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Bishop Sankey combine
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Now that the NFL draft is behind us it is time for fantasy football nuts to start breaking down the rookies. Here’s the LestersLegends’ look at the 2014 NFL rookie running back class.
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1. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
Sankey may not be the best running back in this class, but there is a path to starting job with Chris Johnson moving to the New York Jets. Sankey tore it up last year at Washington with 1,870 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground, which was a nice follow-up to his 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012. Sankey also caught 61 passes over the past two years, making him a potential three-down back. He should have little problems beating out Shonn Greene.
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2. Andre Williams, New York Giants
Andre Williams was taken in the fourth round with the 113th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but lands in a good spot with the G-Men. Rashad Jennings ran well for the Oakland Raiders last year, but his 163 carries were a career-high. Williams ran for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns last year for Boston College. At 6’0″, 227 pounds he could easily handle goal line duties while sharing some of the load on the ground.
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3. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde is easily the top choice among running backs for dynasty leagues. Frank Gore just turned 31 on May 14th. The Niners nabbed Hyde in the second round to be his replacement. Hyde is a 6’0″, 235 pound battering ram. He ran for 1,521 yards last year and has 35 touchdowns in the past two seasons. Hyde will get some touches this year. If Gore gets banged up, he’ll immediately move up the ranks.
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4. Terrance West, Cleveland Browns
West should steal some carries from newly acquired Ben Tate as Tate has never had 200 carries in a season. He finished his career at Towson with 802 carries for 4,849 yards and 84 touchdowns. West is 5’11 and 223 pounds with 4.54 forty speed. He’s also a good dynasty option.
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5. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Hill was the second running back selected. It’s a little curious because the Bengals took Giovani Bernard last year in the second round. Hill, at 6’1″ and 235 pounds will likely be the goal line back. He could also be used to close out games. Running backs have not gone in the first round the past two seasons. Committees are the new wave. If Hill can punch in several scores during the year he’ll have some fantasy weight.
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Adrian Peterson 2012
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The Super Bowl is over. The smoke has cleared and the confetti has been swept away. What better time to start looking ahead at the 2014 fantasy football season and the LestersLegends early running back rankings.
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1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
A down year for Adrian Peterson consisted of 1,437 total yards and 11 touchdowns. I’ll take that kind of production all day (pun intended). Norv Turner has had a great history of success with running backs of a similar ilk (Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson). Look for big things from AP.
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2. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid knew how to get the very best of LeSean McCoy, which made him a perfect fit for Jamaal Charles. Charles combined for 1,980 total yards and 19 touchdowns. Another stellar season should be in store for this electric back. Charles could easily be the first pick, especially in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues.
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3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy finished with 2,146 total yards and 11 touchdowns. He was a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense and put the concussion concerns to bed en route to the rushing title. McCoy could also be the first pick, particularly in PPR leagues.
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4. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Marshawn Lynch showed everybody that he’s “’bout that action, boss”. Beast Mode compiled 1,573 total yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged 96 yards per game while scoring four touchdown during the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl run. He’s a power back. Use accordingly.
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5. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Matt Forte had a lot in common with Charles and McCoy. They all are dual-threat backs that thrived under a new coach. Forte finished with 1,933 total yard and 12 touchdowns under the vision of Marc Trestman. He should continue to put up impressive numbers.
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6. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy put any weight issues to bed by rolling for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns even as Aaron Rodgers was limited to nine games. Lacy added 257 receiving yards to show he’s not one-dimensional. As long as there isn’t a sophomore slump, Lacy should be a strong RB1 in 2014.
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7. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin was limited to six games, which netted him 522 total yards and one touchdown. Tampa Bay was dysfunctional at the time of his season-ending injury. The Bucs made strides throughout the year and Bobby Rainey and Mike James had some solid moments as replacements. Lovie Smith will want a run-first offense, which bodes well for Martin. He should also be very active in the passing game a la Matt Forte.
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8. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray was limited to 14 games, but he finished with 1,474 total yards and 10 touchdowns. The talent and explosiveness cannot be questioned. Durability is another issue.
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9. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
Zac Stacy, at 5’8″ and 224 pounds is a wrecking ball. In his final 12 games he averaged 92.5 total yards and 0.7 touchdowns. He comes with some risk, but also brings plenty of reward potential.
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10. Le’veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Le’veon Bell was limited to 13 games last year, but still managed to accumulate 1,259 total yards (96.8 yards per game) and eight touchdowns. He’s a big back at 6′ 1″ and 244 pounds with soft hands (45 receptions).
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Marshawn Lynch running
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1. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Marshawn Lynch averaged 98.3 total yards and 0.9 touchdowns during the regular season. He runs with power, but he also has the ability to break the long run. Lynch is averaging 124.5 rushing yards per game and his three playoff touchdowns have come from an average of 28.7 yards out. Lynch has had at least 20 carries in nine games this season, including in both playoff games. Look for a heavy dose of Beast Mode to keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines. Power running has been a common theme during the playoffs. It should continue in the Super Bowl.
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2. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
Knowhon Moreno averaged 99.1 total yard and 0.8 touchdowns per game during the regular season. He has averaged 87.5 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns in the two playoff wins. Moreno is excellent at picking up the blitz and working the screen game. On the biggest stage, he will see a heavy dose of touches. Peyton Manning trusts Moreno and that goes a long way.
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3. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Montee Ball has averaged 12.5 touches in the two playoffs wins for 54 total yards. Even though Moreno is the clear lead back, the Broncos are committed to getting Ball involved. He may not see double-digit carries in this one as Seattle tries to shorten the game, but a short touchdown isn’t out of the question.
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4. Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks
Robert Turbin only had 85 touches during the regular season and six in the two playoff games. I don’t expect Turbin to suddenly become heavily involved, but he’ll likely get the touches when Lynch takes a breather. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for a relatively unknown to make a big Super Bowl impact.
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Super Bowl XLVIII
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Eddie Lacy jump
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When I looked at the top five 2013 running backs I ranked Montee Ball, Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy, Le’veon Bell and Johnathan Franklin as the top five. Bernard, Lacy and Bell delivered. Ball did not get enough opportunities to do his thing, but I still think good things will come. I totally missed the boat on Franklin. Zac Stacy came out of nowhere to shine. Here is how I rank them for keeper leagues.
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1. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Lacy led all rookies with 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 11 rushing touchdowns trailed only Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles in total rushing scores. He added another 257 yards on the ground. There were some concerns entering the year about his weight. Clearly he put those to bed. Lacy is a nice fit in this offense and Aaron Rodgers will keep teams from loading the box. He’s a force going forward.
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2. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
Stacy was the lead back in 12 games. In those dozen games he averaged 92.5 total yards and 0.7 touchdowns. He is a bowling ball that is hard to bring down. Expect big things to continue for Stacy.
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3. Le’veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Le’veon Bell was limited to 13 games, but still managed to accumulate 1,259 total yards (96.8 ypg) and eight touchdowns. He’s a big back (6′ 1″, 244 pounds) with soft hands (45 receptions). He should continue to develop into a premier back in this league.
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4. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Bernard, unlike the top three backs played the full season, only he had to share the load with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Bernard still finished with 1,209 yards and eight touchdowns (75.6 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game). If the Law Firm is out of the picture in 2014, Bernard could slide up the scale. The top four backs are quality options.
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5. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Montee Ball had 704 total yards and four touchdowns. He averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry. If Knowshon Moreno doesn’t return, he too could shoot up this board.
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Marshawn Lynch running
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Here are the Lester’s Legends running back rankings for the  the AFC & NFC Conference Championship Games of the 2013-14 NFL Playoffs.
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1. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Marshawn Lynch averaged 98.3 total yards and 0.9 touchdowns during the regular season and ripped off 140 yards and a pair of scores last week against the Carolina Panthers. He has a tough draw against the San Francisco 49ers this week, but he averaged 103.5 total yards and a pair of touchdowns in two earlier meetings with them.
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2. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
Knowhon Moreno averaged 99.1 total yard and 0.8 touchdowns per game during the regular season. He held to form with 94 total yards and a score last week against the San Diego Chargers. He takes aim at the New England Patriots this week, a team he ran 37 times against fro 224 yards and a score in the first meeting.
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3. LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
LeGarrette Blount ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts. In Week 17 he ran for 189 yards and two scores. Blount has eight touchdowns in his past three games. He is a load to bring down, plus he has a burst to run away from defenders when he gets into space. I expect Denver to do a better job against Blount, but he is going to be tough to stop if they get in a goal line situation.
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4. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore averaged 79.3 yards and 0.6 touchdowns on the year, but only 70 yards per game without a score in two meetings with the Seahawks. He’s averaging 84.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns in two playoff wins. Gore has five touchdowns in his past five playoff games. Of the starters I like him the least, but he should still turn in a solid game.
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5. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
Stevan Ridley added 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week. He has double-digit carries in the past three games, signifying that he is out of Bill Belichick’s doghouse. Unfortunately Blount took over the lead job. Ridley should still get a decent amount of carries.
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6. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
Shane Vereen is averaging just five touches for 27.3 yards and 0.5 touchdowns in his past four games. He had 18 touches for 91 yards in the first meeting with Denver. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Vereen played an important part of this week’s game plan just to keep the Broncos guessing.
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7. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Montee Ball had 10 carries last week for 52 yards. He had 10 touches in the first meeting with the Patriots for 57 total yards. He should see some chances in this one as well.
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Marshawn Lynch running
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Here are the Lester’s Legends running back rankings for the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.
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1. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Marshawn Lynch averaged 98.3 total yards and 0.9 touchdowns this year. He faces the New Orleans Saints. The Saints allowed 111.6 rushing yards per game. Nine of Lynch’s 14 touchdowns came at home.
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2. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
Knowshon Moreno averaged 99.1 total yard and 0.8 touchdowns per game. He averaged 84.5 total yards in two games against the San Diego Chargers. I expect Moreno to play a big role in this one.
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3. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore averaged 79.3 yards and 0.6 touchdowns on the year. He had 103 total yards in the first meeting with the Carolina Panthers. Gore has five touchdowns in his past four playoff games.
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4. LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
LeGarrette Blount had 265 yards and four touchdowns in the final two games of the season. He should continue to run strong against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts yielded 125.1 yards and 0.9 touchdowns per game during the regular season and 150 yards and a touchdown last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
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5. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
Ryan Mathews averaged 134.3 total yard and 0.8 touchdowns in his last four games of the regular season. He had 64 total yards in the win over the Cincinnati Bengals as Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown shouldered some of the load. Mathews had 189 total yards and two touchdowns in two games against the Broncos this year.
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6. Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
Donald Brown had 102 total yards and a pair of touchdowns in the comeback win against the Kansas City Chiefs. He should be heavily involved against a struggling Patriots run defense. The Pats ranked 30th with 134.1 rushing yards allowed per game.
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7. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
DeAngelo Williams averaged 114.3 total yards and 0.7 touchdowns in his final three games. He had 46 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting with the Niners.
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8. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
Shane Vereen had inconsistent production, but averaged 79.4 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns in eight games this year. He should be quite active in the passing game.
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9. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
Danny Woodhead finished the season quietly, but had 68 total yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. He had 86 total yards and a touchdown in two games against the Broncos.
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10. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Mark Ingram had a quiet year, but he erupted for 114 total yards and a touchdown last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s a risky play against the Seattle Seahawks.
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Jamaal Charles running
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Here are the Lester’s Legends fantasy football running back rankings for the Wild Card Round.
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1. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles averaged 132 total yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game. He got a week to rest up before facing the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have allowed 125.1 rushing yards and 0.9 touchdowns per game. Charles scored 11 touchdowns in his final five games.
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2. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy led the NFL with 1,607 yards. He averaged 134.1 total yards and 0.7 touchdowns per game. He faces the New Orleans Saints. The Saints allowed 111.6 rushing yards per game.
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3. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore averaged 79.3 total yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game. He’s facing the Green Bay Packers. The Packers allowed 125 yards and a touchdown per game on the ground. Gore had 65 total yards and a touchdown in the first meeting with the Packers. Last year in the playoffs he had 167 total yards and a touchdown against Green Bay.
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4. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy averaged 95.7 total yards and 0.7 touchdowns per game. He had 72 total yards and a touchdown in the first meeting with the San Francisco 49ers.
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5. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
Ryan Mathews averaged 134.3 total yard and 0.8 touchdowns during the San Diego Chargers’ four-game winning streak that propelled them into the playoffs. He’ll have his work cut out for him against the Cincinnati Bengals.
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6. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Giovani Bernard 75.6 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. He’s facing the Chargers. The Bolts allowed 107.8 yards and 0.9 touchdowns per game.
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7. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
BenJarvus Green-Ellis averaged just 47.3 yards per game, but he scored seven touchdowns, including four in the last five games. He’ll need to get in the end zone to be a fantasy asset.
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8. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Pierre Thomas averaged 66.4 total yards and 0.3 touchdowns per game, but he was quiet down the stretch averaging 34 total yards with just one touchdown in his last five games. He’s got a decent matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, but Thomas is trending in the wrong direction.
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9. Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
Donald Brown averaged 54 total yards and 0.9 touchdowns in his final eight games. He has a tough draw against the Kansas City Chiefs.
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10. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Trent Richardson also has a tough draw against the Chiefs, but he has been more involved of late. T-Rich is averaging 72.5 total yards in his past four games.
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