Fantasy Football Keeper Watch: Running Backs to Consider for 2013 and Beyond

2013 is coming fast. In redraft leagues, it’s never too soon to begin preparing your upcoming big board. And if you play in a keeper league, the time may be now to start positioning yourself for some strong up-and-comers. Let’s go over some potential RB targets for your long-term plans.

The New York Giants still list David Wilson under Ahmad Bradshaw on their depth chart, but the starter has only played all 16 games in one of his first six seasons. Bradshaw has also only surpassed 200 rushes just once before the 2012 season. His history doesn’t justify another year of first-string play. Expect Bradshaw to be drafted as a red-flag starter in 2013, leaving Wilson as a nice mid to late round steal who will grow into a top 20 overall player for 2014. Oh, and he’ll be turning 22 during camp.

Bilal Powell may be in line to steal starting duties with the Jets in 2013. Shonn Greene has done little to inspire confidence in four seasons. This year, he’s averaging a career low 3.9 yards per carry, and there’s likely plenty of change coming soon to a Gang Green near you. Powell is the team’s number two rusher, and also works on passing downs.

Mark Ingram can’t stay invisible forever, can he? With or without Sean Payton, the Saints will probably regain their high-octane form after a disappointing 2012. If Ingram becomes who we thought he was, his upside is tremendous. Imagine what Drew Brees could do with a real feature-back behind him.

Michael Turner’s tree-trunk legs have had their doubters for a couple years now. His 10 touchdowns may mislead some less diligent fantasy owners to believe he hasn’t lost a step. But he’s averaging a career worst 3.7 yards per carry, and will finish the year under 1,000 yards. Keep your eye on Jacquizz Rodgers and anyone wearing a new Falcons baseball cap at Radio City Music Hall this April. If you’re still a Turner owner, move him for something—anything—while you still can.

The Rams recently restructured Steven Jackson’s contract to allow the player to become an unrestricted free agent after 2012. The team is armed with draft picks from the RGIII deal, and Jeff Fisher wants to surround Sam Bradford with young weapons for the future. Rookie Daryl Richardson has been getting plenty of work in St. Louis, with more than a full yard per carry over the 9-year vet. At the trade deadline, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that multiple teams had made trade offers for Jackson. It’s unknown who will come calling for his services, but some destinations that might make sense are the Packers, Lions, Jets, Broncos, and division-rival Cardinals. Fisher believes in the workhorse back, and Richardson could have top keeper potential.

Peyton Manning’s biological clock is ticking loud and clear, and Denver knows it. It’s hard to envision Willis McGahee entering camp as the outright number one option at RB, in his 11th NFL season. Maybe Ronnie Hillman or Knowshon Moreno will prove themselves. Denver may not have the patience, though, in which case they may consider a proven back, like Steven Jackson, Fred Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, or Chris Johnson.

It’s worth speculating what DeAngelo Williams and Fred Jackson will be wearing in 2013. Carolina fired GM Marty Hurney in October, and a new hire may be eager to re-evaluate one of the league’s most expensive backfields. Williams is under contract through 2015, and sidekick Jonathan Stewart signed a six-year, $37.8 million deal this past July. For the Bills, F-Jax just began a three-year deal at the bargain price of $10.8 million. He turns 32 in February. Much to the frustration of C.J. Spiller owners, a Jackson move wouldn’t make a lot of sense for anyone.

A new Eagles coach is probably on the way, who immediately will have several questions to answer, from QB to a now crowded backfield. LeSean McCoy has five years left of a $45.6 million contract, while the 21-year-old rookie Bryce Brown is on a four-year rookie deal worth just $2.2 million. Given Brown’s ball security issues (three lost fumbles in his first two starts), it’s hard to imagine McCoy being shopped. Philly would be wise to lean heavily on McCoy as a feature back, with Brown being sent back to the proving grounds.

Trent Richardson is arguably the most valuable keeper in fantasy leagues for the next five seasons. He’ll continue to see over 20 touches per game in an offense that will be completely custom built around him for years to come. Get T-Rich now if you can do it. If his owner already realizes his true value, wait for the next “buy low” situation to come around. The next time his value dips, it probably won’t be for long.

Contract data courtesy of rotoworld.com.

Stats and player data courtesy of espn.com

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