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Tiers for Beers: All hail the Viking, Peterson tops pre-draft RB ranks

Brad Evans
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Owners gifted the No. 1 pick will be all smiles for AD. (USAT)

It may seem insane-ludi-ridiculously early for fantasy football ranks, but with the NFL draft beginning Thursday, it's time for a refresher. In the first-part of a special four-part series, the Noise tackles RBs, and gets you a leg up on scoring extra beer money this fall. Team Huevos, shout, shout, let it all out in the comments section below.

Similar to other sports, no two NFL seasons are mirror images of one another. Depth-chart turnover and altered coaching strategies are ever-present, events that typically thwart widely-accepted beliefs. Naturally, change leads to unexpected twists and turns, flipping the fantasy community on its collective ear. Overconfident owners and pundits can fearlessly forecast the future, but, in the end, unpredictability reigns supreme.

Yours truly can attest. I'm still picking chunks of crow from my teeth caused by bogus predictions made last season. Thanks a gazillion wet paper towel, Ryan Mathews. Your underachievement and vulnerability to shattered collarbones are unmatched.

There are exceptions, but, overall, running back scoring in 2012 exemplified the above line of thinking. Entering the season, the position, as a whole, was thought to be on life support. No longer the backbone of commonly accepted draft strategies, many veteran fanatics ignored conventional RB-RB wisdom, choosing instead to focus on vertical-oriented weapons. On average, five quarterbacks were selected inside the first 15 picks in drafts last year. That perspective was entirely fair and encouraged, but, spearheaded by the infusion of the read-option and a dynamite rookie RB class (Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson), a different narrative was written.

Running backs were reborn, to a certain extent.

Yes, the employment of timeshares was still prevalent. As a result, RB production was again top-heavy. Only nine rushers averaged 13.0 fantasy points or more per week, the lowest number in virtual game history. However, 26 rushers compiled at least 10.0 fantasy points per week, a tally in line with the RB-dominant early 2000s. Ostensibly, the abandonment of the run was greatly exaggerated. In reality, workhorse RBs, such as Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch remained in high-demand, a feeling most will adhere to in 2013. Add that to the bottomless pit of values found at QB, WR and TE, and it's clear owners will again have a running state of mind once draft season commences in earnest come August.

Whetting the whistle before Thursday's NFL draft, here's an early snapshot of my top-50 fantasy RBs for 2013:

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Ballard's bark could be loud in his sophomore season. (USAT)

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Fantasy's St. Bernard is worth sniffing out in the middle rounds. (USAT)

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