CBSSports.com Player Ratings
Position: Quarterbacks · Running Backs · Wide Receivers · Tight Ends · Kickers · Defense/STs
Range: 1-15 · 16-30 · 31-45 · 46-50
Chris Ivory has been freed from the Saints' depth chart, landing with the Jets in a draft weekend trade. He's expected to handle a large amount of carries as the team's primary ball carrier and goal-line force. Ivory has a 5.1 rushing average and scored two touchdowns over 40 carries last year, both coming on long, powerful runs. Ivory could be in line for 15 touches of week with the Jets and will grind behind one of the better run-blocking lines in football. There's some appeal for Ivory as a No. 3 running back, making him a good mid-round option in seasonal leagues.
Which Mark Ingram are we going to get in 2013: The one who spent the first half of 2012 getting limited touches or the one who averaged 12.8 carries per game and 4.1 yards per carry in the second half of 2012? Hopefully it's the latter, though with other running backs threatening to take reps away from Ingram, whose upside seems limited. In fact, he's only posted double-digit Fantasy points when he scores 60 percent of the time in his career. He has four games where he has scored and still hasn't posted 10 Fantasy points in standard formats. Ingram will need several running backs to miss playing time in order for him to become the monster in Fantasy we hoped he'd become. Ideally, Ingram is worth a pick starting in Round 8 or 9 as a quality reserve rusher worth starting when facing a good matchup. Drafting him along with another Saints running back (Darren Sproles in Rounds 3-4 or Pierre Thomas in Rounds 11-12) isn't a bad way to attack your running back corps.
For now, the Panthers will have DeAngelo Williams as part of their high-priced stable of running backs. But reports emerged in mid-February that the Panthers could move on from Williams because of his expensive cost and less-than-stellar production. He'll be 30 when the season starts and even though he hasn't put a ton of work on his legs the past couple of seasons it's perceived he isn't the back he once was thanks in part to him getting fewer rushing yards on more carries in 2012. If there's a silver lining with Williams it's that he's totaled 900 yards and scored seven times in each of the last two years. One problem is figuring out when he'll have a big game. He has had 11 contests with at least 10 Fantasy points and 17 with six or fewer over the past two seasons. Changing teams could clear up what kind of a workload he'd have and make him appealing for the 2013 season since he does have some speed left on those legs. But until we know that he's done in Carolina your best move is to draft Williams as a reserve Fantasy rusher with a mid- to late-round pick.
If you drafted Arian Foster with an early round pick, getting Ben Tate is a must. But even if you didn't draft Foster there's some potential in Tate even though he didn't do much last season. Foster is a risk for breaking down after totaling more than 400 carries (and 450 touches) through 18 games in 2012. Foster also strained his calf in a late May practice. So if something happens to him, Tate could step in and put up numbers just as he did in 2011. The fourth-year back is still averaging a nice number on his runs and making some moves as a receiver. But if given the chance this season Tate can show the rest of the league why he's worth a large contract when he's a free agent in the spring of 2014. If you draft Foster, Tate is a must with a pick in late Round 7 or early Round 8. If you don't draft Foster, getting him in Round 8 or 9 as a sleeper could also pay off.
Projected Fantasy Points: 101.8
Bernard Pierce is set to supplement the Ravens' run game behind Ray Rice. Like previous backup running backs in Baltimore, Pierce landed just over 100 carries and did well with them, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. It's worth noting, however, that 22 of his 108 carries in 2012 came in a meaningless Week 17 game and 78 of his 532 yards last year came on a Week 16 garbage-time run. While he's proven to be a pretty good player the reality is that Pierce won't reliably get opportunities to post big stats so long as Rice is doing his thing (he averaged 9.75 carries per game in the playoffs). Pierce is definitely worth drafting as a mid- to late-round handcuff for those owners who take Rice with an early-round pick.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is probably going to be a running back you settle for on Draft Day, not target. Even though he set a personal best in rushing yards last year with 1,094, he only scored six times despite getting a career-high 278 carries. A closer look reveals that only 21 carries came from inside the 10-yard line and of those 21, only 10 came at the goal line. He scored on four of the 10 and might have had more if not for an 0-for-3 day at the goal line with a fumble at the Jaguars in Week 4. That appeared to be the game that sent his workload near the goal line off track and perhaps forced the Bengals to find help for him on the ground. They did exactly that when they took Giovani Bernard as the first running back selected in April's draft. Bernard should not only take passing downs away from Green-Ellis but also has the potential to cut into the starter's workload. Expect fewer carries and thus fewer yards from Green-Ellis, though the touchdown production might increase since The Law Firm should have the goal-line job. Green-Ellis is fine as a pick in Round 8 or so as the last decent Flex running back on the board.
Bryce Brown got Fantasy owners excited in 2012 when he stepped in for the injured LeSean McCoy in Week 12 and was a star for two weeks. Brown had 53 Fantasy points in a standard league against the Panthers and Cowboys, and he helped many owners who were missing McCoy because of a concussion. In total, Brown started four games, but he managed just four Fantasy points in the other two outings against the Bucs and Bengals. He finished the season with 115 carries for 564 yards and four touchdowns and 13 catches for 56 yards. He also had three lost fumbles, which were a problem. This season, Brown will return to a secondary role. He will still get on the field as a complementary option to McCoy, but barring another McCoy injury, he will be the No. 2 running back at best. That limits his value, and he's only worth a late-round pick – especially as a handcuff to McCoy. New coach Chip Kelly will give Brown a chance to carry the ball, but this still remains McCoy's offense.
There's going to come a time in your draft where taking Pierre Thomas seems like a good idea. It'll probably be around Round 9 or so, when the rest of the running backs left look like total garbage. Thomas has proven to be a versatile runner, but his production tanked in 2012 when he scored just two touchdowns and totaled 827 yards before landing on injured reserve. He posted 10 or more touches in eight games, proof that's he's involved, but really the only way Thomas will be huge for Fantasy is if injuries clear the way for him to be a primary back for the Saints. Consider other running backs when you're in Round 9 and eyeballing Thomas – he's a better late-round flier than mid- to late-round gamble.
Danny Woodhead has left the friendly confines of New England where the Patriots made him a household name to sign with the Chargers as a free agent. He will now share playing time with Ryan Mathews, but new San Diego coach Mike McCoy has said Woodhead will be used in a similar fashion like he was with the Patriots. Woodhead is coming off a solid campaign in 2012 with 76 carries for 301 yards and four touchdowns and 40 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns with one lost fumble. He now has at least six total touchdowns in two of the past three seasons, and this is the second time over that span that he's had at least 700 total yards. We don't envision Woodhead being a significant contributor in standard leagues unless he overtakes Mathews for the featured role, but he should be looked at in PPR formats. In leagues where you get points for receptions plan on drafting Woodhead with a late-round pick.
Vick Ballard had the chance to be a standout Fantasy option this season, but the Colts decided he wasn't good enough to handle the rushing duties alone. In June, the Colts added Ahmad Bradshaw, and he will compete with Ballard for playing time. Ballard could still earn the starting job, but the Bradshaw addition dampens his optimism. If Ballard starts he could still be a No. 3 Fantasy running back with a pick in Round 7, but most likely Bradshaw will get the No. 1 job, meaning Ballard is only worth drafting with a pick in Round 9 or 10 at the earliest. Keep an eye on what happens in training camp, but Ballard's value takes a hit with Bradshaw now in the mix.
Steelers rookie running back Le'Veon Bell was gifted the starting job with the team when he sprained his foot in a mid-August preseason game. He's not expected to be ready for the start of the season and conceivably won't be back until after the Steelers' Week 5 bye. Even when he does come back he's no guarantee to be effective given his foot (he also tweaked his knee in training camp). The 6-foot-1, 244-pound Bell ran for 3,346 yards and 33 touchdowns, catching 78 passes for 531 yards in three seasons with Michigan State. That kind of production will have to wait until he gets back on the field. Until then, look for Jonathan Dwyer to lead a less-than-stellar Steelers rushing attack. Bell's worth a pick starting in Round 9 or 10, though it'll mean shelving him for at least the first five weeks of the season.
If the Broncos have their way, Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball will lead the backfield this year. That would be good news to anyone who invests in Hillman on Draft Day. Hillman should be No. 2 on the depth chart and get plenty of looks. His best game as a rookie was his last game in the playoff loss against Baltimore. With Willis McGahee out and Knowshon Moreno going down with a knee injury, Hillman had 22 carries for 83 yards and three catches for 20 yards. Overall, he finished the season with 85 carries for 330 yards and one touchdown and 10 catches for 62 yards. Pass protection was an issue for him, but the Broncos are excited about his potential as he's worked hard on that area this spring. McGahee has also since been released. He is worth a late-round pick in the majority of leagues, and Hillman could develop into a quality Fantasy option as the year goes on.
Joique Bell's career got rocked when the Lions signed Reggie Bush. Now Bell's workload will go to Bush. That's a shame as Bell had a niche carved as the Lions' passing downs back and fourth quarter guy: He'd salt the game away if the Lions were up big and he'd catch a glut of check-down passes if the Lions were playing catch-up. Over the season he had eight or more touches in 10 games and amassed a total of 899 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Those kind of numbers are history so long as Bush stays healthy. Thus, Bell can't be trusted in Fantasy.
After scoring 10 rushing touchdowns in each of his first two seasons in the league, Jonathan Stewart has 10 total touchdowns (seven rushing) over his past three years. Though injuries are to blame for part of the decline his rushing average plummeted right along with his carries in 2012 as he had 3.6 yards per tote on 93 carries in nine games. And he's had 15 or more touches four times in his past two seasons –this is for a player who received a monster contract extension last offseason. While Stewart's financial outlook is great, his Fantasy outlook isn't. Assuming the Panthers keep him in a backfield with two other running backs and a quarterback who steals goal-line touchdowns, Stewart's upside just isn't very good. Throw in a surgically repaired ankle and you have a running back who probably shouldn't be targeted until at least Round 7 when the position starts to get really thin. This all changes if the Panthers end up thinning out their running back corps, and Stewart has proven to be a great, versatile player when given the opportunity, but with only limited for the past two seasons there's no telling when he'll be productive for Fantasy purposes. Think of him as a quality reserve for now.
Fred Jackson went from a viable Fantasy running back from 2009-11 to a potential roadblock for C.J. Spiller. And Fantasy owners just want him out of the way. Jackson was set up for a productive year in 2012 before a knee injury in Week 1 derailed his season. When he went down, Spiller took off, and now Jackson could find himself playing second fiddle at age 32. If Jackson remains in Buffalo, which is a strong possibility, he will be the backup to Spiller. But the Bills should still give Jackson plenty of work. He will likely be a No. 3 Fantasy running back on Draft Day, and we would take him with a mid-round selection.