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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Tyler Eifert Draft
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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 2013 NFL rookie tight end class.
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1. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
Eifert caught 50 passes last year at Notre Dame for 685 yards and four touchdowns. He will team with Jermaine Gresham to give the Bengals a potent tight end set. Eifert is a really nice option in dynasty leagues, but will take some time to develop as a rookie. He will likely go undrafted in re-draft leagues. I expect him to scored six touchdowns given his size and jump ball ability. He’ll likely be feast or famine.
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2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce caught 45 passes last year for 722 yards and eight touchdowns for the Cincinnati Bearcats. He has good size, speed and blocking ability. There are some character concerns, which should be the only thing that prevents him from seeing a heavy dose of snaps. He has the potential to be even better than Eifert. Kelce has value in dynasty leagues, but can be avoided in re-draft ones.
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3. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Ertz averaged five touchdowns per season in his three years at Stanford. He took advantage of Coby Fleener’s departure to the tune of 69 catches for 898 yards and six touchdowns. Ertz has good long-term potential, but Brent Celek and James Casey are blocking his path.
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4. Gavin Escobar, Dallas Cowboys
Escobar averaged 661.5 yards and 6.5 touchdowns in the past two years at San Diego State. He will team with Jason Witten to provide the Cowboys’ version of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. He could eventually take over for Witten, but it could be a few years.
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5. Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers
McDonald averaged 462 yards and five touchdowns over the past three years at Rice. He is playing behind Vernon Davis, but should see the field plenty. I expect consistency to be an issue.
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Tavon Austin draft
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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 2013 NFL rookie wide receiver class.
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1.  Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
Austin caught 215 passes over the past two seasons for 2,475 yards and 20 touchdowns. He should hit the ground running, working the slot for the Rams. He will also be used out of the backfield and in the return game. He will likely be an immediate WR3 in PPR leagues. His speed and versatility should translate to the pro game. Think Percy Harvin and Randall Cobb.
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2. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Hopkins gives Andre Johnson, on paper anyway, his best running mate to date. He was a beast last year, catching 82 passes for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns. With opposing defenses focusing on Johnson, Arian Foster and Owen Daniels, Hopkins should have a productive rookie season. I’d consider him a WR4 at best. He’s an attractive option in dynasty leagues.
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3. Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
Patterson is raw, but he’s a freak athlete. He also doesn’t have a difficult path to playing time. He is explosive when he gets his hands on the football, often resembling a running back. Patterson will be used a lot like Percy Harvin, touching the ball in the passing, running and return game. He had 778 yards receiving and 308 yards rushing last year. He is likely a WR5 in fantasy leagues. He gets a bump in leagues that reward points for return yardage.
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4. Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
Dobson is expected to start in New England. He easily has the best quarterback of any wide receiver taken in the first three rounds. He was quiet during his four years at Marshall, averaging 599.5 yards per season. He did scored 12 touchdowns in 2011. He has the makings of a player that is more productive at the NFL level based on his landing spot.
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5. Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills
Woods took a step back from the 1,292 yard and 15 touchdowns he provided as a sophomore, but he still managed to catch 76 passes for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is expected to start right away on the outside as Stevie Johnson moves to the slot. Kevin Kolb’s presence at quarterback limits his initial value. Long-term, he has a good chance to grow with fellow rookie E.J. Manuel.
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E.J. Manuel Draft
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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 2013 NFL rookie quarterback class.
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1. Geno Smith, New York Jets
Geno slid to the second round, which ultimately led to Tim Tebow’s dismissal from the Jets. They say it’s an open competition, but it’s more likely Smith’s job to lose. Mark Sanchez will likely join Tebow on the unemployment line. Although the Jets did not surround him with talent, Smith has the athleticism to be productive.
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Smith topped 4,000 yards in each of his past two seasons at West Virginia. He threw for 73 touchdown in those years, while throwing just 13 interceptions. He ran for just 336 yards and four touchdowns combined over the past three seasons. Don’t expect to get a ton of fantasy points from Smith with his feet.He should be on the radar in dynasty leagues. He doesn’t hold a lot of value in re-draft leagues.
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2. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills
I like Manuel’s long-term potential. He has tremendous athletic ability and a strong arm. Manuel hasn’t been as productive as some of the other rookie quarterbacks. He averaged just 3,029 passing yards over the past two seasons, throwing 41 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He has averaged four rushing touchdowns and 230.5 rushing yards over the past two seasons. The ability to add fantasy points on the ground is invaluable for young quarterbacks as they adjust to the NFL game.
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He will get to learn the system as Kevin Kolb will likely be the initial starter.Manuel could possibly get a shot towards the end of the year as the Bills play their way out of contention. He’ll eventually team with C.J. Spiller to give the Bills a dynamic offense. I like his long-term potential more than any other quarterback in this class.
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3. Matt Barkley, Philadelphia Eagles
Barkley will likely enter the season as the third quarterback. Given Michael Vick’s style of play, it’s likely more than one quarterback takes snaps for the Eagles this year.
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Barkley likely hurt his chances by returning for his senior year, but he was still fairly productive. Granted the 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last year weren’t nearly on par with the 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions he produced as a junior. The way Barkley has been groomed, he should be able to perform at the next level.
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If Nick Foles struggles and Dennis Dixon is cut loose, it could be Barkley’s job for the taking. Realistically, Barkley will learn this year. With a creative coach and solid weapons, he is a decent option for dynasty leagues.
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4. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Glennon threw 31 touchdowns in each of his past two seasons. He threw for nearly 1,000 more yards as a senior, but also threw five more interceptions.
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Glennon won’t likely make an impact this year unless Josh Freeman struggles or gets injured. Freeman is in a contract year. If things don’t work out, Glennon could be in play for the 2014 starting gig.
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5. Tyler Wilson, Oakland Raiders
Matt Flynn had to cringe when he found out that he has to look over his shoulder at a Wilson again. I don’t expect this Wilson to overtake Flynn, but there is a chance that he sees the field this year. Both Flynn and Terrelle Pryor are unproven. Wilson averaged 3512.5 yards, 22.5 touchdowns and 9.5 interceptions over the past two seasons.
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Montee Ball 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 2013 NFL rookie running back class.
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1. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Ball should assume the starting role in a very potent offense. Peyton Manning has plenty of weapons in the passing game, but he knows the value of a strong running game. Ball ran for a ridiculous 73 touchdowns over the past three seasons. He had 39 combined touchdowns in 2011. Ball should handle the early downs and the goal line work. He should be a solid RB2 with some upside.
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2. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Bernard gives the Bengals a dynamic running back. In two years at North Carolina he averaged 1,240.5 rushing yards, 426 receiving yards, 16.5 total touchdowns and 46 receptions. He’ll have to share the load with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, which limits his 2013 value, but he gives Cincinnati more explosiveness. His versatility should keep Bernard on the field.
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3. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Lacy was expected to be the first running back to come off the board, but some concerns caused him to slide. Green Bay should be a great landing place. He should see plenty of early down carries and in the red zone. He’d likely be ranked higher if the Packers didn’t add Jonathan Franklin as well.
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4. Le’veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell should see plenty of opportunities as Pittsburgh struggled to find an answer at running back last year. Bell isn’t an elite talent, but he’s a big back with solid hands. Bell gets a little bump in PPR leagues.
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5. Johnathan Franklin, Green Bay Packers
The Packers all but ensured they will have a better running attack next year by drafting Lacy and Franklin. Lacy’s presence hurts Franklin’s value, but he should still get his touches. If Lacy’s toe becomes an issue, suddenly Franklin has a ton of appeal.
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The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft was dominated by players on either side of the trenches. There were nine offensive linemen among the first 32 picks. Four defensive tackles and six edge rushers were taken. Outside of the trenches, seven defensive backs and one middle linebacker went off the board. There wasn’t a single running back to come off the board. That leaves five first round players that could find themselves being snatched up by fantasy owners, particularly in dynasty leagues.
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The Quarterback
The Buffalo Bills shocked the world a bit by taking Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and passing up both Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib, a player that Doug Marrone coached at Syracuse. A lot of analysts are suggesting that there must be something wrong with Nassib since Marrone bypassed him. Personally, I don’t buy into that school of thought. They think that Manuel has more upside. Coming on the heels of the success that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick had last year, it’s not surprising that an athletic quarterback like Manuel was a hot commodity on draft day. Pairing Manuel’s ability with C.J. Spiller has the makings of an exciting brand of football.
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So what are Manuel’s fantasy prospects? He has plenty of appeal in dynasty leagues, but won’t like make his mark this year. The Bills brought in Kevin Kolb to be the short-term answer. Manuel could get a shot if towards the end of the year as the Bills fall out of contention. He could get a look sooner if Kolb is injured or completely ineffective. Regardless, there is no reason to concern yourself with E.J. Manuel in redraft leagues.
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The Wide Receivers
West Virginia’s Tavon Austin has the opportunity to be a dynamic playmaker in the St. Louis Rams’ offense. He combined for 215 receptions over the past two seasons for 2,475 yards and 20 touchdowns. He should be a nightmare in the slot with his explosiveness. He could also produce in the return game. Austin is most valuable in PPR leagues. His size (5-foot-8, 172 pounds) could be an issue, but his blazing speed makes him worth the risk.
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Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins gives the Houston Texans a potential threat opposite of Andre Johnson. He exploded last year for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns on 82 receptions. He has good size (6-foot-1, 214 pounds) and should benefit from all the attention that Johnson and Arian Foster command. It’s possible that he’s the most productive rookie wide receiver in standard fantasy leagues.
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Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson could take some time to develop for the Minnesota Vikings. He is explosive and powerful, looking like a running back in the open field. He’s a bit raw having played just one year of Division I football. Patterson should make an immediate impact in the return game, but it could take some time to develop into a reliable option in the passing game. Patterson can likely be overlooked in redraft leagues.
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The Tight End
Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, along with incumbent Jermaine Gresham, give the Cincinnati Bengals a nice 1-2 punch at tight end. Eifert has the size (6-foot-5, 250 pounds), speed, body control and hands to become a solid NFL tight end. It will likely take him some time to develop into a fantasy option, particularly due to Gresham’s presence.
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Trent Richardson 2
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When I looked at the top five 2012 running backs I ranked Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson, Isaiah Pead and Bernard Pierce as the top five. I was on the mark with Richardson and Martin. Wilson did not get enough opportunities to do his thing, but I still think good things will come. I totally missed the boat on Pead and Pierce was just decent. The biggest surprise was Alfred Morris. He came out of nowhere to become a top ten running back. Vick Ballard, Daryl Richardson and Bryce Brown also had some moments. All in all, not a bad class. Here is how I rank them for keeper leagues.
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1.  Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
Richardson came in with the top slot, but will finish the season third in scoring. His injuries are troublesome and a major source of concern, but the upside is there. He is a gifted runner that is very capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. He has a great mix of power and speed. He will get the short yardage touchdowns and has the ability to break the long one as well. The gap has definitely been narrowed.
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2.  Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin is explosive. He reminds me a lot of Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s short (5’9″), but he is stocky, fast and powerful. He’s a load to bring down and when he gets to the second level, he’s gone. Martin will lead all rookies in total yardage. He only had a couple of duds on the year. Unfortunately, one came in Week 15 in a dream matchup with the New Orleans Saints. I think he remains a top five to seven back for years to come. I just see T-Rich as having more upside.
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3.  Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Morris was drafted in the sixth round. He is a perfect fit for Washington’s system. He hit a little wall in the middle of the season, but rounded nicely back into form. He’s been the most consistent rookie running back. He’ll likely lead the class in rushing yards. Sustainability is a little more uncertain compared to the top two.
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4.  David Wilson, New York Giants
He could end up leapfrogging all of the backs if he is given the opportunity. His future is more uncertain that the other three. Hence, the fourth ranking. He is electric. However, he plays for a pass-first team. That’s when the offense isn’t a complete mess like it is right now. I still like his prospects. I just don’t want to go “all-in” until I know he’s the lead back.
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5.  Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams
I think Ballard has more immediate value, but Richardson has a brighter future. Steven Jackson probably has one more year left in him. Ballard will likely always be part of a committee of sorts. Richardson should get the keys once S-Jax hangs it up.
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How do you rank the rookie running backs?
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