By Adam Harris-
(CBS) If you draft at the end of the first round, no doubt you have lost sleep thinking about which direction you will go.
Will you draft a running back? Will Calvin Johnson fall to you? Should you take Jimmy Graham, or just grab Drew Brees or a stud quarterback?
This year’s fantasy draft is unique because all the options above are easily understood and viable, but I say there is one answer and one answer only to this quandary: draft a running back.
Now that you’ve made that decision, you can sleep soundly, right?
Now you must decide which running back you should take, and this is where the research comes in. There are seven running backs that you should grab if available late in the first round: Adrian Peterson (MIN), Arian Foster (HOU), Marshawn Lynch (SEA), CJ Spiller (BUF), Jamaal Charles (KC), Doug Martin (TB), and Trent Richardson (CLE).
Most likely these backs are going to be gone by the time the late first round comes up and your goal now must be to get a running back with low risk and high reward.
Grab the following running backs in this order:
8) Alfred Morris (WASH) – Alfred Morris has many things going for him in Washington. His head coach Mike Shanahan loves to run the football, and needs to run the football to protect sophomore star quarterback Robert Griffin III. Morris carried the ball the third most times in the NFL last year behind Adrian Peterson (MIN) and Arian Foster (HOU) and it will not diminish this year to, again, protect RGIII.
Morris ran for 4.8 yards a carry, which was fifth among starting running backs last year, and he was second in total rushing yards with 1,613. All these stats are fantastic to have in a fantasy back, but the major plus from Morris is his consistency with the potential to blow up. In seven of his 16 games last year, Morris scored over 15 fantasy points. Nine games he scored a touchdown, and seven times he rushed for over 100 yards. He would be my first preference at running back late in the first round.
9) Reggie Bush (DET) – I am very high on Reggie Bush this year. He is exactly what the Lions have been missing in their offense – a true, dual threat running back that can make plays in space. The deep threat of wide out Calvin Johnson will push the safety back and open up spots for Bush to be handed the ball or thrown the ball to in space to then go one-on-one with the linebackers. That is a battle Reggie Bush will always win. Especially in PPR or half-PPR leagues, I would highly recommend targeting Bush late in the first round. He has a high upside and a low floor. His only downside is that he is injury prone.
10) Ray Rice (BALT) – Talk of injuries brings me to my next running back, Ray Rice in that he never has them. He may have had a down fantasy year last year, but he is extremely durable and is guaranteed to touch the ball between 300 and 350 times this year. Many fantasy owners are scared of backup running back Bernard Pierce, but I am not. Rice will still hold the overwhelming majority of carries, as he did in the previous four years. Rice is a dual-threat back that can create opportunities off the pass and the run. I am weary of his mileage as his running back life is just about up, but you can’t beat the guaranteed fantasy output week to week from this dual-threat back late in the first round.
11) Matt Forte (CHI) – Matt Forte will be the only consistent part of a Bears’ offense that will struggle early on. On Tuesday, Offensive Coordinator Aaron Kromer said the Bears are just looking for good timing and efficiency in the Bears offense during this upcoming preseason game, also pointing out he wants the Bears to efficiently call the correct play, get to the line and snap the ball in time. This is elementary, but part of a learning curve in a new NFL offense, and it all must be taken into account when drafting their main running back. Forte will be worth it in the long run, but has never held up his part of the fantasy bargain, even though he is highly sought after by fantasy owners in the draft year after year. Let’s put it this way, Chris Johnson (TEN) outscored Forte in fantasy points last year.
12) Stevan Ridley (NE) – Consistency is key when drafting a running back at the end of the first round, and you will find that from Stevan Ridley. The Patriots were very happy with the 1,263 rushing yards Ridley posted last year, and with the loss of half back Danny Woodhead to the Chargers, and the loss of other offensive weapons to injury and jail time, the Patriots will ride Ridley as their main running back again. Also, Tom Brady hates sneaking the football, even in first and goal situations.
13) Steven Jackson (ATL) – Every once in a while, there comes a running back that the rules don’t apply to. That is Steven Jackson, as he continues to defy the average life of a running back. Jackson has been in this league since 2004, and his pound and ground style has not slowed him down. Jackson has rushed for over 1000 yards for 8 straight years on a below average offense. Now he will see a resurgence on a team that desperately needs a running game if they wish to get to the Super Bowl. The Falcons offense can only help an aging veteran like Jackson. No doubt his touchdown total will increase as there are plenty of touchdowns to share on the Falcon’s potent offense.
14) LeSean McCoy (PHI) – No doubt, LeSean McCoy is talented, but his down year last year proved to the fantasy world his 20 touchdown year in 2011 was not to be expected every season. Bryce Brown (PHI) is a very talented running back right behind McCoy, and new head coach Chip Kelly is ready to use whatever back necessary to generate offense. Expect McCoy to get the majority of the carries, but if he doesn’t get in the end zone, he won’t be an ideal number one fantasy running back.
Early Second Rounders To Grab:
- DeMarco Murray (DAL) – This offense is going to score a lot, hopefully he can get in the end zone.
- David Wilson (NYG) – High upside, and a solid number two running back.
- Frank Gore (SF) – Believe it or not, he has some offense left in his tank.
Avoid These RB Traps:
- Chris Johnson (CAR) – Been there, done that.
- Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX) – His best years are behind him.
- Darren McFadden (OAK) – Oakland sucks and he’s frustrating to own.
Follow Adam Harris on Twitter @AHarris670 and ask him Fantasy Football questions. Also, listen to the Friday Fantasy Nerd Herd Hour on Friday nights/Saturday mornings with Joe Ostrowski.