Over the next 5 weeks, this column will consist of position rankings for the quarterback and running backs. These rankings will be broken down as QB1-16, QB17-31, RB1-20, RB21-40 and RB41-60. Despite these rankings being focused on the MLFS format, the information on each player will be pertinent to your leagues scoring system. Please keep in mind projections are being created in July and in most cases, potential for injury will not factor in to these rankings. I welcome any comments or criticisms in the comments or through whichever medium you prefer.
As we move to our second wave on running back rankings, value and upside begin to carry more weight than consistency. After all, these should be your RB3+ in most cases and not a RB2. I could see one or two sliding into that position, as long as you’re loaded elsewhere, but these are your bye week or great match-up plays. These are the players who can produce when needed if/when an injury occurs or you need to put up points in the flex spot. Don’t sleep on these positions as they WILL be difference makers.
21. Ray Rice (BAL) – No one knows what version of Ray Rice we’ll see when the season begins; let alone whether we’ll see Ray Rice at all this season. The was levied with Rice only missing 2 games, so projections will be based on that. Rice was a clear-cut top 10 selection for the majority of his career, but had a horrible 2013. One could discuss a super bowl hang over, a lingering hip injury or the Ravens offensive line, but clearly Ray Rice was not “himself” last season. Rice claims to be healthy, focused and more motivated than ever (though what professional athlete would say something else considering the drama they’ve created) so I’m looking for him to rebound in a big way. The signing of Gary Kubiak (as I’ve stated in previous columns) can only help the production of Ray Rice in 2014.
Projection: 1010 Yards, 8 TD’s, 48 receptions, 300 ReYds, 2 ReTD
22. Trent Richardson (IND) – We don’t have to assume, but we might as well assume, that 2013 was a fluke for T-Rich. It appeared the sophomore slump struck violently and resulted in an incredibly pedestrian season for Richardson. The skills are still there, and he’ll be the featured back on an offense which wants to be a power running team with each beat of its equine heart. He has good hands, speed and mass. While the team will be forced to throw, as the defense is still middle of the road, I believe Richardson will rebound enough to finish the year with respectable numbers. I don’t blame anyone for being weary, but as an RB3 this isn’t a bad option.
Projection: 920 Yards, 6 TD’s, 47 receptions, 368 ReYds, 1 ReTD
23. Ben Tate (CLE) – I was tempted to use a picture of Mr. Glass instead of Ben Tate, as his injury history is extensive and impressive. Since 2010, this man has injured his: ankle, quad, back, hip, groin, shoulder, head, toe, hamstring, foot, elbow and ribs. Anywhere you read online, you will see “Injury Risk” as the primary label for Ben Tate. However, when it comes to upside players Tate is seething with potential. He’s yet to be a feature back, and will have no challenge for touches, as he did in Houston, in Cleveland. When healthy, Ben Tate is able to produce and be a major player on your fantasy roster. The Browns will avoid throwing Manziel to the wolves early, so you should expect a healthy dose of Tate. Draft him knowing he’ll be missing some games, but will also be a great plug-in the Flex spot or bye week.
Projection: 1001 Yards, 7 TD’s, 31 receptions, 278 ReYds, 1 ReTd
24. Joique Bell (DET) – I’m all about Joique Bell this season, and this ranking could look foolish when/if he finishes in the top 15. I’m not a believer in Reggie Bush for 2014, but I am a big believer in Joique Bell getting the majority of carries in D-Town. The Lions love his rushing ability, and even more so his physicality and ability to be an every down back. He will lose touches to Bush and does not present a “home run threat” as Reggie Bush does, but Bell will be a player to be recognized this season.
Projection: 894 Yards, 6 TD’s, 41 receptions, 398 ReYds, 2 ReTD
25. Pierre Thomas (NO) – If the Saints would commit to running the ball more, Pierre would easily crack the top 15, MAYBE the top 10. Last season, Thomas led the league in RB receptions with 77, and that was while playing with Darren Sproles who had 71 receptions at the RB position. The departure of Sproles will equate for at least 20 additional catches, and he very well could have over 100 by seasons end. The knock on Thomas is the lack of production on the ground. The Saints are high on Khiry Robinson, which will cut in to the touches Thomas would receive in the rushing game. He is still a tremendous RB3 and one whom I’ve found myself regularly taking in all mock drafts.
Projection: 420 Yards, 3 TD’s, 98 receptions, 658 ReYds, 5 ReTD
26. Rashad Jennings (NYG) – He is a wonderful example of potential. He has yet to be the unequivocal starter for a franchise, but has always produced whenever called upon. This season, he will be the man in New York. Some may say David Wilson as a potential threat to take carries/touches; but I believe the Giants will slowly integrate him into their game plan to avoid long terms damage post neck surgery. Jennings is a big, powerful runner (6-1 234) and should be the primary option on the goal line. There are concerns over the offensive line, as well as his ability to pass catch; but we really love the upside on Jennings.
Projection: 930 Yards, 6 TD’s, 31 receptions, 265 ReYds, 1 ReTD
27. Steven Jackson (ATL) – 2013 represented career lows for a player who had been known for being incredibly consistent. To note, he’s only had 1 season (outside of 2013) with under 1000 rushing yards since his rookie year in 2004. His arrival in Atlanta was meant to be a final shot at securing a ring, but instead he was battered behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. 2014 and a revitalized offensive line should allow Jackson to come close to the 1000 yard mark. The Dirty Birds would love to utilize Devonta Freeman, and there is a fine chance he’ll be the lead back in January. However, the season will begin with Jackson and the success of the team will weigh heavily on his early production. Look for a rebound, but don’t expect a complete return to form.
Projection: 893 Yards, 6 TD’s, 40 receptions, 269 ReYds, 1 ReTD
28. Shane Vereen (NE) – It’s very fair to say that Vereen is an underrated player. As part of the Cerebus-like running game that New England employed last season, Vereen was not as visible as he would have preferred. Of course, a broken wrist suffered early in the season, coupled with the surprising play of LaGarrette Blount left Vereen owners wondering what to expect in 2014. The Patriots absolutely love Vereen’s pass catching ability. Last season, despite only playing in 8 games, Vereen still had 47 receptions, 427 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Projection: 610 Yards, 4 TD, 65 receptions, 675 Yards, 4 ReTD
29. Toby Gerhart – (JAX) I may be higher on Gerhart than some, but it’s more than my love for a former Minnesota Viking. We should not forget how close Gerhart came to winning the Heisman at Stanford. Gerhart was a high level running back who happened to be drafted on a team with the best running back of the past two decades. Gerhart was never able to act as the featured back, but, as with others, that changes in Jacksonville. While the Jags are not known for their offensive line, they still had tremendous output from an elite talent like MJD. Gerhart may not be MJD, but he’s certainly no slouch. He’ll share some of the load with Jordan Todman and possibly Denard Robinson, but for the most part he’ll net 250 touches. The biggest scare point of Gerhart is the horrid offense of the Jaguars. While it most likely isn’t going to make leaps forward, he will still find value and the end zone. He is a great Dynasty player as well!
Projection: 910 Yards, 6 TD’s, 18 receptions, 169 ReYds, 0 ReTd
30. Bishop Sankey (TEN) – If Sankey were on a stronger offensive team, chances are he’d rank higher than 30. As it is, he’s saddled with one of the most average offenses in the NFL. Jake Locker is serviceable and Kendall Wright is reliable; but otherwise the Titans lack any threats. Sankey takes over for CJ2K and will happily look to showcase his unique and varied skill set. He could potentially lose some touchdowns to Shonn Greene, but our money is on Sankey emerging as the clear favorite and primary option.
Projection: 850 Yards, 6 TD, 35 receptions, 250 ReYds, 1 ReTd
31. Stevan Ridley (NE) – Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me! This is the mantra that I repeat to myself endlessly when I think about drafting Stevan Ridley. Ridley is a very simple case study: Lots of talent, best coach in the history of the NFL (yeah I said it), an offense which runs more in the red zone than any other team, fumbling issue, and a head coach who hates fumbles. Thus the story of Stevan Ridley blowing multiple opportunities to be “THE GUY” in the Patriots offense. This season, we know he’ll fumble a few times, we know Belicheck will bench him, and as a result he loses value. Many will project him higher, but I won’t get burnt again.
Projection: 810 yards, 5 TD’s, 8 receptions, 50 ReYD, 0 ReTD.
32. Fred Jackson (BUF) – At 32 years old, we have to question how much longer Fred Jackson will have enough in the tank to remain a viable fantasy option. Even if he cannot match his outstanding 2013 (1200 all-purpose yards, 10 td’s), he is still a player that will find success in the Buffalo offense. There are concerns around his usage with a healthy Spiller, but until Spiller produces consistently, the Bills will always find a way to utilize Jackson. The acquisition of Bryce Brown from the Eagles could cut into Jackson’s numbers, however he still has value in that flex spot.
Projection: 610 yards, 6 TD, 38 reception, 307 ReYd, 1 ReTD
33. Maurice Jones-Drew (OAK) – It’s appropriate to see Jones-Drew wind his career down in Oakland, as they regularly employee players at the tail end of their career. Jones-Drew was signed by Oakland to compete with Darren McFadden for carries. We can assume Run DMC will get injured, which leaves Jones-Drew with the majority of carries. There are some concerns over his health, but not so much on my end. Our aforementioned player was unhappy in Jacksonville, and knows he’ll never be the 300 carry back he was in his prime. Instead, he’ll touch the ball 240 times and have a fair shot of eclipsing the 1000 yard mark.
Projection: 587 yards, 6 TD’s, 40 receptions, 284 ReYd, 1 ReTD
34. Danny Woodhead (SD) – I can’t quite figure out why the Chargers opted to add Donald Brown to their already solid backfield. Woodhead had the second most receptions by a running back in the NFL (76) and had 8 touchdowns on the year! Why then, did the brass in San Diego feel so compelled to bring in another running back? Woodhead will see a reduction in carries and receptions with the addition of Brown, but he is still the favored option of running backs for Philip Rivers.
Projections: 400 Yards, 2 TD, 68 receptions, 550 yards, 6 ReTd
35. Knowshon Moreno (MIA) – Has the hate gone too far on Knowshon Moreno? Last season, Moreno finished as the 5th best running back in all of fantasy football but, as has been written previously, the majority of that success was due to Peyton Manning and the most prolific offense in the history of the NFL. Off season rumors of massive weight gain, as well as being listed as the #2 back behind incumbent Lamar Miller, have not done much to help the case for a higher ranking for Moreno. Should Moreno reclaim his spot at the top of the depth chart, as well as remain healthy, Moreno does have the ability to put up solid numbers. There is no chance he repeats his performance from last season, but he should be good for 700 yards and 5 touchdowns at least.
Projection: 785 yards, 5 TD, 30 receptions, 250 ReYds, 1 ReTD
36. Chris Ivory (NYJ) – Chris Ivory has never really had a chance to be the feature back in an offensive system, which is a shame as he can produce when handed the ball. He isn’t much of a receiving back, but more so a north-south bruiser. He’s a bit of an injury risk, which is why the Jets opted for CJ2K, though his size will guarantee some red zone touches. If you invest early in CJ2K, Ivory is NOT a required handcuff. He is simply a fine late pick RB3-4.
Projection: 658 Yards, 5 TD, 5 receptions, 30 ReYds, 0 ReTD
37. Darren Sproles (PHL) – Eagles fans rejoiced at the signing of Darren Sproles, as it will offer Chip Kelly another toy (as well as Nick Foles another target). Sproles is a legit threat whenever he touches the ball, as he continues being one of the most dynamic secondary running backs in the NFL. Last season Sproles caught 71 passes and we only expect to see that number increase. The Eagles are without any major threats at the WR position, so expect to see a plethora of dual RB sets. This doesn’t mean he’ll see a lot of running yards, so only reach for Sproles if it’s a PPR league (which you should only be playing in).
Projection: 175 Yards, 2 TD, 85 receptions, 700 ReYd, 5 ReTD
38. D’Angelo Williams (CAR) – Though Williams has the ability to amass yards, he will rarely be a threat in the red zone. Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert were utilized in 16 of 21 carries when the Panthers were within 5 yards. A healthy Jonathan Stewart presents another option for red zone touches before Williams would be considered. It breaks my heart to see Williams stuck on a team that could never completely commit to the former star of Memphis. Williams almost always seems to be available late in drafts and is always worth a pickup. Just go in knowing he’s not going to get many points via touchdown.
Projection: 850 Yards, 2 TD, 31 receptions, 380 ReYd, 2 ReTD
39. Bernard Pierce (BAL) – Though not the most dynamic of players, Pierce could represent a huge value depending on the length of suspension facing Ray Rice. Pierce is a decent enough runner with big size, though at this stage in drafting the level of parity begins to truly show. Pierce will benefit from a Gary Kubiak offense which has always been a boon to running backs. Pierce is a middle of the road guy, but could really shine if given the start.
Projection: 610 Yards, 3 TD, 20 Receptions, 98 ReYd, 0 ReTD
40. David Wilson (NYG) –He has yet to really show his physical abilities, outside of the rare glimpse in 2012, and he spinal fusion surgery is troubling on a running back. We know that Coughlin likes the intangibles, but the fumbling problems keep him in the dog house. Should Wilson make the most of his opportunities, you’re looking at a player could make a huge difference for their team. Wilson is a deep sleeper in my book, but certainly a guy I would suggest stashing in all leagues.
Projection: 589 Yards, 3 TD, 20 receptions, 180 ReYD, 2 ReTD.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio This Sunday the 27th of July from 11:30am-12:30pm EST we will have two guests Jeff Nelson and Ryan Ingram. Jeff is a high school assistant defensive coach & a 2 time Major League Fantasy Football Champion and Ryan is a writer Chase Jacobs will also be a guest co-host along with E.J. Garr. We will be discussing D-Line and running backs. You can listen live or call in and listen at 646.915.8596. Don’t forget that you can download the podcast on I-Tunes or Google play if you have an android. Look for “Sports Palooza Radio”.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio This Monday the 28th of July from 1pm-2pm EST we will have two guests Andy Macuga and Dennis St. Pierre. Andy is a high school baseball coach out in California and Dennis is an owner in our leagues and a member of the arbitration committee. You can listen live or call in at 646.915.8596. Both baseball and football shows will be made a podcast after the live airing.