Top 8 Bounce Back Running Backs for 2014
Some players will blame it on an injury, some on bad luck, but us team owners really know what happened. They just plain out sucked in 2013. In front of you is a quick list of 8 running backs we believe have great opportunities to bounce back to their productive ways in 2014.
2014 Bounce Back Busts – Running Backs
1. Doug Martin (7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers : Some owners might be scared off of Doug Martin after his awful 2013 that ended with him on injured reserve, but that might be a mistake. When the Buccaneers hired Lovie Smith to be their new head coach, they hired a man whose offensive vision is to run the ball as much as possible. And Smith hired former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford to run the offense, and he has a pretty solid track record of running the football successfully. The Bucs also are without a quality quarterback, Josh McCown was their big free-agent signing, which means they’ll probably end up running the football a lot. Martin should dominate the carries for Tampa Bay so long as he stays healthy, so there’s a real chance at the very least he grinds his way to good numbers. He’ll also catch a bunch of passes and be in line for goal-line work. We’re expecting a nice bounce-back year from Martin in 2014.
2. Arian Foster (10) Houston Texans : If you trusted Foster last season you were ultimately disappointed after a back injury knocked him out of basically 10 games. But before he got hurt he was solid, giving at least 10 standard Fantasy points in four of six games, a 66.7 percent success rate. Foster says his back is healthy now, music to the ears of new head coach Bill O’Brien who says he will lean on Foster in 2014. There’s no doubt that injury concerns are legit with Foster, but he should still be productive. Expect Foster to get taken between 10th and 15th overall in drafts, which is fine. Just make sure to properly handcuff him with his backup, Andre Brown, with a mid- to late-round pick.
3. Chris Johnson (11) New York Jets : As a first- or second-round pick, CJ has been a disappointment in recent years even though he posted at least 1,400 total yards in six straight seasons. But what if Johnson was a fifth-round pick? Would he be a disappointment then? If you think he would be then drafting Johnson shouldn’t be in your future. But if you think a back with 1,400-yard, six-score potential is worth a pick, say, 50th overall, then consider the newest member of the Jets backfield. Johnson is talking like he wants to prove to everyone in football that he can still play at a high level, and it’s been noted that he gutted out last season with a torn meniscus. We’ve noticed that Johnson’s effort varies from week to week and his numbers typically followed suit. He’s not the same guy from 2009. But we’ve also noticed that he’s been a notorious slow starter, averaging less than 7 standard fantasy points per game over the first 6 weeks of his past 3 seasons before blowing up and averaging over 12 standard fantasy points per in his final 10 games year after year. If he keeps pace with that, the move isn’t to draft him but to trade for him in October. But if you can’t do that and you need either a low-end No. 2 Fantasy rusher or a quality Flex option, then Johnson should be considered in that Round 5 range.
4. Trent Richardson (10) Indianapolis Colts : Interest level in Trent Richardson will depend on two things: A Fantasy owner’s risk tolerance and a Fantasy owner’s desperation for a running back. There’s no question that Richardson is one of the year’s biggest gambles, he let everyone down last season when he was taken as a first-round pick and promptly forgot how to play football when he was traded from Cleveland to Indianapolis. But we’ve since learned that he had a hard time adjusting to the Colts offense and the Colts coaches themselves took blame for his poor production. We also know that the team has backed Richardson ever since trading a first-round pick for him and will give him an opportunity to win the starting job in training camp. Richardson obviously has the potential to be a tremendous grinder, he averaged 87.8 total yards per game as a rookie and scored 12 total times in 15 games. It’s a matter of him putting it all together and taking advantage of working in an offense piloted by Andrew Luck. If he can do it, the payoff of drafting him with a pick in Round 6 or so will be huge.
5. Steven Jackson (9) Atlanta Falcons : We knew SJax was due for a down year eventually knowing how much he’s been utilized over 10 years. Jackson got hurt early on in Week 2 and missed four games. When he came back he never really was dominant, averaging 3.5 yards per carry and totaling under 750 yards with seven total touchdowns in his 10th NFL season, though it is worth noting that he had nine or more Fantasy points in five of his last six games thanks to those touchdowns. Here’s the tough reality: Jackson will be 31 by the time the season kicks off, has 2,572 career carries in the regular season and postseason and his rushing yardage production has declined over four straight seasons. This is not a formula for a great Fantasy back. Jackson has long been a mainstay in Fantasy but fear of a season similar to what we saw in 2013 — or worse — keeps him from being anything more than a flex choice. Rookie rusher Devonta Freeman could end up being the best back in Atlanta.
6. Stevan Ridley (10) New England Patriots : The best thing that happened to Stevan Ridley this offseason was the Patriots let LeGarrette Blount walk as a free agent, and he signed with the Steelers. The worst thing that happened to Ridley was the Patriots drafted James White from Wisconsin in the fourth round. We thought with Blount gone that Ridley wouldn’t have to worry about losing touches if he struggled with fumbles again, but the Patriots could turn to White now if Ridley has problems. And of course there’s Shane Vereen, who should be considered the No. 1 Fantasy running back for the Patriots. We’re still confident in Ridley as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy rusher, but he has a lot to prove. Hopefully he returns to his 2012 form. Ridley was a horror show from the start of last season when he fumbled in Week 1 at Buffalo. That set a bad tone, and his four fumbles for the season allowed Blount to play a prominent role. Ridley finished the year with 178 carries for 773 yards and seven touchdowns and 10 catches for 62 yards, and he had just four games with double digits in Fantasy points. Now, the key for Ridley this year is trust — from you as a Fantasy owner and Bill Belichick as a coach. If Belichick commits to Ridley as his primary rusher — assuming he can cut down on the fumbles — we could get the 2012 version where he had 1,263 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. New England was No. 2 in rushing touchdowns last year with 19, so Ridley is easily a candidate for double digits in scores. He’s heading into a contract year, so hopefully that motivation helps prevent him from fumbling. We expect Ridley to bounce back, and he’s worth the gamble starting in Round 4 of standard leagues and Round 5 in PPR formats.
7. Lamar Miller (5) Miami Dolphins : Miller had lofty goals in 2013. He wanted to rush for 1,500 yards and average 5.0 yards per carry. Well, he finished slightly (insert sarcasm) below those goals with 177 carries for 709 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, and he also had 26 catches for 170 yards. Miller didn’t get much help from his offensive line, but the Dolphins still decided he was possibly replaceable by bringing in Knowshon Moreno as a free agent. Through camp thus far, reports have stated that Miller has out worked and out shined newly acquired Moreno who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and is expected to miss 4-5 weeks. That should give Miller plenty of time to take the reins and run with them. Miller has the chance to have a breakout season but the Dolphins offensive line will be without key center Mike Pouncey which will force the Dolphins to play 5 new offensive line-man this season.
8. C.J Spiller (9) Buffalo Bills : Spiller was among the biggest busts in 2013. He was drafted as a first-round pick in the majority of leagues, but Spiller finished as the No. 27 running back in standard formats. He was outplayed by Fred Jackson, who was No. 10 in Fantasy points, and Spiller had trouble dealing with an ankle injury and likely unrealistic expectations. This season, Spiller has the chance to rebound, and we consider him a No. 2 Fantasy running back compared to a No. 1 option. If healthy, Spiller can still flash the skills that helped him dominate in 2012 when he had 1,700 total yards and eight touchdowns (he had just 1,100 yards and two touchdowns last year). Jackson will remain a detractor with the two still sharing touches, and the Bills also added Bryce Brown via trade, but the Bills want Spiller to shine based on his play-making ability. You should plan to target Spiller as early as Round 3, but hopefully he can fall to Round 4 and present better value. If things go his way like they did two years ago then your Fantasy team will be in great shape. Otherwise, if he plays like last year, at least you didn’t make another steep investment and his struggles won’t be as difficult to digest.
Make sure you check out 2014 Bounce Back Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends