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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Click here to enter the 2013 Lester’s Legends Fantasy Football Team Name Contest!
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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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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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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 2012 NFL rookie running back class.
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1.  Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
It is pretty much Richardson and then the rest of the class. He will step in as the feature back right away and run behind a solid offensive line. Be prepared, you will have to pay top dollar to get him, but he has the potential to be a top ten fantasy running back right out of the gate.
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2.  Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He will split carries with LeGarrette Blount and could lose some touches at the stripe, but Martin is in good position. Blount had a disappointing season and has inadequacies in the blocking and receiving aspect of the position. Martin could see a lot of carries as the more complete back.
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3.  David Wilson, New York Giants
The Giants did not opt to replace Brandon Jacobs with another big back. Instead they went with the shifty, athletic type. He will provide insurance for Ahmad Bradshaw, who has an injury history. He will likely be the eventual successor.
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4.  Isaiah Pead, St. Louis Rams
Steven Jackson isn’t ready to hand over the reigns just yet, but Pead will be waiting in the wings. Jackson will turn 29 later this summer and he has carried a significant load. Look for the Rams to ease it with Pead while groove his eventual replacement.
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5.  Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens 
Pierce will be the primary handcuff for Ray Rice. While he still has a lot of football left, the Ravens tend to utilize their second back better than most. They have gone with veterans Willis McGahee and Ricky Williams in recent years, so Pierce will be a nice change.
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knowshon-moreno
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Knowshon Moreno finally came to terms with the Denver Broncos.  Thankfully his holdout didn’t extend too far into Training Camp for Moreno to have a major setback.  He obviously won’t start the first couple of preseason games, but he should be able to get plenty of opportunities to compete for the starting Tailback gig.

Moreno was selected with the 12th pick in the NFL Draft, which is significant considering the shape their Defense was in last year.  He has the strength to run between the tackles, the speed to get outside, and the hands to catch the ball out of the backfield.  He’ll have to show he can pick up the blitz and he could be a three-down back eventually.  He’ll be pushed by fellow newcomer Correll Buckhalter, but Buck has been an career backup with a history of knee injuries, so I wouldn’t count on him to have too heavy of a workload.

Playing in the AFC West, Denver has some nice matchups.  They face Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Oakland to start the season, so it’s important he win the starting job by then.  He has another nice three game stretch starting in Week 13 when the Broncos face the Chiefs, and going into the fantasy playoffs when they face Indianapolis and Oakland again.  It’s not all a walk in the park though as Denver takes on New England (Week 4), Baltimore (Week 8), Pittsburgh (Week 9), Washington (Week 10), New York Giants (Week 12), and Philadelphia (Week 16).

If you’ve drafted already, perhaps you were able to sneak him a little later, but now that he’s signed he’ll likely go in the third or fourth round of fantasy drafts.  I’m expecting 1200 total yards and 8 TDs with 45 receptions.

Some of the best breakout performers in football fantasy leagues are rookies, who we’re not quite sure what we are going to get from.  Let’s take a look at who my Top 5 rookie running backs will be for this season.

1. Knoshown Moreno – Denver Broncos
He was ranked #19 on my Top 25 running backs list (click here to view), so naturally he’s going to take the top spot on this list.  He was the first back off the board, taken #12 overall, and enters the season with little competition in the backfield.  Does anyone really think Correll Buckhalter or LaMont Jordan offer much of a threat to his carries at this point?

Despite Mike Shanahan no longer leading the way, the Broncos have long been a team capable of creating running backs seemingly from nothing.  Moreno should be the next in a long line of success stories as he develops into a must use option in all formats.

2. Chris Wells – Arizona Cardinals
The other rookie who found his way into my Top 25 (#22), he posted back-to-back 1,000+ yards, averaging 5.9 and 5.8 yards per carry.  That may be college, but it is still worth noting.

With Edgerrin James jettisoned during the off-season, his prime competition will be Tim Hightower (399 yards and 10 TD last season).  I would be surprised if they didn’t at least split carries, but Wells has significantly more upside and should ultimately see the bulk of the carries.  He may lose some TD potential by sharing time with Hightower (which is the major difference between himself and Moreno), but that’s something that can be said about many at this point in the NFL.

3. Donald Brown – Indianapolis Colts
Even with Joseph Addai, the Colts saw an opportunity to add talent to the backfield and quickly took it.  It’s tough to imagine drafting a running back in the first round not to give him significant carries, so you have to imagine the Brown is going to get a chance to shine.

While Addai struggled last season, playing in only 12 games and picking up 544 yards, he began his career with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons.  It’s hard to imagine him not getting an opportunity to play as well, which certainly will decrease Brown’s potential value.  That’s what keeps him a step behind the other two backs selected in the first round, he’s definitely in a situation to share carries.

4. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
Make no mistake, McCoy is going to be the back to provide a rest for Brian Westbrook, who we all know always tends to be battling an injury.  If Westbrook were to go down, opening up more playing time for McCoy, he could prove to have significant value for fantasy owners in all formats.  At this point, however, he’s not likely to be more of a bye week fill-in, as he doesn’t have the potential to put up huge numbers on a week-to-week basis.

5. Andre Brown – New York Giants
Last season the Giants employed a three running back set, with Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw.  With Ward now calling Tampa Bay home, the Giants needed a new back to join their three-headed monster.  In the fourth round out N.C. State, they may have found that man.

At 6′0″, 224 lbs., his stature is very similar to that of Ward and the Giants may lean on him to mimic his performance if they determine that Bradshaw is better suited as a third down back.  If that were to happen, Brown could see significant carries and really be a weapon in deeper fantasy formats.  Wait and see, but he’s a player worth keeping an eye on.

Honorable Mention: Shonn Greene, New York Jets

What do you think of these rookies?  Who will have the biggest performance?  Who’s likely to fall flat?

Now let’s take a look at the Running Backs that got drafted.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
This move made little sense to me.  Moreno is a talented back, but Denver had more pressing needs to address.  Namely their Defense.  With Brian Orapko, Malcom Jenkins, Brian Cushing, etc. available, I feel the Broncos would have been better off drafting one of those three.  I did like their selecion of Robert Ayers a few picks later, but they had a chance to add two of the top Defensive players in the draft.  Another reason I did not like the move was the RB depth they added this Offseason with Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, and J.J. Arrington joining the Broncos.  To me Moreno is the best of the backs, but with that sort of depth, he won’t be the top producing Rookie Running Back.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts probably should have addressed their Run Defense with Evander Hood or Ron Brace, but adding a back was a key following the departure of Dominic Rhodes.  Joseph Addai is a talented back, but I’m not sure he can stay healthy enough to carry the full load.  Brown gives them a nice 1-2 punch, although his stats, along with Addai’s, will suffer barring an injury to one or the other.

Chris “Beanie” Wells, Arizona Cardinals - I feel Beanie will have the best Rookie season of all the backs.  Arizona will try to be a little more balanced next year like they were in the playoffs.  They are a better team when they play that way.  Wells will get plenty of carries.  If the Cardinals got a smaller back, perhaps Tim Hightower would have more fantasy value.  With Wells, he may not get quite as many touches in the red zone.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles – McCoy has the opportunity to be one of the better long-term RBs in this draft.  He is versatile and gets to learn from Brian Westbrook.  With Buckhalter’s departure, he’ll get some carries, especially when Westy gets nicked up and misses a game or two.

Shonn Greene, New York Jets - This was a pretty telling pick by the Jets.  Considering they only had two picks in the first five rounds, it is worth noting they took Greene with their third round pick.  Thomas Jones is getting up their in Running Back years and they must not feel Leon Washington is an every down back.

Glen Coffee, San Francisco 49ers – The Niners don’t have a lot of talent at RB behind Frank Gore.  Adding Alabama’s Coffee changes that.

Mike Goodson, Carolina Panthers - With DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in front of him, Goodson has little value outside of Special Teams play.

Andre Brown, New York Giants – This is a luxury pick by the G-Men as they add the talented back in the fourth round.  Brown can slide into Ahmad Bradshaw’s slot as Bradshaw moves up to replace Derrick Ward.

Gartrell Johnson, San Diego Chargers – Gives the Chargers some depth as LT is aging and Sproles may not be big enough to handle the full load.


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