A solid stable of running backs is key fantasy football victory. Running back injuries are inevitable-Arian Foster is already hurt-so without a good group from which to choose, you're in for a long season.
Fortunately, while the list of top-tier backs is short, the list of second and third tier backs is long. Invariably, a running back or two will come out of nowhere and finish as top-ten backs, and the more running backs you have on your roster, the more likely you are to strike gold when one hits.
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When evaluating which running backs to draft in the mid to late rounds, here are a couple of things to consider. First, opportunity. Alfred Morris in 2012 is a classic example of an unheard of back springing into the spotlight because of opportunity. Guys like Ameer Abdullah and Tevin Coleman come to mind this year. These backs may not be starters week one, but an injury or unproven starter is all that stands in their way.
Also, consider the team. A good back on a bad team is generally not a good back in fantasy. If the team's defense is terrible, and the offense is chasing points, the running game suffers. The Tennessee backfield might be one to avoid this year, for example.
Obviously, a lot more goes into evaluating running backs, but if you load up on backs with reasonable opportunity on a half-decent team, one of them is bound to pop.
Here are my top 40 running backs on draft day.
- Jamaal Charles (KC) - Maybe not #1, but most likely be top three.
- Le'veon Bell (Pit) - Even with the suspension, he will be incredible.
- Eddie Lacy (GB) - He could be the #1 fantasy back by year's end.
- Adrian Peterson (Min) - I expect he'll pick up right where he left off.
- Marshawn Lynch (Sea) - Seemingly ageless.
- DeMarco Murray (Phi) - If healthy, he will be great in that system.
- C.J. Anderson (Den) - The Bronco's back is always good.
- Matt Forte (Chi) - Still a stud.
- Lesean McCoy (Buf) - Rex wants to run, run, and run some more.
- Jeremy Hill (Cin) - Almost unlimited upside.
- Alfred Morris (Was) - As RGIII goes, so goes Alf. Bounce back?
- Jonathan Stewart (Car) - I'm all in, which could prove costly.
- Carlos Hyde (SF) - Seeking to fill Gore's shoes.
- Lamar Miller (Mia) - Should be living the high life.
- Melvin Gordon (SD) - Best rookie RB bet this year.
- Latavias Murray (Oak) - Who else is there?
- Mark Ingram (NO) - There's always one over-hyped Saints RB.
- Justin Forsett (Bal) - Widest range of possibilities.
- Frank Gore (Ind) - Another ageless guy.
- T.J. Yeldon (Jac) - Opportunity abounds.
- Doug Martin (TB) - Call me a believer.
- Joseph Randle (Dal) - Here's hoping.
- LaGarrette Blount (NE) - He's Belichick's boy.
- Isaiah Crowell (Cle) - Should emerge as the guy.
- Andre Ellington (Ari) - If healthy, he's a PPR stud.
- Ameer Abdullah (Det) - Could easily overtake Bell.
- Joique Bell (Det) - Could easily remain the starter.
- Todd Gurley (StL) - Potential only limited by injury.
- Tre Mason (StL) - As long as Gurley is out, Mason's the man.
- C.J. Spiller (NO) - Darren Sproles Part II?
- Tevin Coleman (Atl) - Top 20 if he starts week one.
- Darren McFadden (Dal) - One of the Dallas backs will be good.
- Giovani Bernard (Cin) - Best backup in the NFL.
- Chris Ivory (NYJ) - Somebody will carry the ball for the Jets.
- Rashad Jennings (NYG) - Never healthy.
- Ryan Mathews (Phi) - Murray's not the epitome of health either.
- Shane Vereen (NYG) - Jenning's is never healthy.
- Devonta Freeman (Atl) - Coleman is a rookie.
- Knile Davis (KC) - The guy behind the guy.
- Fred Jackson (Buf) - Never count him out.
Note: Arian Foster (Hou) is an obvious omission, but as of this writing, no one knows the results of his surgery. If I had to rank Foster today, I would rank him around 25. In a draft, that means round five to six. That probably means I'm not getting Foster, but if he falls to round seven or eight, he could be a steal. It also means Alfred Blue's (Hou) value increases tremendously.