Entering the 2013 NFL Draft, there were obvious job openings at the running back position.
In Peyton Manning’s new land, the Broncos entered the draft with an aging Willis McGahee alongside a disappointing Knowshon Moreno and a fairly undersized Ronnie Hillman. The Bronco’s could save upwards of $5.3 million if both McGahee and Moreno are out right released, IF/IF the sides cant come to agreements on pay-cuts (Insert Montee Ball)
The Packers have needed a guy to compliment their powerful passing game, (Insert both Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin). Cedric Benson going down in 5, DuJuan Harris and James Starks were NOT able to step up and produce as the Packers had hoped they would. A main problem for running backs in the Packer successful pass happy offense is that only 12 rushing touchdowns have been scored over the past 3 years by a Running Back. Read that again, just 12 rushing touchdowns by RBs in the past 3 years.
And lastly, in Cincinnati, BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ plodding didn’t seem to be solid enough to ease pressure off of the borderline Andy Dalton. An athletic, change of pace player with upside seemed to be the perfect type of selection for the Bengals. The Law-Firm recorded just 22 receptions in 17 games last season (Insert Giovani Bernard) who produced at least 45 receptions in both seasons with North Carolina.
1. Montee Ball, Den (9) Wisconsin – 5’10 215lbs – 4.66 40-yard dash
The 5-foot-10, 215-pound Montee Ball holds the NCAA Division I record with 83 touchdowns, and he has SLEEPER written all over him, especially if Willis McGahee and/or Knowshon Moreno is released prior to training camp. Ball recorded 983 total touches over his 4 years at Wisconsin including 2 seasons with 300+ carries – 1,800+ rushing yards, and 3 seasons with 18+ rushing touchdowns including 33 rushing touchdowns and 1,923 rushing yards in 2011.
In 2012, Broncos Running Backs totaled 1,951 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns (12 rushing, 2 receiving). If Ball can earn the starting job in Denver he would be considered a No. 2 Fantasy RB with a ton upside. The Broncos offense will be dominant again with Peyton Manning and Co., and Ball could reach double digits in touchdowns easily. Plan on drafting Ball as soon as Round 4 or 5 in standard leagues, and he’s worth a 1st-round pick in rookie-only formats.
2. Le’Veon Bell, Pit (5) Michigan St – 6’1 244lbs – 4.60 40-yard dash
The 6-foot-1, 244-pound Bell rumbled for 3,346 yards on 671 carries (5.0 Yards per carry) and 33 rushing touchdowns in 3 seasons at Michigan State and caught 78 receptions for 531 yards but just 1 receiving touchdown. Though he lacks long-distance speed he does have VERY good field vision and is a extremely powerful back who can inflict punishment on defenders throughout a game.
Bell should be a true three-down back for the Steelers, which is huge. Bell is definitely the starter coming into the season and has a solid amount of upside. Perhaps the most important stat is that he’ll get a crack at 250+ carries this season which should translate into some good Fantasy production. He has the chance to be a solid Fantasy option as a rookie based on need in Pittsburgh’s offense. Owners should consider Bell a No. 2 Fantasy RB with upside, and he’s worth drafting with a mid-round pick in seasonal leagues. In rookie-only formats, Bell is worth a 1st-round pick.
3. Eddie Lacy, GB (4) Alabama – 5’11 231lbs – 4.44 40-yard dash
Eddi Lacy should be the more productive of the two because he’ll be given the first and early opportunities to work at the goal line. Problem is that Lacy has a history of injuries including fusion surgery on his toe that could limit him in the future. The later you draft him this summer, the better off you’ll probably be. But someone in every league will take a stab at Lacy by the end of Round 7. A low-end No.2 Fantasy RB is how Lacy should be viewed but that could change with a couple positive reports.
As of now, Lacy appears to have the advantage as the No.1 for the Packers Running Backs have not had the greatest production in the Packers high-flying, pass happy offense as they have registered just 12 TOTAL touchdowns over the past 3 years. Yes, read that again, Running Backs have totaled just 12 total touchdowns in the last 3 seasons.
4. Giovani Bernard, Cin (12) North Carolina – 5’8 202lbs – 4.53 40-yard dash
The 5’8 202lb back was able to eclipse the 1,200+ yard rushing mark in back to back seasons (2011,2012) along with 14+ total touchdowns in both seasons along with carrying a 5.9 Yard Per Carry average and recording at least 45 + receptions in each of those seasons. Bernard surpassed 1,615 total yards from scrimmage in both 2011 and 2012.
Bernard has the chops to play more than just third downs and could settle into a “passing downs” rusher for the Bengals with BenJarvus Green-Ellis working as the “rushing downs” back. We should see him cut significantly into The Law Firm’s carries so long as he’s healthy. Bernard will get snagged with a late-round pick as a low-end No.3/No.4 Fantasy RB in seasonal leagues, a middle- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a 2nd-round pick in rookie-only drafts.
5. Johnathan Franklin, GB (4) UCLA – 5’10 205lbs – 4.49 40-yard dash
According to NFL graduation-related rules, Franklin is not allowed to participate in any OTA practices or the full-squad, mandatory minicamp held June 4-6. This lack of off-season work could put Franklin behind fellow rookie RB Eddie Lacy in the fight for the starting running back job. Franklin recorded 34 total touchdowns in his 4 years at UCLA on 1,305 total touches (788 carries and 517 receptions) along with recording a 5.6 Yard Per Carry average.
As of now, Franklin is worth drafting as a low-end No. 3 Fantasy RB in seasonal leagues. He’s worth a 2nd-round pick in rookie-only formats. Running Backs have not had the greatest production in the Packers high-flying, pass happy offense as they have registered just 12 TOTAL touchdowns over the past 3 years. Yes, read that again, Running Backs have totaled just 12 total touchdowns in the last 3 seasons.
6. Mike Gillislee, Mia (6) Florida – 5’11 208lbs – 4.55 40-yard dash
The 5’11, 207lb back spent most of his career at Florida as a backup but started 11 games in his senior season, rushing for 1,152 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns (11 total touchdowns). We can expect Gillislee to compete with Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Marcus Thigpen and Jonas Grey for the starting spot vacated by Reggie Bush with Gillislee and Lamar Miller the favorites as of now.
Gillislee has the chance to be a steal for the Dolphins and Fantasy owners with a late-round pick. Miller has plenty of upside to be the starter, but he’s unproven. If Miller struggles, Gillislee could step in and be a solid contributor as a rookie. He should be taken with a late-round pick in seasonal leagues and at least a 3rd-round pick in rookie-only formats. Gillislee should definitely overtake Thomas as the No. 2 rusher on the depth chart.
7. Latavius Murray, Oak (7) Central Florida – 6’2 225lbs – 4.45 40-yard dash
The big 6’2 225lb back put together some solid production rushing for Central Florida. The most standout stat is clearly losing just 1 fumble in 453 total carries and he did not lose a fumble in his last 407 college career carries. Murray was able to produce a 5.4 Yards Per Carry average over his 4 years and a standout 1,106 rushing yards on 198 carries (5.6 YPC) with 15 rushing touchdowns and added 27 receptions for 231 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns in his senior year.
Raiders lead back Darren McFadden has been tagged with being “injury prone” since entering the NFL and has missed 3 or more games in EACH of his 5 seasons at the NFL level. Raiders No.2 Running Backs have had success over the past few years filling in for McFadden big powerful bruiser backs such as Michael Bush and Marcel Reece in just the last 2 seasons alone. Murray has the potential to be a impact player for the Raiders not IF, but WHEN McFadden goes down with injury. Murray is a late-round pick in seasonal leagues and the later in rounds you can get Murray in rookie only drafts is a plus as he takes over the No.2 rusher job on the depth chart.
8. Joseph Randle, Dal (11) Oklahoma St – 6’0 204lbs – 4.63 40-yard dash
The 6′ 204lb back will play complement to DeMarco Murray very nicely. Randle rushed for 1,417 yards and 14 touchdowns last season on 274 carries (5.2 YPC) and 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns on 208 (5.8 YPC) in 2011 while adding 108 receptions for 917 yards over his 3 year college career.
Fantasy owners now have their handcuff option for Murray, who has struggled to stay healthy in his first two years. He could get some early down work in tandem with Murray, but Randle is more of a No. 2 option, who might work on third downs. He’s worth a late-round pick in seasonal leagues and a mid-round pick in rookie-only formats.
9. Marcus Lattimore, SF (9) South Carolina – 5’11 221lbs – 4.45 40-yard dash
The 49ers are expected to put rookie running back Marcus Lattimore on the “non-football injury” list to open training camp. Lattimore suffered a dislocated right knee cap with three torn ligaments in a vicious play last October, ending his collegiate career after deciding to turn pro.
This move would make sense for the 49ers since Lattimore is NOT expected to play as a rookie based on his knee injury, and San Francisco is loaded at running back with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. I don’t recommend drafting Lattimore in standard format leagues, but he’s worth at least a late second-round pick in rookie-only formats and dynasty leagues.
Other notable Rookie Running Backs for 2013 :
Christine Michael, Sea (12) Texas A&M – 5’10 220lbs – 4.54 40-yard dash
Andre Ellington, Ari (9) Clemson – 5’9 206lbs – 4.61 40-yard dash
Stepfan Taylor, Ari (9) Stanford – 5’8 214lbs – 4.76 40-yard dash
Knile Davis, KC (10) Arkansas – 5’10 227lbs – 4.37 40-yard dash
Spencer Ware, Sea (12) LSU – 5’10 228lbs – 4.62 40-yard dash
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