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2013 Draft Prep: Scouting the rookie RBs, 2.0

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Last year's rookie running back class was special, wasn't it?

Trent Richardson and Doug Martin, the first two rushers taken in the 2012 NFL Draft, helped out Fantasy owners big time with massive seasons. Another rookie broke out in Washington, though he was the 173rd player taken. Still, Alfred Morris' name is right up there with Richardson's and Martin's as top-flight players worth a Top 12 pick in drafts.

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This year's rookie running back class doesn't seem to be as special. For the first time since 1963 no back was taken in the first round. And of the first four taken in Round 2, only one opened camp with a clean path to the starting job (and he got hurt!). But it's not to suggest this class is low on talent -- in fact some very prolific runners will make the jump from college to the pros. It's just that some won't have much 20-touch potential on a weekly basis.

Here's our look at the nine running backs taken within the first 150 picks of the 2013 NFL Draft -- along with a couple of bonus backs. These should be the contenders to make an impact in Fantasy formats either this year or next.

Drafted 37th overall: Giovani Bernard, Bengals | Prospect profile
The Bengals obviously scouted plenty of running backs and had the chance to take anyone they wanted in Round 2. They made Bernard the first back off the board. That suggests they thought he was the best fit for their scheme (West Coast offense), and it's hard to think otherwise after a two-year career that saw him total 3,333 yards from scrimmage with over 90 catches and 31 touchdowns. The Bengals couldn't have been happy with their 24th-ranked run game last season: No one stepped up as a complementary back to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who underwhelmed despite a career-high 1,094 rush yards. Bernard should not only take a cut of the rushing workload off of Green-Ellis' plate but also eventually overtake him as the primary threat in the offense because of his versatility -- he's a solid pass catcher. This could happen as soon as Week 1 given Bernard's progress, though it's more likely he'll have to earn his role during the season. I've been outspoken about Green-Ellis for years but it's clear Bernard is the best, most unique back on the Bengals roster.
My current 2013 projection: 884 rush yards, six rushing TDs; 229 receiving yards, one receiving TD -- and a better stat line than Green-Ellis
I'd take him: 45-55 overall in standard and PPR leagues, 40-50 overall in dynasty/keeper leagues, Top 3 in rookie-only leagues

2013 rookie RB rankings
Player Team
Eddie Lacy Packers
Giovani Bernard Bengals
Montee Ball Broncos
Le'Veon Bell Steelers
Knile Davis Chiefs
Christine Michael Seahawks
Johnathan Franklin Packers
Denard Robinson Jaguars
Stepfan Taylor Cardinals
Zac Stacy Rams
Joseph Randle Cowboys

Drafted 48th overall: Le'Veon Bell, Steelers | Prospect profile
To call last season's Steelers run game bad is insulting to the word "bad." According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the 1,537 yards they totaled were the second-worst in franchise history since the league moved to 16 games. Well, after Bell hurt his foot in a preseason game, 2013 might not be much better. All reports indicate Bell could be back by October (perhaps after the Steelers' Week 5 bye) but suddenly he's not as appealing as he once was. Before the foot sprain Bell was a versatile, physical runner who had everything except long speed. Hopes were high as the Steelers viewed him as a three-down back. Those plans are scrapped now, at least until Bell proves to be healthy and effective, something that might take longer than a Week 5 debut suggests. The Steelers will go with a painful collaboration at running back highlighted by Isaac Redman to begin the season -- it's mostly the same group that sludged their way to the dubious stats last season. Bell is a benchwarmer for Fantasy for the time being, his upside zapped by his foot problem.
My current 2013 projection: 514 rush yards, five rushing TDs; 96 receiving yards (it was 1,039 rush yards, six TDs)
I'd take him: 100-120 overall in standard leagues (a little later in PPR), 85-95 overall in dynasty/keeper leagues, 10-20 overall in rookie-only leagues

Drafted 58th overall: Montee Ball, Broncos | Prospect profile
The very minute Denver made Ball its second-round pick the Fantasy chatter on him went into hyper-speed. After all, the running back behind Peyton Manning typically puts up quality production. Last season, Denver running backs totaled nine games with at least 10 Fantasy points. Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno averaged over 10 Fantasy points per game. Ball enters the league with 924 collegiate carries over four seasons -- including 663 over his last two years -- but he also averaged a cool 5.6 yards per carry over his four seasons at Wisconsin and only once had fewer than 18 scores from scrimmage in his last three seasons. The offseason has been good to him as he's received nice reviews from his practice field work and the Broncos axed McGahee in mid-June, presumably because they want to go with Ball more. John Fox has never been a proponent of leaning on one back at a time unless the back is exceptional. He seems to prefer rotating backs on a possession-by-possession basis. We should see Ball get into the swing of the offense with Ronnie Hillman to begin the season but eventually be the Broncos' lead back and a 20-touch candidate. Though he hasn't been special, he hasn't fumbled the ball like Hillman has. He's clearly the Broncos rusher to get.
My current 2013 projection: 745 rush yards, seven rushing TDs; 197 receiving yards
I'd take him: 50-60 overall in standard and PPR leagues, 40-50 overall in dynasty/keeper leagues, Top 5 in rookie-only leagues

Drafted 61st overall: Eddie Lacy, Packers | Prospect profile
Lacy's medical history is far from perfect as he has banged up his knee, ankle, chest, big toe, elbow, left hand, knee (again) and hamstring over the last few years, that also includes at least two surgeries. That's why Lacy fell into the Packers' lap in the second round. At 5-foot-11 and 231 pounds, Lacy is a nasty, violent runner who averaged 6.5 yards per carry as a senior with 17 touchdowns. There's no question what kind of player he is but there are questions about whether or not he can handle the rigors of an NFL season. We're going to find out though -- the Packers lost DuJuan Harris to a season-ending knee injury in August and fellow Packers rookie Johnathan Franklin hasn't stepped up this summer. That means Lacy will be pressed into handling a huge portion of snaps from week to week. The potential for a big season from Lacy can't be ignored.
My current 2013 projection: 994 rush yards, seven rushing TDs; 128 receiving yards over 13 games
I'd take him: 40-50 overall in standard and dynasty/keeper leagues (about 10 picks later in PPR), Top 3 in rookie-only leagues

Drafted 62nd overall: Christine Michael, Seahawks | Prospect profile
It was a surprise when the Seahawks spent a second-round pick on Michael, particularly since the team already had Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. But Seahawks general manager John Schneider made it clear he loved Michael's talents and wouldn't pass him up just because they were set at running back. It paints the picture that Michael will spend at least the 2013 season as a backup, likely fighting uphill for carries all year long unless Lynch misses time. Michael is a good fit for the Seahawks' zone-blocking scheme and has incredible flash and speed to go with his compact size. Too bad we might not see it consistently for a while.
My current 2013 projection: 522 rush yards, three rushing TDs; 20 receiving yards
I'd take him: 115-125 overall in standard, PPR and dynasty/keeper leagues, 15-25 overall in rookie-only leagues

2013 rookie RB dynasty rankings
Player Team
Giovani Bernard Bengals
Eddie Lacy Packers
Montee Ball Broncos
Le'Veon Bell Steelers
Marcus Lattimore 49ers
Christine Michael Seahawks
Johnathan Franklin Packers
Zac Stacy Rams
Joseph Randle Cowboys
Knile Davis Chiefs
Stepfan Taylor Cardinals

Drafted 96th overall: Knile Davis, Chiefs | Prospect profile
Andy Reid's track record for drafting running backs isn't too bad -- he plucked Brian Westbrook in Round 3, LeSean McCoy in Round 2 and Bryce Brown in Round 7 (just don't ask about Dion Lewis, Bruce Perry or Ryan Moats). Davis is the next in line and in a word, he's fast. The 4.35-second time he had at the NFL Combine shows up in any game film you watch of him, and he has pretty good size (6-foot, 227 pounds) to go with it. He does have a history of ankle issues going back to high school and has some technique issues to work out, but this is a player with some excellent potential to put up big numbers in the NFL. And this is where we cry because for the time being he's buried on the depth chart behind Jamaal Charles. Sure, there could be some work in store for him this season but so long as Charles is upright, Davis is going to be a role player. The future is bright for him if he can get out of Charles' shadow.
My current 2013 projection: 504 rush yards, three rushing TDs; 115 receiving yards
I'd take him: 130-140 overall in dynasty/keeper leagues, 20-30 overall in rookie-only leagues

Drafted 125th overall: Johnathan Franklin, Packers | Prospect profile
Franklin stood out at the Senior Bowl as the top running back in the group but hasn't done as well in the pros. A prolific rusher in college, Franklin has struggled with many details of the pro game and hasn't seen much time with the starters. In fact the Packers have looked into using Franklin on special teams, a sign they're not thrilled with his potential in the offense. Maybe that changes through the season and Franklin gets the chance to pick up some passing down reps from Lacy. Until then, he's almost not worth trusting this year. Expect him to make a jump in his second season.
My current 2013 projection: 389 rush yards, two rushing TDs; 144 receiving yards, one receiving TD
I'd take him: 125-135 overall in standard, PPR and dynasty/keeper leagues, 15-25 overall in rookie-only leagues

Drafted 131st overall: Marcus Lattimore, 49ers | Prospect profile
Had Lattimore been healthy he would have not only been the first running back taken in this year's draft but potentially a first-round pick. As a freshman at South Carolina, he totaled 1,609 yards from scrimmage and scored 19 touchdowns in 2010. He was on his way to a similar stat line in 2011 when he tore his left ACL, ending his season after seven games. In those seven games he had 1,000 total yards and seven touchdowns. Lattimore managed to come back from the mid-October injury in time for the start of the 2012 campaign, playing nine games before suffering a major right knee injury that included three torn ligaments. Lattimore had 835 total yards and 11 scores when he got hurt again. The 49ers have no major need for him in 2013, meaning he'll sit out the season. If the rehab goes as planned and he puts a little more muscle on his frame Lattimore could be a phenomenal contributor going forward. Even though the two knee injuries might scare off some people, you can't help but like how he came back from the first one and be optimistic about his chances with plenty of time on his side.
My current 2013 projection: Zero games played, on NFI list for 2013 season
I'd take him: 115-125 overall in dynasty/keeper leagues, 10-20 overall in rookie-only leagues

Drafted 140th overall: Stepfan Taylor, Cardinals | Prospect profile
Everything is great about Taylor -- his size, hands, pass protection skills and toughness -- except his speed. Watch his games from college and you can see it takes him time to break away from defenders. It doesn't mean he can't be a productive player, but it probably does mean he'd have to get a ton of carries in order for his Fantasy numbers to be solid. In Arizona he'll battle for reps with Alfonso Smith, Ryan Williams and fellow rookie Andre Ellington. Taylor was running third fiddle as recently as the Cards' third preseason game. Even though Taylor put in extra time this offseason to get the offense down, he faces an uphill battle to be a reliable runner this season. His outlook could be improved depending on the direction of the Cards run game a year from now.
My current 2013 projection: 304 rush yards, two rushing TDs; 30 receiving yards
I'd take him: 150-160 overall in standard and dynasty/keeper leagues, 20-30 overall in rookie-only leagues

Drafted 151st overall: Joseph Randle, Cowboys | Prospect profile
If the Cowboys were looking for a passing downs candidate at running back, they did a great job by taking Randle. Armed with quick feet, particularly for a tall running back, Randle caught 108 passes over three college seasons and averaged 8.5 yards per grab. Of course, his rushing skills were more impressive as he put up over 3,000 yards over three seasons and never had worse than 5.2 yards per carry in a single year. He scored 24 rushing scores in 2011 and another 14 in 2012. Randle had two surgeries on his thumb this offseason, keeping him off the practice field for the start of camp, but he has put on 10 pounds in advance of the season (he was rather lean looking in college). Randle might not start the year as the back up DeMarco Murray but it doesn't mean he won't be there eventually. That's a pretty good spot to be in considering Murray has missed playing time in each of his first two NFL seasons (nine games total). His long-term future is obviously tied to Murray's status.
My current 2013 projection: 252 rush yards, one rush TD; 110 receiving yards
I'd take him: 145-155 overall in standard and PPR leagues, 130-140 in dynasty/keeper leagues, 20-30 overall in rookie-only leagues

Drafted 160th overall: Zac Stacy, Rams | Prospect profile
Stacy was one of my favorite rookie rushers and is definitely a long-term sleeper. Picked by the Rams after consecutive 1,100-plus-yard rushing seasons at Vanderbilt, Stacy is a solid downhill runner in a compact but thick frame. He's not a burner but should be able to put up good totals given the opportunity. But that's the problem for Stacy as he's not likely to receive many opportunities to begin this season. Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead are seemingly way ahead of him on the depth chart. That makes Stacy one to wait for.
My current 2013 projection: 390 rush yards, two rushing TDs; 60 receiving yards
I'd take him: 110-120 overall in standard leagues (a little later in PPR), 105-115 overall in dynasty/keeper leagues, 10-20 overall in rookie-only leagues

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard .

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Player News
Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


Giants QB Eli Manning wants to take offense 'to another level'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is entering the second year in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system. Manning is ready to take the next step now that he is familiar with the system, reports the NY Daily News.

““This year will be a much easier transition, knowing that we have been through so much of it already,” said Manning, who recently had been working out at Ole Miss with some of their receivers and alumni. “It’s definitely a different starting point. I feel good about it. I feel that I have a good understanding of it.

“But there is still room to grow and that is why I try to keep it as fresh in my mind as possible. Looking at old game-plan sheets and calling plays in my head – throwing routes with receivers trying to call out plays to myself, so you don’t let it slip away. It was new last year and it wasn’t something I have been doing for 10 years, so you want to keep it fresh and go through your reminders and all your checks. So when we come back I haven’t taken a step backwards and have to re-learn things. It is still all there. There will be new stuff and we will be taking it to another level.”

Manning has started all 16 games in each season since 2005, throwing for 39,755 yards with 259 touchdowns and 185 interceptions.


Saints TE Josh Hill wants to grow into new role
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) After trading trading Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, tight end Josh Hill is ready to step into his new role with the Saints, according to the team's offical website.

“I think it might open a few opportunities for me as I continue to grow in my role and just do everything they ask me to do,” Hill said when asked about the trade of Graham to the Seahawks.

Hill recognized that Graham helped him transition from college to the professional level.

“It’s a big difference, especially coming from a smaller school and a smaller city," Hill said. "He was always there for me. We became pretty good friends over the past few years so it will definitely be different without him.”

Head coach Sean Payton believes that Hill is ready to step up.

“Josh Hill is a player that we value a lot," Payton said last week at the NFL annual meeting. "He’s not on anyone’s fantasy first three rounds, I promise you, but he’s a real good tight end. He’s versatile in the running game, in the pass receiving game, a special teams player.”

Hill, heading into his third year in the NFL, has recorded 20 receptions for 220 yards and six touchdowns. 


Cowboys QB Tony Romo excited about this offseason
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is excited about what the offseason holds for him, according to ESPN.

“This is the first offseason where I’ve been able to kind of get after it this early and be able to kind of improve in a lot of different areas that I think you aren’t able to until you get healthy enough to attack it,” Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “I’m just excited about that, really.”

Romo, 34, is encouraged by the fact that he is able to do a lot of different things during the offseason process while working out.

“Now I’m able to do that while actually doing functional strength training through different versions of squats,” Romo said. “I’m not putting anything on my back and doing stuff like that but you are doing a lot of single-leg stuff and different things that I started getting into during the season that helped a lot. Now it’s nice to be able to do that in the offseason.”

Romo has thrown for 33,270 yards with 242 touchdowns and 110 interceptions in his 12-year career. 


WR Dwayne Bowe looks to revitalize himself with Browns
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is looking to revitalize his career now that he has joined the Browns, reports ESPN. Bowe was cut by the Chiefs in the middle of March.

"I have a chance to revitalize myself," Bowe, 30, told ESPN.com via telephone Tuesday. "Just sit back and watch."

Browns general manager Ray Farmer has familiarity with Bowe from their time with the Chiefs. The two sat down and watched tape from the 2010 season when he racked up 15 touchdown receptions.

"Him knowing what I can do, seeing me in practice, making crazy plays, splitting the safeties, he knows I still can do that," Bowe said. "I couldn't showcase that last year. He was pulling up old plays, saying, 'We are going to use you just like that.' Moving around, going on motion, trying to hit the deep ball, trying to break plays."

The 30-year-old wideout appreciated his time with the Chiefs and he has no regrets.

"It's been up and down, but it's been fun," Bowe said. "I don't regret nothing. People can talk about the NFL and playing wide receiver -- I feel I still have a good four more years in me."

Over his eight-year career, he has totaled 532 receptions for 7,155 yards and 44 touchdowns.


 
 
 
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