by Russ Bliss (1/30/13)

2013 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Just like at the Quarterback position, I found myself surprised at some of the names that didn't crack my early top 10 fantasy RB's list for 2013. Matt Forte, C.J. Spiller, Chris Johnson, Frank Gore, DeMarco Murray, Ahmad Bradshaw, Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden, and Jonathan Stewart (just to name a few) all could have a good argument made for them to be in the top 10 of 2013 Fantasy Football Running Back rankings. I even had such a hard time limiting it to 10 that I included an 11th player I felt was the next best bet.

1) Adrian Peterson: I may not take Peterson off the top spot until the year he retires after his mind-boggling 2012 season. He comes in 9 months removed from surgery to repair both a torn ACL and MCL and while he started the season a little slow, it didn't take long for him to look even better than he has at any point in his career. Peterson is a freak and fell just 9 rushing yards short of setting a new NFL single season rushing record. He also caught 40 passes (second most of his career). Peterson is not just the top ranked RB for fantasy football in 2013, but he should be the top pick in almost every fantasy football draft.

2) Arian Foster: 1,411 rushing yards and 15 rushing TD's (most in the NFL) left fantasy owners feeling "ho-hum" about Foster in 2012. It was another great season, but it almost felt like Foster was slipping some after incredible seasons in 2011 and 2010. His receiving totals dropped again in 2012 and he had his worst rushing totals of his career in 3 of the last 5 games of the regular season. But Foster still produced big, is still a solid bet for double digit TD's, and even if he isn't a 2,000 yards RB, he is the easy choice as the #2 RB on 2013 fantasy football rankings.

3) Marshawn Lynch: Lynch showed that 2011 was no fluke in 2012, and also that he wasn't just having a great season in a contract year. I was concerned when Lynch signed a big new contract in March of 2012 that he would become complacent, but he quickly dispelled those ideas. Instead, Lynch is proving to be a late bloomer. His 1,590 rushing yards ranked 3rd most in 2012 and he again showed he can get into the end zone with 11 rushing TD's. While there's a concern that the Seahawks will use second year RB Robert Turbin a bit more in 2013, it needs to be noted that Turbin had more rushing attempts in 2012 than any other Seattle RB behind Lynch had in 2011. Lynch is just a safe bet for top 5 fantasy production as he's still only 27 years old and plays in an offense that really uses him to his own strengths.

4) Alfred Morris: Considered to be a RB/FB type when drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL draft, Morris quickly leaped over both Roy Helu and Evan Royster to be the Redskins lead, and featured, RB. Starting all 16 games for Washington, what was really surprising in 2013 was that Morris finished the season stronger, and with better stats, than he began the season. Morris was second in both rushing yards (1,606) and rushing TD's (13) at the position. Now there are always concerns about Mike Shanahan playing games with his RB's (after all, Roy Helu and Evan Royster both were very good in 2011 only to take a total backseat t Morris in 2012), but Morris could be Shanahan's next Terrell Davis workhorse RB for the next few seasons. And that would mean very happy fantasy owners.  

5) Doug Martin: Combining for over 1,900 yards (1,454 rushing; 472 receiving), Martin out-produced expectations as a rookie in 2012. But consistency was an issue. In 5 games, Martin rushed for less than 60 yards, and while his 11 rushing TD's are strong on the surface, he failed to reach the end zone in 9 of 16 games. His huge week 9 game (251 yards, 4 TD's) spiked his production, but even without that game, he still managed to put up a season with plenty of promise for solid production in future seasons. His 49 receptions were tied for 8th most by a RB and his 472 receiving yards were 5th most for the position. As the Buccaneers continue to improve offensively, Martin's upside can't be ignored as he gets into his second NFL season.

6) Trent Richardson: Color me as one who was impressed with Trent Richardson as a rookie in 2012. He missed one game with a high ankle sprain and probably should have missed another 3 or 4 with broken ribs. But he proved his toughness by playing thru the ribs injury and the knee injury that threatened to keep him sidelined at the start of the season. His 950 rushing yards don't stand out, but considering the lack of quality play at QB and WR most of the season, Richardson showed pretty well. He also caught 51 passes for another 367 yards. He also proved adept at finding the end zone scoring 12 TD's (11 rush, 1 receive). A new coaching staff with proven track records of building quality offenses has Richardson's fantasy football projections pointing up in 2013.

7) Jamaal Charles: 2012 saw Charles put together great games, and lousy games. He had 10 rushing yards or fewer in 3 games; he had more than 200 rushing yards twice. He gained at least 87 yards in every game where he had more than 15 rushing attempts. He gained 53 rush yards or less in every game with fewer than 15 carries. Consistency eluded Charles, but it's hoped that in 2013, he'll find some as the top RB in Andy Reid's offensive system. Despite his struggles with consistency in 2012, Charles ran for a career high 1,509 yards. What Charles doesn't do is get into the end zone. Only 6 total TD's in 2012, and he's never scored more than a total 8 in any season. If Reid can get the same type of season out of Charles in 2013 that he got out of LeSean McCoy in 2011, Charles will finish as a top 5 fantasy RB.

8) Ray Rice: Rice had a very good 2012 season, but it wasn't great, and certainly fell short of what was expected. Was this the fault of deposed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron? Or did the emergence of Bernard Pierce as a valuable change of pace to Rice cut into his time? If not for the presence of Pierce, and the fact he performed very well when given opportunities, Rice would probably rank higher on this list. Rice ran for 1,143 yards, caught 61 passes (second most amongst RB's), for 478 yards and scored 10 total TD's, but that was better than 400 yards and 5 TD's fewer than he had total in 2011. With Pierce having racked up over 500 rushing yards in 2012, and averaging 4.9 yards per attempt, it's not a sure thing that he doesn't cut into Rice's time again next season.

9) LeSean McCoy: Few players left fantasy owners with a worse taste than McCoy in 2012. Even though his yards were down from a solid 2011 season, it was the complete lack of TD's that really hurt. McCoy scored 20 TD's in 2011 (17 rushing; 3 receiving); he only scored 5 in 2012 (2 rushing; 3 receiving). A serious concussion cost McCoy 4 games in 2012 and with scrutiny of that type of injury increasing, it raises concerns about McCoy in 2013. Now, he was able to play the last couple of games in 2012 and will be fine for 2013, but increased awareness of the effects could be a concern if he suffers another in 2013. There's also the fact that his absence allowed the Eagles to see they have a potential viable second RB in Bryce Brown. McCoy appears to be an excellent fit for the new offensive system the Eagles will be running in 2013 so a bounce back type of season is certainly possible.

10) Maurice Jones-Drew: Until a mysterious serious foot injury stopped his 2012 season after barely more than 5 games, Jones-Drew was producing well enough for a player who sat out all of the off-season in an effort to get his contract renegotiated. MJD had surgery on the foot at the end of the season (he never played again in 2012 after suffering the injury after only 2 carries in week 7) and should be fine by training camp so there's little concern there. And since 2013 is the final year of the current contract Jacksonville refused to negotiate anew last year, MJD will be plenty motivated. It's a good bet that MJD is going to be a forgotten man heading into early fantasy football drafts in 2013, but don't be surprised if he proves to be a solid fantasy RB1 in a bounce back season this year.

Best outside chance of cracking top 10 in 2013:

Stevan Ridley: Other than an occasional fumbling issue, Ridley appears to be set as the Patriots featured RB for the next few years. He rushed for the most yards (1,263) a Patriots RB has had since Corey Dillon in 2004. He also showed plenty of power getting into the end zone 12 times on the ground. With Tom Brady preventing opponents from focusing on the Patriots rushing attack, Ridley should challenge these other RB's for a spot in the top 10 in 2013. The biggest concerns for Ridley are that he isn't much of a receiver (only 6 receptions in 2012) and that opens up playing time for Shane Vereen, and the aforementioned fumbling issue that opens things up for Vereen and other RB's as Bill Belichick has shown no hesitancy to bench Ridley when he has fumbled.

Just like with the QB's, it's way early in the season and the eventual 2013 fantasy football rankings could be much different. And also remember that this is just a generalized list, and not customized to any type of scoring system. For those types of rankings, the best and most accurate fantasy football rankings can be found within our fantasy football draft analyzer, which along with Lineup and Trade Analyzer's to use throughout the season, is part of our Championship Package.

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