It’s a throwback season in fantasy leagues as running backs are dominating the first round. Only Calvin Johnson stood in the way of a running back sweep to open this 15-round mock draft, and for what it’s worth, I would probably pass on the talented receiver until the second round, unless you’re the last team to draft in the opening round.
For those of you who’ve actively participated in mocks this summer, you’re probably used to seeing the first three running backs below going as the top three picks in most drafts.
1. Adrian Peterson
Minnesota will likely need Christian Ponder to prove he can play like the franchise quarterback to make the playoffs again. If Ponder can do his best Alex Smith impersonation by moving the chains and not turning the football over, Adrian Peterson’s odds of another 2,000-yard season will improve.
Expect another big season from the league's best back, and even if he’s not on your team, enjoy a future first ballot Hall of Fame runner in what could be the final years of his prime.
2. Arian Foster
Fantasy owners with Arian Foster in dynasty leagues are probably disappointed the Texans veteran is still hampered by a calf injury he sustained a few months ago. With a capable backup in Ben Tate, we could see the team lean on Tate at times, as he will likely leave the team in free agency after this year.
Foster is still the main weapon in the Texans offense, but I’m concerned we won’t see as many explosive plays as we saw from him early in his career.
3. Doug Martin
Don’t listen to those fantasy analysts who are dropping Doug Martin because a decent amount of his production came in one game against the Raiders last year. This is one of the better running backs in football, and he will get his All-Pro caliber guards back in Davin Joseph (who missed the entire 2012 season) and Carl Nicks (who was placed on injured reserve after Week 6) this year.
After Peterson, Martin is the second back on my list in 2013, no matter the scoring style.
4. Jamaal Charles
While Jamaal Charles has yet to total 10 or more touchdowns in a season, he’s a good bet to compile more than 2,000 total yards. A terrific player, Charles is a respectable first round pick and could have a spike in touchdowns with Alex Smith and Andy Reid in town.
5. LeSean McCoy
Jeremy Maclin going down with a season-ending knee injury is a big loss for the Eagles passing game. I believe Philadelphia will be just fine on offense, and a big reason why is that they are going to lean on the running game. While Bryce Brown will likely have an active role in Chip Kelly’s offense, LeSean McCoy should be a consistent RB1 option in fantasy leagues.
6. Marshawn Lynch
The talk of the offseason is that fantasy owners need to watch out for Bernard Pierce as a threat to take away valuable touches from Ray Rice. That’s a situation to keep an eye on, but don’t sleep on Seattle’s young running backs in Christine Michael, Robert Turbin or even full back Spencer Ware to take work away from Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch has played through nagging back problems in recent years, but at any point those issues could catch up to him.
7. Ray Rice
Pierce will have a role in the Ravens offense, but Rice is still the main weapon in Baltimore’s offense. What Rice will lose in carries he should pick up in receptions, and he could threaten for more than 80 receptions this year, especially if they fall behind in games.
Many are already expecting the Ravens defense to be fine because of the additions they’ve made on the defensive side of the ball. I am not one of those believers; this group still needs to show us they have developed chemistry and that they won’t buckle in games when times get tough.
Not matter what happens around Rice, he will be a RB1 and will give you quality production throughout the season.
8. Calvin Johnson
While I can’t blame an owner for taking Calvin Johnson in the first round, I would probably pass on him if C.J. Spiller were available at this point. The Bills have a new coaching staff, and Spiller is going to be the main option in the running game and in the offense.
Johnson will be the top receiver in fantasy leagues, but I would probably wait and see if he falls to me in the early portion of the second round.
9. C.J. Spiller
We watched Spiller jump out to a fast start in 2012 only to slow down from a shoulder injury, and then Fred Jackson returned from a Week 1 knee injury. Jackson is a good player, but Spiller will be the starter and the main option in the offense this year.
While I probably won’t have him higher than a low-end RB1, I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays as one of the elite backs in fantasy leagues for at least half the season. I’m just concerned he won’t hold up for a full year if he takes on a feature back role. That said, he’s a terrific low-end first round pick and worth taking a chance on.
10. Steven Jackson
I wasn't a fan of Steven Jackson in the first round, and I would target Alfred Morris or Trent Richardson before him. Richardson’s value is probably down a little because of an injury he suffered back in the spring, but he’s healthy now and ready for a big year.
Jackson will have a solid season in Atlanta, but I’m a little concerned about their patchwork offensive line.