In the middle of April, the football universe can get a little bit excited, despite the season being months away. The NFL draft is in less than a week and the 2013 schedule has officially been released. Fantasy addicts are already dissecting the schedules, analyzing which players have the most favorable fantasy matchups over the course of the campaign. So, of course, I have to do the same exact thing. First, let’s take a look at some of my recommended running backs for 2013, based on strength of schedule.
Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons: The move to Atlanta has me all warm and tingly inside. Jackson, despite often being overlooked, is still a dominant runner in football and now will be inserted into a high octane offense with a very favorable schedule. First of all, he plays in the NFC South, a division that features weak running defenses such as the Saints and Panthers. Playing those two twice a year is great by itself, then he gets to face teams like the Bills (2nd worst run defense in ’12), Cardinals ( 5th worst), Jets ( 7th worst) and some other teams in the middle of the pack. Jackson will get plenty of red zone opportunities thanks to the big play potential of those wideouts. I am banking on Jackson returning to elite status, finishing 2013 as a top 10 fantasy runner. Yes, I’m that high on him.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Playing in the same division as Jackson, Martin also gets to face the Saints and Panthers. Coming off a stellar rookie campaign where he rushed for over 1,400 yards and 11 scores, Martin has a solid schedule for 2013. Martin faces a few similar teams that Jackson faces, while also seeing the Eagles (1oth worst) and the Falcons, who struggled against the run a bit last season. A part of a versatile offense and getting offensive lineman Carl Nicks back to lead the way, Martin shouldn’t be a victim to the dreaded sophomore slump and should easily be a top 10 draft pick this year.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins: With Reggie Bush out of south beach, Miller is the likely candidate to become the newly appointed lead runner. The kid has blazing speed, boatloads of potential and oh yeah, arguably the most favorable 2013 schedule among all running backs. Of course, playing in the AFC East means you get to play the Jets and Bills, both falling inside the bottom 10 in run defense. He also gets the Colts ( 4th worst), Jaguars (3rd worst) and Ravens (13th worst, lost tons of key players). All of a sudden, that Dolphins offense could be a legitimate source of points and Miller should be the guy getting the bulk of the carries, not to mention a handful of catches out of the backfield. The former Miami product is a big time sleeper heading into 2013.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans: You certainly don’t need a schedule to persuade you to draft Foster with your top pick, but it sure doesn’t hurt that he has an awesome schedule to dethrone Adrian Peterson as the number one fantasy runner. Playing in the AFC South, Foster will play the Jags and Colts, teams that have combined to surrender 33 touchdowns a season ago. Foster scored 15 himself during 2012. Five of his opponents for next season finished last season inside the top 10 worst rushing defenses, three of which he gets to play twice this year. Some may be worried about Foster’s workload over the years, seeing at least 320 attempts in two of the last three seasons, but you can’t not choose him if you hold a top three draft pick this year.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.