One of the most important parts of the fantasy football draft is getting a stud running back for your team. Few things are as crippling to your team as getting a top 10 running back and having them wash out. Owners of Doug Martin from 2013 know the way this scenario plays out. Eliminating risk is the name of the game when it comes to drafting your RB1, and to that end there are three running backs in the top ten that have some added risk. One of them is headed into the tank, make sure you find out which one before drafting.
Also: Fantasy Football Sleepers 2014
A couple of factors need to be considered when deciding which player is the safest draft pick. Injury is one of the factors, after all top players go down every season with injuries. Obviously football is a dangerous game and it is impossible to predict who will be injured, but some players have a history. Which brings me to my first risky top 10 back:
DeMarco Murray ADP (Among RBs) 7 - Here is a player with great ability and what appears to be a great opportunity to produce in 2014. The Cowboys will have Scott Linehan running the show which should set the stage for big numbers especially in PPR leagues. The Cowboys offensive line also appears to be the best unit that they have put together in recent years. The downside is that Murray has never made it through a season healthy, last year he played a career high 14 gaames and it might be too much to hope for a repeat performance in 2014. If he can stay on the field expect big things but draft with caution.
Verdict: Draft if the value is there, but have a backup plan for when he gets hurt.
Another thing to look for in a high pick is proven performance. Speculation is fun and everyone has a breakout candidate but there is no substitute for having seen a guy put up big numbers. There are certain situations that are seemingly too good for someone to fail, this is the case for another top 10 running back with bust potential:
Montee Ball RB ADP (Among RBs) 9 - This is not meant to be a knock on Ball, I'm very high on him and have already drafted him in a couple of leagues. On the other hand, he was a trendy pick for a big 2013 and instead most of the fantasy points went to perenially mediocre back Knowshon Moreno. Montee Ball has not proven that he can carry the load as a feature back or that he can protect the Broncos biggest asset, Peyton Manning. Until those numbers are in the books, Ball will remain a risky proposition to use a high pick on. All of that being said, it's a gamble that I will keep taking.
Verdict: Draft with confidence, Ball is going to produce. The appearance of risk might allow you to get top 5 back production at a bargain price.
Then there are some players who are a perfect storm of warning factors - heavy usage, highly anticipated backup, off the field issues. This is someone that you will probably regret using a first round pick to draft. Of course I'm talking about:
Marshawn Lynch RB ADP (Among RBs) 6 - Marshawn Lynch is absolutely a great runner and has earned the nickname "beast mode". He is also 28 years old with almost 1800 career carries including 300 or more carries in each of the past two seasons. There is a lot of wear on the tires for Lynch. Marshawn will also be looking over his shoulder as highly regarded second year man Christine Michael pushes for more reps.Despite being a top fantasy running back for the past couple of seasons, Lynch comes with some risk in 2014.
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If these factors weren't enough to scare away potential early round drafters, there is some potential legal trouble on the way for Lynch as well. News came out on Monday August 11th that Lynch is being investigated in connection with alleged assault and personal property damage. While it is possible that nothing will come of it, this is another in a series of red flags.
Verdict: Bust Alert! Don't draft Lynch unless he falls to you in the third round
Also: What To Expect From Patriots Running Backs