Top 50 Fantasy Running back Rankings:
*Note these are non-PPR or Dynasty rankings
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings:
-As if there was any doubt here, Peterson is the definitive number one. While there is somewhat of a track record of running backs with 300+ carries seeing their numbers dip the next year, Peterson is more likely to be the exception than the rule. He might not break 2,000 yards, but is the favorite to be the league leader in yards. Ten plus touchdowns is essentially a guarantee and with an improved Vikings offense overall he might get a few more. He should add at least 200 yards receiving as well.
2. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks:
-Some may see Lynch’s yards per carry as unsustainable, but I think he is likely to be strong in this category as well. Lynch had a better 2nd half of the season as the Seahawks went to more of the Zone read style of offense. Based on a full year of that offense, he could be the top challenger to Adrian Peterson. Lynch is a safe bet for 10+ touchdowns and at least 150 receiving yards. Lynch is also one of the more consistent backs, topping the 100 yard mark 10 times and scoring a TD in 9 games (note: if you get bonuses for 150 yards or specific totals he loses some value). Lynch may not have many of those 30-40 point fantasy days, but he’s going to consistently put up 15-20 point games.
3. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs:
-Though there is a concern that due to Andy Reid, Charles won’t be utilized enough that concern may be over blown. Two similar style backs Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy have had huge seasons of 1,600 plus combined yards (twice a piece) in Reid’s system. The key for Charles is to stay healthy, if that happens he should be a good bet for a big year. I really think he could come close to 2,000 combined yards. While his touchdowns have been down in the past, Reid has a pretty good TD track record with smaller quicker backs. Brian Westbrook had 11 or more touchdowns four times, despite not every playing in 16 games in any one of those seasons. Add in the fact that this is the first somewhat legitimate quarterback Charles has had to work with and the Chiefs bolstered their offensive line, and I think Charles could be inline for a huge year.
4. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
-Martin started out slow last year, but he got more comfortable as the year wore on. Though some will knock his numbers due to his huge game against the Raiders, consider the fact that Martin was without OG Carl Nicks for 9 games and OG Davin Joseph for 16. With his line intact and a year under his belt Martin should have a big year. He’s a good bet for double digit touchdowns and should once again be a significant weapon in their passing attack, likely contributing an additional 400-600 yards.
5. Arian Foster, Houston Texans:
-Foster led the league in carries last year and had a combined 1,600+ yards and 17 TD’s. The reason he isn’t higher though is there could be some concern of him slowing down. Foster has seen his yards per carry drop each of the last two years, and saw his receiving yards total plummet down to 217 yards after 617+ each of the previous two years. That is a 40 point gap in value and one that is unclear if he can change. Also, given his high number of carries the past few years it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Texans give more carries and playing time to Ben Tate.
6. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens:
-I see a resurgent year for Rice this season. Not that he was bad last year finishing 8th in combined yards, and 9th in combined touchdowns, but I see his production going up. The Ravens will still give Bernard Pierce touches, but I expect Baltimore to run the football more this season. Also, with Anquan Boldin in San Francisco, Rice could be the beneficiary of additional targets in the passing game. Rice has combined for at least 1,600 yards in his four years of a starter and it’s likely that it will be closer to 2,000 this year. He isn’t the safest bet for 10+ touchdowns (combined), but he has at least done in back-to-back years.
7. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles:
-Anything that could go wrong with LeSean McCoy‘s season last year did go wrong. The Eagles line was a complete mess, at one point missing four of five starters for a stretch. Michael Vick‘s injury forced a rookie quarterback to the helm which put more pressure on McCoy. On top of that McCoy missed four games due to injury. This year things should be pretty different. McCoy is healthy and so is the line blocking in front of him, which also received a boost in first round pick OT Lane Johnson. Chip Kelly’s offense should be very run centric giving plenty of oppurtunities for McCoy to pick-up yards. Also he should continue to be a weapon in the passing game and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get 400-500 yards through the air. Touchdowns will possibly be a question mark, but he should be able to get 10+
8. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills:
–C.J. Spiller should be in line for a huge year. Though is offensive line took a bit of a hit, the quarterback play could be better with rookie E.J. Manuel running some version of the read option. Also Doug Marrone is likely to have a very run focused offense, that will likely be among the league leaders in attempts. If Spiller stays healthy he could get 2,000 total yards. Touchdowns could be a question mark as Fred Jackson could steal some and Manuel will likely take some as well, but 8+ is a safe estimate.
9. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns:
-Richardson didn’t have the rookie year of Doug Martin or Alfred Morris, but he should be in line for a bit of a breakout year this year. He’s going to get a ton of carries behind one of the more impressive young offensive lines in the league. In addition the Browns passing attack should open up some, hopefully giving more freedom for Richardson. Richardson will likely stay in along the goalline so 10+ touchdowns is very likely. How he is receiving is somewhat of a question, but the Browns coaching staff is likely to involve the running backs quite a bit in the passing game.
10. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins:
-Morris had a huge year in Washington last season amassing 1,690 total yards and 13 touchdowns. Can he do it again is a question many are wondering as the health of Robert Griffin III could impact his numbers. He should still be really good and get 300 plus carries in a Mike Shanahan offense, but his yards per carry are likely to go down some. Morris is also an unknown as a receiver after just 11 catches and 77 yards last year, if he doesn’t improve in that area he won’t be able to balance out any drop in rushing yards.