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Running Backs You Should Draft, While Others Are Avoiding

Wikipedia: Keith Allison - you've come to this article wondering why I believe running backs to be so important for fantasy football, whether it's a PPR or standard league, then you should probably first go and read my last RB article where I discuss this in depth.

Okay, welcome back. This article today is meant to discuss 2014 fantasy football running backs who are plummeting down draft boards for no apparent reason.

Fantasy football drafts are wrapping up quickly, and maybe seeing one of these guys is going to be your saving grace. Grabbing one of these guys may ensure you don't miss out on a great draft number five or six in 2014. You know that league that you're still in, and why you continually decide to join a league with your Little League team from twenty years ago, that you don’t even like. Nobody will really understand. Of course, beating them makes it all worth it in the end.

Okay, on to the running backs analysis.


Running Backs Not Getting Enough Love

First off, it’s important to realize that fantasy football should not be treated like relationships. The man who broke your heart last season (or your buddy’s heart) is not officially off limits. They can still learn to love again. It seems that a common trend in this year’s drafts is the ostracizing of any and all RBs who didn’t end up rushing for at least 900 yards last year, or who was projected as a top twenty player last year but ended up a lot closer to the top fifty at the end of the season. Doug Martin, Trent Richardson and others are names that come to mind. It seems a lot of people are worried about being considered "the idiot" who got tenth round production out of their first or second round pick.

I get it. Fantasy football probably conjures up more issues of pride, and the fact that these pride issues may last until next September is pretty irritating. But you’re not going to win your league by playing it safe. And avoiding the busts and pariahs of last year is considered playing it too safe in my opinion. If you want to win your fantasy football leagues, you need to take some risks. You need to analyze draft trends, risers/fallers, ADPs, rankings, undervalued and overvalued players, and put together your rock solid draft strategy.

With that being said, here are some running backs that are being overlooked in drafts, and why I think you should draft them.


Undervalued Running Backs That Could Pay Off

Ray Rice, RB - Baltimore Ravens

Nobody wants to be the bad guy who drafts the bad guy. Emotions can be a one of the biggest enemies to a fantasy football owner’s draft strategy (do your best to not let this happen). So let’s look at the facts around the former Rutgers’ star running back:

  • cj-spiller-nfl-fantasy-football-running-back-sleepersRoger Goodell’s new rules on domestic violence went into effect this week and now a first offense of this nature is a six game suspension. Rice is not subjected to this punishment, he’s grandfathered out of it. He is only suspended for two games.
  • A certain pothead wide reciever in Cleveland was subjected to a two game suspension last year and came back to lead the position in yards while getting drafted by owners often in double digit rounds.
  • Rice was a top three fantasy player for two straight years.
  • Baltimore’s offense will shift to a more pass-oriented approach, with an increased amount of speed at wide receiver position now that Steve Smith is on board.
  • A passing offense will open up the running game, and Rice has good enough hands that Joe Flacco will consider him when looking to check down.
  • Rice’s ADP is in the 50’s behind guys like an unproven Ben Tate and a second string Joique Bell.


Bottom line - Ray Rice is not finished. He is still starting in Baltimore. He may be closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning of his career, but that doesn’t mean he can no longer be productive. Maybe you have to handcuff him with Benard Pierce because of Week 1 and 2, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent. Rice shouldn’t fall out of the fourth or fifth round in your fantasy football draft. Running backs are at a premium this year, and a starter on a potential playoff team cannot be ignored. Of course unless you don’t enjoy winning in fantasy football. Then you should avoid the Baltimore running back like the plague.


C.J. Spiller, RB - Buffalo Bills

I cannot wrap my head around everyone’s handling of Spiller in drafts this year. Did he murder someone and I didn’t hear, and now we’re all just waiting for his suspension/conviction to come down? No wait, that was Aaron Hernandez.

I’ve watched as Spiller has fallen into double digit rounds in both real and mock drafts. It’s kind of depressing, honestly. This man was drafted in the first round last year and never fell out of the third round after his rookie season.

Yes, Fred Jackson’s personal goal to ruin Spiller’s fantasy value every single year is annoying. And yes, Spiller constantly under performs year-in and year-out. But what if this is the year that the Clemson running back breaks out in a big big way? Aren’t you going to be very mad knowing that you passed over him seven different times on that August or September evening?

Fred Jackson is not getting any younger, and I’d imagine with how ugly Buffalo’s offense may be he’s going to have a short leash. If he struggles, or if he gets hurt, it’s possible Doug Marrone begins riding Spiller and prays his most talented running back helps him stay an NFL head coach. And considering that Spiller probably has fresher legs than anyone would expect a 27 year old running back to have, he could be poised to approach 1,200 yards. Bryce Brown should not be a threat to his fantasy upside either.

Throw in that he’s got huge receiving potential, and we could be looking at a gem in the draft. Many experts have C.J. lasting until the fifth round. I’m here to tell you to consider him at the end of the third. If he’s lasting past the fifth round, he should be scooped up fast, especially if you’re hurting for some running backs.


James White, RB - New England Patriots

I know. It’s Bill Belichick. He may not even have any clue whats going on in his head. But the fact is that White is going at the very end of the draft, and could potentially go undrafted in your fantasy football league.

Rookie running backs who stay out of the doghouse can potentially shine in the Patriot’s offense, and considering he’s getting more touches than Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden this preseason, it seems like White is not only not in the doghouse, but he’s eating at the dining room table with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and Belichick.

So when you’re sitting there in thirteenth round of your fantasy football draft, and you’re wondering whether or not you should be drafting a second tight end or a defense, just stop and draft James White. At the very worst, you have to drop him after a couple weeks of no production. At the very best, White becomes a top ten running back who you got at the very end of the draft, and then everyone in the league is scared of your draft expertise next season.


Good luck with your drafts RotoBallers!