The running back position has undergone a complete 180 in the past few seasons. RBs are no longer the kings of Fantasy Football as the WRs have finally taken over the throne. The most alarming statistic from last season is that there were only seven RBs that ran for over 1,000 yards (Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Todd Gurley, Devonta Freeman, Darren McFadden, Chris Ivory, and Latavius Murray). The average since 2000 was about 16-17 1,000 yard rushers, with a high of 23 in 2004.
By comparison, there were 26 1,000 yard receivers last season (22 WRs and 4 TEs). The Top 7 WRs all had over 1,400 yards. There were also four WRs that had over 1,500 yards. Not one RB had 1,500 yards rushing. Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin ran for over 1,400 yards. The other five 1,000 yard rushers all had less than 1,106 yards. The WRs also had more TDs, with 10 WRs scoring double digit TDs (3 TEs also had double digit TDs). There were only five RBs with double digit TDs.
So, what do these stats mean in regards to drafting your Fantasy RBs this season? It means the majority of the Top 20 players are WRs, so many teams will be looking for starting RBs in rounds 3-5. My Top 10 players consist of seven WRs, and only three RBs (Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, and Ezekiel Elliott). There are only two other RBs, Devonta Freeman and Doug Martin (my No. 4 and No. 5 RBs), that I really like as second round picks. I feel that the other 1-2 round RBs; David Johnson, LeVeon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Lamar Miller, and Eddie Lacy are all high risk/high reward players.
For example, David Johnson could very well be the No. 1 Fantasy RB this season, but he could just as easily wind up in a RBBC with Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, which would make him a huge first round bust. I don’t advocate not drafting these guys, I just prefer safer options with my first two picks.
A few of the RBs I really like in rounds 3-5, based on their ADP are LeSean McCoy (ADP 26), Matt Forte (ADP 36), and Latavius Murray (ADP 41). I was really loving McCoy, but injuries to his best two offensive linemen, Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito, have lowered his value a bit. I love Forte this season too, but he’s currently dealing with a hamstring injury. That leaves Latavius Murray as my favorite Must Draft Running Back this season.
Must Draft Running Back
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (ADP 41)
I don’t understand how Murray can be the No. 17 consensus RB right now. He finished last season as the No. 10 Fantasy RB last season. He was one of the seven RBs to rush for 1,000 yards. He received the third most carries in the league behind Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. He’s entering only his second season as a featured back, and he has as low of an injury risk as any starting RB.
Murray has his limitations. He’s an average receiver, catching 41 passes for 232 yards last year. His 4.0 YPC and six TDs last season were underwhelming, but I believe he will improve on those numbers. In 2014, Murray averaged 5.2 YPC, including a Raider record 90 yard TD run. He does have great speed for a 230 pound RB (he ran a 4.38 40 yard dash coming out of college). With the Raider offense continuing to improve, he should see more TD opportunities as well.
Murray benefited from a lack of competition in the backfield last season. Despite Murray having the third most carries in the league, the Raiders attempted the third fewest running plays in the league. The Raiders drafted rookie RB DeAndre Washington to be a change of pace back. Washington is very small, but also very quick. He has a Danny Woodhead/Darren Sproles type skill set. While Washington will definitely get some touches, especially through the air, I still think Murray will see 300 total touches again.
The Raiders made a big statement by signing the best free agent Guard on the market in Kelechi Osemele. Osemele is an absolute mauler, and he’ll replace the Raider’s worst offensive lineman, JaMarcus Webb. That’s a significant upgrade, and it gives the Raiders one of the three best offensive lines in football, along with the Cowboys and Steelers. The Raiders will run the ball more this season. Murray is a runner who is highly dependent on his blocking as well. He’s not a shifty back who can make people miss in the backfield. Once he gets his big body moving downhill, he’s a tank to bring down.
One issue with Murray is the two games he has to play against the Broncos great defense. He had only 66 yards in their two meetings last year, but 1,001 yards in his other 14 games. Luckily, the Raiders get to play the Broncos in Week 17, so you only have to worry about that match-up once. The rest of the Raiders schedule this season looks pretty soft.
- LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (ADP 26)
- Matt Forte, New York Jets (ADP 36)
- Ryan Mathews Philadelphia Eagles (ADP 55)
- Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP 78)
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