2014 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Labor Day Weekend Update

Here are my updated 2014 fantasy football running back rankings (standard scoring):

1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

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.

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.

3. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Like with McCoy and Charles, Forte and Peterson are separated in my projections by the narrowest of margins (0.3 fantasy points, to be exact). And to be honest, I'd be thrilled with any of the top-four options at running back.

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 (other) 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.

4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

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.

5. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

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. Only McCoy (1,139) had more rushing yards than Lacy (1,127) from Week 5 on.

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.

6. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

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.

7. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos (Ball's 2014 fantasy profile)

Seemingly out of nowhere, Knowshon Moreno finshed as a top-five scorer in fantasy points among running backs 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).

Provided he gets as much work as Moreno received last year, Ball's ceiling is a top-five finish (or better).

8. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

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.

Perhaps Lynch breaks down due to his violent, earthquake-inducing running style and heavy usage over the past few years. Considering the team moved some of the money he was due next season into 2014, I feel more confident now that his workload won't dip too much. Many have speculated that Lynch could be a cap casualty next season.

9. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

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. Recently the Cincinnati Enquirer projected close to 300 touches and a "good share" of the goal-line carries for Gio.

Even though the team drafted LSU's Jeremy Hill in the second round, the Bengals should be a more run-oriented team in 2014 as they transition to Hue Jackson's run-heavy offense.

10. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

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 reminded us of his durability risk with his recent hamstring issue.

11. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Even though Lovie Smith is a defensive coach, the team went offense heavy in the draft adding two wide receivers, a tight end and two offensive lineman. In addition, they drafted West Virginia running back Charles Sims, a talented receiver out of the backfield, with the fifth pick of the third round. Unfortunately, Sims fractured his ankle and is expected to miss most, if not all, of the 2014 season.

The Muscle Hamster had a disappointing sophomore campaign as a season-ending injury cut his season short after just six games. Even before the injury, however, Martin was not running the ball well as he averaged a yard less per carry (3.6) than he did as a rookie (4.6 YPC).

Even though Martin should easily lead the team's backs in touches, Tampa's coaching staff has made numerous comments about their intention to use a committee in the backfield.

12. Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals

Coach Bruce Arians previously exaggerated, obviously, Ellington's potential workload at "25-30 touches per game." That said, the team seems committed to utilizing him as a featured back.

Ellington was outstanding on a per-touch basis last season as he was tied with James Starks for the lead among running backs in yards per carry (5.5) and he averaged 9.51 yards per reception. Provided he holds up well to the increased volume, Ellington could become a bonafide RB1.

13. Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars (Gerhart's 2014 fantasy football profile)

Behind stud running back Adrian Peterson on the depth chart, Gerhart did not many opportunities to carry the ball in his four NFL seasons. That said, Gerhart has been productive when given the opportunity (4.73 yards per carry).

Signed in the offseason by the Jaguars, Gerhart could possibly get more than his 276 career rush attempts in this season alone as the team's workhorse back. In my running back projections, I have Gerhart racking up close to 1,500 yards from scrimmage on nearly 300 touches.

14. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins

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. In fact, there is a modest difference — less than three fantasy points — between Morris and my RB12 (Le'Veon Bell) in my fantasy running back projections.

15. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers

After missing eight games combined in his first three seasons, Mathews played a full 16-game season for the first time in his four-year career. He rushed for a career-high 1,255 yards, seventh in the NFL, and scored six touchdowns last season.

Getting off to a relatively slow start, Mathews was one of the league's most dominant runners from Weeks 6 to 17. During that 11-game stretch, Mathews had six 100-yard games. In addition, he was one of only three running backs (LeSean McCoy and Eddie Lacy were the others) to rush for 1,000-plus yards during that span.

Provided he stays healthy for a second season in a row, Mathews will lead the Chargers in rushing and fantasy points, but the Bolts added Donald Brown in free agency to join Mathews and Danny Woodhead.

More RBs: Continue to RBs 16-30

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