Here is my list for the top 30 fantasy backs, I will be posting the deep sleepers later but this should be more than enough to get your draft boards set.
1. Ray Rice – as I posted before I think Ray Rice may be the most guaranteed pick out there. He gets near 300 carries every season and enough receptions to be your 2nd WR, the Ravens offense goes through him and I don’t see anything changing, especially with no serious competition.
2. Arian Foster – has now shown that he is no one year wonder. He is on a big time offense and will not spend a lot of time splitting carries. To add to his value, he gets plenty of looks in the passing game too. Most people have Arian Foster ranked number one and I have no qualms with that.
3. LeSean Mccoy – Another dual threat back that gets all of the carries, McCoy has shown up big two years in a row, and has averaged about 5 yards a carry over those two years. Add in the reception totals and his 20 total TDs last year and I think you have the #3 rated fantasy RB
4. Maurice Jones-Drew – Would be ranked higher if there was a top-tier QB on the Jaguars. I think he will again see a shortage of TDs but is a sure thing as another back who gets all the touches. Luckily, the Jaguars did bring in some talented WRs so he should see an uptick from the 8 TDs he had last year.
5. Adrian Peterson – I have no idea why his stock has dropped as far as it did. Sure, he blew out his knee last year, but he looks ready to start week 1 and he has been in the top 2-3 picks every year since his rookie campaign. With a questionable passing game in Minnesota, they are going to look to Peterson to carry the load once again, and Lets face it there is not a ton of run defense in the NFC North.
6. Matt Forte – Bringin in Michael Bush is scary for me considering Michael Bush has the ability to start for most teams in the league, but now that Forte has been signed, I am more comfortable placing Forte higher. Bringing in Bush was likely an insurance policy combined with negotiating tactic, but I would make sure to spend an extra sleeper pick on a RB if you plan on drafting Forte just for the fact that they may want go committe on us and ruin the stock of both backs.
7. Ryan Mathews – had 1546 total yards yards last year, and that was with Mike Tolbert getting enough of the carries to be a nuisance for Mathews owners, but this year he is gone. Mathews has shown he has the chops to be a #1 RB and he has everything pointing the right way this year, I expect a full breakout.
8. Darren McFadden – While I love McFadden and think he incredibly talented, he has some serious durability issues. Michael Bush, who has shown to be worthy of a starting role, is gone, so there should be no concerns of competition to McFadden this year, but as I just said he has yet to have played a full season yet, but he plays just enough of them (13, 12, 13, 7) to warrant my #8 ranking
9. Chris Johnson – Like Adrian Peterson, people have undervalued Chris Johnson. Sure he had a lackluster year last year, but that was during a long holdout year, where he obviously showed up out of football shape. Johnson hears what people are saying about him, and knows he has something to prove. Coming from a guy who re-ran his 40 at the combine, because someone ran .02 faster than him (McFadden) to post the (tied for) best time ever, I believe he will do just that.
10. Steven Jackson – Looking to put up his 8th consecutive 1,000 yard season, he is another back who they rely on heavily to shoulder the load. With Jeff Fisher coming in to coach the Rams and his propensity for running the ball you have to believe Jackson will have another good year. The only reservations I have are grounded in the fact that he has some injury concerns and a lot of wear on his tires.
11. DeMarco Murray – Would place much higher on this list if he was a proven sure thing. I said last year after watching his game tape that he could be top 5 worthy but he has to show that he can do it on a constant basis for me to buy in to Murray as a top 10 back
12. Frank Gore – Has been a workhorse for the 49ers and will continue to do so. They like to run the ball in San Francisco, and Frank Gore will get all of the workload. With the defense holding teams down they will not need to pass a ton, which will ensure great deal of touches for Gore. The downside is he has only ever played 2 full seasons and he is 29 years old. Should be a decent back this year but I would hedge your bet, just in case.
13. Jamaal Charles – His stock drops below his talent level, only because the Chiefs brought in Peyton Hillis and I am afraid he will vulture a good deal of TDs considering he could almost literally fall over for 3 yards and it would be wise to use him as the guys to pound in the goal-line runs. Averaging around 6 yards a carry, though, Charles is not goignt o be replaced anytime soon and his knee injury was early enough that he shouldn’t be limited by it at all.
14. Michael Turner – Posting double digit TDs is a thing of the norm for Turner, he is a fairly reliable fantasy back who carries the large majority of the workload in Atlanta, and while I keep hearing about how his workload is going to decrease, especially with the emergence of Jaquizz Rodgers, they said similar things about Turner the year before. Keep in mind he is 30 but Jaquizz only registered a paltry 3.6 yards a carry. Until Turner proves he can’t do it I don’t see anybody taking too many touches away from him.
15. Trent Richardson – Normally I don’t just jump on the rookie bandwagon, and I am not completely on board Richardson’s, however, he is really Cleveland’s only option in the backfield and drafting hiim number 3 overall tells you what they think of him. He will most likely see 25 touches a game and the Browns have a decent offensive line so his production should be good enough to place him as a starter every week.
16. Marshawn Lynch -Hhe was a solid option when he was with Buffalo, then had a couple of bad seasons. Last year he emerged as a surprise in Seattle, and people are riding high on him . Lynch should see the bulk of the workload and I don’t see another back that will really threaten his carries, but be warned I am not expecting the same kind of year that he had last year.
17. Mikel Leshoure – Some people may think I am crazy for putting Leshoure at #15 for many reasons but I think he is in for a big year. The Lions have had trouble running the ball since Barry Sanders was still there, but the they upgraded the offensive line, and want to run the ball. The defenses are going to dare the Lions to run the ball, and Leshoure is talented enough to take advantage. Other fantasy rankings have Best higher, but I would bet that Leshoure gets 15 to 20 touches a game, especially considering the durability issues Best and Smith have, Leshoure’s achilles tear was a freak accident and I expect him to see all 16 games.
18. Doug Martin – Another controversial placement here, I feel like Tampa Bay drafted him for a reason, and that reason is LaGarrette Blount’s fumblitis. There will be some competition in Tampa at the RB spot but I think Martin will ultimately win out and don’t see much of a timeshare from there. Blount will likely only be an insurance policy by the end of the season.
19. Darren Sproles – Showing that he was better than Reggie Bush at his old job will cement his role in the Saints offense. Having more value in PPR leagues he should still see plenty of yardage, special teams yards, and TDs to be valuable in just about any format. It helps that he is quick and agile enough to make yards where there aren’t any you could do far worse than using Sproles as your #2 back.
20. Beanie Wells – Sits this low only because of his injury history. I don’t completely trust his knee but his upside is tremendous with 10 TDs last year over 14 games, I would draft the other backs before him but he may be worth your #1 RB spot by the end of the season, of course he could also miss enough games to make you regret drafting him.
21. C.J. Spiller – Another bold prediction here but I think that the time-share with Fred Jackson will lean to Spiller by the end of the season. After showing what he could do when Jackson went down for the last 6 games last season and the fact that Jackson is now 31, I think the Bills will be ready to showcase Spiller this season and slowly usher Jackson out the door.
22. Fred Jackson – for all of the reasons I listed above, I have to bring down the stock of fred Jackson, however, he may see more of the carries than I give him credit for. He is extremely talented and does not have a lot of wear on his tires, so he is probably worth a flyer if he falls in the draft and he is definitely worthy of a handcuff for Spiller (or Vice-Versa)
23. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – He went to the Bengals, which actually elevated his stock a bit for me. In New England he did a good job of getting enough TDs to stay on the right side of the fantasy fence, but I was ready to bail on him for this year. That was until he was brought in to replace Cedric Benson in Cincinnati, all of a sudden he is worthy of a #2 RB spot considering Bernard Scott’s 3.4 yards a carry is probably why they brought the law firm in, in the first place.
24. Mark Ingram – I have not been overly impressed with Ingram so far, but he should see the majority of the hand-offs in New Orleans and he has averaged about 4 yards a carry, which makes him productive enough to be worthy of a top 25 selection, but I would not put too much stock in him, especially with hte presence of Darren Sproles.
25. Shonn Greene – I am obviously not high on Greene, considering he didn’t have a ton of fantasy value as the main guy for the Jets last year and I think he will have even less now that they’ve brought in Tim Tebow. Of course it may make his stock go up if they do nas little passing as the Broncos did but I would not waste a pick Higher than round 4 or 5 on Greene
26. Ahmad Bradshaw – The drafting of David Wilson combined with the durability issue sthat are starting to plage Bradshaw has made his stock drop quite a bit for me. I think as the season goes on Wilson will see more and more carries, maybe not enough to reduce Bradshaw’s value completely but I would certainly be cautious about drafting Bradshaw without plenty of other options.
27. Reggie Bush – After averaging 5.0 yards a carry last year he showed that maybe he does have what it takes to be a legit NFL RB. I am still under the philosophy that you have to show me more than once, but he doesn’t appear to have a lot of competition in the Dolphins backfield, and he is versatile enough that I think he will have plenty of value no matter how they use him.
28. Willis McGahee – I am not super high on McGahee but he is the primary back in denver and he had a pretty good year last year. The fact that he has eclipsed 30 years of age has me a little worried but he hasn’t seen too much action over his career. Draft him with a backup plan but there is plenty of upside here, especially if Peyton Manning can get the passing game on track.
29. David Wilson – MAybe I have him ranked too high here, but I think he will see a good amount of carries as the season goes on. Not only is Bradshaw and injury risk but the Giants are big on using multiple backs. It helps that Wilson is a talented young player and that there are a lot of scarier timeshare options out there. I would also strongly recommend him here if you are in a keeper or dynasty league, as I think this may be the last year you here much of anything about Ahmad Bradshaw.
30. Donald Brown – While I am not real excited about Brown he is probably the Colts best back right now and did manage to get 4.8 yards a carry last year. If Andrew Luck can come in and play well, then Brown may have a good shot at being a good fantasy back but I hold some reservations that none of the Colts backs seem to be elite status and I think they are all fairly interchangeable, which doesn’t speak well to Browns value if he does not perform well early.