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Three Running Backs Who Will Bounce Back To The Top Tier

By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
What Appears In This Article? hide

2015 was perhaps one of the most disastrous seasons for fantasy owners who spent a high draft pick on a running back. In 2015, Adrian Peterson, Le'Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Jeremy Hill, and C.J. Anderson were all generally first round picks. Of that group, only Peterson finished as a top-10 scorer. The next highest finisher? Jeremy Hill, checking in at RB20.

With wide receivers expected to fly off the boards at a record pace this season, running back values should be easy to spot as your draft unfolds. Let's take a look at three running backs who should return to top tier status this season. All references to ADP come from 12-team PPR leagues on Fantasy Football Calculator.

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Running Back Draft Targets

LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills

McCoy finished as the 19th highest scoring running back in 2015, playing in just 12 games in what was his first season in Buffalo. It seems like Shady has been around forever, but he's still just 28 and should have at least another couple productive seasons left in the tank. Part of the concern with McCoy heading into the offseason was whether he would lose too much work to other running backs on the team. That is a situation that has changed drastically in just a few weeks.

Karlos Williams, widely regarded as his main competition for carries, showed up for camp out of shape, got suspended for testing positive for a banned substance, and was subsequently released by the team. Reggie Bush is unlikely to make it through the year healthy while Mike Gillislee is just a replacement quality player. McCoy should see the bulk of the work for a Rex Ryan team that wants to run the ball. With McCoy being just a few years removed from being a top scoring running back, there's a good chance he finishes this season as an RB1 as long as he can stay healthy.

Another aspect that bolsters McCoy's projections this year is playing with rushing quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Don't underestimate what Taylor can do to open up running lanes for McCoy to work with. With an ADP in the late second/early third round, McCoy is shaping up as a great value on draft day.


C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos

Anderson can be chalked up as one of 2015's biggest busts and a main reason why so many owners will be going zero RB this draft season. Part of Anderson's issues last season can be attributed to ankle and toe injuries, which he played through, missing only one game in 2015. While Anderson missed only the one game in 2015, he was clearly limited in several others and did not look like the running back who was winning fantasy leagues for his owners at the end of the 2014 season.

Rough start to the season aside, Anderson came on strong in the second half of the season and heads into 2016 as the team's clear-cut lead back. Rookie Devontae Booker is still not where he needs to be from a pass protection standpoint and Ronnie Hillman doesn't appear to have many backers in Denver. Anderson has looked really good in preseason this year and according to reports is in better shape than he was last year. The change in Denver's offensive philosophy will also boost Anderson's stock as we head into the regular season. With the team starting unproven second-year man Trevor Siemian at quarterback, expect an extremely run-heavy game plan most weeks.

Denver still has an elite defense and should be able to get away with running the ball extensively and leaning on their defense to hold leads as the game goes on. This projected offensive philosophy will likely lead to Anderson being utilized heavily on a weekly basis. He's practically guaranteed at least 20 touches per game playing for this team. Anderson has a strong shot at finishing the season as a mid-to-low RB1 this year.


Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals

Hill is another player who has looked more explosive this preseason than he did at any point during last year. He also appears to be more focused and intent on proving that he is a top running back in the NFL.

The third-year back has several things working in his favor this season. The Bengals saw a significant overhaul to their offensive personnel in the offseason. Gone are second and third receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Top red zone threat Tyler Eifert is expected to miss the first four to six weeks while recovering from offseason ankle surgery. This leaves Andy Dalton with an unreliable Brandon LaFell and unproven rookie Tyler Boyd as his top options in the passing game after stud A.J. Green. As a result, look for the Bengals to utilize a more run-heavy scheme this season. This is where Hill comes into play.

While he will still lose third-down work to Gio Bernard, Hill is the team's undisputed goal line back. Even in what was a disappointing year in 2015, Hill was still able to punch in 11 rushing touchdowns while adding one more through the air. If Hill can recapture the rushing success he enjoyed as a rookie in 2014 while still managing double-digit touchdowns, he will be an RB1 when the season is over. With an ADP in the early fifth round, Hill could be one of the top steals of the draft this year.


Check out RotoBaller's famous fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!


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