Running backs are the key to winning fantasy football. Without good running backs, your team does not stand a chance. Everybody always puts so much stock in their first running back that they often will neglect the second. This is never a good idea. The second running back is one of the most important positions on a fantasy team. They can be the guy who will consistently give a good number of points or be the guy who has some games where he just goes off, depending on what type of back the owner prefers.
This year there are a lot of good options for a second running back. Typically a second running back will be a running back projected to put up the eleventh to twentieth most fantasy points for that season. The number of quality second running backs has increased in the years past. This is because many NFL teams are using multiple running backs in every game as opposed to having one guy carry the ball thirty times a game.
Not drafting a good second running back can devastate a fantasy season. Good running backs are hard to come by after the draft. If you are unable to trade for a good one after the draft more than likely you will be without one for the entire season. This is because there are only so many backs that get the ball on a regular basis. Save yourself the headache and a good one in the draft.
20. Giovani Bernard
Giovani Bernard emerged in the second half of the 2013 season as the Bengals’ go-to back. He was used in tandem with Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis throughout the course of the season. This looks to be the case going into 2014. At some point Green-Ellis will probably hand over his role to the incoming rookie Jeremy Hill, but regardless Bernard will always be sharing touches. This definitely affects his value in standard scoring leagues. Bernard definitely has the most upside of any of the Bengals’ running backs, but will prove to be a hit or miss type player throughout the season. He is still a very good flex player and a decent second starting running back on any fantasy roster.
19. Rashad Jennings
For being 29 years old, Rashad Jennings still has a ton left in the tank. He has carried the ball less than 350 times throughout his entire career. He exploded last season with the Oakland Raiders following Darren McFadden going down due to injury. This season, Jennings is going to be the main man for the New York Giants. It is expected he will be sharing time with the team’s other two running backs, but if history has told us anything, Tom Coughlin likes to give one running back the bulk of the carries each game. This back is going to be Jennings in 2014. They did not give him a four year, ten million dollar contract to ride the bench.
18. Chris Johnson
Ever since his 2000 yard season, Chris Johnson has been on the hot seat as being a disappointment. This really is not a fair criticism considering he has rushed for over 1000 yards in six straight seasons. If he was still with the Titans he would probably rank much higher on this list, but that is not the case. Nobody knows exactly what Johnson’s role will be with the New York Jets. The real concern is that he will be used in the open field, but will have all the goal line carries stolen from him by Chris Ivory. Johnson should still be able to post a 1000 yard season, but if he cannot find the end zone he could really start to frustrate fantasy owners.
17. Andre Ellington
Andre Ellington showed up big for fantasy owners in his rookie season. He should be in line to have an even better season in 2014 because he will not be competing for carries with anyone. Ellington shows a lot of potential not just as a between the tackles runner, but in the passing game as well. Ellington should come at a decent value in drafts.
16. Le’Veon Bell
Le’Veon Bell spent the first couple games of the 2013 season battling a foot injury. Once he did see the field, he immediately claimed the Steelers’ starting job and did not look back. He should have a pretty good follow up season in 2014. Unfortunately, he has been demanding a very high price tag in drafts thus far. Some people believe he is worthy of a late first round pick. This is probably too high to take Bell. He does not have the proven track record you would want to see out of a guy you are going to spend you highest pick on. If you can get him in the second round that would be much better.
15. C.J. Spiller
Last season C.J. Spiller demanded a top five draft pick to get him on your team. Following that high price tag he only managed to score twice. He was able to post 1200 yards though. That would not have been so bad had he been a third round pick. Now Spiller is not demanding nearly the price he was in last season’s drafts. He could definitely be a steal this season. Remember, he was injured for most of the first half of the 2013 season. Most of his yards came in the latter half of 2013. Fred Jackson is going to be 33 going into this season, and the Bills will have to give Spiller a larger load in order to keep Jakson from getting injured.
14. Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson’s situation is very similar to C.J. Spiller’s. Injuries in 2013 are hurting his draft value in 2014. The only real difference between the two backs is that Jackson will not be competing for carries. When he is in the Falcons’ back field he is the man. The poor play from the offensive line is a bit scary; so if you do take Jackson, make sure you grab his handcuff.
13. Doug Martin
Doug Martin exploded during his rookie year for 1600 yards and then followed it up with a 2013 season that was shortened by injury. However, even before he went down last season he was not playing like the same back we saw in 2012. He was only averaging 3.4 yards per carry by week five. The Buccaneers have done a lot of work on improving their offense during the off-season. It is reasonable to believe Martin will have a much better yards-per-carry average in 2014, but it is hard to see him putting up another 1600 yard season.
12. Alfred Morris
Alfred Morris is not getting a lot of love this offseason. Despite having consecutive years of 1600 and 1200 yards, Morris is still only demanding a third round price tag. This may be because Mike Shanahan is no longer coaching the Redskins. However, even without the running back guru, Morris is still worth more than a third round pick. He is one of the few featured running backs in the NFL. He may not contribute much in the passing game, but the Redskins definitely give him the ball a ton on the ground. It is not out of the question to expect at least another 1200 yard season.
11. Frank Gore
By the end of last season, Frank Gore was definitely a top ten running back. He gets knocked every season because of his age, but he still has not shown any signs of slowing down. Even though the 49ers have a lot of young backs behind him, Gore will still be the featured back in 2014. The 49ers do not like to split carries, which mean once again Gore will have a good season. He is one of the most consistent running backs in fantasy football. Every season’s stat line reads the same 1100 yards and seven or eight touchdowns. That is exactly what you would hope for from your second running back.
Stay tuned. The top ten running backs will be posted Monday.
Please Note: These rankings are for standard scoring leagues. PPR leagues will have separate rankings.