All this week the Washington Post will be rolling out its fantasy football rankings by position, continuing Tuesday with the top 30 RBs. Gene Wang offers his best bets at the position for 2014, while Neil Greenberg expounds upon the best and worst RB values in the Fancy Stats blog.
Top 30 RBs
1. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: Only legitimate game-breaker in the Chiefs’ methodical offense, Charles rarely comes off the field, even on third-and-long, because of exceptional receiving skills and the potential to turn a short pass into long gain.
2. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: With DeSean Jackson gone, McCoy becomes the undisputed No. 1 option in the Eagles’ offense. Still, in Coach Chip Kelly’s high-volume scheme, others such as Darren Sproles and Chris Polk (especially near the goal line) figure to receive touches.
3. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: The future Hall of Famer rushed for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013, and it was considered a down season. Peterson would be a top-two RB if he were more involved in the passing game.
4. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: Skittles has been a touchdown machine in an offense that leans heavily on the run, and there’s no indication anything is going to change this season. He has 39 total touchdowns over the last three seasons.
5. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: Another one of those RB1s who doesn’t come off the field much. Among the few knocks against him is the lack of touchdowns given how often he touches the ball. Last season was his first with double-digit touchdowns (12) since his rookie year in 2008.
6. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins: Outside of the nation’s capital, Morris is perhaps the most underappreciated RB1 in the NFL. All Morris has done in two seasons is rush for 2,888 yards and 20 touchdowns behind a sometimes-patchwork offensive line.
7. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers: Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie last season without injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the lineup for seven games. He has tremendous upside this season with Rodgers healthy.
8. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Even at age 30, durability and consistency are hallmarks for the centerpiece of the 49ers’ potent rushing attack. He missed only one game in three seasons and that’s more important than ever with the injuries to Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James.
9. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: As a rookie in 2013 he amassed 1,259 yards from scrimmage and eight rushing touchdowns despite missing three games. Even at 240 pounds, Bell is a factor in passing game, making him even more attractive in PPR (point-per-reception) leagues.
10. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams: The fifth-round draft pick took over in Week 5 and never relinquished the starting job, finishing with 973 yards and seven touchdowns. The Rams drafted Auburn standout Tre Mason in May, but Stacy remains a solid RB1.
11. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: He nearly lasted through a full NFL season for the first time last year, accumulating 1,471 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. He’s a potential top-five RB1 if he can play all 16 games.
12. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos: With Knowshon Moreno out of the picture, Ball will get every chance to claim the lion’s share of the carries in the NFL’s most lethal offense. His ceiling is as high as any runner in league.
13. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions: For all the criticism about his lack of durability early in his career, Bush has missed only three games since 2011. He logged a career-high 1,512 yards from scrimmage with seven touchdowns last season.
14. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers: He finally approached the lofty expectations (1,255 yards, six touchdowns last season) that followed when Chargers made Mathews the No. 12 pick overall in 2010. Injuries remain a concern.
15. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A torn labrum in his shoulder derailed the sophomore season of one of league’s most promising runners. He finished with just 456 yards and one touchdown in six games. Now the Bucs’ offensive line is without Pro Bowl G Carl Nicks, who retired.
16. Arian Foster, Houston Texans: Once a top-three RB1, Foster has become risky proposition following major back surgery that forced him to miss half of last season, when he gained 542 yards with one touchdown.
17. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals’ No. 1 running back shared carries last season with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. This year rookie Jeremy Hill appears in line to keep Bernard from a true RB1 workload.
18. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills: A high ankle sprain slowed Spiller for portions of last season. This ranking would be higher if there weren’t concerns about Fred Jackson and free agent acquisition Bryce Brown getting carries.
19. Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns: After serving as Foster’s backup in Houston, Tate gets shot to become the Browns’ featured RB1, meaning he still has much to prove, especially with a new offensive coordinator and potentially a rookie starting quarterback.
20. Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars didn’t ink Peterson’s former backup to a three-year deal for $10.5 million so he can sit on bench. Plus there’s really not much behind him (i.e. Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson).
21. Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals: Another victim of a time-share backfield. Ellington has shown flashes of open-field brilliance but may have his touches limited with Jonathan Dwyer in the mix.
22. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts: After a strong rookie season (950 yards, 11 touchdowns) in 2012, Richardson flamed out once traded to the Colts after two games last year. He may re-emerge with Donald Brown gone from rotation.
23. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons: Following eight consecutive seasons of at least 1,002 rushing yards, Jackson tailed off considerably with 543 yards, although he did score seven total touchdowns despite missing four games.
24. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots: His propensity to fumble didn’t exactly engender confidence from Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. Still Ridley stands to handle most of the goal-line work again in an offense that returns Rob Gronkowski.
25. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: Suspended for the first two games because of serious off-field domestic issues, the former top-five RB1 has been declining in production regardless of his availability — or Bernard Pierce pushing for more carries.
26. Chris Johnson, New York Jets: The No. 1 fantasy running back off the board in 2011 reached double-digit touchdowns last season for first time in four years. He signed a two-year free agent contract with the Jets, who are a mess offensively.
27. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans: The 2014 second-round pick is Johnson’s replacement in Tennessee and has been tabbed as the starter heading into the regular season. He has the added bonus of working behind one of the league’s better offensive lines.
28. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants: He’s slated to be the Giants’ lead runner, but his injury history makes Jennings a complete gamble. He’s never played a full season and has missed 23 games since 2011.
29. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots: Vereen broke his wrist in Week 1 but still managed 635 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. He will get more work if Ridley continues to have fumbling problems.
30. Maurice Jones-Drew, Oakland Raiders: Another former top-five RB1 has dipped to low-end RB2 or mid-range flex status following foot surgery that ended his season in 2012. He signed a three-year deal with the Raiders in offseason.