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Offseason Extra: RB tiers for 2014

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Early Tiers for 2014: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs

Whether you stick to your guns and hoard running backs early or embrace the idea of taking a non-rusher with your first- and/or second-round choice, there's no denying that when you have good running backs, Fantasy is easy. Setting a lineup is a snap. The pressure's off, the drama is minimized and the roster seems better when you have rushers to spare.

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Does it mean absolutely, positively taking one in Round 1? That's a different story.

The turnover at the position is sickening. Over the last seven seasons, anywhere from four to six backs (no more, no less) repeated as Top 12 finishers from year to year. And if that's not bad enough then get this: Only once in the last five years have more than half of the running backs with a first-round draft average finished in the Top 12.

Still want to take a running back with your first pick no matter what?

The work is where it's at

There's no magical mystery to know what it takes for a running back to be great for Fantasy. Guys who touch the ball a bunch will deliver. Last year, there were nine running backs that had at least 300 touches (carries plus catches) and all nine finished in the Top 12. Another six had between 275 and 299 touches -- one was a Top 12 back, the other five finished in the Top 20. And two of the three backs with 250 to 274 touches finished in the Top 12 (the one that didn't -- Ray Rice -- finished a gross 30th overall).

More touches, more numbers
2013 RB workload Finished Success rate
300+ touches (9) Top 12: 9 Top 24: 0 100 pct.
275-299 touches (6) Top 12: 1 Top 24: 5 100 pct.
250-274 touches (3) Top 12: 2 Top 24: 0 66.7 pct.
225-249 touches (4) Top 12: 0 Top 24: 2 50.0 pct.
200-224 touches (7) Top 12: 0 Top 24: 2 28.6 pct.
175-199 touches (5) Top 12: 0 Top 24: 2 40.0 pct.
150-174 touches (6) Top 12: 0 Top 24: 1 16.7 pct.

All of this is evidence that touches are where it's at, and when it comes to drafting backs this summer it'll be the guys with the potential for the most work to fly off the draft boards first. The ones with goal-line potential will supersede those that rely on their receiving prowess for productive numbers.

The only issue left is knowing when to take them.

Rush for running backs?

In the past I've been accused of being the guy who drafts too many running backs. Even in the mock we did during the playoffs I took seven running backs over 15 rounds and only two receivers! I'm not changing form now -- I still want as many running backs as I can squeeze onto my roster -- but I might change when I get my first few.

Think about why backs like Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy go ahead of ones like Zac Stacy and Alfred Morris. There's nothing wrong with Stacy and Morris, but the feeling is that they aren't going to be as productive and Charles and McCoy. I'd use the term "difference maker" to describe Charles and McCoy, and that appeal -- the potential to deliver big Fantasy points every week rather than only in favorable matchups or when they get near the goal line -- makes them unique to their position.

The same idea works for a select few at other positions, and it's those difference makers that should be considered among the other elite and near-elite running backs when it comes to drafting. And the premium placed on players like Jimmy Graham, Calvin Johnson, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers -- guys who are roundly considered as close to sure things as you can find -- makes them more desirable to me than, say, a good running back who has big potential but also has an injury history, or a back that has potential and only potential (think David Wilson from 2013).

As big of an advocate as I am for taking running backs, I'm more comfortable taking the studs at other positions so long as there isn't a great running back to go after. Once those non-running back elitists are gone I'll go back to going after running backs. So I would consider a non-running back in the first and second rounds.

What I will stick to is aiming for running backs in the middle rounds -- more than I normally might if I take a lot of non-rushers early on. When I do chase them I'll go after the ones with a chance at 200 touches. Those are the ones with a good chance to finish as a Top 24 option. I'm sure I'll end up drafting pumpkins but the whole "lottery ticket" theory is in play: The more chances you take, the better chances you have of winding up with a productive player. Owners who drafted Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard, Ryan Mathews, Le'Veon Bell and Fred Jackson -- all taken on average between 60th and 122nd overall last year -- will appreciate this philosophy.

Fighting through the tiers

The very best way to organize your running backs when preparing to draft is to sort them by expectations into groups, or tiers. The bigger stats you expect a player to have, the higher tier. Once you do this exercise you'll have a good feel for when the talent pool begins to shrink and can draft accordingly.

Obviously you should expect changes between now and August. I hope so, because there's a lot of white space in the first two tiers and the fifth tier. There are a bunch of rookies that will impact this as well as free agent movement. Consider this simply a first draft of what will eventually be a sensational, dynamic, mega-awesome tier system come August (cue the fireworks!).

2014 running back tiers
1,600+ total yards, 11+ TDs 1,400+ total yards, 9+ TDs 1,250+ total yards, 8+ TDs 1,100+ total yards, 7+ TDs
Jamaal Charles Eddie Lacy DeMarco Murray Giovani Bernard
LeSean McCoy Adrian Peterson Doug Martin Chris Johnson
Matt Forte Le'Veon Bell Arian Foster Knowshon Moreno
  Marshawn Lynch Alfred Morris Ray Rice
    Ryan Mathews C.J. Spiller
    Zac Stacy Steven Jackson
    Reggie Bush Maurice Jones-Drew
      LeGarrette Blount
1,000+ total yards, 6+ TDs 900+ total yards, 5+ TDs High-end backups Low-end backups
Shane Vereen Donald Brown Stevan Ridley Latavius Murray
Frank Gore Chris Ivory DeAngelo Williams Marcus Lattimore
Ben Tate Andre Ellington Rashard Mendenhall Darren McFadden
Fred Jackson Andre Brown Montee Ball Bryce Brown
  Lamar Miller Shonn Greene Mike Tolbert
  Joique Bell BenJarvus Green-Ellis Mike James
  Rashad Jennings Pierre Thomas Daniel Thomas
    Danny Woodhead James Starks
    Khiry Robinson Mark Ingram
    Trent Richardson Jacquizz Rodgers
    Darren Sproles  

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
Patriots axe CB Alfonzo Dennard, two others
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:25 pm ET) As expected, the Patriots have announced the release of cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who exceeded expectations for three years after having been taken in the seventh round of the 2012 draft.

Dennard started 20 of 29 games in which he played and racked up 92 tackles and five interceptions. He also started in four postseason games with two picks. But he played just six games a year ago and lost time to a hamstring injury.

Long snapper Tyler Ott and linebacker Deontae Skinner were also cut loose by the Patriots on Tuesday.


Report: Chiefs release quarterback Terrelle Pryor
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:14 pm ET) The Chiefs have reportedly cut ties with quarterback Terrelle Pryor, according to Pro Football Talk. 

Pryor was signed by Kansas City in January and coach Andy Reid wanted to give him a chance to earn the starting quarterback role.

"We're going to give him an opportunity to play quarterback and see how he does," Reid said. "He’s there lifting everyday and doing his thing. We can’t meet with him but he shows up everyday and does what he can do."

Pryor last started as a quarterback in 2013 with the Raiders, totaling 2,374 yards with seven touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.


Cardinals cut Zach Bauman, Roc Carmichael
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:47 pm ET) The Cardinals released running back Zach Bauman and cornerback Roc Carmichael on Tuesday, reports Fox Sports Arizona.

Bauman and Carmichael did not appear in any games last season.


Vikings WR Mike Wallace on his speed: Nobody can run with me
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:35 pm ET) Vikings wide receiver Mike Wallace was not shy in expressing confidence in his speed, reports the Pioneer Press.

"Without a doubt, I'm the fastest player in the NFL," Wallace said. "If somebody feels foggy about that, we can [race]. I'm never going to back down from competition."

Wallace was recently acquired in a trade with the Dolphins. He struggled to connect on the deep ball with Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill during the last two seasons, but he expects that to change with the Vikings.

"The last couple of years I haven't been able to showcase my separation, but I'm positive that it will happen now," Wallace said.


Patriots DE Jabaal Sheard embraces his versatilty
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:06 pm ET) Patriots newcomer Jabaal Sheard will have a stable position at defensive end, which could prove beneficial to his career. He is coming from a Cleveland team that used three different defensive coordinators during his time there and utilized him both as a defensive end in a 4-3 and outside linebacker in a 3-4.

The Patriots generally remain in a four-man front. But Sheard is claiming an appreciation for the Browns for developing his versatility.

"Throughout the course of the years, I learned three different defenses," Sheard told NESN. "I learned how to drop back. It made me diverse and able to do a number of different things. I think the three defensive coordinators definitely helped me. I think it prepared me to be a coach some day. We'll see how that goes."

Sheard's sack totals decreased every year until the last one with the Browns. It peaked at 8.5 as a rookie before dropping to seven and 5.5 the next two seasons.


Cardinals TE John Carlson announces retirement
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:55 pm ET) Cardinals tight end John Carlson has decided to retire from the NFL, the team announced.

"After much thought and consideration, my wife Danielle and I know that this is best decision for us," Carlson said in a statement. "I was blessed to play seven seasons in the NFL for three tremendous organizations - the Cardinals, Vikings and Seahawks. I will always treasure the experiences and relationships made during that time but I'm also very excited about the next phase of my life and what's ahead."

Carlson announced the decision Tuesday and the Cardinals placed him on the reserve/retired list. In 2014, he caught 33 passes for 350 yards and one touchdown.


Patriots LT Nate Solder: 'I would love to stay'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) Patriots left tackle Nate Solder is hoping to stick around despite being in the final season of his rookie contract.

"I would love to stay," he told the Boston Herald. "...Who knows what will happen? My approach with that, too, is just to do the best I can while I'm here."

Solder is set to earn a guaranteed $7.438 million in 2015. The team could work out an extension with him to lessen a cap hit or prevent him from becoming a free agent in March. The Patriots did draft offensive linemen over the weekend, but none play his position.


Cowboys' Randy Gregory: 'I don't think it's a weed problem'
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:04 pm ET) Despite failing a drug test at the scouting combine in February, Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory said he doesn't have a marijuana problem, reports The Dallas Morning News.

"I haven't touched it," he said. "I'm feeling real good, too. This is a high in itself, to be honest. I'm high on life right now, and I don't want to lose this high."

Gregory did admit that his decision making needs to improve, which he said will come with more maturity.

"That's something I've definitely been working on and something I can definitely fix," Gregory said. "I'm 22 years old, but I think I carry myself real well and I think I need to carry myself a little bit better as far as decision making goes. I think a lot of people are getting tied up in the weed and think it's just a weed problem. I don't think it's a weed problem. I think it's decision making. I think I'm immature. I'm definitely working on that. I want to prove everyone wrong and I want to do it with this team. I think this is the best team I can do that with."


Cowboys' Rolando McClain has 2013 charges dismissed
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:56 am ET) Prosecutors dismissed the 2013 charges against Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain, reports the Associated Press.

Court records obtained by the Associated Press indicated charges from an April 2013 incident were dismissed. During the incident, McClain was arrested after he allegedly cursed at officers. He was convicted of misdemeanor charges for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, but appealed for another trial.


Packers bypass option on Nick Perry's contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:30 am ET) The Packers decided not to exercise the fifth-year option in linebacker Nick Perry's contract, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

By bypassing the option, Perry can become a free agent after the 2015 season. In 2014, he produced 23 tackles and three sacks in 15 games.


 
 
 
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