Fantasy Football Pre-Season Preview: Running Backs

Fantasy Football Pre-Season Preview: Running Backs


Fantasy Football Pre-Season Preview: Running Backs


  Running Backs
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2012 was a remarkable year for running backs. Adrian Peterson not only proved inhuman but ended with 2097 rushing yards on a knee we thought was shredded a few months prior. Rookie running backs suddenly came roaring back into vogue and it kind of seemed like a reversal of the decline for the position. Not to worry – the decline is alive and well no matter what a handful of backs were able to do last year.

Running Back Totals by Year

Year Runs Rush Yards Rush TD Targets Comps Receiving Yards Rcv TD Tot Yd Tot TD
2005 12,739 51,825 380 3,223 2,326 17,440 75 69,265 455
2006 12,717 53,336 374 3,431 2,519 19,377 58 72,713 432
2007 12,612 52,365 348 3,502 2,529 18,889 55 71,254 403
2008 12,518 53,170 418 3,338 2,416 18,926 88 72,096 506
2009 12,410 53,181 376 3,358 2,437 19,275 84 72,456 460
2010 12,138 50,698 344 3,358 2,462 19,571 71 70,269 415
2011 12,078 52,034 324 3,373 2,430 19,694 75 71,728 399
2012 12,042 51,029 332 3258 2,361 18,849 66 69,878 398

The overall view doesn’t show much change despite the big year by Adrian Peterson. The total rushing yards were the second lowest in last eight years. Discounting 2011 when the lockout spelled huge passing stats and less rushing, the position is being used less every year. The passes and catches by running backs are all low after a top mark just last year. The total yards ranked among the worst and the total touchdowns were the worst. It is not that they have no value, it is that their prominence is no longer as important as offenses continue to evolve into more complex, pass-intensive schemes.

Top Ten Running Backs Totals

Year Runs Rush Yards Rush TD Targets Comps Receiving Yards Rcv TD FFP
2003 3,389 15,880 131 731 548 4,125 13 2,865
2004 3,189 13,994 120 545 414 3,572 17 2,579
2005 3,277 14,808 140 520 364 2,882 10 2,669
2006 3,080 14,603 120 743 536 4,600 19 2,756
2007 2,797 12,292 95 592 451 3,668 18 2,285
2008 2,950 13,163 116 516 394 2,959 17 2,413
2009 2,866 13,564 114 577 415 3,401 10 2,240
2010 2751 12,872 100 607 463 4,033 17 2,393
2011 2544 11,688 97 616 456 4,112 21 2,289
2012 2974 14,287 105 497 359 2,770 10 2,396

With Peterson gaining 2097 rush yards you would expect a nice pick up to the total yards of the top ten backs and there was a stop to the three year decline. This is no longer pre-2008 when backs ruled. Notable too is that while rushing yardage went up last year, the receiving stats were easily among the worst. Players like Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore ended top ten overall and yet were rarely used as a receiver. So while third down backs do reduce the load of a primary back, at least several are doing enough purely as rushers to merit the “stud” tag. Consider though that over the last ten years, the best ten running backs have lost 17% of their total annual points (2865 versus 2396).

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Arizona Cardinals

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 298 1274 4.3 8 52 383 0 1657 8 32 32
2011 339 1396 4.1 12 49 482 2 1878 14 30 14
2012 316 971 3.1 9 52 373 0 1344 9 32 25

(New Starter) (New Offensive Scheme) This is one of those best and worst situations. Rashard Mendenhall comes over from the Steelers to reunite with his old OC Bruce Arians who is now the Cardinals head coach. The only decent seasons that Mendenhall ever had were under Arians but even then he was only averaging 3.9 yards per carry and now in Arizona he gets to run behind one of the worst lines in the NFL. There is a reason why the Cardinals ground game is all but nonexistent every year. In his favor no one else has done anything there and Mendenhall is a lock to be the primary back. And he is now two seasons removed from his knee injury of 2011. Chances are he will be a value pick in fantasy drafts because the expectations are so low here. Ryan Williams is just an injury waiting to happen as the #2. The rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington will try to earn a roster spot if not some playing time in training camp. The offensive line is the biggest limitation to this rushing effort.

Worth Watching: Rashard Mendenhall

Atlanta Falcons

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 447 1772 4 14 73 529 4 2301 18 10 5
2011 404 1697 4.2 12 70 568 4 2265 16 13 8
2012 335 1228 3.7 11 107 763 3 1991 14 22 12

(New Starter) Bringing Steven Jackson over from the Rams has ignited some major optimism within the fantasy community but how that plays out is not necessarily as rosy. Jackson supplants Michael Turner as the starter which should – at the least – ensure that Jackson sees an increase in rushing touchdowns that has never topped seven since 2006. Jackson is on an eight year streak of 1000 yard seasons. But he is also 30 years of age with ten seasons of very heavy use. The Falcons may end up using him as heavily as they did Turner who ran for over 300 carries three times while healthy in Atlanta but then dropped to only 222 yards last year when he too had turned 30. There has been some talk about using Jackson as a receiver though there is never a lack of targets for Matt Ryan and Turner never had more than 19 catches in any year there. Then again – Turner never had more than 19 anywhere while Jackson never had fewer than 38 catches in any season since his rookie year. Jackson will dominate all fantasy value here as long as he remains healthy and that should see a spike in touchdowns for him. The Falcons are featuring the oldest tight end and running back in the NFL in their hope of winning it all this one year. Jacquizz Rodgers will remain a complement with no real expectation of being more than a marginal fantasy back even if Jackson was to get injured.

Worth Watching: Steven Jackson

Baltimore Ravens

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 435 1685 3.9 10 98 745 2 2430 12 9 15
2011 414 1851 4.5 14 104 856 3 2707 17 5 6
2012 390 1768 4.5 12 91 680 1 2448 13 8 14

There is not too much new to expect here in a backfield where Ray Rice has turned in five straight top-ten seasons as a running back other than fantasy drafters are likely to over-value Bernard Pierce and downgrade Rice too much. Rice ran for 1143 yards and nine scores last year along with 61-478-1 as a receiver. And that was after sitting out the final week of the season. The rookie Pierce ended the regular season with two nice games as relief to Rice but then did little in the playoffs and he still has only one touchdown to his credit after his first season. This remains Rice’s team and while coaches love to talk up secondary players in the summer, Rice is the better back and there is no reason to see Pierce dig appreciably into Rice’s workload.

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Buffalo Bills

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 347 1399 4 6 62 420 3 1819 9 29 27
2011 312 1603 5.1 11 87 763 2 2366 13 8 16
2012 377 1908 5.1 10 82 694 3 2602 13 7 13

(New Offensive Scheme) No change in personnel here but a new set of coaches usher in a whole new offense. New head coach Doug Marrone says he is not going to yank C.J. Spiller out of the game in short yardage or goal line situations and that should see Spiller hit a new level of effectiveness and production. Spiller has been averaging 5.2+ yards for the last two seasons and is slated to be unleashed more this year. His biggest year so far was 2012 when he only had 207 carries back when Chan Gailey was committed to a joint venture backfield. Fred Jackson not only was limited to only 115 carries in 2012 while he returned from injury, he’s now 32 years old and even less likely to contribute much. This is a big opportunity for Spiller to finally get a full season of proving why he was the 1.09 pick in 2010.

Carolina Panthers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 391 1683 4.3 7 76 578 1 2261 8 11 32
2011 307 1631 5.3 11 66 576 1 2207 12 16 19
2012 323 1256 3.9 13 57 612 3 1868 16 26 7

(New Offensive Scheme) The rushing effort took a nosedive last year with only 1256 rushing yards between all running backs and a paltry 3.9 per yard rushing average overall. The Panthers dumped OC Rod Chudzinski and promoted up QB coach Mike Shula in the hopes of reviving a running game that has gone sour. To do this they intend to rely on Jonathan Stewart as the primary though he is healing from offseason surgery on his ankles. There is no certainty that Stewart will be ready by the start of training camp and he has been very limited in all OTA’s. This is another muddy situation even with naming Stewart as the primary because he is still healing and has been rather injury prone lately anyway. DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert will fill in when needed but even Williams is now 30 years old and was the subject of many trade rumors in the offseason. The Panthers want to run more and definitely run better. They want to use Stewart but his health will be a big factor here and it may well end up as it has for the last three years where there just is not a lot of fantasy value here because of dividing up the load and watching their quarterback be their best rusher.

Chicago Bears

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 353 1344 3.8 9 71 686 3 2030 12 21 17
2011 411 1804 4.4 9 84 721 2 2525 11 6 20
2012 418 1705 4.1 11 61 473 1 2178 12 17 18

(New Offensive Scheme) The Bears have been middle of the road with their backfield but have allowed a heavy enough load for Matt Forte that he ends up around the 10th or 12th best running back almost every year. That will change in 2013 and probably for the better with the addition of HC Marc Trestman and OC Aaron Kromer who will be installing a west coast offense that will look to exploit Forte’s abilities as a receiver. Since opening his career in 2008 with a season-best 63 receptions he has been progressively used less as a receiver. His 44 receptions last year was a career low. Michael Bush remains but is less likely to take an appreciable chunk of the workload this season with the new offense. This should be tailor-made for what Forte is best at but the offensive line has long been a weakness that limits. The direction of making Jay Cutler throw faster plays into Forte making more catches and easing blocking concerns at least on passing downs.

Cincinnati Bengals

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 394 1472 3.7 8 61 392 2 1864 10 28 25
2011 405 1547 3.8 9 53 349 0 1896 9 28 23
2012 355 1493 4.2 7 43 257 1 1750 8 27 26

(New Starter) The Bengals discovered that when you take a very average running back like BenJarvus Green-Ellis out of a high-powered offense and then stick him in a really average offense, he ends up average. At best. The Bengals have not had a decent rushing game in many years and have been bottom five in yardage for many seasons. BGE gained 1094 rush yards on 278 carries for a mundane 3.9 yards per run. But he fell from double digit touchdowns in New England to only six for the Bengals and he still has no real role as a receiver anyway. To rectify the glaring weakness of the offense, the Bengals grabbed the first running back off the board in the NFL draft when they used their 2.05 pick on the smallish Giovani Bernard (5-8, 202). That pretty much screams committee work since Bernard is deadly effective in open space but is certain to give way to 5-11, 220 lb. Green-Ellis in short yardage and goal line situations (few as they have been). What matters here too is how well Bernard can pick up the blitz on passing downs and keep Green-Ellis off the field on third down. Bernard has a chance to really step up and take over. He had tons of talent in college but has to translate that into the NFL playing for a team with historically poor rushing stats and an average offensive line.

Worth Watching: Giovani Bernard

Cleveland Browns

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 342 1359 4 11 75 596 2 1955 13 24 12
2011 337 1209 3.6 4 65 451 0 1660 4 32 32
2012 348 1305 3.8 12 80 593 1 1898 13 25 17

(New Offensive Scheme) The bad news last year was that the Browns still ranked in the lower half of the league in rushing yards and touchdowns. The great news was that they were not only up sharply from the rare “worst-worst” ranking in those categories in 2011 and that it almost all went to just one guy – the rookie Trent Richardson. He accounted for over 80% of all plays by a running back and 86% of all runs. Though he missed one game, he still ended with 1317 total yards and 12 touchdowns. No changes here and an expectation that 2013 will be even better. With new OC Norv Turner calling the plays, Richardson gets to play for one of the few remaining coaches who believe in a workhorse back.

Dallas Cowboys

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 369 1434 3.9 8 83 643 2 2077 10 16 24
2011 374 1724 4.6 4 83 568 0 2292 4 12 31
2012 321 1212 3.8 7 83 691 2 1903 9 24 23

The Cowboys brought in Bill Callahan to call the plays but the offense remains the same Jason Garrett design and scheme. The Cowboys come off one of their worst seasons as a rushing team with only 321 total carries while DeMarco Murray went from missing three games as a rookie to sitting out six in 2012. His knock in college was that he was injury-prone and that has not improved while in the NFL. To better address the tremendous likelihood chance that Murray misses more games this year, the Cowboys added Oklahoma State star Joseph Randle to the fold while letting Felix Jones leave despite his Arkansas ties with Jerry Jones. Murray has been an effective runner when healthy but that has yet to last more than a month or two at a time. He only managed one game over 100 rushing yards last year (week one). Murray will be the primary and likely have one to four monster games, then get hurt at some point and miss critical weeks. This is the same as last year only optimism about him has waned and the required handcuff now is Joseph Randle who will no doubt become the starting tailback for at least a few weeks while replacing Murray.

Worth Watching: Joseph Randle

Denver Broncos

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 323 1175 3.6 7 77 729 6 1904 13 25 13
2011 410 1901 4.6 5 55 438 3 2339 8 11 24
2012 449 1825 4.1 12 66 529 1 2354 13 10 15

(New Starter) This is a backfield that needs to be watched this summer because there is the chance for some very nice fantasy points generated in what should be one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL. Willis McGahee was turning in a very nice season when he was injured for good in week 11. Then Knowshon Moreno found his helmet and pads and stepped in for several very nice efforts himself. Now McGahee is 32 and gone while Moreno is expected to return to the team laundry room where he will again fold towels until needed. Ronnie Hillman’s rookie year seemed to only prove that at 5-9 and190 pounds he really was a little too small for more than spot duty. The Broncos drafted Montee Ball (5-10, 214) who was a workhorse at Wisconsin and should reprise that role in Denver. If he can prove worthy of staying in all three downs during training camp, he has the chance for a big rookie year though his production will be capped a bit by the pass-first game with Peyton Manning. This is definitely a place for fantasy opportunity though he may end up much hyped by late August.

Worth Watching: Montee Ball

Detroit Lions

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 334 1158 3.5 9 110 879 2 2037 11 20 22
2011 309 1298 4.2 9 85 770 5 2068 14 21 12
2012 336 1349 4.0 13 99 793 1 2142 14 18 11

(New Starter) The Lions have not featured a big-time back since Barry Sanders though attempts have been made since 1998 (Kevin Jones, Kevin Smith, Jahvid Best). Now the Lions have finally brought in a highly drafted back who seems like a great fit for the offense and one that has seen at least some success with a team other than the Lions. Last year it was Mikel Leshoure as the starter with marginal fantasy value. Now it will be both he and Reggie Bush who is slated to return to the same role he had while in New Orleans. Bush proved more durable than expected in Miami with two seasons as the primary rusher. But what the Lions are looking for is the Reggie Bush who started his career out catching 88 and 73 passes in his first two seasons. LeShoure is good enough for the heavy lifting for a running back and playing on a fast surface again on a team with a solid passing effort should spell good things for Bush at least as far as a reception points fantasy league is concerned. He loses carries but should more than replace them with receptions.

Worth Watching: Reggie Bush

Green Bay Packers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 347 1225 3.5 7 67 519 3 1744 10 31 26
2011 318 1295 4.1 7 74 636 3 1931 10 26 22
2012 334 1187 3.6 5 53 418 0 1605 5 30 31

(New Starter) Not much arguing with the Packers running game not only needing a lot of help, but that it is just not that prominent in their offensive scheme anyway. With a deplorable 3.6 yard rushing average from last year, the backfield will have an entirely new look this season with not only Alabama workhorse Eddie Lacy as the primary runner, but also UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin added to the mix. This has not been a very productive unit anyway thanks to the passing of Aaron Rodgers and his penchant to run in touchdowns as well. But there is at least some fantasy value to be had here. The biggest problem in looking for value is that the Packers normally restrict the primary back to only 65% of the carries in most games if that. Definitely a situation to watch in the summer to see if Lacy emerges like an exclusive back but probably just a more effective committee at play that splits up marginal fantasy value.

Worth Watching: Eddie Lacy / Johnathan Franklin

Houston Texans

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 396 2024 5.1 20 84 767 2 2791 22 3 1
2011 510 2357 4.6 16 89 1010 3 3367 19 1 3
2012 480 2084 4.3 18 88 634 5 2718 23 4 2

No changes here to one of the top rushing units for the last three years thanks to Arian Foster. Ben Tate was limited last year thanks to a toe injury and a hamstring strain but should return to the same level of 2011 when he ran for 942 yards and four touchdowns to 1224 yards and 10 scores for Foster. Last year Foster assumed a ridiculous load with 351 carries and 40 catches for 1641 total yards and 17 scores. Expect more of Tate and a little less of Foster this season barring any injuries.

Indianapolis Colts

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 373 1459 3.9 13 55 421 0 1880 13 27 14
2011 353 1455 4.1 8 39 218 0 1673 8 31 25
2012 365 1378 3.8 6 34 338 2 1716 8 29 27

(New Starter) (New Offensive Scheme) The Colts lost OC Bruce Arians to the Cardinals and now rely on OC Pep Hamilton who was the former offensive coordinator at Stanford when Andrew Luck was there. He is bringing in an offense that will run more than the Colts have in recent years and one that looks to provide more balance. So with that new scheme that should produce more fantasy points for the running backs, there is a change in runners. Vick Ballard returns after producing 211-814-2 last year when he provided about 65% of the runs from scrimmage. But now Ahmad Bradshaw is with the team and is the most talented back on the roster – when healthy. His foot required more surgery in the offseason and if it continues to be an issue the backfield will be even more muddled and less attractive than last year. Ballard moves back to the #2 and Bradshaw has every down talent but how that plays out is more dependent on how well Bradshaw’s foot holds up. While there is reason to believe more fantasy points are coming out of the Colt’s running game this year, the distribution will be a big risk to rely on.

Worth Watching: Ahmad Bradshaw

Jacksonville Jaguars

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 420 1947 4.6 9 75 612 2 2559 11 6 18
2011 429 1838 4.3 9 66 525 3 2363 12 9 18
2012 317 1231 3.9 4 64 499 1 1730 5 28 30

(New Offensive Scheme) This is a situation that will likely improve from last year’s dismal results where the Jags fell to 28th in yardage and 30th in touchdowns by running backs. Maurice Jones-Drew held out and then returned with nothing gained. He then managed to suffer a foot injury in week seven that knocked him out for the year. He is expected to be okay for training camp but he’s in a new offense that has changed to zone blocking. And new OC Jedd Fisch has more street cred in the passing offense than the rushing effort. So you have Jones-Drew returning from injury, likely in his final season with the Jaguars, learning a new offense that will require the offensive line to get through a learning curve. For a runner who spent most his career as a top five fantasy back, Jones-Drew’s 2013 season has plenty of question marks. With only Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henning angling for starting quarterback, the passing scheme may be slow to come together as well. About the only excitement will be Denard “Shoelace” Robinson who was a quarterback at Michigan with nearly as many rushing yards as passing yards who was drafted as a wide receiver and will now probably mostly play as a running back. He’s another gifted tweener that plays great in the NCAA and yet never seems to translate as well to the NFL. That all said, he runs a 4.32/40 and is 5-10, 199 lbs. Worth watching but in a spot where normally the hype exceeds the results.

Worth Watching: Denard Robinson

Kansas City Chiefs

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 500 2416 4.8 12 74 669 3 3085 15 1 7
2011 443 1725 3.9 4 79 530 3 2255 7 14 26
2012 453 2183 4.8 8 124 945 2 3128 10 1 21

(New Offensive Scheme) Here is where optimism lives and the Chiefs were already #1 in rushing yardage by running backs last year. Like Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles shook off his knee injury and ended with a career best 1509 rush yards on 285 carries and added 35-236-1 as a receiver. Now comes along Andy Reid as the new head coach bringing in his offense that made fantasy stars from Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. Charles is a lock to see an increase in receptions this year and maintain solid numbers as a rusher. The Reid scheme is never shy about relying heavily on the primary back.

Miami Dolphins

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 389 1469 3.8 8 73 538 3 2007 11 22 23
2011 415 1774 4.3 8 78 647 5 2421 13 7 15
2012 383 1582 4.1 13 86 799 5 2381 18 9 6

(New Starter) The Dolphins return the same offensive scheme but the loss of Reggie Bush was not replaced and the team will go ahead with second-year tailback Lamar Miller who was limited to only 51 carries last year but gained 4.9 yards per run. Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee are both vying for the #2 role here but Thomas should be good enough to hang onto it after 256 carries over his first two seasons. The Dolphins saw some success last year thanks mostly to Reggie Bush but Miller could be nearly as good and the Fins passing offense should be better – that will help. The better news here is that the schedule is softer this year and Miller gets to assume the primary role with even less competition than Bush had last season. The schedule will be a help this season and Miller is in a situation that could end up as a surprise.

Worth Watching: Lamar Miller

Minnesota Vikings

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 378 1650 4.4 13 70 590 2 2240 15 12 7
2011 331 1556 4.7 13 51 418 4 1974 17 24 7
2012 401 2275 5.7 13 64 409 1 2684 14 5 10

Armageddon happened on December 24, 2011 when Adrian Peterson tore three ligaments in his knee. While no one actually saw it, the resurrection apparently happened in the offseason because Peterson did not merely make it back by week one. He ran for 2097 yards, averaged 6.0 yards per carry and seemed to only get stronger. Yeah, they’ll be shooting for the same sort of thing this year.

New England Patriots

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 403 1828 4.5 18 61 609 1 2437 19 8 4
2011 377 1573 4.2 14 37 363 0 1936 14 25 13
2012 493 2122 4.3 21 60 680 4 2802 25 2 1

The Patriots ended up as one of the best rushing teams in the entire NFL last year. Running backs scored 21 rushing touchdowns – more than any other team. Stevan Ridley took the primary role and managed 1263 yards and 12 scores as he replaced BenJarvus Green-Ellis last year. But in traditional Patriots style, there were three other runners with over 200 yards and nine scores ran in by someone other than Ridley. This will be the same offense but with almost the entire receiver corps missing from 2012, it is reasonable to expect rushing to continue to take a dominate role here and for Tom Brady to consider running backs as receivers even more. Danny Woodhead left for San Diego and he had 40 catche4s for 446 yards that needs to be replaced. That should end up with Shane Vereen who is adept as a receiver and a solid #2 runner. Ridley should have the exact same role as he rarely catches the ball but Vereen not only matters more as Woodhead’s replacement, he could be huge if Ridley was to be injured.

Worth Watching: Shane Vereen

New Orleans Saints

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 351 1480 4.2 9 111 667 2 2147 11 14 20
2011 402 2017 5 15 158 1231 10 3248 25 2 1
2012 350 1541 4.4 9 141 1179 10 2720 19 3 4

It speaks to the success of your rushing effort when the #4 running back leaves the team to become a starter for the Jets (maybe less impressive for the Jets side). The Saints have cobbled together one of the top running back units for the last two seasons despite no runner producing more than Mark Ingram’s 602 yards and five scores. And yet Chris Ivory (49-217-2), Darren Sproles (48-244-1) and Pierre Thomas (105-473-1) totaled up big yardage without any being more than a fantasy backup. Darren Sproles has caught 75+ passes in each of his two seasons with the Saints and will continue to be the receiver. Ingram is the primary runner who may see an uptick with Chris Ivory gone… or his production could just as well go to Pierre Thomas. Lots of fantasy points here but three if not four running backs always share them.

New York Giants

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 443 2131 4.8 17 63 448 0 2579 17 5 6
2011 374 1409 3.8 16 90 661 3 2070 19 19 4
2012 385 1829 4.8 18 50 415 2 2244 20 14 3

(New Starter) The Giants finally parted ways with oft-injured Ahmad Bradshaw and that leaves the door open for David Wilson to assume that role. While this is another situation that has been hyped, the reality is probably not quite as optimistic as it may seem. The Giants have always used a committee approach and even Bradshaw rarely shouldered more than 65% of the running back load anyway. Wilson only had one game of any note as a rookie when he gained 100 yards and two scores on 13 runs at home against the Saints #32 rush defense. Without that one home game against the worst defense, Wilson only gained 258 yards on 58 carries. He only caught four passes all year. Andre Brown will be back as the #2 running back again after breaking his leg and missing six games last year. He still led the team with eight rushing touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. What was once Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs has evolved into David Wilson and Andre Brown. Tougher rushing schedule in 2013 doesn’t help.

Worth Watching: David Wilson

New York Jets

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 456 1926 4.2 9 78 548 0 2474 9 7 27
2011 397 1533 3.9 8 88 815 2 2348 10 10 21
2012 418 1685 4.0 12 39 316 0 2001 12 21 19

(New Starter) (New Offensive Scheme) The Jets brought in Marty Morinwheg to run the offense and he imports in a west coast scheme with zone blocking. The Jets will no longer seek to run the ball against all reason though there are natural question marks about how well the complex, timing-based passing scheme will get installed with Mark Sanchez and the rookie Geno Smith battling to be the starter over a set of no-name receivers. Shonn Greene finally wore out his welcome and left so that Chris Ivory could become the savoir in the backfield. Yes, Ivory was only the #4 running back for the Saints but the Jets have cast their lot with him as the primary back. Bilal Powell should remain the #2 here but this is an entirely new sort of offensive scheme and blocking assignments which will no doubt take time to install completely. The Jets enjoy a wonderfully light rushing schedule which helps, but the pieces here don’t yet look even average. Worth watching Ivory in camp but reasons to believe that the season will start slowly for Ivory and the other runners.

Worth Watching: Chris Ivory

Oakland Raiders

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 422 1967 4.7 16 93 1053 6 3020 22 2 1
2011 407 1833 4.5 11 92 940 4 2773 15 3 10
2012 343 1322 3.9 2 120 1022 3 2344 5 11 28

(New Offensive Scheme) We now know for certain that Darren McFadden’s running skills do not mesh with a zone blocking scheme. He ended up with only a 3.3 yard rushing average and scored only three times all year. Of course he missed four full games this time and really has been a flop in four of his five seasons. In 2010 he managed 1664 total yards and ten scores but has struggled to produce even half that in all other years. He remains the starter despite never playing more than 13 games in any season. McFadden is entering the final year of his contract but the Raiders are in no hurry to re-sign him. Should he yet again miss a month or more, there is no chance he will remain with the team in 2014. His handcuff is not yet certain. Rashad Jennings came over from the Jaguars but he is nothing special. Jeremy Stewart was the undrafted free agent last year and he will compete along with sixth-round rookie Latavius Murray for playing time. Camp is very important because it must produce the clear #2 running back. So far for all five seasons, that guy will be the starter for about a month or more this season.

Worth Watching: Rashad Jennings and Latavius Murray

Philadelphia Eagles

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 285 1414 5 8 107 786 3 2200 11 13 19
2011 342 1553 4.5 19 52 344 3 1897 22 27 2
2012 334 1495 4.5 8 76 496 3 1991 11 23 20

(New Offensive Scheme) Perhaps the most interesting offense yet seen is in Philly where a non-Andy Reid offense will take to the field for the first time since 1998. And while Reid leaves behind a legacy of creating mountains of fantasy points, his successor has generated plenty of excitement. HC Chip Kelly imports his wildly aggressive Oregon offense and that should have big benefits for LeSean McCoy and even Bryce Brown. A dominating rushing effort is central to his style of play where just last season his Ducks ran for 2468 yards on 370 carries and scored 36 touchdowns between just the top two runners. Needless to say that the NFL will be presenting him with far tougher defenses than the PAC 12 but the optimism here is still warranted. The top two runners for him were two of the top four receivers as well. McCoy remains the primary and that should be profitable for a player who ran for 1309 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2011. And Bryce Brown already ran 115 times last year mostly subbing for McCoy who missed four full games and the rookie ended with a 4.9 yard per carry average. If the offense goes according to plan, there will be enough to share to allow both McCoy and Brown to offer fantasy value.

Worth Watching: LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown in the new offense

Pittsburgh Steelers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 418 1647 3.9 13 58 444 2 2091 15 15 7
2011 386 1728 4.5 13 48 342 1 2070 14 20 11
2012 370 1373 3.7 7 79 640 2 2013 9 20 22

(New Starter) The Steelers rushing effort took yet another step downward in 2012 and as a result, Rashard Mendenhall is gone. They used six different running backs and yet none of them had more than Jonathan Dwyer’s 623 rush yards and none had more than two rushing scores. The rushing effort was plagued by injured players and poor blocking. The resulting 3.7 yard per carry average and a dramatic decrease in rushing scores led the team to draft Le’Veon Bell with their 2.16 pick as the second running back selected in the draft. The Steelers have been all about a committee backfield for many seasons now and it has been rare to see any back with more than 70% of runs in any game. But that may very well change this year with Bell in the backfield and OC Todd Haley already indicated he sees Bell as a three down back and a workhorse. The offensive line here has been bad and is very young this year so early season efforts may not be stellar. But if Bell can become a workhorse back and end the carousel backfield, he’ll offer a surprising fantasy value deeper in drafts.

Worth Watching: Le’Von Bell

San Diego Chargers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 418 1751 4.2 18 128 1026 3 2777 21 4 3
2011 401 1772 4.4 15 123 977 3 2749 18 4 5
2012 378 1395 3.7 4 123 837 1 2232 5 15 29

(New Offensive Scheme) The Chargers finally gave up on Norv Turner and turn to HC Mike McCoy (who led the Broncos offense) and OC Ken Whisenhunt (Cards head coach and Steelers offensive coordinator). With Whisenhunt calling the plays, the offense is hard to forecast. McCoy was great at making use of whatever strengths an offense had but in San Diego there is at least question marks in all offensive positions. Whisenhunt liked his trick plays but basically relied on a power rushing game. The problem here is that the only change in personnel from the last couple of seasons is adding Danny Woodhead who will add into the motley crew of Ryan Mathews who cannot remain healthy and is marginally productive anyway and Ronnie Brown who hit the 30-year-old wall two seasons back. Mathews has the only real potential here but he was unable to produce much even when playing for RB-guru Norv Turner. This backfield looks like a unit that will be completely made over in 2014 after yet another disappointing season.

Worth Watching: Danny Woodhead

San Francisco 49ers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 353 1430 4.1 9 71 633 3 2063 12 19 16
2011 427 1779 4.2 12 45 398 1 2177 13 17 17
2012 434 2081 4.8 12 59 534 3 2615 15 6 8

No real changes here other than the 49ers yet again made a play for the future when then drafted Marcus Lattimore with their 4.34 pick. He won’t play this year because he tore his right ACL, PCL, and LCL last October and may not be as good once he heals but he was a tremendous talent prior to the injury. Frank Gore came to the team under similar circumstances. This year still has Gore as the primary back but he’s turned 30-years of age and is not likely to get any more work than the 258 carries last year. But he has been plenty productive and managed a 4.7 yard per carry average last season along with nine touchdowns. Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James will fill in as needed. Gore gets enough work to merit being a RB2 sort of fantasy back but he’s unlikely to outperform what he did last year. His backups remain with too little work to merit any real fantasy attention.

Seattle Seahawks

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 334 1303 3.9 9 71 506 0 1809 9 30 27
2011 390 1606 4.1 14 71 479 2 2085 16 18 9
2012 388 1813 4.7 12 52 407 1 2220 13 16 16

The Seahawks may only rank average in total yards and scores by their running backs, but it still works out okay in fantasy terms because Marshawn Lynch gets nearly everything. His 315 carries netted 1590 yards and a hefty 5.0 yard rushing average along with 12 touchdowns. The team is angling for just more of the same and thanks to Russell Wilson also willing to take off on a run and score, the #2 spot behind Lynch is not that productive. Robert Turbin is a handcuff for purely insurance purposes but he only ended with 80 carries last year and never scored.

St. Louis Rams

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 389 1414 3.6 8 63 487 1 1901 9 26 27
2011 376 1581 4.2 6 59 467 1 2048 7 22 28
2012 365 1571 4.3 4 65 500 0 2071 4 19 32

(New Starter) The second year of HC Jeff Fisher doesn’t seem likely to produce any better backfield than last year and ranking 32nd in rushing touchdowns is as bad as it gets. Steven Jackson won’t be the starter for the first time in ten years but the Rams did nothing to replace him other than expecting either Isaiah Pead or Daryl Richardson to step up and take the primary role. Going into training camp, Richardson is technically the #1 but plenty has been said in the offseason to suggest that Pead is going to get every chance to win the bigger role after essentially red-shirting his rookie season. The rookie Zac Stacy could figure in as well but it will all be sorted out during training camp. The problem for a fantasy team is that the primary back may not be that clear and it could well change throughout the season. Richardson had 98 carries last year but remained below 50 rush yards in almost every game and never scored all year. This is worth tracking for fantasy depth but this looks like a weakness for the offense barring a surprise.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 351 1554 4.4 9 69 518 2 2072 11 17 21
2011 272 1160 4.3 5 98 727 0 1887 5 29 30
2012 371 1656 4.5 13 76 657 2 2313 15 12 9

The Buccaneers went from one of the very worst rushing attacks in 2011 to a very respectable top 12 in yards and touchdowns. That all comes thanks to Doug Martin who ran for 1454 yards and 11 scores and added 49 receptions for 472 yards and one more touchdown. No changes here and Martin rarely allowed any other runner to have more than one or two carries per game. Martin also gets an easier rushing schedule for 2013.

Tennessee Titans

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 368 1604 4.4 13 66 389 1 1993 14 23 11
2011 344 1300 3.8 6 101 713 0 2013 6 23 29
2012 306 1311 4.3 9 45 292 0 1603 9 31 24

The Titans rushing effort has declined to the point that only the Cardinals produced fewer rushing yards with their backs than the Titans did. Fortunately for Chris Johnson, he never had to share more than one or two carries in any game and was able to end up with 1243 rush yards on 276 runs. Unfortunately for Johnson, the Titans added Shonn Green to the offense and that at least means all short yardage scores end up with him (few as they have been). Greene will figure in short yardage and may not take away that much from Johnson, but any big increase for Johnson is not likely. The Titans upgraded their offensive guards and that will help the effort but Greene’s presence likely caps what could happen here. Johnson bounced back from a disastrous 2011 season but he continues to have a tendency to balance monster games with painfully low scoring efforts.

Washington Redskins

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2010 311 1304 4.2 9 87 761 5 2065 14 18 10
2011 362 1529 4.2 5 91 711 2 2240 7 15 27
2012 406 1895 4.7 17 42 374 2 2269 19 13 5

Mike Shanahan once again was able to foist a head-scratcher on the fantasy community when he opted to ride the sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris despite listing him as the #3 back on the official week one depth chart. There is no change expected here with the same cast of no-name running backs. Morris was one of the heaviest used running backs in the entire NFL last year and Shanahan is willing to work him hard. He had over 20 carries in ten games and only Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster had more runs than Morris.

Other Positions:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Receivers


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