This article is a continuation of RotoBaller’s 2013 fantasy football rankings series. Today we’ll be taking a look around the NFL at running backs (RB) to give you our top-20 fantasy rankings and analysis.
Running Back Rankings (Top 20) – 2013 Fantasy Football
1. Adrian Peterson (MIN): Will he repeat the season he had last year, when he rushed for a stellar 2,097 yards? Probably not. But he’s still too good of a player not to claim the No. 1 spot in 2013. Usually you see a man against boys at linebacker or offensive line. But in this case, it’s at the running back position. Peterson is simply dominant when on the field. Unlike most running backs, you won’t have to worry about how many touches he will be getting. With Harvin now gone, the Vikings are relying heavily on him for another playoff spot. No shame in picking him No. 1 overall considering he’s the best player in the NFL.
2. Jamaal Charles (KC): Just like Adrian Peterson, Charles proved he wouldn’t let a 2011 knee injury affect his 2012 campaign. Charles had an impressive 1,509 rushing yards last season. But a RB who can catch the footall is an added bonus. Charles is looking to repeat the 45 receptions and 468 receiving yards he had in 2011. The addition of Andy Reid and Alex Smith will help him do that. Just look at how many receptions and receiving yards LeSean McCoy had under Andy Reid. The Chiefs have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL also. If he can stay healthy, I fully expect for Charles to surpass the 2,000 total yard mark in 2013.
3. Marshawn Lynch (SEA): Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards last season, which was good for 3rd in the NFL. Marshawn also had many career high’s last year. Not only did he have 315 rushing attempts, he also averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Those are very impressive numbers. If Adrian Peterson somehow doesn’t lead the NFL in rushing this season, I would expect Lynch to do so. I think Lynch will see another 300 carries this season, and the Seahawks have an offensive line built for Lynch to have a repeat of what he did for fantasy football owners last year.
4. Arian Foster (HOU): Coming into 2013, Foster has some health concerns with an injury to his lower back. Considering he carried the ball 351 times during last year’s regular season, and 54 times in the playoffs, you have every right to be concerned. Ben Tate started the Texans third preseason game, and was very effective. Some even think that Tate will be the starter in the season opener, but the Texans coaching staff is remaining optomistic about Foster’s injury. Although he didn't take a single preseason carry, I think Foster should be fine. If Foster starts the season healthy, he has every right to be drafted in the top 4, even if the workload is limited early on. Foster is a touchdown machine, leading all running back’s in 2012 with 15. He was also 6th in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,424 yards.
5. Doug Martin (TAM): If I told you before the 2012 season that Martin would be a top 5 fantasy running back in 2013, you would have probably called me crazy. Martin is ranked this high not only because of his strong 2012 and elite talent, but because of his hands. Last year he had 49 receptions for 472 yards, and he also had 3 catches of 40+ yards. Martin was 5th in rushing yards last season with 1,454 yards, and there's no reason to think he can’t do that again. I was very impressed with him having 319 carries last year and still playing all 16 games. The Bucs also love to hand it off to Martin when they get down by the goal line, as he had double-digit touchdown numbers last year (11). I’m not saying the Bucs will go 13-3 this year, but I can tell you the Bucs will play well on both sides of the football, and Martin will the centerpiece of their offense.
6. Ray Rice (BAL): Rice had 1,194 rushing yards and 9 TD’s last season. Not too bad. Even though we would all like to see more rushing yards from Rice this season, I don’t expect it to happen - I think he should finish around 1,200 yards again. The problem is, his number of carries have declined for 3 straight seasons. His real value is in the air. Rice is the perfect PPR player, as he’s had 200 receptions combined over the past 3 seasons. Those types of numbers are hard for a WR to have in the NFL, much less a running back. And for now, the Ravens still enjoy giving this bowling ball the goal-line carries. Rice has had a combined 21 rushing TD’s the past 2 seasons, and is still running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL - if not the best. I know that the Ravens really like Bernard Pierce, and I expect him to cut into Rice’s carries some like he did last season. But when it's all said and done, I do think Ray Rice will have a very productive season and is worth the #6 spot in fantasy football drafts.
7. C.J. Spiller (BUF): Whenever you carry the football over 200 times, and rush for 6 yards a carry, that is extremely impressive. By the end of the 2012 season, Spiller ended up being ranked in the top 20 - among all the fantasy positions. He’s another one of thoes running backs that is a threat on the ground, and also through the air. The only things holding him back are the rest of the Buffalo offense, and potential injury concerns. It should be interesting to see how the Bills do on offense in 2013, after replacing Fitzpatrick with first round draft pick E.J. Manuel. The only other downside to his game is his low rushing touchdown total from 2013, as only had 6 all season. Spiller needs to avoid any chance of Jackson or Choice stealing redzone carries, and the good news is he's listed as the goal line back on the Bills' depth chart. If Buffalo can commit to giving him more goal line chances, Spiller could end up having an even better season in 2013 than he had in 2012.
8. Trent Richardson (CLE): I have him at number 8 here, but honestly Richardson is a top 5 talent. Richardson had kind of an odd but productive rookie season last year. He was top 5 in the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 11 - that was a positive part of his season. The main negative about 2012 was that Richardson always left his owners biting their nails over his health status. He seemed to be on the injury list nearly ever week of the season, and its a mini-miracle that he played in 15 games. And you can tell his knee injury effected performance in 2012, as he had 950 rushing yards and averaged only 3.6 yards per carry. The Cleveland coaches are claiming that Richardson is fully healthy going into this season. One thing is for sure, he will be the centerpiece of the Cleveland offense - and the Browns are gonna let him hammer it in nearly every time they get near the goalline. New season, new coach and a healthy Richardson could mean a highly productive fantasy football season for him in 2013.
9. LeSean McCoy (PHI): I heavily expect LeSean McCoy to have a much better season this year compared to his 2012 campaign. McCoy went from having 17 touchdowns in 2011, to only 2 last year. Not only did he miss 4 games due to injury, but it also seemed like the Eagles team just gave up on the season by week 7. I think Chip Kelly is going to get McCoy the touches that he's used to getting, if not more. We're talking about a running back who’s had 180 receptions over his last 3 years combined. Even with his down year last year, McCoy still had 34 total touchdowns the last 3 seasons. These are elite numbers, and he is healthy and ready to go full speed coming into this season. If McCoy can avoid nagging injuries, and Bryce Brown eating away at his touches, look for him to have a very solid fantasy football season.
10. Alfred Morris (WAS): Alfred was amazing last season, finishing 2nd in the NFL in rushing (1,613 yards). The craziest part about that, is he was a rookie - and drafted in the 6th round out of Florida Atlantic. I owned Morris in one of my leagues last year and kept waiting for him to slow down - but he never did. I was also very impressed with him carrying the ball 315 times, averaging 4.8 yards a carry, and staying healthy for all 16 games. I can think of more reasons why he should be at the No. 7 spot, than reasons why he shouldn’t. If Morris and the Redskins offensive line can stay healthy, I have no reason to think Morris can’t repeat another great season in 2013.
11. Stevan Ridley (NE): Ridley had a break-out season last year, as he rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. I have him this high in 2013 for multiple reasons: (1) I think he could easily repeat a year like this. (2) He’s fully healthy and Vereen doesn’t seem like a threat to take too many touches away. So nearly everytime the Pats get down to the goal line, Ridley will be getting the call. (3) Losing Welker, Woodhead and Hernandez only makes Ridley a more important part of the New England offense, and should lead to an increase in the amount of rushes and targets he’ll get this season. Ridley does need to catch the ball more though to become an elite fantasy running back - somehow he only ended up with 6 receptions for 51 yards for all of 2012. But overall 2013 will treat Ridley very nicely, and he is a great player to target in the earlier rounds of your fantasy football drafts.
12. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC): I don’t fully know what to expect from MJD this season, coming back from a 2012 season where he was mostly injured. I usually draft MJD in my money leagues every year as he’s a PPR machine like Rice and Charles, and he can run the heck out of the football. When healthy, he’s a top 5 fantasy running back. But it’s not just his health I’m concerned about this year. I’m also worried that he may not be as motivated to play for the awful Jaguars anymore. The team is just really bad. I hope MJD will be able to keep his mojo flowing throughout the entire 2013 season. And considering he’s only one year removed from leading the NFL in rushing, it’s still possible for him to have a huge fantasy football year.
13. Matt Forte (CHI): As far as running backs go, Forte had a mediocre 2012 as he rushed for 1,094 yards and 5 TDs. Although he's an elite talent when healthy, Forte has never rushed for more than 1,238 yards in any season of his career. And with the recent struggles of the Bears offensive line, it’s hard for me imagine that he’ll have a career year in 2013. But enough of the bad. The main reason why I like Forte is that he’s going to get tons of targets in the Bears offense this season. Whatever Forte lacks on the ground, he’ll make up for through the air. In his 5 year career, Forte has amassed 267 receptions for 2,325 yards and 9 recieving touchdowns. Also Cutler and the rest of the Chicago coaching staff say Forte has looked the “scariest” he’s ever looked in a Bears uniform. So as long as Forte stays healthy and plays the entire 2013 season, he will be a featured part of the offense and be very productive for fantasy owners. It’s not too much of a stretch to say he’ll have 1,700 total yards and 8-9 total touchdowns this year.
14. Frank Gore (SF): This is my 9th year playing fantasy football, and oddly enough I’ve never owned Frank Gore. He’s always just seemed too injury prone for me to take a risk and make a big draft day investment. But Gore has been very productive in his 8 years wearing a 49ers uniform. He’s proved me wrong by playing in all 32 NFL games the past 2 seasons, and his 2011 and 2012 seasons were nearly identical. He rushed for 1,211 yards and 8 TDs in 2011 - and in 2012 he rushed for 1,214 yards and 8 TDs. That's consistency for you. Between 2006 - 2010, Gore was a huge threat with his hands averaging 51 receptions a year. But he's only had 45 receptions combined his last 2 seasons. If Gore can find a way to become a threat through the air again, he could have a monster year. But either way, with a track record like his and an elite offensive line, don’t be afraid to draft Gore in your fantasy football leagues this season.
16. DeMarco Murray (DAL): If I could look into my crystal ball and tell you Murray would play in all 16 games this season, I would have him ranked higher than the No. 16 spot. But unfortunately DeMarco has missed 9 games in his first 2 seasons as a Cowboy due to injuries, and that makes him a risk in 2013. The Cowboys offensive line is another concern that I have, preventing Murray to maximize his abilities and talent this season. But the Cowboys didn’t have a great offensive line in his rookie season, and he looked phenomenal. In his 13 games as a rookie in 2012, Murray averaged 5.5 yards a carry with 164 attempts. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say if DeMarco stays healthy in 2013, he could have 1,300 rushing yards with 8 touchdowns.
15. Chris Johnson (TEN): Johnson was an all-or-nothing type running back in 2012. He had 5 games where he rushed for 122 yards or more. But on the flip-side, Johnson had 8 games where he had 56 rushing yards or less. In general, I don’t like to make heavy investments with inconsistent running backs like this. But the addition of Chance Warmack can only help out Johnson’s 2013 season. Johnson is one of those running backs that you don’t want to draft too early, because he is on a bad team and carries a fair amount of risk. But you also don’t want to pass up on him if he slips and is still available in the later-early round of your drafts. Overall I think Johnson will have a similar year in 2013 as he had last season, but just don’t invest too heavily.
17. Steven Jackson (ATL): Jackson is looking to have a huge year with his new team the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. He’s been stuck behind arguably the worst offensive line in football for years, and he’s still managed 8 straight years of 1,000+ yards rushing. Jackson is quietly a really solid catch and run tailback as well, as he’s had 407 receptions over his 9 year career. I also like the durability of Jackson, as he’s only missed 2 games the past 4 seasons. That is incredible considering he carried the ball 1,171 times over that time. I don’t think it will be hard for Jackson to find the running lanes, given how Matt Ryan and the rest of the offensive crew will open up and stretch the field. Moving to a new team, with an elite offense, Jackson has the potential to have a great season for the Falcons and fantasy owners in 2013.
18. Reggie Bush (DET): I expect the Lions to play better than they did last season, and their offense to once again be a very productive one for fantasy football purposes. Reggie Bush suprised a lot of people last season posting 1,278 total yards and 8 touchdowns. He also proved he could run between the tackles. Bush is listed as the number 1 running back on the Lions depth chart, including the third down and goal line back. This is an ideal situation for running backs for fantasy football purposes. Combining his great hands, explosive speed, and being a part of the heaviest passing offense in the NFL - Bush could in line for a monster season if he can stay healthy. With an ADP around 37, Bush can still be an early round steal on draft day, especially in PPR leagues.
19. David Wilson (NYG): In week 15 of the fantasy playoffs, my rival and opponent had David Wilson. He had just came off a huge game versus the Saints the prior week, where he had 100 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns to go along with 227 return yards and a return touchdown. But as it turns out, Wilson had a mediocre game with just 55 rushing yards and no touchdowns against the Falcons and me. I got very lucky, as Wilson is that kind of elite talent that can explode at any time. Now that Ahmad Bradshaw is a Colt, and Andre Brown has gone down with a multi-week injury, Wilson should get most the carries for the Giants this season - especially early on. He already showed that he could take over the starting role last year, averaging 5 yards a carry over his 71 rushing attempts last year. The Giants knew Bradshaw was going leave after 2012, so they invested heavily in Wilson, spending a first round draft pick on him. And now Wilson will finally have the chance to prove he was worth it. If he can avoid injuries, and the backup running backs stealing his touches, Wilson will have a great season in 2013. Now all that's left is to see his actual workload, and see results over the entire season. Don't be afraid to invest heavily in Wilson during your drafts, as he may explode this year and end up as one of the elite running backs for fantasy football.
20. Ahmad Bradshaw (IND): Bradshaw should benefit from a change of scenery with the Indianapolis Colts. In general, like picking running backs who have a fresh start. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but in this case I think it will. Bradshaw has a lot to prove to his new team, just like Steven Jackson does. He missed 2 games for the Giants last season but still managed 1,015 yards rushing with 6 touchdowns. I think the Colts offense is going to be running on all cylinders this season, and having Andrew Luck as the QB will help open up the field and keep those defensive formations pass heavy instead of run heavy. Brashaw also has good hands for a running back too, and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say Bradshaw could rush for 1,300 yards and have 10 touchdowns by the end of 2013.
More Thoughts on Running Backs
1) If I was going to review a 21st running back, it would be Darren McFadden. McFadden has about the same value as the running backs ranked 16 - 20 on here. But the Raiders are just so bad, and he’s been too injury prone, for me to make a big investment this season. But if McFadden slips on draft day, and is still there after most of these running backs have been drafted, go ahead and take him. Personally I’ll wait for him to put together a 16 game season before I draft him on my fantasy football team.
2) I honestly can’t tell you how it’s gonna play out in Denver this season. I know Denver didn’t spend a 2nd round pick on Montee Ball for him to sit on the bench, but the Broncos depth chart has Ronnie Hillman listed as the starting running back at the moment. I know the Broncos will be using Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball this season too. So yeah, it’s gonna be a crowded backfield, and will be difficult to predict early on who will be the biggest fantasy producer.
3) Here are three young running backs to consider, whose teams are expecting a lot out of this season. You should grab them up in the middle rounds as upside running backs, who are expected to have a big workload:
- Eddie Lacy (GB)
- Lamar Miller (MIA)
- Daryl Richardson (STL)
4) Once all of the running backs in this article are drafted, take a look at these starting running backs who may be able to help you out in the later rounds:
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis (CIN)
- Mark Ingram (NO)
- Isaac Redman (PIT)
- Ryan Matthews (SD)
5) DeAngelo Williams and Rashard Mendenahll are two other starters that could go either way this season. Mendenhall is looking for a fresh start in Arizona, a team that revamped their offensive line through the NFL draft. He’s been plagued with injuries during his short career though. And DeAngelo Williams, every year he tricks many people into taking him too early. Don’t draft this guy unless you are desperate for a running back. He always seems to be the fantasy dud at the end of the year.
If you like this article, check out the rest of our fantasy football analysis: rankings, sleepers, running backs,wide receivers, quarterbacks and of course our live fantasy football chat, the best football chatroom on the internwebs. RotoBaller will be releasing more fantasy football content daily to help you prepare for the 2013 NFL Fantasy Football season so stay tuned!
Check out all of RotoBaller's 2015 fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.