2013 Running Back Draft Strategy –
As the 2013 draft season approaches the need for pre draft preparation becomes an ever pressing issue. For you seasoned veterans of fantasy football you know the age old rule of taking a running back in the first round applies this season more than ever. For those who are a bit newer to the game, recent years have offered up draft strategies that would encourage one to take a quarterback in the first round (Michael Vick in 2011, Aaron Rodgers in 2012) or perhaps even a wide receiver in the first round (Calvin Johnson in 2012) This year we get back to the old school of thought; get your number 1 running back before it's too late!
If you are making your first round selection with one of the first ten picks, running back is pretty much the only way to go in 2013. If you don’t believe me I suggest you try otherwise. espn.com is running mock drafts round the clock so you can test the waters for yourself if you like (and I recommend you do) The only two non-running backs that can even be considered in the first round of standard 10-12 team drafts would be Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson. Since mock drafts do not count for anything, go ahead and select one of those guys with your first round selection so you can see how your team turns out. You may not hate your team but I bet you will not love it either. The bottom line here is that running back gets really ugly fast this year and you don’t want to be stuck digging for a diamond in the rough (more on that next week)
So what should your 2013 running back draft strategy be? I think given his track record and superhuman-like abilities Adrian Peterson is the undisputed number one overall selection in 2013 in all standard fantasy leagues. Dispute that fact if you like, I welcome all arguments. If you own the first pick in your draft this season and you do not take Adrian Peterson you are simply making a mistake. With the injury year aside, Adrian Peterson has never posted less than 1,200 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in a single season. These numbers date back to 2007 and include last season’s spectacular comeback campaign in which Peterson fell just shy Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing yards record. The man is an absolute freak of nature and it will be a long time before I bet against him again. Ok, so Adrian Peterson is the clear cut number 1 running back in fantasy football this season but who is number 2? Years past have given that title to a plethora of players many of which certainly should be considered for that #2 draft position once again in 2013. But how are we to know exactly who should be selected with the number 2 overall draft pick? Let’s take a look at the logical candidates:
These players are ranked in order of their current average draft position in standard espn.com leagues.
Arian Foster –
Arian Foster has been fantasy football gold since his breakout season in 2010. In that time span he has averaged over 13 touchdowns a year while averaging over 1,400 yards per season – lofty numbers for any player in a single season let alone 3 seasons in a row! So why isn’t he number 1? He has had some nagging injuries of late most recently a calf injury that’s has had him on the preseason PUP list (physically unable to perform) Arian should be recovered just in time for a preseason tune up but if you are targeting him, keep a close eye on his status as draft day approaches. Some will point to Arian’s declining yard per carry average which has dropped three years in a row. I personally feel that his consistent clip of touchdowns will once again balance that out. Foster was the top running back in preseason drafts last year, that all changed when Adrian Peterson came back stronger than ever. Adrian Peterson’s existence is really the only thing stopping Foster from being the consensus #1 in 2013. Arian Foster has been as good as anyone for the past 3 seasons, if he is healthy for the start of the 2013 season he will likely be drafted #2 overall in almost all fantasy formats. Given the workload he has received over the last 3 seasons (1,115 total touches in 3 years) I would certainly advise handcuffing him with Ben Tate if you can spare the roster spot.
Marshawn Lynch –
Pop quiz! Who gets pulled over for suspicion of DUI at 3:20am in a massive conversion van and rushes for over 1,500 yards with 12 touchdowns in a single season? You guessed it, Marshawn Lynch! Not only do you want to party with the NFL super star known as “beast mode” but you also want him on your fantasy team in 2013. While 2012 was exciting for Lynch both on and off the field it would appear Mr. Lynch’s attorney has successfully delayed his trial for several months which to the delight of fantasy football owners everywhere should get us through the 2013 season unscathed. With back to back seasons as the feature back under his belt Marshawn Lynch has cemented his place amongst fantasy football’s elite running backs. Barring injury, I don’t see any reason Lynch can’t repeat his recent success having averaged almost 1,400 yards with 11 touchdowns per season dating back to 2011. Draft with confidence.
Ray Rice –
People seem down on Ray Rice this season from a fantasy perspective and I don’t quite get it. Even before Vontae Leach was re-signed Rice should have still been in consideration for the second overall pick. Ray Rice is a beast on the ground averaging over 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns over the past 4 seasons. On top of that, Rice caught 61 passes for 478 yards with one touchdown last season and has had no less than 82 targets since 2009. Being the focal point of the Ravens offense gives Rice a leg up over other candidates providing added fantasy value in the passing game. If you are in a PPR (point per reception) fantasy football league Rice should be moved up a spot or two in your rankings. With fullback Vontae Leach back on the roster Ray Rice should rumble for another fantastic fantasy football season, he is a surefire top 5 pick in 2013.
Doug Martin –
I usually wait until a running back has at least two years under his belt before anointing him as the next sure thing. Far too often a young running back will make a big splash and people are ready to give him the rushing title right away (remember Steve Slaton and Kevin Jones?) Doug Martin had one of the most impressive debut fantasy campaigns by a running back in recent memory. How impressive you ask? Adrian Peterson rumbled for a whopping 1,341 rushing yards, 268 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns in his 2007 rookie season. Doug Martin finished his 2012 rookie campaign with 1,454 rushing yards, 472 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns. Aside from that one touchdown Doug Martin clearly had a better rookie season on paper. A major value add for Martin is his usage in the passing game. With 49 receptions on 71 targets (Which ranked 9th and 4th respectively among running backs) Doug Martin certainly has a leg up on running backs that do not receive consistent targets. I am not saying you should take Doug Martin #1 over Adrian Peterson. While I personally won’t be taking him second overall in any leagues I can certainly understand if you would like to; my gut says you shouldn’t but the numbers make a strong argument.
The final player who should be considered for the number 2 overall selection is Jamaal Charles. For those of us new to the game. Charles was a consensus top 5 selection two years ago before going down for the season with a knee injury. Last season Charles saw his draft stock drop into the 2nd round of fantasy drafts which for the savvy fantasy football owner, turned out to be great value. Charles turned in an excellent bounce back campaign posting 1,454 rushing yards with 5 touchdowns. The touchdowns are a little low but the rushing yards were actually better than two guys above him on this list; Arian Foster and Doug Martin. For a player with Charles’ skill set I think some value is missed when he only receives 49 targets on the season but I expect that number to rise with Andy Reid in town. Andy Reid fell off a little bit in recent years. Missing the playoffs 2 years in a row will get you’re your wings clipped in Philadelphia. Now that Andy Reid is in Kansas City expect him to get back to his winning ways and lean on those who can get him to the promised land. How does this affect Jamaal Charles? Andy Reid is a super bowl caliber head coach whose most successful years in Philly were 2004 and 2008. His starting running back in 04’ and 08’ was former fantasy stud running back Brian Westbrook. In 2004 Brian Westbrook carried the ball 177 times for 812 yards and 3 touchdowns – not overly impressive by itself. However, In addition to the rushing yards Westbrook also caught 73 passes for 703 yards and 6 more touchdowns. To put it in perspective Darren Sproles caught a league high 75 passes last season for 667 yards and 7 touchdowns. Sproles however only carried the ball 48 times to tune of 244 yards and 1 touchdown. That was still good enough for 15th best running back in the league (ESPN standard scoring) This of course equates to a #2 fantasy running back on just about any owner's team. The Eagles went to the super bowl in 2004 on Brian Westbrook's back. Andy Reid’s next best season was in 2008 when his Eagles lost to the Cardinals in the NFC championship, just one game short of the super bowl. During the 2008 season Brian Westbrook ran for 936 yards on 233 carries with 9 touchdowns. He added 54 receptions on 75 targets for 402 and 5 touchdowns. Both seasons are pretty impressive campaigns from a fantasy perspective. When people are successful initially and then lose that success, it is a common strategy to get back to their roots that brought them such great results in years past. In the case of Andy Reid, that means leaning on his stud running back to carry him back into the playoffs. The major knock on Jamaal Charles would be a lack of touchdowns (6 total touchdowns in 2012) if Charles is used as much as Westbrook was in 04 and 08’ that concern will be a thing of the past. In fact if Jamaal Charles is used as much as Westbrook was in Andy Reid's glory years he should surpass Westbrook's numbers by a great deal. The difference in athleticism and speed could easily make for one of the greatest fantasy scoring seasons of all time (Jamaal Charles ran the 40 yard dash in 4.36 seconds compared with Westbrook's 40 time of 4.57 seconds) Our experts have Jamaal Charles as the number 2 running back in our 2013 fantasy football rankings trailing only Adrian Peterson. I expect Jamaal Charles to go nuts this season, if I am picking second in my fantasy football draft I’m taking Jamaal Charles with confidence.
So which running back should you take with the second overall draft pick? I don’t think there is a definitive answer to that question. Think back to 2009 when everyone was so sure the top two selections had to be Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner. Needless to say Michael Turner did not finish as the #2 fantasy running back that season. This season I think it will really come down to personal preference and gut feeling more than ever. Good luck with your 2013 fantasy draft! Be sure to write in for free fantasy football draft advice 7 days a week!