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Fantasy Football: 2013 PPR Running Back Tiers and Projections

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin

Dec 30, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) stiff arms Atlanta Falcons strong safety Chris Hope (24) during the second half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 22-17. Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Since running backs are the most important position in fantasy football, they’ll be leading off my 2013 point per reception (PPR) projections and tiered rankings that will help you prepare for your leagues draft. Tiered rankings are the most effective tool in ranking players in preparation for your leagues draft.

Read more about Sports Jerks Network fantasy football rankings…

QB Tiers/Projections

PPR Tight End Tiers/Projections

PPR Wide Receiver Tiers/Projections

C.D. Carter’s Standard Scoring Tiers

The running back position hasn’t been the most predictable spot over the past three seasons. Of the 36 players taken as the top 12 running backs (ADP taken from Fantasy Football Calculator) in PPR leagues over the past three years, less than half (17) have finished the season amongst the top 12. Only four (Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles) met that criteria last season.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, at least one back with an ADP of RB42 or lower has finished the season in the top 12 at the position in scoring over the past three seasons.

From Peyton Hillis in 2010 to Michael Bush in 2011 to Alfred Morris last season, some player almost completely off the radar this time of the year scores among the best at the running position.

*Accumulative points are not the basis of these rankings. Week to week consistency combined with uncertainty and risk were applied to the order of the tiers. Too often at this time of the summer, we are guilty of looking forward and back at the upcoming season and prior season’s stats in their entirety.

Tier 1

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

Adrian Peterson

MIN

5

322

1546

12

38

276

1

298.2

Doug Martin

TB

5

296

1391

11

45

387

2

300.8

Jamaal Charles

KC

10

264

1347

7

54

454

2

288.1

C.J. Spiller

BUF

12

253

1366

7

52

448

2

287.4

LeSean McCoy

PHI

12

260

1222

8

55

435

2

280.7

Trent Richardson

CLV

10

291

1298

10

48

394

1

283.2

Ray Rice

BLT

8

245

1103

7

67

582

2

289.5

It may seem like a cop out to put the top seven backs in one tier, but I have hardly any separation between them and there’s a legitimate argument to be made for any of these players as finishing 2013 as the highest scorer.

Peterson averaged 131 rushing yards per game last season even though he only topped the century mark once in his first six contests. He had seven runs of 50-plus over yards last season, after totaling 11 in his first 73 games. Even with inevitable regression pushing his numbers down, his career marks leaves him as no brainer at the top of draft boards.

Martin gets his two Pro Bowl road paving offensive guards (Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph) back for 2013. The defensive upgrades Tampa made during the offseason should keep them from playing behind and running the ball late in games, which could lower his overall receiving totals by a small amount, but not enough to keep Martin from being 1B to Peterson.

In what was sometimes spotty usage, Charles still recorded the most rushing attempts of his career (285) and over 1,700 total yards last season. Under new Head Coach Andy Reid, he should have the best receiving year of his career.  The incorporation of the pistol should also be to his benefit.  Touchdowns are a concern, as he has only rushed for five scores in each of his past two complete seasons, but the Chiefs offense should score more than it has in the years past to create more scoring opportunities on the ground.

Spiller finished 2012 with the eighth most rushing yards (1,244) despite ranking number 22 in carries (207).  To get a gauge on how dynamic he is, Spiller forced 53 missed tackles on those carries. In comparison, Chris Johnson and Reggie Bush forced 55 combined missed tackles rushing the ball on 503 attempts.  He should see the field plenty more under new head coach Doug Marrone and is an exceptional receiver.

It’s easy to forget just how dominant McCoy was in PPR formats (finishing second overall in both ’10 and ’11) over the two seasons prior to 2012. While the 17 rushing scores of 2011 will likely never happen again, the 45 plus catches over the past three seasons are legit. His pass catching ability combined with the anticipated high tempo that Chip Kelly (who loves to run the football) brings to Philly could make McCoy a late first round bargain.

Richardson finished 2012 with solid final numbers while playing through multiple injuries, but provided very little sizzle while doing so. His 3.6 yards per carry were good for 40th in the NFL (tied with fantasy favorite, Michael Turner), and he topped 100 yards on the ground only three times. However, he was one of only eight backs to have more than 50 receptions (51) last season and is now playing for an offensive coordinator (Norv Turner) that has a long history of using his runners in the passing game.

Another player being pushed down as the offseason wears on is Rice. Here’s what we know: the lowest he’s finished a season in PPR is fifth overall in each of the past four seasons. On top of that, he’s had 60 plus receptions in each of those seasons, with two over 70.  What isn’t widely discussed is the extra work he’s accumulated in the postseason. In his short career, Rice has played in 11 postseason games, in the past two seasons, Baltimore has played in six. Over those two playoff runs, Rice has added 139 touches (126 att./13 rec.) on 314 snaps. The fact that Flacco security blanket Anquan Boldin was traded still leaves a big opportunity for Rice in the passing game, but buyers needs to proceed with caution.

Tier 2

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

Matt Forte

CHI

8

251

1130

5

62

539

3

276.9

Arian Foster

HST

8

256

1074

11

36

265

1

241.9

Reggie Bush

DET

9

210

966

4

63

460

3

247.6

Darren Sproles

NO

7

78

384

1

84

714

7

241.8

Marc Trestman has a history of peppering his backs with targets and receptions and Forte has a history of being a great receiving back. All of those receptions will help him overcome his hideous effectiveness near the goal line. Over the past four seasons, Forte has converted only five of his 41 rushing attempts inside of the 5-yard line for touchdowns.

It’s been in fashion to disregard and downplay Foster this offseason, to the point where he almost could become a strong value. By now, you’ve all heard about his inevitable breakdown, but he’s still the number one option for the Texans in the red zone. I am, however, knocking him here for PPR purposes. After two consecutive seasons with over 600 receiving yards, Foster posted only 217 (5.4 yards per catch). With the addition of DeAndre Hopkins outside, Foster will likely stay in 35-40 catch area this season. Now, with his chronic back issue keeping him out for the preseason, it’s concerning to take Foster high with all of the top level running back available this season. He could be a strong buy if he falls further, but comes with too many red flags.

I’ve already expressed my excitement about the prospects of seeing the complete Reggie Bush product in 2013.  With safeties forced to play over the top of Calvin Johnson, and the vertical tight end threats Detroit has, Bush should have plenty of space to operate in the middle of the field. One thing Bush is, is a space eater. He’s been a top end RB2 over the past two seasons, I expect him to crack the low end RB1 mark this season.

Sproles is uber consistent and is ridiculously efficient  near the goal line in the passing game. Sproles scored 15 or more points in eight of the 13 games he played in last season, failing to score ten or more in only four. Over the past two years, he has nine touchdown receptions inside the 10-yard line, second most behind Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham’s 11 each.

Tier 3

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

Marshawn Lynch

SEA

12

293

1319

9

21

176

1

230.5

Alfred Morris

WAS

5

297

1366

10

14

108

0

221.4

Now we’re hitting an area where guys start getting dinged for not catching many passes. This is also the last tier of backs I would feel comfortable with as my starting RB1 in leagues if I were to choose to take an early round wide receiver.

Lynch and Morris are steady enough runners (both finished in the top eight last season) to place higher than some of the catch dependent players above. I expect Lynch’s touchdown total to come back down into the single digits this season as Russell Wilson (18 touchdowns – zero interceptions in the red zone last season) continues to escalate his play.

Tier 4

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

Chris Johnson

TEN

8

275

1210

6

41

296

1

233.6

DeMarco Murray

DAL

11

240

1056

6

48

342

1

229.8

Steven Jackson

ATL

6

251

1029

10

32

240

1

224.9

Frank Gore

SF

9

248

1116

8

21

158

1

202

Lamar Miller

MIA

6

253

1113

6

36

299

1

219.2

David Wilson

NYG

9

225

1080

5

36

281

2

214.1

Darren McFadden

OAK

7

212

975

5

52

370

2

228.5

Ideally, you want any one in this tier to be your RB2 at most.

No running back played a higher percentage of his teams snaps last season than Johnson (81.4). With all of that volume, he still only accumulated high RB2 numbers. He only has 10 touchdowns combined over the past two years and is still reliant on hitting a home run for his scores.  Tennessee invested a lot into their line this offseason and Shonn Greene could make keep CJ fresh. At this point, when you take Johnson, you know what you’re getting. The numbers will look alright when the dust settles, but the weekly variance will drive you crazy.

Murray has averaged 87 yards from scrimmage per game over his two seasons in Dallas. The problem is that he’s missed nine other games. I personally like Murray a lot in PPR leagues; he averaged a sneaky 3.4 receptions per game last season, and doesn’t really have anyone behind him. If he slides into the third, you can pick up a very solid RB2-3.

Steven Jackson has scored seven or fewer rushing touchdowns in each of the past six years. Expect that to change as Michael Turner scored 44 times on the ground from inside the five during his tenure in Atlanta. I do see Jackson posting a low in receptions since his rookie season. He won’t be relied on to catch passes with the Falcons (in a similar fashion of what happened to Frank Gore’s receiving totals) and will be playing an extended role of what Turner provided. I still expect Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will snatch up many of the passing downs.

Gore finally has reached the age 30 benchmark for backs. After five seasons of averaging 51 catches per, he’s had only 45 total since Jim Harbaugh has taken over. He’s unlikely to reach double digit scores (something he’s only done once in eight seasons), so that lack of receiving production really dampens his PPR value.

Miller is in a curious spot because we hardly seen him on the field last season, playing in only 146 total snaps. That was curious considering the Dolphins already knew Bush was going to walk after the season. Miami still has big time offensive line issues as well, but for the most part, that is in relation to the passing game.

If you’ve been following along with FPPRR, Wilson projects as a breakout in the pass game. Despite the possibility of Andre Brown taking spikes away from him, Wilson is one of the most gifted runners in the league.

McFadden is still tantalizing as a RB2 or RB3, especially in PPR leagues. He averages 5.8 receiving points per game over his career and Oakland has made the necessary changes offensively to get him back to ’10-11 form on the ground. Shelve your concerns, when Run DMC plays, he’s always delivered on a per game basis.

Tier 5

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

M. Jones-Drew

JAX

9

255

1097

5

40

312

1

216.9

Ryan Mathews

SD

8

226

971

5

49

366

1

218.7

Shane Vereen

NE

10

138

566

5

52

421

3

198.7

Stevan Ridley

NE

10

274

1223

9

9

68

0

192.1

Jones Drew is a guy who can exceed his draft position, but comes with a lot of current uncertainty. it’s unlikely I will own many shares at his current cost

Mathews has spurned the fantasy community over recent years. Unfortunately, his upside is still tantalizing as a RB3, especially in PPR leagues.  Mathews averages 3.4 receptions per game over the past two seasons and there’s no current threat to him near the goal line.

There’s really not much more I can say about Vereen that I already haven’t. I was ridiculously high on him before the Gronk/Hernandez news and can see a 50 catch season unfolding. He’s a more balanced player than anyone New England has had in their backfield in a long time.

Ridley would surely be higher in standard formats; he’s the number Patriots number two option (33 carries inside the 10 yard line for 11 touchdowns last season) close to the goal line behind Gronkowski.

Tier 6

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

Giovani Bernard

CIN

12

164

722

4

44

343

2

186.5

Ahmad Bradshaw

IND

8

218

915

5

32

262

1

185.7

Daryl Richardson

STL

11

221

972

4

39

281

1

194.3

Chris Ivory

NYJ

10

252

1109

6

15

121

0

174

Eddie Lacy

GB

4

232

974

5

17

121

1

162.5

Bernard could turn into a poor man’s version of Ray Rice if he’s able to take any kind of hold on the snaps in Cincinnati, but there’s not a lot of room for him to be any kind of a touchdown threat with what the Bengals already have in house as red zone threats. If he makes Green- Ellis obsolete, he has mid RB2 upside.

Bradshaw has the rushing and receiving ability to be a solid RB2 and will play the majority of passing snaps. My initial thought is Vick Ballard will still spend some time on the field on early downs in order to ensure Bradshaw plays the entire season.

Richardson has had a strong preseason, taking control of the Rams starting job for the immediate future. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season, but 129 of those yards (27 percent) came on three carries. The threat of committee still looms in season, couple with a tough division to run against, those factors keep him in the RB3 range for draft day.

Ivory is one of the few remaining backs at this point who could have his rushing only totals carry him into a top 20 finish. He has only three career receptions on 78 snaps in route. While he will carry the load on the ground, he’s the definition of a two down back.

Lacy has impressed me with is downhill running and seems to be the favorite to see the bulk of carries in Green Bay. While the situation there isn’t ideal for backs, he will have an opportunity to exploit seven man fronts frequently.

Tier 7

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

Pierre Thomas

NO

7

115

552

4

41

320

1

158.2

DeAngelo Williams

CAR

4

216

928

5

16

122

0

151

Rashard Mendenhall

ARZ

9

228

935

5

19

147

0

157.2

Ben Tate

HST

8

201

884

5

15

104

0

143.8

Montee Ball

DEN

9

205

902

6

8

57

1

145.9

Danny Woodhead

SD

8

95

399

2

45

373

3

152.2

Fred Jackson

BUF

12

152

608

5

29

212

1

147

 

There’s a lot of PPR upside here as Woodhead and Jackson have a lot of weekly flex value already. Thomas is one the most effective players per snap, unfortunately the snaps aren’t consistent.

Mendenhall not only gets bounced back because of PPR, but Arizona ran for only 267 yards on 125 carries (2.1 YPC) in their six games versus the NFC West last season. That doesn’t figure to improve much in 2013. He’s a spot play at best in PPR formats if the matchup is only extremely tasty.

No rookie back is attached to a better offense than Ball and Peyton Manning always put his running backs in the good situations to run the ball with his pre snap recognition.  With the way the Denver backfield is currently constructed, best guess is that Moreno plays on third downs, limiting Ball’s chances of seeing any boost from the passing game. As of today, I don’t see Ronnie Hillman as any real threat to take away from Ball.

If all things were created equal, I would favor Johnathan Stewart in PPR leagues over Williams, but Stewart is already dealing with an ongoing ankle issue. We know Williams will post random monster games (like his 210 yard, 2 TD performance in week 16), but the 40 receptions over his past three seasons leave much to be desired.

Tier 8

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

Andre Brown

NYG

9

132

581

8

10

82

0

124.3

Jonathan Stewart

CAR

4

115

518

4

34

225

1

138.3

B. Green-Ellis

CIN

12

168

639

7

8

67

0

120.6

Jacquizz Rodgers

ATL

6

91

346

2

48

365

1

137.1

 

Andre Brown could very well be the best value going right now at the running back position. He scored eight touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season before suffering a season ending injury. His 1.5 fantasy points per touch was second to only Sproles (1.8) in PPR formats last year.

Green-Ellis could be enrolled into the Jerome Bettis 2005 School of vulturing if Bernard really runs away with the job early. Regardless if that happens or not, The Law Firm is in for a big time reduced role and won’t have any impact in the passing game.

Tier 9

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

Bryce Brown

PHI

12

140

630

3

15

107

0

106.7

Bernard Pierce

BLT

8

133

603

4

11

84

0

103.7

Vick Ballard

IND

8

152

623

2

21

170

1

118.3

Mark Ingram

NO

7

172

706

5

9

46

0

114.2

Shonn Greene

TEN

8

184

772

4

7

52

0

113.4

This is the last tier of pretty quality backups in the handcuff area, whether or not you are handcuffing for yourself or stashing another team’s player. Brown and Pierce have the most standalone value here, but they still each need an major injury to happen ahead of them to hold any real significance in PPR. Ingram played well in the second half of last season, but is squashed here with only 17 receptions over his first two seasons.

Tier 10

PLAYER

TEAM

BYE

ATT

YDS

TD

REC

YDS

TD

PPR PTS

Knowshon Moreno

DEN

9

82

320

3

32

234

0

105.4

Mike Goodson

NYJ

10

105

473

2

26

190

0

104.3

Roy Helu

WAS

5

78

334

1

34

242

1

103.6

Ronnie Hillman

DEN

9

122

501

2

18

130

1

100.7

Isaiah Pead

STL

11

83

399

2

24

176

1

99.5

Mike Tolbert

CAR

4

64

263

6

18

145

1

100.8

Marcel Reece

OAK

7

48

221

1

33

307

1

97.8

Robert Turbin

SEA

12

87

392

2

19

181

1

94.3

Michael Bush

CHI

8

105

410

5

12

95

0

92.5

Joique Bell

DET

9

79

363

1

23

191

1

90.4

Le’Veon Bell

PIT

5

116

487

3

12

85

0

87.2

Kendall Hunter

SF

9

108

496

3

12

85

0

88.1

Ryan Williams

ARZ

9

112

434

3

14

112

0

86.6

Zac Stacy

STL

11

85

390

5

12

91

0

90.1

Jonathan Dwyer

PIT

5

128

501

2

11

83

0

81.4

 

This is what’s left to choose from at the bottom of 12 team drafts. Moreno was top PPR performer when Willis McGahee went down last season. Bell, Helu, Goodson and Reece are significant PPR stashes if the guys ahead of them go down at any point.  If you’re looking to throw late round darts at backs, those are the guys I would be taking shots on in PPR leagues.The Steelers ran for a crummy 3.7 yards per attempt last season (28th in the league). Dwyer was a part of that hideous committee, and will likely lead the charge this year with Bell’s injury. Bell was being elevated more due to volume over talent.Even if he returns mid season, that workload has been compromised.

 

*Stats used were provided from ProFootballFocus, Pro-Football-Reference, NFLData.com, NFL.com, ESPN

 

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