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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
Steelers K Shaun Suisham scores nine points vs. Bengals
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:53 am ET) Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham made two field goals and three extra points in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Suisham connected from 29 and 25 yards out in the second quarter to help give his team a 20-10 halftime advantage, and they were able to maintain that margin in the second half. The kicker finishes the regular season with 29 field goals in 32 attempts, but he went just 1-for-3 in attempts of 50 yards or more, with both misses coming at home. He'll have to kick at home in the first round of the playoffs when the Ravens come to town Saturday.


Steelers WR Martavis Bryant catches TD in Week 17 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:50 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant had just one catch on two targets Sunday but scored a 21-yard touchdown in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Bryant was targeted on a screen pass in the second quarter and split his blockers en route to an easy score on his only catch of the night. He wraps up his rookie season with 26 receptions, 549 yards and eight touchdowns. Bryant will match up with the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.


Steelers WR Antonio Brown scores two TDs in Week 17 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:48 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown caught seven of his 13 targets for 128 yards with one touchdown and added a 71-yard punt return touchdown in his team's 27-17 division-clinching win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Brown fielded a first-quarter punt on one side of the field and took the ball halfway across the field to his right before changing directions and sprinting back to his left, outrunning the punt coverage team to the edge and racing ahead for the first score of the game. He made an outstanding adjustment on a fourth-quarter pass that was well defended to beat his man and cut past another would-be tackler for a 63-yard touchdown that gave his quarterback a share of the season passing-yardage lead.

Brown had his own stack of accomplishments in 2014, finishing with franchise-best marks in receiving while leading the league with 129 receptions and 1,698 receiving yards while also racking up 13 receiving touchdowns. He'll square off with a depleted Ravens secondary at home in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.


Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger finishes 2014 as passing coleader
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:40 am ET) Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 24 of his 38 passes for 317 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Roethlisberger connected with Martavis Bryant on a screen pass for a 21-yard score in the second quarter then appeared to be completely in sync with leading receiver Antonio Brown on a 63-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that featured an excellent adjustment from the receiver on well-covered route. That play, which was Roethlisberger's last completion of the day, left the Pittsburgh quarterback with a share of the passing lead on the season, tying Drew Brees with 4,952 passing yards.

Roethlisberger racked up 32 touchdowns while throwing just nine interceptions, and he managed to start all 16 regular-season games for just the third time in his career. With the win, the Steelers wrap up the AFC North title and the No. 3 seed in the AFC. They'll face the Ravens at home Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.


Bengals' Mike Nugent makes one FG, misses one in Week 17 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Bengals kicker Mike Nugent made just one of his two field-goal attempts in Sunday night's 27-17 loss to the Steelers in Week 17.

Nugent was able to nail a 39-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but after a Bengals drive stalled to open the second half, he was wide right on a 50-yard attempt. The kicker ends the regular season with 26 field goals on 33 attempts, but he hadn't missed since Week 6 before Sunday's season finale. Nugent will kick indoors in the first round of the playoffs as the Bengals head to Indianapolis to face the Colts.


Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham catches TD vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham caught all three of his targets for 20 yards with one touchdown in his team's 27-17 win over the Steelers in Week 17.

Gresham came out of the game twice in the first half with a back issue and was deemed questionable to return after his second exit from the game. He was able to make it back and score a fourth-quarter touchdown to bring his team within three points, though he appeared to be shaken up on the play.

Gresham ends the regular season with 62 receptions, 460 yards and five touchdowns, including a score in each of his last three games. He'll have a full week to recuperate before the Bengals face the Colts in Indianapolis Sunday.


Bengals RB Giovani Bernard scores TD vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Bengals running back Giovani Bernard rushed for eight yards on just three carries but racked up seven receptions on eight targets for 56 yards and a touchdown in his team's 27-17 loss to the Steelers Sunday.

Bernard displayed excellent athleticism on his 17-yard score in the first quarter, grabbing a short pass across the middle of the field and hurdling over a defender on his way to the end zone. While he's seen his role in the running game reduced in recent weeks, Bernard remains an integral part of the passing attack, catching touchdowns in back-to-back games over the last two weeks.

Bernard ends the regular season with 680 rushing yards on 168 carries and 349 receiving yards on 43 receptions along with seven total touchdowns. He'll square off with the Colts in the first round of the playoffs Sunday.


Bengals RB Jeremy Hill rushes for 100 yards vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:23 am ET) Bengals running back Jeremy Hill rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries and added 10 more yards on two receptions in his team's 27-17 loss to the Steelers in Week 17.

Hill closed out his rookie season with three consecutive 100-yard efforts, and he reached the mark five times over the course of the year. He ends the regular season with 1,124 rushing yards on 222 carries as well as 215 receiving yards on 27 receptions to go with 11 touchdowns.

Hill will square off with the Colts Sunday in the first round of the playoffs.


Bengals WR A.J. Green in concussion protocol
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is in the concussion protocol after exiting Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Steelers with a head injury, the team announced.

Green lost a fumble and took a shot to the head in the fourth quarter of the game, sending him to the locker room for examination. He finished the game with a team-high eight receptions and 82 yards. Green secured his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season with the performance, ending the regular season with 1,041 yards and six touchdowns on 69 receptions.

The Bengals will head to Indianapolis to face the Colts Sunday, leaving Green with a full week to get cleared.


Bengals QB Andy Dalton throws two TDs in Week 17 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:14 am ET) Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed 27 of his 38 pass attempts for 244 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Sunday night's 27-17 loss to the Steelers.

Dalton hit Giovani Bernard with a pass over the middle of the field in the red zone, and he was able to leap over a defender en route to the pylon to score a 17-yard touchdown. Dalton's second score came on a five-yard pass to Jermaine Gresham in the fourth quarter, with the tight end doing most of the work after the catch.

Dalton ends the regular season with 3,398 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions as well as 169 rushing yards on 60 carries with another four scores on the ground. The Bengals will head to Indianapolis for a first-round matchup with the Colts Sunday.


 
 
 
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