2014 NFL Rookie Running Backs - Do Not Sleep on this Class
Four major factors seem to be propagating the opinion this is some kind of new era in fantasy football: the "Era of the Wide Receiver!"
First, the game has become more aerial as many small rule changes over the years have made it easier for offenses to attack downfield. Next, the proliferation and popularity of PPR scoring has dramatically increased the floor for wide receiver scoring. Third, the perceived rarity and decline of workhorse running backs limits the number of viable or obvious starters during the offseason and into the preseason. Finally, while all players carry some injury risk, the number of hits a running back endures throughout an entire season generates more cause for concern. Even the studliest RBs could be argued as a risk since they are older than 27 years old or have serious injuries on their resume.
Take for example this year's class for dynasty rookie drafts. Just a quick note if you don't play dynasty, a "dynasty rookie draft" means you already have a roster full of veterans and every year, you would cut the dead weight from your team and draft from the pool of rookies. For now, the consensus No. 1 pick is former Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. In fact, our friends over at DynastyLeagueFootball.com rank seven players (six WRs and one TE) ahead of their top-ranked rookie RB, Carlos Hyde from Ohio State.
Despite this declining valuation of RBs, every year still brings on rookie backs who can become the next Eddie Lacy, Le'Veon Bell, Giovani Bernard, Zac Stacy or Andre Ellington. All five of these rookies finished ahead of guys who were likely drafted much higher in redraft, such as C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, Stevan Ridley, Trent Richardson, Darren Sproles, Darren McFadden, Lamar Miller and Shane Vereen. Also, don't sleep on Denver RB Montee Ball, another 2013 rookie, since he is poised to have a breakout year.
Every redraft team you own should have one rookie RB, assuming you have enough wiggle room to accommodate him on your bench. For example, would you rather have Chris Ivory as a late round flier or a specific rookie RB who you have identified as possible breakout star? Sure, you might be wrong, but you must find and then take the right opportunities for small risks.
This class may lack a marquee runner, but that doesn't mean there isn't any talent to be found in the fantasy drafts.
With all this in mind, here's a short list of rookie backs to consider in 2014. These are my rankings, but please keep in mind this was written before the NFL Draft. The team and depth chart obviously will affect these rankings in all sorts of ways. For more dynasty rankings and information, check out our very own Nick Scott's dynasty rankings here on FFToolbox.
(height, weight, 40-yard dash time and projected round)
1. CARLOS HYDE, Ohio State (6-0, 232, 4.61, 2): Potential three-down workhorse with solid hands as a receiver. Power runner with thick base and average speed. - Best Comparison: Eddie Lacy
2. BISHOP SANKEY, Washington (5-9½, 209, 4.53, 2): Above-average vision with pretty good speed. Quick feet and change of direction. Average strength, but a tough runner between tackles. Pass protection concerns. Just a good all-around back. Best Comparison: Giovani Bernard
3. TRE MASON, Auburn (5-8½, 206, 4.48, 2-3): Hard runner with low center of gravity. Churns and fights for yardage. Decent agility in tight spaces with good patience. Durable. Decent receiver. Best Comparison: Ray Rice
4. JEREMY HILL, Louisiana State (6-0½, 233, 4.65, 2): Taller back with great ball security. Lacks discipline to stay inside and tries to bounce outside too often. When he stays north and south and runs behind his pads, he becomes much more effective. Very limited plays as a pass-catcher. Off-the-field character concerns. Best Comparison: LeGarrette Blount
5. CHARLES SIMS, West Virginia (6-0, 214, 4.49, 3-4): Good height, weight and speed combo. Excellent receiver with fast footwork. Naturally evasive, but comes down too easily. Average balance. Best bang for buck in PPR. Best Comparison: Matt Forte
6. ANDRE WILLIAMS, Boston College (5-11½, 230, 4.52, 2-3): Lackluster athleticism. Elite power and balance. Breaks tackles with ease. Absorbs a lot of punishment. Almost never used as a receiver. Best Comparison: a better BenJarvus Green-Ellis
7. LACHE SEASTRUNK Baylor (5-9½, 200, 4.45, 4): Really poor combine numbers creates question marks. Explosive and agile on game tape. Must be more consistent. Best Comparison: LeSean McCoy
8. TERRANCE WEST Towson (5-9½, 225, 4.56, 3): True diamond in the rough. Low pad level with average speed. Limited experience as a receiver. Runs behind pads and keeps legs driving forward. Best Comparison: Alfred Morris
9. KA'DEEM CAREY, Arizona (5-9½, 208, 4.69, 4): - Best Comparison: Ahmad Bradshaw.
10. STORM JOHNSON, Central Florida (5-11½, 214, 4.58, 4-5): - Best Comparison: DeMarco Murray.