2013 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

As always, fantasy football fanatics look to the NFL draft for the next great fantasy RB. A guy who will catapult into a consistent, solid starter and grace the top 15 of the fantasy football rankings. This draft class actually does offer up a few guys who could do that, but like always, there is also risk associated with them. And a lot depends on what team drafts these RB's. And with the way we're seeing the NFL change its style of offense from reliance on one true featured RB, there's potential fantasy value with more guys at the position than ever.

1) Eddie Lacy, Alabama: A beast at 5'11", 230 lbs, Lacy is a true workhorse type of RB who can handle the load. Powerful and unafraid of contact, Lacy bulls thru defenders with authority. Good, but not great pass catching abilities. At one time, Lacy was the consensus top RB and the only one expected to be drafted in round 1. A slow recovery from a partial hamstring tear suffered before the scouting combine have raised questions. He ran a slower than expected 40 time in his pro-day and was not able to complete drills because of poor conditioning. But if he can show he's dedicated to recover and be the power runner he showed in college, Lacy could be a future NFL/Fantasy stud.
Projected round: 1

2) Giovani Bernard, North Carolina: If Bernard was just a little bigger (5'8", 202 lbs), he might be the top RB in this draft class. He runs with more aggression than his size would indicate and has good (but not elite) speed, vision, patience, and gets thru holes quickly. He also is an excellent pass catcher. The knock on him is pass protection and his lack of size may mean that he won't hold up as a featured RB. Still, with solid all around skills, Barnard could become a factor both in the NFL and in fantasy depending on what team drafts him.
Projected round: 1-2

3) Montee Ball, Wisconsin: Insane college production the last two seasons (3,753 rushing yards, 55 rushing TD's). Ball is a tough inside runner with good, not great, speed who also is underrated as a pass catcher. He also takes excellent care of the football as witnessed by fumbling only twice in 924 career rushing attempts. But there's the rub with Ball; the amount of wear and tear already on his legs. Also, while he does very well at most everything, Ball lacks any "wow" factor. He has a complete set of skills and could be surprisingly effective as a featured RB in the NFL but with the amount of mileage already on his legs, you wonder how long he will last.
Projected round: 2-3

4) Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: It's still unsure if Lattimore will be able to play at all in 2013 after he tore his right knee's ACL, LCL, and PCL back in October 2012. This after he tore a ligament in his left knee in 2011. This is enough for his draft stock to be clearly affected. But when healthy, Lattimore is as good a RB in this draft class. He has excellent size (5'11", 221 lbs), is deceptively creative as a runner, and runs with power. He also is good catching the ball and his positive attitude and work ethic will endear him to coaches. The biggest question is whether he will regain his speed (estimated 4.5 40 yard dash prior to injuries). Most likely to not be drafted until the later rounds, but his upside for future seasons in the NFL, and in dynasty style fantasy leagues, is very high.
Projected round: 5-6

5) Jonathan Franklin, UCLA: Franklin will bring varying opinions. Surprisingly durable despite being a smaller speed RB, Franklin has great playmaking ability. He reads blocks well and has the jets to run by defenders. What he lacks is power though and ball security issues have plagued him. Franklin has risen up draft boards with a strong combine and pro day, but there are still some questions about whether he can be more than just a change of pace type of RB in the NFL behind a more traditional inside the tackles power runner. Showed dramatic improvement as a pass catcher in 2012. I kind of think of Franklin as a Jahvid Best type of RB, only without any concussion issues.
Projected round: 2

6) Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Michael has the measurables to be an effective workhorse RB in the NFL, but character concerns follow him. Also of concern is his injury history. He failed to finish out the 2010 (broken leg) and 2011 (torn ACL) seasons in college. Despite his talent, as a senior in 2012, his attitude got him into the coaches' doghouse and he was used mostly as a goal line RB (scoring 12 TD's on only 88 carries). He has size and power and enough speed, but his desire to work hard and become a complete RB has been questioned. He's also had a fumbling issue in college. If he is willing to be coached, Michael could be a very good NFL and fantasy RB. If he continues to have a sense of entitlement, he could very quickly find himself in an NFL coach's doghouse.
Projected round: 2-4

7) Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State: Big RB (6'2", 230 lbs) who runs too upright and doesn't bowl over defenders the way a guy his size should, Bell gets good marks for surprising receiving ability and power to push the pile. He has decent speed, but takes a while to get going. Bell is athletic, but doesn't always play up to his size. Despite having the measurables, in the NFL I just don't know if he'll live up to expectations. Likely is going to have a complimentary power RB role in a time share rather than get a featured RB load.
Projected round: 3-5

8) Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State: Was not nearly as fast at the combine (4.63 in the 40) as expected. Randle is only 6'0", 204 lbs and had great college production, but likely mostly due to the offensive style. On the plus side, Randle is an excellent pass catching RB, has elusiveness, and shows better power than you would expect from a guy his size. But he likely isn't going to be more than a change of pace, 3rd down type of RB in the NFL.
Projected round: 4-5

Others to keep an eye on:

Knile Davis, Arkansas: Power RB with great size/speed combination but has been plagued by injuries and those concerns have him a mid round risk/reward prospect.

Andre Ellington, Clemson: More quick than fast, a creative runner with elusive capabilities who can make people miss in space. Not much power though and a bit small to hold up as more than a time share RB. But we're seeing those types have impact in fantasy football now more than ever.

Stepfan Taylor, Stanford: Short, squatty power RB who pushes the pile and also surprisingly catches the ball well. Lack of speed and elusiveness though has his chances for major impact slim.

Jawan Jamison, Rutgers: Compared to former Rutgers RB and NFL standout Ray Rice because of similar size, patience setting up blocks, and shiftiness in space, but isn't nearly as quick as Rice and not a big playmaker

Kerwynn Williams, Utah State: Small, speedy 3rd down type of RB who catches the ball very well but lacks power and is not big or strong enough to be a lead RB. Likely will excel on returns though. 

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