Running Back Rankings 1-45 – Subtitle: Values, Traps and Stealth Stars
As those of you who’ve been following me on the Banana Stand know, I play about 30 high stakes leagues a year. I can’t continue to do this unless I continue to win, and I can’t win if I prioritize winning debates over winning leagues. One way I try to counteract my own biases is to project players using as many different methods as possible.
Running back is the life’s blood of fantasy football, and if you’ve bought into my theory that RB-RB is the only way to approach 2013, then it’s even more important than usual. (I actually consider this a contrarian approach as I’ve always considered upside-down drafting to be the dominant strategy.) I recently used the groundbreaking RB Sim Score Lab to create a comprehensive Top 50 at the position.
In a surprise, Trent Richardson was the No. 1 back. I probably wouldn’t draft the man I call Cerberus with the top pick, but I do consider him the most likely candidate to post a season with 2,000 yards from scrimmage, 60 receptions, and 20 touchdowns. Lamar Miller came in atop the second tier. His value may be a little overstated by the methodology, but Ryan Rouillard provides compelling evidence that he’ll break out.
The second way I want to look at the RB position is to use the RotoViz RB Custom Cheat Sheet. This app is another example of the flexibility of the RotoViz platform. You can filter by touches and by week of season in order to create a custom set of projections to use when drafting.
Here are my rankings when customizing for the opportunity I expect each back to have in 2013.
Underrated: Ray Rice. This year’s forgotten man, the app seems to remember that Rice scored more ppr points in 2011 than Adrian Peterson scored in 2012. He’s averaged nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage over the last four seasons and hasn’t been held below 60 catches. I love Bernard Pierce as much as the next guy, but if you think he’s going to forge a legitimate timeshare with Rice I’ve got a different kind of timeshare I think you might be interested in.
Overrated: A lot of people don’t think there’s a single possible argument against Adrian Peterson at No. 1, but I’ve got nine of them right here. When you run simulations enough different ways and continue to get the same answers, it’s important to at least consider the possibility that they hold some truth.
Stealth Stars: This is the most convincing exercise yet when it comes to the viability of Alfred Morris and DeMarco Murray as 2013 bedrocks. Alfred Morris is ahead of the pace set by Terrell Davis and is primed for a secondary breakout. The crazy devaluation of Murray is just as irrational as last year’s besotted enthusiasm. He has a much higher ceiling this year in an offense that made Charlie Garner a fantasy superstar. They ranked No. 10 and No. 5 on the Undervalued List.
Overrated: Arian Foster. I recently added the Houston rookie backs in the RotoViz Dynasty League on Fleaflicker. Foster may be the most overrated player in all of fantasy this season, but the outlook for Ben Tate may be even worse.
Stealth Star: Rashard Mendenhall. I’ve been overly infatuated with Ryan Williams all offseason, but now that he’s basically out of the picture, I’m starting to see the Cardinals backfield more clearly. While probably overrated during his time with Pittsburgh, Mendenhall has some mild post-hype appeal in what should be a better offense than most are projecting.
Underrated: Joique Bell. This fits with Charles Kleinheksel’s excellent article on Bell.
Overrated: Steven Jackson. This projection is based on his situation in St. Louis. When I used the RB Sim Score Lab, he came out with a much more generous projection. I’m still a little worried that he appeared completely unable change directions in Atlanta’s first preseason game.
Cognitive Dissonance: Chris Johnson. I’ve been promoting Johnson all offseason, and it only took a handful of preseason carries to once again demonstrate what I was talking about. As a result, this projection is all the more discouraging. I would have expected his outlook to improve when I culled the data.
Underrated: DeAngelo Williams should be garnering some mid-round interest with Jonathan Stewart unavailable and the Panthers returning to a traditional offense.
Overrated: The scatbacks. Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Ronnie Hillman all end up in this area. They may be even better trap players than the guys who landed on the All-Trap Team.
Cognitive Dissonance: Lamar Miller, David Wilson, and Chris Ivory all do very poorly. This understates their chances but also acts as an important warning. If you select them, you need to think very highly of their respective upsides. I broke down Wilson’s prospects in great detail, and the other two have similar issues. You’re buying a ton of risk at their current ADPs.
Final Piece of the Puzzle
Now that I’ve got projections from the RB Sim Score Lab and the RB Custom Cheat Sheet, I’m going to combine them with the unfiltered projections from the RB Sim Scores to provide a final set of rankings. That article will be out soon. And as long as you’re examining the position from as many angles as possible, make sure you check out James Goldstein’s RB Upside Ratios.