DFL Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

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Running Back Draft Strategy

It is vital to acquire a dependable running back corps, because they are THE scarcist fantasy commodity. If you lose any, they are the most difficult to replace midseason. Ideally, you should draft a minimum of two with your first three picks:

First round: take a front line RB1. The only reasonable alternative for your first pick is WR Calvin Johnson, and ONLY if all the surefire RB1s have already been selected ahead of you.

Second round: take a front line RB2. The most reasonable alternative is TE Jimmy Graham. In fact, if you have the opportunity to select him with a late second rounder, do so with satisfaction. You'd have to be extremely lucky to have him remain unselected until your third pick. (This assumes you drafted an RB1 in the first round; if you went with WR Calvin Johnson, you are virtually forced to select the best available dependable RB.) Arguments could be made in favor of WR Dez Bryant or WR Brandon Marshall, but again, only if you locked down a beastly RB1 with your first pick.

Third Round: assuming you already grabbed two RBs, select the best available WR. If your league has drafted insensibly, there may still be a third high quality RB available; if so, taking him is not insane. As an alternative to selecting a WR, TE Rob Gronkowski is a defensible choice.

Mid Rounds: Look for a choice spot to select a third starting running back. Ideally, your league will undervalue one, and you should snatch him up when he falls to your pick. If the stars do not align, you may need to force a selection and slightly overpay for such a running back before they are all gone.

Late Rounds: Assuming you assembled your foundation of three playable running backs, keep your eye out for high upside gambles with your final picks. These will more likely be wide receivers, but you never know what running back gems your league will neglect to draft. I am not a proponent of running back handcuffs, and the only two I can recommend are RB Ben Tate and RB Bernard Pierce. Ideally, you were able to avoid drafting RB Arian Foster in the first place, and I wouldn't feel great about drafting Pierce in any non-dynasty format either. In any case, do not overpay to acquire a handcuff; you should have found another starting RB already elsewhere. You should instead consider them as sleepers if you have no other valid targets. Pick a Defense and Kicker last.

Updated August 24

This list ranks running backs for the 2013 football season. It applies to standard redraft formats (PPR is nonsense), but includes notes for dynasty leagues.

Each back is ranked next to their ECR (Expert Consensus Rank) so you can see where and how much I disagree with other fantasy analysts. Most rankings lack any context whatsoever (which is vital for drafting), so I have further notes:

TALENT
SITCH - Team situation that affects fantasy production
CONSIST - Fantasy production consistency
ATSOTF - Ability to Stay on the Field
DYNASTY
UPDATES - Explains changes from the original podcast rankings

TIER 1 - Don't think about it, just be grateful of your draft position:

1 (1) Adrian Peterson
TALENT - Unparalleled; I almost created a separate "All Day" A.P. tier. Nick Fury should draft him into the Avengers sequel.
SITCH - Rough; faced 8 in the box all last season. Greg Jennings might cut that to 7.
CONSIST - No better bet for production, but don't *expect* him to challenge Dickerson's record again. (He had a statistically large number of big yardage runs that are extremely difficult to duplicate.)
ATSOTF - Workload (348 carries last season!) has him drifting toward that RB cliff, but should be fine for 2013 redraft.
DYNASTY - Draft Doug Martin.

2 (2) Doug Martin
TALENT - Solid all-around performer. Scary to think the sophomore should only improve.
SITCH - Offensive line is bolstered, but Peyton Hillis might vulture some TDs.
CONSIST - Production was strongly influenced by long plays; odds are against him breaking as many again.
ATSOTF - Muscle Hamster runs low and doesn't get hit squarely. The Bucs will ride him all season.
DYNASTY - I've never had the first pick in any league ever; you lucky bastard.

TIER 2 - RB1s

3 (8) Marshawn Lynch
TALENT - BEASTLY. Check out this playoff run against the Saints; that stiff arm was fucking ridiculous.
SITCH - The primary weapon for a good offense. Out-producing the Tier 1 guys wouldn't surprise me.
CONSIST - I was disappointed any week he didn't hit upwards of 110 yards plus a TD.
ATSOTF - Struggles with back spasms but BEASTS through them on game day. A known knucklehead, but his DUI court appearance was pushed past this fantasy season. There's risk, but worth it.
DYNASTY - Will begin the aging process; let someone else snag him unless you're determined you must win now.

4 (6) LeSean McCoy
TALENT - I like him better than Doug Martin.
SITCH - Rookie coach Chip Kelly's offensive system could be Patriots good (or sputter in the NFL), and it's keyed by the RB position. The offensive line CAN'T be as horrid as last season, but Jeremy Maclin's injury hurts. And you can't trust Vick at QB. This factor has a massive range that you might as well shake a magic 8-ball at.
Consist - His talent gives him an extremely high floor. Anticipate a rebound season.
ATSOTF - Worries that Bryce Brown will steal carries are overblown. Don't worry about his concussion last season, unless he gets another one.
DYNASTY - Target him ahead of Marshawn. Shady is still young and has tons of potential yet to be harvested.

5 (9) Ray Rice
TALENT - A more established, proven version of Doug Martin.
SITCH - With Boldin gone and Pitta out, the Ravens will lean on him hard. Touches, receptions in particular, should increase. I am concerned that the offense won't be able to reach the red zone as often.
CONSIST - The poster child for fantasy consistency. A terrific steadying back to anchor your RB corps.
ATSOTF - 1,100+ touches over the last 3 seasons is outrageous. He's not showing pronounced signs yet, but the wheels will come off at some nearish point. Acquire handcuff Bernard Pierce if you can without overpaying.
DYNASTY - Couple him with the handcuff. Pierce has the physical gifts to become an even better runner.

6 (4) C.J. Spiller
TALENT - Electrifying. He makes me lean forward in anticipation of a jaw-dropping jump-out-of-your-seat play every time he gets the rock.
SITCH - The Bills are abysmal, particularly at QB. It's a shame C.J. doesn't play on a more effective offense.
CONSIST - A definite upside play. Capable of shouldering a fantasy win SOLO, but might score like an RB3 on occasion. I LOVE watching him run, and would select him ahead of Ray Rice if in a gambling mood. Just make sure your RB2 is a steady chain mover.
ATSOTF - The young back has not yet demonstrated the ability to carry a full workload across an entire season. The Bills still have Fred Jackson, who is universally under-appreciated.
DYNASTY - I'm a huge fan. Just temper your expectations so you're not crushed if he doesn't develop into a fantasy superstar. Remember that he's a Bill.

7 (12) Steven Jackson
TALENT - Tough warrior who never stops fighting, who's making an argument for the Hall of Fame.
SITCH - Improved by SEVERAL ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE. He will rip off steady points in Atlanta's offense.
CONSIST - Nobody works harder or takes better care of himself. You'll appreciate how Jackson fights for extra yards. Think about what Michael Turner used to do on the Falcons before he got fat PLUS legitimate receiving ability.
ATSOTF - An elderly running back with a rep for nagging injuries. But bank on him; he'll be having a ton of fun playing on a winner for the first time in his entire career.
DYNASTY - A clear WIN NOW pickup.

8 (3) Jamaal Charles
TALENT - Solid receiver with preposterous afterburners. A touchdown waiting to happen on any play.
SITCH - Chief's new coach Andy Reid has been (somewhat legitimately) criticized for under-utilizing talented running backs in the past. There's a reason I why mentioned Charles' receiving skills as they convert to a West Coast Offense. Why are people excited about Alex Smith at QB? And do not forget that the Chiefs were 2-14. They'll improve (healthy defense), but enough to support Charles as an elite pick?
CONSIST - This is where I'm bearish. I have Charles ranked lower than the "experts", because I'm not convinced the Chiefs will set him up to steadily produce toward his ceiling. I feel like I'm ranking him too low, but this is where I would draft him.
ATSOTF - He looks completely healed from his ACL tear, and he's far too talented to sit.
DYNASTY - I'd be anxious with Charles as a frontliner, but he warrants the first round pick.

UPDATE - I reassessed my low comparative ranking. He definitely has big upside, but also concluded that he possesses the biggest bust potential of any first rounder. His production last season also depended on long broken plays more than any other running back. Thus, I did not change his relative ranking. Punch his ticket higher only if you feel gut lucky.

9 (7) Trent Richardson
TALENT - Complete; does it all and does it all well.
SITCH - Absolutely wretched. He is the sole weapon for the magnificently horrid Browns.
CONSIST - You gotta respect him. Defenses key on him, and all he does is grind for yards (at an ugly 3.6 average clip) AND is also Cleveland's best receiver.
ATSOTF - He gets beat up non-stop. Props for playing and producing through a busted rib last season, but I cringe hard watching the punishment he endures. If anything, coordinator Norv Turner will call his number even more often, increasing the odds of Richardson missing entire games.
DYNASTY - I hope you have a better #1 option. It's heart-wrenching to pass on this kind of talent, but the Browns fugliness looks to break the poor kid.

10 (5) Arian Foster
TALENT - The ultimate one-cut zone scheme running back among active players.
SITCH - Texans are a playoffs caliber running team with an effective O-line.
CONSIST - Will produce as well as anyone, given a minimum number of healthy carries.
ATSOTF - Showing signs of breaking down under several years of heavy usage. I dropped him a couple ranks due to a troubling slow-healing calf injury that has sidelined him for two months and counting. Handcuffing Ben Tate is virtually mandatory.
DYNASTY - He scares me. His peak value is behind him, and the cliff somewhere in the impending future.

UPDATE - Dropped from #4 on the podcast. This is my first "I told you so." The injections Foster is taking for back soreness is radiating pain into his legs. **Just avoid drafting Foster**; that running back cliff is in the near impending future.

TIER 3 - RB2s

11 (18) DeMarco Murray
TALENT - Strong, physical ball carrier that can bang and slash for low end RB1 production.
SITCH - Hate the offensive line, and Dallas looks to throw first.
CONSIST - When he plays, you can expect steady 80+ yard games with a liberal sprinkling of TDs.
ATSOTF - Unlike DMC, I'm convinced this dude IS injury prone. He runs with an upright style and linebackers spear him like the wrestler Edge used to finisher opponents. Low tackles clip his knees, additionally exposing his ankles. He'll need more than the usual dose of luck to avoid missing games. I'm wondering how I like him more than the experts...must be the talent.
DYNASTY - I currently own him, and am disgruntled at his outlook.

UPDATE - I'm shocked at this high ranking, but it's largely by default. Several other RBs have slipped down in my rankings. It's possible Murray could get lucky and stay healthy throughout the season resulting in a RB1 final line, but it's uncomfortable to wager on it. This is a rough place to draft; you'd have to drop down to Frank Gore for genuine consistency. I could envision swerving to take a top WR here depending on who's available.

12 (17) Reggie Bush
TALENT - There are *moments* when he looks like Walter Payton and Gayle Sayers combined.
SITCH - He has tremendous receiving skills and his move to Detroit is a substantial upgrade. With defenses occasionally even TRIPLE-TEAMING Megatron, Bush will have ample room to romp.
CONSIST - He's never quite put it all together to produce according to his ability. Yes, he's a clear risk, but take advantage of this common knowledge to draft him before he drops too far.
ATSOTF - Bush is always nursing some injury. I suspect that he compensates for lingering pains, and keeps torqueing something new. One more time, his upside is worth risking these issues considering his low ADP.
Dynasty - I'm strongly recommending him for redraft, if you can absorb the risks, but that's too many factors that will catch up to him in dynasty.

UPDATE - The same caveats as DeMarco Murray apply here. There's a direct correlation to Bush's production and injury rate on turf. Playing on Detroit's turf, he will break opponents' ankles as long as he's on the field. Unfortunately, playing on Detroit's turf increases the odds of Bush breaking one of his own.

13 (13) Stevan Ridley
TALENT - Slowish, but a hammer that employs other strengths effectively.
SITCH - Ridley may get more touches with most of the Patriots weapons having moved on, but the loss of known contributors does leave something of an uncertainty factor for the offense. Coach Belichick is also a threat to randomly (at least to us, the evil genius) swap in other running backs at any given time.
CONSIST - Makes the most of his opportunities.
ATSOTF - What goes on in the mind of that Sith Lord genius?
DYNASTY - Ridley's value stems from the Patriots offense. It's hard to rely on him when Belichick is ruthless about cutting players once their usefulness even dips.

14 (16) Frank Gore
TALENT - Tough, strong ball carrier. Not sexy, but reliable.
SITCH - Michael Crabtree's injury is a huge loss, but the strong 9ers offense leans on Gore with quality carries and red zone opportunities behind a monster O-line.
CONSIST - He's pumped out double digit fantasy production since 2006. He's a near lock for 1,200 yards and 8 TDs.
ATSOTF - I keep expecting him to break down, but it just doesn't happen. I'm learning that this workhorse conditions and trains with a furious passion, and he is willing himself to remain productive. Gotta love that work ethic. I'm fighting the urge to raise his ranking. Maybe I should.
Dynasty - How long can he keep up the mind over matter?

15 (11) Matt Forte
TALENT - A complete back, but the kind that gives you contentedness, not excitement.
SITCH - The new offense SHOULD give him new opportunities (he's a solid receiver), but I figure Jay Cutler will ignore it and just keep airing it out to a triple-teamed Brandon Marshall. Their offensive line also seems a hot mess at the moment.
CONSIST - He moves the chains all game long.
ATSOTF - Forte is getting long in the tooth, and always seems banged up.
DYNASTY - Try to go younger. Forte is a stopgap measure.

16 (20) Darren McFadden
TALENT - We've seen him school defenses stupid before. We know it's in him.
SITCH - The Raiders are laughable, but they're switching back to a power blocking scheme. Run DMC has schooled defenses stupid before, under nearly as bad circumstances.
CONSIST - Chalk last year up to the ill-advised zone blocking design; the Raiders aren't smart enough to run it. DMC is in a contract year, and he's all the Silver and Black have. The track record is lacking, but I believe he will "do work" in 2013.
ATSOTF - As explained in the podcast, I don't believe he's injury prone, just unlucky.
DYNASTY - As long as he signs just about anywhere other than with Oakland, he should be a fantasy stud in future years.

UPDATE - Dropped from #12 on the podcast. After watching preseason, I was forced to reluctantly drop McFadden several ranks, albeit through no fault of his own. Oakland's offensive line is even worse than advertised, Matt Flynn has the weakest arm I've ever seen on a starter, and Denarius Moore is regressing. If backup Terrelle Pryor manages to unseat Flynn, I'd bump McFadden back up a couple spots.

17 (10) Alfred Morris
TALENT - Any rookie RB that churns out 1,600 yards deserves recognition. However, he's capped hard by the fact that he can't (doesn't?) catch.
ITCH - I don't like the uncertainty swirling around RG3's knee. A significant amount of Morris' big play threat was sprung by his dynamic QB. Maybe an increased amount of short yardage carries to protect RG3 will compensate.
CONSIST - If you were among the lucky to claim him off waivers last season, you got a serious freebie stud. He combined good vision and patience within the offensive system to bring it week in week out.
ATSOTF - There's a minor concern Coach Shanahan goes with someone else at some point. Their RB production is system based, and Shanahan has previously turned scrubs like Mike Anderson into Terrell Davis impersonators. Roy Helu looks healthy, for example, and an argument could be made that he's more talented than Morris. Note that I said minor concern. It's still Morris' job.
DYNASTY - I'm a little uneasy for the reasons given above. I have something of a suspicion that we've already seen Morris' career best season. Still, youth counts for a lot. Good luck.

UPDATE - Dropped from #13 on the podcast. Roy Helu is now a serious threat and has apparently claimed third down duties. With the possible exception of Morris' vision, Helu is a superior running back in every way. Helu is more athletic and a noticeably better receiver - I'm sure that coach Shanahan can see this too...

18 (23) Eddie Lacey
TALENT - A bruiser with just enough acceleration and shiftiness to be dangerous.
SITCH - Fell into one of the best offenses that has been craving a legitimate running back. The Packers also drafted Jonathan Franklin, but it looks like this won't matter.
CONSIST - The rookie shows no glaring deficiencies in his limited track record, and can clearly play through pain.
ATSOTF - He's got a fused toe, more metal in his hand than Wolverine, and presumably fields of scar tissue on his hamstring. That's why he's this low...
DYNASTY - I don't like accumulated lower leg injuries. That said, he's young and in an ideal situation.

UPDATE - Up from #25 in the podcast. Lacy has *thoroughly* outplayed Franklin this preseason. Lacy should get the lion's share of carries in addition to finally providing a rushing goal line option for the Packers.

19 (15) Maurice Jones-Drew
TALENT - Seems like forever ago he led the league in rushing yards, but that was just two seasons ago.
SITCH - Miserable. The Jaguars are terribad and whichever atrocity they trot out as QB will have to throw after they fall behind every game. Still, it is his contract season, and the Jaguars will try to run him into the ground so he'll get reams of first half carries.
CONSIST - Dude can clearly bring it, but too many factors are conspiring against him.
ATSOTF - Recovering from a mean Lisfranc foot fracture, disgruntled with team management, and danced around an assault charge in the offseason.
DYNASTY - Hard to trust he'll have anything left for 2014 and beyond.

20 (14) Chris Johnson
TALENT - He did run for 2,000 yards once.
CONSIST - But he won't shut up about it. He spent last year dancing behind the line trying to break the big play and leaving yardage on the table. He followed up those performances by throwing his offensive line under the bus in interviews. He wasn't wrong, but publicly blaming your teammates for your lack of production is a straight punk move.
SITCH - Hasn't improved that I can see. His talent will produce the occasional big play, but even with the fantasy community down on him, I still think he's overvalued. I'm clearly irrational in my distaste for him, but I personally wouldn't ever consider taking him as either of my first two running backs.
ATSOTF - The Titans just signed Shonn Green who will leech away short yardage carries.
DYNASTY - I don't want him on any permanent basis. Am I being unreasonable? Yeah, but I don't care.

TIER 4 - Flex/Bye Week & Injuries Replacements

21 (27)Montee Ball
TALENT - Sufficient to produce front line RB1 production in the right setting.
SITCH - He's in the right setting. The Broncos offense whips ass.
CONSIST - The Broncos offense can take decent talent (see: Knowshown Moreno last season) and carve major chunks of yardage. Ball is more talented. Look at the disparity between where I and the Experts rank him. If I'm right, you can rob your league blind with Ball at the right pick. But...
ATSOTF - There's disturbing news dribbling out of training camp that he can't pass protect. Peyton Manning will not abide that shit. Hillman and Moreno are distinct steps down as ball carriers and Denver wants Ball to step to, but this situation bears continued scrutiny as Hillman currently has a lock on first team reps. I dropped Ball one rank from the podcast for now, but that could plummet. This ranking is based entirely on the supposition that he wins the job.
Dynasty - Until Peyton retires, Ball is the cream of the crop among the 2013 rookies as long as he can nominally pass protect.

UPDATE - Dropped big from #10 on the podcast. Ball looks lost. He's whiffing in pass protection, and allowed Peyton Manning to just get creamed in a preseason game. He's also struggling to pick up the complexities of the Broncos offense, particularly when Peyton audibles pre-snap adjustments. Ball's value is volatile and could be revealed to be much higher or even lower than here. Still, his upside makes taking him higher than his ADP a worthy gamble.

22 (22) Darren Sproles
TALENT - Lethal in open space.
SITCH - He's the Saints listed starting running back, but he's really a receiver you can slot in as a running back. He can eat up BIG yardage on that great offense between the 20s, but his TD potential is severely curtailed. He can go entire games without getting a traditional rushing carry.
CONSIST - Effectively a receiver, he's going to flash the inconsistent production range of a receiver.
ATSOTF - Ingram and Thomas both hit the field for traditional carries. It's a testament to his ability that Sproles scores as well as he does with limited opportunities.
DYNASTY - Sproles is a bonus piece you can survive without.

23 (19) David Wilson
TALENT - He's the NFC version of C.J. Spiller.
SITCH - Has a great breakout opportunity curtailed by his AtSotF.
CONSIST - Has struggled with pass protection and fumble-itis in limited opportunities.
ATSOTF - Coach Coughlin is a hardass who benches him and makes him cry every time Wilson makes a mistake. Andre Brown will take away a ton of carries, especially with goal to go.
DYNASTY - He's the future in New York with lofty potential. Target him accordingly, but be prepared to be patient.

24 (26) Ahmad Bradshaw
TALENT - Solid all-around back and the master pass protector.
SITCH - Andrew Luck's ability will free Bradshaw up to roll.
ATSOTF - Foot. Offseason surgery replaced a screw connecting a 2009 broken bone with a 2011 cracked bone with a BIGGER screw.
CONSIST - A warrior who would be in my top 15 if it weren't for his foot.
DYNASTY - Foot!

UPDATE - Up from #26 on the podcast. He's up and about, and sounds like he would start if the season began today. That's good enough for me to place him ahead of other injury prone starting running backs of lesser ability/situation.

25 (28) Giovani Bernard
TALENT - Immediately one of the most elusive backs in the NFL. Couples that with good vision, hands and sufficient speed to exploit that combination.
SITCH - Needs to convince the Bengals coaching staff to put Green-Ellis out to pasture.
ATSOTF - An polished pass protector, but BJGE is no bodyguard either.
CONSIST - Needs to run with more authority between the tackles.
DYNASTY - My favorite 2013 rookie target, but it wasn't a thrilling draft class.

UPDATE - Eating my words here. Up from #32 in the podcast. As I said, Law Firm will be the opening week starter, but the Bengals are taking a long, hard look at Bernard. He's been given every meaningful preseason snap, and while he hasn't exactly thrilled, he's certainly more exciting than BJGE. I expect Bernard to claim the third down job, and grow into an ever-increasing role as the season progresses. I hesitated to rank him up here, as he is a committee back, but his potential is just that bright.

26 (30) Daryl Richardson
TALENT - Decent all-around ability; has a complete game.
SITCH - Will face brutal NFC West run stuffing defenses.
ATSOTF - Just needs to keep Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy at bay for the job, and he is more skilled than either.
CONSIST - Has big shoes to fill with Steven Jackson's departure. Deserves the benefit of the doubt for now.
DYNASTY - Could develop into a steady long term producer.

UPDATE - Up from #31 in the podcast. I called this one: Richardson has the job. His ranking could rise higher if Coach Fisher commits to him fully as a three-down back. And Fisher has never been fond of RBC.

27 (25) Chris Ivory
TALENT - Comparison to Marshawn Lynch is legitimate. Ivory runs angry, LOOKS for contact, and adds big yards AFTER contact.
SITCH - The worst. He plays for the Jets.
CONSIST - Excellent, when healthy. I wish every football player threw down this hard.
ATSOTF - He's clearly injury prone. That physical running style has done a number on him from top to bottom, prior concussion to multiple knee and hamstring problems.
DYNASTY - I loved this guy on New Orleans, but he never got to play much. I hoped he'd escape to shine somewhere, but now he'll play too much and break down on a truly hapless team.

28 (29) Rashard Mendenhall
TALENT - Hard, intelligent worker who struggles to exhibit anything special.
SITCH - Running behind the Cardinals offensive line is ugly, and the NFC West is a brutal division to run in under those circumstances.
CONSIST - Only injury will prevent Mendenhall from leaving everything on the field.
ATSOTF - Significant red flags. He should be recovered from an ACL tear, but his history is littered with lower leg injuries, most recently an Achilles problem.
DYNASTY - A temporary spot starter.

UPDATE - Up from #34 in the podcast, mostly by keeping his job unlike many others. Mendenhall looks serviceable in preseason play, which holds some measure of value.

TIER 5 - Committee Backs

29 (21) Lamar Miller
TALENT - Good speed coupled with passable vision.
SITCH - Miami's lead back with Reggie Bush's departure. Mike Wallace should create some space for their RBs. I believe in their young QB, Ryan Tannehill, but their offense still has room for upgrades.
CONSIST - This season is his first meaningful opportunity, but the eyeball test indicates that he's simply decent, lacking major upside.
ATSOTF - I'm skittish. Daniel Thomas is a serious threat to take his job. Monitor training camp.
DYNASTY - Thomas? And the Fins just drafted Mike Gillislee as well? At this point, Miller just isn't amazing enough to inspire confidence he'll retain the job.

UPDATE - Dropped from #21 on the podcast. Miller has struggled mightily in preseason, and Thomas is indeed competing for the job. It appears as if they'll split carries, and Miller may drop even further.

30 (24) Ryan Mathews
TALENT - Formidable. An athletic combination of bulk and acceleration.
SITCH - Running for a declining San Diego offense.
CONSIST - Terrible. Does not run with authority, and is a poor receiver.
ATSOTF - Will get a new chance with a new coach, but will lose snaps to newly acquired Danny Woodhead who might be less physically gifted, but works and plays much harder. San Diego wants to "Sproles" Woodhead resulting in less opportunities for Mathews.
DYNASTY - There's no reason to be optimistic until we see him capitalize on his physical gifts and start breaking, at minimum, arm tackles.

31 (32) DeAngelo Williams
TALENT - Age seems to have robbed him of much of his.
SITCH - Bad. You could almost look at him as Cam Newton's rushing handcuff.
CONSIST - Hasn't demonstrated much in several years, but he'll get a full workload with Stewart out.
ATSOTF - Carolina doesn't have much in the way of options. He'll get the bulk of carries until Stewart's return. Williams will produce better than RB#31 numbers in the first half of the season, which accounts for this ranking.
DYNASTY - No.

32 (36) Ben Tate
TALENT - Would be a starting running back for numerous other teams.
SITCH - The Texans are a running team with a powerful offensive line.
CONSIST - Whenever he has had the chance, Tate has produced.
ATSOTF - In three years: ankle, quad, back, groin, ankle, toe, hamstring, foot. Tell me those aren't lingering and related lower leg problems.
DYNASTY - It's a contract year, and he'll probably get a chance to start somewhere next season. Be wary of injuries, though.

UPDATE - This high ranking is directly related to the red flags Arian Foster is sprouting. I now expect Tate to be more than a handcuff even if Foster is playing, and potential RB1 material if Foster goes down.

33 (33) Andre Brown
TALENT - Unspectacular but tough runner who makes the most of his limited physical abilities.
SITCH - Settles for the leftovers from his electric, young teammate David Wilson.
CONSIST - Fortunately, David Wilson doesn't clean his plate. Brown will get a substantial number of carries, including red zone duties.
ATSOTF - This is up to Wilson's AtSotF. Brown is a far superior pass blocker, and his touch percentage will correlate directly to Wilson's continued deficiency in this skill.
DYNASTY - I'm a fan of warriors, but Brown's already maximized his potential.

34 (31) Shane Vareen
TALENT - Good hands and vision, quick but not fast.
SITCH - Only makes it to the "Committee" range because of New England's prolific offense.
CONSIST - The amount Darth Belichick calls his number varies wildly. Vareen is tabbed to pick up some of the slack for homicide suspect Hernandez's absence.
ATSOTF - He'll get his chance to break out this season. Bump him up a few spots if you like upside.
DYNASTY - Any Belichick running back is a risky dynasty investment.

35 (34) Benjarvus Green-Ellis
TALENT - Pedestrian. Law Firm's value is that he knows how to fall forward for 3+ yards
SITCH - He'll be watching rookie teammate Bernard take away more and more of his carries.
CONSIST - He falls forward for 3+ yards almost every time, while hanging onto the ball.
ATSOTF - He can't do much of anything but fall forward for 3+ yards, and will likely be the Bengals 2nd running back by season's end.
DYNASTY - There's not much future in falling forward for 3+ yards a carry.

UPDATE - Down from #30 on the podcast. Giovanni Bernard's stock is on the rise. Law Firm is still the listed starter, but is a weak pick with little upside.

36 (39) Le'Veon Bell
TALENT - Not particularly impressive...
SITCH - ...but Pittsburgh's other running backs are depressive.
CONSIST - The rookie projects to hammer the line as the Steelers' feature back.
ATSOTF - Nothing negative on my radar.
DYNASTY - After Montee Ball, the only rookie you can trust to produce something. [Edit: how quickly things change!]

UPDATE - Down from #19 on the podcast with a "mild" Lisfranc injury. Figure on him missing half the season. He'll probably be replaced by Jonathan Dwyer or Felix Jones, both of whom I refuse to rank.

TIER NOTEWORTHY HANDCUFFS (unranked)

Ben Tate (ECR 36) - I'm so wary of Arian Foster's health, I actually ranked him above.
Bernard Pierce (ECR 38) - Ray Rice owners should attempt to acquire him at a reasonable price, especially in Dynasty.
Fred Jackson (ECR 41) - CJ Spiller's handcuff, plus he'll see some short yardage play. Unless your league runs deep benches (7+), you probably have better uses for the slot.
Bryce Brown (ECR 42) - Horrid preseason producing talk of dropping him to #3 on Philly's depth chart. Talented sleeper now.
Mikel Leshoure (ECR 47) - Reggie Bush is an injury risk, but again, only acquire Leshoure if your league runs deep benches.
Michael Bush (ECR 54) - It does seem like Matt Forte gets banged up a bunch.
Daniel Thomas (ECR 56) - It's possible he replaces Lamar Miller.
Roy Helu (ECR 60) - Could be a top end RB2 if he can supplant Alfred Morris.
Christine Michael (ECR 63) - Volatile talent backing up Marshawn Lynch.

TIER DESPERATION (unranked)

Mark Ingram (ECR 35) - Splits touches with Pierre Thomas behind Sproles
Ronnie Hillman (ECR 37) - Just...no. Maybe look at Knowshown Moreno instead.
Pierre Thomas (ECR 40) - See Mark Ingram
Danny Woodhead (ECR 43) - Might have to step into a larger role if Ryan Mathews struggles.
Jonathan Stewart (ECR 44) - Talented, but still hasn't recovered from double ankle surgery. He'll either sit, or hurt himself and sit.
Vick Ballard (ECR 45) - Grab him if Ahmad Bradshaw's foot unscrews, but you don't handcuff Tier 4 running backs.
Jonathan Dwyer (ECR 46) - Will battle with Felix Jones to scratch out a few crumbs while Le'Veon Bell is out.

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