Scoring for the position is down. I get it, you get it. So, I’ll
dispense with doom and gloom surrounding the running back position
in fantasy football, as the “decline drum” has been
beaten loudly over the last couple years. Perhaps things are beginning
to level out as the macro numbers of the top 15 rushers in 2014
were fairly equal to 2013, and this year’s crop of rookie
runners seems to have a few more workhorse options than in years
past. As we get set for the kickoff of free agency, here are my
top 15 running backs for 2015…
An hour before this piece was to be published Chip Kelly and Rex
Ryan decided to drop a bombshell. I originally had LeSean McCoy at No.9
but dropped him down just one spot to No.10. There is still a
lot to digest, but currently this move feels like a lateral one
for McCoy’s fantasy value.
Bell, PIT – Bell’s fantasy value and ADP will be interesting
to track this summer. His youth, usage and talent scream he should
be a no-brainer No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts, not to mention his
gaudy numbers from last season (2,215 rushing & receiving yards,
11 TDs, 83 receptions). However, a looming two-game suspension
(possibly four?) will keep some fantasy owners off the Bell bandwagon.
I’ll stay on, but will readjust if the suspension is anything
more than two games.
Charles, KC – Nice to know that in a down year you
can still finish seventh among fantasy running backs in both standard
scoring and PPR leagues. Charles played gimpy most of the season,
perhaps more than the team was letting on, which led to more opportunities
for Knile Davis. Charles is still an elite talent capable of being
fantasy’s No. 1 running back when healthy.
Lacy, GB – I’ll grab Lacy as my RB1 this year when
there’s an opportunity, but I’ll have a queasy feeling doing so.
I typically won’t rank a running back with his injury history
this high, but Lacy’s progression in the passing game and upside
is worth the risk, considering the current question marks of the
running backs listed below.
Lynch, SEA – I think the retirement discussion around
Lynch is bogus. He’ll be back doing his thing for the Seahawks
in 2015, and while he’s got some mileage on the tires, he’s still
on the right side of 30 and should have another year left of RB1
Peterson, MIN – I fully expect Peterson to be a Dallas
Cowboy at some point in the next couple months, and if he lands
in “Big D”, he’ll immediately have No. 1 running back upside given
his talent and the stats DeMarco Murray put up last season behind
one of the best offensive lines in the game. He’s not getting
any younger, but a year off saved some mileage and he’ll be a
lock for 20-plus touches a game.
Forte, CHI – Forte’s yards per carry slipped to 3.9
last year, down from his typical 4.5 average the previous two
seasons, but he made up for it by posting triple figures in receptions
(102) as the Bears used the dump-off in grand fashion during numerous
comeback attempts. Are you concerned about durability? Forte has
been remarkably healthy, especially for running backs, missing
only five games during his seven-year career.
Jeremy Hill averaged 5.1 yards per carry
and 8.0 yards per reception in his rookie season.
Hill, CIN – The Bengals handed the early-down running
back duties to Hill in Week 9 and he didn’t disappoint, turning
in a stellar second half of the season that included five rushing
games over the century mark. He’s a capable receiver but with
Giovani Bernard still in the mix, Hill’s upside is capped, making
it hard to envision him being a top-five fantasy RB in 2015.
Murray, DAL – Murray will test the free agent waters
and more than likely won’t be back in Dallas. His landing spot
won’t come with the luxury of the league’s best offensive line,
and history tells us running backs typically regress coming off
a monster workload the previous year. Murray had 450 touches in
C.J. Anderson, DEN – Anderson scored as many fantasy
points as McCoy last season but didn’t really see significant
action until Week 10. Being used as a three-down workhorse, Anderson
proved he could carry the load late in the season, and he should
transition nicely into the Gary Kubiak version of Peyton Manning’s
offense. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman loom as threats to steal
McCoy, BUF – McCoy’s decline in 2014 was staggering.
He went from 280 FPts in 2013 to 177 FPts in 2014, despite the
same number of rushing attempts (314) each season. The lack of
touchdowns and production as a receiver was the key. I can chalk
this up to a fluky season and still like his upside as he apparently
will be moving to Buffalo when the trade can be made official
on March 10th. We all know how much Rex Ryan likes to run the
football and McCoy’s goaline opportunities should increase. Keep
in mind; McCoy is just 26 years old.
Foster, HOU – Foster came into last season with a high
injury risk, and even though he missed three games and a good
portion of the finale against Jacksonville, he outperformed his
RB11 ADP. He averaged 1 TD per game and scored just as many fantasy
points as Le’Veon Bell on a per game basis (standard scoring leagues).
Foster will likely head into the season as Houston’s workhorse,
but the injury risk remains. He’s an ideal RB2 that you will be
hard-pressed to get as an RB2.
Murray, OAK – Speaking of teams with free agent money
to spend, the Raiders have a pile of it, but one place they don’t
spend is on a running back. Murray will should be the starting
running back in Week 1 (this is the Raiders we’re talking about
here), with the only question being who will be his backup.
Mason, STL – The Rams kept Mason under wraps during
the first quarter of 2014 while he learned the fine art of pass
protection, eventually handing over the baton to the rookie mid-season.
He should get the bulk of early- down carries in 2015 and has
adequate enough receiving skills to not embarrass himself in PPR
leagues. Goal-line opportunities and TDs will decide whether he
can crack the top 15.
Hyde, SF – Hyde’s ranking depends a lot on what happens
to free agent Frank Gore. Gore’s best fit is likely with the 49ers,
but there are numerous teams out there with money to spend. If
Gore’s able to find a good fit with a playoff- caliber team (IND?),
then the door will be kicked open for Hyde.
Forsett, BAL – Fantasy football’s waiver wire darling
and No. 8 running back of 2014 is a prime candidate to fade in
2015, but don’t count out the seven-year veteran too quickly,
especially if he stays in Baltimore. He will be 30 years old this
season but certainly hasn’t been a workhorse back, never having
more than 118 carries before last season. If he moves to a team
like Atlanta, then all bets are off, opening the door for one
of the three players listed below to crack the top 15.