Those of us in Dynasty Fantasy Football leagues really have their work cut out for them when it comes to analyzing which running backs should be the highest ranked in 2013. Considering zero were taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, it's just another sign that running backs simply aren't as much a commodity as they used to be. With so many teams loading up on quarterbacks and receivers, the use of the running back, especially a full three-down back, seems close to becoming extinct. It's a passer's league everyone.
Between 2011 and 2012, only four running backs were drafted in the first round: Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson in 2012 and Mark Ingram in 2011. T-Rich and Martin are living up to their first-round hype, but both Wilson and Ingram have yet to become what the Giants and Saints, respectively, hoped they could be. However, that could easily change this year, especially for Wilson now that Ahmad Bradshaw is sitting in free agency.
But going back to my original thought; even though no running backs were drafted on Day One of this year's draft, several found themselves in perfect situations to become fantasy football commodities as soon as 2013. So as long as a running back lands in the right spot, it really doesn't matter if he isn't that coveted first-round pick. Fantasy value is fantasy value. And as far as their Dynasty Fantasy Football value, these five players could easily solidify themselves on your rosters for this year and years to come. Here's my top five fantasy football rankings for rookie RB.
1. Le'Veon Bell - Steelers
There are going to be a lot of arguments as to which running back deserves the top spot. Eddie Lacy (Packers) and Montee Ball (Broncos) are two others who found themselves in a good situation, but Bell is my No. 1 guy. At least for now. Lets face it, last year's running back corps in Pittsburgh was dreadful. Between Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, this backfield simply couldn't find it's footing. That leaves Bell with the perfect opportunity to solidify himself as the starter immediately. Mendenhall is gone. Redman and Dwyer proved to be duds. And even if Ahmad Bradshaw does get signed, he's proved he can't stay healthy. Bell is not only a bruiser at 244 pounds, but he showed that he can be a strong option in the passing game, catching 67 career passes at Michigan State. Steelers OC Todd Haley considers Bell a "three-down back and a workhorse" at the next level." If I had to draft today, give me Bell.
2. Eddie Lacy - Packers
Regarded as the top overall running back going into the draft, Lacy's value plummeted due to a poor work ethic, lack of speed and durability issues. However, it's hard to argue his value going to a team that was lacking a true workhorse after Cedric Benson was lost for the season in 2012. The Packers have shown in the past that they will run the ball when they have to, as seen when Ryan Grant racked up back-to-back 1200+ rushing yards in 2008 and 2009. Lacy drops to No. 2 on my rankings not only because of pre-draft issues, but also having fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin in the mix is somewhat of a concern. Franklin had been considered by some draft experts as the best running back in this class. So even if Lacy does win the starting job by Week One, there is no telling how both of these players will be used.
There is no doubt that Ball is the true definition of a bell-cow after racking up a total of 924 carries at Wisconsin. That could be some cause for alarm, but Broncos HC John Fox says it's more of a positive as Ball has shown "he can handle the workload." Some might feel a bit apprehensive about taking Ball as their first choice simply due to a crowded backfield, but that should change as we head deep into the summer. Willis McGahee has been rumored to be on the chopping block for months now. Due a $2.5M non-guaranteed salary and coming off an MCL injury, McGahee could be finding new work fairly soon. Ronnie Hillman had his chance to take over the starting duties and failed, averaging a paltry 3.9 yards per carry when he was on the field. Knowshon Moreno's ypc average wasn't much better at 3.8, but he's also coming off arthroscopic knee surgery suffered against the Ravens in the playoffs. And forget about Lance Ball even coming close to sniffing the starting job. He's average at best. There is no reason why Montee Ball can't win the starting job either by Week One, or during the season.
4. Giovani Bernard - Bengals
Bernard might be the first player on my list to lose out on the starting job before the season, but he sure as hell has an excellent chance at taking it away from BenJarvus Green-Ellis during the season. Or at the very least, he'll push The Law Firm for more touches this year. BGE is coming off 1000 yard seasons over two-of-the-last-three years, but his 3.8 ypc average over the past two leaves a bad taste in my mouth. BGE is nothing but a plodder and offers nothing in the way of game-changing ability. That's where Bernard comes in. Bernard isn't as physical as BGE, but what he lacks in physicality he makes up for in speed, excellent cut work and also has tremendous pass-catching ability (He averaged 46 catches a year at North Carolina). I'd be surprised if Bernard won the starting job in training camp, but it won't take long before he finds himself seeing a lot of touches per game as the season wears on. He's on the PPR radar for sure, even if it is in a timeshare.
This is where it gets debatable. The first four are mix-and-match. No matter what, I consider the above four running backs to be taken early in all of this year's Dynasty League Football drafts, but it's all opinion on which one goes first. As for this spot, you can make the argument that Arizona's Stepfan Taylor will have more future value. Or maybe Johnathan Franklin will have more value behind Lacy. However, considering the Rams don't have a true thumper in either Daryl Richardson or Isaiah Pead, Stacy is my No. 5 and rounds out the top five running back rankings. Even though his measurables are smaller than other rookies (5'8/216), he runs with more power than his frame dictates and he's hard to bring down on first contact. He averaged 5.72 yards a carry as Vanderbilt's featured back over the last two seasons. Add in the fact that he knows how to pick up the blitz and Stacy could be someone to draft and stash until he finally gets his chance in a bit of a crowded backfield.