Just two short years ago everyone assumed the entire NFL was going to all teams doing a running back by committee approach. That did not happen. Last year proved there is nothing like an every down back. The majority of the top backs last year had a total of 275 touches (makes sense right? more touch = more fantasy points) so it is extremely important to grab one of these work horses early in your 2013 fantasy football draft.
Draft Day Outlook
Coming off an ACL injury last season no one expected Adrian Peterson (other than AD himself, whom said anyone not taking him first overall would regret it) to have the monster season he had. All he did was almost break the all-time single season rushing record. So headed into this year he has to be our number one overall running back and player. The Viking’s have said they want to get Peterson even more involved in the passing game. So that fact mixed with his 40 catches last year (the same amount as the sure handed Arian Foster) makes him the number point in all point per reception formats as well.
If you read the quarterback draft day outlook then you know you can wait on a quarterback this season so it is all about the running backs in the first round with Calvin Johnson mixed in there. Foster is a nice selection running behind that great zone blocking offense line. There has been early reports that is he a little banged up and therefore slipping in early mock drafts but by the time the season starts he should be fine. He has the potential to find the end zone 20 times this year.
Next we have Doug Martin, whom had a stellar rookie season and should be the focal point of the Tampa Bay attack this year. We see Peterson, Foster, and Martin as the clear cut top three backs but not too far behind is Marshawn Lynch since he does not have too many questions marks around him. Lynch is a one of the most sure bets in fantasy this year. We also like Jamaal Charles since Andy Reid is a lock to give him a ton of touches this year.
After these top 5 players there are question marks around the remaining backs but that is no reason not to take them early. C.J.Spiller, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy all have huge upside but just know that they will be splitting carries to some degree. Spiller has Fred Jackson to deal with but due to his yards per touch he has to finally be the featured back Buffalo.
Ray Rice is dealing with Bernard Pierce (whom is becoming a favorite fantasy sleeper) but this might work to your advantage. Ray Rice is slipping in drafts but all reports are saying he should have the same amount of carries as last year, which was 257. Last, McCoy does have Bryce Brown but with the new Chip Kelly offense both should get a ton of touches. Apparently Kelly, is going to try to get off as many plays as possible each and every week. When drafting do not shy away from any of these players. You need to grab a stud back on your team early this year.
We also have Trent Richardson and Alfred Morris as good options. Both should be the bell cow for their respective teams but Richardson plays are a terrible team so he should see eight in the box pretty much every snap. Morris was second in the league in rushing behind Peterson but he does not catch too many balls out of the backfield and the Skins drafted two running backs in this years’ draft. Now we don’t see them taking too many carries away from Morris but clearly the Skins are looking for a pass catching 3rd down back. It is just hard for us to see Morris getting 335 carries again.
As stated it is all about getting a quality running back early but we have no issues spending your first two picks on backs. After the elite running backs are off the board still target players like: Montee Ball, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Stevan Ridley, and Frank Gore. The one name you might think that is out of place in this mix is Montee Ball, the rookie running back for the Denver Broncos. We had a long debate over him in our rankings summit but when it comes to it his ceiling is so high we think he is worth the risk to take a little bit early. Ball had a very productive college career and if he is the 3 down featured back in Denver he could put up Doug Martin 2012 numbers with even more touchdowns. Peyton Manning’s running backs (the good ones) have such an advantage. Manning is great at calling/checking plays at the line, which typically leads to big holes for his backs. Mix that fact with John Fox loving to run the ball inside the five could make Ball have a monster season. The scary fact is Fox is never friend to rookies but talent has to win out in Denver.
League settings also play a role in whom you should targeting as a second or third running back. Forte should be catching a ton of balls with the new offense in Chicago while Ridley will be better in touchdown heavy leagues. So keep that in mind when drafting.
In the middle to late rounds there is still penalty of value to be had and every year these rounds have the breakout candidates. Getting a guy like Lamar Miller or Le’Veon Bell in the middle rounds could really help a team to a fantasy championship. We expect both of these backs to start and get a ton of work. Again I have to bring up league settings when targeting players in these rounds. David Wilson has a real chance to breakout and catch a ton of footballs while a player like DeMarco Murray might not catch a ton but if he finally stays healthy could have a great season.
In 10-12 team leagues, we always suggest never drafting a back-up quarterback, back-up tight end, taking a defense late, and a kicker with your last pick. Which means you will have plenty of picks to take running backs and wide receivers late. This year there are a bunch of running backs you can draft late that could return huge dividends. So stock up on them, there is no reason to shy away from doing that. Rookies, Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard both have nice upsides while Chris Ivory and Rashard Mendenhall will get a shot at starter with new teams. Even later you can get (and should be taking shots on) players like Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead. Both players carry even more value in PPR leagues.
Just before taking your kicker (remember ALWAYS your last pick) feel free to handcuff your stud running backs in deeper leagues. That can make save you a ton of stress if your main guy goes down.
Draft Day Advice
Get running backs early and often is something to remember when drafting. It is important to get a guy that is going to carry a heavy workload early but it is just as important to use your bench to get depth at this position. We are employing a strategy of waiting on a quarterback and waiting on tight end so there is a real chance you could get your third running back before drafting either a quarterback or a tight end. If this happens don’t panic and be extremely happy with your results when the draft is all said and done.