We continue to inch ever closer towards the NFL season and the resulting fantasy football year. Every day I wake up one step closer to beginning my campaign to repeat the championship I won last year in a league that dates back to my high school days. Such is the story for many fantasy football players, preparing for their draft is almost a ritual. Each week we are breaking down one position on the fantasy roster so that you have the information necessary to dominate your draft, and in turn your friends this year.
Here to help you prepare for your draft is our set of fantasy football previews, the present one showing you how the running backs stack up this year. Previously we reviewed the quarterback position, which can be viewed here. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille to ensure that you never miss an update as to what’s going on in the world of sports.
Running back is one of the hardest positions to predict on a week to week basis given that the feature back is all but dead in today’s game, replaced by a committee backfield. Still paramount to fantasy success, knowing what backs to select is crucial to your post season aspirations.
Now that I’m out of plugs, lets begin to break down and preview the most important position in fantasy football, the running back.
1) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
2) Arian Foster, Houston Texans
3) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
4) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
5) Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
6) CJ Spiller, Buffalo Bills
7) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8) Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
9) Lesean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
10) Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
11) Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
12) Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
13) Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
14) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
15) Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
16) Stevan Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
17) Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
18) Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
19) David Wilson, New York Giants
20) Demarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
21) Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints
22) Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
23) Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
24) Ryan Matthews, San Diego Chargers
25) Chris Ivory, New York Jets
26) Jonathon Franklin, Green Bay Packers
27) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
28) Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
29) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburg Steelers
30) Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals
31) Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
32) Jonathon Stewart, Carolina Panthers
Few backs can be mentioned in the same sentence as Adrian Peterson. After being within reaching distance of the all time record for rushing yards in a season, All Day looks to better his effort from last year. Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson, along with Marshawn Lynch and his ‘Beastmode’ are basically the only three that belong in this category.
These men are the safest bets at the most important position. Feature backs are rare, and these three go above and beyond that definition. Often carrying their teams on their back as they put up yet another huge stat line. Expect at least 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns from these men. The floor is that high. If you have an opportunity to get one, don’t get cute. Take them.
While things may not be crowded at the top of our NFL fantasy football running back preview, they certainly get a little congested here. This group makes up the running backs that I would start week in and week out regardless of match up. Backs #4-15 on our list should be in your lineup as long as they aren’t on bye that week.
These men are all talented players who see enough of the ball to warrant a start, even if there is a vulture that could take away some of their potential. These men won’t let you down assuming the injury bug stays away. Some towards the bottom of this category may even linger on until the middle rounds of your draft, now that is the type of steal that wins fantasy championships.
Expectations for a back in this group should be somewhere between 1,000-1,200 yards and 5-10 touchdowns.
Match Up Dependent
These backs are young talented players in the league, they just don’t have the experience needed to be able to produce week in and week out. Their natural talents will enable them to find success against lesser opponents, but they could struggle in pressure situations or when facing elite defenses.
Many will also find themselves sharing carries at some point in the year, we know Jonathon Franklin and Eddie Lacy play for the same team so they will of course split touches with one another.
By mid-season I could look like a fool for saying these men aren’t every week starters in the fantasy world, however entering the season I can’t recommend them as automatic starters given their limited work sample.
Temper your expectations for these young stars, expect anywhere from 750-1,000 yards and somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 touchdowns.
The temptation is there to buy into these rushers, however consider yourself warned. Darren McFadden is seemingly a guarantee to miss significant time with an injury this year. Alfred Morris and Doug Martin now face the challenge of backing up an impressive performance a year ago with another one, given that defenses now will be putting a little extra emphasis on stopping them. They also have an extra year of film to do it.
Ryan Matthews looks incredibly talented and like a juicy value pick in every year’s fantasy draft, yet he never has been able to live up to the hype down in San Diego. Odds are he won’t this year either. Same goes for Jonathon Stewart, he is overshadowed by Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert around the goal line, and is stuck in a split situation with DeAngelo Williams the rest of the time.
Benjarvus Green-Ellis has competition in the backfield this year, and very well could end up losing the battle to Giovanni Bernard. There is next to no chance he remains a feature back in the offense this year.
Temper your expectations, these backs likely won’t be anywhere near the 1,000 yard mark or put up the touchdowns needed to warrant a spot on a fantasy roster. Injuries and split situations make these guys not worth owning in your league.
Value is there to be found in this group. Primarily made up of men who have not started a season in the NFL, there are also two key veterans. This group is going into fantasy drafts valued less than what they will produce, take advantage and reap the rewards in your fantasy league.
Maurice Jones-Drew seems to be a forgotten man in many fantasy football discussions and previews, however he is just a year removed from being a bonafide all-star. He has had a year to recover from his lisfranc injury, and should be good to go with a full off season under his belt after holding out last year.
Reggie Bush joins an explosive offense in Detroit, and might just be the piece the team has been searching for to put their team over the top. His pass catching skills and ability to make plays in space will open up an offense that is already quite potent. Jonathon Franklin has the ability to fill this very same role for the Green Bay Packers.
The others are men who haven’t started a full season, or are rookies, yet find themselves in a situation where they should succeed. Anyone playing with Peyton Manning will produce, and Montee Ball will be the one to do it this year. Chris Ivory is starting a season for the first time after being stuck in committee in New Orleans for the entirety of his career. The Jets will need to run the ball to avoid Mark Sanchez throwing it, look for a nice year from Ivory.
Land one of these men late if you can, it will pay huge dividends and perhaps be the key in your championship run.
That’s all for the running back edition of the Guardian Express fantasy football preview, check back with us next time as we break down the wide receiver position, perhaps the deepest in the fantasy football world.
Check out all of our other fantasy football positional previews here
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express
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