Updated 2014 Fantasy Football Running Back (RB) Rankings
Here are my updated 2014 fantasy football running back rankings (standard scoring):
McCoy led the NFL in rushing yards (1,607), yards from scrimmage (2,146) and touches (366) in his first season playing in Chip Kelly's offense. With the addition of Darren Sproles to the team's backfield, McCoy could see a few less targets in the passing game and it's unlikely he duplicates his career-high 314 carries this year. That said, I still have McCoy projected for nearly 350 touches in 2014.
Speaking of my projections, it couldn't be much closer for the top spot than it is between McCoy and Jamaal Charles. Only one-half point separates the two backs in my projections: McCoy (262.8 projected points) vs. Charles (262.3)
2. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Charles led the league in total touchdowns with 19 — 12 rushing and seven receiving scores. As great as that was for his fantasy owners in 2013, it will be unlikely for Charles to repeat. If you remember back to 2011, McCoy scored a league-high 20 touchdowns and then followed that up with just five total touchdowns in 2012.
It certainly wouldn't be a knock on Charles if he does not repeat last year's scoring fest and I'm not projecting a drop to five total touchdowns for him. That said, what he did last season is rare as the only running backs with 19-plus touchdowns in the past seven seasons are: Charles (2013), McCoy (2011) and DeAngelo Williams (2008).
Playing one less game than McCoy as the Chiefs rested their starters in Week 17, Charles set a career high in yards from scrimmage (1,980) and that ranked second only to McCoy. In addition, no player had as many games with 100-plus YFS than Charles (13) last season.
While he's unlikely to ever duplicate his historic 2012 season, Peterson has put up monster numbers despite battling injuries and facing eight- or nine-men fronts over the past couple of seasons.
And while touchdown production tends to fluctuate for (most) running backs, Peterson has rattled off double-digit rushing scores in all seven of his NFL seasons. If there are some concerns with Peterson, it's the fact that he's now 29 years old and has racked up more than 2,000 career rush attempts.
Then again, doubt All Day at your own peril.
In his first season with Marc Trestman as coach, Forte set career highs across the board: 1,339 rushing yards, 74 receptions and 594 receiving yards. He tied his previous career high in touchdowns (12).
With a talented duo of outside receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, Forte has protection from consistent eight-men fronts looking to slow down the run. In addition, both of those receivers are big-bodied wideouts that excel as blockers down the field. Based on PFF grades, Marshall and Jeffery were the best and ninth-best blocking wide receivers, respectively, last season.
While the Packers have long been able to beat you through the air, their ground attack has left much to be desired — until this past season, that is. As a rookie, Lacy finished with 1,178 rushing yards, which ranked eighth in the NFL, and 11 touchdowns, only two RBs had more. From Week 5 through the end of the regular season, only McCoy (1,139) had more rushing yards than Lacy (1,127).
No running back had more games with 20-plus carries last year than Lacy. Counting their playoff loss, Lacy had 20-plus carries in 11 of his final 14 games last season. As productive as he was as a workhorse back, Lacy averaged only 4.15 yards per carry last season.
Provided that Aaron Rodgers stays healthy for a full season, however, I expect better numbers from Lacy on a per-carry basis and I wouldn't be surprised if he rushed for double-digit scores once again.
Murray has long been associated with the injury-prone tag. While he did not play a full 16 games last year, Murray was still very productive and played a career-high 14 games. Eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark (1,124 rushing yards) for the first time in his career, Murray set career highs in receptions (53), receiving yards (350) and touchdowns (10).
During a six-game stretch from Week 10 to 16 (team's bye was in Week 11), Murray scored double-digit fantasy points every week and had three games with at least 20 fantasy points. Only two running backs — McCoy (152.5) and Charles (144.33) — averaged more YFS per game than Murray (123.67) during that span. Only Charles (11) had more touchdowns than Murray (seven) over that stretch as well.
There will always be injury risk for Murray, or any running back for that matter, but he could be in store for a monster season provided he maintains as good (or better) health in 2014.
For a third consecutive season, Lynch rushed for more than 1,200 yards with double-digit touchdowns. Over that three-year span, he has 901 carries for 4,051 yards, 87 catches for 724 yards and a total of 39 touchdowns.
Even though he did not receive any new money, Lynch has ended his roughly week-long holdout from training camp on Thursday. More than likely, the Seahawks will get Christine Michael, their talented second-round pick from 2013, more involved in the offense this year.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Knowshon Moreno finshed as a top-five scorer among running backs in fantasy points last year. While Moreno lacks elite talent, playing in a Peyton Manning-led offense leads to huge rewards. Moreno's free-agency departure to Miami creates an enormous opportunity for Ball in the league's most explosive offense.
Ball, the Broncos' second-round pick in 2013, got off to a relatively slow start: 3.26 yards per carry (68 carries for 222 yards) in first 10 games. From Weeks 11 to 16, however, Ball averaged 6.48 YPC (52 carries for 337 yards).
Putting a slight damper on his outlook, Ball recently had an appendectomy, but he is expected to be ready for Week 1. Provided he gets as much work as Moreno received last year, Ball's ceiling is a top-five finish (or better).
As a change-of-pace back, Bernard had a productive rookie season and finished inside the top 20 fantasy running backs for the full season in standard-scoring formats. Averaging just shy of 15 touches per game on the year, his carries increased every month — 8.0 per game (Sept.), 9.8 (Oct.), 12.0 (Nov.) and 13.0 (Dec.). Finishing eighth among all running backs in receptions (56), he was an even better option in point-per-reception (PPR) formats.
Going into 2014, Bernard should be ready for his workload to continue its ascension. Before the draft, coach Marvin Lewis referenced the jump in workload and production that Ray Rice had from his rookie to second season and hopes Bernard "can take those same steps."
While the team drafted LSU's Jeremy Hill in the second round, they will likely move on from The Law Firm and I still expect Bernard's touches to increase from last season. With the change in offensive scheme (from Jay Gruden to Hue Jackson), the Bengals should be much more of a run-first team in 2014.
In 13 games as a rookie, Bell got nearly 300 touches (244 carries and 45 receptions) and had 20-plus touches in all but two games. That said, Bell averaged only 3.52 yards per carry on the season. On a positive note, he averaged at least 4.0 YPC in four of his final five games after doing so only twice in his first eight games.
Even though the team added LeGarrette Blount, who was productive for the Patriots down the stretch, Bell should remain the team's workhorse back.
From 2010-2012, Foster rushed for 4,264 yards, added 159 receptions for 1,438 yards and scored a total of 47 touchdowns in 45 games. During that span, no player had more YFS or touchdowns than Foster.
Before an injury ended his 2013 season prematurely, Foster was hitting his stride with 82 touches (68 carries and 14 receptions) for 487 yards from scrimmage (341 rushing and 146 receiving) over his final three full games. While I have been hoping that last year's injury — or more precisely, the reduction in workload — would help keep him healthy and fresh in 2014, Foster has been dealing with a hamstring injury and not practicing recently in camp.
While Foster has plenty of upside if he stays healthy, there is plenty of durability risk as well.
With only one carry in the team's first four games, Stacy was given 250 of them in the final 12. In the final nine games of the season, Stacy had exactly 200 carries for 759 yards (only 3.80 yards per carry), 20 receptions for 96 yards and a total of seven touchdowns.
Stacy should get a larger (overall) workload in 2014. GM Les Snead was quoted as saying in February that Stacy "should be more productive (in '14) because he should have more carries."
Drafting Auburn's Tre Mason in the third round won't do anything to help Stacy's fantasy value, but Stacy should remain the team's workhorse back in 2014. What should help Stacy is that St. Louis also drafted Mason's teammate, Greg Robinson, the best run-blocking prospect in this year's draft class.
Being second on the depth chart behind Adrian Peterson, it was no surprise that Gerhart did not get as many opportunities to carry the ball as you would expect a running back drafted in the second round to get. Over four seasons, Gerhart had a total of 276 carries for 1,305 yards (4.7 YPC) and five touchdowns. In addition, he had 77 receptions for 600 yards and three touchdowns.
By signing a three-year deal with the Jaguars, Gerhart will get an opportunity to be the team's featured back. Coach Gus Bradley has said that Gerhart could get 15-20 touches per game. More recently, the team's offensive coordinator said that Gerhart will be the team's "workhorse."
Last season, he outproduced Rashard Mendenhall, who has since retired, on a per-carry basis — and by a lot. In 2013, Ellington gained 652 yards on 118 carries (5.5 YPC) and added 39 receptions for 371 yards and four total touchdowns.
While he won't add much at all as a receiver and his numbers overall dropped last season, Alf has averaged 1,444 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns over his first two seasons in the NFL.
With the transition to the team's new offensive scheme, there are some concerns that Morris could see a modest decline in touches, but he is a solid RB2 in fantasy drafts.
More RBs: Continue to RBs 16-30
More 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:
- 2014 Fantasy Football QB rankings
- 2014 Fantasy Football WR rankings
- 2014 Fantasy Football TE rankings
More of our 2014 fantasy football resources:
- 2014 fantasy football mock draft simulator
- 2014 fantasy football strength of schedule
- 2014 fantasy football projections
- 2014 fantasy football profiles
- 2014 fantasy football average draft position (ADP)
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