With the first week of NFL games finally over, people are still coming to terms with the fantasy team stats and begging coworkers and friends to make the most one-sided trades ever. With several marquee players suffering season ending injuries already, it’s best to know your next best options, especially with a position as important as the running back.
Make your fantasy team as elite as possible with our list of the best running backs in the league.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
First off, hug anyone in your fantasy league who had AP last year. After the huge disappointment of his suspension, they truly deserve it. Peterson played in only one game last season but best believe he’s ready to come back with a vengeance. He’s been one of the NFL’s best running backs since entering the league in ‘07, and was once even crowned the League MVP.
Back in 2012, Peterson had amazing season and raked in 2000 yards. Although he understandably couldn’t live up to those standards the following season with only 1200 yards and 10 TDs, those are still top-notch stats and good enough to be top pick in any fantasy league.
And his year off has only made him hungrier.
He’ll thrive under Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner’s offense. Turner’s system will be built around Peterson’s potential run game which is just setting him up to have one of his best seasons ever. Remember back in ‘09 when he had 43 receptions? He might be even more successful this year. This Vikings offense is stacked and the defense is youthful, aggressive and ready to prove themselves. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had an outstanding rookie season as he averaged 240 yards per game in the second half of last season. With opposing defenses being preoccupied with AP being back, expect things to be a little easier for Teddy.
All hail purple jesus because 30-years-old never looked so good.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy had an amazing rookie season as he ranked as the 7th overall running back in the league. With the amazingly powerful offense he’s got tagging along with him, there’s no reason for him no to prosper. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a great companion in him and his stocky build allows him to stuff it in at the goal line. Expect a minimum of 10 touchdowns from Lacy this season.
It’s admittedly a bit scary to choose Lacy as he had a horribly slow start to the 2014 season when he only had one TD and barely averaged 43 yards in Weeks 1-4. But he was able to increase his yards-per-carry from 4.1 to 4.6, showing that he’s on to something. When Week 5 came around Lacy exploded, and after that horrific start, he finished the season incredibly strong with 13 touchdowns and 1,139 rushing over the final eight games of the season. Most of his highest rushing attempt totals came during this stretch, which coincided with Rodgers’ persistent calf injury.
As long as Rodgers is in the pocket, the Packers are going to rely on their passing game, which’ll keep Lacy fresh. As long as the duo stays healthy, cheese heads should expect an amazing season full of discount double check moves.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell dropped four pounds in the offseason and reported to training camp with 2.9 percent body fat. Lighter weight and low body fat will only help the speed demon move even quicker.
Much has been said and written about the physical transformation Bell underwent between his rookie season in 2013 and his dynamic sophomore campaign last year. He went from one of the league’s most “ehh” players in 2013 to having a breakout season in 2014, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Aside from becoming so quick, he also became the second best receiver on the team and recorded 83 catches and 11 touchdowns. So is the 23-year old ready to repeat his fantasy magic?
In 2014, he earned All-Pro honors after rushing for 1,361 yards. The season however, didn’t end on the highest of notes, as he suffered a season-ending knee injury after getting hit by safety Reggie Nelson in Pittsburgh’s win over Cincinnati in Week 17. After being suspended for two games for marijuana possession, expect him to come back fighting and make up for his absence during those eight quarters. This adds an extra layer of complexity to anyone who chooses Bell, because they’ll need a decent running back to get them through the first two games of the season. Some great options for Weeks 1 and 2 are Rashad Jennings, Chris Ivory and even Andre Ellington.
Bell admitted that he can enjoy marijuana after his career, so lets just hope he can follow through on that. If not for his own sake, at least for the sake of your fantasy league.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Quite possibly one of the most famous people in the league who actually hates attention is the amazingness that is Marshawn Lynch.
Oddly enough, his reputation still precedes his talent. People seem to forget that Lynch had four straight seasons with over 1,200 rushing yards and 10 or more touchdowns. He possesses virtually no risks and constant high-reward. How much better does it get?
With the edition of former- Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, the Seahawks have a pretty deep squad this season. Lynch has handled the ball over 300 times in every season he’s been a Seahawk, and there’s little reason to believe that he won’t surpass that number again this season. And other than Lacy,who’s really coming for his spot? While his carries declined a bit in 2014, his reception yardage went up, and so did his (career-high) total of four receiving touchdowns. His 13 rushing touchdowns tied DeMarco Murray for the league lead and he ranked fourth in rush yards.
Lynch heads into his ninth NFL season and despite his age and high workload, he remains very productive on a per-carry basis. He finished with 4.7 yards per carry in 2014. Not only that, but his usage in the passing game increased in 2014 as he made 37 receptions for a career-high 367 yards. His 17 total touchdowns were the best of his career, and remains one of the most likely players in the league to touch the ball near the goal line. The only issue Lynch might have is that the team no longer has former two-time Pro Bowl run blocker Max Unger. And the Seahawks haven’t done anything in off season to remedy the issue either. But even with those concerns, Lynch is still one of the top fantasy players this season. As long as the Seahawks DJ doesn’t play Future at practice workouts or wear Gucci flip-flops, Seattle will have a great season.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Is Jamaal Charles one of the best running backs in the league? That’s debatable, but he’s definitely a safe pick.
Charles ranked 7th among running backs with an average of 14.5 points per game in 2014 and not much should change with the 2015 season underway. This is even more impressive when you consider he essentially missed two full games due to a high ankle sprain he suffered early in the Chiefs’ Week 2 game against the Broncos. So in the remaining 14 games, Charles only finished with fewer than 10 points in four contests.
The only eye-opening aspect is the amount of passes that he’ll get thrown. In 2013 he led the pack among all running backs in fantasy scoring. He caught 40 passes of the 59 thrown to him, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but they didn’t touch his 2013 numbers of 70 caught passes of the 104 thrown to him.
If Charles can stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe he won’t again be one of the elite fantasy football running backs this season. He’ll get the lion’s share of the Chiefs’ running back touches, and that makes him an obvious early first-round target for fantasy. But be weary, as the knee injury may come back to haunt him. The Chief’s offensive coordinator is well aware of this reality, and to insure Jamaal’s health later in the season, he plans on working running back Knile Davis.
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