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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
Chip Kelly: Eagles weren't close to trading for Dolphins' Dion Jordan
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) The Eagles were rumored to be making an offer to the Dolphins for defensive end Dion Jordan , but coach Chip Kelly denied that a deal was ever close to completion. 

"We weren't close at all to any deal or trade or player talk in terms of dealing with Dion," Kelly said, per Philly.com.

Kelly confirmed that Jordan's name came up in trade talks with Miami but brushed off the significance. "If you guys know how much organizations talk about trading players, it's every day," he said.  

Jordan played for Kelly in college at Oregon and is suspended for the entire 2015 season after a third violation of the league's drug policy. 


Steelers linebacker James Harrison to see less snaps in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) Steelers veteran linebacker James Harrison is expected to see less snaps in 2015, according to linebackers coach Joey Porter per the Pittsburgh Tribune.

"He knows where he is," Porter said shortly after the Steelers drafted Miami (Fla.) outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo on the final day of the NFL Draft. "I told him already, the James Harrison (of before) is over.

"He's going to play his role, and his role is going to be effective. He knows what we're asking out of him, and he's going to be ready to answer the bell."

Porter said he expects Harrison to play roughly 25 snaps per game next season. Pittsburgh took another outside linebacker in Bud Dupree from Kentucky in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday.

"You can never have enough pass rushers in the way the game is being played now from the outside linebacker position," Porter said. "We just made our outside linebacker tree a little deeper."


Chip Kelly: No trade offers for Eagles' Evan Mathis
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said that the team hasn't received any offers for disgruntled offensive lineman Evan Mathis in the last two years. 

Kelly confirmed that the team gave Mathis' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, permission to seek a trade, per Philly.com

"That's through his agent and him," Kelly said on Saturday. "They've asked if he could renegotiate a contract and see what he could get, and we've obliged him with that, but we've never had an offer." 

Kelly said he didn't know if Mathis would be back with the Eagles next season. "That's a question for Evan," he said.


Raiders have 'open competition' between Jon Feliciano, Khalif Barnes
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) The Raiders drafted Miami guard Jon Feliciano in the fourth round, and offensive line coach Mike Tice has him slated for right guard. 

Feliciano will need to beat out veteran Khalif Barnes to win the job. 

"Right guard and right tackle is an open competition,"  Tice said, per CSN Bay Area. "We’re pretty set on the left and in the middle, and hopefully those guys can maintain their growth. We pointed out some things they can get better at, but the right side is where the competition is."

The candidates for right tackle are Menelik Watson and Austin Howard

"All you want coming in is an opportunity to compete and get better," Feliciano said. "We have that there at the Raiders, and I know everyone is going to go in there and compete. That’s going to be awesome."


Giants' Landon Collins not worried about replacing Antrel Rolle
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) The Giants made safety Landon Collins their pick in the second round of the draft, trading up to get him. That likely means that the Alabama product will get the chance to replace Antrel Rolle, who signed with Chicago as a free agent. 

Collins thinks he's up to the challenge. 

"Starting at Dutchtown [high school], I came in right after Eric Reid," Collins said, per NJ.com. "Then going to Alabama I came in after Mark Barron, Ha Ha Clinton Dix, and Vinnie Sunseri, plenty of big shoes to fill. Stepping into Antrel Rolle's shoes, I'm gonna definitely fill those too and keep it on going."


Eagles' Eric Rowe plans to start, 'it's not like I'm behind Revis'
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) Eagles second-round draft pick Eric Rowe met the media, and the defensive back from Utah sounded confident he'll be able to start immediately. 

"It is a really good opportunity for me to come in and play right away," Rowe said Saturday , per NJ.com. "I'm kind of fortunate that it's not a situation that I'm behind [Darrell] Revis." 

Rowe could play corner or sfaety. He doesn't have a preference. 

"I hope that wherever they place me that that's where I stay the whole season," he said. "Just so I can focus on it. If it happens that I need to switch out of necessity, I'll happily do it."


Disgruntled RB Zac Stacy shipped from Rams to Jets
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) Disenchanted running back Zac Stacy has been traded from the Rams to the Jets, a source has told ESPN. Details have yet to be revealed, though the return on the deal is considered to be minimal.

The last straw for Stacy was the first-round draft of Todd Gurley. Stacy had fallen behind Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham on the depth chart a year ago. After starting 12 games and rushing for 973 yards in 2013, he started five games and rushed for 293 yards last season.

The Jets have struggled to find a featured back in recent years. Chris Ivory led the team with 821 yards in 2014.


Pete Carroll says Seahawks aren't trading Bruce Irvin
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin has been the subject of trade rumors throughout the draft, but coach Pete Carroll put them to rest. 

"Bruce has done a great job for us," Carroll told ESPN. "We love him and we want him to be here. Somebody started that rumor about us wanting to trade him. That's not what's going on."

Carroll also denied that the Seahawks' second-round pick, pass rusher Frank Clark , had anything to do with the possibility of being without Irvin. 


Report: Jets show interest in disgruntled Rams RB Zac Stacy
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) The Jets have inquired about disgruntled Rams running back Zac Stacy, but have yet to make a formal trade offer, the New York Daily News reports.

Stacy fell behind Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham last season, and when the Rams selected Todd Gurley in first round of the draft, he made a public demand to leave St. Louis via trade and release. Stacy met with the Rams on Friday.

Stacy rushed for 973 yards and seven touchdowns on 250 carries in his rookie season in 2013 but managed just 293 yards and one touchdown on 76 carries last season while making just five starts.


Jets acquire WR DeVier Posey from the Texans
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) The Texans traded wide receiver DeVier Posey, a third-round pick (No. 82 overall), fifth-round pick (No. 152 overall) and a seventh-round pick (No. 229 overall) to the Jets in exchange for a third-round pick (No. 70 overall) on Friday.

Posey was taken in the third round (68th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Texans and racked up only 22 catches for 272 yards and no touchdowns in his three-year run with Houston.


 
 
 
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