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2013 Fantasy Football Preview: Running Backs

Eric Smith shares which running backs should be at the top of your draft list and who is worth grabbing late.

When it comes to fantasy football, running backs are the workhorses. They’re your guys who carry you through a season, and as such, there is no more important fantasy position.

It’s an interesting and deep class of runners this year. A few are guaranteed fantasy point jackpots; others are sleepers — and there are a bunch of sleepy young runners who could have a big year.

Here’s your 2013 Fantasy RB draft preview:

2013 Fantasy Football QB Preview

2013 Fantasy Football WR Preview

2013 Fantasy Football TE Preview

Hall Of Fame Tier

Can't miss studs. Best of the best.

1   Adrian Peterson – Minnesota

Adrian Peterson-Vikings-july22

Do I even need to say what this man did last year? He totaled 309 fantasy points before falling nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s 28-year-old single-season rushing yards record.

2   Arian Foster – Houston

Foster narrowly edged out Doug Martin for the No. 2 spot behind Peterson. Still, he catches the ball out of the backfield. He’s a stellar runner and clear No. 2 fantasy back this year.

Pro Bowl Tier

Minimal risk. Will consistently produce at top level.

3   Marshawn Lynch – Seattle

The last two years he’s finished in the top-five for RB fantasy scoring and the Seahawks have added weapons around him. You won’t go wrong with Lynch.

4   Doug Martin – Tampa Bay

Call him “Douginator,” the “Muscle Hamster” or simply “stud”. As a rookie he was second or third (depending on your league) in fantasy RB scoring. The biggest improvement for a young player is from year one to year two. Grab Martin early. 

5   Ray Rice – Baltimore

A slight downturn last year after his exceptional 2011 campaign but Rice is still a top-five fantasy RB. He’ll lose a few carries here and there to backup Bernard Pierce but not enough to drop him out of the top-five.

6   Jamaal Charles – Kansas City

jamaal charles-chiefs

He’s been a fantasy stud for years and now has some added pieces around him. With Andy Reid at the helm he’ll catch some more passes as well.

7   Trent Richardson – Cleveland

Richardson is the focal point of the Browns’ offense in his sophomore effort, especially since they don’t have great – or even good – QB play. Richardson is also the goal line back and won’t lose carries there.

8   C.J. Spiller – Buffalo

At Last! Spiller finally showed what all the hype was about coming out of Clemson. Head Coach Doug Marrone is an offensive mastermind who will find ways to get Spiller the rock.

9   LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia

Injuries are a concern here but not an overwhelming one. New Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo spread-option attack fits “Shady” very well. We’ll see how McCoy picks it up.

10 Alfred Morris – Washington

Morris will likely see even more touches in his second year as the Redskins try to protect RGIII’s knee. That equals more points.

Starter Tier

The lower end of fantasy starters but still very serviceable.

11 Stevan Ridley – New England

Had a great year last year with 1,263 yards and 12 TDs. Splits some carries with Shane Vereen but is still the No. 1 back in New England. Could see even more carries with the Pats’ depleted receiving corps.

12 Chris Johnson – Tennessee

Johnson falls out of the first-round category but is still a fantasy starter. They added massive guard Chance Warmack in the draft but also Shonn Greene for goalline work. CJ2K will probably lose some TDs as a result.

13 Steven Jackson – Atlanta

I love Steven Jackson. Talk about weapons around a guy — Jackson could be running with as few as six guys in the box to stop him. Atlanta is a decidedly pass-first team but Jackson has put up 1,000 or more rushing yards the last eight years and probably will again. He also has a favorable schedule.

14 Matt Forte – Chicago

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Forte continues to be a PPR machine. A revamped offensive line benefits him as well as a West Coast offense under new head coach Marc Trestman that will put Forte’s pass catching abilities to good use.

15 DeMarco Murray – Dallas

A guy that is full of potential. He flashed it in 2011 but injuries held Murray to only 10 games in 2012. However, he did average around 10 points per game in his injury-plagued season last year. If he stays healthy he’s a very viable starter.

Backup Tier

Should hold the metaphorical clipboard for your fantasy team, only starting during your bye week.

16 Reggie Bush – Detroit

He’ll get a boost in PPR leagues with his ability to make catches from the RB spot. Problem is he plays in a tough division and has a tough overall schedule

17 Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville

A Lisfranc injury cost him 10 games. If he comes back to form he could  be good for 240+ points. 

18 Frank Gore – San Francisco

He’s getting older but is still a capable fantasy RB2. Gore will sacrifice some carries to LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter but should still get the goal line carries and close to, if not slightly over, 1,000 yards.

19 Darren McFadden – Oakland 

Hopefully McFadden can make it through a season for the first time in his career. If he does he’ll be great.

20 Ryan Matthews – San Diego

Another big injury risk, Matthews has Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown that will siphon off some carries. He’s still the main guy in San Diego but is only an RB2 choice at best.Dav

The Rookies and Sleepers Tier

Plenty of fresh talent that could be your lottery ticket.

21 David Wilson – NY Giants

Wilson flashed a lot of potential in 2012, scoring four times on only 71 carries. He’ll be the main guy in the Giants’ backfield this year.

22 BenJarvus Green Ellis – Cincinnati

Will lose carries to rookie Giovanni Bernard over the season. Is best as a handcuff.

23 Darren Sproles – New Orleans

Better receiver than rusher. Is only worth starting in PPR leagues.

24 Montee Ball – Denver

Ball is the likely starter over Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno to head Denver’s rushing attack.

25 Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh

Built like Jerome Bettis, the 6-foot-1, 230 pound bruiser is the Steelers’ most talented and capable RB.

26 Lamar Miller – Miami

Miller was explosive in limited action in 2012. He appears to have the inside track over Daniel Thomas to get most of the carries in the Dolphins’ pass-heavy offense. He’s a good pass-catcher too.

27 Vick Ballard – Indianapolis

Yet another sleeper like Miller and Wilson. He’s a RB3/ Flex option with upside to become like an RB2.

28 Rashard Mendenhall – Arizona

A good backup option but has been banged up over the years. Plus, Cardinals new head coach likes to chuck it down-field frequently.

29 Eddie Lacy – Green Bay

The former Alabama bulldozer will look to recharge the Packers' woeful ground game. Will compete with Johnathan Franklin for carries.

30 Jonathan Stewart – Carolina

Injury prone but should see an increase in carries as 30-year-old DeAngelo Williams gets fazed out. Still not a starter but we’ll see what happens.

Gone Fishin’ Tier

At this point we’re fishing for the big one NOBODY saw coming.

Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, Daryl Richardson, Shane Vereen, Ben Tate, Bryce Brown, Mikel Leshoure, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jacquizz Rodgers, Isiah Pead.

All of the above players have potential and will add good depth. But they aren’t fantasy starters. Ivory, Ingram an Brown are all semi-sleepers that could be good if things go their way.

Eric Smith is an MMA and fantasy football contributor with Craveonline.com. Follow him on twitter or @EricSmith_SP or email him at ejmith7@asu.edu.

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2013 Fantasy Football QB Preview

2013 Fantasy Football WR Preview

2013 Fantasy Football TE Preview