Which RBs will stand out this year? Will there be any new faces that have break out years? There are so many opportunities for players to stake their claim as a top end RB in the NFL, but who will seize that opportunity? Let’s take a look at who the top 5 fantasy football RBs will be in 2015.
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5. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
The last few seasons, folks have passed Lynch up probably longer than they should have, even in PPR type formats like DraftKings. It would be a mistake in 2015 if you decide once again to pass on Lynch early in PPR drafts.
Pete Carroll isn’t changing what he’s doing significantly, which means that Russell Wilson will likely throw a pass or two more per game due to the presence of Jimmy Graham, but that doesn’t mean Lynch will be left in the cold. The Seahawks ran 63.5 plays per game last season and over half of them were rushing plays, second most to the QB-less Houston Texans. And this wasn’t a one season aberration, the Seahawks have finished 12th, 1st, 1st and 2nd in rushing play percentage the last four seasons.
With the track record well set and little to challenge him for workload, Lynch looks good for 1600 total yards and 13 touchdowns. No back has had more goalline carries than Lynch the last two seasons (41), so even with Russell Wilson running a few in for himself, the Seahawks forecasted 19 rushing touchdowns leaves plenty for Lynch.
4. DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles run a ton of plays, so even though Murray has to share carries with the other new running back, Ryan Mathews, Murray will still get a lot of looks under Chip Kelly.
The Eagles ran a league leading 71 plays per game last season and 30 of those were running plays. LeSean McCoy ran the ball on 67% of those plays so if Murray is going to step into the primary role, then he’s on task for about 320 carries this season. Even if he experiences a slight drop off in ypc, he’s still in line for between 1450-1500 yards rushing.
Philadelphia averaged a rushing touchdown per game, so even if Murray gets 67 percent of those, too, it’s going to be a double digit TD season for the new Eagle. With some modest receiving numbers, Murray looks to have between 1650-1700 total yards and 13 touchdowns in store, a dropoff from an amazing 2014, but enough to avoid the curse of 393 carries he had in 2014.
3. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Nothing much should change for Charles in Kansas City. Andy Reid is going to use him extensively in the game plan, even if the touches remain lower than the other backs on this list in order to keep Charles fresh for a potential postseason run.
So while Charles all-around game will help him pile up the points, even if having fewer carries, one thing that will help is that the Chiefs have been sixth and third in rushing touchdowns per game since Reid took over.
Charles had the fourth most goalline looks in 2013 with 17 but had to split 18 last season with Knile Davis, which is why Charles isn’t likely to be the top back on this list at the end of the season. Still, it’s going to be a 1500-1600 total yard season with a dozen or so touchdowns, maybe more if something happens with Davis and Charles gets even more looks at the goalline.
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Peterson is a unique football player and sitting out a year makes him nothing less than fresh heading into 2015 in Minnesota. The Vikings under Norv Turner committed to the run last season even without Peterson, finishing 13th in rushing play percentage even though that meant handing Matt Asiata the ball 164 times. That’s some serious love for the running game.
I am willing to bet on Peterson again this season, and believe his availability to Turner’s system will leave him with 333 carries for 1564 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. I also think Turner will use Peterson was a weapon in the pass game somewhat regularly, too, with 45 catches seemingly a good bet.
Additionally, the deal is that the Vikings have some good receivers but nobody that commands the ball away from AD like perhaps Percy Harvin a few seasons back as Charles Johnson, Mike Wallace, Jarius White and Cordarrelle Patterson are the top four receivers in Minnesota.
All of which means that as long as he stays on the field, Peterson will be near the top of the RB by combination of his elite skills and the necessary volume he’ll be provided.
1. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
But wait, isn’t he supposed to miss three games this year? Well, yes, but before you go running from the room, waving your arms in outrageous outrage over his listing at #1, even if available for 13 games in 2015, let me make the case.
Bell, even missing multiple games his rookie year, finished in the top ten in RBs that year and that was before he became the dedicated running back in Pittsburgh. Second is that last year Bell established himself as the top back in fantasy points per game, even with Pittsburgh being the passing happiest they’ve ever been since 2010. Bell’s versatility and growth in trust from the coaching staff, has made Bell essential to what the Steelers want to do on offense.
Further, Bell’s dominance of the Pittsburgh backfield should continue to yield high volume numbers even if his suspension isn’t reduced. It’s that pass happiness we mentioned before, actually, that drives Bell to the top spot, even with limited availability. Forecasting over 13 games, Bell should still be on pace for a 270 carry, 1250 yard, 67 catch, 650-700 yard season to go with an estimated nine total touchdowns.