My oh my how the running back landscape has changed, or has it? As we prepare for the fantasy football draft this year you need to pay very close attention to running back. Platoons and coaching strategy impacts the value of the position greatly from team to team. I've always said you should draft a top five back with your first pick and now-a-days it seems as if waiver wire running backs in-season are scarcer now more than ever because when a cow bell back goes down with injury (or suspension) the backups now a days are usually roll players and end up in a platoon situation.
My Top 30 For 2015
First tier (early Round 1)
1. Le'Veon Bell, Steelers
2. Eddie Lacy, Packers
3. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
4. Jeremy Hill, Bengals
5. Matt Forte, Bears
Second tier (late Round 1/early Round 2)
6. C.J. Anderson, Broncos
7. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
8. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
9. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Will they Repeat?
DeMarco Murray and Le'Veon Bell finished 1-2 in standard fantasy scoring at running back. Murray’s lack of durability was put to rest however, SI's Andrew Brandt suspects teams will be scared away by free agent DeMarco Murray's huge workload last season and that Dallas will be able to bring him back on a "team-friendly" contract. L. Bell was arrested on marijuana possession charges in August and only averaged 3.5 yards per rush his rookie year. Murray won the rushing title by almost 500 yards while Bell finished second. Bell was the top producer in PPR leagues, catching 83 passes. Keep in mind both of these backs had an average draft position falling into the second-round. We should expect more of the same from Bell with perhaps a bump in YPC if his offensive line improves. Murray's production will depend on his team but I expect him to regress toward the mean and his ADP will be to high for my liking.
Which Bronco RB do You Draft?
C.J. Anderson started in Week 10 and the team never looked back. Montee Ball wasn't healthy or productive and after Ronnie Hillman's sprained a foot, Anderson seized the opportunity and was so effective the team never looked back. He had five games games with 20+ fantasy points and led all NFL running backs in rushing yards in the final 6 weeks. Coaching changes in Denver might make you nervous, and they should. But Kubiak executes a Shanahanian zone-blocking scheme and one-cut running. It's success on the ground is well documented producing big seasons out of Clinton Portis, Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns, Arian Foster and Justin Forsett. Anderson's downhill running style should work well within this scheme and keeps him in the round one conversation and the Denver RB to target in 2015.
What About A. Peterson?
Adrian Peterson is still a #1 fantasy football pick but thanks to last years happenings he could drop a little. Spielman, owner Mark Wilf, COO Kevin Warren, and coach Mike Zimmer all support Peterson's return to the Vikings. Peterson counts $15.4 million against the Vikings salary cap and I'm sure they will come to terms with an extension that lowers his cap numbers.
Youngsters to watch: Christine Michael and Carlos Hyde value hinge on the teams bring back Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore. Lynch is still a beast but has back issue that will not go away, while Gore is simply toast. Nevertheless, Michael and Hyde are not verified work horse backs and without knowing how the teams will use them makes it hard to predict their breakout potential? Fellow youngsters Latavius Murray and Knile Davis (if Charles is done/gone) are also guys to keep on your radar.
As you prepare for the 2015 fantasy football draft use the rankings above to give you a hierarchical view of when to draft which running back. Keep this simple rule in mind when drafting in the early rounds (1-2), top five RB first, then top 5 WR followed by the top two TE.