2014 Fantasy Football – It’s All About Value: Running Backs

By Kenny Ortiz
Follow Kenny @kennethortiz

Kenny has been a fantasy football enthusiast since 1996 and has developed a strong track record of finding quality value picks throughout the draft. Last year, he participated in 12 fantasy leagues and made it to the championship game in six of those leagues and claiming three fantasy championships. Kenny has especially established himself as a guru of auction leagues and keeper leagues. As for his “day job” Kenny is a motivational speaker, web designer, real estate landlord, free-lance writer and the host of this website.

Also, be sure to check out WalterFootball.com’s 2014 Fantasy Football articles, including sleepers, busts, tons of 2014 Fantasy Football mock drafts and other material. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

Published August 20, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football - It's All About Value:
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Defenses | Kickers

The running back situation in 2014 is interesting. It seems very top heavy. There are a handful of running backs at the very top of the draft who are elite, and then there’s a dramatic drop off.

The golden four:
Jamaal Charles
LeSean McCoy
Matt Forte
Adrian Peterson

And that’s the order I put them in, but they are all very close, in my mind. If you prefer a different order, that’s fine, but these are the unquestioned top-tier running backs. I know some guys are nervous about Forte’s age or the Bears’ new offense. Those worries are unfounded!

If you have a top-four pick, you ought to take one of these guys and don’t look back.

Now, here’s where it gets messy … after these four running backs, there is a substantial drop-off. There seems to be a whole host of running backs who will produce very similar numbers.

The next tier of running backs are in the table below. I have designated where I think they ought to be drafted in a standard 12-team draft, next to their ADP.

Eddie Lacy Late first round 1.08
DeMarco Murray Mid-second round 2.03
LeVeon Bell Mid-second round 2.05
Reggie Bush Mid-second round 3.11
Montee Ball Late second round 2.08
Arian Foster Late second/Early third 1.12
Giovani Bernard Late second/Early third 2.12
Marshawn Lynch Third round 1.11
Doug Martin Third round 2.07
Toby Gerhart Third round 4.06
When you look at this table, you’ll see a few things jump out at you. First, all but one of these guys are being drafted too early. And two of them are being grossly overdrafted!

After the golden four running backs, the next two best running backs are Eddie Lacy and DeMarco Murray; both have great upside. Lacy can be a star if Green Bay remains balanced on offense. Problem is: I doubt the Packers stay balanced on offense. I’m slightly nervous taking him in the middle of the first round, but if I have the fifth or sixth picks, I would probably take him because the drop-off at running backs is just too substantial (and I recognize that I will probably be overpaying for Lacy in the middle of the first round).

Murray has the talent to be the best fantasy running back in the NFL, or least in the top-three of running backs … he’s that good! But the Dallas offensive line sucks, Dallas will be throwing a lot this season because their defense sucks, and Murray has yet to stay healthy for an entire season in the NFL. But he is heavily involved in the passing game for the Cowboys, and the Dallas front-office has addressed the offensive line this off-season (or at least has attempted to address it) … so, if Murray can stay healthy, he’s got a real chance to put up great numbers. But the injury risk is too great, so I’m not taking him with a first-round pick. Murray is really worth about a mid-second-rounder in most leagues.

Two running backs on the table stick out as great values: Reggie Bush and Toby Gerhart.

Bush is being drafted in the latter portion of the third round in most leagues (PPR and non-PPR), which is silly to me! I’ve even seen him slide into the fourth round of non-PPR leagues. Bush is just as good, if not better, than most of the running backs being drafted in the second round … but in most cases, he’s being drafted nearly a FULL round later. If you draft Bush in the third round, you will be getting good value. In PPR leagues, I’d be willing to draft Bush in the latter portion of the second round.

Toby Gerhart has limited talent, but he does have “just enough” talent to be effective in the NFL, and I think Jacksonville is a very good fit for him. He will not out-produce the other guys on this list, but he’ll come close … and he can be drafted TWO full rounds later than those guys … that’s value!

I have a feeling I’m going to have Bush and Gerhart on several teams this year.

Two running backs on the list who are being WAY overdrafted: Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster.

Neither guy is worthy of being drafted before Round 3, but both guys are often being drafted in the first round. Don’t do it!!!! They will let you down. In fact, I doubt I would draft either of them at all, even if they fell out of the first round, simply because there will be better options in the second, third and fourth rounds.

LeVeon Bell, Montee Ball, and Giovani Bernard are all solid options with decent upside. They are all being drafted right about where they should be drafted, and all three should produce similar numbers.

Of this trio, I like Bernard the most, simply because he has the most talent, and talent always has a way of winning out. They are all being drafted in the mid-to-late second round. I’d take Murray over all three of these, but if I miss out on Murray, any of the guys in this trio could be decent options in Round 2.

Doug Martin has talent and opportunity to bounce back from a tough sophomore year. He’s definitely worth an early third-round pick and has upside value, but he’s often being drafted in the second round (which is simply too early). I like Martin, but in the second round, I’m more likely to take one of the other running backs I’ve mentioned or a maybe even a tight end or wide receiver. But if you’re in the third round and you need a running back, you can take Martin with confidence.

Now, with all that stated … let’s be honest … if you don’t have a chance to get one of the top-four running backs, then I’d think about passing on a running backs in Round 1 altogether … and maybe even in Round 2 as well.

Now, passing on a running backs early will put you behind your competition in some ways, but there’s some advantages. The wide receivers are far more reliable (at least more consistent at the top of the draft and have less turnover). In a PPR league, this would be the route I’d go, if I didn’t trust Lacy.

Taking a wide receiver like Calvin Johnson or Dez Bryant is acceptable if the top-five running backs I have mentioned are gone (or if the top-four are gone and you don’t want to take Lacy).

Here’s the bottom line, after the top-five running backs, the next 20 running backs or so, in my opinion, are all very similar. They all have a very similar potential and are likely to produce similar numbers and all have some question marks about them.

The depth at running backs in 2014 is decent overall, but the stand-out stardom is lacking. Besides the guys I’ve already mentioned, we have a bunch of other guys who are in between mediocre and good.

Click here to see Kenny’s mid- and late round-running back values.

2014 Fantasy Football - It's All About Value:
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Defenses | Kickers

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2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks - 8/30 (Walt)
2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs - 9/3 (Walt)
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2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends - 8/27 (Walt)
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2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Standard - 8/14 (Walt)
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2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Standard - 7/31 (Walt)
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2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Standard - 7/10 (Walt)

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2014 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 - 9/3 (Walt)
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2014 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Custom - 9/3 (Walt)
2014 Fantasy Football Spreadsheets - 8/28 (Walt)

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2014 Fantasy Football: It's All About Value - 9/1 (Kenny)
2014 Fantasy Football Sleepers - 8/31 (Walt)
2014 Fantasy Football Busts - 8/31 (Walt)
2014 NFL Preseason Recap, Fantasy Football Notes - 8/30 (Walt)
2014 Fantasy Football Preseason Stock - 8/30 (Walt)
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2014 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Simulator - 8/30 (Walt)
Fantasy Football Round-by-Round Strategy - 8/17 (Walt)
2014 Fantasy Football Stock Report: Running Backs - 3/28 (Walt)
2014 Fantasy Football: Overdrafted Players - 2/16 (Walt)
2014 Fantasy Football: First-Round Bust History - 2/14 (Walt)
Running Backs with Most Carries - 2/14 (Walt)

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