CBSSports.com Player Ratings
Position: Quarterbacks · Running Backs · Wide Receivers · Tight Ends · Kickers · Defense/STs
Range: 1-15 · 16-30 · 31-45 · 46-50
Fantasy owners should expect Adrian Peterson to be the first player taken in pretty much every draft this summer. And after totaling 2,421 yards and 13 touchdowns over 16 regular-season games and a postseason matchup at Green Bay, why shouldn't he be? Coming off a torn ACL, Peterson regained his form as a dominant rusher capable of rumbling for over 120 yards on the ground per week, which he did in half of his regular-season games. He's got a hammerlock on the amount of work he'll get from week to week (he had under 20 touches three times last season) and will run behind a solid offensive line. Though there's a smidge of concern Peterson could exhaust himself after taking on 370 carries over 17 games last year the reality is that he's too good a player to pass up taking if made available on Draft Day. Owners shouldn't hesitate to take him with the first overall pick.
C.J. Spiller has the ability to be the No. 1 running back in Fantasy leagues in 2013. This should be his first year as a full-time starter. Fred Jackson is expected to poach carries, but Spiller will be given a heavy workload. He took on a lot of work in 2012 with Jackson dealing with a knee injury and set career highs in carries (207), rushing yards (1,244), touchdowns (six), catches (43) and receiving yards (459), and that was in just nine starts. Spiller averaged 6.0 yards per carry, so imagine what he could do with close to 300 total touches. He has 2,000 total-yard potential with double digits in touchdowns, and we see Spiller as a top 10 overall pick with a chance to be a top-5 selection. This is going to be a big year for Spiller.
It appears Doug Martin will be among the first group of running backs taken in every single draft this summer. Why wouldn't he be? After all his rookie year consisted of 1,926 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns. That was enough to finish tied for second-best running back in all of the NFL last season with Arian Foster, compiling 12 games with at least 10 Fantasy points. If there's a nitpick it's that a huge chunk of his production came in a two-game span against the Vikings and Raiders, where he had 61 total touches and amassed 486 total yards and half of his total touchdowns on the year. Those two weeks pushed his numbers to enormous heights, but it's not like he didn't have many other big weeks, especially after the Bucs' bye when he had at least 100 total yards in nine of 12 games. You'll find Martin picked between third and eighth overall in all basic standard and PPR leagues this summer.
Adrian Peterson wasn't the only running back who came back from a torn ACL in 2012 to have a career season. Jamaal Charles was right there with him. He set career highs in carries (285) and rushing yards (1,509) despite having three games with fewer than 10 carries. When he had 17 or more carries, which happened nine times, he finished with double digits in Fantasy points. He also showed his explosiveness with two games with at least 226 rushing yards. Now he gets Andy Reid as his head coach, and he could turn Charles into a beast. While Reid was in Philadelphia he had three primary running backs in Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. That trio combined for six 1,000-yard rushing seasons, seven 1,500 total-yard seasons, nine seasons with at least 50 catches and five seasons with 10 total touchdowns. The last two times Charles played a full season, which was 2010 and 2012, he had at least 1,700 total yards and six total touchdowns. When you add up everything in his favor it makes Charles a slam-dunk first-round pick in 2013, and he could have a career year.
Despite a rookie season that saw him total 1,317 yards and 12 touchdowns, Trent Richardson isn't everyone's favorite young running back this summer. Richardson's history of injuries -- from knee issues in high school and college to fractured ribs as a rookie to a right shin issue this offseason -- have made Fantasy owners nervous about taking him. But the proof is in the production: Richardson never missed more than three games in a season in college and only missed one contest last year (he did have under 10 carries in two of the 15 games he played). He also had 10-plus Fantasy points in 11 of 15 games in 2012. Assuming he appears at training camp without limitations he should be a heavy volume workhorse for the Browns as they transition to an offense led by new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Despite some problems in San Diego last season, Turner specifically has done a great job converting young running backs into excellent stat producers. With an eye on improving his 3.6 rushing average and playing a full season, Richardson should deliver some excellent numbers in 2013. Count on him as a pick between fifth and eighth overall in drafts.
Marshawn Lynch might not have the upside appeal of Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, Jamaal Charles or C.J. Spiller. And he doesn't have the same history as Ray Rice or LeSean McCoy. But after Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster are drafted in standard leagues, you should consider Lynch as the No. 3 overall pick. He's that good since coming to Seattle. In 2012, Lynch had 315 carries for 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns and 23 catches for 196 yards and a touchdown. He had double digits in Fantasy points in 11 games, including five in a row to close the season. And in two years as the starter for Seattle he has scored 25 total touchdowns with more than 1,400 total yards in each season. If he can avoid a suspension from last year's DUI arrest in July -- the matter has yet to be resolved - then he should be a star. Lynch is definitely a Top 5 overall pick in standard leagues (he's more of a late first-round pick in PPR formats), and if he's guaranteed the chance to play all 16 games then draft him at No. 3 without hesitation.
LeSean McCoy might be under-appreciated by Fantasy owners this season after what seemed like a bad year in 2012. He missed four games with a concussion and went from 20 total touchdowns in 2011 to just five. He also failed to reach 1,500 total yards (he had 1,200) for the first time since 2009. But despite his struggles, McCoy still had double digits in Fantasy points in 10 of his 12 outings. He still remains the starter (don't worry about Bryce Brown taking his job), and new coach Chip Kelly will lean on him. And even if he comes off the field for Brown at times, it's not like this is a 50-50 split. McCoy will continue to do the heavy lifting for this offense, and Kelly is fond of running the ball from his days at Oregon. We definitely recommend drafting McCoy in Round 1, and he should be considered a Top 10 overall pick. Brown is worth a late-round selection as a handcuff, but figure McCoy to be around 1,500 total yards again with the chance for double digits in touchdowns and close to 50 catches. He's an elite Fantasy option, and he will regain his form this year.
If not for a back injury that has kept him out of training camp, Arian Foster would be a rock-solid No. 2 Fantasy running back. But Foster didn't participate in any camp work after initially hurting his calf in a spring OTA workout and then needing injections to help with the pain in his back in mid-August. With no definitive timetable for Foster's return, Fantasy owners must be caution. The Texans' stud posted another season with at least 1,600 total yards and 12 total touchdowns in 2012 but also had more than 400 carries over 18 total games. Typically when a player has that kind of workload one year he declines statistically the next and has a higher chance of getting hurt. Foster's proof. His breathtaking production might be too alluring to pass up, particularly for one of the other backs in the draft not named Peterson, but there is some concern he could struggle because of the wear and tear he's put on his body. This does not mean you have to pass on Foster, but it does mean that more than ever backing him up with Ben Tate is vital. If you take Foster with an early round pick, plan on taking Tate in late Round 6/early Round 7 just to make sure you protect yourself. Other owners will start aiming to take Tate in late Round 7 on the hope Foster misses the start of the season.
Ray Rice should be in the conversation as a Top-10 pick, but not necessarily a Top-5 pick. True, he had another excellent season in 2012 when he totaled over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns and scored double-digit Fantasy points in 11 games. But toward the end of last year we saw Rice split reps with Bernard Pierce, so there's a little concern they could share a little more than we're used to seeing in 2013. Rice also didn't produce the huge numbers he did before the Ravens made a coordinator change as Joe Flacco sort of took over the direction of the offense. We wouldn't be as worried about those things as we would a hangover from the Super Bowl -- running backs tend to struggle posting big numbers in the season following a title game run. Rice had 331 carries and 69 catches over 20 games, which is a lot of work but nothing to get completely alarmed about (he had 411 total touches in 2010 and was fine in 2011). Roster shakeups due of injuries or salary cap issues have thinned out the talent Flacco will throw to as well, so there could be added emphasis on the run game week after week. Is he still one of the best players in Fantasy? Sure, but he's got a lot more company at the top of the running back heap than he did a year ago. We'd aim for Rice no higher than sixth overall in drafts.
Projected Fantasy Points: 211.6
Alfred Morris came out of nowhere to be a star as a rookie in 2012, and now he has to avoid a sophomore slump this year. He had a tremendous year last season with 335 carries for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns and 11 catches for 77 yards. Morris was the No. 5 running back in standard leagues, and he had 12 games with double digits in Fantasy points, including six games in a row to close the season. Coach Mike Shanahan has said Morris could be more involved in the passing game this year, which would only enhance his value, but he'll be a quality option in standard leagues no matter what. He's a workhorse and a goal-line back with talent, and we know Shanahan has a great history with running backs. We expect Morris to play well again this year, and he should be drafted toward the end of Round 1 in standard leagues and Round 2 in PPR formats.
Fantasy running backs don't come much safer than Matt Forte. The Bears running back is on a five-year streak of landing at least 1,400 total yards per season, though he hasn't produced double-digit touchdowns since his rookie campaign. He'll work with a new playcaller in head coach Marc Trestman, who has a solid track record of using his running backs, including a single rusher totaling over 1,500 total yards in four of five years in Montreal. Forte is a good fit for Trestman though the coach has been in favor of using a different back at the goal line in the past. Expect Forte to remain a constant for the Bears, making him worthy of a second-round choice.
Stevan Ridley, as expected, had a career year in 2012 as the starter for the Patriots. He should continue to run well this year, and he has the potential to be a low-end No. 1 running back in standard leagues. Ridley dominated carries for New England with 290 for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season. Compare that to Danny Woodhead (76 carries) and Shane Vereen (62), and you'll see how much coach Bill Belichick relied on Ridley. Now, that doesn't mean Ridley is cemented in as the featured option. Along with Brandon Bolden and potentially LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington, the Patriots will use all their running backs this year. And Ridley is useless as a receiver with just seven catches in 2012. But he did manage nine games with double digits in Fantasy points, and the Patriots will continue to give him chances to shine. We like Ridley as at least a Top 15 Fantasy running back, and he should be drafted by Round 2 in all standard leagues and no later than Round 3 in PPR formats.
Chris Johnson has totaled at least 1,400 total yards in each of his five NFL seasons, but his past few seasons have delivered headaches to his Fantasy owners. Two years ago he missed camp, had some conditioning issues and struggled to stay consistent. Last year he was in camp and was seemingly in better shape but still performed at a gross level until he was able to exploit some weak opponents and post numbers in blowout losses. The Titans had enough – they improved the offensive line with veteran Andy Levitre and first-round pick Chase Warmack and also got Shonn Greene to aid in their run game. Greene will pick up the goal-line work Johnson didn't have much of in the first place but also be there to complement Johnson and potentially replace him if he doesn't get off to a good start for the third year in a row. A difficult schedule and a potential dip in carries combined with Johnson's underwhelming numbers make him a little scary but consider this: He's still averaged at least 90 total yards per game in each of his last two seasons and last year had nine games with at least 10 Fantasy points. And now his offensive line shouldn't be a problem. Johnson will slide out of the first round on Draft Day but is worth a look at the halfway point of the second round, particularly if you pencil him in as your No. 2 running back.
For the first time in his 10-year career, Steven Jackson won't be playing for the Rams. He signed with the Falcons this offseason, and he will be the new starter in Atlanta. The Falcons – and Fantasy owners -- hope to get the Jackson we saw at the end of last season because that running back was a beast. After a slow start in 2012, Jackson turned it on following the bye in Week 9. He closed the season with double digits in Fantasy points in six of his final eight games and had at least eight points in each outing. For the season, Jackson had 257 carries for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns and 38 catches for 321 yards. He has been a workhorse for the majority of his career -- and a successful one at that. Since 2005, Jackson has at least 1,300 total yards in all but one season, which was 2007 when he was limited to 12 games. He still managed 1,273 total yards that year. We'd like to see Jackson score more (he has one season with double digits in touchdowns), which should happen with the Falcons, and coach Mike Smith already plans to involve Jackson in the passing game. He should remain a solid No. 2 Fantasy running back, and he's worth drafting with a second-round pick. Jackson, who will be 30 in July, is definitely near a decline, but he should still have plenty of positive moments this season with a Super Bowl-contending team.
Reggie Bush left the Dolphins this offseason to sign with the Lions, and we're excited for his opportunity in Detroit. He has played well since coming to the Dolphins in 2011 when he got a chance to be an every-down back. In 2011, Bush had a career season with 216 carries for 1,086 yards and six touchdowns and 43 catches for 296 yards and a score. He followed that up with a career-high 227 carries for 986 yards and six touchdowns and 35 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Now, Bush goes to a Lions team that should involve him more as a receiver, even promising a potential 70 catches. He has at least 43 catches in five of his seven years, and the Lions will use him as a three-down back. We view Bush as a No. 2 Fantasy running back with upside, and he could total 1,500 yards with about six touchdowns. He is worth drafting in all formats in Round 3 with the potential to be drafted in Round 2 in PPR leagues. This could be a big year for Bush in Motown.