With the 2014 NFL Draft now a distant memory, and as we become bombarded with team grades that really don't mean much, the 2014 Fantasy Football season officially opened it's doors. This year's class of running backs obviously weren't as high as year's past, but that doesn't necessarily mean we won't see a few of these guys gain value by Week One or, at the very least, by midseason.
Dynasty league owners who are beginning to make their rookie-only cheat sheets for their upcoming rookie drafts should take note on these guys as strong depth options, even if you are loaded at the running back position. Wide receivers and quarterbacks will certainly dominate the top of the first round considering everyone taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, from Sammy Watkins to Teddy Bridgewater, could and should see the field sometime in 2014. Even redraft owners should take a long look at the players below as they could wind up seeing value during the season, making them prime waiver wire pickups. Did anyone see any value in Rams RB Zac Stacy during training camp? That example proves that a running back can go from a zero to a hero in a matter of a few weeks.
1. Titans RB Bishop Sankey
Sankey was the 54th running back overall over the weekend, which is the farthest a running back has ever fallen in the draft. However, Sankey finds himself in a perfect spot with Shonn Greene as his only competition for the starting job. Greene recently underwent knee surgery after he couldn't even make it out of a three-day minicamp. Sankey should be able to make a splash early with Greene expected to miss all team OTA activities in June. Sankey lacks the ability to break tackles and needs better vision, but this is something that the Titans will concentrate on in the summer. Originally expected to be the lightning to Greene's thunder, Sankey stands a good chance at winning the starting job in training camp, or at least out touching Greene in the first weeks of the season. Sankey should be the first running back taken in all rookie drafts and could surprisingly become a late round flier in late August redraft leagues.
2. 49ers RB Carlos Hyde
Even though the Bengals took Jeremy Hill one pick after Sankey, I prefer Hyde's future upside. The 49ers have quite a bit of depth at the running back position, but it's not a perfect scenario. Frank Gore is 32 today (5/14) and is starting to wind down his career as the full-time back. Marcus Lattimore's concedes that he still is "not all the way back, physically or mentally" from his college ending knee injury. And at 5'7/199, Kendall Hunter isn't big enough to be a featured back in the NFL. Redrafters should stay away from Hyde during their initial draft, but he is someone Dynasty league owners should snatch up and stash on their bench until the 49ers sort out their backfield situation. He could take a big step forward by the end of this season, or in 2015.
3. Browns RB Terrance West
There are a few running backs that I could have listed here. Giants RB Andre Williams and Rams RB Tre Mason are two guys who could catch huge breaks this season. West is my guy for the simple fact that he should easily outplay Chris Ogbonnaya and Dion Lewis for the No. 2 job behind Ben Tate. Tate is a serviceable starting-caliber running back, but his value started to dwindle in his remaining time with Houston. The question now is can Tate play an entire sixteen-game season fully healthy? Tate also had upgrades in the Texans offense, something he doesn't have now that Josh Gordon is out on suspension. The Browns are said to "absolutely love" West. OC Kyle Shanahan worked wonders with Alfred Morris in Washington, and could get the same productivity out of West as soon as this year. One can make the case for West being the first rookie back off the board this summer.