Even though running backs are slowly starting to lose value in the NFL, it's still very imperative that you lock up at least one solid back in your fantasy football draft this year. Since receivers are much easier to nab on the waiver wire during the season compared to running backs (Danario Alexander anyone?), locking up a stud running back will go a long way in regards to how far your fantasy teams will go once the playoffs roll around.
With real fantasy football drafts picking up steam, here are the current top 10 running backs rankings in regards to their ADP from various drafting sites. I used standard PPR scoring.
1. Adrian Peterson - Vikings
Even though AD has yet to top any more than 40 receptions in his six-year career, his rushing yards and scoring opportunities near the red zone make him worth the No. 1 overall selection amongst both running backs and ALL skill positions. Peterson averaged 131.1 rushing yards a game in 2012 and currently has a three-season streak of 12 rushing touchdowns. With the Vikings continuing to show support for Christian Ponder this offseason, the Vikings will need to rely on AD again in 2013.
2. Arian Foster - Texans
Foster might be No. 2, but he wasn't the No. 2 running back across the board. There are two things that are worrying owners right now: 1. Mileage. Foster has racked up over 320 carries in two-of-the-last three seasons. While he's only been playing for four years, that's a lot of carries for a running back. The Texans could try and lessen his workload and get Ben Tate more involved. Plus, Houston finally has another receiver to utilize in the passing game after they drafted DeAndre Hopkins. Tate and a better passing offense could bring Foster's numbers down a bit this season.
2. Foster's heart condition. This is something that doesn't worry me as much as reason No. 1, but it's still something owners should keep in the back of their minds. Foster had dealt with an irregular heartbeat in 2012, but it wasn't a major concern at the time. Doctors also didn't believe Foster needed the "heart ablation" that he was expected to undergo earlier this year. So the fact that he didn't actually go through with the procedure is a good sign. Still, it's something that could wind up being a problem again down the road. While the chances aren't high, they are still there.
Foster's role as a rusher and pass catcher in the Texans' offense is too good to pass up, but I wouldn't blame owners for going with running back No. 3 instead.
3. Doug Martin - Buccaneers
Looks like owners aren't worried about a sophomore slump for Muscle Hamster after his 1454 yard/11 touchdown rookie season in 2012. The quarterback situation in Tampa is starting to turn muddy with the news that rookie Mike Glennon will dominate preseason snaps this year. Josh Freeman's starting job is currently on thin ice. With that said, I expect Martin to at least match his rookie numbers. And if he can increase his number of catches from 49 in 2012, which could happen if Glennon steals the job, Martin could wind up being a value pick at this spot.
4. Trent Richardson - Browns
The Browns offense in terms of the passing game will continue to be questionable in 2013. The quarterback spot has yet to sort itself out with both Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell fairly even in regards to the starting job. And after the Browns signed Brian Hoyer to a two-year deal, that could make this situation even more cloudy if Michael Lombardi thinks as highly of Hoyer as he used to. All of this means T-Rich will be set for a huge second year in the Cleveland backfield. Richardson didn't have the stats that fellow rookie Doug Martin yielded. But with Norv Turner now running the offense, Richardson will take a huge step forward in 2013. Emmitt Smith, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson are all players who have had tremendous success under Turner's playcalling. Cracking the 1000-yard rushing barrier will be the tip of the iceberg.
5. Jamaal Charles - Chiefs
While Chiefs fans continue questioning the team for trading for Alex Smith, there is no doubt that he can't be any worse than the inept play of Matt Cassel. Smith alone should be just good enough to keep the defenses from stacking the box, which will give Charles a fantasy boost this year. I don't expect him to match his career-high 1509 rushing yards from 2012, but his asset as a pass catcher will finally be revealed in Andy Reid's new offense. Brian Westbrook caught 90 passes in 2007 and LeSean McCoy racked up 78 in 2010. 1600 total yards and 70+ catches are easily attainable for Charles.
6. Ray Rice - Ravens
Rice's value seems to be dipping, but I don't know why he's falling this far. With Anquan Boldin now in San Francisco, the Ravens only have Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones as their top two receivers. So outside of an inconsistent Dennis Pitta, someone has to catch the ball. Rice did have only 61 catches in 2012, his lowest total since his rookie year. But he should be more of an asset in the passing game now that Cam "I run the same plays" Cameron is out as offensive coordinator.
7. CJ Spiller - Bills
Spiller was the hottest waiver-wire pickup last year. Hopefully he can build upon that success in Doug Marrone's new offense, which figures to be a more up-tempo offense than last year. This new offense will play into Spiller's strengths as a speedster in the backfield and as an open-field receiver. Fred Jackson will still factor into the equation, but the Bills' new coaching staff would be idiots by not putting Spiller on the field as much as possible. It helps that their quarterback situation is a bit questionable with an oft-injured Kevin Kolb and rookie EJ Manuel battling for the starting spot.
8. Marshawn Lynch - Seahawks
Owners won't have to worry about Christine Michael in redraft leagues. He was drafted more for the future with Lynch's contract in flux come 2015. Lynch ended 2012 with career highs in rushes (315), rushing yards (1590) and yards-per-carry (5.0). Robert Turbin is also not expected to be a threat to Lynch's touches, unless Lynch gets injured. For now, the only red flag Lynch has is a scheduled court date for a DUI arrest from last year. But for now, Lynch deserves a top-10 spot.
9. LeSean McCoy - Eagles
With the Andy Reid era now officially over in Philly, it remains to be seen just how the backfield will shake out under new HC Chip Kelly. Despite being known as pass happy at Oregon, Kelly's rushing attack ranked high in terms of stats the past few years. McCoy will have a big role, but Bryce Brown will see significant carries. Felix Jones, if he makes the squad, could also see the field on passing downs. Oregon averaged 39.2 rushes per game in 2012, but how much of those carries McCoy sees remains up-in-the-air. He's also facing criminal charges from a December party bus incident. McCoy denies the allegations, but I'd be surprised if he faced any punishment from the league if found guilty.
10. Alfred Morris - Redskins
Morris went from a zero before training camp to the biggest rookie surprise of the Redskins' season. Even more so than the RG3. Morris pounded the ball to the tune of 1610 rushing yards, just over 100 yards a game and 13 touchdowns. We all know how much Mike Shanahan likes to play running back carousel with his backfield. But like we saw with Clinton Portis in Denver; once one of his backs proves he can handle a full workload consistently, Shanny will give him the rock as much as possible. We saw that with Morris' 335 carries. Morris doesn't factor in much as a pass catcher. But like Peterson, he will be a sure-fire first round option off his rushing stats alone. Evan Royster and Roy Helu will be nothing more than garbage-time fill ins.