As a tool for fantasy drafts, players can be grouped together in tiers of similar projected fantasy production. Tiers can help a drafter decide how to choose between players at different positions; if a given player is the last one left in a higher tier, an owner may choose to select him over another player at a position with several players of comparable value left on the board.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Yes, nearly every fantasy draft has either Charles or McCoy going No. 1, but Peterson remains a legitimate candidate for that honor. He’s older than the other two, but no one thinks he’s slowing down, to judge from his No. 3 overall average draft position. Peterson rebounded from a devastating knee injury to go bonkers in 2012; does anyone really doubt he could vastly improve on 2013’s finish as the No. 6 RB?
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
These backs should stay in or awfully near the first round of standard-scoring drafts. Lynch is currently holding out from training camp, but missing those reps shouldn’t be a big problem for the seven-year veteran (provided he reports at some point in August). A coaching change in Washington adds some uncertainty to Morris’s role, but it’s hard to imagine Jay Gruden won’t find a major use for his 4.7 yards per carry.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
Montee Ball, Denver Broncos.
The rest of the likely RB1 performers. The Niners added Carlos Hyde but lost Kendall Wright to injury, meaning Gore should continue to get plenty of carries. Bell and Stacy took command of their teams’ backfields as rookies and now have the promise of improved offensive lines. Murray and Ball probably have the best chances to become top-three overall picks in 2015. Murray needs to steer clear of injuries and Ball may just need to hope Peyton Manning does the same.
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns
Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
An assortment of question marks keeps all of these talented players in this group. Bush, Martin, Bernard and Spiller all may not get as many touches as their owners would like. Foster and Gerhart should get all the work they can handle, but can they handle it? Tate and Ellington have to take advantage of opportunities to assume dominant roles.
Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Chris Johnson, New York Jets
Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants
Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
Maurice Jones-Drew, Oakland Raiders
Fantasy owners are probably pushing their luck if they wait until this group to select their RB2s. No one is quite sure what to expect from Richardson, who appears to have a ton of talent, except when he actually tries to play football. Ridley could ascend to RB1 status if he could hang onto the ball, and Sankey could come close if he can help the Titans consistently move the chains. Rice (suspended for the first two games), Johnson and Jennings are on teams that will probably use them as the heads of committees. Jackson and Jones-Drew simply need to prove they are not, in fact, washed up.