Summer is here and it’s officially time to start thinking about the 2014 Fantasy Football Draft. Earlier in the offseason I presented our early top 20 RB Rankings and tiers. This is an updated version with tiered rankings and will be the first in our 2014 Fantasy Draft Strategy series. As the off season progresses I will go through all of the positional tiered rankings and put together a complete Draft Strategy Guide.
2014 Fantasy Football Top 20 RB Rankings:
Elite Tier – High End RB1 Level Players to Anchor a Team Around
1) LeSean McCoy PHI
2) Jamaal Charles KC
3) Adrian Peterson MIN
4) Matt Forte CHI
5) Eddie Lacy GB
Jamal Charles remains the class of the league in 2014. He accounted for over 30% of the Chief’s total offense in 2013 and I expect that trend to continue in 2014. That said, for our updated RB rankings, Shady McCoy gets the top spot. There’s simply no denying that the Eagles offense is more explosive then the Chiefs and that is enough to give McCoy the edge and the top spot. Rounding out the Elite Tier are AP, Forte and promising 2nd year player Lacy.
Tier 2 RB’s – These three players rated just a touch below the elite tier of backs but they remain Round 1 talents.
6) Marshawn Lynch SEA- Lynch has been a consistent Fantasy Points machine in Seattle’s run first offense for the past few seasons. He does not get many receptions but his productivity on the ground can’t be denied. His role in Seattle’s offense includes goal line carries and he tends to get in the end zone more then most RB’s. Lynch got a slight bump down in this updated ranking due to his massive workload last season (Thanks to NFL Fantasy Live’s Adam Rank for pointing this out after our original RB rankings came out ).
7) DeMarco Murray DAL -Murray is a talented player that in 2013 received the lion-share of carries for the explosive Dallas Offense. He showed he can stay healthy for a full season which going in to 2013 was the biggest concern. Rumors out of Dallas is that they are looking to bring a more up tempo look to their offense this season. They brought in former Lions Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to retool the Offense. That system calls for a much higher emphasis on getting the RB the football in open space and also calls for a bigger passing game role for the RB position. All this bodes well for Murray in 2014.
8) Montee Ball DEN – Ball has the potential to explode in Denver’s high scoring attack. Opposing defenses often “dare” Peyton to hand it off leaving gaping holes for whatever RB Denver trots out. Ball is a risk because his position as the starter and primary ball carrier is not cemented just yet. Fumbling and blitz pickup issues hurt Ball in his rookie season and have the potential to do the same in 2014. That said the Denver coaching staff has been adamant that Ball is the primary RB. We will take them at their word.
These top 8 RB’s represent the top 8 players overall for fantasy football in 2014. The drop off after the top 8 RB’s is significant. Due to the extreme depth at WR in 2014 the top two tiers of RB’s should be taken ahead of any and all other players including Megatron and Jimmy Graham.
Tier 3 RB – This is the area of the draft where you should at least consider looking at other available players. Elite Tier WR’s should be considered ahead of this group of RB’s
9) Doug Martin TB – Which Doug Martin will show up in 2014? Will it be the guy from his rookie year that tool the league by storm or the guy from 2013 that wasn’t playing all that well before he was lost for the season in week 7? I have no idea. Last season Martin was a top 3 draft pick. In 2014 he should be available somewhere late in the second round.
***UPDATE – Early word out of Tampa is that Martin will be used in an RBBC role. Drop him a few more spots in the rankings due to increased uncertainty and better yet simply avoid this player completely. Let some other sucker waste a late first or early second rounder on him.
10) Arian Foster HOU – Foster, Like Martin, burned a lot of teams that took him at the top of the 2013 draft. There are two major concerns with Foster. First is his health. Back injuries are notoriously debilitating. His ability to last through the rigors of an NFL season are in question. In addition at the moment the Texans are a team in flux. Foster is a player to target in the 3rd to 4th rounds in 2014 and makes for a high end RB2.
***UPDATE – Word out of Coach O’Brien in Houston is that Foster will be used in the “Joker” role similar to Vereen in New England. They see Andre Brown as the 1st and 2nd Down back. Drop Foster a few spots in the rankings or better yet avoid this player completely. His name brand value will keep him in the 2nd round of drafts.
11) Giovani Bernard CIN – Just watching the tape of Bernard in 2013 proves what a special player he is. The only question is if the Bengals will give him the 20+ touches they should be. Bernard could easily finish in the top 5 at his position if they do.
12) Le’Veon Bell PIT – Bell is the right player on the right team at the right time. A solid 3 down back on a team that likes to hand off the football at the goal line. They did pick up LeGarette Blount in Free Agency so that could eat in to Bell’s touches a bit in 2014 but Bell still figures to be the primary RB in a run heavy scheme.
13) Ryan Mathews SD – I’m not a big fan of Matthews but I must admit that he broke out in 2013. Mathews gets plenty of touches particularly around the goal line for San Diego. He is a solid RB2.
14) Alfred Morris WAS – In 2013 Morris was a top five RB in terms of total yardage but he had a difficult time getting in to the end zone for a number of reasons. The coaching change in Washington leaves some room here for doubt and the emergence of Helu as a 3rd down back is a concern but that’s why Morris is not in the top tier. He makes for a high end RB2.
Tier 4 RB – These Players have some Question marks but still make for startable players – RB2
15) Zac Stacy STL – Stacy almost made it into the 3rd tier. Then I remembered he will have to face Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona twice. Those are three of the best defenses in the league and they represent over 1/3 of the Rams schedule. All NFC West players get a downgrade due to the defenses in that division. In addition the Rams drafted an arguably more talented RB in Tre Mason in the 3rd round of the draft. Stacy should remain the bell cow back but Mason’s presence looms large and adds a small element of risk to this pick.
16) C.J. Spiller BUF – Spiller is the highest upside play of anyone in this season’s RB class. If Buffalo gives him the touches he has Shady/Charles type talent and potential. Last season he barely qualified as a startable flex player possibly due to an ankle injury. With Jackson another year older will this be the season when the Buffalo coaching staff finally figures out how to utilize their most talented player? We shall see.
17) Ben Tate CLE – There really isn’t anyone on the Browns that will challenge Tate for touches at the moment. The Browns also happen to have some talent at WR and TE that will force opposing defenses to account. Tate is a high upside RB2 in 2014.
18) Bishop Sankey TEN – Opportunity is sometimes the name of the game in the NFL. Sankey was the first RB off the board in the 2014 NFL draft. Tennessee obviously loves the guy. He has the tools to be a 3 down player. In addition Tennessee dumped CJ2K in the offseason leaving the molasses footed Sean Green as Sankey’s only competition. Sankey will be this season’s LeVeon Bell and represents a value pick with plenty of upside.
19) Rashad Jennings NYG – This is another high upside play. If Jennings emerges as the primary running back for the Giants he will make for a solid and consistent RB2. He has had some injury issues in his career and David Wilson is supposedly on track to be ready for training camp so Jennings is far from a sure fire player.
20) Andre Ellington ARI – Ellington is another talented player without much competition in Arizona. Still he is in the NFC West and therefore gets a bump down to low end RB2 with PPR upside.
21) Shane Vereen NE – Vereen is another of my high upside plays. His role in the New England Offense is well defined and there is room for him to grow as far as total touches go. Vereen gets an additional bump in PPR leagues and makes for a low end RB2 or a solid Flex.
Tier 5 RB’s
22/23) Reggie Bush/Joique Bell DET – Bush looks to be in a true 50/50 timeshare with Joique Bell this season. Both players have some flex appeal and both should be productive players in Detroit’s explosive offense.
24) Toby Gerhart JAC – Gerhart finally gets his chance to step out of Adrian Peterson’s shadow and into the spotlight. With little to no competition on the Jag’s roster, Gerhart should see plenty of carries in 2014. Jacksonville’s questionable offense will limit his upside but the floor is high with this player.
Tier 6 RB’s – The pickins are slim
25) Frank Gore SF – Gore is old and coming to the end of his rope. He has a ton of hungry young talented competition to contend with on the 49ers roster. I will avoid him like the plague in my draft.
26) Ray Rice BAL – I don’t know what’s worse. That Rice knocked out his girlfriend cold recently or the press conference where Baltimore had the girlfriend apologizing for her role in the issue. WTF was she apologizing for? Having a glass jaw? What’s that got to do with fantasy football? I have no idea but I needed to get that off my chest.
27) Stevan Ridley NE – Sleeper Alert!!! Ridley burned many a Fantasy Team in 2013. He was a tier 2 RB that generally went midway through the second round. A couple of fumbles later and he was buried on the Patriots depth chart. I still think the kid has talent. New England likes to run a two headed RB attack. Ridley should be a steal in the later rounds of the fantasy draft. If he emerges in the LeGarette Blount role for New England he has RB2 upside. Grab him for your bench in the later rounds!
28) Knowshon Moreno MIA – Moreno is another player that should be available late in the draft. Knowshon is coming off a fantastic season with Denver. He has some competetion from Lamar Miller and that could limit him. Still he should have a decent floor and if the Dolphins make him the primary focus in the running game he has RB2 upside.
29) Steven Jackson ATL – Jackson is old and coming off an injury riddled, disappointment of a season. Still he comes in to 2014 as the primary RB for a Falcons team that gets Julio Jones and a healthy Roddy White back. If the Falcons return to form as an Offensive juggernaut, Jackson should benefit. This is another high floor low ceiling player to target in the later rounds of the draft.
30) Trent Richardson IND – What if Richardson doesn’t suck? Is it possible that last season’s stink-fest was some sort of anomaly? Doubtful. Still he’s worth a flier in the late rounds on upside alone. If he somehow manages to emerge as the Colts primary RB he could be the steal of the draft. It’s a long shot but that’s what the last few rounds of the draft are for.
What did you think of my rankings? Would you switch the order? Did I miss a player you think belongs in the top 20? Drop a comment and let me know what you think!