Fantasy Sports Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football 2014: Way-Too-Early Running Back Rankings

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

 

Busts.

There is no better way to describe the majority of running backs from a fantasy perspective this season.

After breaking down my way-too-early, why-are-you-even-thinking-about-this rankings for quarterbacks and wide receivers, it’s time to go over the most scarce position in fantasy from this past season, the running backs. Will Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster slip?

Only one way to find out.

1) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: My fantasy MVP for 2013, Charles will be the number one running back on my board looking towards next season. Many feared the arrival of head coach, Andy Reid and his pass-happy nature, but if anything, it may have actually benefited Charles. His 70 (!) receptions were 13 more than Dwayne Bowe, a receiver. They also ranked 37th among all players, which is pretty impressive. He was easily the best running back in fantasy, posting a consistency rating of 93.8. If he weren’t forced to sit the Week 17 finale, he could have very well finished with a perfect score, finishing as a top-12 option in every single week. That’s not something you see everyday. A league-leading 19.7 fantasy points per game, Charles deserves the top spot.

2) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: An incredibly close second, McCoy was so fun to watch this season, as he always is. The winner of the league’s rushing title with 1,607 yards, McCoy was the perfect fit for new head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced, explosive offense. The Eagles ran the ball 31.2 times per game, which was the fourth-most in the NFL, so there was plenty of opportunity for McCoy, who averaged a healthy 20.9 carries per game. In fact, he was the only running back to post more than 300 attempts this season (314). McCoy also finished as a top-12 option over 90 percent of the time, and is deserving of either the number one or two spot.

3) Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: Speaking of perfect fits, Forte in Marc Trestman’s offense led to 1,339 rushing yards (2nd-most), 12 total touchdowns and just under 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Forte posted the second best consistency totals, finishing as a top-tier running back almost 88 percent of the time. His 74 receptions were the third-most among running backs and 29th-most in the entire league. There were only three games all season where Forte hauled in fewer than four balls, making for an elite and consistent PPR option. He’s a top-five running back in my eyes.

4) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Amid the excitement surrounding the first three backs, the Purple Jesus, the Machine, Adrian Peterson’s 2013 campaign wasn’t too shabby either, as he ran for 1,266 yards (5th-most), 10 touchdowns (4th-most) and averaged 14 fantasy points per game. He’s still arguably the best running back in football, but the ugly offense around him and, while he’s seemingly unstoppable, Peterson is rapidly approaching that ugly age of 30 for running backs. He takes a slight hit, but is still a surefire top-five draft pick.

5) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers: This is where it gets interesting. Lacy, a rookie, was everything Packer fans have been missing out of the backfield for years. A huge guy who can carry the load and catch the ball, Lacy was easily the offensive rookie of the year. He rushed for 1,178 yards, which was good for 8th-most and found the end zone 11 times, the third-most among rushers. Lacy was an absolute workhorse all season long. His 284 carries were the fifth-most among any running back, and since Week 5, no one has more attempts than the rookie out of Alabama. The sophomore slump is not a concern to me. If he can post these numbers without Aaron Rodgers under center for seven games, I’m excited to see what he does with potentially more scoring opportunities. He finished as a top-12 running back 13 times this season.

6) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: He’s never hyped up as much as other backs, but the fact remains that Lynch is arguably the most consistent fantasy running back out there. Lynch has rushed for at least 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. And over the last two seasons, he’s carried the ball at least 300 times in each, finishing as a top-five fantasy running back in the process. However, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, and Seattle is coming off a season where only Buffalo ran the football more per game (31.8).

7) DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: Please, Dallas. Give Murray the ball. My idea of a poor man’s Adrian Peterson, you’d be hard-pressed to find 10 more talented running backs in the league than Murray. It was a career-year for Murray, who posted career bests in rushing yards (1,124), rushing yards per game (80.3) and touchdowns (9), en route to a number eight finish among fantasy backs. He finished the season incredibly, averaging 17.6 fantasy points per game over his final five contests. And when Murray carried the ball at least 20 times, the Cowboys were 3-0. He can be a star… if Dallas feeds him like he deserves.

8) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: Need a breakout candidate for 2014? Look no further than Bell, who played outstanding when he was out there this season. In his rookie year, Bell broke Franco Harris’ single-season yardage record from a rookie running back, posting 1,259 yards from scrimmage. He found the end zone eight times and caught a very healthy 45 balls. Pittsburgh wanted to feed him the rock from the start, as he finished with the 12th-most carries (244), despite missing a few games due to injury. Also, his 52.1 offensive snaps per game ranked fourth-most among running backs, ahead of guys like Peterson and Ray Rice. He touched the ball at least 20 times in 11 games this year. Nowhere to go but up, folks.

9) Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions: Bush was an exciting player to watch this season, as he joined the pass-happy Lions offense. He started the season off red hot, but cooled off a bit, ultimately finishing as fantasy’s number 12 running back. Bush caught a strong 54 balls in an offense under Scott Linehan that historically features the running backs in the passing game. However, Linehan is gone, so we will see if that impacts Bush’s work in the passing game. A few fumbling and injury concerns allowed Joique Bell to show how good he is, as he quietly finished as the number 16 fantasy back. Bush should still be a first round pick, but you better handcuff him with Bell.

10) Arian Foster, Houston Texans: Coming into this season, many analysts (myself included), weren’t very high on Foster. The combination of offseason surgery and an incredible amount of tread on his tires weren’t very appealing to me, and call it whatever you want, but Foster ended up suffering a season-ending back injury that required surgery. Foster’s fantasy stock certainly takes a hit, and I’m concerned about back surgery. However, he’s still worth a shot as a top-1o pick based off of pedigree. There is still no better short-yardage back in football than Foster, and if Houston wants to get back on the winning track in 204, it’ll have to start with their All-Pro running back.

Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.

You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.