The top running backs to draft for the 2014 fantasy football season in keeper/dynasty leagues.
1. LeSean McCoy (PHI) Age: 26
|Rushing Stats||Receiving Stats|
|2014 Projections||View LeSean McCoy's 2014 projected stats.|
Aside from Nick Foles, McCoy was perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the Chip Kelly offense last year. He easily posted the best campaign of his career – his first in which he averaged more than 100 rushing yards per game – and with his outstanding pass-catching abilities, he established himself as the top dual-threat back in the league and was particularly golden in PPR formats. Although McCoy has shrugged off Barry Sanders comparisons, it's worth noting that Sanders himself only exceeded McCoy's total of 2,146 yards from scrimmage last season two times. It's also hard to stereotype McCoy as merely an elusive runner – he also showed a lot of power, finishing with a career-high 51 broken tackles last year, second only to Marshawn Lynch . While his role as the Eagles' top runner is not in doubt, there's reason to believe McCoy will take a step back following his first 300-carry season. That reason is Darren Sproles, the super-talented pass-catching back whom the Eagles acquired from the Saints in March. Philadelphia's coaching staff will likely deploy Sproles in the same way New Orleans did, which makes it likely that McCoy will see his pass targets reduced this year. Further, the Eagles will likely be cognizant of potentially overusing McCoy, who hadn't played 16 games in any of the prior three seasons before last year; it's unlikely he hits 300 carries again in 2014. Nonetheless, McCoy went into the offseason 100 percent healthy and has firmly established himself as one of the truly elite running backs in the game. Even if Sproles and third-stringer Chris Polk take a good number of touches from McCoy, the rest they'll afford him may make it worthwhile as he looks to stay healthy and deliver another Pro Bowl campaign as a featured cog in the Eagles' balanced spread attack.
2. Matt Forte (CHI) Age: 28
|Rushing Stats||Receiving Stats|
|2014 Projections||View Matt Forte's 2014 projected stats.|
Fully healthy again after injuries marred his 2011 and 2012 campaigns, Forte delivered his best NFL season in 2013, setting career-highs in rush yards, receptions and receiving yards while tying his rookie-season total of 12 touchdowns. As promised before the season, the 6-2, 218-pound Forte flourished through the air under new coach Marc Trestman, finishing third among running backs with 74 receptions. As he's not an overly physical runner despite his size – he broke just 24 tackles last year while finishing second among running backs with 364 touches – Forte's hallmarks are his elusiveness, speed and hands. There are few backs in the league better at finding gaps and hitting them, even behind a Chicago offensive line in the midst of a rebuild, and even with injuries to Jay Cutler. In fact, Forte did some of his best work last year when Cutler was hurt. Though Forte has had some recurring knee and ankle issues in his career, he finished last season with a clean bill of health and enters 2014 as the unchallenged top dog in the Chicago backfield. The depth chart currently lists fourth-round pick Ka'Deem Carey behind Forte, with undrafted signee Michael Ford and unaccomplished veteran Shaun Draughn behind him. Indeed, he could actually be in for an even bigger season this year with backup Michael Bush looking for a new job. Bush took 15 red-zone carries – nine of them inside the five – from Forte last year. While Forte has never been a great goal-line back (and as a result, has been little-used there over the last three seasons), he may see more touchdown opportunities this year purely by virtue of there being no better choice on the roster. And as he's always a threat to deliver an 18-yard scamper for a score, the Bears can be counted on to use Forte liberally in the red zone.
3. DeMarco Murray (DAL) Age: 26
|Rushing Stats||Receiving Stats|
|2014 Projections||View DeMarco Murray's 2014 projected stats.|
The good news: Murray had his healthiest NFL campaign last year, setting career highs in practically every rushing and receiving category while posting the highest YPC (5.2) in the league among players with more than 200 carries. The bad news: He still missed two games with a knee ailment and has now sat out 11 games over his three seasons in the league. That said, Murray did enter the offseason healthy, and there are currently no indications that the 6-foot, 219-pound bruiser – fifth in the league in broken tackles with 35 last year despite the missed time – will enter training camp in anything short of full health. So there's nothing aside from Murray's physical, high-risk running style to say that he won't play all 16 for the first time this year. Murray's team context is a good one for fantasy owners – the Cowboys have a decent pass game (which targeted Murray 66 times last year), a much-improved offensive line (further boosted by the addition of first-round draftee Zack Martin) and no serious competition for carries either in the middle of the field or at the goal line. Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar certainly don't look like impact NFL players at this point, and the Cowboys seemed happy to give Murray 15 carries inside the five last year. If Murray can stay on the field, he certainly has the strength and the straight-line speed to end up among the NFL's top five rushers.
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