Aside from all the passing records being broken, if you want to see how the culture of professional football has changed, look no further than fantasy football. The record breakers of a decade ago (LT, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes) have been traded for prime quarterbacks. Used to be that your first fantasy round was exclusively halfbacks, then you saw a top tier QB or two and now really only the first three picks are sure tailbacks. You may want to overvalue runningbacks this year because after the top 15 the pack is really close and unpredictable. But without further ado:
1. LeSean McCoy - - Philadelphia Eagles ADP: 3rd overall pick / Yahoo: 3rd overall
For most fantasy drafters with the 1st overall pick the debate is Arian vs. Ray Rice. I'm off grid in that I fear Foster's injury-prone history and Ray Rice has never been a consistent TD producer. LeSean McCoy is healthy, (plus they plan to reduce his touches to keep him that way) and is the TD bellcow in Philly. In terms of exciting big play ability, I put LeSean side by side with Arian Foster. Maybe I'm just biased because I owned him last year but I think you can do no wrong with this stud
2. Arian Foster - - Houston Texans ADP: 1st overall / Yahoo: 1st overall
Why is Arian bumped a peg down in my flawless rankings? Aside from the injury bug I swatted at above, I have a two word answer for you. Ben. Tate. Ben Tate is bar none the best backup runningback in the NFL. He's so good it may surprise you where he falls later in this list. Houston will have a run favorable schedule this year and they will eat up chunks in garbage time. But the more Tate proves himself and the more blowouts we see, the less Arian will shine
3. Ray Rice - - Baltimore Ravens ADP: 2nd overall / Yahoo: 2nd overall
I've never been amazed with Ray Rice. He's as consistent as they come but he doesn't wow me. He's the Curtis Martin of this generation. But with consistency comes the comfort of making a safe pick. With Anquan Boldin slowing, he will be a crucial part of the passing game and Lord yes, if you play in a Points Per Reception league he is glow in the dark awesome. But If I had the 3rd overall pick I might go into blasphemous territory and consider Rodgers of Calvin myself.
4. Chris Johnson - - Tennessee Titans ADP: 1st round (4th RB) / Yahoo: 6th overall
Chris Johnson had a mulligan year last year because of his contract pouting. But man, did you see the moves he showed in the preseason game against the Buccs? Silly man. And if he's focused and the offense takes a step forward with the addition of Kendall Wright and the return of Kenny Britt he may not have to do it all himself. With a runningback that small though you worry about durability. But he was in all 16 games last year so I'm not as concerned here. The fastest RB in the year is good company around mid first round
5. Darren McFadden - - Oakland Raiders ADP: 1st round (5th RB) / Yahoo: 8th overall
If I thought for a second that this fragile pony would make it through the race I would consider him in top 3 company. But it's just a matter of when. Draft him at the end of the first round and enjoy that solid month he gives you. Oakland's offense is hurting at wide receiver and they'll lean on him as long as they can. Poor McFadden was such a star in college and he'll give you glimpses every other game of being the best. Buyer beware here
6. Matt Forte - - Chicago Bears ADP: 2nd round (6th RB) / Yahoo: 10th overall
No love from Yahoo on Forte. Michael Bush will hurt his TD potential but Forte is a beast. He was on pace to lead the league in rushing before his injury cut short the last month of the year. I think he's more dangerous in the screen game and downfield receiving than Ray Rice myself. This may be your first sleeper here. Plus now that Mike Martz is gone, Chicago may go back to it's ground and pound bread and butter.
7. Marshawn Lynch - - Seattle Seahawks ADP: 2nd round (11th overall) / Yahoo: 11th
I actually don't think Marshawn will be suspended this year. It sounds like with the NFL suspension rules of waiting for the court case to be completed first to determine guilt, Lynch's legal team will do everything they can to delay the trial. I heard it might take until November to have a jury selected, in which case you fantasy season is almost over. Beast mode is fun to watch. When he gets his Skittles in him, it harkens back to NFL2K when players in the arcade game would literally catch on fire. His playoff run against New Orleans two years ago is arguably one of the best runs of the last decade.
8. Ryan Mathews - - San Diego Chargers ADP: 3rd round (13th RB) / Yahoo: 4th overall
I have Mathews still rated high. Reports out of San Diego are promising regarding his clavicle. If he can play they will play him. Ronnie Brown won't be keeping this guy out of the lineup. But here's another injury prone migraine. Mathews has had nagging injuries throughout college and his brief pro career. I would not feel great about this guy as my RB1. When he's healthy he's shown some solid punch.9. Jamaal Charles - - Kansas City Chiefs ADP: 2nd round (10th overall) / Yahoo: 13th
I'm surprised that Jamaal hadn't suffered a serious injury sooner in his career. He's so tiny. This former Longhorn track star can take it the distance any time he touches it. Yet Peyton Hillis is there to preserve him and little bit. We may see Charles do some more damage through the air. But don't be scared of his ACL recovery. All reports out of camp have been glowing. He'll be great this year if he doesn't reinjure himself
10. Fred Jackson - - Buffalo Bills ADP: 3rd round (14th overall) / Yahoo: 14th
See Matt Forte. Fred Jackson looked like an MVP Candidate before his injury. He can do it all - a star despite playing in a crowded backfield for his whole career. And yet he has been the best option every year. Buffalo has attempted to replace him in Spiller but Jackson's production tops C.J.'s potential anyday. Fitzpatrick's growth as a passer only only bodes well for this Coe College standout. Again you'll notice a common theme starting in the midround picks of walking wounded risks.
Now with your RB1 out of the way, we'll get to the nitty gritty of your mid range quality backs next