The running back position is normally the most volatile position in Fantasy Football, and the 2014 running back rankings certainly support that.
Outside of a few players in the top 20, there weren’t a ton of waiver wire gems to be had. Most running backs who finished within the top 20 were on most Fantasy Football players’ rosters to start the season, so hopefully you had a deep bench if your original starters were weak.
With a fresh flood of rookie talent and a handful of ageing backs, however, I expect the waiver wire to house a much larger market for running backs at the start of the 2015 NFL season.
The Top 5 Running Backs of 2014
DeMarco Murray finally proved what he could do when healthy, and Murray finished atop the 2014 Running Back Rankings with 2,261 total yards. While he was some-what overshadowed, Le’Veon Bell (2nd) actually had the most receiving yards (854) of any running back this past season, and he was only 10 points behind Murray in standard scoring leagues.
From rumors of retirement, to holding out for a better contract and also being accused of assault (the accuser was later charged with making false statements), Marshawn Lynch did not look like a promising Fantasy Football prospect for 2014. Lynch proved all his detractors wrong in Week 1, however, with 110 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, and he finished the year as the third-highest scoring back. Matt Forte (4th) was once again a staple of Fantasy success, and if he didn’t rack up points on the ground, he got it done in the receiving game.
While Arian Foster (5th) missed a few games because of injuries, he still averaged 19 points per game in standard scoring leagues. He was a risky selection heading into the season, but Fantasy players who took a chance on him were nicely rewarded.
Disappointing Early Starts for Running Back Stars & Increased Opportunities for Others
Most players spent an early pick in Round 1 on Eddie Lacy (6th) and Jamaal Charles (7th), so when Lacy only scored 10 points in the first three games and Charles only had two of his own, Fantasy owners were obviously panicked. Hopefully they didn’t sell too low, as Lacy averaged 15.92 points for the rest of the season and Charles averaged 15.
It was chaos at the start of the Baltimore Ravens’ season in terms of who would carry the ball, but Justin Forsett (8th) quickly took over, and finished with the best year of his career. Lamar Miller (9th) found success with a new offensive coordinator, and went from averaging 44.3 rushing yards per game in 2013, to 68.7 in 2014.
The old Fantasy Football equation of opportunity+skill=Fantasy success, was proven true with Jeremy Hill (tied with Miller for 9th), and C.J. Anderson (11th). Each player did the most with the opportunities that were presented to them, and if you saw Anderson in the Broncos’ playoff game, you understand why he is the definition of pure effort.
Running Backs Who Disappointed in 2014
Alfred Morris (12th) is outstanding as a pure rusher, but the NFL has quickly turned into a pass-catching back league. Roy Helu was heavily used in the receiving game for Washington, and benefited with 477 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
From a weak line to the addition of Darren Sproles, LeSean McCoy (13th) was a disappointment as a first-round pick in Fantasy drafts. I think he will be an incredible value in 2015, however, and you can read my article about McCoy here to find out why. Joique Bell (14th) averaged 14.86 rushing attempts per game, but was unable to find consistent success for his owners.
The Rest of the Highest Scoring-Running Backs from 2014
Mark Ingram (tied with Joique bell for 14th) started off the season red hot, but missed Week 3- Week 5 with a hand injury. It looks like the rumor mill thinks Ingram could end up with the Cowboys, which would be a very interesting proposition. Matt Asiata (16th) put together two crazy games with three touchdowns, but don’t expect Asiata to crack the top 20 in 2015.
The entire San Francisco 49er’s offense shut down, and Frank Gore (17th) was frustrated with his usage. Giovani Bernard (18th) was a favorite of many analysts to be a potential top-five candidate, but injuries slowed him down, and Hill took advantage of a starting role. While Chris Ivory (19th) has his moments, he normally finds himself in committees approaches. Andre Ellington (20th) was effective when he touched the ball, but he played through several injuries throughout the year and missed four games.
2015 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
I think the 2015 running back draft class will produce a few top-20 options, so make sure to check out my article “6 RBs to Watch in the 2015 NFL Combine.” I need to know who is drafted where to add the rookie backs to my list, however, so these rankings only include non-rookies.
- Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Analysis: Even with a potential two-game suspension, Bell is still the most likely to achieve the status of highest-scoring running back in 2015.
- LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
- Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
- Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
Analysis: I’m still bullish on Ellington, and I think he could be a top-10 producer who can be drafted in the late second, to early-third round.
- Adrian Peterson, Uncertain
Analysis: This is probably the first time since his rookie year that you can own Peterson after Round 1.
- Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
- DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys/Potential Free Agent
- Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
- C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
- Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
- Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks/ Potential Free Agent
- Arian Foster, Houston Texans
- Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Analysis: With the potential departure of Roy Helu, I would raise Morris’ value. His lack of pass-catching abilities still worries me, however.
- Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams
- Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
- Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
- Chris Ivory, New York Jets
- Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
- Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
- Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
Analysis: It is highly doubtful that the 31-year old Gore will be back with San Francisco, and Hyde could finish much higher than the bottom end of the top 20. Make sure not to pay too high a price for him, but keep Hyde on your radar.
Keep your head and heart going in the right direction and you wont have to worry about your feet.
— Carlos Hyde (@elguapo) February 7, 2015
- Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens/ Potential Free Agent
- Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers/ Potential Free Agent
Analysis: Gore has been linked to the Washington Redskins, which would do more to hurt the value of Morris than raise the value of Gore.
- Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
- Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings
- Rashad Jennings, New York Giants
- Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers/Potential Free Agent
- Charles Sims, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Analysis: I was big on Sims before the start of last season, and I think he will have a better chance to prove his abilities in 2015. If you can get a discount, owning Doug Martin and Sims could pay off big time.
- C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills/Potential Free Agent
- Shane Vereen, New England Patriots/ Potential Free Agent
From the 2015 NFL Draft to the 2015 NFL Combine, Fantasy Football owners have a lot of homework to do.
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