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For those owners who play in conventional settings (4 pts/passing TD), workhorse RBs are the California Chromes of the virtual world. Apologies, Peyton Manning enthusiasts. What top-flight RB should you heavily consider at No. 1 this year? Fanalysts Brad Evans and Brandon Funston touch the gloves and throw blows over who they believe is the top taco of fantasy.
The Noise shouts … The JC of KC descended from the fantasy heavens, holy-rolled his way to a career year and likely gifted his owners with a shiny new championship trophy. His playoff run was the stuff of legend as he totaled an obscene 117.5 fantasy points (29.5 per game) from Weeks 13-16. His 215-combined yard, 5-TD annihilation of the Raiders in Week 15 forced many to seek liquid therapy.
Overall, Charles was the unrivaled king of the RB castle. His 20.8 points per game average outdistanced second place finisher, LeSean McCoy, by a whopping 3.3 points per game. Under the microscope he was all the more impressive finishing top-12 in breakaway percentage, elusive rating and yards per pass route run according to Pro Football Focus. In other words, he was the definition of a complete RB, appealing to all fantasy players whether standard or PPR.
Underused earlier in his career, he has plenty of tread left on the tires despite entering his Age 27 season. A fixture in Andy Reid’s West Coast brand, he’s a near lock for another 320-plus touches, 1,800 total yards and 15-20 touchdowns.
McCoy, also off a monster campaign, is nearly equal in reliability. However, the addition of Darren Sproles will limit his presence in the pass game somewhat, potentially landing his receptions total in the 40-45 instead of the usual 50-55 range. That slight reduction is enough to warrant a No. 2 ranking behind Charles. Regardless, both backs are elite RB1s worthy of a top-three overall pick.
Funbags retorts … Last season, the Philly running back position ran the ball 60 more times than KC, and that was in Year 1 of Chip Kelly's planned break-neck offense. With a season under the collective belts of the Philly offense, there's already buzz around the Eagles OTA that the offense is setting a torrid pace, leading one beat writer to liken it to a "drag race." It seems a good bet that Philly will generate even more plays from scrimmage in Kelly's second season, and that should pay off handsomely for McCoy. Yes, Darren Sproles is now in the backfield mix for Philly, but let's not overstate his role. He's 31 years old, and is reportedly only going to be asked to touch the ball around a half dozen times per game. McCoy led the NFL in touches in '13, and he's likely the odds-on-favorite to pace the position again this season.
As for Charles, he obviously belongs in the top pick discussion. But the one thing about his '13 value that worries me is that he scored seven receiving touchdowns. That's a number that is almost assuredly going to decrease, and likely significantly, in '14. In the past decade, there's only been one other RB with 250-plus carries to top four receiving touchdowns. In fact, Charles' 19 total TDs easily was the best at the RB position, but chasing TDs can be a dangerous game. McCoy owners from a couple years back should know that. McCoy went from 20 scores in '11 to just five the following season. Banking on the randomness of touchdowns is a dangerous game.
McCoy finished with 166 more yards from scrimmage than Charles last season. Shady also led the league with 47 runs of 10-plus yards, 10 more than Charles' total of 37. All of this is to say, I'd prefer to chase the yardage as I don't see there being a strong argument for why Charles is anything more than an even bet to best McCoy in touchdowns. After all, Charles had never scored more than eight times in a season before last year. McCoy has scored at least nine times in three of the past four seasons.
Finally, based on last season's defensive numbers, McCoy's schedule looks pretty cozy in '14. Yes, given that defenses can get better or worse in the offseason, there's no SOS guarantee. But I look at those two late-season dates with a Dallas defense that was the worst in fantasy last year against the the RB position, and just lost arguably its best defender in Sean Lee to an ACL injury, and I'm not sure there is a better looking back to have in the fold for the fantasy playoff run than McCoy.