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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fantasy Football 2014 - The Geek's Top 20 RB Rankings



As the offseason rolls along I'm continuing our in depth look at all of the positional rankings ahead of the 2014 Fantasy Football Draft. Last week we covered the top 20 WR Rankings for 2014. We noted the solid depth available at the WR position. As we look at the RB Rankings, depth here is most definitely lacking. The tendency in today's NFL to move towards RBBC (Running Back By Committee) has left a gaping hole at the RB position in 2014. The old adage about building a Fantasy Team around the Running Back's definitely rings true this season as you will note in our rankings.

2014 Fantasy Football Top 20 RB Rankings:

Elite Tier - High End RB1 Level Players to Anchor a Team Around

1 Jamaal Charles KC
2 LeSean McCoy PHI
3 Adrian Peterson MIN
4 Matt Forte CHI
5 Marshawn Lynch SEA
6 Eddie Lacy GB

Jamal Charles remains the class of the league in 2014. He accounted for over 30% of the Chief's total offense in 2013 and I expect that trend to continue in 2014. Charles barely edges out Shady McCoy who puts up similar numbers in Chip Kelly's explosive offense. Rounding out the Elite tier are AP, Forte, Lynch and Promising 2nd year player Lacy. I bunched these guys together because there is a significant drop off after the top 6 players. For Fantasy Draft purposes the 6 RB's in the Elite Tier should be drafted ahead of any other position mainly due to the rapid drop off in the next few groupings.



Excellent Tier RB1/RB2 - Solid Players That Should Get the bulk of carries for their Teams

7 Le'Veon Bell PIT - Bell is the right player on the right team at the right time. A solid 3 down back on a team that likes to hand off the football at the goal line.

8 DeMarco Murray DAL  -Murray is a talented player that in 2013 recieved the lionshare of carries for the explosive Dallas Offense. He showed he can stay healthy for a full season which going in to 2013 was the biggest concern.

9 Alfred Morris WAS - In 2013 Morris was a top five RB in terms of total yardage but he had a difficult time getting in to the endzone for a number of reasons. The coaching change in Washington leaves some room here for doubt and the emergence of Helu as a 3rd down back is a concern but that's why Morris is not in the top tier. He makes for a high end RB2.

10 Montee Ball DEN - Ball has the potential to explode in Denver's high scoring attack. Opposing defenses often "dare" Peyton to hand it off leaving gaping holes for whatever RB Denver trots out. Ball is a risk because his position as the starter and primary ball carrier is not cemented just yet. Fumbling and blitz pickup issues hurt Ball in his rookie season and have the potential to do the same in 2014.

11 Giovani Bernard CIN - Just watching the tape of Bernard in 2013 proves what a special player he is. The only question is if the Bengals will give him the 20+ touches they should be. Bernard could easily finish in the top 5 at his position if they do.

12 Ryan Mathews SD - I'm not a big fan of Matthews but I must admit that he broke out in 2013. Mathews gets plenty of touches particularly around the goal line for San Diego. He is a solid RB2.

Good Tier - These Players have some Question marks but still make for startable players - RB2

13 Zac Stacy STL - Stacy almost made it into the excellent tier. Then I remembered he will have to face Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona twice. Those are three of the best defenses in the league and they represent over 1/3 of the Rams schedule. All NFC West players get a downgrade due to the defenses in that division.

14 Doug Martin TB - Which Doug Martin will show up in 2014? Will it be the guy from his rookie year that tool the league by storm or the guy from 2013 that wasn't playing all that well before he was lost for the season in week 7? I have no idea. Last season Martin was a top 3 draft pick. In 2014 he should be available somewhere late in the second round.

15 Arian Foster HOU - Foster, Like Martin, burned a lot of teams that took him at the top of the 2013 draft. There are two major concerns with Foster. First is his health. Back injuries are notoriously debilitating. His ability to last through the rigors of an NFL season are in question. In addition at the moment the Texans are a team in flux. Foster is a player to target in the 3rd to 4th rounds in 2014 and makes for a low end RB2.

Acceptable Starter/Flex Tier 

16  C.J. Spiller BUF - Spiller is the highest upside play of anyone in this season's RB class. If Buffalo gives him the touches he has Shady/Charles type talent and potential. Last season he barely qualified as a startable flex player possibly due to an ankle injury. With Jackson another year older will this be the season when the Buffalo coaching staff finally figures out how to utilize their most talented player? We shall see.

17 Ben Tate CLE - There really isn't anyone on the Browns that will challenge Tate for touches at the moment. The Browns also happen to have some talent at WR and TE that will force opposing defenses to account. Tate is a high upside RB2 in 2014.

18 Rashad Jennings NYG - This is another high upside play. If Jennings emerges as the primary running back for the Giants he will make for a solid and consistent RB2. He has had some injury issues in his career and David Wilson is supposedly on track to be ready for training camp so Jennings is far from a sure fire player.

19 Andre Ellington ARI - Ellington is another talented player without much competition in Arizona. Still he is in the NFC West and therefore gets a bump down to low end RB2 with PPR upside.

20  Shane Vereen NE - Vereen is another of my high upside plays. His role in the New England Offense is well defined and there is room for him to grow as far as total touches go. Vereen gets an additional bump in PPR leagues and makes for a low end RB2 or a solid Flex.


The key takeaway from these rankings is to note how rapidly the talent pool drops off at the RB position for 2014. For Fantasy Draft purposes the strategy in 2014 should be to focus on acquiring top flight talent at RB BEFORE focusing on deeper positions like WR and QB.

What did you think of my rankings? Would you switch the order? Did I miss a player you think belongs in the top 20? Drop a comment and let me know what you think!