The Surest Things at RB this Season
RB's Tier 1
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Peterson's 2012 season proved that he is in a class by himself at the RB position. Coming off a torn ACL, AP managed to rush for the second highest yardage total in a single NFL season with 2,097 yards. He also scored 13 total TD's for a third consecutive season and has had double digit TD's for six seasons in a row. Peterson said his goal for 2013 is to rush for 2,500 yards and while that's almost unimaginable, after the type of season he had in 2012, I've learned to not bet against him. A more realistic outlook is about 1,800 yards and another 13 or more TD's. Unless your league requires you to start more than 1 QB, AP should be the first pick in practically every fantasy draft in 2013.
RB's Tier 2
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
Richardson has put an off-season shin injury behind him and looks ready to roll in 2013. 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. These numbers are good, but become outstanding when you consider he had arthroscopic knee surgery the second week of August and was able to start week 1 despite it not being totally healed. Then in October he broke 2 ribs and continued to play each week. His only missed game was in week 17 when it was senseless to put him in after he suffered an ankle sprain in week 16. Richardson is healthy heading into the regular season and I expect he's going to challenge for elite fantasy RB status in 2013.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A preseason concussion is slight cause for concern, but reportedly Martin is over it and is ready to go week 1. Martin was everything advertised in 2012 as a rookie. He exploded in week 9 for 251 yards and 4 TD's and that quickly ascended him 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. Martin is a full time, 3 down featured RB for the Bucs and enjoys the benefits of an underrated passing game to keep defenses honest. His floor for 2013 is 1,200 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards, and 10 TD's, while his ceiling is to finish among the elite. There's no reason to not think of Martin as belonging with Richardson in the tier of fantasy RB's just under Adrian Peterson in 2013.
RB's Tier 3
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Lynch has simply been outstanding the last two seasons. He has a combined 2,794 rushing yards, 408 receiving yards, and 25 TD's in that span. Even though the Seahawks have two talented RB's behind him in Robert Turbin and rookie Christine Michael, there is no reason to think Seattle will reduce his workload. Lynch has proven to be too good to be in a split with any other RB. There are no reasons to not expect another great campaign in 2013. There was some concern earlier in the year, but a summer DUI case has been pushed off until the last week of December. Lynch is locked in as a strong fantasy RB1.
Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
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 featured 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 will cede 3rd down RB duties to Shane Vereen. The Patriots are considered to be a passing offense, but in 2012 they had the second most rushing attempts of any team; were 7th in rushing yards; and NO team had more than their 25 rushing TD's. I can't think of any reason why you shouldn't expect Ridley to have another 1,200+ yards and another 10+ TD's in 2013.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
A training camp foot injury caused concern in the fantasy world about Charles, but it turned out to be minor and he is fully expected to be all systems go for week 1 of the regular season. 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. Charles ran for over 1,500 yards in 2012 and caught 35 passes for another 236. You can certainly expect that reception total to nearly double in 2013 as Reid has always emphasized throwing to his RB's and with weak armed Alex Smith at the helm, Charles will get more than his fair share of targets. The only problem with Charles so far in his career is his low amount of TD's scored. If he would only get into the end zone more often, he would be a fantasy gold mine.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Rice failed to duplicate his tremendous success he had in 2011, but he was still solid in 2012. Rice has always been one of the best receiving RB's in the game and with Anquan Boldin gone, and Dennis Pitta likely out for the season, I can see a lot of passes going Rice's way. Especially since the Ravens don't have any proven WR replacing Boldin opposite Torrey Smith. Although there is some concern with second year RB Bernard Pierce having showed very well last season, I don't think Rice's numbers will dip any from his 1,143 rushing yards, 478 receiving yards, and 10 total TD's. If anything, I expect the Ravens will be a little more reliant on their running game this year. The only thing I would recommend is to handcuff Pierce to Rice as Pierce proved fully capable last season if called upon for an increased role.
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
McCoy could be in for a monster 2013 season under new head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly's offense is supposed to feature an exotic rushing attack and McCoy is expected to be the focal point of it. McCoy was actually 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. The only thing he wasn't bettering was his TD numbers. He had only 2 rushing TD's and 3 receiving TD's after scoring 20 combined in 2011. Given the NFL's stringent protocols now when it comes to concussions McCoy is a bit of a concern after having suffered such a severe one last season. But you can't draft scared and McCoy proved himself as being capable of elite fantasy numbers back in 2011. Even though his backup, Bryce Brown, has ball security issues, Brown showed last season that he can be an explosive player if anything were to happen to McCoy. Owner's who draft McCoy should definitely think about handcuffing Brown to him.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
Spiller will finally get the chance this year to be the featured RB to start a season. Spiller averaged an insane 6.0 yards per rush attempt in 2012 on his way to 1244 yards and 6 TD's and proved very efficient in the passing game as well catching 43 passes for 459 yards and 2 more TD's. The new coaching regime has stated they will run him until he can't run anymore. Now that he will be the definite starter and not splitting as many carries with Fred Jackson, Spiller look like a serious challenger for top 5 RB status in 2013.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
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 as he only had 11 on the season. While it's hoped he becomes more involved in the passing game, Washington is expected to have Roy Helu as their primary 3rd down RB so an increase in receptions seems unlikely. While we've all become jaded when it comes to trusting Mike Shanahan to ride a stud a second consecutive season, it's hard to imagine that Morris doesn't get at least 17-20 carries every games and score double digit TD's. He proved to be too good not to last season.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans
The Texans have been careful with Foster in training camp and preseason by allowing him to rest up a back issue stemming from the calf issue he suffered back in OTA's. There are even some who have dropped Foster from being worthy of a first round pick because of the risk factor for a guy who has been as heavily relied upon in his team's offense as Foster has been the last 3 seasons in Houston. Foster's rushing yards average dropped to a career low of 4.1 in 2012, but that doesn't change the fact he ran for 1,424 yards and scored more TD's (17) than any other RB. Foster has logged a lot of mileage in the last 3 seasons, and the Texans are hinting that they may have more of a time share between him and backup Ben Tate. But I really have a hard time seeing a reason for Foster to drop out of the top 10 fantasy RB's in 2013. But I do recommend spending the 7th or 8th round pick on Ben Tate for the handcuff. Tate has proven capable of producing quality fantasy points when called upon to fill in for Foster.
Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
I think Jackson is being undervalued as the new featured RB in Atlanta. Jackson recently turned 30 years old and he does have a lot of mileage on his legs already from his 9 years in St. Louis, but he is a physical freak. He is both a big powerful RB, and an excellent receiving RB. He's rushed for over 1,000 yards in the last 8 seasons and the only thing that had been missing from his fantasy stats was 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. The Falcons ran a gassed Michael Turner for an average of 14 carries per game and 10 TD's in 2012 so I'd be surprised if Jackson, who should still have another 2 years at a high level, has anything less than 1,200 rushing yards, 50 receptions, and 10 TD's in 2013 as the Falcons new featured RB.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Forte is going to love playing in new 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.