Believe it or not, the regular season is almost here. So what does this mean to me? It means draft season is under way. With only a few positions left to break down, it’s time to attack the running back position. Due to the depth and quarterback and wide receiver, drafting your running backs is going to be an early round process whether you like it or not. After the jump, I’m going to give you my top 30 running backs for the 2013 season.
1. Adrian Peterson – He’s superhuman and a freak of nature. He may rush for 2,200 yards this season due to the lack of fire power through the air.
2. Marshawn Lynch – Beast mode jumps up my board for a few reasons. He is a touchdown machine and has a second year quarterback in front of him. Look for him to surpass 300 carries once again and finish with 12-15 scores.
3. Arian Foster – The only question here is will his body eventually betray him? Since becoming the starter in Houston, Foster has carried the ball an average of 318.6 times a season. That number would be higher had he not missed three games in 2011. If he overcomes the early injury bug, which seems to hit him every pre-season, Foster will flirt with 13-17 touchdowns.
4. Ray Rice – While his reception numbers dropped last season, expect a questionable passing offense to lean on their star back a little more this season. Rice finished with a respectable 1,143 yards and 9 scores last year and should add to that in 2013. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him flirt with 11-13 total scores.
5. Jamaal Charles – A preseason foot injury is scaring away many early picking fantasy owners and helping those at the back end of the draft. Charles has breakaway speed and now a coach in Andy Reid who will get him heavily involved in the passing game. Look for Charles to flirt with 1,600-1,800 all purpose yards this season. If you are drafting in a PPR league, this guy will be big.
6. Doug Martin – This guy right here is a question mark for me. I took him last season late and it paid off down the stretch. The question is can he repeat as a second year player? Josh Freeman will need to step his game up to keep 8 defenders out of the box and give Doug the space to show last season wasn’t a fluke. In PPR leagues, Martin will be a lot more trustworthy building off his 49 catches from last season.
7. Trent Richardson – This guy right here should shake the fantasy world this season. He played a majority of last season hurt and still came away with 11 rushing touchdowns. Expect him to push 1,200 yards and 12-15 total touchdowns this season.
8. LeSean McCoy – Coming off a disappointing season last year, look for McCoy to rebound big with Chip Kelly’s new offense. His touchdown number will be higher than two this season and expect him to make noise in the passing game as well.
9. Alfred Morris – Who knew Mike Shanahan could make something out of nothing? Well Coach Shanahan of course. Morris is a big, powerful back who compliments the pistol offense very well. Look for RG3 to hand the ball off a little more this season rather than pull and run. A healthy RG3 will lead to more wins for Washington, and Morris will reap the benefits of this change.
10. C.J. Spiller – Spiller has home run speed and soft hands, two things needed to make fantasy owners very happy. The question is how effective can he be with no passing game in front of him? EJ Manuel will give Spiller the best chance at being successful this season, but an early knee injury has put that plan in question. In a perfect world Spiller could flirt with top 5 status, but can you really trust the Buffalo Bills?
11. Steven Jackson – In joining the Atlanta Falcons, Jackson can step out of the limelight and be a productive part of a system that has already been successful. Michael Turner managed 10 rushing touchdowns in this offense last season with zero speed. Jackson may be getting older, but expect to see his reception number increase under Mike Smith. While he would be a good RB1 in any league, most owners are looking at him as an RB2. Either way, he’s going to surprise his critics.
12. Matt Forte – How can you compare Matt Forte to Charlie Garner you ask? Because when Chicago Bears new head coach Marc Trestman was the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders in 2002, Garner had 91 receptions. That’s not a typo, 91 receptions. Now don’t expect Forte to have a 90 catch season this year, but do expect him to top the 60 catch season he had in 2012. Outside of Brandon Marshall, Forte should be Cutlers safety blanket which in turn will make fantasy owners very happy.
13. Stevan Ridley – Everyone is worried about where Tom Brady is going to throw the ball, but did people forget Ridley had 1,263 rushing yards with 12 scores last season? If the passing game is in question, expect the Patriots to lean a little more on a run heavy approach. And if Brady shuts down his critics, expect that to open up the running game even more for Ridley. Ball security issues should be a thing of the past here and Ridley will benefit from a quick hitting offense.
14. Maurice Jones-Drew – Is MJD a thing of the past? Or will he return with a vengeance? In his 7 year career, Jones-Drew has played at least 14 games 6 times and before last season rushed for over 1,300 yards in three straight seasons. With a giant question mark at quarterback, expect Jacksonville to lean heavily on MJD and owners will not be disappointed. I can see at least 1,000 yards from Maurice, and 8-11 scores.
15. Frank Gore – Every year Gore defies his age and puts together a solid season. While the 49ers seem to stock pile running backs to replace him, Frank finds a way to stay relevant. Although his total touches may decrease, Gore is in line to have a solid season as your RB2. Don’t let the young blood scare you away; this back will contribute this season.
16. Darren McFadden – Every year is supposed to be the breakout season for McFadden, so why can’t it be this season? With a giant question mark at the quarterback position, the Raiders will be forced to lean on their feature back. If McFadden can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, he will be a stud for owners this year. His ADP is in the high 30’s, which puts him at the middle to back end of the third round, and could be a huge value pick.
17. Reggie Bush – After back to back 900+ yard seasons with the Dolphins, expect the lions to take advantage of what Bush has left in his tank. He brings an added dimension to an offense that has lacked any running game since Jahvid Best. Reggie will not only be the highlight of the running game, but will be moved all around the field in the passing game as well. I could see around 1,600 total yards and 10-12 total scores.
18. DeMarco Murray – DeMarco Murray has all the talent in the world, yet gets bitten by the injury bug on a yearly basis. He has yet to play a full season in his young NFL career, but totes the power and speed to be a dominating force. If healthy, Murray is a solid RB2 with RB1 upside but I would recommend drafting at least a second option in case he goes down.
19. Eddie Lacy – Everyone knows that Green Bay like to throw the football, but a solid running game has hurt them over the past few seasons. Eddie Lacy gives the Packers the power between the tackles they have desperately searched for. While he may not burn up stat sheets with yardage each week, look for the Green Bay offense to lean on their rookie in the red zone. This sets up Lacy for big numbers in the touchdown department due to the spread offense Rodgers runs so well.
20. Chris Johnson – Can he return to the CJ2K form this season? My money is betting against him. If you can get him in the third round, then by all means take a shot at him. But don’t be surprised when a CJ2K slappy jumps on him in the 2nd round this year. Let him be someone else’s problem.
21. Darren Sproles – In a PPR setting, Sproles is always a value pick. In most mock drafts I’ve done he’s still been sitting there in the late third or early fourth round. In a standard setting, Sproles is a decent RB2 due to the yardage he will rack up both through the air and on the ground. Just make sure he isn’t the first RB you take and you won’t be disappointed with his production.
22. Ahmad Bradshaw – The forgotten running back of most drafts in my opinion. Bradshaw possesses the much needed skill set to help out his 2nd year quarterback and should return to RB2 status this season. While his feet may be a concern to many, I like the toughness he shows year in and year out. Make sure to handcuff him with Vick Ballard and this combo will not disappoint you.
23. Lamar Miller – This is a situation I would keep my eyes on. Word out of Dolphins camp is the coaches want to use a RBBC approach with Miller and Daniel Thomas. While Miller has an intriguing skill set, Thomas is going to steal carries early on and potentially vulture the goal line work. I would stay away from this situation and keep an eye on it as the season progresses. The only way I would get involved here would be late in the fourth round.
24. David Wilson – The man can run, but can he keep the ball off the ground? Wilson is an interesting choice in PPR leagues because of the potential lack of defense the Giants are looking at. But pay attention to Andre Brown stealing carries and possibly score in short yardage work. Wilson could be a mid-season trade target if things play out in his favor.
25. Chris Ivory – Someone on the Jets has to be productive right? Over 24 career games, Ivory has a yard per carry average of 5.1 and could be the focal point of the Jets offense. The real question here is how many defenders will he see inside the box? This is another situation I would let someone else deal with. Ivory is completely off my draft board.
26. DeAngelo Williams – It seems like every year DeAngelo Williams is playing in the shadow of Jonathan Stewart. This year, Williams will have an early season chance to entrench himself as the Panthers lead back. Don’t forget that he has rushed for an average of 4.9 yards per carry over his career and he does show power between the tackles. While I wouldn’t count on him being your RB2 every week, he does show promise as a flex option.
27. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Law Firm ran for 1,000 yards last season in his first season with Cincinatti and saw his touchdown number drop from the 2012 season. I expect the opposite for him in 2013. While he may lose touches to the rookie Gio Bernard, BJGE should see his touchdown number increase due to short yardage work. I like him as a back end RB2 with an every week flex play option.
28. Rashard Mendenhall – I was very high on Mendenhall due to joining Bruce Arians offense this season, but injuries have slid him down my draft board. If healthy Mendenhall will be a value pick with his ADP being in the 70s, but the “if” is the problem here. I wouldn’t mind stashing him on my bench for later in the season if it’s after the 7th round. He could be a sneaky RB2, at minimum every week flex play, but it all depends on his health.
29. Daryl Richardson – This guy came out of nowhere last season when Steven Jackson went down and looks to take advantage of his starting opportunity in 2013. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season and will try to be the spark on the ground for Sam Bradford and the Rams Offense. I like him as a value pick due to his average draft position of 77 this year. He has the talent to be very good flex play with a RB2 upside.
30. Giovani Bernard – This is the only non-starter that I have inside my top 30 and it’s simply because he is too talented for Cincinnati to keep off the field. Bernard gives the Bengals offense a different dimension out of the backfield and he should see a majority of the 3rd down work. Just like Sproles, Gio has the potential to be much more successful in a PPR setting but should pan out to be a decent flex play each week due to his big play ability.
Here are a few backs to keep your eyes on for middle to late season acquisitions or late round fliers.
Le’Veon Bell – Just one week ago, Le’Veon Bell would have been inside my top 30. Injuries have hit him hard this preseason, but he could pose some late season value when healthy. A monster at Michigan State, Bell is exactly what Pittsburg is looking for in a back and will abuse him when he returns to 100%.
Shane Vereen – Early word from Patriots camp was Vereen was getting the Aaron Hernandez treatment. No, I don’t mean investigated for murder, but lining up everywhere from the backfield to split end. While he may not see as many ground touches as owners would like, Vereen is in line for a decent amount of total touches and could make for an intriguing flex play.
Joique Bell – I have hardly seen this name in mock drafts, yet being from Michigan I hear it constantly coming from training camp. Bell is a shifty, powerful back with exceptional hands and will get his chances to make plays on 3rd down. In PPR leagues, owners could find a decent flex play here.
Fred Jackson – Spillers durability may come into question this season, especially if Kevin Kolb is under center for a decent period of time. Jackson is a big powerful back who could vulture some touchdowns around the goal line.
Ben Tate – Note to all Arian Foster owners, this name should be on your roster. Tate has big play ability whenever he touches the ball and if Foster were to go down for a stretch period; Ben can defiantly handle the high amount of carries Houston would bestow on him.
Danny Woodhead – Remember how San Diego used Darren Sproles early on in his career? Expect the same here with Woodhead. While he holds far more value in a PPR league, Ryan Matthews has been extremely disappointing to coaches and fantasy owners.
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