Value Plays: Running Backs

The Footballguys staff finds value at the running back position

A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the top 150 players and identify players that should outperform their draft position.

Players Receiving 5 Votes

Justin Forsett

Jeff Haseley: We know the narrative already, Marc Trestman's running backs are fantasy PPR gold. I'm not expecting any different from Forsett this year. He staked his claim as a viable fantasy back last season. This year under Trestman, he should flourish once again with even more of a presence as a receiver. In addition, the Ravens receiving corps is thin, which should mean an even bigger output for Forsett. Don't worry about his age. He has less long term wear than most primary backs younger than him.

Ryan Hester: Forsett had a shockingly good 2014 season, considering he had been nothing but a journeyman third-down back for the majority of his career. Forsett had a connection with former Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. Despite Kubiak’s departure, though, Forsett’s outlook is brighter. New Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman has a long history of utilizing his featured back. Eight of Trestman’s feature backs have averaged at least three receptions per game, including five who have averaged at least 4.6 per game. Forsett has a chance to be a 65+ reception player this season, which would make him a solid RB1 in PPR leagues.

Michael Brown: A lifetime ago, an unheralded Ravens RB put up solid numbers every chance he got. But for some reason, those opportunities never really sustained themselves. It took him going to Kansas City to really break out. That player, of course, was Priest Holmes. Now before we get ahead of ourselves, I’m not suggesting Forsett is the next Holmes. But prior to joining Baltimore, Forsett had 347 career carries for 1,693 yards and 8 scores – so it’s not like 2014 came out of nowhere. And the beauty is that he doesn’t have to become Holmes to provide value. Forsett has averaged over 5 YPC for his career, and is coming off a 1500-yard campaign. There is little competition for touches, he is expected to see a bigger role, and the Ravens brought in a coordinator who oversaw Matt Forte catch 102 passes a year ago. Forsett oozes value.

Ari Ingel: Running backs in Mark Trestman’s offenses catch a ton of balls. Look no further than Matt Forte who had 74 and103 catches respectively in the two years he played under Trestman. Joe Flacco also has no problem dumping it off to the running back, as we saw last year with Forsett and in previous seasons with Ray Rice. I wouldn’t be shocked if Forsett caught more than 75passes this season.

Jason Wood: Justin Forsett is being criminally undervalued in drafts this year. SUre, Forsett loses Gary Kubiak (who joined the Broncos as head coach), the play-caller credited with Forsett's breakthrough 2014 season (1,266 yards and 8 TDs). And yes, Forsett's 2014 numbers are a career outlier. Not many RBs breakthrough at 29 years old, but that shouldn't dissuade you from targeting Forsett in 2015. The loss of Kubiak is entirely offset by the addition of Marc Trestman to the OC role. Trestman is directly responsible for Matt Forte's elite productivity in Chicago, and as play-caller in Baltimore is sure to build the offense around the running game. Fantasy owners should be salivating over the fact Trestman's offenses ALWAYS use the lead RB as a major part of the receiving game. With the loss of Torrey Smith, and the uncertain health of TE Dennis Pitta, it's not unreasonable to think Forsett could catch 80 passes. He's tremendous value at his current ADP.

Frank Gore

Sigmund Bloom: Over the last two years, running backs not named Trent Richardson have been ultraproductive for the Colts. Ahmad Bradshaw had eight scores on 128 touches and a 4.7 yards per carry average last year. Donald Brown had eight scores on 129 touches and a 5.3 yards per carry average in 2013. Andrew Luck’s offense’s cup overfloweth with fantasy production and Gore will be drinking from that river this year. He should be involved on all three downs and frequently in the red zone, giving him RB1 value at a low RB2 price.

James Brimacombe: Frank Gore has been a machine his entire 10 year career for the 49ers posting 1,000+ rushing seasons 8 times out of that span and being ranked in the top 15, 7 out of 10 seasons for fantasy scoring. Over the past 4 seasons in San Francisco his receiving numbers having taking a dip but now going to a high flying Colts offense he could see a resurgence in his receptions and get back to being one of the better PPR RB's in the league. You are getting a discount on Gore's current ADP only based on his age, his ability and skill level has not slowed down one bit.

Ryan Hester: Generally, it’s not sound strategy to go after a running back of Gore’s age. However, running backs in elite offenses are presented with plenty of chances to score touchdowns. Indianapolis should be among the league’s best offenses, and Gore will benefit from that efficiency. Gore is also among the best pass-blocking backs in the NFL, which should leave him on the field for all three downs. While he wasn’t used much as a receiver in San Francisco in the past four seasons, Gore has a five-year stretch where he caught between 43 and 61 passes in each of those seasons. Considering how often Indianapolis threw to their running backs in 2014, Gore could see his receptions total exceed that of his past three seasons combined (55).

Daniel Simpkins: While it is true that Andrew Luck and the passing attack will continue to be the focal point of the offense, Gore will still play a valuable part in 2015. Even this late in his career, Gore is still a more disciplined runner than Trent Richardson was for the Colts last year. Gore is going to face six-man fronts often in this offense and has the veteran savvy to make opposing defenses pay. Gore will also catch a few passes and see some goal-line work, which will help to bolster his numbers. Gore is currently going in the middle of the third round in 12-team leagues, which is excellent value for an RB2 with upside.

Matt Waldman: Remember what Ahmad Bradshaw did when he took over for Trent Richardson two years ago? No you don’t, he only played three games. But during those three weeks, Bradshaw averaged 4.5 yards per carry and was the No.13 fantasy RB after three weeks. Gore isn’t as quick as Bradshaw, but he’s more powerful, just as savvy, and much healthier. Gore’s chances of earning mid-range RB1 fantasy production is lower than his days in San Francisco because Indianapolis will pass to set up the run, Gore is older, and the offensive line isn’t the same caliber as the 49ers. There will be no “hot hand” dynamic for the Colts, which makes Gore the only game in town. Hey may not be greatly undervalued at RB19, but I’d prefer him to Carlos Hyde, Mark Ingram, and Todd Gurley this year. Hyde and Ingram will be competing for opportunities and the Rams won’t rush Gurley back this year. Throw in a few injuries and Gore could wind up a high-end fantasy RB2 or low-end fantasy RB1.

Player Receiving 4 Votes

C. J. Spiller

Jeff Haseley: Consider me on board the Spiller train in Sean Payton's offense. He is an excellent rusher and is capable of making an impact on the ground in addition to his receiving prowess. I would not be surprised to see Spiller gain more carries and start to eat into Mark Ingram's production. It's safe to expect 50+ catches, but the real value will be if he can return to his 6.0 yards per carry average when he was best utilized in Chan Gailey's offense. A long term Mark Ingram injury could make Spiller an instant RB1. Even without the injury assist, he's still a RB2 in PPR leagues.

Stephen Holloway: The Saints running backs have averaged 139 receptions per year over the past three seasons and the players with 352 of those 418 receptions (P. Thomas, Darren Sproles and Travaris Cadet) are no longer with the team. The hold-over running backs, Ingram (70 targets, 53 career receptions and 5.4 ypc) and Khiry Robison (11 targets, 8 career receptions and 7.9 ypc) have both played their entire NFL careers with Brees and yet their passing game production has been limited. Spiller’s skill set matches very well with what the Saints need and what Coach Sean Payton has a strong history of using. Spiller may be more active in the running game than most expect and he has been productive with a career average 5.0 ypc, which is the best on the Saints.

Ari Ingel: Combine the output of Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas on the Saints circa 2013 into one player and you start to get a sense of the type of production Spiller may see this year. That year those two combined for 148 catches and 1,117 yards and that’s not including rushing yards. Then add to that a New Orleans team that wants to run the ball more and is devoid of any playmaking wide receivers beyond Brandin Cooks. Spiller is also playing indoors after many years in the frozen tundra’s of Buffalo. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, long time beat writer, Jeff Cuncan recently stated: “Word of advice: Draft C.J. Spiller on your fantaxsy football team.” Honestly, he should be on every team you draft.

Kyle Wachtel: We’ve seen Reggie Bush average 5.0 receptions per game in New Orleans, Darren Sproles average 5.3 receptions per game, and even Pierre Thomas rack up 77 receptions in 2013. Spiller has as good a chance as any other player to lead running backs in receptions. We’ve been tantalized by his big-play potential on the ground as well and even though 200+ carries may be out of his range, Bush and Thomas still combined for a 130-carry rate over 16 games. With similar usage as a runner and high-end receiving production, we’re looking at back-end RB2 in STD and mid-to-high-end RB2 in PPR.

Players Receiving 3 Votes

Ameer Abdullah

James Brimacombe: Abdullah's ADP continues to climb as he gains more praise this offseason with his big play ability. Both Joique Bell and Theo Riddick might get more of the carries to start the season but it will be Abdullah who when given the opportunity should steam roll his way into a major roll on the Lions offense.

Daniel Simpkins: The temptation to put Abdullah in the Deep Sleepers category is strong, but ultimately his probability of playing a big role in 2015 is greater than a longshot. A mid-sixth round pick in 12-team leagues can purchase a back that has a chance to post RB2 numbers with upside when he sees the field. Many are hung up on the presence of Joique Bell in this backfield, but Ameer Abdullah will soon prove to be the most valuable back on the team. In addition to his between-the-tackles prowess, Abdullah is also a better receiver than most people think. The passing game is viable enough with Johnson, Ebron, and Tate that the rookie Abdullah won’t see stacked boxes very often. The talent and situation intersection is too much for owners to ignore.

Matt Waldman: Reggie Bush was the No.10 fantasy back for the Lions in 2013. Abdullah offers a similar dynamic as a receiver and interior runner in Detroit’s scheme. Keep in mind that in 2013, Joique Bell was also the No.17 fantasy RB. The Lions scheme can be fantasy-friendly for two backs, which makes Abdullah’s RB33 value seem low from the start. With Bell’s injuries taking more time to heal than what some expected, Bell’s woes could open the door for the rookie Abdullah to see more meaningful opportunities. I expect top-25 production at the position from Abdullah this year and if Bell has issues that drag on through the season, Abdullah could crack the top 15.

Arian Foster

Andy Hicks: After an injury riddled 2013, Arian Foster bounced back in style finishing as the 5th ranked fantasy back despite missing 3 games with a groin injury. He worked well in Bill O’Brien’s offense and looks to be one of the safest options at the end of round 1. He still has tread on his tires and will continue to provide elite production. The Texans have no back of note to threaten his playing time and the lack of a franchise quarterback means that the offense will run through him.

Kyle Wachtel: Foster remains an elite talent and is still just 28 years old. His per game production last season was on par with Le’Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray. And he finished as a top-5 running back despite playing in just 13 games and his snaps being limited a couple others. Not much will change for Houston in Bill O’Brien’s second year and to get a player of Foster’s caliber in the back-end of Round 2 is an absolute steal.

Mark Wimer: Foster enters the 2015 preseason/training camp healthy; he's only 28 years old (in other words, in the prime of his professional career); and his coach plans to utilize him heavily during 2015. 'Well, we have a very good running back,' head coach Bill O'Brien said on June 11. 'So you can rest assured that as long as he's healthy and he's out there, we will run the ball. I can tell you that.' With suspect quarterbacks in the fold down in Houston, Foster may exceed 300 carries this year - his ADP of 10th running back of the board makes little sense to me. He's a screaming value at that ADP.

Joseph Randle

Michael Brown: Yes, the Cowboys brought in Darren McFadden seemingly to be the featured back. But surprise of all surprises, McFadden is already missing time in OTAs with a hamstring injury. I hate to label someone as injury prone, but perception is reality sometimes. He just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Perhaps even more importantly, Randle by all accounts has the skill set to be a featured back in the NFL. After average 6.7 yards per carry a season ago, Randle has shown an ability to make things happen on the field. Many internal accounts from Dallas personnel have suggested that they are extremely high on Randle. And if the only competition is coming from a player who has averaged 3.3, 3.3, and 3.4 yards per carry over the past three seasons…well, I’m not too worried about it being much of a competition.

Cian Fahey: There is no better place to be a starting running back in the NFL than in Dallas. Randle is the most talented running back in Dallas and appears the most likely to win the starting job. He needs to prove his consistency, but to this point in his career he has played very well in limited bursts and has the kind of explosive ability and decisiveness that should allow him to take advantage of the space that offensive line creates.

Kyle Wachtel: Randle made the most of his opportunity last season, rushing for 343 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 51 carries. While no one should expect him to near DeMarco Murray’s voluminous 2014 season, he’s the best back on the Dallas roster and should get first crack at the lead role. The offensive line – arguably the NFL’s best – shouldn’t miss a beat and conservative projection of 200 touches would be enough to support low-end RB2 production. If he hits a groove and separates himself from the other running backs, a top-15 season is within reason.

Jonathan Stewart

Phil Alexander: When a broken hand finally pushed DeAngelo Williams out of the way last season, we caught a glimpse of what Stewart looks like as a feature back. The results were splendid. With no legitimate competition for carries, Stewart led the league with 437 rushing yards from Weeks 13-16, while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. From Week 13 through the second round of the playoffs, Ron Rivera fed Stewart over 18 carries per game - a weekly workload that remains within reach after Carolina showed little urgency in replacing the departed Williams this off-season. Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert’s clearly defined goal line roles cap Stewart’s TD upside, but he’s one of the most talented runners in the league, an able receiver out of the backfield, and one of only a handful of backs in the NFL with no timeshare concerns. Health permitting, Top-15 RB numbers are on the way.

Bob Magaw: Stewart finally had a breakout, with 486 rushing yards in the final five game home stretch of the regular season (counting the two playoff games, 679 rushing in the last seven game span - prorated over an improbable full schedule = 1,552 rushing yards). Long time backfield duty splitter DeAngelo Williams has been subtracted from the roster, with Stewart now primed to step out of the long shadow cast by his ex-running mate (only 28 starts in seven seasons). He missed three games last year, but before the 17 DNPs combined in 2012-2013, he played a full 16 game schedule in three of his first four seasons in the league, with only two missed games total during that time. Stewart finished strong and looked as healthy as he has in years, is a physical specimen and athletic phenom when right, and could be ready to deliver on his greatly anticipated potential.

Jeff Pasquino: It seemed like it was a running back by committee in Carolina every year for several seasons, but that is just not the case entering 2015. Jonathan Stewart is the clear feature back for Carolina with no true running back to threaten his workload. Stewart is a seasoned veteran and he is not as old as you think (28). With DeAngelo Williams out of the picture, Stewart has the opportunity to start every game for Carolina if he can remain healthy all season. Cam Newton may vulture a few touchdowns, but overall I really like Stewart’s value considering how late you can get him in most drafts.

T.J. Yeldon

James Brimacombe: The Jaguars would be foolish not to give Yeldon every chance to succeed and win the starting RB position in his rookie season. He is exactly what the offense needs to help get a spark and take some of the pressure off of Blake Bortles. In college Yeldon wasn't used so much as a workhorse RB and still should have fresh legs to start his NFL career. In 3 seasons at Alabama he found the endzone 37 times and coming to a team that is desperate to get touchdowns and turn their offense around he should get every opportunity to get work around the goal line and get the most touches out of the backfield.

Cian Fahey: Although Denard Robinson will likely pull away a chunk of his carries, Yeldon should be the focal point of the Jaguars running game in 2015. More significantly, the Jaguars have rebuilt their offensive line with pieces that should be able to consistently create running lanes for him while also giving him plenty of touches at the goal line. Yeldon's main competition for touches is Toby Gerhart, who the franchise doesn't appear to be invested in moving forward.

Chad Parsons: Rookie running backs are commonly available outside the position’s top-20 in drafts. Yeldon is the glaring value play in 2015. Yeldon has a quality prospect profile with prototypical size, above-average athleticism for his size, and three-down ability. Jacksonville has little on the existing depth chart to challenge Yeldon for early touches in converted quarterback Denard Robinson, Toby Gerhart, and middling talent Storm Johnson. Yeldon’s limiting factor may be goal line opportunities, but a steady workload and top-12 upside is present at a sizeable purchase price discount.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

C.J. Anderson

Mark Wimer: Anderson is in a perfect situation - Peyton Manning forces teams to commit to stopping the passing game, and that opens gaps in the defense for Anderson to exploit. He's also a solid receiver with 34 receptions out of 44 targets last year (77% reception percentage). He is undervalued at ninth running back off the board.

Jason Wood: Anderson didn't have an easy road to NFL success, and it's understandable that some would wonder if last year's late-season heroics are a large enough sample size to buy into. I'm decidedly in the camp that thinks Anderson showed the world, and more importantly the Broncos coaches, that he's capable of sustaining an elite level of productivity. Over the final six weeks of last season, Anderson was the league's best running back. Period. This year all signs point to a potential Top 5 fantasy season. New head coach Gary Kubiak works wonders with running backs, and has made stars out of the likes of Justin Forsett and Arian Foster. His zone blocking system fits well with Anderson's skill set. Kubiak and his coaches have articulated a desire to find more offensive balance, believing that the Super Bowl is only attainable if Peyton Manning doesn't have to be the league's MVP at his advanced age. The final consideration in favor of drafting Anderson as a top RB was the Broncos' approach toward the offseason. John Elway made no effort to add new RB talent to the mix; a clear endorsement in the team's confidence in Anderson as their 2015 bellcow.

Isaiah Crowell

Ari Ingel: The drafting of Duke Johnson Jr has put a scare into the fantasy community that Crowell is going to see a lot less touches and that Duke Johnson Jr may even take over lead duties. While I love Johnson’s talent and think he is a sleeper in his own right, he should be the Giovani Bernard to Crowell’s Jeremy Hill, at least in year one. In fact, due to both of their reasonable ADPs at the moment, I would recommend stacking the two of them as your cheap RB2 combo running behind the NFL’s best offensive line on a team that has stated they will be a top 5 team in rushing attempts. Even against loaded boxes last year Crowell averaged 4.1 yards a carry, there is value in this backfield.

Daniel Simpkins: Many are worried about Crowell with the addition of Duke Johnson Jr and the continued presence of West. While Johnson will have value in what little passing game the Browns have, Crowell has shown that he has electric talent and the ability to be the workhorse in an offense that likes to run the ball. Honestly, what else is Cleveland going to do - pass it to Dwayne Bowe, Taylor Gabriel, Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins, and Vince Mayle? They don’t have a true number one receiving threat on that depth chart. The quarterback stylings of Josh McCown are probably not going to be the tide that lifts all these mediocre ships.

Andre Ellington

Phil Alexander: Last season, Ellington forced a missed tackle on a league-low 5.97% of his carries, ran for a paltry 1.78 yards after contact per attempt, and was stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage on 12.9% of his rushes. His inefficient performance stood in stark contrast to 2013, when Ellington was one of the most effective backs in the NFL on a per touch basis. Chalk the difference up to a split foot tendon suffered last preseason that prevented Ellington from cutting properly and sapped his trademark explosiveness. With the injury behind him, the stars are aligned for a post-hype season. Carson Palmer’s return will keep defenses from selling out to stop the run, Bruce Arians is (once again) saying all the right things about Ellington’s role as the primary back, and the Cardinals offensive line projects as one of the most improved position groups in the league. Arizona's selection of David Johnson in the NFL Draft will scare enough fantasy owners to make sure Ellington's RB1 upside doesn't end up priced into his ADP, making him a solid value in the late fourth or early fifth round of fantasy drafts.

Jeff Haseley: The Arizona Cardinals bolstered their offensive line in the off season signing veterans Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati, plus the drafting of Tackle D.J. Humphrey. The end result should make the running game more potent, especially Andre Ellington. A preseason foot injury affected Ellington most, if not all year long, however he was still able to finish in the Top 20, even with sub par quarterback play. Now that he's healthy, I expect Ellington to produce big numbers and continue to be a threat as a receiver. Any starting running back who is projected to reach 45-50 receptions is someone I want on my roster and Ellington fits that mold.

Jeremy Hill

Andy Hicks: After easing Jeremy Hill into action during his rookie season, the Bengals didn’t mess around once they knew what they had in the 2nd rounder. Six 100 yard games, with 5 closer to or over 150 yards over the last 9 games with 6 touchdowns are numbers that are imposing should the Bengals continue to feed him the ball. We know Andy Dalton isn’t going to turn into Peyton Manning so Hill will be the driving force for this offense. Expect him to push 300 carries and 10 touchdowns as long as he has the hunger to do so and remains injury free.

Bob Magaw: Hill led all running backs in the second half of the season in rushing yards (929) and Y/C average (5.4). Marshawn Lynch and DeMarco Murray were the only RBs with more than his 9 rushing TDs, and Justin Forsett was the only RB over 100 carries to top his 5.1 Y/C average. At nearly 240 lbs., Hill has bruising power and contact balance, outstanding anticipation for unfolding run lanes and downfield blocking, the feet quickness, movement skills and elusiveness of a much smaller RB, and the burst and long speed to take it to the house from anywhere on the field. He will share carries with gifted receiving back Giovani Bernard, but has the legit star potential to emerge in his second season as the next great young RB in the NFL.

David Johnson

Chad Parsons: Johnson’s prospect profile reads as a running back wish list: prototypical size, above-average athleticism, and a strong receiving background. The small school product passed the NFL Draft process with flying colors as a top-100 pick. Johnson does the one thing incumbent Andre Ellington does decently – catch the ball – much better. Look for Johnson to be a high-upside flex play on a weekly basis at a minimum, with upside to take the Arizona lead job outright by midseason.

Jason Wood: Don't be surprised if David Johnson outperforms Andre Ellington this season. That's not an admonishment of Ellington's abilities, but more a recognition that Ellington's durability (or lack thereof) was exposed in 2014. He's not capable of a full-time role. David Johson, on the other hand, can be a 3-down back. Johnson is 6'1", 224 lbs. and dominated at Northern Iowa (admittedly a lower level of competition). Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians compared Johnson to Matt Forte -- and that's an apt comparable. Johnson enters the NFL as one of the best receiving backs we've seen in years; that's no hyperbole. His between-the-tackles abilities need a bit more seasoning, but the Cardinals addition of OG Mike Iupati will help solve that puzzle quickly. While I'm not arguing for Johnson as a top 20 star in Year One, I do think he's worth more than his current ADP and has considerably more upside than a handful of other projected backups that are going higher in drafts.

Duke Johnson Jr

Sigmund Bloom: Johnson is already turning heads in OTAs, and he has the kind of skillset that creates a momentum of opportunity once it is revealed on the field. The Browns lack any sort of notable WR/TE talent, and Johnson could easily emerge as the best threat in the passing game. High percentage passing plays and running behind one of the best run blocking units in the league before the loss of Alex Mack last year should lead to a flex-sized diet of touches to open the season, with the potential to become more central in the game plan as the season goes on. Johnson has a similar wherewithall to seize a similar opportunity as Ameer Abdullah. but he’s at least two rounds cheaper in drafts.

Christopher Feery: Cleveland is expected to begin the year with a RBBC approach, with Johnson competing with Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West for snaps. However, early reports out of OTAs indicate that the team is very high on Johnson, their third-round draft choice. GM Ray Farmar talked up the rookie for his “playmaking ability and supreme confidence” while RB coach Wilbert Montgomery sees him as potentially filling a Giovanni Bernard type role. Johnson left college as the Miami Hurricanes all-time leading rusher and could provide tremendous value as a late-round RB.

DeMarco Murray

Michael Brown: This is still the same guy who absolutely blew up the league last year, right? I’m just checking, because I’m seeing that he’s going after guys like LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson, and it’s blowing my mind a little bit. It’s true that Murray is going from arguably the best offensive line in football to one of the not-so-best, but he’s also joining a team with a very creative offensive philosophy – a team that paid him a boatload of money to be the focal point of the offense. They will find ways to get the ball in his hands all season long, they’re committed to the run game, and Murray has a proven track record even before the Dallas o-line was dominant. In other words, it wasn’t all them. The guy is talented. A first round finish is likely.

Stephen Holloway: Murray moves within the NFC East over to Philadelphia, but still has an outstanding offensive line. The Eagles will want to run the ball more frequently in 2015 and expect Murray to handle the lion’s share of the carries. He will not have as many carries as a year ago, but will continue to gain over 4.5 ypc and catch more passes than most anticipate.

Latavius Murray

Christopher Feery: All signs point to Latavius Murray being the lead back for the Raiders as they look to improve their 32nd ranked run offense. Murray should easily hold off reclamation project Trent Richardson and 3rd down back Roy Helu in camp to secure the gig. New OC Bill Musgrave could lean heavily on Murray, who has all the physical tools to be successful in this league. An offense featuring promising 2nd year signal caller Derek Carr and first-round draft choice Amari Cooper should improve as a whole. Murray has the potential to be a top 20 RB this year.

Ryan Hester: Murray is the favorite to be the starting running back for an Oakland offense that should improve in 2015. Derek Carr will be in his second season, and the team drafted Amari Cooper to help in the passing game. The Oakland offensive line struggled mightily last season, but Murray has displayed the kind of speed that only requires a small crack for him to make a game-changing play. Oakland won’t be an elite offense, Murray still has the talent and opportunity to finish in the mid-RB2 range, which is well above where he’s being drafted.

Adrian Peterson

Sigmund Bloom: It’s hard for a player to be undervalued at #11, but Peterson has the makings of an unfair advantage player in 2015. With a year layoff and a rare passion for the game now turned to eleven, we can let our imaginations run wild when it comes Peterson’s 2015 numbers with Norv Turner and Teddy Bridgewater producing his 2015 hit songs. Peterson is worthy of the #1 pick and a no brainer top five pick this season, congratulations if you get him later than that.

Ari Ingel: If you can get him outside of the top 5, you just got yourself some value. He’s the freak amongst freaks, playing on the best team he has possibly ever played on and he’s angry. You will like him when he’s angry.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Joique Bell

Andy Hicks: Very rarely do rookie running backs explode onto the NFL landscape in their rookie years. While some will expect Ameer Abdullah to do so, a more realistic proposition has a back the Lions trust in Joique Bell taking the majority of the work. Bell isn’t going to end up as a RB1, but will be a solid RB2. He had over 1000 yards combined last year, will get 3rd down back duties and should even be the goal line back. Even if Abdullah turns out better than expected, Bell finished as a high end RB2 sharing time with Reggie Bush. He will be solid, but not spectacular.

Giovani Bernard

Stephen Holloway: Giovani Bernard has only two less rushes in 2014 as he did in his rookie season and he missed three games.The Bengals will continue to keep Bernard involved in the running game and he will be targeted more frequently than a year ago. Look for more explosive plays as Bernard is kept fresh, having about ten runs and five catches per week.

LeGarrette Blount

Cian Fahey: Even considering his one game suspension to start the season, LeGarrette Blount should have a huge number of touches in 2015. If Tom Brady misses four games, as is currently expected, then Blount should become the focal point of the offense. He is simply a better runner than Jonas Gray and the most proven back in Bill Belichick's backfield at this point. He may not catch the ball at all, but he should still be able to crack the top 25-30 in terms of fantasy production.

Tevin Coleman

Bob Magaw: Coleman represents a tantalizing confluence of opportunity, the ability of Atlanta’s first rate passing game to keep defenses on their heels, new OC Kyle Shanahan’s potent ZBS (zone blocking scheme) run game and home run speed. His 7.12 career Y/C average was second only to Melvin Gordon among FBS running backs, and his 15 rushing TDs in 2014 AVERAGED an improbable, double take-inducing 40+ yards. Coleman has limitations as a somewhat linear vector weapon, but if he gets a crease, doesn’t need phone booth quicks with his open field, angle-destroying jets. Devonta Freeman could get first crack at the starting gig, but Coleman has the superior explosiveness, big play potential and talent to command carries in a RBBC right away, and seize a feature back role sooner than later.

Eddie Lacy

Mark Wimer: It's not often I choose a Top 5 running back pick as a 'value', but Eddie Lacy is a value at third running back selected according to ADP. Lacy is number one on my running back board because A). he starts off 2015 healthy and therefore B). projects to play in all 14 regular season games for his his fantasy owners (plus be available during fantasy playoffs) - Le'Veon Bell will miss 20% of the 14-game regular season, so he falls off the top of my rankings/projections due to his looming three game suspension.

Doug Martin

Matt Waldman: A bad team or company culture can rob good football players of motivation to work at their capability. Forget the cliché about great players not requiring external motivation. Most players aren’t great—even in the NFL—but they are capable of great stretches of games, weeks, and seasons. Martin is that caliber of very good player capable of greatness if his environment falls into place. Former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter lobbied to keep Martin in Tampa Bay. He faced Martin as a rookie and knows the back—when in shape and healthy—is the best all-around back on the team. Martin has return to the camp in peak condition, responding to the challenge. Koetter also deserves a lot of credit for keeping Atlanta competitive despite a slew of difficult injuries to the offense the past two years. If Martin wins the job outright or even forces an early committee, don’t be surprised if he rebounds as no worse than a solid fantasy RB2 behind an upgraded offensive line and a bright young prospect at quarterback.

Tre Mason

Jeff Pasquino: Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon of Todd Gurley, the rookie from Georgia who was picked in the first round by St. Louis. Gurley has a lot of talent, but he is still recovering from ACL surgery and will likely miss some time to start the year. That keeps the door open for Tre Mason to step up and perform in September, and if he picks up where he left off from last year he could keep Gurley on the sideline more. Mason represents a starting tailback from last year who is undervalued due to expectations that a rookie will take his job. If that doesn’t happen, you get a great value – and at the very least, a solid starting back for the first part of the year.

Ryan Mathews

Ari Ingel: Chip Kelly likes to run a lot and also likes to get a lot of different players involved. The talent level between Murray and Mathews is a lot less than some people think, so at his current ADP, he’s a steal.

Charles Sims

Jeff Pasquino: Choosing Sims here is completely tied to the upside of him winning the starting job entering Week 1. Rumors are swirling in OTAs for Tampa Bay that Sims is pushing Doug Martin and may have already moved past him on the depth chart. If that is true, then his value is incredibly high considering that he is going around RB30-32 in most drafts.