In 2013, no New Orleans back hauled in more receptions than Thomas—that includes the now-departed Darren Sproles.
Despite his role among a four-man backfield rotation, Thomas managed to surpass 1,000 total yards and provide a significant boost for fantasy owners down the stretch. With Sproles gone to Philly, Thomas will look to build on his career-high 224 touches in 2014.
While Mark Ingram may receive slightly more carries, pass-catching duties out of the backfield should fall nearly exclusively on Thomas' shoulders. He'll command a substantially higher value in points-per-reception formats.
If you do end up with Thomas, don't bank on a wealth of touchdowns—most of those will go Ingram's way. Also, rookie Khiry Robinson showed promise toward the end of last season and will have the opportunity to earn more carries this season.
Consider Thomas to be a high-risk, high-reward option in 2014.
Arian Foster's unfortunate season-ending back injury midway through the year opened the door for Tate to flaunt his competence as an every-down back. Since it was also his contract year, the timing couldn't have been better.
He didn't blow anybody out of the water, but he did demonstrate enough promise to become the most heavily sought-after free agent on the market at his position. Now set to assume starting duties in Cleveland, he should have the opportunity to flourish in real life, as well as for fantasy owners.
The Browns signed fullback Chris Pressley earlier this week—surely to serve as Tate's lead blocker. They didn't have one on their roster for the entire 2013 season. It shows a renewed commitment to a ground game that was seemingly abandoned following Trent Richardson's sudden trade to Indianapolis early last season.
But although Tate makes for a nice middle-round addition, the presence of Chris Ogbonnaya is worrisome enough—particularly in PPR leagues—to consider passing on Cleveland's new addition. Moreover, the Browns' 27th-ranked scoring offense won't provide him sufficient goal-line opportunities, and that's where the hard-nosed back will earn his value.
Yep, I'm going there. Though Jackson again missed several games due to injury in 2013, he was surprisingly efficient when on the field.
Oft-labeled a bust, he showed up for fantasy owners down the stretch, accumulating more points than Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris and Frank Gore over their last six games. He did this sans Julio Jones and behind arguably the weakest offensive line in the league.
With Roddy White hobbled as well, defenses routinely stacked the box against the Falcons; this won't be the case moving forward. Jones should be back for the start of 2014, and Atlanta's O-line presumably can't be worse than it was last season. Toss in Jackson's goal-line prowess, and double-digit touchdowns become a legitimate possibility.
Backup Jacquizz Rodgers' brief stint as feature back in 2013 confirmed he's not an every-down back. Sure, he'll be used to occasionally spell the 30-year-old Jackson and swipe some catches out of the backfield, but it shouldn't be enough to scare owners away. Jackson's age and injury history, however, are, which is why he lands just outside of the top five.