Week 1 Rankings (2014): Top 40 Running Backs

by Ray Kuhn

Information, there is a ton of it out there and to some extent it is valuable.  However, what happens in the preseason is that speculation runs rampant and there is the risk of over thinking things. The problem is that its hard, in some cases, to draw accurate conclusions from what happens in training camp and in preseason. Until the games actually start, some educated guesses must be made until we have an accurate 2014 body of work to base decisions off of. For me, this week is more of a fact finding mission than anything else.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the running backs rank for Week 1:

  1. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. Jacksonville
  2. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears – vs. Buffalo
  3. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Tennessee
  4. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings – at St. Louis
  5. Montee Ball – Denver Broncos – vs. Indianapolis
  6. DeMarco Murray – Dallas Cowboys – vs. San Francisco
  7. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks – vs. Green Bay
  8. Eddie Lacy – Green Bay Packers – at Seattle
  9. Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Carolina
  10. Arian Foster – Houston Texans – vs. Washington
  11. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers – at Dallas
  12. Andre Ellington – Arizona Cardinals – vs. San Diego
  13. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – vs. Cleveland
  14. Giovanni Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals – at Baltimore
  15. Ben Tate – Cleveland Browns – at Pittsburgh
  16. Shane Vereen – New England Patriots – at Miami
  17. Rashad Jennings – New York Giants – at Detroit
  18. Zac Stacy – St. Louis Rams – vs. Minnesota
  19. Reggie Bush – Detroit Lions – vs. New York Giants
  20. Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins – at Houston
  21. Toby Gerhart – Jacksonville Jaguars – at Philadelphia
  22. Ryan Matthews – San Diego Chargers – at Arizona
  23. Steven Jackson – Atlanta Falcons – vs. New Orleans
  24. CJ Spiller – Buffalo Bills – at Chicago
  25. Bernard Pierce – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Cincinnati
  26. Pierre Thomas  – New Orleans Saints – at Atlanta
  27. Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills – at Chicago
  28. Joique Bell – Detroit Lions – vs. New York Giants
  29. Knowshon Moreno – Miami Dolphins – vs. New England
  30. Chris Johnson – New York Jets – vs. Oakland
  31. Trent Richardson – Indianapolis Colts – at Denver
  32. Darren Sproles – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. Jacksonville
  33. Shonn Greene – Tennessee Titans – at Kansas City
  34. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at Atlanta
  35. Danny Woodhead – San Diego Chargers – at Arizona
  36. Maurice Jones-Drew – Oakland Raiders – at New York Jets
  37. Dexter McCluster – Tennessee Titans – at Kansas City
  38. Stevan Ridley – New England Patriots – at Miami
  39. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders – at New York Jets
  40. Lamar Miller – Miami Dolphins – vs. New England

Thoughts:

  •  There was time this summer where it looked like Stevan Ridley’s roster spot with New England was in jeopardy. Ultimately it just wound up being speculation and Ridley figures to play a role in the Patriots’ rushing attack this Sunday. How much that is exactly remains to be seen, but I would expect him to get the first crack at least being the first and second down back. We know that he has a nose for the end zone  and has shown an ability to run between the tackles, but you have to be concerned with his fumbling. That proved to be a big problem last season and is the major concern when it comes to his workload and therefore his productivity. Until we get a clear idea of how the Patriots will be dividing the touches in their backfield, Ridley is probably someone I would try to avoid if there were other, more secure options. What we do know is that Shane Vereen will play a very big role on passing downs and as a receiving threat making him a very valuable PPR option. Vereen will likely be the one every week starter we can count on unless Ridley suddenly is able to hold on to the ball without issues. James White and Branden Bolden are other options to keep an eye on, but they should not on your Week 1 radars unless it is an incredibly deep league.
  • As he enters year two of his career, Giovanni Bernard flew off draft boards in the first few rounds as a RB1. As it is the case with the majority of running backs, he does not have the backfield all to himself. BenJarvis Green-Ellis is gone, but he has been replaced by second round draft choice Jeremy Hill who figures to play a role in Cincinnati’s offense The division of touches remains to be seen, but there were some reports this summer of close to a 50/50 split between the two backs. Bernard is more valuable not only in a PPR league for his pass catching ability, but even in standard leagues.  The gap might grow closer between the two this season, but it is still unclear whether Hill will hold any more value than that of a bye-week or injury replacement. While Hill is the bigger back, I could see Bernard getting some goal line carries as well – he did in the preseason. Hill is someone who should be on your radar this season, but not a running back who should be starting except for in deeper leagues. At worst, I think Bernard becomes a high end RB2, but this is a backfield worth watching in Week 1.
  • For now Steven Jackson does appear to be healthy, but you have to figure he has at least a small amount of rust to shake off this week. I would also assume that Atlanta will work to make sure he stays healthy all season, but just how they do that remains unclear with Devonta Freeman and Jacquizz Rodgers also in the mix. Of the three, Jackson is the only one who I would use this week, but it would not surprise me to see him being used on a limited basis. Regardless of who the running back is, with the return of Julio Jones, the focus for the Falcons will be on the passing game.
  • If you feel like you have heard this story already, you are correct. It seems like in each of the past few seasons we have been waiting for Frank Gore’s demise, and each season he has managed to hold his value. This season is no different as San Francisco drafted Carlos Hyde in the second round. Hyde is getting plenty of attention, and while he certainly should be owned and could be a factor this week, Gore is still the main back for the 49ers. There could be some value here from people already counting Gore out, and while he is not as exciting as Hyde or some of the other rookies, he certainly is more dependable and worth a start as an RB2 this week. The fact that Gore faces the Cowboys and their weak defense certainly is a plus as well.
  • After performing like an RB1 last season with Denver, there really was not much of a market for Knowshon Moreno. Moreno signed with the Dolphins and while his role is still up for debate this season, one thing we do know is that he will not replicate 2013. Lamar Miller is still there and depending on the day and the source, each one of the two backs will be taking a leading role. In reality, Miami will likely start going with the hot hand, but as a runner I think Miller has slight the edge. This is a situation I would try to avoid in week one as the game itself could dictate who as more value if the Dolphins are trailing. The best case scenario is to see one of the two backs get 20 carries this week to perhaps clear up the situation.
  • Another backfield that is muddled is New Orleans’. In fact the situation should have gotten clearer with the departure of Darren Sproles and his pass catching skills, but that has not been the case. Even with Sproles there last year, Pierre Thomas was still a top pass catching running back. The expectation now is that Thomas’ role could even expand a little more, but I think the biggest beneficiaries might be Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. Ingram could be the back with the most to gain here as he becomes more of the main runner with a few more receptions while Thomas’ role remains relatively consistent with last season. Robinson then would be the change of pace back picking up the scraps, along with Brandin Cooks. How Sean Payton uses his three running backs this week is a situation I will be watching.

Make sure to check out all of our Week 1 rankings:

 

Week 1 Rankings (2014): Top 15 Defenses
Week 1 Rankings (2014): Top 50 Wide Receivers

28 comments

  1. WestBury says:

    What’s up professor? Love the site, been using it for years.

    Flex postion. Standard 10 team league. NO is my d. Am I starting decker, roddy, vereen, or k wright? I’m leaning towards decker with a favorable matchup.

    Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.

    • First off, thanks for the support!

      If you don’t want to root against your defense, Decker and White are close. That said, while I’m not the biggest fan of Vereen he is close enough to Decker that I’d lean in that direction (especially if it were a PPR league). Is it PPR?

      • WestBury says:

        No, espn standard scoring. I’d rather not root against my D if there is a comparable sub. I like white this year, but decker is appealing. Thanks again

  2. Ted says:

    Flex question (PPR league, 1 point per reception, .5 point per rush) Colston, T- Rich or Ingram? Thanks love the site.

  3. StanCal says:

    Hey professor, huge fan of your work. Quick question for you: I’m trying to decide both for this week and for moving forward how to settle my backfield and receiver corps. I waited on qb and te like a smart drafter and picked up Romo and Olsen very late, allowing me to totally stockpile at rb and wr. Here is what I’m thinking of rolling out, any thoughts on this week or if I should facilitate a trade with my deep roster to try and upgrade the qb position?

    RB: LACY, GORE, Bernard, Spiller, Hyde
    WR: BRYANT, ALLEN, Floyd, Colston, Cooks, Benjamin, Evans
    FLEX: Either Bernard or Colston

    I have a good amount of depth, as well as a slew of rookies that I gambled on in case any of them emerge as high volume or red zone happy targets of convenience by their respective teams. Should I roll with this depth, or try and haggle my way to get a better signal caller?

  4. Aaron says:

    just a comment I wanted to say thank you Rotoprofessor for all of your hard work. I discovered you a few years back and have purchased your baseball guide the last couple years(won my 16 team league last year$$$ Ty) . this is the first year that I’ve bought your football guide and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Best value for your money, better than any magazine and just as good if not better than some of the pricier big name sites. You have a customer for life.

  5. Ted – First off thanks for the support! Is none of the above an option (ha, sorry!). I’d probably lean Ingram, based on the matchup and how bad Atlanta was against the run last season (but it’s hardly a guarantee he plays a major role in the offense).

    StanCal – First off, I’d definitely use Benard as your FLEX (I’d use him over Gore and Gore as the FLEX this week, but that’s irrelevant as long as both are in the lineup). Long-term it may make sense to make a deal, but I am a big fan of Olsen and there’s nothing wrong with Romo as a starter. I’d sit tight and see how things start before making a move.

    Aaron – Thanks for the support and kind words! It’s very much appreciated!!

    • StanCal says:

      Many thanks, sir! Love how you take the time to respond to your readers so quickly and consistently. Your help is very much appreciated! Keep it up!

  6. CB says:

    Professor,

    Why no love for the Jets RBs this week? Oakland was a bottom 5 team against the run last year and they’ve allowed double digit fantasy points to a RB for 13 consecutive weeks heading into this week. I’m not sure who will find the endzone whether its CJ, Ivory or both but I think at least 1 is a good bet for at least 1 score and a good amount of yards. 30th for the highest Jets RB vs. this kind of defense just seems way too low. Gotta think the Jets will take care of business at home vs. a rookie QB too and will be able to run clock in the 2nd half.

    • I would agree and would’ve placed Johnson a bit higher on the list (prob in the 20ish range). I’m sure the usage unknown factored a bit into Ray’s thinking, but I would expect Johnson to be the lead back and Ivory as the #2. As you said, given the matchup, hard not to like him as a RB2.

  7. Tim says:

    I am being offered C.J. Spiller and Markus Wheaton for Joique Bell in a 10 team PPR league. We can keep 1 veteran and 1 rookie player for next season. Bell is currently my RB2. It’s close but I think I may be slightly higher on Spiller straight up for Bell this season. Not sure I would want Wheaton. My WR are Dez, Cobb, Garcon, K. Wright, K. Benjamin (We start 3 and currently Wright is my flex). If I were to drop a player, it would have to be one of: Dunbar (I own Murray), Sankey, Hyde, Miller, S. Greene, K. Benjamin. Thanks.

  8. Jim says:

    Just the first week and my team is already full of injury issues. I plan on starting Crabtree. I hoping he will be “good to go”. Now Andre Ellington is having issues. If he doesn’t go, I need to decide between Roddy White, Toby Gerhart or Keenan Allen (against Patrick Peterson)for a FLEX position. What do you think?

    Also I love your site and all your great advice.. THANK YOU..

    • Jim, first off thanks for the support! It is much appreciated!

      I was just looking at Ellington and, at this point, he’s unusable with a 10 PM Monday night start time. For me it comes down to Allen or Gerhart. Generally I lean towards the RB, and he is a lock to get the bulk of the carries, but could they fall behind and be forced to get pass happy? Possible, but I’d probably still lean that direction. Allen is a close second, but like you said it’s a tough matchup.

  9. Dave says:

    I have no idea what to do at RB this week, Ellington was my RB1, and my only backup is Kyle Juszcek, I took him in the second to last round, because I think he is going to have a huge season, based on how he was being used this preseason. But that doesn’t mean I am confident to start him right away. Of course, with Rodgers performance last night, I may just have to throw away week 1 at this point.

    • Dave says:

      I guess the question is, who do you drop to pickup a new back / try and trade. My bench is Alex Smith, Dennis Pitta, Kyle Juszcyk, Boykin, and Golden Tate.

    • I’d be willing to drop any of them (outside of mayve Pitta/Tate) to get someone w/value at the RB position honestly. The other three do very little for me, unless it’s a 2 QB league

      • Dave says:

        It is a 2QB league, and no flex.

      • Dave says:

        I should also say, that Juice is my pick to break out big this year, last year it was Lacey and that worked out well. With analyzing the pre-season games, it looks like he will be a big part of the Ravens offense.

        Boykin I worry about dropping, because I think he could have a good year, obviously Smith is a great backup in a 10 person 2 QB league. Pitta I would be willing to trade, but not drop, I have Cameron as my starter. But Tate is definitely ranked higher for me than Boykin, only reason he is riding the bench this week, is I have Reggie Wayne in, because I think Denver v Indy game is going to be way over the over.

        • I understand the thinking on “Juice”, but in a 10-team league I don’t think he’s a must stash.

          I agree with keeping Smith in a 2 QB league, because replacements will be tough to come by.

          Boykin I do agree could be a big contributor, but in 10-team league there should be ample other options and he’s hardly a given.

  10. Tyler says:

    I have Ellington on my bench right now because of his start time and I’m terrified to gamble on him right now. That moved Miller into my RB2 spot and out of my flex. In a PPR + return yard league, which guy should I roll with in my flex spot, and do you think Ellington would be worth the risk to leave him in my lineup on the chance he plays?

    Lamar Miller(if I start Ellington)
    Dwayne Allen
    Greg Jennings
    Dexter McCluster

    • Can’t trust Ellington right now, regardless of the news (though your alternatives leave a bit to be desired). I’d probably gamble on Jennings, but none of those guys scream must start.

  11. Brandon says:

    I am in a down to the last point face off this week in my league. I have a RB and WR slot open on monday, and need some advice on who to start.
    Rashad Jenning or. Joique Bell
    Michael Floyd or Victor Cruz
    Thank you,

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