Friday, July 26, 2013

2013 Running Back Tiers and Consistencies

Welcome back, old school fantasy football days. The rave of quarterbacks in the first round is (or should be) over. Back are the days of a first round that should consist of all running backs and maybe one or two wide receivers. As you've read in my previous articles, the quarterback pool is deeper than JaMarcus Russell's previous gut. R.I.P Russell's belly. So running backs are the way to go and it is a necessity to draft if not one, but two or three in the first four rounds this year.

Not only is there a ridiculously deep quarterback class but the wide receiver pool is just as deep too. Greg Jennings and Cecil Shorts ranked 29th and 30th? Gimme dat value! So while you can wait for your quarterback and wide receivers, stock up on running backs this year. After the top ten to twelve running backs, it is an absolute crap shoot. How's a running back who has never played more than 13 games in a season sound? Or a guy who once ran for 2,000 yards and has yet to come anywhere close since? Or a man who held out then was injured for most of last season? Trust me, it's not good. Just ask the guy who ended up with Vick Ballard and Eddie Lacy as his starters in my first mock draft. I still cringe thinking of that.

So get your running backs. Get five or six of them and pray that two of them will turn out alright. Remember, the gap between the 1st running back and the 20th is typically around 200 points. The difference between the 1st and 10th quarterback was 74 points. The difference between the 1st and 20th wide receiver was 89 last year. Do the math. You can miss out on elite wide receivers and still be alright. You can get Tony Romo in the 10th round and be just fine. But if you wait on a running back, you might just have Ballard and Lacy. Don't wait. At last, here are the 2013 tiers.

Tier 1: The Elite
1. Adrian Peterson (ADP 1.2)
2. Arian Foster (ADP 2.4)

This is the most straight forward you can get. If you pick first or second, you will get either Peterson or Foster. And while the odds are against Peterson to replicate last season, both are clearly above the rest.

Who I want the most: Peterson. Not even a question. He really could be his own tier.

Tier 2: The Near Elite
3. Marshawn Lynch (ADP 4.0)
4. Doug Martin (ADP 5.5)
5. Ray Rice (ADP 5.5)

Lynch has proven himself over the past two seasons, Rice over the past four, and Martin, as I predicted, killed it last year. None of them have to worry about a running back committee (although Bernard Pierce will get his fair share) and all should remain top five options. No matter which one you pick, just know that they, Beast Mode, Muscle Hamster, and Little Ray boast some of the better nicknames.

Who I want the most: If you are going for year in and year out consistency then Rice is your guy. But Marshawn Lynch is second in rushing yards and third in touchdowns over the past two seasons. He should be your guy here. Seattle is committed to running the ball and Lynch will remain the center of their offense. The Muscle Hamster's stats are a bit skewed by his two monstrous games and Rice may have just enough carries taken away that Lynch should outshine them both this season.

Tier 3: The Rock Solid
6. Jamal Charles (ADP 7.1)
7. C.J. Spiller (ADP (9.3)
8. LeSean McCoy (ADP 12.7)

The rock solid backs here might just be the speediest backs in the game. Charles will get a boost with Andy Reid as his new head coach and a stable quarterback in Alex Smith. And Spiller, despite limited touches, had over 1,700 total yards and a ridiculous 6.0 yards per carry. With Fred Jackson often injured, Spiller is finally the main main in Buffalo and will get plenty of touches this year. I have McCoy higher than most people but think he is bound for a comeback season. After injuries and Andy Reid not feeding him the ball enough, McCoy can only get better. The Eagles drafted Lane Johnson to bolster and accommodate a fast paced offense. So behind Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense and a revamped line, McCoy should be able to return to his 2011 form.

Who I want the most: This is a tough on but I'll take Charles. Charles is still the most proven and has just as much explosiveness as the other guys here. And imagine what having a real NFL quarterback will do for Charles. I am expecting big things this season.

Tier 4: The Borderline 1's
9. Trent Richardson (ADP 9.9)
10. Steven Jackson (ADP 16.8)
11. Alfred Morris (ADP 10.6)
12. Stevan Ridley (ADP 20.8)

Richardson has the most upside here but is the most injured of the bunch. Jackson has been a rock with eight consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Despite his age, he should be an upgrade over Michael Turner and he brings his pass-catching ability to the Falcon's passing attack. Morris surprised just about everyone as coach Mike Shanahan finally chose just one guy to carry the rock. But will he do it again? Ridley figures to be featured more with the New England offense that has lost Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and possibly Rob Gronkowski. Expect Ridley to be relied on in New England. And over the past three seasons, New England has the most rushes inside the 10 yard line. Get it, Ridley.

Who I want the most: Do I dare say Steven Jackson? He's still a workhorse and does not have as many question marks as the others. But Richardson is the obvious stud here. If the Browns vertical passing scheme really takes hold, expect Richardson to have plenty of room to run. But fantasy football is about minimizing your risk while still getting productivity. So I'll take Jackson.

Tier 5: The Question Marks
13. Matt Forte (ADP 18.9)
14. Maurice Jones-Drew (ADP 26.8)
15. Frank Gore (ADP 23.4)

All these guys have great track records. But the future for all of them is up in the air. Forte, while solid when healthy, has missed six games in the past two seasons. Jones-Drew's holdout and injured season raises many questions marks. Fortunately, he is still just 27 and is in a contract year. And Frank Gore is getting more and more limited in carries (just five games with 20+ carries). He also has a crowded backfield in San Francisco. 

Who I want the most: As a Packers fan it pains me to say Matt Forte. Gore has held steady but is due for more of a decline and MJD is just so uncertain at the point. Forte and the Bears' steadily improving offense should provide plenty of fantasy points.

Tier 6: The Oh Boy I Have to Take One of These Guys?
16. Chris Johnson (ADP 24.6)
17. Darren McFadden (ADP 35.8)
18. DeMarco Murray (ADP 42.2)
19. Darren Sproles(ADP 44.2)
20. Reggie Bush (ADP 46.6)

Questions marks all over the place. Can CJ2K regain his 2,000 yard season form? Can McFadden last more than 13 games? Can Murray stay on the field? Will Sproles get enough touches in the crowded Saints backfield? Can Bush put up a quality season in Detroit?

Who I want the most: Can I say none? If it's a PPR league, it's obviously Sproles. If it's a standard league, well... The Raiders, whose zone blocking scheme did not fit McFadden, are switching back to a favorable power run scheme. Bush could shine but also disappears often. And the odds of Murray staying healthy are slim. So I'll take my chances on McFadden. Just know that none of these options are safe. None of them.

Tier 7: Can We Just Draft a Quarterback Now?
21. Le'Veon Bell (ADP 66.3)
22. David Wilson (ADP 37.3)
23. Montee Ball (ADP 40.1)
24. Lamar Miller (ADP 59.8)
25. Chris Ivory (ADP 57.7)

Two rookies, two second year players, and a guy with 256 career carries. At least Ball and Bell figure to be the main guys on their teams. Wilson and Miller even have the chance to be the unquestioned starter. So maybe it is not that bad. Wilson has Spiller-like potential, Ball will take over for long-gone Willis McGahee and injury-prone Knowshon Moreno, and Bell figures to replace the horrid combo of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. And Ivory has a chance to bring his career 5.1 yards per carry average (on just 256 carries) to the pitiful New York Jets.

Who I want the most: I'll take Bell. He will be good value by the time you pick him and could put up Rashard Mendenhall hay day numbers.

Tier 8: Dear God, We're Still Going
26. Ryan Mathews (ADP 61.6)
27. Benjarvus Green-Ellis (ADP 70.9)
28. Eddie Lacy (ADP 56.5)
29. Ahmad Bradshaw (ADP 72.0)
30. Shane Vereen (ADP 86.7)
Bonus. Tim Tebow

Mathews has been a major disappointment with more broken collarbones than touchdowns last year. BGE is a slow, non-feature back and has competition with rookie Gio Bernard. Lacy could gather lots of touchdowns but is in a crowded backfield with Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, and Jonathan Franklin all in the picture. Bradshaw has Vick Ballrd and injuries to deal with. And Vereen should at least be relevant as he should take Danny Woodhead's touches.

Who I want the most: Mathews still has the highest upside here. But if Lacy wins the starting job outright, I'll take him. He could compile many of Aaron Rodger's short touchdown runs and passes and even John Kuhn's touchdowns. Lacy may not quite run for 1,000 yards, but I wouldn't be surprised to see 10 touchdowns. Just take that with a grain of salt as that number could also be 0. And you can't go wrong with Tebow. I hear the Canadian Football League has started online fantasy leagues. Oh wait, the Patriots signed him?

So there you have it. Have fun and get the aspirin ready for your running back situations. To help you out some more, here's a nice chart I made of the top running backs. It's pretty self explanatory but lets you see their consistency and ceiling based on last year's stats.

NameDouble Digit Games20+ games
Adrian Peterson
Arian Foster144
Marshawn Lynch114
Doug Martin123
Ray Rice114
Jamal Charles93
CJ Spiller122
LeSean McCoy10/12 (4 injured)0
Trent Richardson11/15 (1 injured)1
Steven Jackson70
Alfred Morris123
Stevan Ridley92
Matt Forte9/15 (1 injured)1
Maurice Jones-Drew2/6 (9 injured)1
Frank Gore110
Chris Johnson91
Darren McFadden6/12 (4 injured)0
DeMarco Murray5/10 (6 injured)0
Darren Sproles9/13 (3 injured)0
Chris Ivory2/6 (10 no carries)0
Reggie Bush72
David Wilson2/3 (with 10+ carries)1
Montee BallN/AN/A
Lamar Miller1/2 (with 10 carries)0
Le'Veon BellN/AN/A
Ryan Mathews1/12 (4 injured)0
Benjarvus Green-Ellis7/15 (1 DNP)0
Eddie LacyN/AN/A
Ahmad Bradshaw7/15 (1 injured)2
Shane Vereen2/2 (with 10+ carries)0
Tim Tebow00

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