The only entertaining part of Free Agency is over, and as most of the big names signed contract sheets, so did most of the key free agent RB, leaving a much clearer situation than a week ago. Few backs remain available who, if signed, will have some impact on that team’s RB situation. In our opinion, they include Ahmad Bradshaw, Beanie Wells, Cedric Benson, Michael Turner, and Felix Jones. We will keep our eye on these guys. The 2013 NFL draft will influence the RB position as well, but not the top 10.
We will be releasing our Top 10 at each major fantasy position in the upcoming weeks, with full position cheat sheets being available a week before the draft. This is our first look at the position that will surely cause the most headaches in 2013, a little something to get your mouth-watering.
TOP 10 – RUNNING BACK
1. Adrian Peterson (MIN)
Unquestionable #1 overall fantasy pick in any format. In 2012, Coming off an ACL injury in December 2011, he finished eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record, and admittedly never even reached 100% health. Losing Percy Harvin does not hurt him, he performed better down the stretch while Percy was out (1st eight games of 2012: 151 rushes, 775 yards, 4 TD, last eight games of 2012: 197 rushes, 1322 yards, 8 TD)
2. Arian Foster (HOU)
Lead dog in the most friendly running environment in the NFL. Backup Ben Tate does not pose a threat to his lion’s share of the carries, and with the same supporting cast in tow for 2013, expect excellent production once again.
The Muscle Hamster reminded us last season why we should take talented rookies drafted into nice situations very seriously. He finished as #3 RB in most formats, and his running vision and pass catching prowess ensure heavy touches in one of the NFL’s rising offenses in ’13.
4. Trent Richardson (CLE)
The 2012 NFL Draft‘s 1st RB off the board was out-shined by a few of his fellow rookie backs in their first year, but with Richardson’s unique combination of size, balance, agility, speed, and power (not to mention solid hands), he will be the focal point of the Brown offense. If new HC Rob Chudzinski and new OC Norv Turner do turn the offense’s effectiveness around from last season (we fully expect them to; these are two great offensive minds), then expect T-Rich to be the heavy use workhorse and high fantasy asset you hoped he’d been as a rookie.
5. Jamaal Charles (KC)
5.8 career yards per carry makes him the most efficient runner in NFL history. Andy Reid loves to utilize his RB as much as he can, and as we’ve seen in the cases of Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, this will result in very nice fantasy stats. Buy buy buy.
Nothing to not like here. Had ten 100+ rushing yard games in 2012, scored 12 total TD, rushed for over 1200 yards (1490 to be precise), his 2nd consecutive 1200+ rushing and 11+ total TD season. Seattle figures to be one of the top NFL teams in 2013. With an emerging young QB, a stellar defense, a new receiving weapon, the NFL’s most run heavy offense in 2012 (536 attempts) will continue to find itself in good field position, dominating its opponents and killing the clock late, all of which will benefit the running back, Mr. Lynch. Get your skittles ready.
7. Ray Rice (BAL)
Rice saw his effectiveness decline in 2012, and what’s more troublesome was the late season and playoff emergence of rookie Bernard Pierce (Weeks 16+17: 36 carry, 212 rush yards, 5.89 YPC. Playoffs: 4 games, 39 attempts, 202 rush yards, 5.18 YPC) Rice is still the lead dog here and, due to some recent defensive departures, Baltimore might not find itself running the clock down late in games as much as last year, but with his sticky hands (61 receptions in 2012) Rice remains a great option in any game situation. We expect a slight decline from the past two seasons, but still a very valuable fantasy year.
LeSean’s vision, shiftiness, and overall running ability are hard to match, but coming off an injury riddled 2012, rumors new HC Chip Kelly favors a two running back system, and a few amazing fill in performances from 2012 rookie Bryce Brown, there are question marks outside of the talent. His pass catching and rushing skills mean he will still probably earn something like a 70/30 or 60/40 split in touches with Brown. The good thing here, despite the RBBC (running back by committee), is that the Eagles will likely be putting up more points than most if for nothing else the sheer volume a no huddle, “fast-break” offense brings. The Eagles running back position will benefit from this.
9. C.J. Spiller (BUF)
Advanced statistics over at ProFootballFocus indicate C.J. Spiller might have been the 2nd best per carry RB in the league in 2012. 3.6 yards after contact per attempt (AP had 3.9), and a #2 overall RB rating show that CJ ‘s 2012 was nothing short of amazing. He torched it at the end of 2011 as well, and with new HC Doug Marrone you can expect Spiller’s rushing and receiving abilities to be used consistently to exploit opposing defenses. Fred Jackson is hanging around like the last leaves of fall. Aging, fragile, but still looks the part. With FJAX lurking, a 70/30 split there seems likely, also Marrone has favored RBBC in the past
10. Matt Forte (CHI)
New HC Marc Trestman’s arrival should ignite the Chicago Bears passing game, which Forte no doubt likes, seeing as he’s one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL (40+ receptions in all five NFL seasons, 50+ in 4 of 5) He also features strong vision and agility, making him a good fit for any offense really. Since Chicago is expected to take a step forward in offensively, we believe Forte will have more scoring opportunities than usual. 1100 rush yds, 7 TD, 60 rec. 500 rec. yds, 3 TD. Don’t take this line as a guarantee, but more of a guide as to what kind of success he’s reasonably capable of. Pretty conservative projection too. Michael Bush isn’t as much of a TD vulture as people think (sans the 2 TD scored in Week 11, he hadn’t found paydirt since Week 3)
If you want to talk value tiers, which we do, we’d do it like this:
AP and Foster in the top-tier;
Martin, Charles, Richardson, and Lynch in the second tier (this group is very interchangeable and you could make a case for any at #3 RB and any at #7 RB, it’s like that),
The third tier would be Rice, McCoy and Spiller.
Forte would start off a fourth tier, continued by these guys…
ON THE BUBBLE: Alfred Morris (WAS), Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC), Steven Jackson (ATL), Steven Ridley (NE)