Value, value, value.
In fantasy football, the number of points a player finishes with is obviously important. After all, you can't win a league if your players don't perform. What you paid for those points, however, is of far greater importance.
Last year, many leagues were won on the sole merits of Adrian Peterson. Obviously, right? He was the best player in football. That's why they won.
Owners that won because of Peterson did not win simply because they had him. They won because of where they got him. To get that historic level of production in the late-second, early-third round is incredible. And it doesn't happen often.
What follows are two groups of players. The first group are those players who I feel have the potential to have a Peterson-like impact on your team, not in terms of the sheer value and production, but in terms of giving you far more than you ever could have hoped to receive at the spot you got him.
The second group represents the opposite end of the spectrum. These are the players who, quite simply, I don't trust to give you the most for what you pay for. It's not that I think they'll have terrible years; I just don't think the production will match the pick in which they were taken.
So, without further ado, here are the three best and worst values for running backs in fantasy football this season.
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Full disclosure, I love LeSean McCoy this year. I recently reached as high as the third-overall pick to get him. That’s how big of a year I see him having.
When you factor in the question marks surrounding many of the other first-round backs, it’s an easy pick, in my eyes.
McCoy has an upgraded line, a new head coach who can’t possibly run the ball any more than he already does and put up a 20-touchdown season just two years ago. Don’t be scared away by his dud of a season last year. He’s healthy, and he’s going to be getting the football more than he ever has. The upside is huge.
He’s currently going at an average draft position of 12.6 in standard ESPN draft rooms. That’s just plain silly. Take McCoy, and run all the way to the bank.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
When I see Chris Johnson being picked in the early 20s of some drafts, it boggles my mind. A guy capable of putting up a top-10 season, maybe even a top-five season, going in the third round? Sign me up.
Johnson’s offensive line should be improved this season with the addition of two brand new guards: Andy Levitre via free agency and Chance Warmack by way of the draft.
Quarterback Jake Locker should improve this season, removing a bit of the pressure that defenses have been able to put on Johnson the last couple years. The addition of Shonn Greene might take away some of his touches throughout the season, but it will also keep him fresh.
Johnson is still the fastest back in the league, and his shiftiness and agility were on full display against the Washington Redskins in their preseason opener. Going at the beginning of the third round, there’s just too much value to pass up.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Maurice Jones-Drew is going in the third round. Yes, go ahead and pinch yourself.
This is easily the best value you will find, at any position, in the entire draft. Let’s throw away last season. That’s the outlier in an otherwise sterling career for Jones-Drew.
Don’t worry about the fact that the infamous Blaine Gabbert will be his quarterback; a terrible team has never stopped Jones-Drew from producing before. Quite simply, if he’s healthy, he’s putting up great numbers.
It appears that he has fully recovered from the foot injury that knocked him out of last season, according to SBNation. With that being the case, expect the Jacksonville Jaguars to feed him the ball as much as any back in the league, if not more.
If he falls to you in the third round, don’t overthink it. In fact, don’t even think about it all. Just announce his name, and smile smugly. You just made off like a bandit.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans
This one saddens me to no end. Arian Foster’s style of play is as fun to watch as anyone in the league. He’ll leave as big a bruise on the linebacker trying to make the tackle as the one he’ll receive.
But Foster is paying for that bruising, physical style. And he’s paying for being so good for us the last three seasons as well. All of those carries and the hard-fought yards have diminished his body and his abilities. His 351 rushing attempts led the league last season, yet he could not muster a top-five rushing season.
With reports coming out recently that the back pain Foster has been receiving injections for has now spread to his legs as well, his health is now a huge concern, via Tania Gangull of ESPN.com.
He’s not the same player he once was. But he’s still getting drafted as if he is. Currently carrying an ADP of 3.5, Foster is going before players who have far fewer question marks. He is still worthy of a first-round pick. Don’t get me wrong. But not a top-five pick. Not anymore.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me however many times you have Darren McFadden, well, never, ever again.
Raise your hand if you’ve been burned by McFadden at some point in his brief NFL career. If you’ve ever drafted or traded for him, and you’re not raising your hand, well, I’m calling you a liar.
Here’s the thing with McFadden. If he was having a good year before he got hurt last season, then I could see you taking a flier on him again. But he wasn’t. In fact, he was very bad, amassing only 707 rushing yards and two touchdowns, all going along with just 3.3 yards per carry. Nope, not on my team.
Currently going in the fourth round, there is just far more value to be had at that point. Don’t be the guy who takes Darren McFadden. If you do, you’ll also be the guy who gets burned by McFadden.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
Death, taxes and Ryan Mathews are not on my fantasy teams. Ever. Those are the surest things in life. Well, at least to me, anyway. But it should go for you, too.
Since entering the league in 2010, Mathews has experienced ankle problems, groin problems and has broken his clavicle twice. If you’re willing to have him miss half of your fantasy season, then by all means, draft him in the sixth round where he is currently going, and invite me into your league.
If you’re like me, however, and you prefer your fantasy picks to actually make it out onto the field, then you’ll stay away.
If his health wasn’t such a concern, he wouldn’t be such a risk. In fact, he’d actually be terrific value; he’s not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. His injury history, however, is just too extensive and too frightening to invest in, especially with one of your top-six picks.