There’s a seemingly clear top three among running backs this year, with almost every pundit ranking LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson mostly in that order. But the next tier results in plenty of variance, especially among us, with Dalton Del Don backing Eddie Lacy, Brad Evans stumping for Montee Ball and Scott Pianowski preferring Matt Forte. Our debates follow…
DDD loves fat Eddie: Everyone laughed at this pic last year, but Lacy proved the doubters wrong, totaling 1,435 yards while rushing for 11 touchdowns over (essentially) 14 games as a rookie. His 4.1 YPC looks pedestrian, but his 56 broken tackles ranked as the fourth most in all of football, just one fewer than McCoy, who played 201 more snaps. Lacy’s YPC after contact (2.3) was also more than Charles’, and Pro Football Focus graded him as the league’s fourth best blocking back.
I’m a fan of Forte, but he will soon turn 29 years old, is coming off the biggest workload of his career since his rookie season and has never rushed for double-digit touchdowns (although he did total 12 TDs last year). I also love Ball (he’s ranked No. 6 overall on my board), so this is really just nitpicking.
But Lacy is a three-down back who will dominate work (including getting all of the goal-line carries) on an offense that should easily be among the best in the NFL. The 23-year-old ran for the third most touchdowns in football last season while missing two games and with Aaron Rodgers out for nearly half the year. Let’s put it this way, I’m closer to ranking Lacy first overall than I am dropping him below Forte or Ball.
Noise backs Ball: Ball haters, wipe the vanilla rookie season away from your collective memory.
It’s a new year, new opportunity, a clean slate.
Owners who buy into myths Ball is an unreliable pass protector with a fumbling problem will stupidly bypass an indestructible RB1 pillar in drafts this summer. Yes, he put the pill on the ground twice in his first 33 touches, one in front of a large national TV audience in the Manning Bowl. As a result, he quickly gained a butter-hands reputation. However, he only coughed it up one time over his next 140 grips. And, during his college days, that streak was barely a drop in the bucket. While at Wisconsin, he didn't fumble until his 803rd career touch. Reread that. His early hiccups were a fluke.
As for his supposed horrid pass blocking, he graded out higher than Knowshon Moreno in the category per "Pro Football Focus." At first he experienced a few growing pains, but he developed into a trustworthy protector.
The offensive environment and lack of meaningful competition (Enough with the C.J. Anderson is a threat nonsense), practically rubber stamps a 300-touch workload. Peyton Manning has the utmost confidence the rusher will take the next step. History supports that notion. Primary RBs who've played alongside No. 18 averaged 1,518 combined yards and 10.4 touchdowns per season, an output nearly identical to what DeMarco Murray, the eighth-best rusher in fantasy, accomplished last year. And, again, that's just the average. Ball, like Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai and Moreno before him, will see a high number of exploitable defensive fronts.
Nothing against Forte or Lacy, both are indisputable RB1s, but the Bronco is in a prime spot to Ball out.
Bank on a top-five season.
Pianowski defends Forte: I hope everyone remembers Forte clearly being the best back of this trio last year. He's just fine where he is - the other guys need to catch him.
Head coach Marc Trestman loves to throw to his running backs (remember the Charlie Garner years?), especially when they're as talented as Forte is. I love a combo-threat at the running position, they're relevant no matter what the game situation. You get a higher level of consistency, less washout weeks. Forte finished with less than 90 total yards just twice last year. Do we know if Ball can handle three-down duty? Did Lacy look like a special receiver to anyone?
Forte is probably never going to lead the league in touchdowns, but it's not like he's allergic to the end zone. He scored 12 times last year, in Season 1 of the Trestman Era. I'm not concerned with the TD count from earlier years. And while Forte made a few long-distance touchdowns, the majority came from in-close: 1, 5, 2, 6, 1, 4, 4, 5 and 1 yards. He's misunderstood by much of the fantasy community, and I'm sure he'll be on some of my teams this year. He's your winner here.