Monday, August 4, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football – RB Rankings

By Legion Report
Twitter handle -@legionreport

1 – LeSean McCoy – The Eagles Offensive Line will not be it’s best until Week 5 when RT Lane Johnson’s suspension is up. From Week 5 on, they’ll have one of the leagues best, if not best, Offensive Lines. Regardless, we expect LeSean McCoy and his 2013 League Leading 314 rushing attempts on his league leading 1607 rush yards to head the pack again in 2014. We don’t expect the acquisition of 31 year old Darren Sproles to hinder McCoy’s production as he only ran the ball 4 times a game in NOLA last year and has nowhere near the same speed. The Eagles 65.4 plays per game last year ranked 12th in the league and Chip Kelly looks to increase the tempo to result in more plays per game. The Eagles play Dallas in Week 15 (Fantasy Playoff Game) who gave up a league worst 23.0 Fantasy points per game to opposing RBs last year!

2- Jamaal Charles – Charles led the lead in receiving targets last season with 104 while also running the ball 259 times! Andy Reid wants to limit his high workload slightly in 2014 as Charles touched the ball 21.9 times per game last year. Knile Davis is a safe and talented backup and will only be in while Charles rests. You can still expect 300 touches from Charles this season in Andy Reid’s Offensive Scheme. You know what you’re getting with Charles.

3 – Matt Forte – Forte ranked 2nd in RB’s (Behind LeSean McCoy) in total touches last year at 363 total all purpose touches. Forte caught 75 passes, which is more receptions than Victor Cruz, Keenan Allen, Wes Welker and Torrey Smith to name a few. Forte will rack up Fantasy Points in Marc Trestman’s powerful offense and will remain a Top 3 PPR Monster. The Chicago Bears look to capitalize off of their 4 PrimeTime Games, a Thanksgiving Game and their favorable strength of schedule in 2014.

4 – Adrian Peterson – Standard stuff here … If you have the ability to draft Peterson, do it. Peterson has notched double-digit TDs in every NFL Season. New Vikings OC – Norv Turner has said that he wants to incorporate Peterson more in the passing game. Whether it’s by land or by air, Peterson will turn out another dominate performance in 2014.

5 – Eddie Lacy – The new buzz around the Fantasy World is that the Packers want to run 75 plays a game this season. The Denver Broncos led the league last year at 72.1 plays per game and we all know the fantasy production out of that team. Lacy totaled a whopping 284 caries last season while catching the ball 35 times on 44 targets, however, they want to substitute him as little as possible in order to keep their fast-paced offense. If Rodgers is able to play an entire season the Packers won’t have to rely nearly as much on Lacy. In fact, Lacy still has plenty of room to grow in terms of YPC and Receptions. Green Bay plays only 4 Teams inside the Top 10 against the run this season (Seattle, Detroit, Carolina, New Orleans) – expect at least 1100+ yard season and 10+ TD’s out of Lacy again this season in Green Bays high powered offense.

6 – Marshawn Lynch – Marshawn Lynch will still be the focal point in the Seattle Seahawks Offense in 2014. The Seahawks will still be sure to implement their future RB Christine Michael in the mix which should reduce Lynch’s load by around 50-60 carries this season. This is not exactly a Running Back By Committee approach in Seattle, rather a lessening the load for the Beast Mode. Lynch ran for 1257/12 on 301 carries last season and should see about 260 carries this season. Due to the fact Beast Mode will still see the bulk of the goal line carries he remains a mid to low end RB1. The 28 year old still has some life, but the Seahawks want to preserve as much as possible for the Playoffs/Super Bowl. Keep in mind Lynch faces a very tough Fantasy Playoff Schedule: @PHI, SF, @ARI.

7 – DeMarco Murray – Murray surprisingly scored the 7th most Fantasy Points in the RB position last season. With the addition of OC Scott Linehan, we love Dallas for Fantasy Value. Linehan managed to get Rams Steven Jackson 90 catches in 2006. Reggie Bush caught 53 balls last year and Joique Bell caught 50+ balls in each season under Linehan. It’s safe to say Linehan will be very creative with Murray this season featuring him a lot in the passing game. This is actually good news for Murray as it will keep him healthy by limiting the running game, the same way they kept injury prone Reggie Bush healthy in Detroit. With the porous Dallas Defense expect many high scoring games and many shootouts as DeMarco Murray will be a major benefactor from this.

8. Montee Ball - The Denver RB is in store for a huge season as he is slotted as the sure-fire starting RB behind a Peyton Manning led offense that ranked 1st in plays per game (72.1) in 2013. Ball should see exposure in both the running and receiving game in 2014. With Knowshon Moreno gone, Ball will get the opportunity many thought he would run with in 2013. We see boom potential here and recommend him as he is complemented by one of the top offenses in the NFL. Keep in mind that Denver takes on 5 teams that ranked inside the Top 8 (9 within the Top 15) against the run last year. Their schedule isn’t nearly as easy as it was in 2013 as it’s one of the toughest in 2014.

9 – Giovani Bernard - Out with the old and in with the new in Cincy! Many people may not recognize that Bernard didn’t start a single game in 2013, but Marvin Lewis and the Gang expect big things as Bernard is expected to be used heavily in the Cinci Offense. Previous OC Jay Gruden allowed Andy Dalton to toss 586 passes last season (The Red Rifle averaged 543 Passing Attempts over the past 3 Seasons). New OC Hue Jackson is dedicated to the ground game and the philosophy will be adapted in 2014. Expect Bernard to be heavily utilized (touching the ball around 300 times) as a dual-threat this season with huge break-out potential. (BTW – Bernard had 56 Receptions in 2013, which was 8th amongst RB’s)

10 – Le’Veon Bell – Guess what … has a FEVER and the only prescription is more Le’Veon Bell!

Whether it’s Cow-Bell or Bell-Cow, the Steelers RB is expected to hit 300 carries in 2014 and his versatility and receiving ability makes him an electric option to roster. In 2013, Bell notched 45 receptions for 399 Yards. Look for Bell to take a step forward in 2014 and don’t be surprised if he finishes the season higher than our current rankings show.

11 – Arian Foster – New Head Coach – Bill O’Brien has expressed that the Houston Texans will ride Foster hard this season, utilizing him as both a rushing and receiving back. If healthy, Foster should exceed +300 touch territory. Foster’s 2013 Season was cut short by injury as he only netted 8 Games, however it is evident that he can still produce as he averaged 4.5 YPC. At age 27, Foster still has the capabilities to produce at an alarming rate and he will most certainly slip through the cracks come fantasy draft day. If drafting Foster, you will want to surround him with other quality RBs as his health is such a continuous question mark. Andre Brown is also a handcuff must. We like Foster and think he will have every opportunity to turn out monster numbers, but his durability is why we have slid him back in our rankings.

12 – Alfred Morris – Current OC Sean McVay has expressed that the Redskins will more than likely stick with the Shanahan employed zone blocking scheme and read option with Griffin as the offense’s foundation. Gruden brings his pass happy principals to Washington which doesn’t bode well for Morris as he only notched 9 receptions last season, adding to the total of 20 receptions in his two year career. To give you an idea, under the Shananhan Boys the Washington Redskins were a team heavily concentrated on the running game as they ranked 3rd in rushing attempts in 2012 and 13th in rushing attempts in 2013. New HC Jay Gruden allowed Andy Dalton to toss is around an astounding 586 times in Cincinnati. We can expect Morris to be solid in 2014, but not a guy that will have sensational games. With the additional weapons in the passing game, it’s evident that Gruden will take more of an aerial attack in Washington in 2014.

13 – Zac Stacy - Coach Jeff Fisher said “over time” Zac Stacy will “probably be that 70-percent of the carries guy.” Stacy will gobble up carries in 2014 and be the focal point of the offense, similar to how Fisher used CJ?K in Tennessee. Rookie Tre Mason will more than likely be used as a change-of-pace back in 2014, if you were wondering. Stacy sits on the fence between RB1/RB2, however we see solid production coming from him this season.

14 – Doug Martin – Tampa Bay is coupled with a very questionable Offensive line along with a brand new OC, Jeff Tedford that has never coached in the NFL before. Tedford has been at coaching at Cal the past 10 seasons, so it’s hard to suggest what his offense will exactly look like . ESPN Bucs reporter says “the Bucs want to use a rotation at the RB position this season,” as both new head coach Lovie Smith and Jeff Tedford are very fond of. “One running back just can’t make it through the season,” says Smith. The new regime in Tampa are not the ones who drafted Doug Martin, but they are the ones who spent a Top 70 pick on receiving back Charles Sims. Lovie Smith remains committed to Doug Martin being big part of their offense, but expect Charles Sims to replace him on passing downs while Rainey and James are also mixed within the Running Back Committee.

15 – Reggie Bush – New Detroit OC Joe Lombardi is preaching a faster tempo-ed offense this season. There’s a ton of weapons in Detroit with the newly acquired Golden Taint and recent emergence of Joique Bell. “It’s exactly the same,” claims ex-Saint, Reggie Bush, as Joe Lombardi brings the exact same Saints Offense to Detroit. Last season PT Cruiser (Pierre Thomas) caught 77 passes, which ranked 1st in the league, while Darren Sproles caught 71 in a limited role, which ranked 4th in the league. Reggie Bush won’t have the rushing attempts, yards or TD’s, but he has huge PPR value.

16 – Toby Gerhart– There are high expectations for Toby Gerhart around the NFL in 2014. With next to no competition behind him, Gerhart should be considered a three-down workhouse and will eat up carries in Jacksonville this season. Multiple sources have confirmed that there is a real shot at Gerhart hitting 300 carries in 2014. Gus Bradley is looking to replicate the team he helped build in Seattle – a conservative passing scheme, ferocious defense and a workhorse in the ground game. “Knowing he was going to have to pass protect, catch the ball out of the backfield and get tough yardage, he was a really good fit for us,” Bradley spoke on RB Toby Gerhart. “Gus comes from the Seattle Seahawks’ model of playing good defense, relying on the run game where Marshawn Lynch was their ‘Beast Mode’ out there. Hopefully, I’ll be the ‘Beast Mode’ down here for the Jaguars,” said Gerhart. Gerhart isn’t part of an explosive offense, but he is one of our favorite RB2 in fantasy football for this season and should be drafted with confidence. Jordan “The Todfather” Todman remains Geharts’s handcuff and should be viewed as a “change of pace” back.

17 – Andre Ellington– HC Bruce Arians has shouted his plans for Ellington from the rooftops. Some of the terms used by Arians were workhouse, feature back, 25-30 touches per game, etc. In 2013, the Cardinals averaged 20.0 PPG in Weeks 1-8 before jumping the offensive assault to 27.3 PPG in Weeks 9-17. The offensive trend is relative to the entire team becoming more comfortable with Arians’ approach and we expect the production to carry into 2014. Expect Ellington to be heavily involved in both the passing attack and running game for the Cardinals this season. 25-30 touches per game is a bit advantageous and we don’t expect him to be there. However, the 275-300 touch mark on the season isn’t completely out of line for Ellington. In PPR Leagues, Ellington will be a stud. In other leagues, we consider him a solid RB2.

18 – Ryan Mathews– “Ryan is as tough as a runner as I’ve been around,” says Chargers OC Frank Reich. “He’s just a physically dominating runner. And he brings a physical presence to the game, which we love. The offensive line senses it, and they love blocking for him because of his physicality.” Mathews is clearly the workhorse back in a heavy run Offensive Scheme, however, the addition of RBs Donald Brown and Marion Grice will reduce Mathews early season workload. Mathews ran the ball over 26 times per game the last 4 games of the season last year which resulted in his poor playoff performance. This season, the Chargers take on 5 teams that rank below 20th in the league against the Run.

19 – C.J. Spiller– Spiller admitted that there’s a big difference in the teams running game with a year of experience under their belt in the new offensive running scheme. With this being said, Bills coaches want Spiller to touch the ball 20 times this season. They said the same last year – they wanted him to run until he got sick. With a deep backfield, we don’t see this being too realistic. There are two things that limited Spiller’s production last season. The first, E.J. Manuel. Manuel struggled mightily last season in every aspect of being an NFL QB. This resulted in the Bills running the ball, a league high 546 times while defenses continued to pack it in. Secondly, Spiller was playing hurt a majority of the season while the Bills continued to throw him in between tackles. That’s not Spiller’s game. He succeeds off of screens, pitches, etc. The Bills need to establish the passing game for a now healthy Spiller to create space in order for him to be more effective.

20 – Shane Vereen

– We absolutely loved Shane Vereen last season as we pegged him as our Biggest 2013 Fantasy Football Sleeper. We felt good after his dominate Week 1 performance before going down to injury. In 10 games last season he still managed 761 Total yards with 7 Touchdowns. With Aaron Dobson

slated to start camp on the PUP list alongside Gronkowski, expect Vereen to line up as RB, Slot-WR and Outside-WR. That being said, Vareen will see touches one way or the other. Look for him to be an X-Factor for the New England Offense. Be prepared for a breakout season!

21 – Joique Bell– Read what we have about Reggie Bush. To add to that, Joique Bell will see the biggest jump in production with new OC Joe Lombardi. Lombardi is known as a RBBC type OC and he has the guys to do it. Joique has caught 50+ ball the past two seasons and is a lock again in 2014. Bell will also see more rushing and goal line attempts this season, which gives him huge Fantasy potential in this Lions Offense!

22 – Stevan Ridley– Ridley enters into a contract year as he’s in the final year of his rookie deal. Ridley is in a top offense, where he will score if he’s in the game. He’ll be in the game if he isn’t fumbling. Shane Vereen
doesn’t pose as too big of a risk to Ridley as Vereen will most likely be featured in the passing game, perhaps filling in the Aaron Hernandez Move TE position. The Pats have yet to start contract talks with Ridley – word is if he plays well he could be in line for a big contract. Ridley says he’s trying to put his fumbling problems behind him. A lighter and faster Stevan Ridley could be in line for a very productive season behind one of the best Offensive Lines in the NFL.

23 – Bishop Sankey– The Tennessee Titans made it clear this offseason that they want to incorporate a Running Back By Committee approach this season. Rookie Titan RB, Bishop Sankey, will likely lead the team in production and carries but Shonn Greene will be the goal line and power back, while new addition Dexter McCluster will be featured in a Danny Woodhead type role. The Titans still have a very talented Offensive Line which definitely helps these backs, however, Greene receiving the majority of Goal Line carries doesn’t bode well for the Rookie RB in the Committee approach.

24 – Ben Tate–’s Vic Carucci considers Ben Tate “at least a slight favorite” at RB, but expects third-round pick Terrance West to pose serious competition. Ben Tate was recently quoted saying, “I’m not worried about that because I know when I’m on my game, there’s no one that can really touch me or that’s close to what I do.” Tate has had a colorful injury history that make many hesitant including us. Cleveland will employ a heavy rushing attack in 2014 and Terrance West will pose as a serious threat to Tate. If you decide to draft Tate, surround yourself with the handcuff and additional backs to support this pick. Regardless, Cleveland will be implementing a heavy rushing attack. The Browns play 8 teams that ranked in the bottom half against the run in 2013.

25 – Terrance West– West v. Tate is one of the biggest battles this summer. If you haven’t heard, West is a physical freak than weighs in at 225 and runs a 4.54 forty time. He’s often reminded Shanahan of a runner similar to Alfred Morris, a player who succeeded immensely under Shany’s Offense in Washington. Like we said on Tate, he’s got a colorful injury history, but with the Browns implementing a heavy run attack they’ll both get their share of carries. Keep an eye on this situation and continue to check back when Fantasy Drafts approach. The Browns play 8 teams that ranked in the bottom half against Fantasy Running Backs in 2013.

26 – Trent Richardson– Richardson will be given a short leash in INDI this season. Both fantasy owners and the Colts organization are grabbing anything they can to point the blame at Richardson’s awful 2013 performance. Ironically, Indi has shifted media attention from Richardson lacking instinct to him not being completely comfortable or understanding the offense after being traded. Pagano said he wants a “bellcow” back this year in Indi as Richardson looks to reclaim his 3rd overall pick value. Indi has casted early support on Richardson and he will get every opportunity to produce. Consider Richardson a RB3 in 2014.

27 – Rashad Jennings– Jennings at the age of 29 will be the New York Giants “workhorse” in 2014. Jennings doesn’t have any tread on his tires as he’s only carried the ball 388 times in his NFL career. What we love most about Jennings is that he plays in the NFC East, so he’ll be playing the Cowboys and Redskins twice. Last season the Dallas Cowboys gave up an average of 23.0 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (Ranked last in the NFL against Fantasy RBs.) The Washington Redskins gave up an average of 20.1 Fantasy points per game to opposing RBs (Ranked 4th to last in the NFL against Fantasy RBs.) Their schedule outside of this is fairly tough, so expect some inconsistency out of Jennings this season, although his ability to catch the ball will help temper this as well as their very bad Offensive Line. With this being said the NYG’s are looking to implement a 3-Man RB rotation in order to keep Jennings fresh for the entire season. This will most likely be a rotation with recently cleared David Wilson and 0% agile goal line rookie runner Andre Williams

28 – Frank Gore– Each year fantasy owners question Frank Gore’s age and ability and each year he churns out another solid season. At age 31, Gore not only has age and an extensive amount of carries to his name, but he also has a number of youthful RB’s waiting in the wings. The 49ers round out their rushing attack with Gore, Carlos Hyde, Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore. Numerous reports have surfaced that Gore will receive 50+ fewer carries in 2014. We feel that Gore is still serviceable, but when plugging him in expect a lower ceiling player to go against opponents. We consider Gore a low-end RB2 in 2014.

29 – Chris Johnson– Rex Ryan said Chris “CJ?K” Johnson was “flying” in the mandatory conditioning running. CJ?K was recently cleared after surgery on his 2013 torn meniscus injury. He’s in line to share a workload with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell  and remains a low end RB2. Remember when Chris Johnson GUARANTEED to rush for 2,500 yards and win MVP, Geno Smith has GUARANTEED the Playoffs to New York in 2014 and Rex Ryan GUARANTEES everything. In other news, ESPN New York expects a timeshare/backfield by committee approach between CJ?K and Powell/Ivory this season. Johnson will see much less volume than he did in Tennessee and shouldn’t be viewed as the option he was in years past.

30 – Pierre Thomas– Pierre Thomas has never had more than 150 Rushing Attempts in a Season, he has only once accumulated over 700 Rushing Yards and will not light up the scoreboard with TD’s for fantasy owners. With Darren Sproles out of town, there will be a level of consistency associated with his 77 Receptions from last season. Thomas’ numbers are balanced between rushing and receiving yards, but he is a much better option in PPR Leagues due to the uptempo NOLA Offense and the receptions that he grabs as benefactor to that aerial assault.

31 – Jeremy Hill– Hill is a guy that can continue to rise within the ranks while training camp lingers. Hill is slotted to take over the Law Firm’s position as the teams primary goal line back, who carried the ball 220 times last year. New OC Hue Jackson wants to “take the load” off the passing game this season, which will help open up the “deep ball” in A.J. Green and the Bengals. Remember what Raiders Michael Bush did in 2011 under Hue Jackson when DMC went down? He totaled 5 games over 100 total yards with DMC’s absence – with Gio’s and Hills playmaking ability, they’ll both flourish in the 2014 Fantasy Season.

32 – Lamar Miller– There’s a lot of “things” that can happen in Miami that can end up changing Lamar Miller’s rank, ala Knowshon Moreno. The Dolphins brought in former Philly Eagles OC Bill Lazor who had the 4th most rushing attempts in the NFL last year (the Dolphins ranked 29th in rushing attempts.) Lazor plans to open the field a lot more this year (a good thing for Mike Wallace) and play at a faster pace, all good things for Lamar Miller owners. The Miami Dolphins have improved their Offensive line since the drama that occurred last season, which will limit the amount of Pass Protection from Miami RB’s. Last season Lamar Miller stayed in to pass protect 127 times (5th most in the NFL) and Daniel Thomas 91 (19th most). A healthy and in shape Knowshon Moreno will definitely pose a threat to Lamar Miller’s Fantasy Production, keep posted to @LegionReport as I’m sure things will change closer to drafts.

33 – Bernard Pierce– Recently cleared for a full go, Pierce looks to rebound off a rough 2013 season. With Ray Ricesuspended the first two games, Pierce is the heavy favorite to start those games. In Week 1 Baltimore hosts the Bengals who only gave up a 3rd best 11.8 points to Fantasy Running Backs last season. In Week 2 the Ravens host the Steelers on a Thursday Night Game (short rest) who gave up the 20th most points to RBs last year at 17.1 Fantasy Points Per Game. Under new OC, Gary Kubiak, Pierce is aiming for a comeback/career season. Kubiak has a long list of RBs he’s molded into studs and at 24 years old the talented Pierce fits that mold. We’re taking a shot on the now fully healthy RB in his bounce-back campaign.

34 – Ray Rice– Rice escapes with a 2 game suspension this year as he comes off a dismal 2013 season where he netted only 660 Rushing Yards and 4 TDs. In 2013, Rice tallied 58 Receptions for 321 Receiving Yards and 0 TDs. He is a much more valuable PPR asset than that in Standard Scoring Leagues. Consider Rice a RB3 in 2014.

35 – Maurice Jones-Drew– Jones-Drew just turned 29 this year after partaking in a career worst 3.41 YPC in Jacksonville. The Raider backfield is more crowded than it is talented. With a decent Offensive Line we’re expecting more of a committee approach between the RBs. This Oakland backfield is comprised of: Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Canadian Football League addition Kory Sheets, Latavius Murra& Atkinson III! Keep an eye on Latavius Murray who we target as a dark horse back that could potentially take over this role for the Raiders.

36 – Steven Jackson– Since 2010, Jackson has seen a reduction each season in both Rushing Attempts, Rushing Yard, Receptions and Receiving Yards. It paints the most evident picture of dwindling production and should continue onto 2014. ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure expressed that Steven Jackson “might have a battle on his hands” if Devonta Freeman looks as good in pads as he did in shorts. Take all of this into major consideration and if you are interested in winning games in 2014, do not slot Jackson into your weekly lineups.

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