Fantasy Football Outlook: Running Backs

Last week I looked at production for NFL Quarterbacks and this week I will turn my attention to the Running Back position. All scoring and pricing that we discuss is based on FanDuel’s scoring and salary system used in their weekly fantasy games. In case you were unaware we are running a promotion with FanDuel where you can receive a deposit bonus if you use OTC100 as your promo code when signing up.

Week One

High priced backs look to be the most consistent performers in the first week of the season. For players who have played at least two openers in the last two years the top five average scorers are Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, and Matt Forte all averaging over 20 points in the first week of the season. Luckily Rice is not an option since I have a hard time believing he can again be strong in week 1, but that may be something to keep in mind as a high risk/reward play when he returns.

I definitely do not want to fool around with the RB position and I need at least one of these players on my roster week 1, despite the larger price tags. Bush is the lowest cost player ($7,800- $1,600 less than McCoy) so if you want potential top RB1 performance at an affordable rate he is the player I would lean on. Forte I think will offer the most consistency and should have a very favorable matchup against the Bills while Peterson has the bigger potential. Peterson matches up against a Rams defense that has not been that strong versus the run, but there is more variance in Peterson’s game.

For RB2 I would probably look for a decent mid tier option that I believe will give me points rather than a complete shot in the dark and keeping my fingers crossed to find the Mike Tolbert 2011 3 TD shock performer of the week. A surprisingly good week 1 player has been Darren McFadden of the Raiders. There is almost nothing I like about McFadden, but he has been no lower than 14 points in the first game of the year, putting all three of his games in the top 45 game openers of the last three years. For $6,200 I would give him strong consideration even against the Jets. The Jets wont score, giving the Raiders every opportunity to run, and I’d take the chance about the defense, which has given up at least 14 to every starter in the opener.

I’m not sure right now which Patriots running back will have the big game but one of them is a solid value play. In the last two years their top back scored around 20, but picking the guy isn’t easy. Ridley probably has the inside track but he could also fumble his way to the bench. Both he and Vereen are reasonable cost players.

If you are considering based on team situation/opponent go with someone from the Rams rather than Broncos. Broncos have not produced big rushing scores in week 1 under Fox. The Rams have an incredibly easy matchup against the Vikings, who have gotten slaughtered in two of the last three years.

I’d stay away from name players like Chris Johnson (7.7 pts), Marshawn Lynch (7.5 pts), and Trent Richardson (6.8 pts).

Here is the average performance level of all players who have played in at least two opening games over the last three years.

PlayerAvg. Week 1 Score
Ray Rice22.9
LeSean McCoy22.9
Adrian Peterson21.2
Reggie Bush20.5
Matt Forte20.3
Darren McFadden16.2
C.J. Spiller14.3
Jamaal Charles13.7
Frank Gore13.5
Steven Jackson12.2
Mike Tolbert11.7
BenJarvus Green-Ellis11.6
DeMarco Murray11.1
Ahmad Bradshaw10.7
Maurice Jones-Drew10.4
Ben Tate9.7
Fred Jackson8.8
Chris Johnson7.7
Marshawn Lynch7.5
Knowshon Moreno7.3
Shonn Greene7.0
Michael Bush6.9
Pierre Thomas6.7
DeAngelo Williams5.5
LaRod Stephens-Howling4.3
Ronnie Brown4.1
Jacquizz Rodgers3.3
Isaac Redman2.5
Kendall Hunter2.3
Mark Ingram2.2
Roy Helu2.2
LeGarrette Blount1.5
Alfred Morris16.8
Arian Foster16.0
Joique Bell14.9
Doug Martin13.6
Stevan Ridley13.4
Ryan Mathews12.9
Darren Sproles12.9
Cedric Benson10.3
Beanie Wells9.8
Michael Turner9.4
Peyton Hillis7.8
Daryl Richardson7.1
Marcel Reece7.0
Trent Richardson6.8
Daniel Thomas6.6
Willis McGahee6.2
Bilal Powell5.8
Rashard Mendenhall5.7
Danny Woodhead5.0
Jackie Battle4.6
John Kuhn4.3
Justin Forsett3.8
Jason Snelling3.6
Vick Ballard3.5
Brian Leonard3.0
Jamie Harper2.6
Robert Turbin2.6
Toby Gerhart2.4
Rashad Jennings2.4
Le’Ron McClain2.1
Bernard Pierce2.1
Bryce Brown1.4
David Wilson1.2
Tashard Choice0.9
Stefan Logan0.2

Seasonal Outlook

I’m a bit down on McCoy this year. I think regression is natural but moreso than that, the Eagles will likely be looking to rework his contract down to more reasonable figures next season. With the presence of Darren Sproles I think they will be looking to be less reliant on McCoy in part because of the contract.

Arian Foster looks to be done in Houston after the season and it almost sounds, at times, as if he is mentally checking out of the situation. This could go one of two ways. The Texans could run him into the ground knowing that his future isn’t with this team or they could just play for the future and use Foster in a diminishing role. Given the lack of general interest in running backs as free agents, I think Foster knows 1,000 yards or 700 yards is probably getting him the same deal next season. I’d prefer to look elsewhere for a player I am tied to for the whole year.

CJ Spiller is probably one of the worst teases every season. This is officially his walk year and the Bills have shown little interest so he’ll be looking to impress. Will that force the Bills to play him?  He could pay off late in the year if that happens, but if not you want to be able to pick your matchups with him as he could be one of a rotating group of three players if you don’t get the big name players at the position.

Mark Ingram has been waiting and waiting for more chances and it looks like he will get that. He did not get his option picked up and a big year will probably lead to a contract worth around $4 million a season next year.  Ryan Mathews is in a similar spot but with a more crowded backfield and less potent offense in San Diego, but Id expect him to make the most of the situation if he can remain healthy.

Next go around I’ll look at the receivers.

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