2013 Fantasy Football: Pre-Draft Rankings on the Top 70 Running Backs
If you want to take home the trophy, you have to stay ahead of the game, folks. Winning fantasy football championships ain't easy, but it can be a heck of a lot simpler if you make it a year-round process instead of just a seasonal hobby.
The 2013 NFL draft is coming up on Thursday, April 25 and should obviously be followed in some form or manner. Now even though some of the rookies being selected may affect future rankings, we still know where most of this year's free agents have signed. We should always try to learn as much as we can.
I did not list any rookies in the rankings below, as it would be too difficult to assess their value without yet knowing their team situations.
In any case, I will continue to update my player rankings here throughout the offseason, so enjoy this pre-2013 NFL draft rendition and let me know what you think.
Running Backs Ranked 70-61 (Analysis Included for RBs 1-50)
Above is a video I would suggest watching on using the tiers method when preparing for your upcoming fantasy draft.
Below is a quick overview of the running backs I have ranked 70-61.
Each player ranked from 1-50 includes specific analysis within this slide show. Write-ups for the players ranked further down will be included in the next rendition of my player rankings, which can be seen here shortly after the 2013 NFL draft.
Running Backs 70-61
70. Joique Bell (Det)
69. Donald Brown (Ind)
68. Roy Helu (Was)
67. Rashad Jennings (Oak)
66. Toby Gerhart (Min)
65. Isaac Redman (Pit)
64. Kendall Hunter (SF)
63. Chris Ivory (NO)
62. Justin Forsett (Jax)
61. Jacquizz Rodgers (Atl)
Running Backs Ranked 60-51 (Analysis Included for RBs 1-50)
Below is a quick overview of the running backs I have ranked 60-51.
Each player ranked from 1-50 includes specific analysis within this slide show. Write-ups for the players ranked further down will be included in the next rendition of my player rankings, which can be seen here shortly after the 2013 NFL draft.
Running Backs 60-51
60. Marcel Reece (Oak)
59. Mike Tolbert (Car)
58. Robert Turbin (Sea)
57. Cedric Peerman (Cin)
56. Alex Green (GB)
55. Montario Hardesty (Cle)
54. Brandon Bolden (NE)
53. LaMichael James (SF)
52. Danny Woodhead (SD)
51. Pierre Thomas (NO)
50. Daniel Thomas: Miami Dolphins
I have a tough time believing the Miami Dolphins are simply going to give up on a 230-pound, 2011 second-round pick so easily.
No, Daniel Thomas won’t win the starting job over Lamar Miller, but if he dedicates himself to improving his ball-handling and plays to his strengths (i.e. power), he could definitely win the goal-line job and have some fantasy-worth this season.
However, make sure to watch and see what happens in camp first before drafting him.
He could just as easily end up a bust.
49. Ronnie Hillman: Denver Broncos
Ronnie Hillman did well enough as a rookie to see a nice boost in playing time this season, but is still a bit undersized for more than a part-time/third-down role.
If his pass protection proves to be up-to-snuff during this offseason, he might see a semi nice-sized jolt up the rankings.
48. Bilal Powell: New York Jets
Bilal Powell actually did quite well working in tandem with Shonn Greene last season and figured to enter 2013 as the New York Jets RB1.
However, the Jets obviously weren’t sold as they went out and signed Mike Goodson during the offseason to compete with him for the job.
We’ll see how things shake out over the summer, but I expect Goodson to win it, thus leaving Powell on the outside looking in.
47. Michael Bush: Chicago Bears
Michael Bush is a monster of a man who should once again see full-time duty as the goal-line back for the Chicago Bears this season.
This role alone gives him some nice fantasy value, but with Matt Forte missing a handful of games over the past two years, Bush’s direct line to the Bears' starting job, should Forte get injured, gives him even more value than this ranking shows.
Look for him to climb the chart a bit over the summer.
46. Knowshon Moreno: Denver Broncos
There are a few reasons why Knowshon Moreno is not only inside my top 50, but has the ability to rise as well.
First, all signs point toward the Denver Broncos releasing Willis McGahee sometime soon here, so with undersized Ronnie Hillman as the only legit competition for the starting job, things look pretty good for Moreno.
Second, Moreno showed very well during his six games as a starter last season, so confidence in him may be growing.
Third, he’s a former first-round draft pick (12th overall in 2009), so he at least has to have SOME sort of bona fide skill set, right?
We’ll see how things play out soon enough.
45. Ryan Williams: Arizona Cardinals
When Bruce Arians first signed on with the Arizona Cardinals, it looked like Ryan Williams was going to have a chance to be a legit RB2 for fantasy teams this season.
However, the signing of one of Arians’ former man-crushes, Rashard Mendenhall, has pretty much squashed that possibility.
Yes, Williams will compete for the starting job, but don’t expect him to end up with more than a timeshare unless Mendenhall gets injured.
44. Ben Tate: Houston Texans
My main worry with Ben Tate is whether or not he can stay healthy for the entire season.
If he can, then his fantasy value will end up being much higher than this as I fully expect the Houston Texans to try and get him the ball a good 200 times in an effort to taper back on Arian Foster’s (over) usage.
43. Bryce Brown: Philadelphia Eagles
Bryce Brown showed some serious potential during those few starts he got in the middle of last season, and as a result, is now the unquestioned RB2 for the Philadelphia Eagles behind LeSean McCoy.
He’ll have to prove to be over his fumbling problem this offseason to get more than a few token carries each week, but if he does, Chip Kelly’s offense uses the running back position enough to make Brown worth a spot on your fantasy team.
42. DeAngelo Williams: Carolina Panthers
DeAngelo is a better running back than he’s been given credit for over the last few years, but the youth, strength and potential of his Carolina backfield mate, Jonathan Stewart, has sapped all of the intrigue of his inherent worth.
If the Panthers hold onto him for the season—which it’s looking like they will—then Williams will again be on the low-end of the timeshare totem pole this year.
41. Fred Jackson: Buffalo Bills
Fred Jackson is healthy again after missing the final month of 2012 due to a right MCL sprain, so there should be no real worries there.
However, the fact that he’s 32 years old now might be a bit of a concern, but because of his superior size to C.J. Spiller and ability to run hard between the tackles, he’ll undoubtedly be used enough in the Buffalo Bills offense to have some decent worth this upcoming fantasy season.
40. Daryl Richardson: St. Louis Rams
Even though I believe Isaiah Pead will end up winning the starting job in St. Louis, Daryl Richardson showed enough last season to hold down a regular part of the offense in 2013.
How big that role will be depends a lot on how the battle between these two shakes out during the offseason.
Keep an eye on it because it could be an important one.
39. Mike Goodson: New York Jets
Mike Goodson was signed by the New York Jets this offseason to fight with Bilal Powell for their vacant starting RB position.
If he wins it outright, which is certainly possible considering the general averageness of Powell, then he’ll likely move up in my rankings during the summer.
This should be an interesting battle to watch…or actually, not really.
38. Shonn Greene: Tennessee Titans
If Shonn Greene is left alone to handle all the goal-line and short-yardage work for the Tennessee Titans this season, he definitely warrants this spot in the rankings and could possibly end up higher.
If not, then leave him on the board as an end-of-the-draft flier.
37. Shane Vereen: New England Patriots
The New England Patriots decided to let Danny Woodhead move on to the San Diego Chargers because of their supreme confidence in Shane Vereen’s ability to fill Woodhead’s role in the offense.
It’s a nicer role than you’d think, too, as Woodhead was able to put up seven combined touchdowns and the 24th-most fantasy points in the league last year in just 15 games.
Vereen has the overall skills to do even better and will likely be moving up the rankings soon because of it.
36. Jonathan Dwyer: Pittsburgh Steelers
Do I like the kid? Absolutely. Jonathan Dwyer has a ton of heart and a true love for the game, so you have to love that.
However, he has yet to show the consistency enough to force me into ranking him higher.
If he shows me a little more over the summer, though, I'll let you know.
35. Mark Ingram: New Orleans Saints
I wish I could put Mark Ingram up higher than this, but with the way that New Orleans Saints offense is run, there’s just no chance for a running back (other than Darren Sproles) to have a legitimate fantasy impact.
Hell, he didn’t even average as many fantasy points per game as either Pierre Thomas or Chris Ivory last year!
34. Willis McGahee: Denver Broncos
If the Denver Broncos end up keeping Willis McGahee on the team as opposed to dumping him for salary cap reasons, then he’ll definitely shoot up my chart here.
Though he’ll be turning 32 years old during the season, Willis was doing just fine last year, getting 20 touches a game before a broken leg ended his season, so it looks like he still has the potential to put up RB2-type numbers.
33. Bernard Pierce: Baltimore Ravens
I am firmly convinced that Bernard Pierce’s incredible skills as a runner will inevitably force the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff to start using him in a timeshare with Ray Rice.
He’s that good.
How soon that happens, I can’t be sure, but look for Pierce to start receiving upward of 10-15 touches a game around midseason.
32. Isaiah Pead: St. Louis Rams
With Steven Jackson leaving St. Louis in search of a Super Bowl title, the Rams backfield was left barren for Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson to do battle for.
Richardson may have been thought to have the upper hand due to playing time he received over Pead last season, but I caution everyone to not be fooled here. Pead was a second-round pick for a reason (Richardson was a seventh-rounder).
He has world-class speed (ran a sub-4.4 40 at the 2012 combine, though the official time was 4.41) and has extremely soft hands catching balls out of the backfield.
If he works hard to mend the "fumbleitis" that put him in the doghouse last year, then Pead will be the Rams running back you want on your fantasy team and could end up a big-time sleeper.
31. BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Cincinnati Bengals
Even though the Cincinnati Bengals gave BenJarvus "Law Firm" Green-Ellis 300 touches in a full-time starting role last season, he still only managed to put up six touchdowns and ended up 19th in overall fantasy points.
Basically, what you see is what you get with this lumberer, and from a fantasy standpoint, it ain’t much.
30. Ahmad Bradshaw: Free Agent
My ranking of Ahmad Bradshaw here is due to the fact that a couple of good teams out there are still in the market for a starting running back.
If the Green Bay Packers or Pittsburgh Steelers finally give in and sign him, then Bradshaw will scoot up the list a handful of spots.
If St. Louis signs him (doubtful) or some other team like the Cincinnati Bengals nabs him as a complementary back (best bet), then this position is probably where his fantasy worth lies.
29. Jonathan Stewart: Carolina Panthers
When are the Carolina Panthers going to get their collective head out of their ass and just go with Jonathan Stewart as a full-time starter?
If it happens this season, the kid could end up being a monster of a steal in the later rounds.
If not, he’ll be a generally worthless, bye-week, fill-in player once again.
28. Andre Brown: New York Giants
With Ahmad Bradshaw sent packing, it will be interesting to see how the New York Giants coaching staff directs the backfield combination of Andre Brown and David Wilson this offseason.
Will the carries be close to even, as they were for Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs in 2011? Or will it be more like 2010 when one back received most of the early-down work while the other took on more of a “specialty role?”
The smart money goes on Wilson getting the early-down work and Brown taking on the role of goal-line/short-yardage back.
However, if Wilson slips up or gets injured, Brown did well enough in his two starts last season to become a high-end RB2 as the Giants starter.
27. Mikel Leshoure: Detroit Lions
Mikel Leshoure had a bunch of upside heading into this season before the Detroit Lions decided to grab Reggie Bush, but not all hope is lost.
He’ll obviously continue to be the Lions' goal-line back in 2013 and could easily hit the double-digit mark in that category, making him worth using as a spot-starter for fantasy teams.
Plus, if Bush gets injured (which has been known to happen), Leshoure will smoothly step in as a full-time starter and thrive now that he’ll be two years removed from his Achilles surgery.
26. DuJuan Harris: Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been in the hunt for a starting running back this offseason, but have thus far come away with nothing.
That means DuJuan Harris will begin the 2013 season as the starting RB for Green Bay, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll end up there.
Green Bay has a tendency to go with whoever looks good, so if Harris has a bad game or two, he may not see much of the field for a month after.
That being said, he’s quick as a lick and played well in the offense toward the end of last season, so he’s worth taking as a backup to your Week 1 starters.
25. Ryan Mathews: San Diego Chargers
I haven’t given up hope in Ryan Mathews, even though it seems most other fans have.
He’s definitely frail, no doubt about it, but he still has the skills to be one of the better starting running backs in the game...though a bit of change wouldn’t hurt the kid.
So, with a new head coach in Mike McCoy and the possible infusion of a zone-blocking scheme into the offense, it’s entirely possible Mathews gets back on track this season and ends up a later-round steal for an owner willing to take a shot.
24. Rashard Mendenhall: Arizona Cardinals
I'm interested to see what Mendenhall can do now that he’ll be almost two years removed from his ACL tear on January 1, 2012.
Bruce Arians and the Cardinals are also pretty interested—especially Arians who coached him back when they were together on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mendy will have to compete with Ryan Williams to win the starting job (which he should), but even if he does, his biggest obstacle this season will be finding holes behind Arizona’s terrible offensive line.
23. Darren Sproles: New Orleans Saints
What can you say about this munchkin that hasn’t already been said.
Last year, he only had 48 carries and played in just 13 games, yet still managed to pull through with the 22nd-most total fantasy points in the league.
Since joining the New Orleans Saints in 2011, Sproles has averaged 8.5 total touchdowns a year and 11.2 fantasy points a game—numbers he should have no problem repeating in 2013.
22. Lamar Miller: Miami Dolphins
With Reggie Bush being allowed to walk during the offseason, Lamar Miller will be the one to take on the starting role for the Miami Dolphins, not Daniel Thomas.
Miller was quite possibly the most overlooked skill-position player in the 2012 NFL draft, falling all the way into the fourth round due to durability and pass-blocking concerns after being thought of as a borderline first-round pick.
Well, turns out he’s an awesome blocker and should have no problem as a three-down back due to some surprisingly nice pass-catching hands.
His 4.4 speed makes him one of the most explosive backs in the league as well.
Watch out for this kid.
21. Vick Ballard: Indianapolis Colts
Vick Ballard will undoubtedly begin the season as lead dog for the Indianapolis Colts, especially after his work in the second half of 2012.
Not only did the Colts go 9-2 once Vick took over for the underachieving Donald Brown in Week 7, but he also proved to be an above-average running back in all facets of the game.
In an up-and-coming offense like the Andrew Luck-led Colts, Ballard could have some really nice fantasy value come draft time.
20. Reggie Bush: Detroit Lions
Reggie Bush had an up-and-down season for the Miami Dolphins in 2012, putting up eight games with double-digit fantasy points versus eight games fantasy owners would like to forget.
Still, he made it through a full 16-game schedule for the first time since his rookie season in 2006, so at least he has something to build on going into 2013.
He’ll have to do it in a new uniform, however, as the Detroit Lions made a big push to sign him this offseason after Miami made it clear they had the intention of ponying up the dough to keep him.
The move to Detroit certainly looks to be a good move for his fantasy prospects, but with coach Jim Schwartz coming out to say that the Lions plan on using him more like the way the New Orleans Saints used him earlier in his career (per an interview on The Jim Rome Show), I’m not so sure.
He’ll get a ton of passes thrown his way out of the backfield this season, which is awesome for PPR leagues, but I wouldn’t expect more than 150-175 carries at most, so it’s hard to determine how many fantasy points he’ll be capable of putting up.
Bush was never a big touchdown guy, so not being the goal-line back (Mikel Leshoure) won’t really hurt him, but it will be tough for him to catch 73-plus passes like he did in his first two years in the league.
It’s going to take a little learning during OTAs and preseason games to see just how the Lions plan to use him this year before making a final decision on his 2013 fantasy worth.
19. Chris Johnson: Tennessee Titans
Chris "CJ2K" Johnson had a nice midseason streak in 2012 that had half his fantasy owners patting themselves on the back for holding onto him, while the other half was cursing the gods for trading him away.
In the end, nobody won and nobody lost, as every owner had to suffer the pain of watching him fizzle down the stretch.
As opposed to the weekly fantasy onslaught during his insane 2009 campaign, Johnson is now more of a feast-or-famine player, though one that still carries the enticement of a tasty upside.
Despite the addition of Shonn Greene, CJ28 should continue to be one of the top 10 RBs in touches next season, so owners can at least count on him for a weekly workload. However, unless his offensive line improves dramatically over the summer, it will be tough to legitimize the weekly headache he has become.
At the very least, he’s a mid-range RB2, but I’m interested to see how things shake out with how they plan to use Greene before committing to his position here.
18. Frank Gore: San Francisco 49ers
Despite all the critics ill-fated prognostications before the start of last season, Frank the Tank Gore turned in one of the best years of his career and ended up just outside the top 10 fantasy RBs on the season.
Widely thought to be injury-prone, he has also stayed healthy now for two straight seasons after doing so just once in his first six. Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers figured out that they need him to be healthy year-round in order to win the Super Bowl, so they’ve tapered back on his in-season usage in order to keep him strong down the stretch.
This, of course, isn’t the best thing for fantasy owners, but it certainly works for San Fran.
That being said, his lessened workload might end up being evened out by the ‘Niners commitment to Colin Kaepernick under center.
The holes along the defensive front develop a little quicker and open a little wider with defenses having to account for Kaepernick’s own running abilities, so Gore will have plenty of room to make the most of the carries he does receive in 2013.
All in all, he’s a steady RB2, but lacks the upside of the players above him in his year-30 season.
17. DeMarco Murray: Dallas Cowboys
When DeMarco Murray is healthy, he’s pretty much everything you could want in a fantasy running back.
He runs hard every play, he’s big, he’s fast, he catches the ball well and is entrenched as the workhorse in a high-scoring offense.
His lack of touchdowns is a bit disconcerting, however, as he only has six in his first 23 NFL games.
He also has the dreaded “injury-prone” tag stapled to his back after missing nine of his first 32 games.
The upside is certainly there, but if the Cowboys offensive line doesn’t improve this offseason, I’m not sure I’d take the chance on him as more than a middling RB2.
16. Matt Forte: Chicago Bears
Since his amazing 2008 rookie campaign, no one has ever doubted the talent within Matt Forte.
However, he hasn’t been able to match his rookie numbers of 1,715 total yards, 63 receptions and 12 TDs in any of the four years since.
One of the biggest knocks on him has been his ineptitude in the red zone—a rightful critique the Chicago Bears front office and coaching staff solved with the signing of Michael Bush before the 2012 season.
On the other hand, his upside is a bit higher this season with the Bears hiring of head coach Marc Trestman and his high-flying offensive mind-set.
There’s no question Forte is one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league, so it’s possible he could put up some high-end numbers in the Bears' new scheme—minus the touchdowns, of course.
15. Darren McFadden: Oakland Raiders
Darren "Run DNP" McFadden is another big wild card in the rankings this offseason. The pluses and minuses for him are as diverse as they come, so it’s tough to put him any higher or lower than this right now.
First off, the biggest negative is that the injury bug hit McFadden square in the face again last season (no really, it’s true!), so he has yet to play in more than 13 games during any season in his five-year career thus far. Big-time negative.
The second bummer is that he had a terrible season regardless, rushing for only 707 yards (on a measly 3.3 YPC) and scoring three touchdowns in 12 games.
However, there are a couple of positives as well.
McFadden is in a contract year, so you know he’ll be doing everything he can to score a fat one.
Another positive is that the Raiders got rid of crappy OC Greg Knapp and his crappy zone-blocking scheme and replaced them with OC Greg Olson and a much more suitable power-running offense.
There are obvious red flags out there, but Run DNP has as good of a skill set and upside as most any RB in the league.
14. David Wilson: New York Giants
David Wilson is a tough guy to gauge right now, but more so because of the situation he is in than his outright abilities.
Wilson clearly showed how explosive of a running back he could be toward the end of last season, and if I were doing these rankings based purely on potential, Wilson would certainly be ranked higher than this.
However, there are other factors to consider.
First off, Tom Coughlin is his coach. Coughlin has no problem benching players at the first sign of trouble, which could be a big thing to watch for with the youngster.
This means his touchdown celebrations (i.e. the flip) have got to go for good, his ball security has to be a thing of the past, his pass protection needs to improve immensely and his knowledge of the playbook must be spot-on.
If any of these things come into play, Coughlin will have no problem turning to another factor for Wilson owners to consider Andre Brown.
It cannot be forgotten how well Brown played when given the chance last season. Not only that, but Brown is also much better in pass protection than Wilson and will continue to hold onto the goal-line duties—regardless.
The third factor to consider hasn’t happened yet, but it’s still a possibility the Giants bring back Ahmad Bradshaw, though doubtful.
If all these complexities are cleared up by the start of the season, then Wilson could very well rise a bit in the rankings for me…or possibly even drop a bit depending on the outcome.
13. Maurice Jones-Drew: Jacksonville Jaguars
Maurice "MJD" Jones-Drew might be the toughest running back to make a call on for this upcoming season. Everything that could go wrong with him last year did, which I’m sure irked more than just a few fantasy owners out there.
The bright side is that most of it can either be corrected or disregarded heading into 2013.
First, he’s promised there will be NO holdout this season, so any worry about off-the-field distractions or missed games thereof are moot.
Second, he should be close to completely recovered from his “mid-foot fracture” (MJD claims his injury turned out to be mid-foot and not of the more serious Lisfranc variety everyone thought it was) by the time teams get into full swing over the summer, so he should be OK injury-wise as well.
He’s only 28 years, so even though he put a lot of wear on his tires from 2009-2011; he got enough rest last season where it shouldn’t make a difference.
He’ll be the bell cow for the Jags this season, but there are two questions that keep me from ranking him higher just yet:
How will he adapt to running in new Jaguars OC Jedd Fisch’s zone-blocking scheme when he’s played in a power-running scheme his whole career? How will the ascension/improvement of the Jaguars wide receivers (Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon, Jordan Shipley) affect his overall touches and role in the offense?
His ceiling is as high as the top five, but I’m still going to be cautious with him until I know a little more.
12. Stevan Ridley: New England Patriots
Stevan Ridley was everything I thought he would be in that Patriots offense last year…and maybe even a bit more.
Yes, he was a bit inconsistent putting up seven single-digit fantasy performances, but his 12 rushing touchdowns while hitting paydirt in 10 of 16 games was no shock at all—seeing how New England has been in the top six in rushing touchdowns for seven years straight now.
I can’t see much changing for the "Brady Bunch" in terms of their offensive system this season, so I don’t expect much to change for Ridley either.
Another 1,200-plus rushing yards, double-digit touchdowns and minimal work in the passing game should land him right around this spot again in 2013.
11. Alfred Morris: Washington Redskins
What Alfred Morris can do this year depends on whether or not Robert Griffin III can stay off the PUP list and make it back for the Washington Redskins first game.
Morris is a badass, no doubt about it, but I believe at least some of his lofty stats last season were due to the threat of RGIII running out of the pistol offense, and it couldn’t quite be duplicated with Kirk Cousins at the helm for the first six games.
So basically, if RGIII starts in Week 1, Morris will have every chance to be a top-10 fantasy back and possibly even top-five.
If not, he’ll still be a top-10 candidate, but it won’t be with the same guarantee as it would be with Griffin in there for the full year.
10. Ray Rice: Baltimore Ravens
I love Ray Rice as much as the next guy, but things are changing a bit over there in Baltimore, and I’m not entirely sure Rice keeps up his past fantasy success because of it.
I still can’t see him falling out of the top 10, as his versatility is just too high to disregard. However, I’m pretty sure the Ravens gave Joe Flacco $120.6 million for a reason, and it wasn’t to watch him hand the ball off for the next six years.
Other than the Ravens trending toward more of a pass-based offense, Rice will also have to fight off Bernard Pierce for touches each week.
I have no doubt Rice will still get the higher workload, but Pierce looks like he may be something special, and I believe it will become harder and harder for John Harbaugh to keep him off the field.
9. Jamaal Charles: Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal "the Ostrich" Charles and C.J. Spiller are pretty much the same person (fantasy-wise, of course).
Both are explosive as hell in being able to take it to the house on a wink, yet both have trouble finding the end zone on a consistent basis.
New Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid will likely take Charles’ carries down to around 250 from 285 last season, but where he loses in the run game, he’ll gain in the passing game, as his receptions out of the backfield will undoubtedly go up as well.
If Reid ends up getting Charles to buy into LeSean McCoy’s role from a couple of years ago, watch out.
The upside is huge here for the Ostrich.
8. LeSean McCoy: Philadelphia Eagles
I’ve always been a huge proponent of having a short memory when it comes to fantasy football, as a million things can happen from year to year.
However, in this case, I feel the need to throw out a reminder of just how good/dominant LeSean McCoy was in 2011.
I’m not saying he’ll be able to hit 20 touchdowns again, but with the changes currently going on in Philly, he just might.
New Eagles coach Chip Kelly will make McCoy the focal point of his offense—an innovative scheme that gets his running back a high volume of touches.
Bryce Brown may siphon a few touchdowns and carries along the way, but McCoy will have every opportunity to get back into the top 10 fantasy RBs this season.
7. Steven Jackson: Atlanta Falcons
The dream fantasy scenario has finally happened for Steven Jackson with his latching on to the Atlanta Falcons this offseason.
It is the perfect fit for both S-Jax and his fantasy owners. Jackson is still enough of a battering ram to devour the 10-plus touchdowns left on the table by the release of Michael Turner and yet wouldn’t have to come off the field as much as Turner did due to his ability as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Look for S-Jax to come up with 1,250-plus yards rushing, 400-plus receiving and anywhere from 12 to 15 touchdowns this season.
Yeah, this is going to be big.
6. C.J. Spiller: Buffalo Bills
The only reason I don’t have C.J. and his 6.0 yards per carry up higher than this is because he hasn’t caught fantasy football’s sacred "touchdown fever" just yet.
All five guys ranked ahead of him can put up double-digit TDs in their sleep, which is something Spiller will need to show me he can do before I put faith in it.
That being said, the kid just might be the most explosive RB in the league right now, so it’s entirely possible he turns in his own version of a Chris "CJ2K" Johnson performance this season.
With a run-first head coach in Doug Marrone on board and the 32-year old Fred Jackson openly willing to take a backseat this year, the sky is the limit for Spiller.
It wouldn’t surprise me if he climbed into my top five later on in the offseason.
5. Arian Foster: Houston Texans
It isn’t easy putting the most dominant fantasy running back of the last three seasons down here in the No. 5 slot, but I can’t deny the unfavorable trends I’ve been seeing in the "Samurai" of late.
First of all, over the last three seasons, Arian Foster has 99 more carries than the next guy on the list, even though he’s missed three games during that time. He’s compiled 371.7 touches a year since 2010 (1,115 total), and if the last half of 2012 is any indication, the workload has taken its toll.
The Texans took a gamble and basically ran their horse to near-death during the first half of last year—a move I’m sure they regret as it ultimately bit them square in the ass down the stretch.
Because of this, one of two things is going to happen with Foster in 2013:
First, Houston can ignore the red flags of yesteryear and try getting Foster 400 touches again. If they do, they could get lucky, but more than likely, either the same thing will happen again, or even worse, Foster goes down with a season-ending injury.
Their second choice is to heed their lesson and taper back on Foster’s touches to a much more manageable sum.
In the end, I believe they’ll choose door No. 2 and pare back on Foster’s usage, but whichever way they go, the result could very well leave Foster outside the top four fantasy backs in 2013.
4. Marshawn Lynch: Seattle Seahawks
The best thing "Fugly McSkittles" has going for him in 2013 is the fact that his young, talented quarterback—Russell Wilson—found his niche in the second half of his rookie season.
Wilson’s dual threat of being able to both run and pass the ball effectively opens running lanes for Marshawn Lynch that he used to have to make on his own—a little tidbit I’m sure "Beast Mode" is thankful for considering the abuse his body has taken over the last few years.
It was right around the midway point of 2012 when Wilson figured out what he could do in this league, which also happened to be the time when Lynch turned it on as well.
In the first half of 2012, Lynch had 757 rushing yards (4.76 YPC) and three touchdowns. In the second half, he put up 833 rushing yards (5.33 YPC) and nine touchdowns, yet did it on FEWER carries.
With the entire Seahawks team finding their identity during that second half of 2012, I doubt they change much at all this season (despite the addition of Percy Harvin)…which means Lynch should dominate as a top-five fantasy back yet again.
3. Doug Martin: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Where it was impossible for "T-Rich" to live up to the "Purple Jesus" comparisons, Doug Martin didn’t seem to have a problem living up to the player he was likened to:Ray Rice.
It took about a month or so for him to get rolling, but once the "Muscle Hamster" got the wheel spinning, there was just no stopping him.
It certainly didn’t hurt his confidence for the rest of the season and beyond. In Week 9 at Oakland, Martin put up 272 total yards and four touchdowns for the fourth-best fantasy performance in NFL history.
It’s highly doubtful he has another game like that in 2013, but if the Buccaneers get him another 350-plus touches like they did last year, he should end up as a top-three fantasy back once again.
Throw in a healthy offensive line (unlike 2012) and the kid could turn into fantasy gold.
2. Trent Richardson: Cleveland Browns
Being compared to Adrian "AP28" Peterson" before running your first NFL play can heave a lot of weight upon your shoulders, so considering the circumstances, I’d say Trent Richardson did pretty darn well in his rookie campaign.
His 1,317 total yards and 12 touchdowns were impressive for playing in only 15 games (actually 14 if you consider his mid-game injuries), though his 3.6 YPC could improve a bit…and it will.
The Cleveland Browns have been doing some really nice things with their team lately, so in time, possibly as soon as this year, defenses won’t be able to stack the box against their franchise RB.
Add in a clean bill of health after dealing with various injuries throughout 2012 and Richardson should become the fantasy stud we all thought he’d be (and might just live up to my nickname for him: "The Second Coming").
Oh, and with the king of the one-man, power-running game being in town, Mr. Norv Turner, Trent's ability to keep this No. 2 spot certainly won't be hurt either.
1. Adrian Peterson: Minnesota Vikings
What Adrian Peterson did in 2012 was beyond comprehension—especially considering the amount of question marks he had rolling into the season.
The only question he’ll face heading into 2013 is whether or not he can equal (or top) his production from last season.
I learned a long time ago not to doubt this man, and I’m not about to start doing it now.