Runningback is the one position you can count on a rookie stepping in and being a huge fantasy factor in their first season. There were a couple back taken in the first round and others drafted later that will contribute also.
1. Melvin Gordon Being Healthy puts Gordon slightly above Gurley to me at the start of the season. He had a ton of yards from scrimmage and added more receptions which only helps his value. there’s still Oliver, Woodhead and Brown on the roster. Clearly moving up to get Gordon says they’re not comfortable with them in the long run. Gordon should get the bulk of the carries and should be an immediate high end RB2.
2. Todd Gurley
Gurley may start slow because of his knee injury. but by the end of the season should be getting a full workload. You may want to pair him with Tre Mason. Just to offset the early part of the season if Gurley is slowly brought along. Gurley could help you win a title next season. He’s a big physical runner who also caught 65 passes in 3 years at Georgia.
3. Ameer Abdullah
Joique Bell didn’t impress as a feature back in Detroit when given the chance last year. He never eclipsed the 100 yard mark. Reggie Bush is gone and Ameer Abdullah has a chance to do big things. I figured Theo Riddick was a slam dunk for the change of pace role in the Lions offense. Abdullah caught over 20 passes the last season. He’s a tough physical runner between the tackles for a smaller back. I think this offense could end up with Riddick and Abdullah as the main two backs by the end of the season. Bell’s days could be numbered if he doesn’t rush better or stay healthy this season.
4. TJ Yeldon
Here’s a situation where getting drafted to the right team helps. Toby Gerhart was a disaster last year and Dennard Robinson had a short run. To me, Gerhart wont hinder Yeldon. Robinson was a short term fantasy rental and I don’t see him making a big impact this coming season. Although I’m sure he will have a role in the offense. Yeldon should be a low end RB2 or a flex. He can run and catch. The Jaguars offensive line was bad last year. Maybe rookie AJ Cann can help and Joeckel can become the Left Tackle they’ve needed. But the O-Line could limit Yeldon’s success.
5. Tevin Coleman
Coleman was very productive last season rushing for over 2,000 yards and adding 25 receptions for 141 yards. The offensive line wasn’t good in Atlanta last year. Something that will have to turn around for the Falcons to have any success. He’s not the biggest back and should be looked at as a flex at best until we’ve seen different in the preseason.
6. Duke Johnson
The Browns used two rookies last year after Ben Tate went down with an injury. Then released mid-season. Terrence West came out hot against the Steelers with 100 yards on 16 carries week 1. Then slowly started to give way to Isaiah Crowell. The coaches seemed frustrated with West’s dedication. But he ended the year with 98 yards against Baltimore. Isaiah Crowell had the same amount of success. but was able to find the end zone double the amount of times West did with 8 TD’s. Both backs seem like quality rotational players. But now rookie Duke Johnson is in the mix. Johnson is smaller than West and Crowell. With no receivers and bad QB’s there should be plenty of reps for everyone. With a good defense they should keep games close. Johnson should be able to get 4-12 carries per game. I think he’ll boost his fantasy value catching passes out of the backfield. West and Crowell combined for 20 receptions last year. He’ll be a flex at best considering the team, but should be owned. An injury or two and his value is much higher.
7. David Johnson
Johnson was a standout at Northern Iowa. He comes in with the injury prone Andre Ellington as his main competition for snaps. But they are much different types of runners so both will be involved in the offense. Stepfan Taylor is the similar back to Johnson on the roster. I doubt he’ll be much of a threat to Johnson’s playing time. Arizona’s offensive line looks better than ever, which isn’t saying much. But it’s a positive step. Look for Johnson to be a flex option.
8. David Cobb
Cobb has a great opportunity in Tennessee. If you like Bishop Sankey, Shonn Green and Dexter McCluster than you probably disagree. But none of them impress me. Cobb has the chance to be the Main back here. I’m sure they’ll give Sankey many chances early. But if he plays like he did as a rookie, it wont be for long. Cobb is a big unspectacular north-south rusher. I’d like to see him hit the holes a little faster. But he sure has a good situation and could be a draft day steal.
9. Jay Ajayi
Lamar Miller will be the top back in Miami. But it’s an open competition after that. Ajayi has a good chance for playing time early and often. Miller has had a history with injury so keep an eye on Ajayi. He is a versatile back who can help out in passing situations.
10. Mike Davis
It looks like newly acquired Reggie Bush will play a big role in the 49ers offense. At least that’s the plan. Bush has had trouble staying on the field at times. If history repeats itself, Davis will get some looks behind Hyde. If that happens, Davis could push Hyde for carries. NAMES TO REMEMBER:
selected 4th round by Baltimore. Will battle Lorenzo Taliaferro for the spot behind Forsett.
Fifth rounder for Carolina. Lots of competition on the roster. With Carolina’s runningback history I’m sure we’ll hear from Artis-Payne.
Productive SEC back will wont sniff the field unless Gore shows his age or get injured.
Small School player who has a chance to make the roster in Green Bay.
Poor man’s Mark Ingram who will fight for a roster spot in Baltimore. Productive rusher when he gets the Chance. Solid hands in passing game. Could find a home elsewhere.
Dyer doesn’t have a lot of quality competition and could find a role behind Latavius Murray.
Brown has a lot of players to battle for a spot. If he finds one, Brown could end up a good piece of the offensive attack. If Doug Martin doesn’t return to 2012 form, Tampa could look another way.