2013 Fantasy Football Running Backs Rankings

Running Backs Ranked 1-30

by Russ Bliss (7/13/13)

1) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
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. He also scored double digit TD's for the 6th season in a row. Peterson said his goal for 2013 is to rush for 2,500 yards and while I think that's an unattainable goal, he's certainly a good bet for at least 1,800 yards and another 12+ TD's. AP should be the first pick in practically every fantasy draft in 2013.

2) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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.

3) Arian Foster, Houston Texans
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.

4) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
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.

5) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Lynch has been outstanding the last two seasons combining for 2,794 rushing yards, 408 receiving yards, and 25 TD's. You can expect another great campaign in 2013 as his summer DUI case has been pushed off until the last week of December. Lynch is locked in as a strong fantasy RB1.

6) 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. 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.

7) Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
Jackson is being undervalued as the new featured RB in Atlanta because of one thing: age. Jackson will turn 30 years old in July and he does have a lot of mileage on his legs already from his 9 years in St. Louis. But Jackson is a freak of nature athletically as 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 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. 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.

8) Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
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. 

9) C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
Spiller is a top 10 fantasy RB in 2013 and a favorite fantasy sleeper for top 5 RB status by the end of the season if he can stay healthy. 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.

10) 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 questions the Patriots have with their WR's and TE's could mean we see more rushing attempts by the Patriots which would bode well for Ridley's chances for another 1,200+ yards and another 10+ TD's in 2013.

11) Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Rice was solid in 2012, but he failed to duplicate his 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. With second year RB Bernard Pierce having showed very well late in the season and into the post-season, there is a chance Rice's status as a true featured RB is in jeopardy. While he'll still be the main guy, a dip in his previous 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.

12) 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.

13) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
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 was his TD numbers. He had only 2 rushing TD's and 3 receiving TD's after scoring 20 combined in 2011. His concussion 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 allowing players with a history of concussions playing in games until they have been fully cleared.

14) Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
Bush has finished each of the last 2 seasons as a top 15 fantasy RB in both PPR and non-PPR standard formats. 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.

15) Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Few RB's come with as many questions surrounding him 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.

16) DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
For the second year in a row Murray was unable to play a full 16 games because of injury. A foot sprain 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 two 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.

17) Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
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. The Titans have tried addressing the offensive line issues this off-season so it could be looking 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 RB that when he's on, he goes off, but will also have those games where he is a complete disappointment.

18) Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
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.  

19) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
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. A safe choice as a starting RB2 in fantasy football.

20) Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
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. A middle of the road RB2 for fantasy in 2013. 

21) Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals
Mendenhall will be the Cardinals featured RB in 2013 and could be deserving of a higher ranking than he currently has. That is 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 15+ 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. 

22) Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
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 so there is a chance of a committee attack where Ball will cede playing time to either or both of Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman. One of the most important things in a Peyton Manning led offense is blocking by the RB so if Ball can prove to be good at that he'll have an excellent chance to be the primary RB. And with Manning leading an outstanding passing attack, Ball should find running lanes aplenty and put up solid fantasy RB2 numbers in 2013. But he'll need to get by Fox's preference for veterans.

23) Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
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. 

24) David Wilson, New York Giants
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 both Wilson as the lightning and Andre Brown as the thunder. Wilson provides more dynamic explosiveness than Brown and I expect Brown will be the between the tackles grinder and short yardage RB. Wilson is likely to get more yardage than Brown, but Brown 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.

25) Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints
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 either to former first round pick Mark Ingram or Pierre Thomas.

26) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Lacy was 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 is likely to 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 f he wasn't their primary RB.

27) Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
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.

28) Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Ivory takes over as the new lead RB for the Jets in 2013. While he has proven capable when given opportunities while 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.

29) Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts
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 with RB2 potential.

30) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
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 a week to week unpredictable committee with fellow Panthers RB's DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. A high risk/reward candidate as a RB3 in fantasy drafts this season. 

2013 Fantasy Football Running Backs Rankings, Part 2

2013 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks Rankings