How to Draft Running Backs in the First Round of 2013 Fantasy Drafts

On the surface, this year’s first round of running backs in fantasy football looks a whole lot better than 2012. Remember last year? There was Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and then a big old pile of poo. It led me, a self-aware running back hoarder, to pick Drew Brees at No. 7 in my money league because I didn’t want the likes of Adrian Peterson (whoops), Chris Johnson or Darren McFadden. I proceeded to run away with a ninth-place finish.

This year, the consensus is that there are enough running backs, along with WR Calvin Johnson,  to fill out even a 12-team first round. I like that. What I don’t like is that I’m still very nervous about some of the available options.

Here we go again.

The easy thing for all of us would just be to score the No. 1 pick and nab Peterson. But alas, most of us won’t have that good fortune.

If you have the No. 1 pick and don't take AP, well, I just don't know if you deserve to play fantasy again

If you have the No. 1 pick and don’t take AP, well, I just don’t know if you deserve to play fantasy again

The decision-making starts at No. 2, where Texans RB Arian Foster currently resides in the Yahoo pre-draft rankings. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Foster after he delivered me a fantasy title in 2010, but there’s currently a lot working against him. First of all, he hasn’t be able to stay healthy this off-season and is currently still dealing with back and leg ailments. He also averaged a career low 4.1 YPC last season and the Texans didn’t upgrade his supporting cast all that much this off-season to alleviate any of eight-man fronts he usually sees.

No. 3 in the pre-draft rankings is Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin. He… actually I like him a lot, you should be able to draft him with confidence.

No. 4 is Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles. I’m sure how to appropriately express how passionate I feel about what I’m about to say other than using all caps for the next part of the sentence – IF YOU DRAFT JAMAAL CHARLES, YOU MIGHT BE VERY, VERY SORRY. There are many who are high on him because new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has an offensive system that has been very kind to running backs in the past (e.g. Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy) and he plans on using Charles heavily. The Chiefs also got better at quarterback (theoretically) with Alex Smith, which could take some pressure off of Charles’ shoulders. But I just can’t shake a nagging feeling that Charles will buckle under the workload the Chiefs supposedly have planned for him, as he already has had a big of an injury bug in the preseason and was at his best in 2010 when he was sharing the load with Thomas Jones. He’s also never scored more than eight total touchdowns in a season. I don’t know about you, but I like drafting players in the first round with track records of putting up double-digit touchdowns.

At No. 5 is the guy that I personally would even consider at No. 2. Marshawn Lynch is a beast of a runner, still only 26 and on a team that will once again rely heavily on him. He’s also remarkably durable, having played 31 out of the Seahawks’ last 32 games.

Next up is McCoy, who is similar to Charles in that there is excitement about the new system that Eagles coach Chip Kelly is implementing, but still carries durability concerns himself after last year’s injury-riddled campaign. After McCoy are Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller and Cleveland’s Trent Richardson, who are fine options but are limited by the fact that their teams are so dreadful. Then there’s Washington’s Alfred Morris, who is an intriguing option, but I want to see him do it again before giving him a ringing endorsement.

And for reasons I can’t understand, Ravens RB Ray Rice is ranked No. 9, behind Charles, behind McCoy, behind Spiller. Rice is only going to get more work in the Ravens’ offense this year with Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta gone or unavailable – he’s going to be a check-down and screen machine, in addition to his shifty running behind resigned Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach.

Play time....

Play time….

So with all that said, here’s how I would rank the RBs in the first round:

1. Peterson
2. Lynch*
3. Rice*
4. Martin
5. Morris
6. Spiller
7. Richardson
8. Foster
9. McCoy
10. Charles
* These two picks could be switched depending on if the league is PPR, as Rice has a clear advantage there

To be clear, I would still draft the likes of Spiller, Richardson, Foster, McCoy and Charles in the first round, but I would prefer it be later so that I could hedge my bets with another strong RB2 early in the second round (someone like Matt Forte, Stevan Ridley or maybe (MAYBE) Steven Jackson).

Bottom line, do anything you can to get Peterson, Lynch, Rice or Martin so that you can sleep a little easier at night knowing you have a durable monster of an RB1 to carry you through the fantasy season. And in the case of Lynch and Rice, you’re in luck because you might not have to be in the top five picks in order to get them.