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Running Back Rankings - PPR Leagues

As we near the start of the season, Armando Marsal shares his running back rankings for PPR formats.

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL season kicks off in two weeks when the Patriots take on the Steelers on Thursday night football. That means that in the next couple of weeks, many fantasy owners will be drafting their teams and getting ready for the season. While there are several formats that one can play in, below I'll be sharing my running back rankings for PPR formats.

Here they are:

Running Backs

1

Le'Veon Bell PIT

2

Eddie Lacy GB

3

Adrian Peterson MIN

4

Jamaal Charles KC

5

Marshawn Lynch SEA

6

Jeremy Hill CIN

7

DeMarco Murray PHI

8

Matt Forte CHI

9

C.J. Anderson DEN

10

Lamar Miller MIA

11

LeSean McCoy BUF

12

Alfred Morris WAS

13

Carlos Hyde SF

14

Andre Ellington ARI

15

Justin Forsett BAL

16

Latavius Murray OAK

17

Melvin Gordon SD

18

Frank Gore IND

19

Ameer Abdullah DET

20

Jonathan Stewart CAR

21

Mark Ingram NO

22

T.J. Yeldon JAC

23

Rashad Jennings NYG

24

Shane Vereen NYG

25

C.J. Spiller NO

26

Bishop Sankey TEN

27

Giovani Bernard CIN

28

Joique Bell DET

29

Chris Ivory NYJ

30

Joseph Randle DAL

31

Doug Martin TB

32

Danny Woodhead SD

33

Arian Foster HOU

34

Isaiah Crowell CLE

35

Tevin Coleman ATL

36

Todd Gurley STL

37

Duke Johnson CLE

38

Devonta Freeman ATL

39

Tre Mason STL

40

LeGarrette Blount NE

41

Ryan Mathews PHI

42

Darren McFadden DAL

43

Alfred Blue HOU

44

Charles Sims TB

45

David Johnson ARI

46

David Cobb TEN

47

Andre Williams NYG

48

Jonas Gray NE

49

Cameron Artis-Payne CAR

50

DeAngelo Williams PIT

51

Darren Sproles PHI

52

Knile Davis KC

53

Jay Ajayi MIA

54

Matt Jones WAS

55

Reggie Bush SF

56

Khiry Robinson NO

57

Lorenzo Taliaferro BAL

58

James Starks GB

59

Monte Ball DEN

60

Jeremy Langford CHI

The top tier consists of Le'Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Adrian Peterson, and Jamaal Charles. Bell and Lacy are the younger of the two and also provide the most upside at this point in their careers. Bell turned it up in his second season in the league. He totaled 2,215 yards, caught 83 passes, and scored 11 touches. Despite being suspended for the first two games of the season, he remains the top back and pick on the board. Bell is a high volume and efficient back, the game flow doesn't affect him by any means. If the Steelers are ahead he's on the field, if they're behind, he's still on the field. Once he returns, he should consistently be out producing all other backs. Lacy also had a solid season as a sophomore in the NFL. He didn't carry the ball as much as his rookie season, but increased his yards per carries. As a pass catcher, he also increased average by nearly three yards and caught four touchdown passes, compared to zero as a rookie. Needless to say, he progressed. Lacy is in arguably the best offense in the league and has the league's best quarterback under center. The Packers should visit the red zone often and create opportunities for Lacy to score touchdowns. He has yet scored less the 11 total touchdowns in a season. You also have to consider Jordy Nelson's absence could generate more targets for Lacy in the passing game. There's a lot to like about Lacy this season.

Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles are past their primes, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they are finished. In fact, they should still be considered elite options. Everyone is well aware that Peterson is a freak of nature, and if you didn't know; now you know. After tearing his ACL in 2011, many people (including myself) doubted Peterson the following season. His ADP had dropped from 1.01 in 2011 to 2.06 in 2012. That's an entire round, and some. That season he nearly broke the all-time regular season rushing yards record. He rushed for 2,097 yards, which was eight yards shy of the all-time leader, Eric Dickerson. Needless to say, Peterson had a monster season. Is this what I'm expecting this year after missing a season due to a suspension? No. However, he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder and has proven to be in a league of his own, which is why I have him as my third back in the rankings.

After the top four, Marshawn Lynch and Jeremy Hill are the two next backs to consider. Lynch is not a sexy pick, but year in and year out he's up there in fantasy points. In the last four seasons, Lynch has scored 12 or more total touchdowns per year, including 17 last season. The Seahawks love to feed Lynch and there's no reason think that ends this season. They did lose the anchor to this offensive line, which is somewhat concerning, but not enough to ignore what Lynch has accomplished since 2011. On to the other back, Hill. He proved last season that he's capable of being an every down back. While he received a ton of volume because of all the injuries that the Bengals dealt with on offense last season, he is still in line to be the team's workhorse this season. Last season, he averaged the second most rushing yards per carry by a running back with 5.1 and led the league in that department in the second half of the season. Hill has become the center piece of this offense and proved that he's an every down back. Being that the Bengals are a run first offense, Hill should be in for another productive and busy year.

In this next group of backs is where I begin to get concerned. DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, and C.J. Anderson all raise some red flags to me. I've always been a big fan of Murray and appreciate watching him run. If you look at his numbers last season they are mind blowing. However, last season was the first year in his NFL career that he stayed away from the injury bug. It was also the first time he reached double digit rushing touchdowns. Prior to last season, Murray had never received more than 270 total touches in a single season.  I'm unsure about the volume he will receive, how he fits in this Chip Kelly system, if he will be heavily involved in the passing game (McCoy only had 28 receptions last year), and durability after such a large workload last season. As far as Forte is concerned, for years he has been one of the most reliable backs in fantasy football, especially in PPR formats.  This season, that can change. This is a new regime in the Bears, they no longer have Marc Trestman, the offensive guru, calling plays, the offensive line is not that good, and he's coming off of one of his worst yards per carry stat of his career. His two best seasons in receiving stats came under Marc Trestman, who as I mentioned before, is no longer with the Bears. Anderson came out of nowhere last season and helped a ton fantasy owners win a championship. Now, he's being drafted in the first round. I'm concerned about him this year because there's a new system in place, a new coach, and the offensive line has suffered some injuries. Not to mention, I haven't seen a large enough sample size to feel entirely sure he can produce at the same level once again.

Did you notice Lamar Miller making an appearance in my top 10? He finished ninth in fantasy points in both standard and PPR formats amongst running backs last year and could have done much better if the Dolphins didn't monitor his carries. This season, there isn't much of a threat behind Miller. Rookie Jay Ajayi was drafted and would have been a compliment to Miller's style, but his inability to get on the practice field hurts his chance to be a major threat early on in the season. Miller has an NFL career average of 4.7 yards per carry and can catch. He's been underused in previous years, but so far it appears they will lean more on him this season, according to reports. This is arguably one of the most underrated backs on the draft board.

One back that has dropped in my rankings is LeSean McCoy. I moved him from number five to number 11 after he suffered the hamstring injury. Even though he's expected to be ready for Week 1, I've left him at this spot because I'm not excited with what I've seen from the Bills offensive line this preseason. For what it's worth, I do think he's a talented back and can easily finish up there in fantasy points, but based on the fact that he's already dinged up and is running behind a real shaky line, it's tough to think he can reach the top of his ceiling.

Some running backs after the top twelve that can surprise fantasy owners are Carlos Hyde, Ameer Abdullah, Andre Ellington, Justin Forsett, and Frank Gore. Hyde was in my top 10 earlier this year, but with all the issues the Niners have dealt with this offseason and some of the pieces they lost on offensive line, I became a bit more apprehensive. He remains a candidate to be a high volume back that gets the majority of the carries for this football team and can be considered a high-end No. 2 running back. Abdullah has been sky rocketing up draft boards, as well he should. He's a play maker that can bust a big run on any given play. Some are concerned that Joique Bell will still be the lead back for this team, but I'm more inclined that Abdullah will be the Lions guy. Bell is still recovering from an injury he suffered last season and doesn't appear to be 100% healthy. In this high-powered offense, an explosive player like Abdullah should be in line for some big plays. Ellington could be a steal in the draft if he remains healthy this season. The issue with that is that it's a big IF. He's already dealing with tightness in his hamstring and these injuries tend to linger. While taking him as your RB1 isn't ideal, rolling the dice with him as your two can pay off. Much like Abdullah, Ellington can create huge plays in space and run for a big touchdown on any given play. The downside is his inability to remain healthy.

Some backs that should be on your radar in mid to late rounds are Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, and Duke Johnson. Vereen finds himself in a new team after parting ways with New England this offseason. As a Patriot he displayed both his pass blocking and his pass catching ability. While consistency was a concern for Vereen last season, he finished as a top 20 RB in PPR formats. You have to ask yourself this question though, is there ever a consistent back under Bill Belichick? Vereen steps into a backfield with Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams as the two guys he will compete against for carries. Jennings is currently the favorite to be the first and second down back, but truth be told, he's not durable, has never carried the ball more than 167 times in a season, and is at that scary age for running backs (30). Williams was underwhelming as a rookie and struggled in both pass blocking and rushing. That being said, it's really only a matter of time before we could see Vereen's role increase in this offense as the season progresses. He is the perfect fit for Ben McAdoo's offense and has all the traits any coach would want in a back with the exception of his size. Oh and guess what? It's unlikely he will be in Tom Coughlin's dog house for fumbling as Vereen has only lost one fumble in his three year career. He's young, has fresh legs, is an all-around back, and is being drafted in rounds 7-8 in 12 team PPR formats.

If you're not on the Danny Woodhead bandwagon yet, hopefully that changes when you're done reading this. While I wouldn't feel comfortable with him as my number one back, I'd be ok with him as an RB2 in PPR formats and based on his current ADP of 9.12, he can be a steal for fantasy owners. In 2013, Woodhead finished 12th in fantasy points amongst running backs in PPR formats. He caught 76 passes and scored eight total touchdowns. He averaged 14.2 fantasy points per game. Last season, he suffered an injury that sidelined him for the season after Week 3. People are quickly forgetting his 2013 numbers and I think that's a big mistake. The Chargers drafted running back Melvin Gordon who is struggling in pass protection and is having trouble getting through the holes the Chargers line is creating for him (they are not as big as they were in college). Taking that into consideration and the fact the Antonio Gates will miss the first four games of the season makes Woodhead a very appealing player. Rivers will likely dump the ball off more often than not to Woodhead. While on the surface this may not be a popular name, nor it's someone you associate with high-volume, he can be a big asset to any fantasy owner that is playing in a PPR format league. At such a low price, he makes a great value pick. The Chargers have shown confidence in Woodhead in the past and a similar role to the one he had in 2013 shouldn't be too much to ask for if you ask me.

In PPR formats, finding pass catching backs is always something that you should be doing. The rushing attempts don't necessarily have to be high as long as they're catching several passes per game. Best of luck to all in your upcoming drafts!