An Early Gander at Fantasy Football Running Backs

This is an early peek at fantasy football running backs for the upcoming season.  From year to year, the running back position is traditionally considered one of the more volatile positions in fantasy football.  Factors including free agency, rookies entering the league and the relentless approach of father time change the landscape year after year.  In this early look at the work horses for the 2015 season; we examine players that may remain at the top, players that may be poised for a regression in performance, and players that may be in for a positive surprise season in 2015.

Top Work Horses:

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell went from being a solid rookie in 2013 to the league’s top running back in 2014.  Bell rushed for 1,361 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and 8 TDs, while adding an astounding 83 receptions, and 854 yards receiving.  Bell was a huge factor in Ben Roethlisberger’s fantasy explosion last season, and has the potential to once again lead the league in weekly performance in 2015.  Fantasy owners that are willing to hang on for weeks 1 and 2 will likely reap the rewards for the rest of the season.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers

Lacy is the primary back in one of the league’s most potent offenses.  Lacy’s addition to the Packers offense generated the most productive running game the Packers have featured in several seasons.  Lacy has now averaged 1,158 yards and 10 TDs per season over the course of his first 2 years in the league.  In 2014, he demonstrated his ability to contribute in the passing game with 42 receptions and scoring 4 TDs, which immediately increases his value in PPR leagues.  There may be few running backs available in 2015 that offer a more consistently productive outlook than Lacy.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Murray finally had his breakout season in 2014 accumulating 1,845 yards and scoring 13 TDs rushing.  He also added 57 receptions for 416 yards, which was his 2nd straight season over 50 receptions.  Murray proved to be the top player among running backs in 2014.  Many fantasy owners will be discounting Murray due to his injury history prior to 2014, and his excessive workload last season.  Murray finds himself in a runners paradise with the Eagles this season, and let’s also keep in mind that he is only 27 years old and last year was the first time he exceeded over 300 carries in his career.

Exercise Caution:

Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Fantasy owners that selected Forsett late in drafts or in many cases picked him up from the waiver wire in 2014 were quickly rewarded for their action.  Forsett rushed for 1,266 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 8 TDs in ’14 while adding 44 receptions and 263 yards receiving.  Forsett was a surprise find among running backs last season, and was the key piece many owners utilized to reach the playoffs in their respective leagues.  Fantasy owners should keep in mind however that 2014 was the first season in which Forsett had a full workload as a feature back, and that he will be turning the dreaded age of 30 mid-season 2015.  It may be wise to expect significant regression in 2015.

Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders

When given the opportunity to be the lead back for the Raiders in week 11 last season Murray quickly rewarded fantasy owners that took a chance  on him with 112 yards and 2 TDs rushing off of only 4 carries against the Chiefs.  Unfortunately for Murray, the injury that he sustained in the same game limited his production for the rest of the season, although he was moderately productive in weeks 16 and 17.  This season Murray has all the makings of a breakout candidate with his blazing speed, and his 225 lb. frame.  Fantasy owners need to be careful to not be caught up in the hype that is likely to propel Murray to a high draft day price tag in late August.  Also keep in mind Roy Helu is now in Oakland and proved to be a thorn in the side of Alfred Morris owners last season as a member of the Redskins backfield.

Potential Value Targets:

Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys

There may not be a running back in the league this season that stands to have more to gain from free agency than Randle. With the departure of DeMarco Murray to rival Eagles, Randle is currently slated to gain the lion’s share of the touches out of the Cowboys backfield.  The 24 year old 3rd year back made the most of his 51 carries in 2014 averaging an outstanding 6.7 yards per carry, and accumulating 343 yards with 3 TDs, all of which were solid numbers among complimentary running backs.  The offensive line projects to be elite again in 2015 which could lead to huge profits for patient fantasy owners that select Randle on draft day.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals

In 2014 Ellington only rushed for 660 yards and 3 TDs; however his real value is in PPR leagues as he caught 46 passes for 395 yards.  Even with the often inept Arizona Cardinals offense, Ellington proved to be a reliable fantasy commodity in 2014.  Many owners are likely to discount Ellington due to his poor 3.3 yards per carry in 2014, and his lack of TDs (3 rushing/3 receiving).  And yet with the return of Carson Palmer, and moderate improvements to the O-Line Ellington could be in a far more productive season on a per touch basis and is establishing himself as a true dual threat back heading into 2015.

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