Running backs are my favorite players in all of fantasy football. I’m not sure exactly why that is the case, but it is. In 2014 fantasy drafts running backs are going to come off the board very quickly, which means if you haven’t grabbed a number one back early you’re going to be heavily rolling the dice.
Running back depth gets ugly, really quickly. Well maybe not necessarily ugly. It’s just that after the top guys a lot of question marks start to appear.
Personally I’d rather roll the dice on other positions. Believe it or not I have a suggestion that may just blow your mind. It's not an idea that I've come up with on my own, but it's one I'll champion all offseason long.
Fantasy Draft Day Advice
Take a running back with your first pick. There I said it.
Now that that's out of the way we can get down to business. Below I've ranked my top ten running backs for 2014, at least as of now. I've included a section on each of them justifying my ranking and trying to give you an idea of my thought process.
If you've already read my column on running backs to avoid in 2014 you may be surprised to see one of these names on the list.
I'd love to tell you that this top ten will last all season long but you'd know I'm lying through my teeth. There are still plenty of offseason changes to come, which means there are multiple revisions of my rankings coming your way.
1. Jamaal Charles - Kansas City Chiefs
What is there to say. He had a fantastic 2013 and I expect much of the same in 2014. The offensive line losses in Kansas City are certainly a concern but I'll withhold complete judgement until after the draft. Granted I'm a Chiefs fan so I'm hoping for the best. Right now Charles is the top back to have.
2. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson is one incredible player. He continues to put up great numbers year after year and I think 2014 will be another great one. Minnesota adds Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator, whom I personally despise, however he's always gotten great production out of his running backs. AP is already great which means he should only get better. The lack of a QB doesn't worry me, as AP has done it before without a reliable one, however adding someone through the draft certainly can't hurt. Adrian Peterson may leap to the number 1 spot, but for now he'll stay at number 2.
3. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears
Well, well, well. Matt Forte is another guy who shined in 2013. Actually, he produced career highs in rushing yards, receptions and receiving yards. He also finished as the 3rd best fantasy running back. With Trestman in charge the Chicago Bears show no sign of slowing down their fantasy production anytime soon. I'll take Forte and that production any day of the week.
4. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy is going to be an interesting pick come fantasy draft day. Prior to the Eagles acquiring Darren Sproles I had him a bit higher. I think Sproles becomes a nice complement to McCoy however that'll likely mean a decrease in carries and receptions. Last year he posted a league-high in rushing yards and had 11 total scores. Despite Chip Kelly's system I'm not sure he can match the production in 2014.
5. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks are now defending Super Bowl Champions and Marshawn Lynch continues to perform at an incredible level. He's one of the most consistent fantasy running backs you'll find as he's rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 11 TD's in each of the past 3 years. Talk about remarkable. He still runs with power and authority and there's no sign of him slowing down. I'd love to own Lynch in 2014.
6. Eddie Lacy – Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy is the real deal. I'm not worried about a Sophomore slump. In fact I expect an even better year in 2014 from the 2nd year runner. He finished as the 6th back last year despite having only 15 carries combined in his first 3 professional games. You've gotta believe that with Rodgers fully healthy and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on the field it'll open things up even more in the running game.
7. Zac Stacy – St. Louis Rams
Once again I'm not afraid of the one year wonder thinking. I think the Rams love Stacy and his style of running. The team seems committed to giving Sam Bradford one more season to prove his worth. I think Stacy will remain a crucial piece of that offense and is someone to watch. He could slide down these ranks depending on how the offseason continues to fall. He has a tough schedule in 2014.
8. Montee Ball – Denver Broncos
Ball doesn't have the blocking skills that Moreno did -- at least not yet. As the season progressed we saw Ball get more carries and was trusted in many situations. With Moreno moving on I don't see anyone else threatening to take Ball's job in Denver. Hillman has been a disappointment and Moreno and Manning are going to keep getting better chemistry. Plus you can't ignore the fantasy value of anyone on the Broncos. They simply score points.
9. Le’Von Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell showed flashes of his talent in 2013 and he'll continue to get opportunities in 2014. He's a great fit for Todd Haley's offense. I'm not worried about Blount cutting into his carries there. I think they'll complement each other throughout the season as the Steelers try to run the ball tough. Look for him to finish as a top 10 fantasy running back in 2014.
10. Arian Foster – Houston Texans
Arian Foster could be the poster child for a risk-reward guy in 2014. He was a disappointment in 2013 after having to have back surgery and missing a good portion of the season. His backup in Ben Tate is gone, which means he won't be sharing carries with a back quite as dynamic. Whether that is a good or bad thing is still to be seen. If he stays healthy he could be a steal in round 2. Or he could be a huge bust. Although I bashed him in February during my running backs to avoid column, I'm beginning to change my tune. Gotta admire the upside that's there.
Why Running Back Is So Important in 2014
The landscape of first round running backs has changed dramatically from 2013. With the likes of C.J. Spiller, Trent Richardson, Ray Rice and Doug Martin falling out of many experts top ten it creates opportunities later in the draft. However those opportunities are extremely questionable. In fact, after the first 12 running backs or so there are more questions than answers.
You know that running backs are going to go quickly in round one, they always are. That means you don't want to be rolling the dice on two questionable running backs in the later rounds. Unless you do (In which case you're a fool). In that case, I'm sorry your 2014 season is already over.
For the record, I never actually played football. I have no doubt that I would get crushed running across the middle for a pass, every single time.
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