Fantasy Football 2014: Outlook for Draft's Top 10 Running Backs
When it comes to the running back position, youth dominates in fantasy football.
Seemingly every year, running back prospects come in and make immediate contributions. Look back to last year when Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell and Zac Stacy made waves. The year prior, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson all made their presence felt.
This year’s class of running backs is also set to make headlines. Fantasy owners know the lifeblood of their teams is how they assemble their backfields. With a new batch of running backs set to introduce themselves, you should start to target the prospects who will likely have their names called during the NFL draft.
In this slideshow will be the top 10 running backs (ranked in order of immediate fantasy relevance) for the 2014 season.
- James White, Wisconsin
- Devonta Freeman, Florida State
- Marion Grice, Arizona State
- Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
- Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
- Lorenzo Taliaferra, Coastal Carolina
- Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
- Storm Johnson, Central Florida
- Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
- Rajion Neal, Tennessee
10. Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State
Although not a household name entering the NFL draft, Kapri Bibbs is someone you may want to get to know.
Bibbs has good size (5’9”, 212 pounds) and speed. Bibbs had a sensational senior season at Colorado State, averaging 6.2 yards per carry to go with 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns. Some team will likely fall in love with Bibbs on draft day, and as such, you should have him on the back of your mind during your draft.
Bibbs is nothing more than a late-round sleeper, but the payoff for future dividends may be tough to ignore. While he may not get a lot of touches in his rookie season, Bibbs should work himself into a more prominent role in the following years. Treat Bibbs as a high-end sleeper late in fantasy drafts.
9. Terrance West, Towson
Sure, some will look at where Terrance West played college ball (Towson) and doubt him, but West can play, plain and simple.
At 5’9”, 225 pounds, West is built like a Mack truck, and he has great speed to work with.
Like Morris, who also came from a small school (Florida Atlantic), you should not sleep on West. Obviously, it will be very hard for West to duplicate Morris’ success, but you should take a closer look at West come fantasy draft day.
Who knows, you could perhaps hit the lottery by gambling on West late in drafts, as he has the requisite skills to make an impact in the NFL.
8. Andre Williams, Boston College
As a Heisman Trophy finalist playing in the ACC, you know you’ll be a wanted commodity come draft day. While not as talented as some others ranked ahead of him, Andre Williams has the skills and toughness to make a splash in the NFL nonetheless.
Williams is both strong and quick, and he should carve out a role for himself in the NFL. He is projected, according to Sports Illustrated, to go in the middle of the NFL draft.
Williams will not likely be penciled in to be a starter for the team that selects him, but he has the skills to at least participate in a timeshare. He might compare to Montee Ball in his rookie season, in that he won’t get a lot of touches early but make his presence felt late in the season. Williams should be thought of as a low-end No. 3/high-end No. 4 running back for fantasy purposes.
7. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Lache Seastrunk has great hands and terrific speed out of the backfield and is as good a receiver out of the backfield as there is in the upcoming NFL draft. That should make him a wanted man during the NFL draft.
A lot of NFL teams are targeting running backs who are good pass-catchers, and this is where Seastrunk can make a name for himself.
Think of Seastrunk as a late-round flier with a chance to pay off big in the long run. He may not get a lot of touches initially as he is not an aggressive runner up the middle, but come late in the year, the team that drafts him will want to utilize him more. He should be thought of as a No. 4/No. 5 running back.
6. Charles Sims, West Virginia
Charles Sims is another in a long line of good pass-catching backs who whets the appetite of scouts and general managers alike.
Sims is a big-bodied athletic back who should have little trouble adapting to the NFL.
In any case, Sims should find his niche and carve out a consistent role for himself in the NFL. The team that selects him should put him to use right away. Although, the chances for Sims to be a workhorse back right away are slim. Nevertheless, Sims is someone you should feel confident about drafting late in drafts with the hope you hit the jackpot. Think of Sims as a No. 4/No. 5 running back.
5. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
Ka’Deem Carey is a running back who combines great size and above-average speed in one enticing package. Carey is projected, according to Sports Illustrated, to be taken in the first three rounds of the NFL draft and is a back fantasy players should get to know.
Carey is a lot like Maurice Jones-Drew in that he is deceptively small but strong and he could make a similar type of impact.
Carey will likely have to work for carries for the team that drafts him, but eventually he’ll have a nice role for himself. He can make a similar type of progression like Stacy did last year. If you recall, Stacy was buried behind Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead on the Rams running back depth chart, but Stacy won out in the end.
Carey may be in the same boat and could be in line for 200-plus touches for the team that drafts him. As such, target him as a low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 running back for fantasy purposes.
4. Jeremy Hill, LSU
Jeremy Hill is the kind of downhill runner scouts and general managers covet and one who is rising up draft boards. He’s had to deal with past character issues, but Hill is working past that.
Hill should have his name called on the second or third day of the draft and should contend for a good bulk of carries for whichever team that drafts him. The assumption here is he’ll get drafted by a team with mediocre running back corps (think Jacksonville and Tennessee now without Chris Johnson).
Hill might be in line for over 150 carries and should make for a low-end No. 3 RB on draft day.
3. Bishop Sankey, Washington
The diminutive and powerfully built Bishop Sankey should go within the first three or four rounds on draft day and is someone you definitely want on your fantasy radar.
Sankey has great vision, burst and can hit holes hard. The team that ultimately drafts him will likely use him in a multitude of packages.
In other words, Sankey won’t rot on the bench. It may take him some time to adjust the physicality of the game, but he should come close to over 150 carries and make for a good flex-spot start. In that way, he is a lot like what Andre Ellington was with the Arizona Cardinals last year. Sankey has more value in dynasty leagues, but he is definitely worth drafting in seasonal leagues to be a low-end No. 3/high-end No. 4 running back.
2. Tre Mason, Auburn
If the last game Tre Mason played in is any indication, he should be ready to roll once he gets to the NFL.
You see, the last game Mason played in was the BCS title game against Florida State in which he ran for 195 yards on 34 carries. His 37-yard scamper with one minute, 19 seconds to go in the game almost won Auburn the title.
Mason should have a relatively smooth transition to the NFL, as he has all the intangibles you want in a running back. Mason possesses all the skills (size, speed, strength, etc.) you want, and he should—at the minimum—compete for a starting job in camp this summer.
Fantasy owners should think of Mason as at least a No. 2 running back with upside for much more. Mason has the chance to be a back who can be leaned on for over 200-plus touches and be a staple in your fantasy lineup.
1. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
If you want a running back who can possibly replicate the success Lacy had last year, then Carlos Hyde is your man.
This bulldozing running back has great burst and can break tackles with ease. The transition to the NFL should be a seamless one for Hyde.
Like Lacy, think of Hyde as a low-end No. 1/high-end No. 2 running back on draft day. There is a great chance that whichever team drafts Hyde will make him the lead back come Week 1.
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