CBSSports.com Player Ratings
Position: Quarterbacks · Running Backs · Wide Receivers · Tight Ends · Kickers · Defense/STs
Range: 1-15 · 16-30 · 31-45 · 46-50
Maurice Jones-Drew figures to be one of the most polarizing Fantasy running backs this summer. On one hand he's coming off a Lisfranc fracture, averaged "only" 83.3 total yards per game in 2012 and will be 28 when the season starts. On the other, he's considered among the most prolific Fantasy rushers thanks to averaging at least 110 total yards per game over the last three years while easily collecting over 320 touches in each season. All signs point to Jones-Drew having a much different offseason than he had a year ago when he sat out of training camp because of a contract dispute. Now Jones-Drew is comfortable finishing out the final year on his deal with the Jaguars and should be in a role similar to what we're used to seeing if he looks OK in camp (that's a big if). That's looking good after he shed a walking boot and began jogging in early April. Though the Jaguars' offensive system is getting a makeover with the zone-blocking scheme coming into town, Jones-Drew still figures to be a prominent option for Fantasy owners to target as a No. 2 player with the potential to put up numbers like a No. 1. Expect him to get picked somewhere between 20th and 30th overall in all drafts.
DeMarco Murray can be an elite Fantasy talent when healthy, but health has been a big issue for him through two seasons. He's already missed nine games in his career because of injuries, and Fantasy owners are frustrated. It doesn't help matters that in May he battled a a hamstring injury that kept him out of offseason workouts, but he should be ready to go for the start of this year. And we hope he can put together a full season of quality outings. In 2012, Murray appeared in just 10 games. He had at least seven Fantasy points in every outing with double-digit points in five games, so he's capable of being a big point producer. But he has to stay on the field to live up to the hype. Based on talent, Murray is a first-round pick, but we would let him fall to Round 2 at the earliest. He should be considered at least a Top 15 Fantasy running back, and if he can play 16 games we could be looking at a Top 10 option in all leagues.
David Wilson has the chance to dominate with the Giants this year following Ahmad Bradshaw's departure and Andre Brown's late August fractured leg. Wilson was drafted in the first round last year out of Virginia Tech but struggled to get on the field at running back most of the season, primarily because of his poor pass blocking. But he improved as the year went on, including a big game in Week 14 against New Orleans when he had 13 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He closed the season with 49 Fantasy points in his final four games, and he should have the chance for a big season, particularly if he picks up the work Brown left behind. Wilson is now worth considering as soon as late Round 2 in drafts.
Frank Gore remains the starting running back for the 49ers and their best Fantasy option in the backfield no matter how many times we expect him to falter. Gore, despite the 49ers adding LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs last year, still dominated the ball with 258 carries for 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns and 28 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown. He had double digits in Fantasy points in 11 games, including five of the final six games to close the regular season. Gore is definitely headed for a decline at some point in the near future -- he'll be 30 this season and has more than 2,200 total touches -- but you have to go into the season with him as a solid No. 2 running back worth drafting as early as Round 3. Kendall Hunter and James will take touches from Gore, especially with the 49ers wanting to keep him fresh for the playoffs, but we've seen this before. Gore has at least 1,300 total yards and six touchdowns in six of the past seven years, and he should remain at that level of production again this season.
Lamar Miller had an unimpressive rookie season playing behind Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. He finished 2012 with 51 carries for 250 yards and one touchdown and six catches for 45 yards. But in 2013, Miller has the chance to showcase his skills. Bush is gone as a free agent to Detroit, and Miller has moved past Thomas on the depth chart. If a veteran rusher isn't brought in, then Miller could open the season as the starter, which will enhance his Fantasy value. We consider Miller a low-end No. 2 Fantasy running back with upside, and he's worth drafting with a pick as early as Round 4. He should be on most sleeper lists, and the Dolphins are in love with Miller's playmaking ability. He could end up as a quality Fantasy option if he opens the season as the starter as expected.
If you draft Darren Sproles in 2013, you're banking on him coming through as a pass catcher rather than as a rusher. Sproles' run duties did little to supplement what he did as a receiver, which was actually slightly better on a per-game basis than what he did in 2011. His catches per game went up from 5.4 to 5.8, his receiving average jumped from 8.3 yards to 8.9 yards per catch and his receiving touchdowns stayed at seven. But his rush game, despite a nifty 5.1 yard average, practically disappeared. He had all of 48 carries thanks to four games of no handoffs and seven with five or fewer. That makes Sproles a risk as a top-20 running back but not quite as a low-end No. 2 option in a standard league. Obviously, the receptions he's expected to handle push him up in PPR formats to a very solid No. 2 option. He's worth a late fourth-round pick in standard leagues and a third-round pick in PPR formats this summer.
Eddie Lacy was considered a borderline first-round talent, but it was in the second round when the Packers took the Alabama runner in the NFL draft. And now it looks like he'll start for them. Lacy rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns with the Crimson Tide last season. He averaged at least 6.5 yards per carry in each of three college seasons and scored 30 rushing touchdowns and a pair of receiving touchdowns over that career. Conditioning issues and some health concerns stemming from this spring could have been part of the reason why his stock fell. But that doesn't matter now as he's pretty much the only back the Packers can lean on right now. Consider Lacy a No. 2 Fantasy RB worth a pick beginning around late Round 3 in all leagues.
The Bengals took running back Giovani Bernard from North Carolina with a second round pick in the NFL draft. Bernard was an ultra-productive running back for the Tar Heels, rushing for over 1,200 yards and catching at least 45 passes for at least 350 yards in each of his two seasons at the school. In total Bernard had 3,333 yards from scrimmage with 31 touchdowns. Bernard's collegiate numbers are nothing short of awesome but he isn't a complete back. For starters, he's a little small at 5-foot-9 and 202 pounds. Not only has he been banged up over the last year but he tore his ACL in 2010. And his speed is good but it's not elite -- he ran a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. That combination could limit his workload in the pros, but it's the versatile abilities he has that appeals to the Bengals. Don't quite expect Bernard to unseat BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the main rusher in Cincy but we should see him cut significantly into The Law Firm's carries so long as he's healthy. Bernard will get snagged with a late-round pick in seasonal leagues, a middle- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a second-round pick in rookie-only drafts.
There are two things we hope for with Darren McFadden this season. The first is health. The second is an improved offensive system in Oakland. He missed four games in 2012 with an ankle injury, and will now try to stay healthy for the first time in his career (he's never played more than 13 games). Last year he also struggled with Oakland's zone-blocking scheme. He had a career-low 3.3 yards per carry and finished with 216 carries for 707 yards and two touchdowns and 42 catches for 258 yards and one touchdown. It was a miserable year, but the zone-blocking system is gone with Greg Olson replacing Greg Knapp as the offensive coordinator. We still have optimism for McFadden, but there are obvious red flags. Because of that he should only be drafted with a late-second round pick at the earliest. Your best bet is to get McFadden in the third round and hope he surprises you like he did in 2010 (1,600 total yards and 10 touchdowns). We'd all take that McFadden, and we hope he shows up this year.
Shane Vereen should be considered a sleeper coming into this season based on his expected role with the Patriots with Danny Woodhead gone. Last year, Vereen was inactive for the first three games of the season, but he finished the year with 73 carries for 308 yards and four touchdowns and 15 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns, including the playoffs. With Woodhead gone, Vereen's value will rise, especially in PPR leagues where he could complement Stevan Ridley. Woodhead had 76 carries for 301 yards and four touchdowns and 40 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns with one lost fumble last year, and Vereen should pick up the majority of that production. He should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy running back in standard leagues and a potential No. 2 option in deep PPR formats. He's worth a mid-round pick, and Vereen has breakout written all over him.
Ryan Mathews enters this season with a lot less hype than he had last year, which is a good thing. Mathews failed in 2012; a broken clavicle in training camp derailed the start of his season and he never regained his form before suffering a second broken clavicle in Week 15. He finished the year with 184 carries for 707 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown and 39 catches for 252 yards, numbers that pale to his 2011 totals. But Mathews has gotten the wake-up call this summer, playing tougher in the preseason and seemingly far in the lead for playing time at running back even though the Chargers signed Danny Woodhead this summer. With the running back position thin after the studs at the top, Mathews sizes up as a medium-risk, high-reward Fantasy option worth a pick as soon as late Round 4 in deeper leagues and Round 5 in basic Fantasy formats.
Ahmad Bradshaw signed with the Colts in June, and he is expected to compete with Vick Ballard for the starting job. Most likely, Bradshaw will be the No. 1 running back in Indianapolis, but keep an eye on what happens during training camp. Bradshaw is coming off foot surgery this offseason, but he's expected to be fine. Still, foot issues have been a problem for him during his career, and it's part of the reason he was let go from the Giants. When healthy, however, Bradshaw has been a star. In 2012, Bradshaw missed just two games and finished the season with 221 carries for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns and 23 catches for 245 yards. It's the second time he's had at least 220 carries and 1,000 rushing yards, and he's had at least six touchdowns in every year since 2009. If he starts for the Colts then plan on drafting Bradshaw in Round 6 or 7 in the majority of leagues. But even if Ballard gets the starting nod, Bradshaw will still play a prominent role and is worth drafting no later than Round 9.
The Broncos addressed a need at running back when they selected Wisconsin's Montee Ball in the second round of April's draft. Ball is a big back at 5-foot-10, 217 pounds, and he holds the NCAA Division I record with 83 touchdowns. There's a strong chance Ball will start right away for the Broncos, working in tandem with Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno. We like this fit for Ball because the Broncos running backs ran for 12 touchdowns last season, and Ball should have plenty of chances to score while also coming close to 1,000 rushing yards. He should be viewed as a low-end starting option in seasonal leagues worth a pick as early as Round 4. And in rookie-only formats he's worth drafting in Round 1.
Rashard Mendenhall is reunited with former coordinator Bruce Arians in Arizona, where he'll battle for the starting job in training camp this summer. Coming off a torn ACL injury in 2012, Mendenhall slogged through a miserable season where he averaged 3.6 yards per carry, caught his lone touchdown of the year and missed 10 games with a number of ailments. Arians has said his preference is not to split rushing duties between multiple backs, so it is believed Mendenhall will battle Ryan Williams and potentially rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington for the starting job in Arizona. All Mendenhall has to do is prove he's healthy and capable of handling a heavy workload in training camp and the job should be his. Problem is, the Cardinals' offense is in a rebuilding mode, so the going won't be any easier for Mendenhall, who will be only 26 years old when the season starts. He's worth a roll of the dice as a No. 3 running back with a pick in Round 7, and he could prove great dividends if he rebounds after being reunited with Arians.
The Rams have a new backfield this season with Steven Jackson gone, and three running backs are expected to handle the load in Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and rookie Zac Stacy. Based on last year, Richardson would appear to have the inside track for the season, and he was named the starter in training camp for at least Week 1. In 2012, Richardson's rookie season, he was the No. 2 running back in St. Louis with 98 carries for 475 yards and 24 catches for 163 yards. Even if Richardson loses rushing-down duties to Pead, who is suspended Week 1, and/or Stacy he will still have a prominent role all year. Consider Richardson with a pick around Round 5 or 6 in all leagues, with his value slightly higher in PPR formats.