Running back, wide receiver, and tight end rankings are more difficult to come up with than QB rankings, because they can vary drastically just on the simple question of “is your league PPR or non-PPR?”. I do my best to generalize these rankings mostly taking into consideration standard rules but then using PPR in the back of my mind as a tiebreaker. The only way to truly know the value of a player in your league is to use our Custom Fantasy Football Rankings tool which will tailor the scoring to your league’s settings (note: this is a premium feature only available to subscribed users, for more information about subscribing please check out the subscription page http://www.fantasysportsfacts.com/subscribe). Running back rankings are always changing, so I will continue to update this list and edit my player notes whenever things change.
Tier 1 – the cream of the crop
- KC Jamaal Charles 1425-11 55-505-3
Charles is the best in the business on a per touch basis. He’s finally in a system that runs the offense through him. It will be hard to reproduce his elite season from last year, but he’s still the top option in my book.
- PHI LeSean McCoy 1500-9 53-450-3
Shady is a freak and a close second to Charles. There isn’t anything he can’t do and some of the moves he makes leaves your jaw dropping to the floor in awe. The addition of Sproles to the offense might seem like a risk of receptions being taken away from McCoy, but Shady is not the type of guy you allow to lose touches to a secondary option.
Tier 2 – elite performers
- CHI Matt Forte 1250-8 60-475-2
The guys in this tier are all so close in my opinion. Forte separates himself from the pack in PPR leagues, but even in standard leagues he is on par with the rest of the group. The Chicago offense is an amazing system for Forte and their 2 big receivers, so I expect his 2014 season to be a continuation of his strong 2013 campaign.
- MIN Adrian Peterson 1310-12 32-200-1
There might be some people out there who would have a hard time putting Forte ahead of AP, but Peterson is 29 with a lot of mileage on his legs. I still think AP is an elite option, but Forte will actually be a significantly better option in PPR leagues and a fairly equal option in standard leagues.
- GB Eddie Lacy 1265-12 38-280-1
Lacy is an animal who runs with reckless abandon. I love the way he hits the hole and bowls people over, but this style can also lead to injuries or shortened careers like we saw with Marion Barber. Lacy could easily have a better year than Peterson, but Peterson is so safe and consistent, so I’m putting AP ahead of Lacy… but it’s close.
- SEA Marshawn Lynch 1250-12 29-245-1
Lynch is another power runner much like Lacy, but with a little bit less of the receiving ability. I expect a pretty similar stat line from both but with a few less receptions and yards for Lynch. Marshawn has been pretty consistent over the past 3 years, so you should know what you’re getting.
- DEN Montee Ball 1220-9 42-305-1
The Denver offense is so potent and there are really no viable options behind Ball which means the Broncos are going to have to rely heavily on Ball. Knowshon Moreno had a huge year last year notching 13 total touchdowns and nearly 1600 total yards. The Broncos might have to put more weight on Ball’s shoulders than they put on Moreno’s last year, so a big year is in the cards.
- PIT Le’Veon Bell 1150-9 50-400-1
Le’Veon came on strong during the second half of last season and in PPR leagues I would probably take him ahead of Lynch. Bell has the hands to easily put up a 50 reception season and 60 wouldn’t be out of the question, but he also has the power to handle the goal line work. LeGarrette Blount might take away some of the goal line touches, but I expect Bell to get the bulk.
- CIN Giovani Bernard 900-7 62-565-4
Reports are that the Bengals want to give Gio 300 touches this year. I’ll be cautiously optimistic and will project him for ~225 carries and ~60 receptions. Cincinnati drafted Jeremy Hill in the second round and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still in the mix, so I’m a little hesitant to rank him any higher given the other backs in the system, but the upside could be huge.
Tier 3 – some question marks and some PPR stars
- STL Zac Stacy 1300-11 31-185-0
Stacy’s line last year was 973-7 26-141-1 in 12 stars with only 4 of those 973 yards coming in his first game that he didn’t start. Prorate that over 16 starts and you’re looking at a huge season. Update: the team isn’t committing to him as the starter as of yet which introduces some risk. I’m bumping Stacy down to tier 3 for now, but not changing his overall place in the ranks; this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
- TB Doug Martin 1200-7 35-275-1
Doug Martin was already having a down season when he injured his shoulder in week 7 last year causing him to miss the remainder of the season. He was pacing a 1216-2.5 32-176-0 season which simply was a far cry from what you were expecting when you drafted him. I don’t think it can be as bad as it was last year, but with the drafting or rookie Charles Sims combined with how good Mike James was before he got hurt last year makes Martin a bit of a risky pick and keeps him out of the elite tier.
- DAL DeMarco Murray 1070-8 48-335-1
Murray put together the best year of his career last year, but injuries continue to be a problem. He also appeared to be an alternate security blanket option to Jason Witten for Romo last year which is great in PPR leagues. The Cowboys didn’t draft any RBs and we got a taste of the Dunbar/Randle depth behind him (which isn’t much), so we know Murray is a safe RB2 bet… that is, when he’s playing.
- HOU Arian Foster 1085-8 40-300-2
For all the fuss that was made last year about Foster’s y/c being on the decline and that his age was starting to creep up there, he increased his y/c average before going down with a hamstring injury in week 7 and then a season ending back injury in week 9. The touchdowns were way down, but the Houston offense was also anemic. I don’t expect to see major improvements under Ryan Fitzpatrick, but I do expect DeAndre Hopkins to take a step forward and Andre Brown to do a sufficient job filling the Ben Tate void. Foster should be a fine RB2, but I think the days of him being an elite fantasy option are over. Update: Andre Brown has been cut putting Jonathan Grimes firmly in the backup role behind Foster. I don’t see this having any bearing on Foster’s ranking in my opinion.
- WAS Alfred Morris 1350-10 10-75-0
In non-PPR leagues, Morris would top this tier, while in PPR leagues, Morris would be at the bottom with Mathews; I’ll split the difference and slot him in the middle, but this is why you need to understand the league you’re playing in because value can be drastically affected depending upon the scoring system. Morris is a strong runner but saw his touches reduced by quite a bit last year which led to a reduction in rushing yards. His y/c was still pretty close to what it was in 2012 which makes him a consistent option in 2014. He will get you nothing in the passing game so be aware of that. If he’s over 300 carries again, you could easily see him pushing 1500 yards or more and be a steal.
- DET Reggie Bush 950-4 55-465-3
Fumbles plagued Reggie Bush down the stretch last year to the tune of 4 fumbles lost in a 7 game stretch which caused him to lose the faith of coach Jim Schwartz. Well now there’s a new Jim in town and his last name is Caldwell. I was not a Caldwell fan when he was the coach of the Colts, but he’s certainly an improvement over Jim Schwartz. I’m not sure this translates into a better season for Bush because Joique Bell is a legitimate RB who deserves his share of the touches as well, but Bush’s explosiveness and ability to turn in a 60 yard play at any moment means, as long as his fumbling doesn’t become a pandemic, he will continue to get his touches.
- ARI Andre Ellington 945-5 58-500-2
Rashard Mendenhall’s retirement thrust Ellington into the starting role in Arizona. Don’t expect Ellington to get any goal line touches, so the touchdowns will be limited, but he’ll be a PPR star and will break some long TD runs. He had a solid year in his limited role last year, so the increased touches make Ellington a solid RB2 option.
- SD Ryan Mathews 1200-7 32-240-0
Mathews is coming off the best year of his career from a rushing yards perspective, although his 2011 season was still 102 total yards better and also was in 2 less games played, so 2013 really wasn’t his best season. His receptions declined, which makes sense because of the addition of Danny Woodhead to the lineup. Mathews has cemented his role as the primary back and top goal line option so he should repeat his 2013 success. Keep your expectations in check, because his receptions won’t go back to 2011-2012 numbers unless Woodhead gets hurt. As long as he’s able to stay healthy again, he’s a safe RB2 option.
Tier 4 – low end RB2s to grab before they’re gone
- NE Shane Vereen 425-2 85-750-6
Vereen was on pace to have a huge season and be a PPR stud but injuries derailed his season last year. If he can stay healthy, he should be what Darren Sproles was from 2011 to 2012. He’s a definite RB2 in PPR leagues or a low end RB2 in standard leagues.
- DET Joique Bell 775-8 54-500-0
Joique was a steady performer last year. He was the Lions top option at the goal line and was a great complementary player to Reggie Bush. He also has the hands to haul in over 50 receptions again and is a solid RB2 in PPR leagues and a low ened RB2 in standard leagues.
- BUF C.J. Spiller 1025-5 38-265-1
Upside anyone? Spiller was a major disappointment last year, almost as much as Ray Rice and was arguably a bigger disappointment than Rice in PPR leagues. I think Spiller can rebound, but Fred Jackson will continue to strip from his workload and make him a risky play. Spiller has the talent to be a stud like he was in 2012, but there’s definitely no guarantee of that despite what his coach might say.
- NYG Rashad Jennings 900-8 30-250-0
Rashad Jennings is slated to be a bell cow in New York, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a sure fire starter in fantasy. The Giants offense has a lot of question marks after a lackluster 2013 season; they ranked 29th in rushing offense last year. I think Jennings has a chance to be a solid RB2, but also the chance to be nothing more than a flex option.
- CLE Ben Tate 970-6 35-215-0
Tate is in the same back as Jennings. He comes in to Cleveland slated to be the top back, but Cleveland also had very little run game last year, ranking 28th in the league. Tate also has rookie Terrance West to contend with which is why I slot him below Jennings.
- NYJ Chris Johnson 875-5 40-300-1
I’ve heard a lot of people say how fed up they were with Chris Johnson after last year, however I’m not sure what people were expecting when they drafted him. I projected him for 1100-5 45-350-0 and he ended up with a 1077-6 42-345-4 line. He pretty much hit my projection perfectly but with the happy addition of 5 more touchdowns than what I was projecting. Maybe it was his 3.9 y/c that was annoying because you could argue that with the number of touches he had he should’ve produced more yards, but I don’t see how you could be unhappy with the 10 TDs. All that being said, the Jets backfield looks crowded and Johnson looks like a risky play and probably is no more than a flex option this year.
- BAL Ray Rice 800-5 52-390-1
Rice is still the starter in Baltimore, but he’s coming off one of the most disappointing falls from grace in recent memory. I have a hard time seeing Rice rebound to be a 1000 yard runner again because Bernard Pierce continues to take touches. There are 2 positive takeaways from last year though, the first is that he still got his normal load of receptions and the second is that he actually outperformed Pierce on a y/c basis (3.1 vs 2.9) which means the offense was just pitiful in general and that the o-line needs to do a better job this year. If the line can improve, you could find yourself a great upside pick in Rice. Update: Rice has been suspended for the first 2 games of the year which will give Pierce a shot to cut into Rice’s workload. The upside has dwindled in my opinion.
- JAC Toby Gerhart 885-6 30-220-1
Finally out of AP’s shadow, but onto a horrible NFL team that ranked 31st in rushing last year. Gerhart should see the bulk of the workload, but I don’t think the Jags have improved enough to make Gerhart a viable fantasy starter. He looks like a flex play to me.
- SF Frank Gore 900-7 18-135-0
Frank Gore is now 31 years old and has surprised me with his ability to produce in his 30s. He rushed for 1128 yards last year which is pretty close to the 1100 that I projected for him last year, but now he has 2nd round draft pick Carlos Hyde nipping at his heels to steal touches. Marcus Lattimore is also trying to get healthy and work his way into the mix. Kendall Hunter is the most likely to see his workload affected by the young backs, but Gore should see a decreased workload as well. Update: it is being reported that Gore might see a decreased workload of ~220 carries this season which is a little bit more of a reduction that the 240-250 that I had in mind. I’ve adjusted his projection and ranking as a result.
- NE Stevan Ridley 985-9 10-60-0
I don’t like guys that can’t catch the ball and can’t hold onto the ball. Ridley suffers from both ailments. If he can improve his fumbling tendencies, Belichick will have more trust in him and he could see a bit of a revival, but repeating 2012 is a pipe dream.
Tier 5 – cloudy backfield situations
- OAK Maurice Jones-Drew 800-6 35-290-1
There’s no clear #1 option in Oakland. MJD or DMC? I don’t really like either given the decline of MJD over the past couple seasons and the health history and decline of DMC. It’s worth taking one of them after you’ve filled out your starters because maybe one of them gets hurt and you can end up with a feature back.
- ATL Steven Jackson 890-6 34-250-0
Atlanta ranked dead last in rushing last year and Steven Jackson struggled even after he returned from injury. I was low on Jackson last year and I think it was rightfully so. I’m low on him again as he’s another year older and the Falcons drafted Devonta Freeman in the 4th round with the hopes that he might work his way into the mix as well.
- MIA Knowshon Moreno 775-6 30-240-1
Moreno is already hurt and will be out a month with a knee injury. This isn’t terrible news because it still means he’ll be ready to go for the start of the season, but I really believe Moreno was the benefactor of a historic offense and that he’ll find himself being not much better than Lamar Miller or Daniel Thomas was in years past. Miami was also a pretty poor rushing team last year ranking 26th and that includes 238 of their yards coming from QB Ryan Tannehill.
- NO Pierre Thomas 500-2 70-500-3
With Sproles gone, Pierre Thomas becomes the primary 3rd down back in New Orleans and will probably share the rushing workload with Mark Ingram. Thomas should see 70+ receptions and be a safe PPR flex play with some potential upside to be similar to what Sproles was in 2011 and 2012.
- TEN Bishop Sankey 760-4 35-275-2
With Chris Johnson out of Tennessee, the Titans drafted Bishop Sankey in the 2nd round and will expect him to lead the way as their primary ball carrier. Shonn Greene will probably still be left in the mix and be the primary goal line back which will leave Sankey short in the touchdown department. They also added Dexter McCluster who will probably serve a similar role to what he played in KC which may also relieve Sankey of some 3rd down work and therefore some receptions.
- BUF Fred Jackson 790-5 35-250-1
Fred Jackson was a surprise star last year ranking near the top 10 of running backs in most formats. He’s now 33 so I don’t think Buffalo can rely as heavily on him as they did last year. The fact of the matter is, Fred Jackson isn’t going away unless he gets hurt, so he is a great backup option that could be a star if Spiller gets hurt or struggles like he did last year.
- CAR DeAngelo Williams 815-4 20-180-1
I don’t like anyone in the Carolina backfield, but I would have to put Williams on top. Carolina’s leading rusher for TDs will be Cam Newton or Mike Tolbert and Newton won’t be all that far behind Williams for yards. There’s hardly any upside to any of the Carolina RBs.
- IND Trent Richardson 650-4 35-300-1
Trent Richardson joins Ray Rice and C.J. Spiller as the 3rd head on the 3 headed monster of disappointment from 2013. While I see some upside for the other 2, I just see nothing but continued despair for T-Rich. Both of his seasons in the NFL have been well below the 4 y/c line and he showed nothing last year to lead me to believe that he’ll buck the trend. If you’re banking on T-Rich then you’ll be having a T-Poor season.
- OAK Darren McFadden 800-3 32-250-0
See my notes on Maurice Jones-Drew. I like DMC even less because he’s the one with the track record of injuries and less of a nose for the end zone.
- IND Ahmad Bradshaw 600-4 33-250-1
Bradshaw was looking like Indy’s best runner last year before getting injured and if Richardson loses favor or gets hurt, I could see Bradshaw being a viable flex option. That being said, health continues to be a major roadblock for Bradshaw and likely will stand in his way again.
- SD Danny Woodhead 360-2 58-420-4
Woodhead should see some of his 2013 production withered away to Donald Brown. I don’t think he’ll be more than a fringe flex option in PPR leagues.
- NO Mark Ingram 750-5 8-45-0
Mark Ingram will be the goal line work horse and will probably lead the team in carries, but he won’t get much more than a 60/40 split over Pierre Thomas. Since he can’t catch the ball, I don’t think he offers much promise in any league unless Thomas gets hurt.
- TEN Shonn Greene 665-5 18-130-0
Greene will find a way to stick around in Tennessee and put up some ok numbers and will get the majority of the goal line touches. He won’t be more than a bench rider unless Sankey gets hurt or struggles to make the jump to the pros.
Tier 6 – noteworthy backups
- BAL Bernard Pierce 750-3 24-160-0
Pierce will continue to get his share of carries, but he proved last year that he couldn’t steal more of the workload away from Rice. I don’t see the upside. Update: Rice is suspended for the first 2 games of the year which could give Pierce a chance to steal more of the share of the workload. I still don’t have a lot of faith in Pierce’s ability to do that (he couldn’t do it last year when he had the chance), but he’s certainly worth taking a chance on.
- CIN Jeremy Hill 660-4 15-100-0
Hill is taking over the Green-Ellis role, but also has the ability to catch the ball once in a while. The fact that Green-Ellis is still in the mix limits his upside a little bit.
- ARI Stepfan Taylor 525-5 24-195-0
Taylor will be the primary goal line back and if Ellington proves to not be durable enough, Taylor could step into a great spot as a feature back.
- SF Carlos Hyde 500-4 18-140-1
If anything should happen to Gore, expect Carlos Hyde to get a lot of work and be a potential steal. If Gore stays healthy, I have a hard time seeing Hyde cut deep enough into his workload to make him startable. Update: with reports that Gore will receive a reduced workload of ~220 carries this year, it looks like SF wants to distribute the workload a bit more. This could be good news for Hyde because it might mean he has more of an opportunity to impress the coaching staff, but it also means less chance for Gore to break down or get hurt.
- HOU Jonathan Grimes 475-4 20-140-0
With Andre Brown being cut, Grimes takes over as the backup to Arian Foster. This is a backup that you would likely want to own. Foster is a risk to decline or get injured and which means Grimes has the upside of being a feature back at some point during the season.
- KC Knile Davis 300-4 15-110-0
KC may have drafted De’Anthony Thomas, but I don’t think that has much effect on Davis. Davis is the clear 2nd option behind Charles, and given the potential for running and catching in this offense, Davis is a must own handcuff.
- CAR Mike Tolbert 315-6 27-225-1
Tolbert will be the primary goal line back and will catch some balls, but he is what he is and nothing more.
- PHI Darren Sproles 245-1 50-450-2
Sproles is 31 and saw a decline last year. He’ll still see 3rd down work, but Shady is the man in Phili and Sproles will be relinquished to a complementary role.
- TB Charles Sims 210-0 30-250-2
Sims will get some work behind Doug Martin and will be a great 3rd down option as he showed tremendous pass catching hands in college. I love the upside here if Doug Martin gets hurt again.
- CAR Jonathan Stewart 525-1 20-175-1
I’ve said it before, I don’t like the Carolina backfield. I’ll pass on all of them because the fact that there are 3 guys along with a QB who rushes for 500+ yards and 5+ TD means the options are limited. There would have to be a plague of injuries for one of their backs to be starter worthy.
- MIA Lamar Miller 550-2 16-120-0
Miller disappointed last year with his inability to find the end zone and get consistent touches over Daniel Thomas. Miller should be the second option to Knowshon Moreno because he’s more of a change of pace back than Thomas. In my book, Miller is the handcuff to own, but neither Miller nor Thomas offers much upside given what we saw last year.
- IND Vick Ballard 500-2 16-100-0
Another crowded backfield. Ballard is a pretty mediocre back so I don’t see much upside here. He’ll get his share of touches but not enough to make him startable anywhere.
- ATL Jacquizz Rodgers 225-1 45-330-1
The drafting of Devonta Freeman means Rodgers will probably see even less work than he did last year. That doesn’t bode well for fantasy success.
- SD Donald Brown 350-3 18-135-0
Donald Brown moves from one crowded backfield into the 3rd option role in San Diego. If Mathews can’t stay durable then Brown might have a role, otherwise he has no fantasy value.
- JAC Jordan Todman 315-2 20-155-1
Todman looks like the clear 2nd option behind Toby Gerhart. Could Jacksonville have any more pedestrian of a backfield?
- CIN BenJarvus Green-Ellis 425-4 5-25-0
I know that Cincinnati drafted Jeremy Hill to be the complement to Gio Bernard, but I don’t see how Green-Ellis gets fully removed from the mix. There’s obviously no upside barring an injury to one of the guys above him.
- NYG Andre Williams 450-2 10-75-0
The Boston College star put up ridiculous numbers last year setting all kinds of school records. Rashad Jennings is no sure bet to produce, so Williams might have a shot to get some touches.
- OAK Marcel Reece 190-0 31-320-2
Reece continues to be the best pass catcher out of the Oakland backfield, but at this point he’s nothing more than a guy to grab once McFadden gets hurt and now with Jones-Drew in Oakland he might need 2 guys to get hurt to be fantasy relevant.
- PIT LeGarrette Blount 360-4 1-10-0
Blount won’t be the beast we saw late down the stretch last year for the Patriots. He’ll be firmly cemented as the 2nd option behind Le’Veon Bell, but will still get his share of goal line touches.
- NYJ Chris Ivory 450-2 2-15-0
Ivory has injury problems and Chris Johnson does not, so the odds that he becomes fantasy relevant are low.
- ATL Devonta Freeman 340-1 20-160-0
The rookie might need to produce to make the Atlanta backfield relevant. Keep your eye on him in case Stephen Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers struggle.
- WAS Roy Helu 225-2 25-200-0
Helu has the ability to be a starter if anything happens to Morris. He has the best hands coming out of the backfield, so should be their 3rd down option as well.
- CLE Terrance West 290-1 25-190-0
Ben Tate has had health issues in the past, so rookie Terrance West has a chance to play a role.
- GB James Starks 290-2 8-60-0
Starks had a big game last year after Eddie Lacy got hurt, so he’s an important handcuff to own.
- STL Tre Mason 290-1 12-100-0
Mason was grabbed in the 3rd round which is still pretty early for RBs these days which implies that the Rams expect him to play some role with the team. Stacy is still the guy, but Mason has some upside.