2014 Fantasy Running Back Review
February 9, 2015 | Jeff
The fantasy football offseason is slowly moving along with shuttle runs, forty times, and broad jumps just around the corner. To help pass time over the cold , cold winter months, your pals at The Fake Football will be providing mountains of fantasy coverage on the upcoming season. But before we dive into backfield committees and depth charts, let’s continue our recap of the 2014 fantasy season by checking out how the world of fantasy running backs shook out last season. We already highlighted which quarterbacks surpassed their 2014 ADP and which quarterbacks made us want to quit playing fake football altogether and move to a remote island in the South Pacific. Now, it’s time for the running back position.
Le’Veon Bell (’14 Finish: RB1, ADP: RB12)
Pittsburgh’s second-year running back was coming off a rookie season in which he stacked up 1,259 total yards and punched in eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, Le’Veon Bell got caught driving under the influence of some herbal remedies last summer, which clouded his 2014 fantasy outlook with potential NFL punishment. Bell’s ADP finally settled in at RB12 and fantasy owners who acquired his services in the second round enjoyed a season for the ages.
The increase in rushing efficiency Bell experienced in 2014 was enough to snag a healthy profit for his fantasy owners, but his added receiving work boosted the Steelers back’s fantasy stock even further into the stratosphere. Bell’s 83 receptions were second only to Matt Forte among NFL running backs and would have tied him for 15th among NFL wide receivers. Todd Haley’s entire passing offense exploded in 2014 and Bell was right in the middle of the outpouring of fantasy success. A likely suspension to start the 2015 season, stemming from his August 2014 arrest, is the only potential argument against taking Bell with the first pick in fantasy drafts next season.
Justin Forsett (’14 Finish: RB8, ADP: undrafted)
After Ray Rice was given the boot by reluctant NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the Baltimore Ravens had a void at running back that the fantasy community assumed they had a handle on. Bernard Pierce and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro were expected to emerge and handle the Ravens running game work, but that was not the case. Waiver wire hounds who scooped up Justin Forsett early in the season were handsomely rewarded as the former change-of-pace back climbed over both Pierce and Taliaferro and vaulted himself to a RB8 finish on the season.
Forsett was productive previously in his career when given carries, but he hadn’t handled more than 118 rushing attempts in a single season. Forsett’s lack of feature back experience didn’t stop Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak from leaning on Forsett all season, as the Baltimore back finished fifth in the NFL with 1,266 rushing yards on a career-high 235 carries (5.4 YPC). Forsett also chipped in with 44 receptions in 2014, and the unrestricted free agent could be in for a PPR explosion in 2015 if he re-signs with Baltimore now that Marc Trestman has taken over at Offensive Coordinator.
C. J. Anderson (’14 Finish: RB11, ADP: RB70)
The fake football world was correct in its assumption that the Denver running back spot would produce crazy fantasy numbers, but the makeup of that backfield gave fantasy owners fits over the first half of the 2014 season. Running backs Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, and even Juwan Thompson were given work early in the season behind Peyton Manning, before Head Coach John Fox finally settled on C.J. Anderson as his workhorse over the second half of the year.
Considering the fact that Anderson didn’t receive more than five carries in a single game until Week 10, his RB11 finish is seriously impressive. From that Week 10 game on, Anderson averaged 132.1 total yards per game, while finding the end zone ten times. Those numbers would give fantasy owners goosebumps over a full season, let alone just eight games. The magic question now, of course, is how Anderson will fit in the Denver backfield now that Gary Kubiak is in charge. This is a situation The Fake Football will monitor closely over the offseason, but a true lead back like Anderson in a Kubiak offense could be a fantasy gold mine in 2015.
Adrian Peterson (’14 Finish: RB123, ADP: RB3)
Ray Rice (’14 Finish: N/A , ADP RB23)
The legal situations surrounding these two disappointing fantasy running backs have been well covered over the last six months, so we will make this blurb short. The reality is that there are events that will transpire over the course of a season that fake footballers simply don’t see coming. If you were torched by Peterson and played the entire 2014 season without your first round pick, I send my most sincere condolences in your direction. Hopefully we were able to lend a hand and suggest the best possible waiver wire additions and trade advice so your season was still a success despite the unfortunate events surrounding these two players.
The 2015 fortunes of Peterson and Rice will ultimately be determined by their landing spots this spring as NFL free agency begins to bloom, but both backs likely have enough gas left in the tank to be fantasy contributors once again.
Zac Stacy (’14 Finish: RB71 , ADP: RB14)
Perhaps we should have seen the Zac Stacy situation coming. Whether it was the lack of passing game involvement (just 26 catches in 2013) or the relatively ineffective rushing numbers (3.9 YPC in 2013), an Average Draft Position of RB14 seems a bit absurd in hindsight. However, the stunningly swift downward spiral of Mr. Stacy was nearly equaled by the emergence of rookie Tre Mason, so the news wasn’t entirely terrible out of St. Louis last season!
Back to Stacy. The Rams running back fell out of favor incredibly quickly in 2014, as he received double digit carries in Weeks 1-5, followed by just 23 carries total in Weeks 6-17. Stacy is toast in St. Louis and would need to miraculously jump both Benny Cunningham and Tre Mason this summer in order to see the field in 2015. If you’re a betting man/woman, please save your money and do not bet on a Stacy reemergence. Even Stacy’s dynasty value is quickly plummeting into Trent Richardson territory, and nobody wants to visit that barren wasteland.
Feel free to scroll through the final 2014 fantasy running back standings below. The fantasy point totals in the table are calculated with 1/2 point per reception scoring settings.
(All ADP data courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com)