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2014 Fantasy Football Keeper Rankings – Running Backs

The top running backs to draft for the 2014 fantasy football season in keeper/dynasty leagues.

By Position:

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1. Le'Veon Bell (PIT)   Age: 23

  Rushing Stats Receiving Stats
Year Att Yds TD Avg Rec Yds TD Avg
2014 Projections View Le'Veon Bell's 2014 projected stats.

Bell missed last season's first three games with a foot injury, but gained the lion's share of the Steelers' rushing duties upon his return and ended up staying healthy while averaging nearly 100 total yards per game in his rookie year despite a meager 3.5 YPC. Though he's slow for a running back (just a 4.60 40 time), he's an effective receiver and goal-line back, and should benefit from the Pittsburgh offensive unit getting healthy over the offseason. Though he should be tough to bring down at 6-1, 244, Bell broke only 21 tackles last year, and he'll have to show either more elusiveness or more tackle-breaking ability to hold off import LeGarrette Blount and super-fast draft pick Dri Archer. It's disturbing for Bell that Blount – signed to a two-year-deal – is a very similar kind of back at almost the same size and speed. Worse, Bell only outrushed Blount by 88 yards and one touchdown last year despite rushing 91 more times. Still, Bell has an edge through the air – he averaged a very fine 8.9 yards per reception, though a higher catch rate than last year's 68.2 percent certainly couldn't hurt – and is the incumbent here. Bell will likely take the majority of the carries for the Steelers this year, and it's not unreasonable to expect him to build on the improvement he showed in last season's final five games.

2. Eddie Lacy (GB)   Age: 24

  Rushing Stats Receiving Stats
Year Att Yds TD Avg Rec Yds TD Avg
2014 Projections View Eddie Lacy's 2014 projected stats.

A speedy, yet powerful runner at 5-11 and 230, Lacy's final numbers last season were depressed by a concussion that essentially cost him two games. Project his production from Week 3 on over 16 games, and Lacy would have collected more than 1,600 total yards. But that's not even his ceiling. Fully healthy after suffering a minor ankle injury at the end of last season, Lacy should see every-down work, further marginalizing the fantasy value of backup James Starks. The Packers are also returning superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who missed seven games last year with a broken collarbone, setting them up to have a productive offense that affords Lacy plenty of snaps and goal-line touches. He received 14 touches inside the five last year – a number that should only rise. While Lacy managed only a modest boost in PPR formats last year, he showed good hands and has elusiveness in space, meaning he's sure to see plenty of dump-offs from Rodgers this season. All the ingredients are here for a big breakout.

3. Jamaal Charles (KC)   Age: 28

  Rushing Stats Receiving Stats
Year Att Yds TD Avg Rec Yds TD Avg
2014 Projections View Jamaal Charles's 2014 projected stats.

Always a fantasy stud when healthy, Charles' value managed to take a dramatic leap forward last season thanks to new Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who handed Charles the consistent goal-line duty he's always been missing. While he's always been known for his pure speed and elite cutting ability, Charles had – perhaps for fear of brittleness – been largely sheltered from duty near the end zone before last year. But in 2013, the Chiefs handed Charles the ball 15 times inside the five-yard line – matching his total in that category from the prior four seasons combined. He also saw 18 pass targets inside the red zone, which was more than double his total from any previous campaign. The result: 19 total touchdowns from a guy who had previously totaled 24 in five seasons. All that short-yardage usage may have contributed to Charles' career-low 5.0 YPC, but his fantasy owners certainly didn't mind. Indeed, they had to be quite happy with his newfound toughness – including 39 broken tackles, fourth-most in the NFL. Owners in PPR leagues minded even less, as Charles spectacularly totaled 70 catches on a ridiculous 104 targets last year after never grabbing more than 45 passes in a season before. Although Charles did suffer a concussion in last year's playoffs, that's sure to be long cleared up by the time this season kicks off, and Charles doesn't have a history of head injuries. Yes, concussions can develop into recurring issues, but that's a fear with every NFL player. That aside, Charles is fully healthy and now two quality seasons removed from the torn ACL that limited him to two games in 2011. The Chiefs have a quality backup in Knile Davis, but that shouldn't have much of an effect on Charles. As long as he remains healthy, he'll remain Kansas City's featured back, meaning he'll see the vast majority of Alex Smith's handoffs and backfield passes. Another run at 2,000 total yards is in the cards – and with his newfound goal-line duties, Charles has a very good chance to be fantasy's most valuable back.

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