Fantasy Football 2014: Depth At Running Back Is Better Than Advertised

Chargers running back Danny Woodhead has averaged 335 yards and two touchdowns receiving a year since 2009. Combined with his rushing statistics that makes him a a top-20 running back annually no matter the format

Chargers running back Danny Woodhead has averaged 335 yards and two touchdowns receiving a year since 2009. Combined with his rushing statistics that makes him a a top-20 running back annually no matter the format

My old fantasy football drafting habits are hard to let go of.

After all this time playing I still can’t bring myself to draft a running back first without a lot of hesitation. I am that guy who gets lured into not being able to resist the consistent production that comes with Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning. Can you blame me? Since 2010 they’ve all, at some point, finished in the top-3 in scoring among all players.

That isn’t something I can just pass up (no pun intended).

I also can’t deny the importance of a running back I can depend on for 17 weeks. I’ve seen championships slip away because I relied on guys like Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw (poor Indianapolis!), James Starks, and Rashard Mendenhall (just listing those names makes me cringe).

But is the depth at running back really not there? I beg to differ.

There is a saying that if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change. This is definitely true when drafting running backs in your fantasy leagues. I’ve been doing a little research the last couple of years (Dynasty Leagues will do that to a man) and I’ve come to the conclusion that if you want a top-20 to top-25 running back they can be had at a premium. Why? Because with the NFL becoming a passing league running backs with great skills as receivers are beginning to crop up all over the place.

It’s easy to look at Matt Forte and put him in this category, but did you know that Joique Bell, Shane Vereen (injury aside), and Giovani Bernard are being drafted AFTER Zac Stacy? That’s lunacy when you look at the one-dimensional nature of the player. Find value outside of the rushing statistics when making your decision on a running back. Bell and Bernard had approximately 300 fewer rushing yards (in shared roles) than Stacy did as a feature back, yet they were targeted in the passing game over 50% more and totaled more than 400 yards receiving than Stacy. Not picking on Zac Stacy, but with Bell and Bernard expected to have bigger roles in their offenses 1,200 to 1,300 total yards (as opposed to what Stacy lacks in his pass catching ability) can give your team a boost; saving you a draft pick in the earlier rounds to use on someone worth that position in the draft.

 

Double-threat players to target on draft day:

  • Joique Bell, Detroit Lions- Went undrafted in most leagues and still finished in the top-20. Workload increase is in store for Bell
  • Shane Vereen, New England Patriots- Injury derailed what looked to be a huge year. Most reliable back in New England offense
  • Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers- About as steady as they come and an annual 100 carries/50 target back

Double threats backs you might not realize are double threats to target on draft day: 

  • Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals want the ball in this guys’ hands, they will do that through the air
  • Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers- Looks to have increased role; addition of Blount shouldn’t stunt development
  • Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers- Targets took a hit in Carolina, but should see increase in passing game with lack of traditional targets at Newton’s disposal
  • Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals- A great pass catcher, 50% of his value is tied to his ability to give Carson Palmer another target in pass happy offense

Some names are obvious, but some I expect to give you real every week production on a consistent basis. Don’t get caught up in the names to the point where you over draft, you can find a back later that will give you enough to win week-to-week.

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