Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press
Best Round: First
To say that the running back position was a dumpster fire in 2013 is something of an insult...to filthy metal containers filled with burning garbage.
Of the top 10 running backs selected in the nearly 9,000 fantasy drafts last year at My Fantasy League, fully half were major disappointments.
I could start rattling off names like Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens or Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but frankly it's depressing.
After that implosion, and with more passing and committee backfields than ever before in the NFL, the stranglehold running backs have had on the top spots in fantasy drafts is looser than ever.
And yet, if you're lucky enough to land one of the first four picks in a fantasy draft this year, taking a running back in the first round is the only way to fly.
At NFL.com, the first four players off draft boards are Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, LeSean McCoy of the Eagles, Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs and Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears.
There's good reason for that.
All four backs are the unquestionable starters for their respective teams, every-down backs with track records of elite fantasy production.
However, once you get past that quartet, questions start clouding the position.
With Aaron Rodgers back, will the Packers run the ball enough for Eddie Lacy to sustain top-10 fantasy production?
Will Giovani Bernard see enough touches with the Bengals in 2014 to justify his lofty draft slot?
With more uncertainty than ever surrounding the running back position, the "sure bets" carry even more fantasy value.
Other Good Rounds: Second, Fourth, Sixth
There's something to be said for eschewing the second tier of running backs for an elite wide receiver like Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions or grabbing the edge that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham affords at that position in Round 1.
With that said though, it's almost a necessity to draft at least one running back in the first two rounds.
It's a matter of depth. Simply put, there are quite a few more wide receivers who inspire some level of confidence as weekly starters than there are running backs.
With that said, if you're bound and determined to wait at running back, there are options.
In fantasy drafts held since June 15 at My Fantasy League, both Alfred Morris of the Redskins and Andre Ellington of the Arizona Cardinals are both sliding into the fourth round.
Ellington, in particular, is an interesting case. The second-year pro was the first rookie back to lead the NFL in yards per carry since Ickey Woods in 1988, and there's top-10 fantasy upside present if Ellington gets the 20-22 touches per game forecast by Darren Urban of the team's website.
Fantasy owners willing to roll the dice on a couple of rebound candidates in the sixth round or later may be able to hit paydirt with a couple of former fantasy studs.
Granted, there are questions swirling over both Chris Johnson of the New York Jets (an uncertain role on a new team) and Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens (facing a suspension coming off a horrible 2013 season).
Risks aside, there is also more than a little potential for reward. After all, in Johnson and Rice, we're talking about a pair of running backs with 10 1,000-yard seasons between them and who have each missed the top 15 at their position all of once in the past five years.