By Billy Moy @william_moy6 on July 21, 2014
Here are the top 15 running backs in fantasy football PPR leagues as we head into 2014 training camps.
Despite missing eight games to injury last season, Vereen was 14th among RBs with 47 catches and 10th with 66 targets. Vereen is a tremendous weapon as a receiver out of the backfield for Tom Brady and the Patriots, and if he can stay healthy this year I think he has a legitimate shot at 100 receptions. Vereen could replace Darren Sproles as the ultimate "significantly better in a PPR league" back.
There's definitely a chance Joique Bell finishes 2014 with more total touches than Bush. That being said, in a PPR league Bush is still the Detroit RB I want. It wouldn't surprise me if he takes on a bigger role in the passing game as he takes a step back in the rushing attack. Even with the emergence of Bell and despite missing two games to injury, Bush finished last season ninth among RBs with 54 catches and he was sixth with 76 targets.
Foster is the ultimate gamble on health -- really his entire season comes down to it. If he has a healthy season I'll be shocked if he isn't a top-10 RB in both PPR and standard scoring leagues. If he breaks down like he did last season, though, then you're going to get nothing from a high draft pick. All reports at the moment indicate that he's back to full health, but only time will tell if his body can hold up for the entire season.
To me, Andre Ellington is C.J. Spiller with more power. He’s incredibly elusive, a terror to tackle in the open field, can line up in the backfield or out wide and he packs a lot of punch, especially for someone that small. He was second last season, averaging 3.2 yards after contact, and according to Pro Football Focus, he was the fifth most elusive RB. If he can stay healthy while his workload increases he could very easily be a top 10 PPR RB.
2013 was such a disappointment, but at this point in the ranks I'm willing to gamble on the talent we saw in 2012. That season, Martin was fifth in the NFL with 1,454 rushing yards, fifth with 11 touchdowns, sixth with a 3.2 average yards after contact, fourth with 53 missed tackles, fifth among RBs with 62 targets and seventh with 49 receptions. If -- and it's a big if -- Martin can come close to that production he'll be a steal in 2014.
Cincy gave 220 touches to BenJarvus Green-Ellis last year, and they spent a second-round pick on 233-pound Jeremy Hill. So even when the Bengals do cut ties with the Law Firm (me speculating) there will still be a big, bruising back for the Bengals to spell Bernard with. A lack of touches probably prevents Gio from reaching top-5 RB territory, but he should still be a valuable PPR asset. His 58 catches last season were the eighth most by RBs.
Truth be told, when you watch Bell you forget he's as big as he is because he relies so much more on his elusiveness than his power. Bell was 12th in the NFL with 36 missed tackles but he was 31st with a 2.1 yards after contact average. He's a good receiving back -- he was 16th among RBs with 45 catches last season -- and if he can add a power element to his running game he could be a fantasy monster.
With most guys around this range you're taking some sort of gamble; for Murray it's health. Murray has played in 14 or fewer games in each of his three seasons, and last year was the first time he had more than 200 carries. When healthy he's certainly produced. He was third in the NFL last season with 5.2 yards per carry and he was seventh with 2.7 yards after contact per carry. Murray was also 10th among running backs with 53 receptions.
It's a gamble taking Ball here, but I think you're gambling with everyone below him on this list too, and none of them offer the upside that Ball does playing alongside Peyton Manning. Knowshon Moreno caught 60 passes last season, so if Ball can prove he's capable of protecting Manning (which will allow him to stay on the field for more passing situations) he could very well approach that number. He should get plenty of scoring opportunities.
Lynch is a scoring machine. His 35 rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons are tops in the NFL, and he's finished with at least 11 touchdowns in each of those three years. He's in a contract year, so I suspect the Seahawks intend on running him into the ground before they release him into free agency. He should once again finish among the league leaders in rushing yards and touchdowns.
Starting with Week 7, Lacy caught at least two balls in every single game but one and had 32 catches over that 11-game stretch. With Rodgers as his QB there should be plenty of opportunities for Lacy to catch the ball in space, and he's an absolute beast on the ground. Lacy was sixth last season with 647 yards after contact, fourth with 56 missed tackles, eighth with 1,178 rushing yards and third with 11 rushing touchdowns -- as a rookie.
Peterson is a more than capable pass-catching back, with the exception of his injury-riddled 2011, Peterson has finished in the top-30 among running backs in receptions every season since 2009. But you're drafting Peterson because he's an animal on the ground. He's widely accepted as the best running back of the last decade, and last season he was first with 829 yards after contact and second with 58 missed tackles.
Forte has finished in the top-10 among running backs in receptions every single season he's been in the NFL. Last season he finished seventh among all players with 21.08 points per game in PPR leagues.
If you watch the tape, it becomes pretty clear that McCoy is easily the most elusive running back in football. I feel bad for defenders every time I see them attempt to tackle McCoy one-on-one in the open field; he usually makes them look silly. McCoy caught 52 balls last season, and he was first among all running backs with at least 30 catches, averaging 11.9 yards after the catch.
Charles was one of five running backs to eclipse the 70-catch mark last season and he was second -- behind Peyton Manning -- in PPR leagues with 25.2 fantasy points per game. Charles is an elite pass catching back, and he's as safe as it gets for a No. 1 pick.
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