Staff Fantasy RB Rankings For 2013
By Jeff Brubach
Selecting a running back can be the most pivotal moment in a fantasy football draft, or even season for that matter. Any fantasy owner can attest to the heartbreak of an underperforming first round rusher and the fulfilling feeling of selecting a late round back that explodes into fantasy dominance. In 2013, there is no shortage of upper echelon running backs, with the great Adrian Peterson leading the pack in all his purple and gold glory. As usual, what follows the top tier of running backs is a slew of players with either performance questions or doubt concerning touches in their team’s offense. This significant drop in talent illustrates the absolute necessity of selecting at least one, but preferably two, top-flight running backs. With the deep pool of talent at the wide receiver and quarterback positions, as well as the weekly fluctuation at tight end, saddling up with a pair of dynamic backs has never been a better idea. So, which running backs will lead fantasy teams to prominence in 2013? Scroll below for the football.com staff running back rankings and a thorough breakdown of our experts’ opinions.
As illustrated above, the Top 15 running backs are littered with household names that make even the most novice of fantasy players grin with excitement. The primary difference from player to player at the running back position revolves around two things: mileage and contribution in the passing game. The first attribute, mileage, is what most directly leads to a sudden drop in running back performance. More than any other position, running backs hit the infamous “wall” at the age of 30 and never regain their mojo. While older (in NFL terms…not you, weekend warrior) wide receivers like Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne can still produce, older running backs are far less likely to lead a fantasy team into the post season. In addition, career carry totals can expedite this process considerably. This conundrum faces a few of our highly-rated backs, most notably Arian Foster (319 carries per season since 2010), Marshawn Lynch (1,452 career carries), Steven Jackson (turns 30 in July), and Maurice Jones-Drew (1,570 career totes with bum wheels). While these backs are certainly draftable, their younger counterparts could potentially have a better chance of racking up much needed fantasy points long into November and December.
Passing game proficiency is the other main attribute to look for in an early round back. While two-down rushers can certainly be productive (see Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris), three-down backs that are utilized in the passing game are a huge asset in fantasy football. For example, did you own Ryan Mathews last season? If so, my apologies, but you also were frustrated countless times as San Diego fell behind and substituted Ronnie Brown in on third downs to take the bulk of the receiving work. On the other side of the coin, running backs like Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy will snatch up those passing down receptions and further boost their point totals. The addition of receiving skills can be the difference between a Top 20 and a Top 10 running back.
The rankings from the staff here at football.com all had one thing in common, Adrian Peterson in the top spot. This ranking is certainly justified and you may need to rethink things if you feel otherwise. After Peterson, we had some ranking differences with the most interesting listed below.
Jake Ciely Outliers
Trent Richardson seventh: T-Rich came in third overall in our staff rankings, and even gathered a couple rankings at the number two slot. It’s hard to debate this ranking too much, as there are many solid backs in the top seven or so, but the brittle nature of Richardson is certainly reason to take issue with a Top Five ranking and I don’t have any beef with this viewpoint.
Montee Ball 22nd: Jake was the highest on Montee Ball of our staff writers, ranking him 22nd while our consensus listed him 26th. While Ball may not seem initially as exciting as a Le’Veon Bell or Eddie Lacy, he certainly has some weak competition in his backfield with Ronnie Hilman, Knowshon Moreno and grandpa Willis McGahee. This ranking is certainly reasonable and could provide nice upside if Ball picks up Denver’s scheme to Peyton Manning’s liking.
Nick Raducanu Outliers
Chris Johnson 16th: This one wasn’t too far below the consensus, but Nick was the lowest on this frustrating Titan. The artist formerly known as CJ2K can be a headache to own, but his speed and ability to break a long run has never been in question. If you’re a gambling man like I am, Johnson could be worth a shot this season as a nice RB2.
C.J. Spiller fourth: Nick was the highest on C.J. Spiller, and once the 2013 season wraps up, this ranking could very well be actually too low. While Spiller checked in at seventh on our consensus list, he certainly has the talent to take a shot at Peterson’s strangle hold on the top spot. I like this ranking, and Spiller could very well work his way up my own ranks as well.
Zach Law Outliers
Ryan Mathews 35th: Zach was by far the lowest on Mathews, but can you blame him? Nobody has dealt the fantasy world as much grief as Mathews, and with newcomer Danny Woodhead in town, it doesn’t appear that Mathews’ usage is set to increase at all. Unless Mathews can stay healthy and make hay at the goal line, Zach could be right on.
Shane Vereen 25th: In a ranking I really like, Zach slotted Shane Vereen 25th, as opposed to the consensus of 33rd. Vereen is in line for a huge workload increase in 2013 with the departure of Woodhead from New England and will be a pass-catching force, as demonstrated by his terrific playoff performance (seven catches for 105 yards). The only question will be his slice of the pie in the carries department, but that could increase as well. A great upside selection here.
Jeff Brubach Outliers
Marshawn Lynch ninth: I was the lowest on Lynch and it primarily revolves around the fact that he is coming off a huge season in terms of workload (315 carries) and I also prefer my top back to be more involved in the passing game (23 catches in 2012). No argument for his talent and situation, just personal preference here.
LeSean McCoy fourth: I am willing to give Philadelphia a redo on the 2012 season and am very excited for what McCoy will bring to the table this year. While his role and usage in Chip Kelly’s offense remains to be seen, I am always intrigued by the unknown and will generally spend an extra buck or two to see what is behind the curtain.
Charles Murphy Outliers
Alfred Morris 15th: Chuck was the lowest on our man Alf, and with the rushing abilities of Robert Griffin III perhaps curbed in 2013, defenses may not have as much to worry about when facing the Washington offense which could hurt Morris. I have no issue with this slotting, as Morris has a limited, albeit solid, track record and doesn’t do much in terms of pass catching (11 catches in 2012).
David Wilson 27th: Wilson came in 22nd in our consensus ranks, and Charles was the lowest on this young Giants back. Wilson’s speed is widely acclaimed but the rest of his game, including the all-important realm of pass protection, remains to be seen. The presence of Andre Brown could very well make Wilson too risky of a selection early in drafts this season. My personal ranking of Wilson at 18 may slide this way throughout the preseason as well.