Week 17: RB Roundup
With just one game remaining in the season, we're going to shift our focus to next year's draft. This week we're looking at the AFC's running backs and where they could be selected in next year's fantasy drafts.
After four consecutive seasons with 1,100-plus yards, Baltimore's Ray Rice will fall far short of the mark this season. With just one game remaining, he has just 645 yards rushing on the season. At age 26 Rice should be in the prime of his career. Maybe he still is and an early hip injury slowed him down. Maybe this is a sign of things to come. Bernard Pierce's presence proved a non-factor. Coming off a down season, Rice could be a value pick next year. Owners not willing to risk another down season will pass on Rice instead of taking the risk. Sure, there is some risk here, but the reward is high -- possibly top 15 RB high.
Owners looking for fantasy value out of Cincinnati's backfield next year should focus their attention on the rookie Giovani Bernard. With a season under his belt, Bernard should take over the reins and possibly become one of the league's top rushers. Bernard should be a solid number two fantasy back with the potential to be a number one.
With so much uncertainty surrounding this offense, fantasy owners have to be wary of who they draft from this team. The Browns have two first round draft picks in 2014 and needs at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. Seeing as they just traded Trent Richardson for a 1st, Cleveland likely seeks ground game help in free agency or later in the draft. Edwin Baker and Chris Ogbonnaya helped at times, but neither is a long-term answer.
Since taking over the starting job in week 4 against the Vikings, rookie Le'Veon Bell has performed well. In 12 games, Bell has rushed for 770 yards with seven touchdowns -- making him the 20th leading rusher in the league. While being number 20 on the list may not sound that great, you need to consider Bell missed three games yet is still ahead of backs like Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice. Bell will be a borderline RB1/RB2 next season.
Just what next season holds for the Texans backfield is anyone's guess. Arian Foster will be returning after having season ending back surgery. Fellow back Ben Tate, a free agent in a few weeks, has already expressed his interest in signing with a new team. To top it all off, the Texans are also looking for a new head coach and possibly a new starting quarterback. Lots of unknowns means a sketchy fantasy forecast for Houston's backfield next season.
The Colts traded away their 2014 first round draft pick to Cleveland for running back Trent Richardson. The hope there of course was that Richardson would solidify Indianapolis' run game, but that never happened. The Colts didn't give up their first round pick to have him watching from the sideline or playing behind Donald Brown, but that's largely what happened. There is plenty of upside with Richardson, but fantasy owners should be cautious when drafting him. The offseason PR push within the fantasy world will be fascinating. Some will love, some will hate and as of now, most should stay away.
Jacksonville could be without the services of running back Maurice Jones-Drew next season. After Sunday's game against the Titans, Jones-Drew becomes a free agent and there's a good chance he won't be returning to Jacksonville. There is no true heir apparent on the roster, though Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson are intriguing pieces. The offense has lots of issues. Not knowing who will be the Jags' lead back next season is one of them.
It sure didn't seem all that impressive at times, but Johnson could finish the season as one of the league's top 12 running backs this season. The Titans could make a head coaching change this summer, meaning the entire offense could have a different look next season. Factor in the return of Jake Locker and presence of Shonn Greene and Johnson's 2014 value is a moving target. Don't be surprised if once again it stops in the top 12 range.