Welcome to the 2015 Footballguys Discussion series, where we get a few staff members and toss them an open-ended question. Check out their answers.
While Le'Veon Bell is not a consensus pick as the top running back for 2015, he is clearly the premier fantasy option on a per-game basis. If Bell isn't available, who is your pick at the position?
B.J. VanderWoude: It's a longshot, but I'm gonna go with C.J. Anderson.
- In eight games as a starter, Anderson totaled 767/8 rushing for 5.04 ypc. He also chipped in 30/290/2 in the passing game.
- Over the last six games, Anderson led all running backs in rushing yards and touchdowns. He was 3rd in all-purpose yards, and only one yard behind Bell.
- Extrapolated over 16 games, his totals would be 2,114 total yards, 18 touchdowns and 60 receptions.
- The offensive line is a concern, especially with Clady out for the year, but the coaching change is anything but a negative for Anderson. Kubiak has installed a zone-blocking scheme, the same scheme that DOUBLED Justin Forsett's previous career high in rushing yards in 2014.
- Kubiak turned another undrafted free agent, Arian Foster, into one of the leagues premier players.
- The zone blocking scheme is perfect for Anderson. He has good vision, a quick burst through the hole and is powerful enough to run over defenders and agile enough to run around them.
- He plays in one of the best offenses in the league, and proved last year how efficient he was in goal line formations. Given Green Bay's penchant for throwing in the red zone, Anderson has a leg up on Lacy in TD opportunities. Even Even more so now with Julius Thomas gone.
- Advanced metrics show he was not only better than Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, he was light years ahead of them. He also graded out as the most efficient running back in the second half of the year.
- Throughout his college and professional career, Anderson has a total of 384 carries. He has fresh legs and can carry the load in Denver's new, more balanced offense. Anderson averaged 20 carries per game in the last eight games of the 2014 season.
- Anderson has the ability to run between or outside the tackles, he has very good hands, and he will be among the leaders with respect to red zone opportunities. Whats not to like?
Andy Hicks: Before Le'Veon Bell had his suspension dropped from three games to two, I had Eddie Lacy as my number 1 back.
By a pure process of elimination and his proven performance in the last two years I ended up with Lacy.
- He wasn't suspended (Le'Veon Bell)
- He isn't 29 or older this year (Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, and Jamaal Charles)
- He didn't miss a year through NFL suspension (Adrian Peterson)
- He doesn't have serious competition for playing time (DeMarco Murray)
- He isn't on a new team (DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy)
- He doesn't have a new coaching staff (C.J. Anderson and Justin Forsett)
- He has at least two years proven form in the NFL (Jeremy Hill)
Each of the above points can be debated on their own as to whether they are truly a deterrent to RB1 status, but they lower the floor on each and every player. Their ceiling is a different argument and a considerable number of the players listed above are higher ceiling players than Eddie Lacy, but I want as much of a can't miss prospect at RB1 as is possible. Eddie Lacy ticks every box: touchdowns, receptions, volume of rushing attempts, stable offense, elite quarterback, strong receivers, stable coaching unit, youth, size, etc.
Jeff Pasquino: While I like the case that Andy makes here, I would have to say that Jamaal Charles is not "too old" to be considered in the discussion. Sure he turns 29 this calendar year, but not until after Christmas (12/27), so I do not consider him in the 29 and older category for this season. He is nowhere near the cliff point of 2,500 NFL touches - he has barely 60% of that (1,248 rushes, 263 receptions in the regular season). While durability is often a question for running backs, he has played 15 or 16 games a year in all but one of his seven seasons. More importantly, Andy Reid will use him until his legs and arms fall off. The offense goes through Charles in Kansas City.
Daniel Simpkins: If I can’t have Le’Veon, give me Peterson. Yes, I know many are worried about him hitting the big 3-0. Just remember that after basically sitting out for a year, he might have a little more tread on the tires than we expect. We’re hearing that he’s kept himself in great physical condition, and I think camp will be enough to whip him back into football shape. Peterson's always been a competitor. After hearing a nearly a year of criticism, I anticipate he’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of his native Texas. An angry Adrian with something to prove is a player I want on my team. This iteration of the Vikings might also be the most talented Peterson has played with since 2009. I think the recipe is there for a great season.
Chad Parsons: Andy hit the nail on the head with Eddie Lacy.
A few additional points I will add are:
- Playing with Aaron Rodgers and a top-tier offense
- At 24 years old, Lacy is entering the typical prime production window for running backs
Breaking ties with the age curve and offensive quality in mind, Eddie Lacy is a strong mid-Round 1 or higher selection amidst a murky top tier or two at running back.
Mark Wimer: I'm another Lacy booster - he's my #1 ranked fantasy back this season, while Le'Veon Bell checks in at #4 on my non-PPR draft board. In addition to the cogent reasons that Andy and Chad contributed earlier, Lacy plays on a team in a tight NFC North division that will be in a battle for playoff positioning right to the end of the year (I don't see a likely scenario where Green Bay rests starters during weeks 16/17 during fantasy playoffs), while C. J. Anderson and Denver could easily run away with the AFC West and rest for the last half of December.
Lacy has it all - talent, opportunity, great surrounding players that will keep opposing defenses from keying on him, youth, health - I like him to be a very consistent, high-volume producer of fantasy points during 2015.
Stephen Holloway: Several have already mentioned Eddie Lacy and he is my RB1 in non-ppr scoring Lacy is playing on a top tier offense and with Aaron Rodgers. He should have plentiful scoring opportunities.
If we are talking about ppr scoring, I went with Jamaal Charles. He too will get abundant touches and has caught 146 passes over the past three seasons. His team's offense is not nearly as potent as Lacy's but he has scored 39 TDs over the past three seasons. Charles is such a dynamic player, he can break off long plays at any time. He has a 5.5 ypc career average so he can overcome the general deficiencies of the Chiefs offense, which should be better in 2015 with an up and coming tight end in Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin, a wide receiver that is a great fit for Alex Smith's play calling.
Justin Howe: Charles is worrisome to me. Not so much due to his age, but more to his (somewhat) diminishing usage - especially in the red zone. Last year, Charles played in 15 games (to be fair, he did leave the first DEN game pretty early), but took only:
- 27 rushes in the red zone, the same as Terrance West and fewer than Giovani Bernard
- 14 rushes from inside the 10, the same as West and his own understudy, Knile Davis
- 6 rushes from inside the 5, fewer than Davis, Bernard Pierce, Shane Vereen, and Jonas Gray
Yeesh. He's often treated with kid gloves, but more so in the red zone than any other RB1 candidate. (And touchdowns are what we're chasing; yardage serves its purpose but fluctuates wildly, while TDs swing fantasy lineups far more often.) Yes, Charles did score 19 TDs two years ago with mammoth red zone usage. But that was his one and only season with more than 14 rushes from inside the 10, or more than seven from inside the 5. It seems to me his TD upside pretty much depends upon catching 5+ touchdowns every year. That's a tougher order for a RB at 28/29, especially in an offense that's arming itself with young weapons around you.
Thus far, my only exposure to Charles is on two of my 31 early MFL10 rosters. Those were drafts in which I made the conscious decision to draft extremely RB-heavy; I invested in Charles to win the RB numbers game, not to necessarily outproduce the next handful of guys. I get the August appeal, but he's unlikely to land on any of my rosters going forward. To go all-in at RB1 often involves a semi-reach anyway, and this year it requires you to bypass that stunning WR crew in Round 1. If I'm doing that, I'm making sure the RB1 I'm targeting is a bankable candidate for 12+ TDs. While Charles could certainly get there again, he doesn't project there nearly as easily as C.J. Anderson or Eddie Lacy. Those guys not only take on more dominant loads than Charles, but both are in better, faster-paced, higher-volume offenses that afford them more touchdown opportunities.
Of the two, I prefer Anderson by a sizeable margin. I think he's worthy of the overall RB1 slot. He faces underwhelming competition in a relatively run-happy offense, and one that throws liberally to its backs. He'll find himself near the goal line more often than most of his peers, and unlike Charles, he'll get the call from there at a hefty clip.
Jason Wood: Much love to my fellow staffers, but they're nuts to say Eddie Lacy is the 2nd best back in fantasy. I like Lacy, don't get me wrong. But he's my 6th ranked RB in standard leagues. He doesn't project to get the volume to be the top back, and he's not without injury risk. Lacy has been a top 5 back each of his first two seasons thanks to 11- and 13-TD seasons. Unfortunately touchdowns are the least predictable component of fantasy scoring and if Lacy were to 'only' get 7-8 scores there's a good chance he wouldn't even be a top 10 player. To think he can step up and be #1 means you think he'll get a lot more touches. Why would the Packers change their offensive playcalling that much? Absent an injury to Aaron Rodgers, they won't.
My choice is Marshawn Lynch. He SLIGHTLY edges out Adrian Peterson in my standard league projections. He's a near mortal lock for at least 1,300 yards and double digit scores. And people forget he's also going to get a few hundred receiving yards and a few receiving touchdowns. I'm not going to quibble about putting Peterson #2, but these are the two backs you want if you don't want Le'Veon Bell.