2014 Fantasy Football: Early Running Back Rankings

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Top 15 Fantasy Running Backs

JamaalCharlesCover
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The most important spot in fantasy football in recent seasons has been the running back position. Owners love to load up on backs, especially in leagues with a flex spot, as they touch the ball more than any other skilled player.

The league has truly transitioned into a passing league, though, and more teams seem to be moving towards a dual-back system. It makes the true bell cows more valuable in fantasy.

This past season there were several backs that truly established themselves. Players like Knowshon Moreno, Zac Stacy, Eddie Lacy, and Giovani Bernard seemingly came out of nowhere to become valuable fantasy contributors.

Some big name tailbacks also suffered serious injuries. First round picks like Arian Foster, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, and Steven Jackson all missed significant parts of the season due to injury. Even Adrian Peterson wasn’t impervious to injury, as the back missed two games in the fantasy playoffs.

Several other backs had disappointing numbers throughout the year. Running backs C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Chris Johnson were all high draft picks, but all failed to live up to their RB1 draft status.

The season may be officially over, but it never hurts to start thinking about next year. So to help you keep football on the brain, here are my early running back rankings for the 2014 fantasy football season.

Honorable Mention: Ray Rice ( Baltimore Ravens), Ryan Mathews ( San Diego Chargers), Chris Johnson ( Tennessee Titans), Frank Gore ( San Francisco 49ers), Steven Jackson ( Atlanta Falcons), Shane Vereen ( New England Patriots)

Related Articles:

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Quarterback Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Tight End Rankings

Adam McGill is the Senior Fantasy Sports Writer at Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @adammcgill83, like him on Facebook, or add him to you networks on Google here or here.

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15. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

GiovaniBernard
Stan Liu-USA TODAY Sports

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals - Bernard proved that all the Ray Rice comparisons where correct. The dual-threat back recorded an astonishing 1,209 all-purpose yards (695 rushing/514 receiving) in his rookie campaign and ironically coexisted with fellow tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Bernard is one of the promising youngsters in the league and everyone knows how much fantasy owners covet those young backs. Bernard will easily crack the top-15 backs on draft day.

3 of 16

14. Knowshon Moreno, Free Agent

KnowshonMoreno
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Knowshon Moreno, FA - Early indications are that Moreno will not return to Denver in 2014. The team has plenty of backs, highlighted by Montee Ball, and they seems content to let Moreno hit the open market.

Moreno had an incredible 2013 campaign, as he ran for over 1,000 yards (1,038) and caught 60 balls for 548 yards. He will likely one of the most highly sought after tailbacks in the upcoming 2014 market and it will be interesting to see where he eventually decides to paly in 2014.

It wasn’t all positive for Moreno last season, though. He only had one game over 100 yards and that happened to be a staggering 224-yard performance. He also scored just two touchdowns in the final nine games. He ended up being quite streaky, which is hard to attribute to Moreno or just the aggressiveness of a Peyton Manning-run offense.

Moreno still ran with anger this past season, and if he lands with a new team, he will likely have to run with the same intensity to become a factor within the new offense. Moreno will be a top-15 back no matter what, but he could be a top-10 back again if he ends up on a team with a decent offense.

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13. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

LeVeonBell
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers - Bell was one of the bright spots over the final weeks of the fantasy season. The rookie scored a touchdown in four of the last five games, while averaging 109.9 all-purpose yards (81.3 rushing/28.6 receiving) and 23 carries per game. Bell quickly became the team’s number one back and developed into a decent RB2 in the process.

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12. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcoMurray
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys – After years of injury-plagued football, Murray posted his first 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season in Dallas. Murray finished with a respectable 1,124 rushing yards and averaged a 5.2 yards per carry.

Murray missed two games with a knee sprain and the back has now sat out 11 games in his brief three-year career. His upright running style will always leave him susceptible to injury and the fact that he has missed at least two games each year has branded him with an injury tag, but he still had a breakout fantasy season.

Murray will obviously come with some injury concerns, but if you can look past that, he has potential to be a high-end RB2.

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11. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams

ZacStacy
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams – Stacy was by far the biggest surprise from the 2013 fantasy football season. Stacy emerged in Week 5 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, after weeks of frustrating play from running backs Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson, and the rookie rapidly had a stranglehold on the job.

In the last nine games, the back averaged 84.3 rushing yards per game and scored seven touchdowns. He may not have breakaway speed, but he has a nose for the end-zone and is a very tough inside rusher.

The free agent pickup ended up putting together RB2 numbers by season’s end and will be a popular pick on draft day.

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10. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions

ReggieBush
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions - Bush’s first year in Detroit was rather impressive. He racked 1,512 all-purpose yards and recorded the second 1,000-yard rushing season of his career. He fit in perfectly with QB Matthew Stafford and the former USC star averaged a reliable 19.7 touches per game.

Unfortunately, Bush has dealt with injuries throughout his career. He has only played a full 16-game season once in the last seven years, and as expected, the 200-pound back missed two games in 2013. However, Bush has been absolutely electric when healthy lately and the speedster will be good for a handful of points simply based on yards alone. Bush will put up RB2 numbers again next season; just don’t count on him playing all 16 games.

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9. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

DougMartin
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Martin was a top-five pick in almost every format, but after the Muscle Hamster tore the labrum in shoulder in October, his season was abruptly cut short. Martin was struggling before the injury, as he scored just one touchdown in the six games he played in, but Tampa’s offense was a mess in the beginning of the season with QB Josh Freeman under center.

Martin is only 25-years-old and has a long career in front of him. Even more promising is that his season-ending injury wasn’t to his legs, so the talented back will be just as powerful next season running the ball. He will likely fall outside of the top-five backs, but look for him to be a steal towards the end of the first round.

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8. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins

AlfredMorris
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins – Morris was a top-10 pick in every format last summer and the former sixth round pick had a successful fantasy campaign. Despite Washington’s horrible 3-13 record and constant problems moving the chains, Morris still racked up 1,275 rushing yards. His touchdown total dropped from 13 to seven, but it again was a result off the offense’s inability to move into scoring position.

Morris is one of the best low-end starters to grab at the turn and will be a steal in the second round of 2014 drafts. With a healthy Robert Griffin III and the offensive-minded, Jay Gruden, taking over head coaching duties, fantasy fans can expect Morris to have another 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns next season.

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7. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

ArianFoster
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Arian Foster, Houston Texans - Some fantasy owners will likely pass on Foster altogether next summer, because he missed almost the entire 2013 campaign with a back injury. However, the Pro Bowler was one of the best backs in the game before his injury and he led the league with 15 rushing touchdown in 2012. Foster has actually scored 47 total touchdowns in 45 games between 2010-12 and was arguably the best back in fantasy. Foster will be turning 28 just before the season starts, so it isn’t like he is a super-veteran just yet. He has a couple more productive seasons left in his legs, so don’t feel nervous about adding him as your number one option next preseason if he looks healthy.

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6. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

EddieLacy
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers – When Lacy came into camp, the second round pick looked over weight. Many thought he would struggle to get into shape, but the bruiser looked like a veteran by the time the regular season ended. The rookie scored 10 touchdowns in his final 11 games and finished the year with 11 rushing touchdowns. He proved to be a very strong downhill rusher and will never see a stacked box with QB Aaron Rodgers under center. Lacy has many more 10-touchdown seasons ahead of him and he will be a very popular draft pick next summer.

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5. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

MattForte
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears – After years of suffering ankle injuries, Forte was finally able to stay healthy this past year. The results were Forte scoring double-digit touchdowns (10) for the first time since his rookie season and a career-high 1,933 all-purpose yards. He finished as the third-ranked back in all of fantasy and the veteran revitalized his value as an elite number one option.

Forte will be another dual-threat superstar to grab in the first round next season. He likely won’t have a repeat performance, but he will do enough to warrant a top-five pick in 2014.

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4. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

MarshawnLynch
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks - Lynch has scored at least 11 rushing touchdowns in each of the past three seasons, while eclipsing the 1,200-yard mark each time. He has become one of the most consistent backs in fantasy since heading over to Seattle, and despite being listed on the injury report week after week, Lynch has only missed one game in the past three years. Lynch will be good for another 10-plus touchdowns next season and will once again be a top-five fantasy back.

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3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

LeSeanMcCoy
John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles - McCoy not only led the league in rushing in 2013, but his 1,607 rushing yards were a whopping 268 yards ahead of Matt Forte’s second place total. McCoy once again looked like the back that scored 17 touchdowns back in 2011.

McCoy saw some pretty large running lanes once QB Nick Foles took over under center and the back will continue to benefit from the emergence of a young pocket passer. Shady will be heavily utilized again in 2014 and will have no problem going over 1,200 yards if he can stay healthy. McCoy isn’t a bad backup plan at three.

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2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

AdrianPeterson
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings – Peterson was hands down the number one fantasy player off the board last summer. He rushed for a staggering 2,097 yards in 2012,which is even more shocking considering that it was just months after tearing the ACL in his left knee.

After his record-breaking fantasy performance, most thought Peterson put up rather timid numbers in 2013. In Peterson’s so-called down year, though, the Wolverine still ripped off 1,266 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns and finished as the seventh ranked back in fantasy.

Peterson has shockingly been racked outside of the top-three backs in some early rankings, which is somewhat cold considering the superstar's body of work. People can argue with Peterson’s ranking all day long, but consistency counts in fantasy. AD has been an absolute beast in recent seasons and the soon to be 29-year-old still has plenty left in the tank.

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1. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

JamaalCharles
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs – Charles scored just 15 touchdowns in 34 games between 2010-12 and was notably a mid-level RB1 at best. However, the speedster hit overdrive this past season. Charles shockingly scored 17 times (12 rushing/7 receiving) in 2013 and became a touchdown machine for fantasy owners.

Charles posted career numbers in his first season under Andy Reid and the head coach seems content to once again run his main back into the ground. Charles should see another 300-plus touches, 1,600 all-purpose yards, and 12-plus touchdowns in 2014. It is hard to argue against those kinds of numbers in the top spot.

1 of 16

Top 15 Fantasy Running Backs

JamaalCharlesCover
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The most important spot in fantasy football in recent seasons has been the running back position. Owners love to load up on backs, especially in leagues with a flex spot, as they touch the ball more than any other skilled player.

The league has truly transitioned into a passing league, though, and more teams seem to be moving towards a dual-back system. It makes the true bell cows more valuable in fantasy.

This past season there were several backs that truly established themselves. Players like Knowshon Moreno, Zac Stacy, Eddie Lacy, and Giovani Bernard seemingly came out of nowhere to become valuable fantasy contributors.

Some big name tailbacks also suffered serious injuries. First round picks like Arian Foster, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, and Steven Jackson all missed significant parts of the season due to injury. Even Adrian Peterson wasn’t impervious to injury, as the back missed two games in the fantasy playoffs.

Several other backs had disappointing numbers throughout the year. Running backs C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Chris Johnson were all high draft picks, but all failed to live up to their RB1 draft status.

The season may be officially over, but it never hurts to start thinking about next year. So to help you keep football on the brain, here are my early running back rankings for the 2014 fantasy football season.

Honorable Mention: Ray Rice ( Baltimore Ravens), Ryan Mathews ( San Diego Chargers), Chris Johnson ( Tennessee Titans), Frank Gore ( San Francisco 49ers), Steven Jackson ( Atlanta Falcons), Shane Vereen ( New England Patriots)

Related Articles:

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Quarterback Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Tight End Rankings

Adam McGill is the Senior Fantasy Sports Writer at Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @adammcgill83, like him on Facebook, or add him to you networks on Google here or here.

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15. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

GiovaniBernard
Stan Liu-USA TODAY Sports

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals - Bernard proved that all the Ray Rice comparisons where correct. The dual-threat back recorded an astonishing 1,209 all-purpose yards (695 rushing/514 receiving) in his rookie campaign and ironically coexisted with fellow tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Bernard is one of the promising youngsters in the league and everyone knows how much fantasy owners covet those young backs. Bernard will easily crack the top-15 backs on draft day.

3 of 16

14. Knowshon Moreno, Free Agent

KnowshonMoreno
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Knowshon Moreno, FA - Early indications are that Moreno will not return to Denver in 2014. The team has plenty of backs, highlighted by Montee Ball, and they seems content to let Moreno hit the open market.

Moreno had an incredible 2013 campaign, as he ran for over 1,000 yards (1,038) and caught 60 balls for 548 yards. He will likely one of the most highly sought after tailbacks in the upcoming 2014 market and it will be interesting to see where he eventually decides to paly in 2014.

It wasn’t all positive for Moreno last season, though. He only had one game over 100 yards and that happened to be a staggering 224-yard performance. He also scored just two touchdowns in the final nine games. He ended up being quite streaky, which is hard to attribute to Moreno or just the aggressiveness of a Peyton Manning-run offense.

Moreno still ran with anger this past season, and if he lands with a new team, he will likely have to run with the same intensity to become a factor within the new offense. Moreno will be a top-15 back no matter what, but he could be a top-10 back again if he ends up on a team with a decent offense.

4 of 16

13. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

LeVeonBell
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers - Bell was one of the bright spots over the final weeks of the fantasy season. The rookie scored a touchdown in four of the last five games, while averaging 109.9 all-purpose yards (81.3 rushing/28.6 receiving) and 23 carries per game. Bell quickly became the team’s number one back and developed into a decent RB2 in the process.

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12. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcoMurray
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys – After years of injury-plagued football, Murray posted his first 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season in Dallas. Murray finished with a respectable 1,124 rushing yards and averaged a 5.2 yards per carry.

Murray missed two games with a knee sprain and the back has now sat out 11 games in his brief three-year career. His upright running style will always leave him susceptible to injury and the fact that he has missed at least two games each year has branded him with an injury tag, but he still had a breakout fantasy season.

Murray will obviously come with some injury concerns, but if you can look past that, he has potential to be a high-end RB2.

6 of 16

11. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams

ZacStacy
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams – Stacy was by far the biggest surprise from the 2013 fantasy football season. Stacy emerged in Week 5 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, after weeks of frustrating play from running backs Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson, and the rookie rapidly had a stranglehold on the job.

In the last nine games, the back averaged 84.3 rushing yards per game and scored seven touchdowns. He may not have breakaway speed, but he has a nose for the end-zone and is a very tough inside rusher.

The free agent pickup ended up putting together RB2 numbers by season’s end and will be a popular pick on draft day.

7 of 16

10. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions

ReggieBush
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions - Bush’s first year in Detroit was rather impressive. He racked 1,512 all-purpose yards and recorded the second 1,000-yard rushing season of his career. He fit in perfectly with QB Matthew Stafford and the former USC star averaged a reliable 19.7 touches per game.

Unfortunately, Bush has dealt with injuries throughout his career. He has only played a full 16-game season once in the last seven years, and as expected, the 200-pound back missed two games in 2013. However, Bush has been absolutely electric when healthy lately and the speedster will be good for a handful of points simply based on yards alone. Bush will put up RB2 numbers again next season; just don’t count on him playing all 16 games.

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9. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

DougMartin
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Martin was a top-five pick in almost every format, but after the Muscle Hamster tore the labrum in shoulder in October, his season was abruptly cut short. Martin was struggling before the injury, as he scored just one touchdown in the six games he played in, but Tampa’s offense was a mess in the beginning of the season with QB Josh Freeman under center.

Martin is only 25-years-old and has a long career in front of him. Even more promising is that his season-ending injury wasn’t to his legs, so the talented back will be just as powerful next season running the ball. He will likely fall outside of the top-five backs, but look for him to be a steal towards the end of the first round.

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8. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins

AlfredMorris
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins – Morris was a top-10 pick in every format last summer and the former sixth round pick had a successful fantasy campaign. Despite Washington’s horrible 3-13 record and constant problems moving the chains, Morris still racked up 1,275 rushing yards. His touchdown total dropped from 13 to seven, but it again was a result off the offense’s inability to move into scoring position.

Morris is one of the best low-end starters to grab at the turn and will be a steal in the second round of 2014 drafts. With a healthy Robert Griffin III and the offensive-minded, Jay Gruden, taking over head coaching duties, fantasy fans can expect Morris to have another 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns next season.

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7. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

ArianFoster
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Arian Foster, Houston Texans - Some fantasy owners will likely pass on Foster altogether next summer, because he missed almost the entire 2013 campaign with a back injury. However, the Pro Bowler was one of the best backs in the game before his injury and he led the league with 15 rushing touchdown in 2012. Foster has actually scored 47 total touchdowns in 45 games between 2010-12 and was arguably the best back in fantasy. Foster will be turning 28 just before the season starts, so it isn’t like he is a super-veteran just yet. He has a couple more productive seasons left in his legs, so don’t feel nervous about adding him as your number one option next preseason if he looks healthy.

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6. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

EddieLacy
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers – When Lacy came into camp, the second round pick looked over weight. Many thought he would struggle to get into shape, but the bruiser looked like a veteran by the time the regular season ended. The rookie scored 10 touchdowns in his final 11 games and finished the year with 11 rushing touchdowns. He proved to be a very strong downhill rusher and will never see a stacked box with QB Aaron Rodgers under center. Lacy has many more 10-touchdown seasons ahead of him and he will be a very popular draft pick next summer.

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5. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

MattForte
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears – After years of suffering ankle injuries, Forte was finally able to stay healthy this past year. The results were Forte scoring double-digit touchdowns (10) for the first time since his rookie season and a career-high 1,933 all-purpose yards. He finished as the third-ranked back in all of fantasy and the veteran revitalized his value as an elite number one option.

Forte will be another dual-threat superstar to grab in the first round next season. He likely won’t have a repeat performance, but he will do enough to warrant a top-five pick in 2014.

13 of 16

4. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

MarshawnLynch
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks - Lynch has scored at least 11 rushing touchdowns in each of the past three seasons, while eclipsing the 1,200-yard mark each time. He has become one of the most consistent backs in fantasy since heading over to Seattle, and despite being listed on the injury report week after week, Lynch has only missed one game in the past three years. Lynch will be good for another 10-plus touchdowns next season and will once again be a top-five fantasy back.

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3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

LeSeanMcCoy
John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles - McCoy not only led the league in rushing in 2013, but his 1,607 rushing yards were a whopping 268 yards ahead of Matt Forte’s second place total. McCoy once again looked like the back that scored 17 touchdowns back in 2011.

McCoy saw some pretty large running lanes once QB Nick Foles took over under center and the back will continue to benefit from the emergence of a young pocket passer. Shady will be heavily utilized again in 2014 and will have no problem going over 1,200 yards if he can stay healthy. McCoy isn’t a bad backup plan at three.

15 of 16

2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

AdrianPeterson
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings – Peterson was hands down the number one fantasy player off the board last summer. He rushed for a staggering 2,097 yards in 2012,which is even more shocking considering that it was just months after tearing the ACL in his left knee.

After his record-breaking fantasy performance, most thought Peterson put up rather timid numbers in 2013. In Peterson’s so-called down year, though, the Wolverine still ripped off 1,266 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns and finished as the seventh ranked back in fantasy.

Peterson has shockingly been racked outside of the top-three backs in some early rankings, which is somewhat cold considering the superstar's body of work. People can argue with Peterson’s ranking all day long, but consistency counts in fantasy. AD has been an absolute beast in recent seasons and the soon to be 29-year-old still has plenty left in the tank.

16 of 16

1. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

JamaalCharles
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs – Charles scored just 15 touchdowns in 34 games between 2010-12 and was notably a mid-level RB1 at best. However, the speedster hit overdrive this past season. Charles shockingly scored 17 times (12 rushing/7 receiving) in 2013 and became a touchdown machine for fantasy owners.

Charles posted career numbers in his first season under Andy Reid and the head coach seems content to once again run his main back into the ground. Charles should see another 300-plus touches, 1,600 all-purpose yards, and 12-plus touchdowns in 2014. It is hard to argue against those kinds of numbers in the top spot.


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