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Fantasy Tiers: Running Backs

Tiers are a better way to prepare for a draft than just simply doing player rankings. Rank and sort players into groups (tiers) based on what you expect their statistical production to be, regardless of how early or late other people are drafting them. Here are my running back tiers from last year for points per reception (PPR) leagues. I am not going to defend or justify anything from 2011. This is just for a little perspective on how I
went into drafts last August.


2011


RB

Tier 1


Team


RB

Tier 4


Team

1

Adrian Peterson

Minnesota

21

Shonn Greene

NYJ

2

Jamaal Charles

KC

22

Ryan Grant

GB

3

Ray Rice

Baltimore

23

Joseph Addai

Indianapolis

4

LeSean McCoy

Philadelphia

24

Tim Hightower

Washington

5

Arian Foster

Houston

6

Chris Johnson

Tennessee

Tier 5

25

Beanie Wells

Arizona

Tier 2

26

Fred Jackson

Buffalo

7

Maurice Jones-Drew

Jacksonville

27

Ryan Mathews

SD

8

Matt Forte

Chicago

28

Cedric Benson

Cincinnati

9

Rashard Mendenhall

Pittsburgh

10

Steven Jackson

STL 

Tier 6

11

Frank Gore

San Francisco

29

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

NE

12

Darren McFadden

Oakland

30

Reggie Bush

Miami

31

Brandon Jacobs

NYG

Tier 3

32

Mike Tolbert

SD

13

Michael Turner

Atlanta

33

Ben Tate

Houston

14

Knowshon Mereno

Denver

34

Jonathan Stewart

Carolina

15

Ahmad Bradshaw

NYG

35

Mark Ingram

NO

16

Jahvid Best

Detroit

36

Marshawn Lynch

Seattle

17

Felix Jones

Dallas

18

DeAngelo Williams

Carolina


Tier 7

19

Peyton Hillis

Cleveland

37

Ryan Torain

Washington

20

LeGarrette Blount

TB

38

Michael Bush

Oakland

39

Pierre Thomas

NO


2012


RB


Tier 1


Team


RB

Tier 5

Team

1

Arian Foster

Houston

20

Roy Helu

Cincinnati

2

Ray Rice

Baltimore

21

Michael Turner

Atlanta

3

LeSean McCoy

Philadelphia

22

Willis McGahee

Denver

4

Maurice Jones-Drew

Jacksonville

23

Shonn Greene

NYJ

24

Beanie Wells

Arizona


Tier 2

25

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Cincinnati

5

Ryan Mathews

SD

26

Jonathan Stewart

Carolina

6

Chris Johnson

Tennessee

27

Mark Ingram

NO

7

Trent Richardson

Cleveland

8

Darren McFadden

Oakland


Tier 6

9

Matt Forte

Chicago

28

C.J. Spiller

Buffalo

10

Jamaal Charles

KC

29

Ben Tate

Houston

34

Jahvid Best

Detroit

Tier 3

42

Daniel Thomas

Miami

11

DeMarco Murray

Dallas

30

Reggie Bush

Miami

12

Adrian Peterson

Minnesota

31

Donald Brown

Indianapolis

13

Marshawn Lynch

Seattle

32

DeAngelo Williams

Carolina

14

Darren Sproles

NO

33

Isaac Redman

Pittsburgh


Tier 4


Tier 7

15

Steven Jackson

STL 

35

James Starks

GB

16

Doug Martin

TB

36

David Wilson

NYG

17

Ahmad Bradshaw

NYG

37

Toby Gerhart

Minnesota

18

Frank Gore

SF

38

Peyton Hillis

KC

19

Fred Jackson

Buffalo

39

LeGarrette Blount

TB

40

Ronnie Hillman

Denver

41

Jacquizz Rodgers

Atlanta

43

Rashard Mendenhall

Pittsburgh

So how do you define tiers within a position? It all comes down to your personal preference and how comfortable you are. Overall skill, injury risk, reliability and playing time are taken into account for each player. Don’t get caught up too much with the ranking within the tiers – generally, all players within the same tier are comparable enough. Players are ranked within the tiers based on my personal preference and who I would select before another player in a draft.

Running back tiers can change significantly as draft day approaches. Players get injured or signed, and sometimes existing injury concerns become more pronounced. I picked a few players as examples to explain why I have them where I do.

Maurice Jones-Drew:
He belongs in Tier 1, period. Contrary to popular belief, Jones-Drew is not injury prone and has only missed three games in his six-year career. He averages 4.6 yards per carry and more than 45 receptions every year. He is going to get the ball, and he is going to do a lot with it. He doesn’t score enough touchdowns, you say? Ray Rice only scored four more last year!

Adrian Peterson:
History shows that running backs see a drop in fantasy production after suffering a major knee injury in the prior season. Fantasy output is even worse when the injuries occur late in the season. Peterson is being drafted as the ninth overall running back right now, which is scary. Why has Rashard Mendenhall fallen off the face of the earth when he only tore his ACL a week later than Peterson? Assuming that Peterson will not have any lingering knee issues, he will be “good” at best and should not be relied on as an RB1.

DeMarco Murray:
Murray had four monster games, followed by two good games, followed by one bad game, followed by a game with five carries and a broken ankle. Felix Jones is clearly not the answer in Dallas, so that means that Murray will have the opportunity to be a fantasy stud. Murray is being drafted as the 12th overall running back, which means an RB1 in a 12-team league. Do his four games of brilliance warrant that? I would have to disagree.

Marshawn Lynch:
Beast Mode or Least Mode? Lynch was running full form in Least Mode and almost droppable in all league formats through the first eight weeks last season. On the other hand, Beast Mode took control in Week 9 and he was the best fantasy running back during that span. Beast Mode or Least Mode, which mode do you want to bet your fantasy season on?

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