We broke down the elite running back options and the second wave of RBs, and now we look at the third level. These running backs have the ability to be productive and serve as RB2s, but they come with a little more risk and/or question marks.
Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Ball will have to overtake Ronnie Hillman to earn the starting job and put himself into position to help fantasy teams. Ball had 79 touchdowns the past three years at the University of Wisconsin. He averaged 1,876.5 yards on the ground the past two years. The Broncos have such a strong passing game that life should be easy for whoever runs the ball. Ball will be the lead back eventually.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell and his 6’1″, 244-pound frame should get a crack at the lead back role in Pittsburgh. Isaac Redman will be involved as well, but he has already had opportunities. Bell rumbled for 1,793 yards at Michigan State last year. He scored 26 touchdowns in the past two seasons.
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
Bush should be a dynamo in Detroit’s pass-happy offense. He’s unbelievable in space and gifted at catching the ball out of the backfield. He has also proved to be a tougher runner than once thought. He has averaged 1,036 yards the past two seasons. Mikel Leshoure will get the short touchdown runs, which will limit Bush’s value. Total yards and a healthy reception total is where he’ll make his mark.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Ivory has a career average of 5.1 yards per carry. He has great size and speed. The knock on Ivory has been his ability to stay healthy. He had been competing for scraps with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush with the Saints. It’s now his job to run with in New York. As long as his body can hold up, he should be productive.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
Mathews turned in one of the most disappointing seasons among running backs last year. After gaining 1,546 total yards on 272 touches in 2011, Mathews finished with just 959 yards and a single touchdown. The talent is still there. I’ll give him one more chance to figure things out. Just have a good backup plan.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
Run DMC is another one of those talented backs that just can’t seem to stay healthy. His career highs are 13 games and 223 carries. He combined for just 19 games over the past two seasons. He is gifted at catching the ball out of the backfield, but he only has 23 touchdowns in five seasons. He’s only reached 1,000 total yards in one season. The risk outweighs the reward.
Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals
Mendenhall has dealt with injuries the past two seasons. Unlike Adrian Peterson, Mendenhall wasn’t the same player after trying to return from his knee injury. A year later, he should be more like his old self. He has had success with Bruce Arians in the past. Mendenhall averaged 1,297.3 total yards and 10 touchdowns from 2009-2011. I don’t think he’ll score that many touchdowns in the desert, but he should be a solid RB2 value.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
Miller has been turning heads with improved pass protection, which is important because it means that he could be on the field more often on passing downs. Miller and his 4.4 speed averaged 4.9 yards per carry last year. He only had two games with double-digit carries last year, but Miller managed 138 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries (6.9 YPC). Miller is poised to break out this season.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints
Sproles is almost an extension of Drew Brees when it comes to catching the ball out of the backfield. He is a monster in PPR leagues. He has averaged 80.5 receptions over the past two seasons for 688.5 yards and seven touchdowns. His rushing total dropped from 603 yards to 244 yards last year. I expect Mark Ingram to progress this year, which will keep Sproles’ rushing totals down. That said, you’re drafting him for what he does with his hands.
Also check out the fourth tier of fantasy football running backs.
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