Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2015: Running Backs

Typically, the first handful of spots in your draft go to the running back position. This year is no exception…

As you prepare to make your picks, here are my Top 40 running backs and where I recommend you take them in your upcoming draft. 

1. Marshawn Lynch, SEA

Danny McCray, Marshawn Lynch

2014: 1,306 rush yards, 367 receiving, 37 receptions, 17 TDs

Marshawn is why the Seahawks offense works. He also just got paid some more, so he’s motivated to ball out.

Pick 1st Overall

2. Jamaal Charles, KC

Jamaal

2014: 1,033 rush yards, 291 receiving, 40 catches, 14 TDs

Probably the best when healthy, but that hasn’t been a consistent quality of his as of late. Worth the gamble if he’s available. Always finds the end zone.

Pick Early 1st round

3. Le’Veon Bell, PIT

LeVeon

2014: 1,361 rush yards, 854 receiving, 83 catches, 11 TDs

Best running back in the league but out for the first 2 games due to suspension. Worth picking if you can because he’ll be huge for down the stretch, both rushing and receiving.

Pick Early 1st Round

4. Matt Forte, CHI

Forte

2014: 1,038 rush yards, 808 receiving, 102 catches, 10 TDs

Won’t catch nearly as many passes, but the Bears are going to run the ball a lot this season and he is still one of the best. Cutler will use him in play-action and he’ll set up wide at times too.

Pick: Has Early 1st Round value but seems to be falling to late 1st, early 2nd

5. Adrian Peterson, MIN

Vikings running back Peterson celebrates touchdown during NFL football game against Packers in Minneapolis

2014: Spent most of it suspended

Another year older, AP’s still one of the best in the game and will be the focal point to the Vikings offense. Also fresh after not playing, but you don’t know if another legal issue will come up. Not likely, but the red flag is there now.

Pick Middle 1st Round

6. Eddie Lacy, GB

Lacy

2014: 1,139 rush yards, 427 receiving, 42 catches, 13 TDs

Lacy is solid, but started slow with the Packers offense last season. Packers also depend way more on passing which keeps the ball out of his hands more than you’d like. Might be relied upon more with Nelson.

Pick Middle-Late 1st Round  

7. DeMarco Murray, PHI

DeMarco

2014: 1,845 rush yards, 416 receiving, 57 catches, 13 TDs

Murray was the league’s leading rusher last year and should get a lot of touches with the Eagles because their quarterbacks are so bad.

Pick: Late 1st, early 2nd

8. Jeremy Hill, CIN

Jeremy Hill, Donte Whitner

2014: 1,124 rush yards, 215 receiving, 27 catches, 9 TDs

Hill will have a big increase in workload this season and has Giovani Bernard to complement him. Expecting more handoffs to him as the Bengals try to get Andy Dalton right again.

Pick: 2nd Round

9. LeSean McCoy, BUF

LeSean

2014: 1,319 rush yards, 155 receiving, 28 catches, 5 TDs

McCoy is expected to be ready for Week 1. He’ll get a lot of carries but is in a crowded backfield with Fred Jackson and Boobie Dixon. Health is also going to be an issue for him with so many carries in his career already.

Pick: 2nd round

10. Arian Foster, HOU

Foster

2014: 1,246 rush yards, 327 receiving, 38 catches, 13 touchdowns

As of now, there is no timetable for Foster’s return from groin injury. He is someone who should be available on waivers, but will definitely help you late in the season…best case scenario. 

Pick up on waivers and stash him on IR if need be.

11. CJ Anderson, DEN

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs

2014: 849 rush yards, 324 receiving, 34 catches, 10 TD (all second half of season)

Anderson is the lead candidate for Denver’s #1 running back spot and Manning loves him. New head coach Gary Kubiak’s zone-run scheme is why Foster and Forsett produced so well the last few seasons.

Pick Late 2nd Round

12. Justin Forsett, BAL

Forsett

2014: 1,266 rush yards, 263 receiving, 44 catches, 8 TDs

Forsett is the #1 guy in Baltimore and should benefit from a lack in WR depth for Flacco. His receiving numbers will get a boost too with Marc Trestman running the offense

Pick: 3rd Round

13. Frank Gore, IND

Gore

2014: 1,105 rush yards, 111 receiving, 11 catches, 5 TDs

Gore could be huge in the Colts high power offense. With defenses worrying more about Luck throwing deep on them, less attention will be paid to Gore and that means serious gashing.

Pick: 3rd Round

14. Alfred Morris, WAS

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 4.01.09 PM

2014: 1,074 rush yards, 155 receiving, 17 catches, 8 TD

Morris hardly ever catches the ball but he is important to the Washington offense as nobody has any faith in RG3. Solid health-wise as well.

Pick 3rd or 4th Round

15. Mark Ingram, NO

Ingram

2014: 964 rush yards, 145 receiving, 29 catches, 9 TD

Ingram is very good but he is usually getting injured. Should get a lot of red zone opportunities but also will split passing situations with CJ Spiller.

Pick: 4th Round

16. Melvin Gordon, SD

Gordon

2014: Hesiman Trophy Candidate

I don’t normally like drafting rookies high in Fantasy, but Gordon is the clear starter for the Chargers ahead of Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead. Starting RBs tend to do well in Mike McCoy’s offense.

Pick: 4th – 5th Round

17. Latavius Murray, OAK

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders

2014: 424 rush yards, 143 receiving, 2 TD, 429 returning

Latavius showed he is fast and can score from anywhere on the field, but also hasn’t proven he can stay healthy yet.

Pick: 4th, 5th round

18. Andre Ellington, AZ

Ellington

2014: 660 rush yards, 395 receiving, 46 catches, 5 TDs

Ellington can score a lot of points but he can’t stay on the field. He has already had some hamstring troubles in camp.

Pick 5th Round

19. Lamar Miller, MIA

Lamar

2014: 1,099 rush yards, 275 receiving, 38 catches, 9 TDs

Lamar goes into the season as the #1 guy in Miami and proved how solid he can be with Tannehill running a read option offense. Stays healthy too.

Pick: 5th round

20. Jonathan Stewart, CAR

Stewart

2014: 809 rush yards, 181 receiving, 25 catches, 4 TDs

Stewart is a strong option when healthy. This the first time he won’t be splitting carries with DeAngelo Williams and doesn’t have anyone else to challenge him on the depth chart. Expect the workload to be heavier too with Benjamin out.

Pick: 5th round

21. LeGarrette Blount, NE

Blount

2014: 547 rush yards, 54 receiving, 10 catches, 5 TDs

It’s really tough to trust New England RBs because Belichick will just go with whoever he likes most that day. Blount turned out to be the hot hand after Patriots picked him up late last season but will miss Week 1 due to suspension. Could be solid 3rd RB.

Pick: 6th Round

22. Todd Gurley, STL

Gurley

Rookie

Gurley can be the best athlete in all of football but he was injured last season for Georgia and he’s likely going to miss all of the preseason because of an ACL injury. Hard to feel confident about drafting him, but the potential is too high to pass up.

Pick: 6th Round

23. TJ Yeldon, JAX

Yeldon

Rookie

Doesn’t have as high an upside as Gurley, but Yeldon has the best shot at being the feature back in Jacksonville. If converted QB/WR Denard Robinson could break out like he did last season, Yeldon should do well as a full-time back.

Pick 7th Round

24. Joseph Randle, DAL

NS_12CowboysSeahawks56.jpg

2014: 343 rush yards, 23 receiving, 4 catches, 3 TDs

Randle is first in line for feature back duties behind the best OL in football. He leads Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar who are also fighting for carries. Randle also has a shoplifting problem, but can be helpful as a backup on your roster with high upside.

Pick 7th Round

25. Carlos Hyde, SF

Hyde

2014: 333 rush yards, 68 receiving, 12 catches, 268 return yards, 4 TDs

San Francisco is an absolute mess and is probably the worst team in the NFL. They also don’t have a set depth chart yet and Hyde is splitting carries with Reggie Bush. He didn’t really do much last season to get anyone excited about this year but he’s one of the last possible #1 RBs left, while expected to get most of the workload. 

Pick 7th Round or later

26. CJ Spiller, NO

Spiller

2014: 300 rush yards, 125 receiving, 19 catches, 306, 2 TDs

Spiller is in a better place than Buffalo. He will be used on 3rd down and will be a better version of Pierre Thomas if Ingram gets hurt. Also gets return points but has his own health issues. He’s currently coming back from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Pick 8th Round

27. Rashad Jennings, NYG

Jennings

2014: 639 rush yards, 226 receiving, 30 catches, 4 TDs

Jennings and Shane Vereen are both playing with the first team. If healthy, Jennings is a solid RB2 or Flex player.

Pick 8th Round

28. Isaiah Cowell, CLE

Cowell

2014: 607 rush yards, 87 receiving, 9 catches, 8 TDs

Cowell is Cleveland’s best option at RB with Terrence West not far behind and Duke Johnson coming off a hamstring injury. With a choice between Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown at quarterback, Cleveland will want to run the ball a lot.

Pick 8th round

29. Ameer Abdullah, DET

Abdullah

Rookie

Abdullah is getting a lot of praise in camp, but is also in the mix with Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. He’s probably the most talented of the 3, but Stafford just called the Lions backfield a “running back by committee” situation. We’ll see who the hot hand is come Week 1.

Pick: 8th round

30. Chris Ivory, NYJ

Jets vs Patriots

2014: 821 rush yards, 123 receiving, 18 catches, 7 TDs

Ivory is a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch with his downhill running style and will be depended on for the bulk of the workload with Steven Ridley still rehabbing an ACL injury.

Pick 8th Round

31. Tevin Coleman, ATL

Coleman

Rookie

Coleman has been neck-and-neck with Devonta Freeman for feature back touches for the Falcons. Coleman is the more complete back though with pass catching and return capabilities. With the two sidelined and set to return from injury this week, I like Coleman’s chances better with them on even ground.

Pick 9th Round 

32. DeVonta Freeman, ATL

Freeman

2014: 248 rush yards, 225 receiving, 30 catches, 2 TDs

Freeman had the best shot at starting for the Falcons until he joined Tevin Coleman on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Has a year of experience under his belt, but Coleman is expected to be a full-package back when he catches up.

Pick 9th or 10th 

33. Joique Bell, DET

Joique

2014: 860 rush yards, 322 receiving, 34 catches, 8 TDs

Bell is coming off an injury in camp but is still the most accomplished in the Lions backfield.

Pick 9th Round

34. Giovani Bernard, CIN

Bernard

2014: 680 rush yards, 349 receiving, 7 TDs

Gio is expected to be part of a 1-2 punch with Hill. He’ll get 3rd down and passing play reps for sure. Depending on Hill’s durability as a full-time starter, Gio can get some of his workload back.

Pick 10th Round

35. Tre Mason, STL

Mason

2014: 765 rush yards, 148 receiving, 16 catches, 5 TDs

Depending on Gurley’s health, Mason could be a boom or bust with a late pick. He’s as talented as anyone when given a shot and good insurance if Gurley misses time.

Pick 10th round

36. Doug Martin, TB

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Oakland Raiders

2014: 494 rush yards, 64 receiving, 13 catches, 2 TD

I don’t trust Tampa RBs. They don’t stay healthy, they turn the ball over, and they always seem like regular waiver wire pickups (and drops). Martin is only ranked here because he’s slated as their lead back, but he’s only disappointed people since his rookie year.

Pick 11th Round 

37. Shane Vereen, NYG

Vereen

2014: 391 rush yards, 447 receiving, 52 catches, 5 TD

The Giants still aren’t very good on defense which forces their offense to pass more. Vereen is one of the better pass catching RBs and that’s exactly why they brought him in.

Pick 11th Round or higher

38. Darren McFadden, DAL

Darren McFadden

2014: 534 rush yards, 212 receiving, 36 catches, 2 TD

If he can get on the field and fully healthy, he could be a late sleeper behind the Dallas OL. McFadden’s getting toward the end of his career so you shouldn’t bank on that.

Pick 12th or higher

39. Fred Jackson, BUF

Washington Redskins v Buffalo Bills

2014: 524 rush yards, 501 receiving, 65 catches, 3 TD

F-Jax has been the Bills version of Dirty Harry for the last few seasons. At this current time, he is the only healthy back out of McCoy, Dixon, Bryce Brown, and Karlos Williams. Although McCoy is expected to be ready Week 1, Jackson would make a strong start in a run-heavy system.

Pick 12th Round or later

40. Reggie Bush, SF

Bush

2014: 297 rush yards, 253 receiving, 40 catches, 2 TD

As I mentioned before, SF is an absolute mess. On top of that, Reggie is now playing in one of the best defensive divisions in football. If they’re forced to play catch-up with that horrible defense, Reggie should get the ball more than Hyde.

Pick 12th Round or higher

Do your rankings look different? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter! Stay Tuned for Wide Receiver rankings tomorrow.

Also…

Quarterbacks Cheat Sheet

Wide Receivers Cheat Sheet

Tight Ends Cheat Sheet

Defenses & Kickers Cheat Sheet

Can I Draft My Fantasy Football Team Yet?

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game Week is the MOST boring period in the sports calendar year. If you can think of another one, I’d be happy to hear it (while I mute Chris Berman on my TV)…

Rather than mope and complain further about a silly game that, for some reason, decides home field advantage in the World Series, I’m going to do something healthier…like look ahead to September 10th when the 2015 NFL season starts (coincidentally, my birthday).

Kelce Ric Flair

Going into my 10th year as a Fantasy commissioner, I may be looking forward to this upcoming season more than most. The wide receiver pool is incredibly deep, running backs are as unpredictable as ever, and Peyton Manning isn’t the end-all, be-all anymore (but is Aaron Rodgers?). More importantly, I’m hungry. My team rebounded from an 0-6 start and went all the way to the championship…and I want my 4th Fantasy Title.

If you were following this site during the Fall last year, then you know that EVERY THURSDAY was Fantasy Mailbag Day. Each week, we recapped the highlights from the previous weekend, looked at trends and match-ups, and answered all your questions from Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to everyone’s participation last year, we’re going to do it again starting in August!

As we get closer to kickoff in September, I’ll release my personal rankings for each position (There are spread sheets, dude. SPREAD. SHEETS.). As for now, I have thoughts and question on my mind that need unloading or else the small part of my brain that stores these things will explode. If you also have thoughts and questions, I’d love to hear them.

Rivers hates his helmet

DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy

The two marquee NFC East rival running backs of yesteryear will be suiting up in new uniforms this coming Fall. DeMarco Murray answered questions that he could actually stay healthy for an entire season, earned Offensive Player of the Year honors by picking up 2,261 yards from scrimmage and scored 13 touchdowns all on the ground. The Dallas Cowboys awarded him by letting him walk in free agency…to the arch rival Philadelphia Eagles. Murray had nearly 400 attempts rushing last season and with a mess at the Eagles’ quarterback position, he shouldn’t expect the carries to be cutdown too much. Murray is backed up by Darren Sproles and fellow addition Ryan Matthews, but he should still be getting the rock plenty of times…especially in the red zone.

LeSean McCoy was the league’s leading rusher a year before Murray, still ran for over 1,300 yards, but only scored 5 touchdowns. With an opportunity to upgrade the defense adding Kiko Alonso (and maybe some intel on what would would happen with Murray), Chip Kelly traded McCoy to the Buffalo Bills. Weird accusations from McCoy aside, he may be in a more interesting spot than people realize. New Bills coach Rex Ryan added former Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman to his staff. If you want to project McCoy’s 2015 season, I recommend looking at how Roman used Frank Gore and the other 49er running backs. McCoy averaged 313 carries the past two seasons while Gore averaged 267 over the last four seasons. The cut in workload could keep McCoy fresher, but so should the depth that includes Fred Jackson and rookie Karlos Williams. The ageless Jackson is used to splitting touches and compliments McCoy well. Williams makes a better change-of-pace back than anything in the crowded backfield.

Breakout Running Backs

The running back position saw a lot of action on last season’s fantasy waiver wire and free agency.  If you did your due diligence though, you made plays on Justin Forsett, CJ Anderson, Jeremy Hill and Lamar Miller that paid off well.

  • On his 5th team and at the age of 29, Forsett had his first full-season workload and led all running backs in yards per carry (5.4). He ranked 5th in rush yards (1,266), and scored 8 touchdowns total. Forsett gained 263 yards on 44 receptions, but that could increase significantly with former Bears head coach Marc Trestman calling plays. Matt Forte broke the record for receptions by a running back last season with 102, and former Raiders running back Charlie Garner caught 91 passes in 2002 with Trestman as OC.
  • Anderson came on late in the season but was on the radar as the Broncos dealt with injuries to Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball. Starting the last 7 games of the season while Manning was clearly not 100%, Anderson averaged 167 yards from scrimmage per game and scored 10 touchdowns. Assuming he’s earned the starting running back spot after being named to the Pro Bowl, Anderson should benefit more from new head coach Gary Kubiak’s zone running schemes that made Forsett and Arian Foster into Pro Bowlers as well.
  • Like Anderson, Hill saw his carries increase in the second half of the season as he leap frogged Giovani Bernard for playing time following an injury. Hill scored 3 touchdowns through 5 games with limited carries to start the season but then really racked up the yards from Week 8 on, averaging 103 yards per game. Bengals OC Hue Jackson intends on having Hill be the starter again and anticipates he and Bernard becoming a great 1-2 punch.
  • I was happy to see Miller have the season he did in 2014. He set out to be like LeSean McCoy after training with him and preparing for a Chip Kelly-like offense, took over for Knowshon Moreno after Week 2, and never looked back. Miller was Top 10 in both total rush yards and rushing touchdowns for the season, had the longest run of the season at 97 yards, and capped the season off with 170+ yard rushing performance. There isn’t any real threat to take carries from Miller this year other than 5th round draft pick Jay Ajayi from Boise State.

Lamar Miller TD

Any Sophomore Slumps for Receivers?

In 2014, rookie wide receivers were all the rage. 3 rookies recorded 1,000+ yards, Odell Beckham Jr. (1,305), Mike Evans (1,051), and Kelvin Benjamin (1,008). Sammy Watkins was close with 982 yards on 65 catches. Both Beckham and Evans caught 12 touchdown passes, while Benjamin recorded 9 and Martavis Bryant had 8. Also challenging Beckham for the 93 receptions he had in 11 games was Jarvis Landry with 84 for 758 yards.

All six receivers have potential to be stars in 2015, adding excellent depth to a fantasy draft board full of point producing wide receivers. Beckham’s production down the stretch last season may even warrant a first round pick in leagues with more teams. Evans will have a rookie quarterback throwing to him who is, at the very least, better than Josh McCown. Benjamin is still the best target for the Panthers and newly paid Cam Newton, with tight end Greg Olson drawing some coverage away. Another year playing alongside Antonio Brown will help Bryant improve (Ben Roethlisberger can’t throw EVERY pass to Brown, right?), and Landry will benefit from Ryan Tannehill just getting better every year.

Unfortunately, hopes aren’t so high for Watkins as the starting quarterback position is a battle between Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel (yeesh). If Watkins can stay healthy and the run-oriented system softens opposing secondaries, he may have a chance to improve on his numbers from last year…I just wouldn’t bank on it.

Sammy Watikins tackeld

I could go on all day with Fantasy Football thoughts, but I’d like to hear from you. Feel free to comment or Tweet @Mike_PiFF03. And keep a look out for position previews in the upcoming weeks!