Top 15 Sophomore Running Backs
This may be one of the greatest sophomore running back classes I can remember in all my years playing fantasy football. I honestly finished my Top 15 wondering if I left some quality backs out that just missed the cut. I believe whole heartedly that there are more than 15 sophomore backs that either have the talent or are in the right situation to make a fantasy impact, whether it be in 2014 or the not too distant future. Ordering them was very difficult, I could have easily switched anyone from 1 to 5. I had a lot of fun researching and writing this article, so I hope you enjoy reading it.
RB Eddie Lacy, GB - Stud (low risk)
Lacy slipped in both the NFL and fantasy drafts in 2013. This was because of injury and weight issues. If you look back now at his play in college (particularly the BCS National Championship game), everyone that passed on this guy has to be kicking themselves. He is the definition of a power runner that caught the ball better than many thought he would. The scary part is he can still get better from here, much better. As long as Lacy stays healthy, he has every opportunity to be an elite back in Green Bay. That passing game only helps by pulling players out of the box and opening holes, and they know they are better when they feed him. He brings something to the Packers they haven't had in years, and it will show. I expect them to use him more than a kid uses a new toy.
RB Montee Ball, DEN - Solid/Safe Pick
Not only is Ball super talented, but Peyton Manning is his quarterback. When Manning is the QB, running backs play well. It may be because of the pressure they put on the D with their passing game, how he reads a defense and audibles, or all of the above. He has had a year to work on his blocking and ball security (which kept him off the field at times in 2013) for the more trustworthy Knowshon Moreno. Ball has more than proven to be a versatile back that has the ability to find the end zone in his college days. I expect him to be a significant upgrade to Moreno. Just look at his numbers from last year!Injury Status: Out - Groin
RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT - Stud (low risk)
Bell is a workhorse back that can run inside, outside, block, and catch the ball. The Steelers got him for one reason: to pound the ball. They wanted an old school back that can carry the ball 30 times(if needed) and catch the ball out of the backfield. He was hindered early last year with a foot injury, but has proven to be durable over his college career. I expect a huge year out of Bell, and have no worries about any other backs taking his touches. The Steelers historically love this type of back, and have been searching for him for a while now. Expect Bell to get Pitt back to what they do best.
RB Andre Ellington, ARI - Solid/Safe Pick
Andre Ellington is the man of the hour. I've received more messages about Andre Ellington than any other player. Some people love him and some hate him, but everyone wants to talk about Andre Ellington. As you can see by the fact that he's number four on this list, I'm high on him. If he gets the 25-30 touches they claim he will, he can be elite. He has almost no competition in Arizona and their O-line is expected to be improved. He had great numbers last year with limited touches; if that translates, he's a top fantasy back. Everything is set up for Ellington to have a MONSTER year; the only concern is if he can handle the major workload they intend on giving him. *FFToolbox Breakout Candidate
RB Giovani Bernard, CIN - Stud (low risk)
I believe Bernard is the most talented back on this list. However, his situation pushes him back to the five slot. He's in a somewhat crowded backfield after the Bengals drafted yet another running back this year (and the Law Firm is still in the mix). His talent may very well overpower all of that. This guy is quick, explosive, can catch, run, and make plays all over the field. He can make defenders miss and is a big play threat every time he touches the ball. Bernard was my favorite rookie last year; if not for other backs being in better situations, he would be my top sophomore. If all things were even, Bernard would be the most talented back on this list.
RB Zac Stacy, STL - Solid/Safe Pick
Stacy was arguably the most surprising and impressive rookie back of 2013. He did a lot with a little. He had to earn his place as starter, and boy was that offense bad without him. With Bradford out, Amendola gone, and Tavon Austin unproductive, it was all on Stacy. He only averaged 3.9 YPC, but he was all they had. Defenses quickly began to key on him, and the Rams just kept pounding him into the D. However, there is a lot of rumblings about rookie Tre Mason. Stacy (who looked to be a sure fire top back) now has some competition.