Using average draft position, there are three great values for fantasy backup QB's this season
One of the things that help make a successful fantasy draft isn't always about who you select to start for your fantasy team, but rather who you put on your bench. Generally, I prefer to populate my bench with guys who have high upsides as opposed to being steady producers. Typically in most fantasy leagues the free agent wire is littered with the proven steady guys who produce mediocre fantasy points on a consistent basis. The boom or bust types are harder to get on the free agent wire as everyone waits until the player booms and then there's the waivers process to go thru. If you're not first in line, you usually lose out.
One position in particular I like to have a high upside guy is at my backup fantasy quarterback position. Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub are nice "safe" choices as they will rarely have that stinker game. Conversely they also rarely have big games. I prefer someone who stands a reasonable chance of being an every week fantasy points producer. There are two reasons:
1) Guys who have boom factor that hit become valuable trade commodities.
2) If my starter gets injured, I have a quality option to plug into my starting lineup for however long it takes for my regular starter to return.
Now, of course, not every "high upside guy" is going to pan out. You do run the risk of being stuck with a dud. But that's part of fantasy football. As much as we try to make sure we have you covered with the preparation side of the equation, there is a luck (good and bad) factor that will trump it.
With that in mind, I have been keeping track of the quarterback position in a few Average Draft Position providers with an eye towards standard scoring and 12 team leagues. In my research I have identified 3 quarterbacks as being great values as fantasy backup quarterbacks. I plan on targeting one of these 3 to be my backup in fantasy leagues. I feel that for where they are being drafted, their upsides have them squarely in fantasy football sleepers territory in 2013.
1) Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
ADP: 133rd player selected; 1st pick of round 12
Cutler hasn't had much fantasy football value since he was a Bronco. In his 4 years in Chicago, Cutler has yet to reach 3,700 passing yards or 28 passing TD's. He had a passing guru in Mike Martz as offensive coordinator for 2 seasons, but without great talent at WR or an offensive line capable of protecting him, Cutler fizzled in what had been a proven offensive system when those other pieces were in place. 2012 saw the Bears try to return to more of a rushing attack despite Cutler finally having a big time WR in Brandon Marshall. The lack of success led to a new coaching staff being brought in. New coach Marc Trestman runs a shorter controlled passing style of offense and has been praised for his work with quarterbacks. Cutler will be one of the most naturally talented passers Trestman has worked with. The Bears added a solid pass catching TE in free agent Martellus Bennett, and also have a developing good young WR in Alshon Jeffery. Former starter Earl Bennett was regularly miscast in the past as a starting WR and will move into the #3 role, where he fits best. The fact that 2013 is a contract year for Cutler is just icing on the cake.
2) Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
ADP: 151st player selected; 7th pick in round 13
Palmer managed to throw for 4,018 yards and 22 TD's in Oakland last season. With his top two receptions leaders being a blocking TE and a FB. In Arizona, Palmer will have an elite NFL WR in Larry Fitzgerald; an underrated pass catching TE in Rob Housler; and two other WR's (Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts) who have high upsides. He's also in an aggressive vertical passing attack brought in by new coach Bruce Arians. The only thing Palmer could want would be a proven offensive line. While the QB's were subpar in Arizona last season, they certainly weren't helped out much by the protection they received. While I have my questions about Palmer's arm strength being anywhere near what it used to be, Arians thinks it's still plenty strong enough for his offensive style. Palmer has his share of issues to overcome, but if he does, he'll put up borderline starting fantasy numbers more weeks than not. Considering how late he's lasting on average, he's well worth the selection.
3) Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ADP: 153rd player selected; 9th pick of round 13
Freeman being available this late is nigh criminal. I believe there are two reasons for it. First is a head coach who drafted a rookie in Mike Glennon and then all spring lumped praise all over the rookie while challenging Freeman to cut down on his turnovers. Second is Freeman's awful last 3 games of the 2012 season where he threw only 2 TD passes compared to 9 interceptions. Lost in here is a 6 game stretch in the middle of the season where Freeman threw 17 TD passes and only 2 interceptions. Lost in here is a young, emerging QB who threw for over 4,000 yards and 27 TD's in 2012. Finally, what is lost is that Freeman is in a contract year. The Bucs have him on a "prove it" 2013 season. This will be his second season in head coach Greg Schiano's system. He's got two excellent WR's in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. He has a great running game to take pressure off of him with Doug Martin (an excellent pass catching RB, too). Whereas fantasy drafters so far are taking Freeman as a low end backup fantasy QB, I am completely on the other side of the fence and think of him as being a high end backup fantasy QB. In round 12, I will have no problem selecting him and making sure I have him as my backup before his ADP catches up to him.
Packers, Panthers, and Rams all have questions that need answering at RB for fantasy owners
Green Bay Packers
The situation: The Packers go into training camp with no clear set starter. The favorite is rookie second round pick Eddie Lacy as he is the most complete and most talented RB on the roster. But he is not just being handed the job. He faces competition from a fellow rookie, Johnathan Franklin, along with veterans Alex Green, James Starks, and DuJuan Harris. There's also a 6th RB competing, undrafted rookie Angelo Pease.
What's happened so far: Neither Lacy nor Franklin stood out in OTA's. Green operated as the top RB in OTA's but that was very likely veteran deference and not an indication he's going to beat out either rookie. There's been very little said about how Starks looks other than he was put up on the trade block earlier in the year (no takers though). Harris had surgery to remove a benign cyst from his lungs early in the year and recovered fine from that, but is now nursing a minor knee injury and won't practice for another week or two. Pease was the talk of OTA's from the RB position and opened some eyes.
What's likeliest to happen going forward: The Packers historically keep either 3 or 4 RB's (not including 1 FB, John Kuhn) on their final 53 man roster. The two drafted rookies are considered the only locks to make the final roster. I expect Lacy to be the starter come week 1 and be the primary RB with Franklin getting a few touches as a change of pace to him. Latest word says that the Packers will try hard to trade Green before the end of preseason. Starks is expected to be released outright. Pease will either make the final roster or he'll end up on the practice squad. Harris is considered likely to make the roster but the knee injury could mean he falls behind the others and finds himself on the outside of the numbers game. Lacy and Franklin are the only 2 worth drafting in fantasy leagues. Lacy as a fantasy RB2/3; Franklin as a RB4/5.
The situation: The Panthers the last couple of season have run a RBBC (Running Back by Committee for those unfamiliar with the term) with Jonathan Stewart as the usual lead RB but a near even split with DeAngelo Williams. Stewart was supposed to be in position to assume a bigger role and push Williams into more of a traditional backup RB role in 2013, but surgery to both ankles earlier in the year are still bothering him and he is on the active/PUP list to start training camp. While Mike Tolbert is officially listed as a FB and not a RB, he is the real #3 option behind Stewart and Williams. Rookie Kenjon Barner is competing with Armond Smith and Tauren Poole to make the final roster.
What's happened so far: Stewart is losing fantasy value as there are concerns that while one ankle is supposedly healing up nicely, the other ankle isn't. DeAngelo Williams is running as the top RB and it's believed now that with Stewart's ankle likely to be an issue going into the regular season we'll see another full blown RBBC between the two. There's also a chance Stewart isn't ready by the start of the regular season which would give Williams a chance to solidify the top RB spot and be the primary to start the season (and potentially beyond if he does well). Stewart's absence has also meant Tolbert has gotten increased playing time at RB. Barner has been explosive in OTA's and looks like he will be retained as the 3rd RB over Smith and Poole.
What's likeliest to happen going forward: The Panthers normally carry 3 RB's and 2 FB's (with Tolbert as a FB; the other FB is converted TE, blocking specialist and special teams player usually). My best guess for 2013 is that Stewart's ankle is going to be an issue that plagues him all season long. I expect he won't be ready for week 1. This will lead to Williams being the primary RB getting 12-18 carries per game except for those in which Stewart tries playing in. Tolbert will be used much as a sledgehammer type of change of pace and short yardage RB, as well as often used as the 3rd down RB due to his superior receiving capabilities. Barner should stick as the 3rd RB and be sprinkled in, but unless Stewart is unable to play, he isn't likely to get enough touches to be a consideration. However, if Stewart is unable to play, and Williams starts showing a decrease in his production, Barner may be able to work himself into a situation where he's getting 5-10 touches per game. Williams should be drafted as a RB3 with upside to be a RB2; Stewart is risky as anything more than a RB4 at this point and I would avoid him unless his ankle has a miraculous recovery in the next couple of weeks; Tolbert is a RB5. Barner is currently free agent fodder.
St. Louis Rams
The situation: Second year RB's Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson are competing with drafted rookie Zac Stacy for the starting RB job replacing departed Steven Jackson. Also in the mix for a roster spot are second year RB Terrance Ganaway along with undrafted rookie Benny Cunningham and journeyman Chase Reynolds. Stacy is short compact power "between the tackles" type of RB while both Pead and Richardson are sub-200 lbs RB's built more like slasher types.
What's happened so far: Pead has been suspended the first game of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. None of Pead, Richardson, or Stacy has separated himself from the others. Richardson opened training camp listed as the starting RB, but the Rams had to list someone atop the chart so it's not really an indicator that Richardson is pulling away with the job no matter what some media outlets are speculating. The Rams have said they aren't against the idea of going with a full blown RBBC utilizing all 3 RB's, to also saying they wouldn't mind if one RB asserted himself and became a 300+ carry guy.
What's likeliest to happen going forward: Under Fisher last season the Rams usually kept 4 RB's and 1 FB/TE hybrid. Richardson, Pead, and Stacy are locks to make to the final 53 man roster, and I think Ganaway will be the 4th guy. I expect a committee with Stacy acting as the primary 2 down power RB with Richardson as the 3rd down RB. I also expect that Pead will get into the action as a change of pace to both Stacy and Richardson enough of the time to prevent any of the 3 from having reliable fantasy value on a week to week basis. Stacy has the best size/power combo as the goal line RB and probably will have the most TD's from the group. Richardson is likely to lead the trio in receptions. I think it may take until mid-season before the rookie Stacy starts to assert himself as the top rushing option. For fantasy drafts, I would consider Stacy to be the best option as a RB3/4 whose value will increase as the season goes along; Richardson a RB4/5 with more value in PPR leagues; Pead is a RB5 with upside. It could be that one guy emerges over the others and becomes a solid fantasy RB2; it could be that none of them emerges and that none are better than RB4's at best.
Latest injury causes Harvin's fantasy value to dip a little; could end up dropping more
Percy Harvin's hip injury sure puts a dent in what was looking like a top 10 placing in 2013 fantasy football rankings. It is feared that he has a torn hip labrum, which would likely require surgery and that could even put his status for the start of the regular season in jeopardy. We just don't have enough details right now to know for sure. What we do know for sure is that while Harvin may take a small slide in the current rankings, he could easily go back up if this proves to not be as serious as feared; or he could slide further depending on the prognosis.
Let's play Devil's Advocate for a moment and say that Harvin does miss regular season time. Who is going to benefit and step up in the Seahawks WR corps? One person who would definitely benefit is the guy whose fantasy projection was hurt most when Seattle signed Harvin: Sidney Rice.
Rice managed to start all 16 games last season despite starting the season with concerns with his recovery from surgery on both shoulders. The shoulders held up but it wasn't long into the season before various minor injuries to his knee, calf, and foot started plaguing him. Add in a rookie starting QB who averaged less than 200 passing yards per game for the entire season and it's not to wonder that Rice had only 50 catches for 748 yards and 7 TD's. Rice is supposed to be fully healthy now and while the Seahawks will remain a run oriented offense, they are expected to let QB Russell Wilson throw a bit more often. Coupled with any time Harvin may miss, Rice stands a chance of being a lot more fantasy relevant than his current average draft position of around the 52 WR off the board.
The next WR who would benefit would be Golden Tate. Tate is in the final year of his original rookie contract and was supposed to be the starter opposite of Sidney Rice before the Harvin acquisition. Tate started 15 games last season and put up a respectable 48 catches for 688 yards and 7 TD's. It was thought that heading into 2013 Tate was ready to take a jump up in production. But Harvin's presence caused him to slide into the "barely draft-able" category of deeper leagues. If Harvin misses time, Tate would have early season value and if he performs well, could make the Seahawks not rush back Harvin before he's really ready.
The final WR who stands to see an increase in value is Doug Baldwin. Baldwin is the forgotten man at WR in Seattle, but reports say he had an excellent offseason. It was only 2 years ago that Baldwin was an undrafted rookie who ended leading the team in receptions and receiving yards. Baldwin lacks big play potential, but he is rock solid as a slot WR and I have to say I was a little surprised the Seahawks didn't try to trade him earlier this year. He only caught 29 passes for 366 yards and 3 TD's last season but a move up the depth chart early in the year and he'll have a chance to prove he could be a look in ppr leagues as a free agent grab.
We won't know for sure about Harvin for another week or two. And then we'll have to wait out the prognosis reports and keep up on them. But for now, it's time to stop thinking about Harvin as a top 10 fantasy WR and start worrying about his inability to stay healthy no matter what city he plays in.
A team by team look at the RB situations in the NFC West division
Starter: Rashard Mendenhall
Backups: Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Andre Ellington
Mendenhall will be the Cardinals featured RB in 2013 and could be a fantasy football sleeper at RB in 2013 if he can get back to his pre-torn ACL form. 2012 was a lost season for him as he tried to come back sooner from his 2011 knee injury than he should have. Now in Arizona, he's reunited with Bruce Arians and is a lock for 16+ carries per game and probably 3rd down duties as well since the Cardinals have no experienced 3rd down RB. The pieces are there for Mendenhall to reclaim a role as a regular starter in fantasy football, but he'll need to prove it before he will be trusted as such. For now, consider Mendenhall a borderline RB2/3 with upside. While Arians lumped praise on Ryan Williams when he was first hired as the Cardinals head coach, it has since become clear that Williams is just competing with the two rookies (Taylor and Ellington) to be the top backup to Mendenhall in Arizona. Injuries appear to have zapped Williams of his once great potential. Training camp and preseason will go a long way in determining whether Williams is even worth considering as a handcuff to Mendenhall. It would likely take an injury or a total flop by Mendenhall for Taylor or Ellington to get into any fantasy conversations.
St. Louis Rams
Starter: Zac Stacy (projected)
Backups: Isaiah Pead, Daryl Richardson
Stacy has as much a chance to be the Rams primary RB as anyone. His competition, Pead and Richardson, are both more suited to outside running than between the tackles. Stacy is a compact RB who can push the pile and break tackles. What he lacks though is explosive potential. While it may be a full blown time share between the three RB's, in goal line situations I expect Stacy to be the guy and the most likely for any potential regular fantasy value. He's also the most likely of the three to become the main RB due to his overall skill set. That makes Stacy the best candidate as a fantasy RB3/4 with the upside to be a RB2. While Richardson showed well when given a chance for an offensive role last season, the Rams say he slated to be their 3rd down RB and not in the mix for their primary RB duties. That could change in training camp and preseason though if he clearly outperforms Pead and Stacy. For now though, Richardson isn't likely to get enough touches to be of fantasy consideration outside of PPR formats. Even then he's no better than a RB5. Meanwhile, Pead was considered the favorite to be the Rams starter going into 2013 but he will miss week 1 of the regular season as he serves a league imposed 1 game suspension. This opens the door for sleeper Stacy to lay claim to it before Pead can even be active. Pead was a disappointment in 2012 and I do not believe him capable of being an interior "between the tackles" RB. There's a chance he surprises, but an equal chance he is just a backup.
San Francisco 49ers
Starter: Frank Gore
Backups: Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore
While most RB's start slowing down when they hit 30 years old, Gore doesn't appear to be one of them. The 49ers had planned to reduce his regular season workload in 2012, but his 2012 stat line was slightly better than his 2011. Gore is still going to get 15-18 rushes per game, and be the lead RB for the 49ers. While the team has drafted some RB's the last couple of years, they have yet to really cut into his time and it's unlikely they'll cut into it much more in 2013. Gore is a safe, but unexciting, choice as a starting RB2 in fantasy football. Hunter's status for the start of the 2013 season is in question as he tore his left Achilles tendon back in late November. While his rehab has sounded positive, there's still a good chance he could end up on the PUP list to start the season (meaning he would miss at least the first 6 weeks). If he avoids the PUP list he'll still need to show he's back to the same form he had before the injury. At this time I think James is the better handcuff to Gore as James performed very well at the end of the 2012 season when he took over as Gore's backup after Hunter went down with his injury in November. Well enough that I expect it would take a near miraculous recovery from Hunter for James not to be the favorite to be Gore's top backup and best handcuff option in 2013. Finally there's Lattimore. Drafted to be the 49ers starting RB of the future, Lattimore is likely to either spend the first half of the 2013 season on the PUP list, or be placed on injured reserve before the season begins as he continues to rehab the right knee he tore his ACL, PCL, and LCL on back in October while in college. Reports on his recovery have all been very positive, but his chances of seeing the field in 2013 are slim at best. However, Lattimore is a great pick in dynasty leagues as he was widely regarded as being the best RB in the draft before the injury and will be given a chance to be the featured replacement for Frank Gore as early as 2014.
Starter: Marshawn Lynch
Backups: Robert Turbin, Christine Michael
Lynch has been outstanding the last two seasons combining for 2,794 rushing yards, 408 receiving yards, and 25 TD's. With his DUI case pushed off until the end of December, there should be nothing standing between Lynch and another great campaign in 2013. Lynch is locked in as a strong fantasy RB1. Turbin opened some eyes in 2012 as he did really well as Lynch's backup in 2012. But he's facing some competition for that role from Michael. While I still prefer Turbin at this time as the handcuff to Lynch, if Michael, who had glowing OTA reports, shows well in preseason, Turbin could be relegated to 3rd down duties. The competition between Turbin and Michael is worth paying attention to as the Seahawks have one of the stronger rushing attacks and if anything were to happen to Lynch, his backup would have fantasy value.
Doug Martin and Steven Jackson are locked in for fantasy value, but is there anyone reliable on Carolina or New Orleans?
Starter: Steven Jackson
Backups: Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling
Jackson is being undervalued as the new featured RB in Atlanta because of one thing: age. Jackson will turn 30 years old July 22nd. While he does have a lot of mileage on his legs already from his 9 years in St. Louis, Jackson is a freak of nature athletically and keeps himself in incredible condition. He is both a big powerful RB and an excellent receiving RB. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in the last 8 consecutive seasons and the only thing that had been missing from his fantasy stats were touchdowns. That was more of a lack of a passing threat than anything else in St. Louis, and it's a problem he won't have in Atlanta. I'd be surprised if he has anything less than 1,200 rushing yards, 50 receptions, and 10 TD's in 2013 as the Falcons new featured RB. Rodgers will be his top backup. Rodgers just wasn't able to push Michael Turner for primary rushing duties the last couple of seasons so it's hard to imagine his playing time going up now that the Falcons have upgraded to Jackson at the starting RB spot. Jackson is a 3 down RB which further muddies Rodgers' outlook as even the 3rd down RB. Rodgers is nothing more than a handcuff to Jackson. Snelling had shown flashes in the past of being both a capable runner and receiver but his carries dropped each of the last 2 seasons despite Turner's efficiency decreasing. It's hard to imagine Snelling has any fantasy value barring an injury to Jackson.
Starter: Jonathan Stewart
Backups: DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert
Stewart was all set to take over as the lead RB for the Panthers in 2013 but required surgery on both of his ankles during the off-season and his recovery is expected to linger on into training camp. When healthy, Stewart has proven to be an effective starting fantasy RB, but that can't be counted on at this time. And if the ankles bother him into the regular season it will likely be another season where Stewart is part of an unpredictable week to week committee with fellow Panthers RB's Williams and Tolbert. Stewart is a high risk/reward candidate as a RB3 in fantasy drafts this season. Williams figures to reprise his role as a part time player in a RBBC with Jonathan Stewart. But he could be in for an increased role as the primary RB for Carolina if Stewart's recovery from off-season surgeries to both of his ankles lingers on into the preseason. Williams is worth taking a flier on fantasy drafts but week to week consistency will elude him no matter what his role as evidenced by his 7 games with 25 rushing yards or fewer in 2012. Tolbert's role is completely determined by the health of the other RB's in Carolina. If Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are healthy, Tolbert is just an occasional goal line and situational 3rd down RB. And that would preclude him from having reliable fantasy value as he won't get enough touches to be relevant. But if injuries come up again, Tolbert could find himself with some fantasy value.
New Orleans Saints
Starter: Darren Sproles/Mark Ingram/Pierre Thomas
Backups: Darren Sproles/Mark Ingram/Pierre Thomas
Yes, you read that correctly. There is no team in the NFL that has a harder to figure out RB situation than the Saints. Not because of injuries, but because of the way they interchange them week to week. Sproles is the best bet for fantasy value. After a surprising 2011 season where he combined for 1,313 rushing and receiving yards and 9 TD's, Sproles saw his rushing attempts get cut nearly in half in 2012. Sproles is a fantasy RB2 in PPR formats as he is a valuable weapon in the Saints passing attack as their 3rd down RB. But in non-PPR formats, his value drops to being no more than a RB3 with inconsistent value week to week. If the Saints are serious about wanting to run the ball more in 2013, Sproles could see an uptick in carries, but it's more likely the rushing attempts will be given to former first round pick Mark Ingram. 2013 could be Ingram's final chance to prove he deserves to be the Saints lead RB. Both Sproles and Pierre Thomas have averaged more yards per carry than Ingram, but to be fair, opponents have historically known that when Ingram is in the game, they are more than likely running the ball whereas Sproles and Thomas often get their rushing attempts from passing formations. The Saints have said they plan to run the ball more often in 2013 and that could mean a bigger offensive role for Ingram. Still he's dicey as anything more than a borderline RB3/4 and his best games are probably going to come against weak opponents the Saints build an early lead on. Predicting that week to week will be no easy task. Finally, Thomas has surprisingly been running more with the first team over Ingram in OTA's but whether that really means he is in for a bigger offensive role is in question. When he is given chances to play, Thomas has always proved to be worthy of fantasy consideration. But between him, Ingram, and Sproles, it's the hardest backfield to accurately predict on a week to week basis. I think the likeliest scenario is Ingram as the primary rusher, Sproles as the primary 3rd down RB, and Thomas as the top backup and change of pace to both as he is accomplished as both a runner and pass catcher. Despite never having been the Saints true featured RB, Thomas has caught 39 passes or more in 3 of the last 4 seasons and has 188 receptions over the last 5 combined. Considering he's always just an injury away from being given a bigger offensive role, Thomas is a RB4/5 with a lot of upside to become fantasy relevant.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Starter: Doug Martin
Backups: Brian Leonard, Mike James, Michael Smith
Martin was doing well in 2012 as a rookie, but a week 9 explosion for 251 yards and 4 TD's made him quickly ascend to fantasy stardom. Even if you take that one week away, Martin still had 1203 rushing yards, 451 receiving yards, and 8 total TD's. Those are still impressive numbers and unlike most rookie RB's, Martin actually seemed to get stronger as the season went on and showed no signs of wearing down and hitting the rookie wall. Firmly entrenched as the Bucs featured RB, Martin has a low floor of 1,200 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards, and 10 TD's. His ceiling is much higher. There's no reason to not think of Martin as belonging in the group of elite fantasy RB's just under Adrian Peterson in 2013 fantasy football drafts. But it is going to take training camp and preseason to determine exactly who will be his backup. Veteran Brian Leonard was signed as a free agent from Cincinnati and while Leonard possesses some decent size, he isn't a creative runner and has limited fantasy upside. Rookie James will battle it out with last year's rookie, Smith, for what is likely one roster spot. The coaching staff was high on the smaller speedy Smith going into last season but he quickly fell out of favor and it's believed between the tackles banger James is the favorite to stick over him. Martin is one of those fantasy RB1's who doesn't have a clear handcuff so until it shakes out (if it shakes out) there's no reason to draft one. Martin proved last season to be a 3 down featured guy.
Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, and Reggie are locked in for fantasy value in 2013, but what about the Packers RB's?
Starter: Matt Forte
Backup: Michael Bush
Forte is going to love playing in new head coach Marc Trestman's offense. Forte will be the primary RB and also get a chance to get back to catching a lot of passes. Forte should be a strong yardage performer and a solid starting fantasy RB, but whether he will split goal line carries with Michael Bush again this season is unknown. Forte's knock in the past has been he struggles as a short yardage and goal line RB and that's the only thing that keeps him from being more than a borderline fantasy RB1/2. Bush is back as his backup and makes a worthy late round handcuff to Forte as Bush appeared to have carved out a niche as the Bears short yardage and goal line RB last season behind Matt Forte. Whether that translates into fantasy relevance in 2013 could be a different story though. Trestman is expected to have a more pass oriented offense and that plays into Forte's strengths more than Bush's. Bush could be in line for a reduced offensive role as just a goal line vulture. In any case though, he will be the top backup to Forte and is worth the handcuff in deeper leagues.
Starter: Reggie Bush
Backups: Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell
Bush has finished each of the last 2 seasons as a top 15 fantasy RB in both PPR and non-PPR standard formats while with the Dolphins. That's pretty impressive considering the suspect passing games he had in Miami those 2 seasons. Now as the lead RB in Detroit's aerial circus, Bush will have a better supporting cast and could put up the best numbers yet of his career. He may cede some carries and goal line duties to Mikel Leshoure or Joique Bell, but there's no reason to not expect another top 15 RB finish from him. Leshoure started 14 games for the Lions in 2012 rushing for 798 yards and scoring 9 TD's after missing his entire rookie season in 2011 because of an Achilles injury. What he lacked though was much of a burst as his longest run of the season was only 16 yards. He performed well, but it's to be wondered if he'll ever regain his pre-injury form and now that the Lions have brought in Bush to be their primary RB, Leshoure appears to be headed for short yardage and goal line duties more than getting the football with any regularity in 2013. It would likely take a Bush injury for Leshoure to get enough playing time to be fantasy relevant. As for Bell, the acquisition of Bush has caused him to lose a lot of potential value. Bell showed well in 2012 as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield averaging 5.0 yards per rush attempt and catching 52 passes. Bell will push Leshoure for the top backup duties but appears to be more in line as the top backup to both. In non-ppr formats, Leshoure appears to be the better handcuff to Bush while in PPR, Bell is the better choice.
Green Bay Packers
Starter: Eddie Lacy (projected)
Backups: Johnathan Franklin, Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, James Starks
Lacy was generally considered to be the top RB in the 2013 draft class but concerns about a toe injury dropped his stock. Green Bay was thrilled to see him there at the end of round 2 and they will likely give him every opportunity to win the Packers starting RB job. It's not being handed to him though and a battle with fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin, along with returning veterans Alex Green, James Starks, and DuJuan Harris will take place throughout training camp and the pre-season. But I think Lacy is the best suited to be the power RB to complement the Packers explosive passing attack and would consider it an upset if he wasn't their primary RB. Meanwhile I expect Franklin will be used some to provide some "lightning" to Lacy's "thunder" in 2013. Franklin's blocking will show whether he gets a chance to be the 3rd down RB. While there was a lot of hype surrounding Franklin before the draft, and there are some who think he will challenge to be the Packers lead RB, I don't expect him to beat out Lacy. Green, Harris and Starks appear to be battling for 2 roster spots behind the two rookies. Starks has showed well, but can't avoid injuries. Green also has troubles staying healthy and hasn't regained the speed he used to possess. Harris was a surprise at the end of last season for the Packers showing decent rushing and receiving skills, especially in the playoffs. I expect that Starks or Green is the likely odd man out. For fantasy drafting purposes, Lacy should be considered as a RB3 with RB2 potential, Franklin is the top handcuff prospect and the others are free agent fodder. At least until we get into the preseason and the pecking order shakes itself out into something more concrete.
Starter: Adrian Peterson
Backup: Toby Gerhart
To say that AP's 2012 season was incredible is an understatement. Coming off a torn ACL, AP managed to rush for the second highest yardage total in a single season with 2,097 yards, scored double digit TD's for the 6th season in a row, and averaged a ridiculous 6.0 yards per rush attempt on 348 carries. Peterson said his goal for 2013 is to rush for 2,500 yards and while I think that's an unrealistic goal, he's certainly a good bet for at least 1,800 yards and another 12+ TD's. While he isn't a 50+ receptions RB, AP managed to catch 40 passes in 2012, the second most of any his seasons to date so he isn't downgraded in the PPR format. Suffice to say, AP should be the first pick in practically every fantasy football draft in 2013. As for Gerhart, he is nothing more than the handcuff to Adrian Peterson. And not even a mandatory handcuff as AP didn't miss a game last season despite being 9 months removed from ACL surgery then. But Gerhart has proven to be a capable backup to Peterson when given chances the last 3 seasons.
A team by team look at the RB situations in the NFC East division
Starter: DeMarco Murray
Backups: Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner
For the second year in a row in 2012 Murray was unable to play a full 16 games because of injury. This time it was a foot sprain that cost him 6 games in the middle of the season. When healthy, Murray is a 3 down workhorse RB with a dynamic blend of speed and power while also possessing excellent receiving skills. While a minor hamstring strain cut his work short in OTA's, he is fully expected to be fine for training camp. His inability in his first two NFL seasons to stay healthy makes him a bit of a risk, but he also possesses the upside to be a top 10 fantasy RB (if he can stay healthy). Rookie Randle was anointed by Jerry Jones as the top backup to injury-prone Murray, but he has struggled to be healthy himself. And when healthy there is debate about whether Randle is really a special talent, or just a capable guy. While there have been some glowing reports this off-season about both Dunbar and Tanner, neither did well last year when called on to step up. Randle likely just needs to be competent to beat out both Tanner and Dunbar to be Murray's handcuff in 2013 and I expect he will.
New York Giants
Starter: David Wilson
Backup: Andre Brown
While Wilson has a chance to become a featured RB for the Giants in 2013, I think it more likely he'll be the lead RB in what I expect to be a new Giants rushing attack that will feature a "thunder and lightning" approach with Wilson as the lightning and Andre Brown as the thunder. Wilson provides more dynamic explosiveness than Brown and is a legitimate threat for the big play in open space. Meanwhile I expect Brown will be the between the tackles grinder and short yardage RB. Wilson is very likely to finish 2013 with more yardage than Brown, but Brown will get more TD opportunities in short yardage situations. Still, there is a lot of upside for Wilson to be better than a low end RB2 for fantasy purposes in 2013 as long as he doesn't fumble away the opportunity. Brown acquitted himself well when given opportunities in 2012 and if Wilson struggles or has any issues with ball security (a big no-no with Giants coach Tom Coughlin), Brown could find himself with a lot more playing time than expected. Brown is definitely considering as a RB4 on fantasy rosters by himself while Wilson owners would be wise to make Brown a handcuff selection.
Starter: LeSean McCoy
Backups: Bryce Brown, Felix Jones
McCoy was on pace to better his 2011 yardage totals both rushing and receiving in 2012 before a concussion caused him to miss 4 games late in the season. But what he wasn't bettering were his TD numbers. He had only 2 rushing TD's and 3 receiving TD's after scoring 17 rushing and 3 receiving in 2011. The injury allowed the Eagles to see that they have another explosive player in RB Bryce Brown (although he struggled with turnovers). In new coach's Chip Kelly's offense, McCoy is supposed to be the focal point in 2013 and while that sounds good, he needs to re-gain the trust of fantasy owners before he is considered among the elite RB's again. McCoy is a solid fantasy starter and borderline RB1/2. Owner's who draft him should definitely think about handcuffing Brown to him as the league has really cracked down on concussions and players with a history of them. Besides, the Eagles are likely to run more in 2013 than they have at any time under Andy Reid's tenure as head coach and that could mean Brown has more fantasy value than you would usually expect for a backup RB. Other than a fumbling issue, Brown was a fantasy surprise while McCoy was out with a concussion. Brown is a definite must have handcuff to McCoy. Jones only comes into the equation if injuries were to push him into playing time. I only mention Jones here as he is a known commodity from his days with Dallas and while he has failed to live up to unrealistic expectations, Jones could still produce stats in the right type of committee situation. But for fantasy drafts, he is free agent material unless the injuries hit.
Starter: Alfred Morris
Backups: Evan Royster, Roy Helu, Chris Thompson, Jawan Jamison
Trust Mike Shanahan to take a 6th round pick and make him the next great RB. In 2012, Morris rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 TD's on a whopping 335 carries. The only thing missing from Morris's stat line was receptions. He only had 11 on the season. If he becomes more involved in the passing game Morris is in line to be even better in 2013. But the rub is that you'd be trusting Mike Shanahan to ride this stud a second consecutive season as the featured guy. And as wise fantasy owners have seen over the years, Shanny can change his mind on a player at any time. That warning said, I just can't imagine anyone taking carries away from Morris. He proved last season to simply be too good to not have running the ball 17+ times per game. It will take training camp and preseason to figure out who will be the top backup and best handcuff to Morris in 2013. Royster will enter training camp as the incumbent and favorite to be the top backup to Morris, but that's more because of health issues both Helu and Thompson have concerns with. Not that Royster isn't good, but the other 2 are superior talents. Helu was on his way to being the top backup to Morris before Achilles and toe injuries derailed him in 2012. The toe actually required surgery in February and he needs to show he has his pre-injury form to really compete. Thompson was drafted in the 5th round of the draft but would have gone much higher if not for a torn ACL suffered in October. He needs to show that his recovery is on track and he can contribute right away or he could end up with a lost 2013 season. Jamison isn't a special talent in any way, but he works hard and gives top effort. Remember that Morris wasn't considered a special talent and was just a blue collar RB with average skills who gave top effort back before training camp in 2012 for the Redskins.
A team by team look at the RB situations in the AFC West division
Starter: Montee Ball
Backups: Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon Moreno
The only thing that stands in the way of Ball being the featured RB for the Broncos in 2013 is head coach John Fox. Fox has proven in the past to be resistant to putting a full load on a rookie. But considering that after Denver released Willis McGahee the only competition is Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman, Ball has an excellent chance to step right in as the starting RB. With Peyton Manning leading an outstanding passing attack, Ball should find running lanes aplenty and put up solid fantasy RB2 numbers in 2013. The Broncos are hoping Hillman settles in as the 3rd down RB and to backup to rookie Montee Ball. Hillman isn't likely to have much fantasy value though unless Ball was to get injured. There's also a chance Moreno beats out the speedier, shiftier, Hillman as the 3rd down RB and top backup spot. Moreno offers better size as an interior rusher than Hillman and his pass protection is considered superior to Hillman's. But whether that actually means Moreno gets any offensive touches though is questionable. It will need to play out in training camp and preseason whether either Hillman or Moreno can be considered a handcuff to Ball.
Kansas City Chiefs
Starter: Jamaal Charles
Backups: Knile Davis, Shaun Draughn
If Charles would only score TD's, he would be a fantasy gold mine. He ran for over 1,500 yards in 2012 and caught 35 passes for another 236. But he only scored a combined 6 TD's in 2012. Andy Reid has always placed a reliance on one RB while he was in Philadelphia and you can bet Charles will be his man in KC. Reid has always had successful fantasy RB's, and I think Charles is the most talented of any he's had yet. Don't be surprised if Charles catches 60+ passes and scores close to 10 TD's as he locks in as a legit top 5 fantasy RB in 2013. Davis is expected to be the top backup to Charles and is intriguing. He was blasted by scouts before the draft for playing soft in college despite the size and speed measurables desired at the RB position. While he'll be no threat to Jamaal Charles for more than token carries in KC, Davis should be the top backup if he shows well in preseason. Shaun Draughn gave a workman's type of performance when called upon last season but was nothing special. I think Davis makes the better handcuff to Charles in fantasy drafts.
Starter: Darren McFadden
Backups: Latavius Murray, Rashad Jennings, Marcel Reece
The Raiders are hoping a return to their prior power running scheme will mean McFadden gets back to the superior form he showed before a disastrous 2012 season with a zone blocking scheme. But even a switch back to the style he's most effective in doesn't change the fact McFadden has yet to make it thru a full 16 games in any of his 5 seasons in the NFL. Each year McFadden gets injured and misses games. When healthy though, he is explosive and puts up quality RB1 numbers as he rushes for high yardage totals and catches the ball very well too. McFadden is one of those big risk/reward type of RB's that can make or break a fantasy season as an early round draft pick. One thing is sure though, as long as he stays healthy, you can expect a lot of the Raiders offense to go through him as they are lacking in the passing game. Meanwhile, Murray will battle Rashad Jennings to be Darren McFadden's top backup in 2013. Jennings was underwhelming when given a chance to be a starter in Jacksonville when Maurice Jones-Drew got injured, so I don't expect it will take much for the rookie Murray to leap frog him. And given that McFadden has yet to stay healthy for a full 16 games in any of his 5 NFL seasons, the odds are that Murray will be given a chance to carry the football at some point this season. I like Murray as a handcuff to McFadden more than Jennings. Lastly, I mention Reece as he was the big surprise during the 2012 season at the position when injuries decimated the Raiders RB corps and Reece was forced to take on a big offensive role. However it is very unlikely to happen again in 2013 unless Oakland faces another rash of injuries at the RB position. Murray would be my pick as the handcuff to McFadden, even though I get the feeling the Raiders would likely give Jennings first crack at running himself out of the position if McFadden gets injured.
San Diego Chargers
Starter: Ryan Mathews
Backups: Danny Woodhead, Ronnie Brown
Mathews has all the skills to be a featured RB; good size, good speed, good receiving capabilities, but he has yet to put it all together on the field. It also hasn't helped that he can't seem to avoid injuries. With Danny Woodhead being brought over from New England to be the Chargers 3rd down RB, Mathews can expect his receptions to drop (he caught 89 passes the last two seasons combined in 26 games) and to be used as a two down rushing back on a team with a poor offensive line and a passing attack that has come into question. Once considered a top 10 fantasy RB in terms of talent, Mathews is no more than a borderline RB2/3 with upside, and risk. Woodhead gets to reprise his 3rd down and change of pace role in San Diego in 2013. Woodhead would split rushing duties with Ronnie Brown if Mathews were to get injured again, but an increase in playing time could really increase Woodhead's fantasy value. Even if Mathews stays healthy, Woodhead is an excellent receiving RB and could find himself worth considering as a RB4 in PPR formats. The addition of Woodhead in San Diego eliminates Brown's chances of being the primary 3rd down RB. Even if injuries were to give Brown a chance for a bigger offensive role, he isn't fantasy worthy. He proved that with the chances he got in 2012.
A team by team look at the RB situations in the AFC South division
Starter: Arian Foster
Backup: Ben Tate
While there is some concern that Foster's rushing yards average dropped to a career low of 4.1 in 2012, it still needs to be remembered that he ran for 1,424 yards and scored more TD's (17) than any other RB. It was also a concern that he caught the fewest passes (40) of any season over the last 3. Questions about whether a strained calf muscle injury suffered in May OTA's will linger into training camp are valid, but I expect the Texans will be cautious with him and while we might not see much of Foster in preseason he is very likely to be full systems go by the first week of the regular season. Foster has logged a lot of mileage in the last 3 seasons, but as long as he doesn't aggravate the calf injury before week 1, there's no reason for Foster to drop out of the top 5 fantasy RB's in 2013. That said, the smart fantasy owner will want to handcuff his backup, Ben Tate, to him in the middle rounds of upcoming fantasy drafts. Tate is one of those few mandatory handcuffs at the RB position. When healthy, and given opportunities the last 2 seasons, Tate has been an effective RB worthy of being in starting fantasy lineups. While Foster's calf injury is expected to be fine by training camp, Tate is still someone worth considering as a RB4/5 as the Texans may decide to reduce Foster's workload some. Foster owners better not wait too long to grab Tate as the handcuff as he is worth the insurance.
Starter: Ahmad Bradshaw
Backup: Vick Ballard
Bradshaw is on a one year "prove it" contract as the new lead RB for the Colts. He's recovering from February foot surgery as foot injuries have plagued him throughout the last few seasons. If the recovery goes well, he should be ready for training camp and be in line for the primary RB duties over Colts second year RB Vick Ballard. But there are no guarantees when it comes to Bradshaw and foot injuries and there's also a chance Ballard could take some carries away from him, especially in short yardage situations. While Bradshaw has rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2 of the last 3 seasons while with the Giants, he's no lock to make that benchmark as a Colt in 2013. Consider him a risky RB3/4 with RB2 potential. The addition of Bradshaw by the Colts brings about an end to Ballard's fantasy relevance. Ballard will still get some playing time, but not enough to be fantasy worthy. Unless Bradshaw has a setback in his recovery from off-season foot surgery, Ballard won't get enough touches to make any impact. The Colts also have former first round pick Donald Brown and Delone Carter on the roster and they are believed to be battling for just one roster spot as rookie RB Kerwynn Williams is expected to have a role on special teams leaving just one more roster spot at the position. I give a slight edge to Brown over Ballard as Brown is a better fit for the new west coast style of offense than Ballard.
Starter: Maurice Jones-Drew
Backups: Justin Forsett, Denard Robinson
Few RB's come with as many questions surrounding him in 2013 than MJD. He had surgery in December to repair a Lisfranc foot injury that ended his 2012 season after barely more than 5 games. A full recovery to pre-injury form is questionable as some athletes don't ever get back to their prior level of performance. Thru 5 games before the injury occurred in 2012, MJD was on pace for 1,300 rushing yards and 275 receiving yards, but only 6 TD's. The TD numbers were down probably because of the early season woes of the Jaguars passing attack. That passing game is not looking much better in 2013 and MJD, even if he gets back to 100% is no lock to do any better than he did in 2012. Because of his history he is a high upside fantasy RB2, but he also comes with considerable risk as he may never be the same RB he used to be. Justin Forsett is his top backup and makes a smart handcuff in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. Forsett is in an intriguing spot. MJD is not yet fully recovered from off-season foot surgery and there's no guarantee MJD will be by the start of the regular season. Forsett is the top handcuff to MJD as he has proven capable when given opportunities for a large offensive role in the past on other teams. There's also talented multi-dimensional player Denard Robinson. While Jacksonville is expected to find something similar to a "slash" role offensively for him, it's not likely that he will get enough touches per game to be an effective fantasy player. But if Maurice Jones-Drew has any setbacks in his recovery from foot surgery, and Robinson starts getting more playing time, he could surprise. I'm keeping an eye on him as a potential deep sleeper at the position.
Starter: Chris Johnson
Backup: Shonn Greene
Despite having rushed over 1,000 yards every season of his 6 year career so far in Tennessee, Johnson is a model of inconsistency. In 2012, he had 5 games with fewer than 30 rushing yards and no TD's. Meanwhile he had 5 games with over 100 rushing yards and 5 TD's scored. Reportedly, the offensively line issues have been addressed and is expected to be much better this season, but Johnson may also find himself losing some carries to new running mate Shonn Greene. Greene is the polar opposite of Johnson in that Greene is a bullish runner while Johnson is a slasher who is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield. The loss in some between the tackles carries shouldn't affect Johnson much if he has better blocking so he can get in space. Johnson is a proven starting fantasy RB2 that when he's on, he goes off as few fantasy RB's can, but he will also have those games where he is a complete disappointment. Although Greene has rushed for over 1,000 yards in back to back seasons for the Jets, he's going to have to carve out a role as a short yardage or goal line rusher. But unless Johnson is slow to get it going again in 2013, Greene isn't going to get a lot of playing time. He still makes a pretty good handcuff to Johnson though because of his proven track record.
A team by team look at the RB situations in the AFC North division
Starter: Ray Rice
Backup: Bernard Pierce
Rice was solid in 2012, but he failed to duplicate the tremendous success he had in 2011. While 1,143 rushing yards, 478 receiving yards, and 10 combined TD's are solid numbers, they are all down from what he had in 2011. While Rice will remain the main guy, another dip in his numbers could be on the horizon. He should still be good enough for a borderline fantasy RB1/2 though. The smart fantasy owner will spend a later round pick on Pierce for the handcuff. Thanks to strong performances towards the end of the regular season and into the post-season, Pierce has played his way into taking some of the offensive load from Rice. While it would likely take a Rice injury for Pierce to have fantasy value, Pierce is worth monitoring and should be considered a strong candidate to be handcuffed to Rice in fantasy drafts.
Starter: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Backup: Giovani Bernard
Green-Ellis wasn't bad as the Bengals featured RB in 2012, but he wasn't as good as had been expected. Rushing TD's were harder to come by then when he was in New England with a strong supporting cast everywhere around him, and his limitations as a receiver were in full display. BGE is likely to be the primary 2 down rushing back in 2013, but will give way to rookie Bernard in passing situations as Bernard is an excellent pass catching RB. There's even a chance if BGE struggles and Bernard shows well, BGE could find himself reduced to the role of being a short yardage and goal line RB. Green-Ellis is a very dicey pick as a RB3 this season unless he gets more goal line opportunities. Meanwhile, in PPR formats, Bernard could prove to be equal to, if not better than BGE in terms of fantasy value since he is such an accomplished pass catching RB. He has speed and moves in the open field. Bernard is well worth considering as a RB4 with upside heading into fantasy drafts.
Starter: Trent Richardson
Backups: Montario Hardesty, Dion Lewis
The shin injury that prevented Richardson from practicing in May OTA's is considered minor and he should be fine by mid-August the latest. The Browns will use caution with him as he is a vital piece of the offense so limited action in preseason is likely. While he only put up 950 rushing yards in 2012, he also caught 51 passes for another 367 yards and scored a combined 12 TD's as a rookie. And all this despite dealing with multiple minor injuries. As long as Richardson can stay healthy, he looks to be a solid starting fantasy RB in 2013 with the upside to join the near elite. Hardesty and Lewis will battle it out to be the primary backups with Hardesty having the edge. Hardesty has flashed potential but has never been able to stay healthy, while Lewis was unable to hold onto the backup job in Philadelphia and was acquired by the Browns from the eagles in hopes he can push Hardesty. Neither is worth the handcuff to Richardson though unless a clear favorite emerges in training camp and preseason.
Starter: Le'Veon Bell
Backups: Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, La'Rod Stephens-Howling
Trust the Steelers to select a big powerful RB with a blue collar work ethic and make him their featured RB. Bell lacks speed, and runs a bit high, but he has excellent size, can push the pile, and is plenty strong enough to break tackles. He also is surprisingly adept as a receiver out of the backfield for a big RB and may end up being a true 3 down featured RB. While the Steelers are making him compete with both Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman for the starting job, those two both proved last season incapable of handling the load and producing at a high level. Bell is the favorite to beat out both and be Pittsburgh's primary RB in 2013. And that should mean he is a good choice as a fantasy RB2. The Steelers seem set on Redman's roster spot being safe so he is likely to be the top backup. Dwyer needs a strong preseason to even keep his roster spot. Stephens-Howling is not likely to have any real offensive impact and figures to be used primarily on special teams. But since he has had some moderate success for short periods of time while with Arizona, he gets mentioned here.
A team by team look at the RB situations in the AFC East division
Starter: C.J. Spiller
Backup: Fred Jackson
Spiller is a favorite fantasy sleeper for top 5 RB status in 2013 as the new coaching regime has stated they will get him the ball more and he will be their primary RB over Fred Jackson. Spiller averaged an insane 6.0 yards per rush attempt in 2012 on his way to 1244 yards and 6 TD's. He's also very efficient in the passing game as he caught 43 passes for 459 yards and 2 more TD's in 2012. Now that he will be the definite starter and not splitting as many carries with Jackson, Spiller offers great upside as a starting fantasy RB in 2013. Jackson will switch to change of pace duties behind him. Spiller owners should strongly consider Jackson as a handcuff as Jackson has proven to be an effective fantasy RB when healthy and put in a lead role.
Starter: Lamar Miller
Backup: Daniel Thomas
Expected to be the lead RB for the Dolphins in 2013, Miller has explosive speed and enough size for the position. What is unknown is how well he can be running between the tackles as an every down grinder. He may cede those carries to Daniel Thomas if he doesn't prove capable of being powerful enough inside. It's unknown how well he catches the ball but it's expected he'll operate as the 3rd down RB as well. Miller could boom in the starter's role, or he could end up being incapable of sustaining himself at a high level and need to be part of a committee. Miller is a middle of the road RB2 for fantasy in 2013. Meanwhile Thomas isn't even assured of being the top backup to Miller in 2013 after poor showings the last two seasons. But he possesses superior size to rookie Mike Gillislee and should beat him out for the job. That said, Thomas is unlikely to be fantasy relevant and probably shouldn't be drafted in most leagues unless Miller gets injured.
New England Patriots
Starter: Stevan Ridley
Backup: Shane Vereen
With 1,263 rushing yards and 12 TD's in 2012, Ridley established himself as the primary RB in the Patriots offense. He is their primary RB in rushing situations and also their goal line behemoth. The only thing you could want more from Ridley is a presence as a receiver out of the backfield. He loses value in the PPR format as he only caught 6 passes last season and he will likely cede 3rd down RB duties to Vereen. Otherwise, expect another 1,200+ yards and another 10+ TD's from Ridley in 2013. Meanwhile Vereen's explosive showings as the 3rd down RB in this past post-season allowed the Patriots to part ways with Danny Woodhead and give Vereen the job in 2013. Vereen is a dynamic runner and while he won't challenge Stevan Ridley for early down carries, his abilities as a receiver and occasional rusher could provide him with enough fantasy value to be considered as a borderline RB3/4. In PPR formats, Vereen could be a regular as a flexed 3rd RB.
New York Jets
Starter: Chris Ivory
Backups: Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson, Joe McKnight
Ivory takes over as the new lead RB for the Jets in 2013. While he has proven capable when given opportunities when with the Saints, Ivory has also sustained injuries and it's unknown how well he'll hold up as a featured RB. His receiving ability is also in question as he has caught only 3 passes in his NFL career compared to 256 rushing attempts so he may cede 3rd down duties to another RB on the Jets roster. One thing he isn't likely to cede though is goal line carries. Assuming the Jets can get inside an opponent's 5 yard line, Ivory is likely to be getting all the carries. Consider Ivory a RB3 for drafting purposes with upside to move into RB2 territory. The addition of Ivory says all you need to know about what they privately think about Powell's chances of being a capable lead RB. Powell will battle it out with Goodson and McKnight and none of them are even guaranteed to make the opening day roster. It's unknown if Goodson's impending legal problems stemming from a drugs and weapons arrest in May will affect his chances for making the roster with the Jets or not. Before the arrest Goodson was considered likely to be the top backup and change of pace RB to Ivory. Now it's unknown if his case will be heard before the start of the regular season or not. He could end up being fine during the season; he could be suspended by the league. It's unclear at this time and not worth chancing given his status as just a backup RB in New York anyway. McKnight doesn't get many chances and seems to be perpetually buried on the depth chart despite having shown well in his very limited opportunities. Ivory is the only one you can safely draft.