Last year we saw rookie running backs make a huge impact in the NFL. Two rookies found their way into the top five for rushing yards (Alfred Morris, Doug Martin) and another fell just 50 yards shy of 1,000 on the season (Trent Richardson). Other rookie running backs made an impact in a few games throughout the season, but not enough to make an impact in the fantasy world.
The 2013 rookie running back class has some intriguing options and some talented players. The best way to evaluate a rookie's impact in fantasy is to see the situation that he's in. The player needs to be in a position where he has a chance to succeed. Some players are more talented than others, but they go to teams where they aren't in a position to make a consistent impact.
Here are the top rookie running backs for the 2013 season.
1. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh
Le'Veon Bell is the typical bruiser back that the Steelers are known for. With Rashard Mendenhall in Arizona the 6'1", 230-pound running back has a chance at the starting job in Pittsburgh. He just needs to beat out Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman for the starting role.
2. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay
The Green Bay Packers got great value when they selected Eddie Lacy in the second round. The running back from Alabama is in a great position with Green Bay, which has struggled with consistency in the running game in recent years. Since 2009 the Packers have had a different player lead their team in rushing.
Lacy figured to be a shoo-in for the best rookie running back for fantasy in this draft, but that was before the Packers selected Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round. Franklin will likely eat into Lacy's carries, but Lacy should still be the feature back.
3. Montee Ball, Denver
The Denver Broncos backfield is crowded right now with Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno, but Montee Ball still has a chance to assume the starting position.
Ball is a good all-around back who runs hard. If he does get the starting job, then he has a chance to really make an impact. It's just too early to predict how the running back situation in Denver will pan out.
4. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati
BenJarvus Green-Ellis did just enough for the Bengals in 2012 to get the job done. He wasn't flashy, but he did pass 1,000 rushing yards on the season. He should remain the starter, but Giovani Bernard brings in another dimension for the Bengals offense.
Bernard doesn't have the type of speed that will blow you away (4.53 40-yard dash, per NFL.com), but he has great quickness and can be used as a weapon out of the backfield. He will assume the role that Bernard Scott hasn't fulfilled.
5. Johnathan Franklin, Green Bay
While Lacy figures to be the starter, Johnathan Franklin still has a role in this offense. He likely competes with DuJuan Harris for the backup role. Considering Lacy's injury problems, Franklin could see extended playing time if he does indeed win the backup position.
6. Zac Stacy, St. Louis
Zac Stacy isn't an elite talent, but he's in a position where he's battling Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead for carries. The Rams traded up to select Stacy in the fifth round, so they obviously think highly of him.
7. Knile Davis, Kansas City
The Chiefs already have a starting running back in Jamaal Charles, but Knile Davis can battle Shaun Draughn for the backup role. He has a fumbling issue, but he has great speed and is a very talented player.
8. Joseph Randle, Dallas
Joseph Randle has the chance to back up DeMarco Murray in Dallas. Randle will battle with Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar for carries.
9. Mike James, Tampa Bay
Mike James isn't necessarily a household name, but he enters a good situation in Tampa. The Buccaneers traded up in the draft to select James, who might serve as the team's third-down back. He'll obviously be behind Doug Martin, but with LeGarrette Blount traded to New England, the backup role in Tampa is open for the taking.
10. Denard Robinson, Jacksonville
Denard Robinson was announced as a running back by the Jaguars and will play at the position in 2013. With 2012 backup Rashad Jennings in Oakland, the backup position for 2013 is open behind oft-injured Maurice Jones-Drew. Robinson will likely make a minimal impact this season in fantasy, but his situation is worth watching.
Obviously not all of these running backs are worth putting on your fantasy roster this season. The top five players have the best chance at contributing decent numbers. But every year there are a few surprises from rookies. Last year we saw Alfred Morris go from an unknown to the second leading rusher in the NFL.
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