Ready for some 2013 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Back Analysis? It’s never too early to start preparing for the 2013 fantasy football season, especially when it comes to the incoming rookie running back class.
The below analysis and rankings are based on a standard PPR scoring format, and clearly the landing spots for these incoming rookie rushers will determine a lot, so you can bet that we will have some updates to this content following the 2013 NFL Draft!
1. Montee Ball – RB (Wisconsin)
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 214 | Forty: 4.66
2/25/13 Combine Update: While Montee Ball didn’t do anything during his combine workouts to elevate his draft status, he by no means hurt his draft value. Although, weighing in at 214 pounds, vs. the projected 210, was a huge plus in my eyes. While my predictions are at the mercy of NFL coaches, Ball remains my No. 1 ranked rookie runner from this 2013 class… Landing spots will determine everything with this 2013 NFL rookie running back class, so stay tuned!
2/15/13: It’s crazy how far this guy has fallen according to most fantasy experts and writers. I’ve seen Montee Ball ranked as low as 8-10 as far as rookie rushers go, and I rarely see him anywhere near No. 1… Ball really should have entered last year’s 2012 NFL Draft, as he now has grips of people doubting him entering 2013… I don’t doubt him, I can’t emphasize that enough, but if a majority of NFL coaches do, Ball could get passed over by good situations and end up getting stuck in an awful RBBC. Some call the rusher too small, but he is the same weight as Ray Rice, and he is actually an inch or two taller… I see elite talent in this kid, and if the youtube footage below doesn’t convince you that he has elite upside, how about 1,830 rushing yards and 22TDs in 2012, and of course his 1,923 rushing yards and 33TDs in 2011 (39 if you include his 6 receiving TDs.. yeah, that wasn’t a typo… 39!)… he even had 18 rushing scores in 2011. The dude can play, and he can score like no other runner in this draft. He also had five games last year with over 160 yards rushing.
Ball has that “it” factor, it’s just a matter of whether or not an NFL team drafts Ball to start, which is something we cannot control. I admit it, this is a bold ranking given the uncertainty surround his perceived stock/value, so know that, but also know that I see no other runner in this 2013 rookie running back class that can make a bigger fantasy slash than Ball.
2. Le’Veon Bell – RB (Michigan State)
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 230 | Forty: 4:60
2/25/13 Combine Update: Scouting incoming fantasy rookies is a process, and if you scout right, you’re going to [level-all]flipflop quite a bit with your own set of personal rankings. That’s just how it goes. At least, if you’re honest with yourself during the process, that is just how it goes. To be a good scout, one has to know how to observe, learn, and react… and most importantly, you have to admit when you are both wrong and when you have overlooked someone. Some players will jump out at you in January, or February, and others will grow on you… and on occasion, some won’t even be on your radar until after they land with an NFL team. Well, I admit it, Le’Veon Bell falls into the “grow on you” category, and lately, I’m really getting a good feeling about this running back’s ceiling potential at that next level. Granted, he needs to get drafted to start, or at least drafted into a situation that will allow his talent to eventually win-out… so, landing spot is going to mean everything when all is said and done.
Bell isn’t a speed specialist, proven by his 4:60 forty at the 2013 NFL Combine, but this back has power, vision, a smoothness you can’t teach, and he is quite athletic for his size. His size, though, is what I’m starting to find most appealing when analyzing all of these 2013 rookie rushers… Bell, like Marcus Lattimore, has an ideal frame for an NFL rusher. He is quick, good at picking open rushing lanes, and he looks the part. A lot of times people ask me how I manage to land so many sleeper predictions… Well, the answer sometimes isn’t an answer people like. I have no formula that cranks out a name, and many times I don’t have a lot of stats to back-up a bold claim. What I base most of my predictions off of is gut instinct… sometimes it just takes watching a player play and then I know… I see elite talent in their play. While I cannot control injury, or coaching decisions (this includes landing spots for rookies), I can at least call out the hidden talents… Bell is one of those hidden talents… of that I have no doubt! Although, do NFL coaches agree? We shall see! Once we know the answer to that, we can all act accordingly with both our rankings and 2013 predictions. IF in the right spot, top 5-10 fantasy rusher here we come!
3. Knile Davis – RB (Arkansas)
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 227 | Forty: 4:37
2/27/13 Combine Update: Knile Davis ran a 4:37 at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. Davis was ultra impressive during his combine performance… ESPN recently reported that Davis’ Speed Score, a metric defined by Football Outsiders, is 124.5… the Speed Score is designed to take into account size/weight/height when analyzing a player’s speed… the formula looks like this according to the ESPN article: (Weight * 200)/(40 time^4). A score of 100 is considered average, and anything below 80 is considered a red flag. And, of course, anything above 120 is a home run. Davis’ 124.5 is reportedly the second highest score ever recorded by Football Outsiders’ metric system. At 5-10, 227 pounds, he has great size for the NFL… throw in the speed we just highlighted and all Davis needs is an ideal landing spot. He still needs to learn how to run lower, and hold onto the football, and again, landing spots mean everything with this class… but, judging off of talent alone, Davis is a top 2-4 running back talent in this draft, of that I now have no doubt.
4. Marcus Lattimore – RB (South Carolina)
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 218 | Forty: DNR at Combine
2/27/13 Injury Update: According to Rotoworld, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that rookie Marcus Lattimore (knee surgeries) doesn’t have a good chance of playing football during his rookie campaign. “The medicals on him are not great,” said Mortensen, according to the Rotoworld post. “Dr. (James) Andrews, who did the surgery, says it’s one of the toughest surgeries he’s ever had. … You take Marcus Lattimore, you’re taking him for 2014. Nobody wants to shoot down the inspiration for him, but the bottom line is it’s going to be a long road.” This is a bit disappointing, and conflicting to many of the reports provided during the 2013 NFL Scouting combine. Even with some doubt surrounding his 2013 availability, Lattimore still has big upside in dynasty leagues.
2/25/13 Combine Update: Marcus Lattimore (ACL, LCL and PCL tears) obviously did not participate in the 2013 NFL Combine, but word is that the runner is rehabbing ahead of schedule. This No. 3-4 rank is a bold ranking for a guy still working on a comeback from a brutal three-ligament knee injury… it’s also important to point out that he came off an ACL tear in his other knee the year prior. Although, his doctors have been quoted saying that, so far, Lattimore has recovered twice as fast than expected, and Lattimore said himself that he feels that he is recovering faster, and better, with this knee injury than the one prior (and this injury is much more severe than his first)… One thing I will say about Lattimore is that he has amazing character, tremendous drive… if anyone can come back and be an elite runner, it’s Lattimore. While this quote sounds overly-confident, I assure you that Lattimore said it in humble and inspiring fashion: “I’m just going to prove that with God’s power, you can come back from an ACL, LCL, PCL, and I’m going to make it look easy. And, I’m going to prove that to my family, I’m going to prove that to my city, I’m going to prove that to the whole Nation.” I don’t blame anyone for doubting Lattimore due to the injury risk, but I just can’t look past the top 5-10 fantasy running back upside if this runner does stay healthy at the next level.
2/15/13: Marcus Lattimore is all over the map when it comes to rookie rankings, as it’s tough to know if he can even play in 2013. Lattimore suffered a terrible knee injury in 2012, where his knee was dislocated with ligament damage. His 2013 availability is very much up in the air, although recent reports, which are not fully confirmed, suggest that the incoming rookie is way ahead of schedule. What kind of potential does he have? Well, if Lattimore didn’t suffer that gruesome knee injury last year, there is a good chance he would be the consensus No. 1 overall fantasy football rookie to draft out of all positions. Even with the injury, and given it sounds like he is ahead of schedule, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him go in the late second- or early third-round. Landing spot means everything, though.
If he can eventually get back to form, and the odds do not appear to be stacked against him (for now), he could eventually turn into a top 5-10 fantasy running back. Lattimore has good vision, he is a solid receiver… before his injury, he was the definition of NFL-ready, and when healthy, he reminded me a lot of a young LaDanian Tomlinson. Keep in mind that while I have him slotted as my No. 3 rookie running back heading into 2013, most do not have him ranked this high. So, I urge you to grab him accordingly in your upcoming 2013 rookie-based draft(s). I also urge you to watch the youtube footage below.
5. Andre Ellington – RB (Clemson)
Height: 5-9 | Weight: 199 | Forty: 4.61
2/25/13 Combine Update: Andre Ellington pulled his hamstring during his forty-yard dash at the 2013 NFL Combine, and registered a 4.59 forty time. Clearly that time would have been better had he not got hurt. While I still like this running back’s upside, not being able to impress NFL coaches during the Combine was a major blow to Ellington’s already-challenging road to getting drafted to start at the next level. Can he still impress in future workouts? Absolutely, and we will react accordingly if that happens – All of the below still applies, but Ellington has fallen two spots from this original article’s publish date – for now.
2/15/13: Here is the deal, at 5-9, 197 pounds, Andre Ellington is considered, by most, to be a touch too small to endure the punishment of a full-time rushing at the NFL level… that said, if this kid can put on a touch of weight, I honestly think the sky is the limit. Just watch him run at 0:50 in the youtube clip below, where he shows his power, speed and elusiveness; his power is amazing for his size, which makes me think he’s capable of being an every-down back in the NFL if he adds just a small amount of weight/size. There is no exact weight or height that a runner has to be to endure the punishment of an NFL rusher… it’s often times how the player is built. As mentioned above, Ray Rice is rather small at at 5-8, 212 pounds, but he is built just right for the size, so it’s not a concern. So, when you hear me talk about a player not being big enough for the pros, you can’t always compare other players I do like that have a similar weight/size, as both players might have different frames and different weight placement. Ellington has the right frame and size for his weight/height, and even if he didn’t add a single pound, I still hold out hope that he can be an every-down back at the NFL level… one reason I’m hoping he adds a few pounds is so that NFL coaches see him as worthy to start at that next level… more weight added or not, he looks the part when on the field, just watch the footage below. Ellington averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 2012, with 1,081 yards, eight touchdowns, and he pulled in 14 passes for 232 yards and a score. His ceiling as a fantasy player will obviously depend on where he gets drafted, and if that coaching staff views him as an impact-player.
Talent-wise, which is only half the battle (the other half is landing spot), this is where I slot him. Huge upside here, but yes, lots of risk.
6. Eddie Lacy – RB (Alabama)
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 220 | Forty: DNR at Combine
2/25/13 Combine Update: A hamstring injury caused Eddie Lacy to miss the 2013 NFL Combine – As you will see below, I’m not a fan of either Lacy’s running style or his experience. Nothing below has changed after this week’s combine, but Lacy is moving down because both Knile Davis and Le’Veon Bell have impressed.
2/15/13: Eddie Lacy is one of the most talked about rookie rushers right now, and he is climbing up draft bards fast. I’d venture to say that most have him ranked No. 1 overall out of all 2013 rookies… Does he deserve that kind of ranking? Well, I hate to go against the grain here with everyone’s favorite fast-riser, but I have some concerns about his running style, his speed and his experience. Individually those concerns aren’t always a huge red flag when evaluating a rookie runner, but all three combined do concern me. More than anything, when I watch film on him (see below), he almost looks like a full-back when running the ball. Make no mistake about it, he looks dominating in college, and he bulls over people like he is on a mission… he is also very athletic and has low mileage, but his lack of experience mixed with his awkward-and-upright running style has me thinking Lacy has just as much “bust” potential as he has “upside”.
So, if I doubt him so much, why do I have Lacy slotted as the No. 4 rookie rusher entering 2013? Well, I think most would argue I have him low, but as to why he is slotted as high as No. 4 despite my doubts, this all kind of speaks to how weak this running back class is this year… It’s also due to the recent partial hamstring tear that Lacy suffered during pre-draft training; he is not expected to perform at the combine, which will really hurt his value. Even if it doesn’t hurt his value with NFL scouts, it hurts his value to me. I like Montee Ball and Ellington a lot, and I think if NFL teams out there draft both to start, which is something I cannot guarantee, both Ball and Ellington could be fantasy studs. Lacy, on the other hand, has more risk if you ask me. The faith other scouts and NFL teams have in him is really the only reason I’m slotting him this high… if any of that changes, let’s say due to a poor combine or forty time, you will see me drop Lacy even further.
7. Giovani Bernard – RB (North Carolina)
Height: 5-8 | Weight: 202 | Forty: 4.53
2/25/13 Combine Update: Measuring two inches shorter (and three pounds lighter) than expected didn’t help his draft stock, but his workout appeared to. I still like his skill set, no question, but size is a HUGE concern at the next level (at least for being a full-time back). I’m hearing a lot of Ray Rice comparisons right now, from numerous reports, but honestly it’s a little head scratching, as Bernard is about 10 pounds lighter, and he plays a lot smaller. I can’t stress enough that landing spots can, and likely will, change several of these player rankings and outlooks… that’s the nature of rankings and scouting these players so early in the off-season… Bernard, Eddie Lacy, any one of the players above, or below, could shoot right to the top of this list with the right environment. Know that! Expect more fantasy analysis and predictions on Bernard as we near April’s 2013 NFL Draft.
2/15/13: If you worry about Montee Ball’s size, which I am not, then you have to be worried about Bernard’s frame. Even though Bernard is only about 7-10 pounds lighter than Montee Ball, as said above, it’s not always about the actual pounds, it’s how the player is built. He has speed, and a lot of talent, but he won’t likely find a landing spot that will putting him in a position to start. If he does land in a great situation, I’ll likely change my opinion quite a bit, so check back after April’s 2013 NFL Draft.
Bernard could be a third-down back, no question, but I don’t see full-time when I watch him play. Plus, Bernard also has many durability concerns. Yes, you can say that about a lot of runners, some in this draft class, but mix in the size concerns and I see more of a Darren Sproles clone, whereas Ball resembles a Ray Rice.
8. Zac Stacy – RB (Vanderbilt), Height: 5-8, Weight: 216 , Forty: 4:55 – Watch Video
9. Jonathan Franklin – RB (UCLA), Height: 5-10, Weight: 205, Forty: 4.49 – Watch Video
10. Mike Gillislee – RB (Flordia), Height: 5-11, Weight: 208, Forty: 4:55 – Watch Video
11. Joseph Randle – RB (Oklahoma State), Height: 6-0, Weight: 204, Forty: 4:63 – Watch Video
12. Mike James – RB (Miami), Height: 5-10, Weight: 223, Forty: 4:53- Watch Video
13. Onterio McCalebb – RB (Auburn), Height: 5-10, Weight: 168, Forty: 4:34- Watch Video
14. Jawan Jamison – RB (Rutgers), Height: 5-7, Weight: 203 , Forty: 4:68 – Watch Video
15. Christine Michael – RB (Texas A&M), Height: 5-10, Weight: 220 , Forty: 4:54 – Watch Video
16. Ray Graham – RB (Pittsburgh), Height: 5-9, Weight: 199, Forty: 4:80 – Watch Video
17. Stepfan Taylor – RB (Stanford), Height: 5-9, Weight: 214, Forty: 4:76- Watch Video