In a year where quarterbacks were consistently front page news, most rushing attacks took a back seat, further damaging the position's once sterling reputation. Though new points sources emerged (e.g. Alfred Morris, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson) and Adrian Peterson, less than a year from major reconstructive knee surgery, posted the greatest single season, regardless of position, in NFL history, RBs collectively suffered yet again. Just 12 rushers averaged 12.0 fantasy points or better, down from 16 in 2012 and 17 in 2011. Suffice it to say, with certified workhorses the lone exception, RB remains a position in transition. Below is our recap of this season's RB flames and lames with a quick look at what notable names could bring rags or riches in 2013. Ring out the old, ring in the new.
Who is most deserving of MVP honors?
Andy – ADRIAN PETERSON. C'mon, there's no case for anyone else.
Brad – ADRIAN PETERSON. After staying far away from him in drafts, I am now 100-percent convinced Skynet is self-aware. AD is a real-life 'Terminator.' Record or not, his 2012 campaign, given the circumstances, was the greatest in NFL history.
Brandon – ADRIAN PATERSON. He barely slid into the second round, on average, in Yahoo! drafts on ACL concerns. Sure, that's a legit concern for a mere mortal, but it now seems abundantly clear that the name Adrian Peterson translates as "Kal-El" in the language of Krypton.
Dalton – ADRIAN PETERSON. He might become just the sixth RB in NFL history to reach 2,000 rushing yards despite coming off a torn ACL and playing alongside a QB who's gotten 5.9 YPA this season. AD's 3.9 YPC after contact is tied for the most since the stat has been recorded. He's been the closest thing you'll see to a non-QB being a real life NFL MVP.
Scott – ADRIAN PETERSON is the obvious winner for all the reasons my colleagues listed. And I'm giving MARSHAWN LYNCH the No. 2 slot; he was far and away the second-leading fantasy back over the last seven weeks, leading many of his owners to championships. We appreciate you, Beast Mode.
Who is the biggest bust of 2012?
Andy – RYAN MATHEWS. As with MVP, there is but one choice here. The question isn't whether Mathews was the biggest bust of 2012, but where his bust season ranks among the worst of the fantasy era.
Brad – RYAN MATHEWS. Looking in the mirror the other day, I noticed for the first time a gray hair. And I only have five. My most valuable man-crush preseason is completely to blame. Broken clavicles. Broken heart. Broken season.
Brandon – RYAN MATHEWS. I figured everyone would pick Mathews, and I tried to come up with an angle to pick someone different. But there's really no getting around just how ineffectual Mathews was given his lofty draft price.
Dalton – Darren McFadden was close, but I'm going with RYAN MATHEWS. I fully admit I was on board drafting him aggressively in August (at least before he broke his collarbone). But forget the injuries - him being so mediocre (or worse) while healthy was truly surprising. Mathews breaking his other collarbone to end his season during the same game his coaches predicted he'd set a career high in touches was a perfect microcosm of his career.
Scott – In the roto game of life, RYAN MATHEWS is the rake.
What widely drafted player was the biggest steal of the season?
Andy – CJ SPILLER. The workload hasn't been exceptional, yet he's still delivered top-10 fantasy production at his position. Reached a ridiculous level of efficiency this season.
Brad – FRANK GORE. Peterson was a true bargain in early drafts and Spiller overall, but the passed over veteran also turned a handsome profit. Selected on average in Round 5 of 12-team drafts, he offered remarkable consistency, finishing inside the top-10 among RBs in per game average.
Brandon – DOUG MARTIN. No player is found on more top 500 Yahoo! public league teams than Martin, yet 16 RBs were drafted ahead of him, on average. His Week 15 dive wasn't ideal, but he was likely the biggest reason you were still alive and kicking to that point.
Dalton – STEVAN RIDLEY. Despite concerns with Bill Belichick, Ridley has the eighth most rushing attempts in the NFL while having a fumbling problem and playing alongside a QB who's also attempted the fourth most passes in the league. Ridley's 10 rushing touchdowns are tied for the fifth most in the league.
Scott – Just to keep the piece fresh, let's give a shout out to WILLIS McGAHEE, who was a Top 12 back before he got hurt. And if you managed to patch the leak with Knowshon Moreno, it was a happy ending through the balance of the year.
What waiver wire acquisition rescued auto-drafters from looking more moronic than they already were?
Andy – ALFRED MORRIS. It's tough to even make a case for another candidate. If Morris was drafted in your league, he was likely a final-rounder. Knowshon has given us some nice late-season lines, but he's nowhere near Morris' neighborhood in terms of full-season production.
Brad – ALFRED MORRIS. The Butler straight up served fools this season. With 1,406 rushing yards through Week 16, Morris has a good chance to finish second behind Eric Dickerson (1,808) for rushing yards in a rookie campaign. Powerful, tireless and reliable, he is Lucifer Shanahan's Terrell Davis of the 21st century.
Brandon – KNOWSHON MORENO. I think there was enough rumblings out of Washington about Morris early on that he probably should have been drafted – he was in at least a few of my leagues. So I'm going a different direction, as Moreno came out of nowhere right at the cusp of the fantasy playoffs season and produced top 6 fantasy RB numbers at the most crucial time – Weeks 12-16.
Dalton – ALFRED MORRIS. Of course, this is assuming you drafted early, but if not, then I guess it's Knowshon Moreno. Bottom line, this was one of the weaker waiver wire classes in recent memory, regardless of position.
Scott – Although ALFRED MORRIS was drafted in many leagues, he was waiver-wire gold to anyone who found him unclaimed after Week 1. Mike Shanahan does what all smart coaches do: he works players to scheme, not the other way around. I'd also like to throw a note of thanks to Marcel Reece, who had four weeks of relevance while Waiting for McFadden was playing in Oakland.
In the Year of the Rookie, what first-year player RB should take home the ROY hardware?
Andy – DOUG MARTIN. Yet another easy call. Richardson has been useful for fantasy purposes, too, but his yardage total is nothing to get excited about.
Brad – DOUG MARTIN. The Muscle Hamster jumped the wheel, rolling up stunning numbers in his inaugural season. With a stout offensive line, plus pass game and zero competition, he's in the top-five overall conversation in 2013.
Brandon – DOUG MARTIN. "Martin Scoreseasy" sits behind only Adrian Peterson in RB yards from scrimmage through Week 16. As mentioned above, he was the biggest "Key to Success" in Yahoo! leagues.
Dalton – DOUG MARTIN. He was no secret, but Martin was likely available after the first two rounds of most drafts, yet he's currently the RB3 in most fantasy scoring formats. This is pretty indisputable, but the better question is Martin vs. Trent Richardson in 2013 drafts.
Scott – DOUG MARTIN didn't do much before the bye week, but the Buccaneers had a better sense of how to use him from October-forward. The loss of OG Carl Nicks didn't hurt much. Trent Richardson and Alfred Morris also deserve props for their debuts; I'm eager to see what Richardson can do in a healthy campaign, and I'm also eager to see if Morris can become a three-down back in 2013.
Don't laugh. After a sterling finish, Knowshon may be a real steal in the middle rounds next year. (USAT)
Because there’s never an offseason in fantasy football, what sleeper (Post-Round 5) are you eying for 2013 drafts?
Andy – JACQUIZZ RODGERS. To be honest, I'm not sure the Falcons actually feel comfortable giving the smallish Rodgers many more touches than he saw this season. But they can't really have Michael Turner in the plans, either.
Brad – KNOWSHON MORENO. Willis McGahee, under contract through 2014, will be back for the Broncos next year, but he's hardly a lock to start after Moreno's spectacular showing. Once left for dead, the former first-round pick, shockingly, was a true workhorse down the homestretch. A matured Go-shon may be the Broncos back to own next year.
Brandon – DAVID WILSON. He has to prove to Coughlin that he can pass protect over the offseason, but if he does, his electric skills and Bradshaw's always sketchy health makes Wilson a dice roll with huge upside.
Dalton – BEN TATE. He was extremely injury prone this year, so he likely won't even cost a top-10 round pick. Moreover, Houston's run blocking took a major step back. Still, Arian Foster will be coming off a high workload, and the Texans set up should still be among the best in the league. Foster's 2.1 YPC after contact ranks 43rd in the league. Tate's 2.7 ranks 13th. I won't be down on Foster next year but don't forget about Tate's upside.
Scott – VICK BALLARD impressed me more and more as the season rolled along. I'd like to see him get some goal-line work, and the Colts definitely need to add pieces on the offensive line, but there's an interesting talent here.
Conversely, what player are you avoiding like joyrides with Kenny Britt?
Andy – AHMAD BRADSHAW. Another year, another medley of injuries. He has a talented back behind him on the depth chart, too.
Brad – CHRIS JOHNSON. He repaired his tarnished image after a very slow start, but his unreliability and gross inconsistency makes him a headache to avoid. Until he retires the tap shoes, negative runs and lackluster performances will outweigh occasional home runs.
Brandon – FRANK GORE. I have much respect for Frank the Tank, but he'll turn 30 in May, and it's not a young 30, either. I think there's a strong chance that a least one wheel falls off next season.
Dalton – MIKEL LESHOURE. I assume he will be taken within the first few rounds in drafts next year, given his situation (Detroit has averaged the second-most yards per game this season), but despite him being the favorite to lead the team in touches, LeShoure is a mediocre (at best) runner playing for a historically high pass-heavy offense. Only two backs in all of football have averaged worse YPC after contact than LeShoure this year. No thanks.
Scott – I'll let someone else talk themselves into DARREN McFADDEN. Just say no to Walk DMC.
Though April's NFL draft class may pale in comparison to 2012’s, what expected draftee are you most excited to see in action next year?
Andy – MONTEE BALL. It's not that I think he's the best back in his class, but I'm interested in seeing how his game translates to the pro level. His 2011 season was just ludicrous (stats here), one of the most impressive in recent memory. Ball received a third-round grade from NFL evaluators last year, so he returned to school, added strength, and scored another 21 touchdowns. As a fan of a different Big Ten program, I can't say I'm sad to see him leave the conference.
Brad – MARCUS LATTIMORE. His knees aren't exactly the picture of good health, but like Garrison Hearst, Terrell Davis and Willis McGahee before him, a vulnerability to catastrophic injury won't necessarily translate to the NFL. When not on a gurney, he's a complete back -- powerful between tackles, plus hands, solid in blitz pick-up. Whoever rolls the dice in Round 2 or 3 could get the steal of the century.
Brandon – GIOVANI BERNARD. He's worked out of pro-set and spread offenses at NC, which should have him ready to contribute right away at the next level. And I'm always a big fan of the short, compact runners with excellent versatility. His numbers at North Carolina are ridiculous.
Dalton – I'd be surprised if any running back is taken in the first round of this year's draft, so situation may very well become more important than ever with pedigree being such a crap shoot. I'm tempted to say Kenjon Barner, but I'll go out on a limb and say STEPFAN TAYLOR. It means next to nothing, but he really passed the eye test.
Scott – KENJON BARNER isn't sturdy enough be a traditional feature back (checking in under 200 pounds), but electric things happen when he's out in space. If Barner lands with the right offensive coordinator, I could see him scoring 10 times as a rookie.
List your top-13 for ’13.
Andy – 1) Adrian Peterson, 2) Arian Foster, 3) Ray Rice, 4) Doug Martin, 5) Maurice Jones-Drew, 6) Marshawn Lynch, 7) CJ Spiller, 8) Jamaal Charles, 9) Chris Johnson, 9) Trent Richardson, 10) LeSean McCoy, 11) DeMarco Murray, 12) Alfred Morris, 13) Matt Forte.
Brad – 1) Adrian Peterson, 2) Arian Foster, 3) Doug Martin, 4) Marshawn Lynch, 5) C.J. Spiller, 6) Ray Rice, 7) Maurice Jones-Drew, 8) LeSean McCoy, 9) Alfred Morris, 10) Trent Richardson, 11) Stevan Ridley, 12) DeMarco Murray, 13) Chris Johnson
Brandon – 1) Adrian Peterson 2) Arian Foster 3) Doug Martin 4) Ray Rice 5) Marshawn Lynch 6) Trent Richardson 7) LeSean McCoy 8) CJ Spiller 9) Maurice Jones-Drew 10) Alfred Morris 11) Chris Johnson 12) Jamaal Charles 13) Stevan Ridley
Dalton – 1) Adrian Peterson, 2) Arian Foster, 3) Ray Rice, 4) LeSean McCoy, 5) C.J. Spiller, 6) Marshawn Lynch, 7) Doug Martin, 8) Trent Richardson, 9) Jamaal Charles, 10) Chris Johnson, 11) Maurice Jones-Drew, 12) Stevan Ridley, 13) Alfred Morris
Scott – 1) Adrian Peterson, 2) Ray Rice, 3) Arian Foster, 4) LeSean McCoy, 5) Marshawn Lynch, 6) Trent Richardson, 7) Doug Martin, 8) C.J. Spiller, 9) DeMarco Murray, 10) Alfred Morris, 11) Stevan Ridley, 12) Matt Forte, 13) Maurice Jones-Drew
Finally, if you hopped into a time machine and could pluck one player from the past, any era, to field on your squad, who would that be?
Andy – WALTER PAYTON. I could watch Sweetness punish the Pack all day. AP is the closest (and maybe only) comp to Payton among active backs.
Brad – PRIEST HOLMES. His Holiness is one of four backs, LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk and Tiki Barber the others, to rank three years inside the top-40 in all-time single season total yardage. That's esteemed company. He also racked 62 touchdowns from 2002-2004. Sick!
Brandon – BARRY SANDERS. I used to seriously sweat where I'd pick in the first round of drafts because I wanted to make sure I could land Sanders – the thought of him on another owner's team was sickening. Frankly, I've never enjoyed watching another player more than Sanders.
Dalton – BARRY SANDERS. Jim Brown was a man amongst boys, but Sanders' 99.8 rushing yards per game for his career are the most since the merger. He totaled 2,358 yards from scrimmage one season before he decided to retire early, and you likely don't need me to tell you how truly special he was to watch.
Scott – EARL CAMPBELL didn't have a long peak, but those first three years jumped off the screen. And let's also give a nod to the greatness of LENNY MOORE, far before my time. From what I've read and researched, he was part Marshall Faulk and part Percy Harvin; that's a fun player to root for.
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