Three years ago -- Fantasy Draft Day 2011 -- Michael Vick was the player everybody wanted. The unquestioned No. 1 pick. A no-doubt-about-it, sure-fire ticket to the fantasy playoffs.
You'd almost sell your soul to acquire a player who had racked up an insane 30 total TDs (9 were rushing) and 676 rushing yards ... in just eleven games during the 2010 season.
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Yet, I remember preaching caution. And I didn't even rank Vick as the No. 1 quarterback, opting instead for Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers.
My gut feeling proved correct as Vick bombed (19 TDs) and Rodgers lit the world on fire with 48 total scores.
With those thoughts in mind, I come to you with another Nostradamus proclamation: Kansas City's Jamaal Charles will not finish No. 1 among RBs in fantasy points this season.
The reasons are similar in nature to my argument with Vick three years ago:
Charles is a model of IN-consistency. One year he's great -- as in 2010 when only Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster scored more points; and the next he's a dud (he played in two games in 2011). In 2012, he was OK with 1,745 yards from scrimmage and 6 TDs; then last year he explodes with 19 TDs and nearly 2,000 YFS.
Andy Reid's arrival in Kansas City was no doubt a boon for Charles' value. And I'm not sitting here saying Charles won't have another fantastic campaign. Fantasy owners can expect around 1,700-1,800 YFS and double-digit TDs.
But in standard, non-PPR formats, I'll take the Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Vikings' Adrian Peterson all day, every day.
Peterson gives you the lockdown, guaranteed numbers a top running back should always produce. And McCoy plays on the most explosive offense in the league next to Denver.
Let's also not forget that no RB since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006-07 has scored the most fantasy points in back-to-back seasons. The winners since then: DeAngelo Williams, Chris Johnson, Arian Foster, McCoy and Peterson.
Bottome line: the risk Charles presents is a bit too much for me to rank him No. 1. It will be an interesting storyline to follow as the season unfolds.
Ten to consider:
As we move down my rankings, after Marshawn Lynch at No. 6, there are eight running backs -- from Zac Stacy to Alfred Morris -- who will produce solid numbers on a week-to-week basis.
But once the top 15-18 backs are off the board, we enter the Realm of the Unpredictable Running Backs.
The next 10 have the potential to become key cogs on your playoff-bound team. And they also have the potential to rot on your bench en route to a 700-yard, 4-TD season.
What follows is a Cliff Notes version of each player. The number in parentheses is his average draft position, according to ESPN.
No. 19. Chris Johnson (62nd). Reason for optimism: In six years, he has always produced at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage. Reasons for despair: Backup Chris Ivory is a powerful between-the-tackles runner; the Jets averaged just 18.1 points a game last season, fourth worst in the NFL.
No. 20. Rashad Jennings (61st). Optimism: In Oakland, had third-most fantasy points from Weeks 9-15 last season with 116.5 YFS and 6 TDs. Despair: Will 5-foot-11, 230-pound rookie Andre Williams get most of the goal-line carries?
No. 21. Joique Bell (71nd). Optimism: Plays in high-scoring offense in which he caught 53 passes and amassed 1,197 YFS despite sharing the load with Reggie Bush. Despair: Did not participate in off-season activities due to a knee injury.
No. 22. Shane Vereen (71st). Optimism: Stevan Ridley's fumbling issues could vault Vereen into top-12 RB status. Despair: Injuries have plagued Vereen's career (he played in just 19 of 32 games in 2012-13).
No. 23. Andre Ellington (46th). Optimism: Explosive second-year back piled up 8 runs of 20 or more yards in just 118 attempts last season. Despair: Can his 5-9, 199-pound frame hold up? How many TDs will he lose to Stepfan Taylor and/or Jonathan Dwyer?
No. 24. C.J. Spiller (46th). Optimism: In six of his last 22 games, Spiller has broken a run of 40 or more yards, two of which went for 61 and 77. There's a superstar in there waiting to break out. Despair: Fred Jackson still lurks, Spiller scored just 2 TDs in 2013 and the Bills' offense is nothing to write home about.
No. 25. Steven Jackson (75th). Optimism: Until last season, was above 1,250 YFS from 2005-12. Despair: He's 31 years old, he injured his hamstring early in camp and has averaged just 5.4 TDs since 2009.
No. 26. Trent Richardson (55th). Optimism: Plays on one of the best offenses in the league and caught 51 passes as a rookie in Cleveland. Despair: Even on that high-powered offense, T-Rich averaged a ghastly 2.91 yards per carry in 2013.
No. 27 Stevan Ridley (81st). Optimism: Powerful, hard-running back has 19 TDs the last two seasons and should be the goal-line back on a Patriots offense that will average 28-30 points a game. Despair: Trusting a Bill Belichick running back is always a big gamble.
No. 28. Maurice Jones-Drew (85th). Optimism: Just three years ago, MJD produced a season with 1,980 yards from scrimmage and 11 TDs. Despair: In his last two seasons combined, he has just 1,617 YFS and 7 TDs. Oh, and Oakland will likely battle Jacksonville and Cleveland for fewest points scored in 2014.
Extra points: You couldn't pay me to take Jacksonville's Toby Gerhart or Cleveland's Ben Tate. … Miami's Knowshon Moreno may have a better season than a lot of people think. … Keeper-league players should target Altanta's Devonta Freeman, San Francisco's Carlos Hyde, New Orleans' Khiry Robinson, Seattle's Christine Michael, Cleveland's Terrance West and Oakland's Latavius Murray. Freeman, Hyde and Michael are also must-haves for owners of Steven Jackson, Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch, respectively.
John Dietz ranks the running backs
Player, team Projected Projected Comment
Cream of the crop
1. LeSean McCoy, Eagles 1,450-1,550** 11-14 Perfect fit for this high-powered O
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings 1,350-1,550 12-17 Avg. 1,400 rush yards last five years
3. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs 1,250-1,350* 11-13 Don't trust him as much as top 2
4. Matt Forte, BEARS 1,300-1,425** 9-12 1,344 rush yards away from 8,000
Still rock solid
5. Eddie Lacy, Packers 1,200-1,350* 12-14 Scored in 9 of last 11 games
6. Mar. Lynch, Seahawks 1,275-1,425 11-15 TDs last three: 14-12-13
7. Zac Stacy, Rams 1,300-1,450 10-13 19-plus touches in 9 of last 11 gms.
8. Le'Veon Bell, Steelers 1,100-1,250* 9-11 Avg. 108 yds. from scrimmage last 10
9. Arian Foster, Texans 1,000-1,400* 8-13 Could be monster steal at this point
10. Giov. Bernard, Bengals 1,000-1,200* 10-12 BGE lurks; big breakout potential
11. Montee Ball, Broncos 1,175-1,325 9-13 Will erupt ... if he can pass protect
12. DeM. Murray, Cowboys 1,050-1,225* 7-10 RB-by-committee talk a bit scary
13. Doug Martin, Bucs 1,100-1,250* 8-11 Injury to rookie Sims clears way
14. Alfred Morris, Skins 1,300-1,450 8-11 Nearly 2,900 rush yards last 2 yrs.
Still somewhat solid
15. Ray Rice, Ravens 950-1,100* 7-10 Crazy ranking? Big chip on shoulder
16. Ryan Mathews, Chargers 1,150-1,250 5-8 Woodhead, Brown sap value
17. Reggie Bush, Lions 800-900** 6-9 He better hit those TD projections
18. Frank Gore, Niners 1,150-1,250 7-9 Owns just one double-digit TD year
19. Chris Johnson, Jets 1,050-1,150* 7-9 Has always gone over 1,400 YFS
20. Rashad Jennings, Giants 1,050-1,300 8-10 Avg. 110 YFS in Games 8-15 w/Oak.
21. Joique Bell, Lions 700-900** 5-8 Could be a 60/40 split with Bush
22. Shane Vereen, Patriots 500-600** 6-8 90 catches? Massive potential here
23. Andre Ellington, Cards 900-1,200* 5-7 Potential star will lose goal-line carries
24. C.J. Spiller, Bills 1,000-1,100* 6-8 When will he finally take over?
25. Steven Jackson, Falcons 850-1,000* 7-9 Career-low 536 yards last year
26. Trent Richardson, Colts 825-1,000* 6-9 Pathetic 3.0 yards per carry in 2013
27. Stevan Ridley, Patriots 800-1,000 8-10 Needs to stop fumbling
28. M.-Jones Drew, Raiders 925-1,100* 6-8 A steal if he returns to form
29. Bishop Sankey, Titans 850-1,100 5-8 Like Ridley, has had fumbling issues
30. Toby Gerhart, Jaguars 900-1,000 5-7 This offense is just plain putrid
31. Ben Tate, Browns 600-1,100 4-8 No way he'll avoid injury
32. Pierre Thomas, Saints 500-600** 5-6 77 catches last season
33. Fred Jackson, Bills 700-800 6-8 1,277 YFS last season
34. Bernard Pierce, Ravens 550-900 4-7 Must-handcuff with Ray Rice
35. Kn. Moreno, Dolphins 500-1,000* 3-8 Miami situation way too clouded
36. Darren Sproles, Eagles 200-350** 5-7 Avg. 77 receptions last 3 years
37. D. Woodhead, Chargers 300-450** 3-6 76 catches in first year with SD
38. Lamar Miller, Dolphins 500-1,000 3-7 Has just 3 career TDs
39. Jeremy Hill, Bengals 250-350* 3-5 Explosive rookie worth a look
40. Dar. McFadden, Raiders 400-700 3-8 Maybe motivated by 1-year deal?
Next 10: Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts; Jonathan Stewart, Panthers; Shonn Greene, Titans; Chris Ivory, Jets; Andre Williams, Giants; Carlos Hyde, Niners; Terrance West, Browns; Khiry Robinson, Saints; Christine Michael, Seahawks; Devonta Freeman, Falcons
** 500-plus receiving yards likely; * 300-plus receiving yards likely
YFS -- Yards from scrimmage