Skip to main content

PPR Running Back Tiers from FootballGuys

Jul 28, 2014

FootballGuysSigmund Bloom shares the strategy behind his RB tiers in PPR leagues.

 

Note: This article is part of our series that highlights quality content from premium subscription sites. FootballGuys has been gracious enough to share a weekly article with our users for free. For additional FootballGuys insight, please visit FootballGuys.com


The click click click of anticipation on the roller coaster continues as the top of the first hill gets closer. The first few twists and dips from training camp/preseason injuries and changing situations are putting the wind in our hair and before you know, you’ll be screaming and maybe even puking just like old times.

 

While we wait for the tidal wave of new data to wash over us as training camps open, we can take one last snapshot of what we think we know after staring at this picture for too long this offseason. Let’s start with the RBs:
 
FantasyPros Draft Wizard

ELITE RB1

Jamaal Charles, KC

LeSean McCoy, PHI

Adrian Peterson, MIN

Matt Forte, CHI

 

You’re going to find little variation on the top four of fantasy RB boards, and for good reason. There are cases to be made for each of these backs being the best bet to finish #1, and you can also nitpick and put any of them four. The bottom line is that they offer a higher ceiling AND a higher floor than any other running backs on the board. Getting one of them with a top four pick (or top 5-6 if you’re lucky) brings the rest of your draft into focus and gives you the hoss than can power your team through the playoff weeks.

 

I have Charles first because he is used so heavily in the passing game and a big play threat. He has offensive line turnover and a one-dimensional offense working against him. McCoy could take a step up with the whole Eagles offense in year two of the Kelly era, but he could also cede a few more touches to Darren Sproles this year and the passing game is deeper this year. Peterson is third because, well, it feels weird to put him any lower than third. He did wear down last year, but gains Norv and hopefully better QB play this year. Forte is only fourth because he isn’t quite as dazzling as his best moment as the other three. Honestly, I don’t have a better answer than that. I’m not going to go to the mat to defend any particular order of these four.

 

SOLID RB1

DeMarco Murray, DAL

Eddie Lacy, GB

Marshawn Lynch, SEA (*-Holdout Risk)

Arian Foster, HOU (*-Injury Risk)

Montee Ball, DEN

LeVeon Bell, PIT

 

You have to be willing to accept some warts in the top 20 if you take a running back outside of the top four, but that has been the case at running back since forever. The wide receivers and tight ends in this part of your draft are much more “sure things” than this group is.

 

Murray was basically at elite production level in the fantasy playoffs last year, I look at him as Elite lite with a longer injury history. He might be in a mini-tier with Lacy above the rest of this group. Lacy doesn’t really have big play upside and did fall in the draft because of long-term durability concerns, but he’s a clear lead back on the ascent and could be closer to the elite group than the rest of these names by the end of the season.

 

Lynch and Foster are on the “monitor” list. Both are proven and they will be focal points of their offenses, but Foster might be breaking down, and Lynch isn’t in camp. You only get a couple of swings at the piñata, and if these guys come with lingering issues that are still unsettled by your draft day, you might prefer to let someone else take the risk. For now, I would still take them in the second.

 

Ball has the heavenly situation, but he is unproven over the course of a full NFL season, and it feels weird to trust situation completely when a middling talent is involved in the first round. Bell is the least explosive in terms of big week capabilities, but he is solid and the last everydown true feature back on the board.

 

I’m ok with coming away from your first two picks with two of this group right now, or one and an elite TE. Wide receiver is safer near the 1-2 turn, but the position is so deep that it is hard to spend early picks on it.

 

BOOM/BUST RB1/RB2

C.J. Spiller, BUF

Giovani Bernard, CIN

Andre Ellington, ARI

 

This group has elite RB1 upside, but as backs who will a wider range of weekly volume than typical everydown backs, they have more weekly volatility. Still, they are talented enough to make that flaw fade away quickly if they are on and click with their line and playbook. Jamaal Charles would have been in this tier last year on a lot of boards.

 

I have Spiller first because he has put together an elite season and he’s on a very run heavy team. Bernard could be right there with him, but his talent is a bit overrated. Ellington could lap this group based on what we saw from him last year. I might move him ahead of Bernard eventually.

 

HIGH FLOOR/LOW CEILING RB1/RB2

Alfred Morris, WAS

Doug Martin, TB

Zac Stacy, STL

Ryan Mathews, SD

 

This group is residing in the 3rd/4th and presenting solid value for your RB2 slot. All should get decent volume, giving them a high weekly floor, but they aren’t involved in every aspect of the offense and have receiving backs and other threats nipping at their heels.

 

Morris is a damned good back and it just feels weird to put him any lower with Washington’s offense on the verge of a revitalization. Martin was an elite RB in drafts last year, but the moves the Bucs have made indication that he won’t have nearly the same opportunity in 2014 as he had in 2012 and 2013. Stacy was a boom/bust weekly back last year and he might not be able to afford ceding many carries to third-round pick Tre Mason and maintain everyweek fantasy starter value. Mathews’ upside is capped by Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown’s presence, but he also has a lower floor as a back with a long history of nicks and bruises interrupting his season.

 

I am targeting Spiller/Ellington in the third, but I am happy to have Morris as a backup. Martin and Stacy going earlier are two of the reasons you can get Spiller and Ellington in the third in most drafts. Mathews is going in the fourth, but he’s not quite as attractive his fourth round WR peers.

 

MID-ROUND MINEFIELD

Reggie Bush, DET

Shane Vereen, NE

Trent Richardson, IND

Toby Gerhart, JAX

Chris Johnson, NYJ

Joique Bell, DET

Rashad Jennings, NYG

Bishop Sankey, TEN

Ray Rice, BAL

Stevan Ridley, NE

Ben Tate, CLE

Lamar Miller, MIA

 

The length of this list should tell you how this group confounds me so when it comes time to draft. Each of them have either the talent, situation, or both to make fantasy hay, but there are big questions about everyone here. If you think the RB5-RB10 group looks risky compared to the wide receivers on the board when they are drafted, you’ll hate passing on 4th-6th round wide receivers for these guys.

 

Rather than rattle off the appeal and flaws of this tier, I’ll just say that Trent Richardson and Chris Johnson are guys I’ve brought myself to take in the 6th when some key wide receiver targets in that round are all gone. Rice and Tate, I have taken in the seventh. There is a point that these sometimes nauseating cocktails of risk and reward go down a little easier in the draft, especially if you’ve gone upside down, or modified upside-down with a top four RB leading off and no other RB picks until the sixth round.

 

LOW RB2/STRONG FLEX VETERANS

Frank Gore, SF

Steven Jackson, ATL

Pierre Thomas, NO

Fred Jackson, BUF

Darren Sproles, PHI

 

This group doesn’t offer the season-long ceiling of minefield, but their track records of production add some reassurance, and they come at a discount because of age or relative lack of excitement in drafting them.

 

Steven Jackson should benefit from a good scoring offense and could be the biggest hit of this group. I’m becoming more fascinated by Sproles’ fit in Philly the more I ponder it. Thomas and Jackson continue to outperform expectations and will probably make profits for the owners that look past the wow factor. Danny Woodhead is close to being a member of this group, and if the Chargers are indeed going with more uptempo looks on offense, he will be.

 

UPSIDE BENCH PLAYS

Bernard Pierce, BAL

Jeremy Hill, CIN

Khiry Robinson, NO

Christine Michael, SEA

Terrance West, CLE

Devonta Freeman, ATL

Carlos Hyde, SF

 

The appeal of the young running back on the upslope of his career comes into play here. None of this group is particularly compelling to me because they are coming off of the board when I am getting my QB or wide receivers that have just as much upside but easier paths to value. West is probably the hottest name right now, but Hyde’s ADP is sure to rise, too. Pierce has lost some luster with Ray Rice’s suspension only being two games, but it is still a foot in the door.

 

FLEX APPEAL/BYE/INJURY/EMERGENCY

Danny Woodhead, SD

DeAngelo Williams, CAR

Knowshon Moreno, MIA

Darren McFadden, OAK

Maurice Jones-Drew, OAK

Dexter McCluster, TEN

Lance Dunbar, DAL

Chris Ivory, NYJ

Jonathan Stewart, CAR

Mark Ingram, NO

 

This group with the exception of maybe Dunbar has almost no chance of being more than an everyweek flex play. Most of them have limited, prescribed role that don’t change much even when injuries deplete their backfield. Dunbar is intriguing because he offers weekly upside as a potentially heavily targeted receiver, but he also has Demarco Murray injury upside. Dexter McCluster could have a similar value leap to Danny Woodhead’s last year, when Woodhead played for McCluster’s new head coach, (then Chargers offensive coordinator) Ken Whisenhunt.

 

UPSIDE LONG-TERM STASH

David Wilson, NYG

Tre Mason, STL

Bryce Brown, BUF

Theo Riddick, DET

 

These guys are talented and/or dwell in excellent situations if the chips fall so that they get on the field a lot this year. Brown and Riddick are on my late-round target list, Wilson and Mason are usually gone before then.

 

HANDCUFFS

Chris Polk, PHI

James Starks, GB

C.J. Anderson, DEN

Donald Brown, SD

Knile Davis, KC

KaDeem Carey, CHI

Andre Brown, HOU

LeGarrette Blount, PIT

Ahmad Bradshaw, IND

 

This group needs starter injuries to break into anything but fringe flex value, but if they do see the #1 back go down, they would be instant RB2s since all are clearly the second best back on their rosters (traditional tailback in Polk and Brown’s cases)

 

DEEP LEAGUE LATE PICKS

Latavius Murray, OAK

Chris Thompson, WAS

Charles Sims, TB

Roy Helu, WAS

Robert Turbin, SEA

James White, NE

Stepfan Taylor, ARI

Jonathan Dwyer, ARI

Shonn Greene, TEN

Benny Cunningham, STL

Andre Williams, NYG

Marcel Reece, OAK

Mike Tolbert, CAR

Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL

 

There’s some intrigue here based on talent or perhaps being an injury away from value, but these guys probably need more than one break to be relevant in fantasy leagues this year – not that it doesn’t happen every year…
 
To view more great content like this, visit FootballGuys and follow them on Twitter: @Football_Guys

Featured, FootballGuys