Updated Fantasy Projections for NFL's Top Running Backs

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystOctober 22, 2013

Updated Fantasy Projections for NFL's Top Running Backs

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    Running backs are the backbone of fantasy football, and the majority of fantasy owners spent their first-round pick on one in 2013.

    Many of those same fantasy owners are not happy campers right now. The first round of most fantasy drafts this year is littered with running backs who are busts to this point, from Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens to the now-injured Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The top five at the position through seven games isn't exactly who we expected.

    Given how surprising the first half of the fantasy season has been, it's fair to wonder if these backs will keep up their production or if a downturn could be around the corner.

    With that in mind, here's a fantasy prognosis for the NFL's top five rushers through seven weeks.

     

    Fantasy football stats courtesy of FFtoday.com, unless noted otherwise. 

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Through seven games this season, LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles leads the NFL in rushing by nearly 100 yards. The fifth-year pro has already racked up nearly 950 total yards and three touchdowns.

    That lack of scores has knocked McCoy into third place among fantasy running backs, but there's no reason to expect any real second-half dropoff from McCoy.

    Simply put, the Eagles aren't going to stop running the ball. It's a huge part of Chip Kelly's offense.

    Besides, when your tailback is gaining 4.9 yards per carry, running the ball can sound pretty good.

    Barring an injury, McCoy appears destined for a top-five fantasy finish.

     

    Revised 2013 Rushing Projections: 355 carries, 1,669 yards, 8 touchdowns

     

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

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    The second-ranked running back in standard-scoring fantasy football leagues through seven games is Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks, who also ranks second in the NFL with 578 rushing yards.

    Lynch has also been remarkably consistent of late, either scoring a touchdown or going over 100 yards on the ground in each of his last five starts.

    The 27-year-old's yards per carry are down nearly a full yard from a year ago, but fantasy owners who drafted Lynch have essentially gotten just what they paid for: a bulldozer of a running back with an affinity for Skittles.

     

    Revised 2013 Rushing Projections: 311 carries, 1,403 yards, 12 touchdowns

     

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Of all the top-five picks in fantasy drafts, Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs has been the best value this year.

    In fact, with other backs failing left and right, it's the teams with Charles on them that are faring well in most leagues.

    The 26-year-old is averaging over 125 total yards and a touchdown per game for the undefeated Chiefs. Charles has a significant lead over Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears as the top fantasy back in leagues that award a point for receptions.

    It's fair to question whether Charles' six rushing scores in seven games is a sustainable pace, and Charles appears headed for the first 300-carry season of his career.

    However, just because he's never topped 300 carries doesn't mean he can't, and the NFL's third-leading rusher after seven games is a good bet for his second straight huge year.

     

    Revised 2013 Rushing Projections: 310 carries, 1,370 yards, 9 touchdowns

     

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

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    If Charles has been the best value among top-five picks, then Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers is one of 2013's best values at the running back position period.

    Concerns about his age and career workload led to Gore being drafted as a fantasy RB2. Gore has responded by rushing for 547 yards (fourth in the NFL) and five touchdowns. Gore ranks seventh among running backs in standard-scoring fantasy leagues.

    With all that said, Gore remains a 30-year-old back on pace for his biggest workload since 2006. Maybe he breaks down. Maybe the 49ers scale back Gore's carries so he doesn't.

    Either way, selling high isn't a terrible idea at this point.

     

    Revised 2013 Rushing Projections: 271 carries, 1,197 yards, 8 touchdowns

     

Arian Foster, Houston Texans

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    Houston Texans running back Arian Foster entered the 2013 season as one of the more talked-about players of training camp.

    Foster was sidelined through most of camp with various injuries, which lent credence to those who believed Foster's huge workload the past few years was wearing him down.

    However, Foster tallied 531 yards on the ground in his first six games. The 27-year-old's 4.5 yards a tote is his highest average since his breakthrough 2010 season, and his 542 rushing yards rank fifth in the NFL.

    Unfortunately, the injuries have cropped up again. Foster pulled a hamstring in last week's loss, and while he told Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com that he expects to be ready to go when the Texans return in Week 9, this latest malady has ratcheted up concerns about Foster's durability.

    It's tempting to explore shopping Foster, but his trade value took a hit with the injury. If Ben Tate misses time with broken ribs, Foster's workload is going to go up, even in a lost season for the Texans.

     

    Revised 2013 Rushing Projections: 285 carries, 1,254 yards, 6 touchdowns