Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football 2014: Updated Running Back Rankings Amid Preseason Week 3

Aug 21, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs with the ball during the first quarter of a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Sean ODonnellContributor IIIAugust 23, 2014

While the running back position is being devalued in the NFL draft, the exact opposite rings true when it comes to fantasy football. Due to such a short amount of top-tier ball-carriers—and an even smaller amount of those who don't share carries—obtaining a back early in the draft is crucial to the success of any fantasy owner.

Selecting a running back early simply for the sake of scarcity isn't optimal, though. Each player's value and average draft position (ADP) should come into play when making such an important decision. Simply put: Don't pass up on A.J. Green for Zac Stacy in the second round because of a run on ball-carriers.

This is where the rankings come in. With the above example in mind, Stacy isn't a bad option early in fantasy drafts—he should see the bulk of the workload for the St. Louis Rams this season—but with an ADP of 3.04, and a lower upside than Green, that selection would be a big reach.

To ensure running backs are being taken at the optimal time in your fantasy drafts, let's rank the top-25 ball-carriers for 2014 and highlight a few players with intriguing value—one way or the other.

 

2014 Fantasy Football Top-25 Running Backs
RankPlayerTeamADP*
1LeSean McCoyEagles1.02
2Adrian PetersonVikings1.02
3Jamaal CharlesChiefs1.03
4Matt ForteBears1.05
5Eddie LacyPackers1.06
6Marshawn LynchSeahawks1.10
7Montee BallBroncos2.01
8Giovani BernardBengals2.04
9DeMarco MurrayCowboys2.01
10Alfred MorrisRedskins2.10
11Doug MartinBuccaneers3.02
12Reggie BushLions3.09
13Andre EllingtonCardinals3.04
14Zac StacyRams3.04
15Arian FosterTexans2.09
16Frank Gore49ers4.05
17Ryan MatthewsChargers4.07
18Rashad JenningsGiants4.01
19Toby GerhartJaguars4.02
20Ray RiceRavens5.01
21Le'Veon BellSteelers2.10
22Bishop SankeyTitans4.12
23Shane VereenPatriots5.02
24C.J. SpillerBills3.11
25Ben TateBrowns5.10
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings

*ADP based on 12-team standard-scoring leagues, via FantasyFootballCalculator.com.

 

Stock Watch

Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 21: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittburgh Steelers hands the ball off to running back Le'Veon Bell #26 in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles on August 21, 2014 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphi
Al Bello/Getty Images

It may be strange to see Bell ranked 21st overall despite his ADP of 2.10. Well, there's good reason for that.

While he is listed first on the Steelers' depth chart, he isn't exactly in line to receive the lion's share of the carries. LeGarrette Blount will receive a good amount of the workload out of Pittsburgh's backfield. After all, during an interview with Dave Richard of CBSSports.com, head coach Mike Tomlin said he wants "both guys to have the lead dog mentality" and "both guys are going to be big components of why we're successful."

Bell was interviewed as well, and he was asked about losing goal-line reps to Blount. He said, "They probably will do that, that's probably what will happen. He's a big, strong guy, so when they put him in, he's in. We hopefully get that touchdown and I'm glad. I don't care."

Rotoworld's Adam Levitan tweeted the even workload the backs are already sharing:

With his workload in question, selecting Bell in the second round, as his ADP suggests, sure seems like a risky endeavor. Draft him with caution.

 

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

Tony Tribble/Associated Press

Bernard has recently made his way into the top 10 in fantasy running back rankings. The second-year back will begin the season atop the Bengals' depth chart and could be in for a huge season.

Last season, Bernard's rushes were limited due to the presence of veteran ball-carrier BenJarvus Green-Ellis. However, despite just 170 carries, Bernard amassed 695 yards—an average of 4.1 yards per attempt—and five touchdowns. He also added 56 receptions for 514 yards and three more scores.

Not only will offensive coordinator Hue Jackson focus heavily on the run this season—he served as Cincinnati's running backs coach last year—he's also looking to increase Bernard's touches one way or another. In fact, earlier in the offseason, there was talk about the running back getting work in the slot this season as well.

Expect more goal-line work for Bernard as well in 2014. Bleacher Report's Chris Roling gave his perspective after a short-yardage touchdown during the preseason:

If Bernard was able to accumulate over 1,200 yards from scrimmage last season, imagine what he'll do with a year of experience under his belt and a larger role in the offense. Draft him with confidence.

 

Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 09:  Running back Andre Ellington #38 of the Arizona Cardinals rushes the football against the Houston Texans during the preseason NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals de
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Here's another second-year running back currently soaring up draft boards. Like Bernard, Ellington was able to flourish in a limited role last season behind Rashard Mendenhall. He carried just 118 times but amassed 652 yards—an average of 5.5 yards per attempt—and three touchdowns. He also caught 39 passes for 371 yards and another score.

This season, Ellington is not only atop the Cardinals' depth chart, but head coach Bruce Arians is singing his praises. Take a look at this comment from early in the offseason, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com:

It sounds like Arians is ready to give his top running back a big workload this season. According to a recent interview with Urban, Ellington is ready:

I am very confident. Last year I wasn't aware of what my role would be on the team. Now I have got kind of an idea. I am approaching the year a lot differently.

Whatever (Arians) throws in my face. I'll be ready for the possibility.

Ellington is confident heading into the season, and fantasy owners should be as well.

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