2013 Fantasy Football: Evaluating the Elite Tier of Running Backs

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJuly 29, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 04:  Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushes for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on November 4, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Having the first overall pick in a fantasy football draft can be a harrowing task, considering that there are almost always multiple considerations for the top spot. 

In fantasy football this year, there are a number of elite running backs who could all end up as the top producer at the end of the season. 

For me, there are four running backs who stand alone at the top, and there is a great case for each. Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Arian Foster and C.J. Spiller are all excellent backs in their own right, but have their shortcomings like everyone else.


Adrian Peterson

The majority of people will take Peterson first overall. After a season with 2,097 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, it would be hard to fault anyone for selecting AP first overall.

But he should not be the automatic selection. As Bleacher Report's own Gary Davenport points out, it is extremely hard to replicate the kind of historic season AP had in 2012.

None of the six rushers before Peterson to break 2,000 yards rushed for more than 1,500 the following year, and only two of the six had more than 1,300.

The biggest thing working against Peterson is the rest of the Vikings offense. They replaced No. 1 wideout Percy Harvin with Greg Jennings, which is a downgrade in every way.

Christian Ponder isn't quite as incompetent as many people think, but he is definitely not good enough to take a defense's minds off of Peterson. As long as defenses are spending all of their time game-planning against Peterson, it will be extremely hard for him to approach 2,000 rushing yards again. 


C.J. Spiller

Finally we get to last year's surprise breakout player, C.J. Spiller. He struggled a bit with injuries, but still posted an exceptional 1,244 rushing yards on 207 carries for an average of 6.0 YPC to go along with 459 receiving yards.

With new head coach Doug Marrone and his uptempo offense in Buffalo, Spiller is bound to get even more action than he did in 2012. The team's official website said that Spiller could possibly reach 2,000 yards on the ground and touch the ball 30 times per game.

Those may be optimistic numbers, but I think Marrone's new offense will help Spiller take another big step forward in 2013.  

Spiller is actually my second-favorite running back in this year's class. I think he'll be just a tad behind Peterson in fantasy points when the season is over. 


Doug Martin

Doug Martin had a breakout rookie campaign, with 1,926 total yards and 12 touchdowns. He is the unquestioned feature back on a Tampa Bay team that will run the ball a lot.

But his ability as an all-around back makes him truly valuable. Head coach Greg Schiano will run him hard and often, but he should eclipse 50 receptions to go along with his big rushing numbers.

Arian Foster

Arian Foster has been one of the league's best running backs over the past three seasons. At 27 years old, some fear that his heavy workload will start to catch up to him, but that's just about the only concern with Foster.

He posted over 4,200 yards since 2010, averaging 1,421 yards per season. If he can get back into the passing game more in 2013, he will end up as a top-three back. 

Foster has to deal with Ben Tate behind him, and he has struggled with injury issues dating back to his college days at Tennessee.

But he is still the most proven commodity other than AP in this elite tier, and it's hard to go wrong with a player as talented and heavily-used as Foster.

Stay tuned for the rest of the tiers for the running back, quarterback and wide receiver positions.