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Predicting the Top 10 Fantasy Running Backs for the 2013 Season

Craig RondinoneCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2013

Predicting the Top 10 Fantasy Running Backs for the 2013 Season

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    Who are going to be the top 10 fantasy running backs in 2013?  Many people would answer that question with another question—who cares?

    It is never too early to prepare for the next fantasy football season, even when hockey and basketball are going on in full force and pitchers and catchers are set to report for baseball duty next week. 

    Even though the NFL has transformed into a pass-first league over the years, running backs still rule the roost in fantasy football. And now with more NFL teams employing two-back attacks and calling fewer running plays, having two top running backs on a fantasy roster is more important than ever. 

    So here are my picks for the top 10 fantasy running backs for the 2013 season!

10. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins

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    Here is another guy who unfortunately was an afterthought for Rookie of the Year thanks to Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Morris went from a little-known, mid-range draft pick to the second-best rusher in the NFL with 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

    Washington head coach Mike Shanahan routinely turns backs like Morris into Pro Bowl players, and this battering ram should be a lock for at least 1,200 yards and 10 TD trips because of the Shanahan system and the Redskins’ above-average offensive line. 

    Morris does have a couple things going against him heading into next season, though. With RG3 likely missing the first few games because of his major knee surgery, opposing defenses will be able to key on Morris more often.

    Morris will also never be confused with Marshall Faulk when it comes to his receiving skills. He only had 11 receptions for 77 yards in 2012. These two factors make it difficult to rank Morris any higher than here.   

9. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

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    Baltimore’s scintillating pipsqueak put up another fantastic all-around season for his fantasy owners in 2012 with 1.143 rushing yards, 478 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Those numbers are wonderful and all, but when you recall that Rice had 1,364 rushing yards, 704 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns the year before, then what he did this season might be slightly disappointing. 

    Rice is durable (has not missed a game since 2008), consistent (four straight seasons of at least 1,100 rushing yards and 1,500 combined yards) and is always among the leaders in receiving for running backs.     

    One negative for Rice is the emergence of backup Bernard Pierce, who stormed onto the scene during Baltimore’s Super Bowl run. Pierce is the perfect foil for Rice because of Pierce’s strong straight-ahead running style. Rice’s touches will definitely be affected further in the future.  

8. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns

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    Richardson had an inconsistent rookie campaign thanks mostly to a couple injuries that tied anchors to his fantasy value. Preseason knee surgery caused him to be a step slower early on, and a nagging rib injury hampered him throughout the season and may have led him to missing the 1,000-yard plateau by 50 rushing yards. 

    Richardson should be 100 percent for 2013 and be one of the best backs to own provided he does not turn out to be as injury-prone as San Diego’s Ryan Mathews. Considering he had 950 rushing yards, 367 receiving yards and a dozen touchdowns during a season where he was hardly ever healthy, imagine what Richardson could do when he is running on all cylinders?  

    Richardson has nobody threatening to steal his starting spot—do NOT say Montario Hardesty—and will become a 25-touches-per-game workhorse as long as his body holds up. Drink plenty of milk and take plenty of vitamins, Trent!

7. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Shady’s stock will be lower than it should be coming into fantasy drafts because of his injury-prone, inconsistent 2012, but he could rebound with an amazing year thanks to Chip Kelly taking over as head coach. Kelly’s up-tempo, spread offense did wonders for the rushing yardage of his running backs at Oregon, and McCoy seems like the perfect back for his system.  

    McCoy may not have 99 problems like Jay-Z, but he does have two. One is his head, which kept him out of several games last season after he suffered a concussion. If he gets concussed again it may mean another multi-week vacation, and fantasy owners do not need McCoy becoming another Jahvid Best. 

    The other problem is backup Bryce Brown, who ran like a McCoy clone during the weeks McCoy was concussed. Only Brown’s fumble fingers prevent him from being even more of a threat, but unless new Coach Kelly is blind he is probably going to get Brown 7-10 touches per game, which means 7-10 less for McCoy.

    As long as you do not have a shorter memory than Drew Barrymore had in 50 First Dates, you have to remember that McCoy scored an NFL-best 20 times in 2011 and is a dual threat because of his running and receiving talents. In Philadelphia’s high-speed offense he should be lethal as long as his skull and his backup do not get in his way.      

6. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

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    Seattle’s Skittles-loving workhorse had the best season of his six-year career in 2012 by rushing for 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns. His consistency was amazing as he had 10 100-yard games and rushed for under 85 yards only twice during the season. 

    Lynch might start wearing down because of his hard-charging running style and his heavy workload. He is not the elusive runner C.J. Spiller or Jamaal Charles is. Lynch never shies away from contact and takes as much punishment as he dishes out when he runs. He has only played in all 16 games twice in his six seasons.   

    Look for Lynch’s numbers to slip a bit as Seattle throws more with Russell Wilson and possibly rests Lynch more to keep him fresh. But fantasy owners will not quibble about 1,350 yards and 10 scores if that is what Lynch records for them.  

5. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Charles would have been the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year if Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning did not turn in otherworldly comebacks of their own. One season after tearing his ACL,  Charles sprinted for a career-high 1,509 rushing yards and scored six total touchdowns. 

    Charles should even be more explosive next season when he is another year removed from knee surgery. His rushing totals may take a hit because new head coach Andy Reid loves passing as much as Carrot Top loves props, but Charles’ receiving numbers should go up because of that.

    A year with close to 2,000 combined yards is not out of the realm of possibility for Charles. He just cannot be ranked higher since he will not score double-digit touchdowns.   

4. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Just like Charles would have won Comeback Player of the Year in a normal year, Martin would have won Rookie of the Year if the greatest crop of first-year quarterbacks in NFL history did not turn pro the same season he did. 

    “Muscle Hamster” might need a better nickname, but his fantasy value is just fine. He finished fifth in rushing with 1,454 yards in 2012 , yet the best thing about him is that he is a multi-category monster. Along with his gaudy rushing yards, he scored 12 touchdowns and was one of the better pass-catching running backs with 472 receiving yards. 

    Martin is in no danger of suffering a sophomore slump, and Tampa Bay is on the upswing. That bodes well for the Boise State product, especially since he is durable and has no one behind him on the depth chart able to vulture his touchdowns. Look for another huge year out of Martin.   

3. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

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    It is time for Spiller to be given full rein in Buffalo’s offense. The good news is that with Buffalo having a new head coach and offensive coordinator installing a quick-paced offense, they will hopefully have the good sense to put the ball in Spiller’s hands as often as possible.

    Spiller led running backs (along with Adrian Peterson) by averaging an ungodly 6.0 yards per carry. Every time he touches the ball he could go all the way. Not many players can change gears and break tackles like Spiller can. And with 450 receiving yards to go along with his 1,244 rushing yards last season, Spiller showed he is an every-down back.  

    Spiller’s biggest fantasy nemesis will be Fred Jackson. The veteran will continue to cut into Spiller’s carries unless Buffalo trades him, but there has been no rumor of that happening. The Bills would be best off keeping Jackson around as a solid veteran insurance policy. But because of Jackson, Spiller only averaged 13 rushing attempts per game last season.   

    Spiller has the tools and the talent to have 2,000 combined yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. Hopefully the new offensive system—and possibly a new quarterback—will elevate Spiller’s fantasy value to a lofty level. That is what fantasy owners are banking on.  

2. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

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    Foster was almost a forgotten fantasy man in 2012. He rushed for 1,424 yards and an NFL-best 15 touchdowns, yet he was ranked as the No. 1 or No. 2 fantasy player entering the season and did not post the numbers Adrian Peterson put up.

    Foster’s receiving numbers plummeted for some reason. After back-to-back 600-yard years he only had 217 receiving yards in 2012 and caught 26 fewer passes than he did in 2010. I find it hard to fathom that Houston will ignore Foster on pass plays for two years in a row, though.  

    Houston’s offensive game plan is not going to change next season. It will continue to revolve around Foster’s slashing running style and the Texans’ patented zone-blocking scheme. Quarterback Matt Schaub is not talented enough to make the offense all about him.     

    Foster will touch the football 350 times and will once again be a franchise fantasy player worthy of a top-five draft pick. Feel free to draft him high and enjoy plenty of yards and touchdowns. 

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

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    Peterson should tear his ACL every year! He never had more than 1,760 rushing yards in a season when his knees were healthy. Then he blew out his knee, returned in record time and miraculously rushed for 2,097 yards, the second-highest total of all time. 

    Peterson is not just the main man in Minnesota’s offense. He is the entire offense. That was evident when receiver Percy Harvin was injured and Peterson’s numbers actually skyrocketed. No matter how defenses stack the box against him, Peterson racks up yards and touchdowns. 

    Peterson has averaged 1,475 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns per season over his six-year career, and obviously there are no signs of him slowing down. Instead he is now the No. 1 RB in the NFL and fantasy football, and there is no reason to think his production will fall off dramatically in 2013.  

    Peterson cannot be expected to rush for 2,000 yards again, but 1,500-1,800 sounds certain unless his entire offensive line gets injured, he tears another ACL or he somehow loses his job to Toby Gerhart. You can make arguments that other RB on this list will have more yards or TD, but A.P. is the best bet to have the highest fantasy value at year’s end. 

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