him not getting his hands on the ball. The biggest concern comes with his high volume, utilization, and contract situation. The rumor is that Seattle will part ways with Lynch next season (as they have Christin Michael in the waiting), and as such will run him in to the ground in an attempt to win another title. Who are we kidding though? Beast Mode will have a great year and you should feel solid with him as your main option.
Projection: 1296 Yards, 12 TD, 28 receptions, 0 ReTD, 262 ReYds.
- Eddie Lacy (GB) – The 2013 offensive rookie of the year enters our rankings very high, but comes with the dreaded “year 2” caveat. The last time we saw a running back come into the league, and then drop was Doug Martin. While Lacy and Martin are completely different players, the fact remains that we’ve only seen Eddie Lacy be successful for one season. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast and appears to have all the ability in the world. There are concerns that Lacy packed on too much weight (just google fat Eddie Lacy), but the assumption is things will be “better” once the season begins. We must assume a healthy, and productive Lacy which is why we place him at #6. I may draft another player, such as Alfred Morris, prior to Lacy; but in terms of total points in Fantasy for 2014, Lacy has the better upside.
Projection: 1210 Yards, 10 TD’s, 39 receptions, 1 ReTD, 300 ReYds.
- Alfred Morris (WAS) – I am a big believer in Alfred Morris for 2014. As I’ve written about many times now, I fully believe the Skins will be one of the top offenses in the NFL. A huge part of that will be Alfred Morris. Professional pundits point to less production in 2013, but I am here to say “NO MORE!” Morris will rebound from the “down” 2013 (down from his tremendous 2012), and easily make the top 10 of running backs. Morris is a player whom you should be able to get in the 2nd round, thus providing you with an incredible foundation for your team.
Projection: 1326 Yards, 11 TD’s, 21 receptions, 0 ReTD, 98 ReYds
- Zac Stacy (STL) – Raise your hand if you called Zac Stacy in 2013. I’m willing to venture there aren’t many of you, and I will brag and say that I was proudly one of them. However, despite an accurate prediction, I still dropped him like a fool as I didn’t expect him to continue producing as well as he did. Stacy had a great year, despite only starting in 12 games. He nearly ran for 1000 yards (973) and had 7 TD’s to his name. Stacy is a large, bruising running back who will have no challenge for play time and be the bell cow for the entirety of the season. Stacy too, as with Lacy, has the year 2 caveat floating over his head; however I don’t imagine Stacy to have as much of a risk, in terms of production loss, as Lacy or some others.
Projection: 1228 Yards, 10 TD’s, 20 receptions, 1 ReTD, 145 ReYds.
- Le’Veon Bell (PIT) – Bell joins the growing list of 2nd year players who have high expectations, with nothing much to base it on other than a hunch and a respectable first year. Had Bell not missed the first three games of the season, we may be ranking him a bit higher. Bell had a tremendous 2013, and his unique running style (large mass, low impact) show a world of potential. His yardage, touchdowns, receptions and status on an offense which loves to run allow Bell to possibly crack the top 5. Until we see top 5 numbers, however, we’ll be a little skeptical.
Projection: 1052 Yards, 9 TD’s, 51 receptions, 2 ReTD, 368 ReYds.
- Arian Foster (HOU) – Oh Arian Foster, how difficult you are to predict! Foster is immensely talented, and only a few years back, was the top runner in fantasy. However, Foster seems to be hit or miss when it comes to health. He tends to follow each “down season” with 16 excellent games. If we follow the trends, we can see that Foster is due for a very good season. While he may not return to 2010 form, I do believe he’ll fall more in line with 2012. Foster may not be top 5 at this stage in his career, especially with new coach Bill O’Brian who favors the pass, but he still is a RB1 with top 5 potential.
Projection: 1115 Yards, 10 TDs, 37 receptions, 0 ReTD, 210 ReYds
- Doug Martin (TB) – Stop me if you’re heard this one before. A Tampa Bay running back has a breakout rookie season, then has an abysmal second year and is eventually forgotten. While he hasn’t been forgotten (yet), much like the unmentioned but insinuated Cadillac Williams; Doug Martin is in a perilous position in 2014. After finishing 2nd overall at the running back position in 2012, Martin’s sophomore performance left much to be desired. Prior to his torn labrum, he only had 456 yards in 7 games with only a single touchdown. This player, whom was heavily drafted in the first round, left a sour taste in the vast majority of fantasy football players. This season, a healthy Muscle Hamster, under the game planning of Lovie Smith offers a great deal of promise. Can Martin return to form, or will he be doomed to be Cadillac V2.0. Will the real Doug Martin please stand up, please stand up, please stand up?
Projection: 1010 Yards, 8 TDs, 40 receptions, 1 ReTD, 302 ReYds
- Giovani Bernard (CIN) – Giovani was expected to be the primary back in his rookie season, but the Bengals seemed to think otherwise. “Law Firm” ended up with 220 carries despite the Bengals having their “RB of the Future”. Heading in to 2014, pundits again projected Bernard to be the feature back, until Cincinnati chose Jeremy Hill in the 2nd round of the draft. These decisions have left us wondering what exactly the plan is for Giovani Bernard. I wouldn’t expect to see a heavy dose of Hill in 2014, as the Bengals seem poised to groom the rookie back to fill in after BJGE head’s to greener pastures after this season. Bernard should be the feature back, though he’ll still lose some touches to Green-Ellis. He has game changing ability and new OC Hue Jackson loves to run the ball. Having Bernard as your RB2 is perfectly acceptable, but he’s in no way a RB1.
Projection: 985 Yards, 6 TD’s, 49 receptions, 3 ReTD, 439 ReYds.
- DeMarco Murray (DAL) – Let’s address the elephant in the room, DeMarco Murray is a huge injury risk. This is a player who lives with the “questionable” status tag. When healthy, however, Murray is an absolute monster. Murray has all the skills necessary to be a RB1 and has a fine view of the elites; but his propensity for injury leaves us all wondering whether he can survive the rigors of a 16 game schedule. Should he stay healthy, you’re looking at a player who could easily crack the top 10 and make a huge impact on your team. Most likely, Murray will be available early/mid second round, at which time you should take him.
Projection: 967 Yards, 9 TD’s, 47 receptions, 1 ReTD, 389 ReYds.
- Ryan Mathews (SD) – Prior to 2013, the running gag was, “Mathews has more collarbone injuries than touchdowns!” Last season, Mathews responded to those critics with 1400 AP yards and 7 touchdowns. These were career highs for the injury prone back, despite the team heavily utilizing Danny Woodhead. In the offseason, the Chargers (for some odd reason) over paid for Donald Brown to act as a safety net to Mathews. If Mathews can find a way to remain healthy, you’re looking at a very solid option at the running back position. To note, Mathews did suffer a high ankle sprain at the end of the year, but we are expecting him to be at full healthy come September.
Projection: 1041 Yards, 7 TD’s, 21 receptions, 0 ReTD, 222 ReYds.
- Frank Gore (SF) – Remember the old adage of RB’s dropping off at the age of 30? Not for this guy, not for Frank Gore. Gore continues to play 16 games per season and is consistent for 8 touchdowns+. We have absolutely no reason to see that trend being bucked. The 49ers continue to stockpile options at running back in an attempt to maintain Gore’s health and longevity. These additional backs are sure to take touches, however, I’m willing to roll the dice on this guy until he turns in a bad season.
Projection: 1158 Yards, 8 TD’s, 12 receptions, 0 ReTD, 89 ReYds.
- Chris Johnson (NYJ) – I spoke about Chris Johnson back on May 7th, and expressed my befuddlement over the low ranking for CJ2K. A few quick notes: CJ2K finished 9th overall in points, he played for a team whom he didn’t care for, and he now plays for a team who loves to run the ball. Johnson is happy to be in the Big Apple and to be playing for your New York Jets. His pairing with Michael Vick will present a dual threat on offense that is sure to give opposing defenses fit. Johnson does not have great tackle breaking ability, but he has elite speed and an open field will almost always result in a touchdown. The big question will come in how the Jets use Johnson and Chris Ivory. If they give Johnson the ball 250 times (which is close to my projection of 232), you can expect big things from Johnson.
Projection: 957 Yards, 6 TD’s, 48 receptions, 2 ReTD, 401 ReYds
- CJ Spiller (BUF) – We can all point to the unfortunate owner who drafted Spiller in the first round of 2013, only to be cursing his name with each passing week. When week 9 rolled around and Spiller produced 116 yards; the damage had already been done. I wish I had a dollar for every time my wife said, “He’s dead to me!” after looking at Spiller’s meager production. Some will point to his high ankle sprain suffered in week 4, but I think it’s simply a matter of an overhyped player not living up to expectations. Spiller also must contend with the persistently talented Fred Jackson whom shattered expectations and became the true star on the Bills in 2013. Lastly, the signing of promising RB Bryce Brown muddles the already muddied water in the City of Light. Spiller is a fine option at RB2, as he does have tremendous upside.
Projection: 997 Yards, 4 TD’s, 30 receptions, 1 ReTD, 301 ReYds
- Andre Ellington (ARI) – If only Bruce Arians and the Cardinals would give Ellington a full workload, we would be looking at potentially a top 10 player. For some reason, they seem to be unwilling to do that. Last season, the Cards started the season with Rashard Mendenhall as their primary back and gave him a healthy workload. In the few games where Ellington was featured, we saw the true potential of this young star in the making. Ellington is ready for a larger role in the offense, and has stated as much when conversing about the 2014 season. Arians has stated he hopes to give Ellington 25-30 touches a game in the upcoming season. If that holds true, expect great things from Ellington. This guy has upside for days!
Projections: 968 Yards, 6 TD’s, 51 receptions, 3 ReTD, 480 ReYards
- Reggie Bush (DET) – Chances are, Reggie Bush will not drop this low in your draft. If so, than you’ll be taking him at his proper place. In most leagues, Bush will be drafted way too soon, which is great! This means you’ll have a better chance of getting a better player when your name appears on the clock. Bush looked great last season, as he fit perfectly into the Lions plan. He remained healthy for the majority of the year (only missing 2 games) and totaled 1500 AP yards. So, why do I rank him so low? The Lions love Joique Bell and want to reduce the overall strain on Bush by having a committee based run plan. Bell is clearly the better pure runner, but Bush has the hands and speed that prove him to be a constant threat. Bush is a fine addition as RB2, but is certainly not more than that.
Projection: 889 Yards, 4 TD’s, 52 receptions, 4 ReTD, 519 ReYds.
- Montee Ball (DEN) – In one of the most popular articles on our website, my fellow writer Chase Jacobs waxed eloquently about the emergence of CJ Anderson. The Bronco’s clearly see Anderson as a future weapon, and have massive concerns over Montee Ball’s ability to block for Peyton Manning. I don’t have the same faith in Anderson, as my peer does, nor do I have the faith in Ball that most writers seem to have. I expect Ball to be unjustly drafted in the top 10 of running backs, but will be my prediction to receive the CJ Spiller 2013 award. I could be way off, but this is the bust of the draft. Projection: 780 Yards, 3 TD’s, 34 Receptions, 2 ReTD, 310 ReYds.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio: This Sunday the 20th of July from 11:30am-12:30pm EST we will have two guests; Jeff Nelson and Chase Jacobs. We will be discussing the Linebacker position as well as Quaterbacks. You can listen live by using the link above or call in at (646) 915-8596 Remember to look for the podcast if you cant make it live on I-Tunes or Google Play stores. Search for Sports Palooza
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio: This Monday the 21st of July from 12:30pm-1:30pm EST we will have two guests; Phil Weiss and Joe Iannone. Phil is a Chief Financial Analyst, Made many TV & Radio appearances, has been playing fantasy baseball for 20+ years, and has also been coaching travel baseball teams ages 15-19 for 11 years. Our topics will be sabermetrics and common sense along with some player analysis with Joe. Use the link above or call in at (646) 915-8596. Remember to look for the podcast if you cant make it live on I-Tunes or Google Play stores. Search for Sports Palooza.