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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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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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Giovani Bernard: Was able to practice. Rib issue shouldn’t be a problem. Trending up.
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Andre Brown: He’s back which points his overall arrow up, but he’ll likely be eased into action. For this week he’s trending down. On the flip side, Peyton Hillis’ short-term value is trending up.
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Arian Foster: Not only did he miss practice today, but he was meeting with doctors regarding his back. Not a good sign. He’s trending down while Ben Tate is trending up.
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Lamar Miller: His play has been trending up, but losing two offensive lineman will likely have a negative impact. Trending down.
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Trent Richardson: He missed practice today. I’m not sure his stock can go lower, but this isn’t great. Donald Brown’s stock went up.
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C.J. Spiller: His ankle has healed. He should see more touches. Not to mention his explosiveness is back. Trending up.
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Darren Sproles: Passed his concussion test. Though his play has trended down, this prognosis points his arrow up. He’s too important for the Saints’ offense to not get back to heavy involvement.
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LestersLegends_data
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By Nelson Sousa, scoutPRO fantasy football expert
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Anyone who has ever watched an NFL game can second the notion that playing running back is no walk in the park. Your body takes a physical beating, whether it is running between the tackles, taking on a blitzing linebacker in pass protection or getting wrapped up by a 300-pound defensive lineman. A number that is often bounced around in the NFL media regarding RB’s is 3, which signifies the average career of an NFL back. One day a guy can be on top of the world, and then all of a sudden he can disappear in the abyss. An example of this would by Priest Holmes. From 2001 – 2004, Holmes rushed for 5,482 yards (1,370 per year) and scored 70 TD’s (17.5 per year) for the Kansas City Chiefs. After 2004, he only played in 11 more games and ended up retiring in 2007 due to reoccurring neck and head injuries.
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When Week 1 kicks into full swing this week, there will be a number of RB’s who are at least 30 years old playing a significant role in their team’s offense.  Here is how I think they will perform, along with scoutPRO’s innovative fantasy point projections for Week 1:
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Steven Jackson
Age:  30
Week 1 Opponent:  at Saints
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As good as the Saints are on offense, they are equally as bad on defense.  In 2012, they finished last in the NFL in rushing yards given up per game (147.6 YPG).  In 6 career games against New Orleans, Jackson has averaged 5.17 YPC and scored 6 TD’s.  During his days in St. Louis, he was often the focal point of the opposing defense’s game plan.  They would put 8 or 9 guys in the box and make somebody else try and beat them.  If teams plan on stacking the box when they play Atlanta, Matt Ryan and company will tear them apart in the passing game.  With that being said, Jackson will probably see the most running room of his career and could put up some big numbers in the Falcons high-powered offense, starting with Week 1 against New Orleans.
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Darren Sproles
Age:  30
Week 1 Opponent:  vs. Falcons
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This dude might be little, but man is he quick.  He doesn’t factor into the run game much, but he has caught 161 passes and 14 TD’s in two years with the Saints.  However, he hasn’t had much success against the Falcons (only 11 catches and 1 TD in 4 games).  Despite that, he is always a threat as a pass catching RB.  Like the Saints, Atlanta isn’t known for their defensive prowess.  Sproles has 23 games with 5+ receptions as a Saint, so maybe Week 1 will be his first big game against Atlanta.
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DeAngelo Williams
Age:  30
Week 1 Opponent:  vs. Seahawks
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With Jonathan Stewart on the PUP list and out at least 6 weeks, Williams will be the RB1 in Carolina.  His production has really slipped over the past few years due to poor offensive line play and the presence of Cam Newton.  Despite a lack of touches, he still has had a respectable 4.6 YPC over the past 3 seasons.  He finished 2012 with a bang, rumbling for over 200 yards against New Orleans.  While the situation looks good for him, it could get off to a rough start against the physical Seahawks defense.  Williams managed only 6 yards against them last year on 6 carries.  With Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert always a threat to steal TD’s in the red zone, Week 1 might not be the time to put him in your lineup.
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Frank Gore
Age:  30
Week 1 Opponent:  vs. Packers
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Gore has been a model of consistency during his career, rushing for 1,000 yards in 6 out of 8 seasons in the NFL.  In 2012, he ran for 231 yards and scored 2 TD’s against Green Bay in 2 games (6.1 YPC).  Heading into this season, the 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the league and are a run first team.  Combine that with their uncertainty at the WR position due to the Michael Crabtree injury, it looks safe to say that they will be running the ball quite a bit.  Behind him on the depth chart are Kendall Hunter (coming back from an Achilles tear) and LaMichael James (out for a few weeks with a knee injury).  If Gore can stay healthy, he should have a good chance at another 1,000-yard season.
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Want more player analytics and predictions? Subscribe to scoutPRO today and use the code LESTERSLEGENDS to receive 10% off now through September 15, 2013.
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Nelson Sousa is one of the most trusted experts in fantasy football.  From the National Fantasy Football Championship, Fantasy Football Players Championship and Fantasy Football World Championships, Nelson has years of experience at the highest level.  His scouting tactics include watching and analyzing every NFL game to grade player performance and determine players of interest.  With such in depth analysis, Nelson has won over $100,000 in the past three years.
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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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