Adrian Peterson – ADP 9 (Finish 1) – What else can you say about AD’s 2012? There really is no comparison season out there for what he accomplished after his Christmas Day knee disaster. And that’s why he went off the board as the 9th running back instead of at least in the top 3. The facts presented did not add up to a record-breaking season. Why didn’t he do this when he was 100%? We can all kick ourselves six ways from Sunday for not grabbing him when we had a chance, but it’s not going to do us any good.
He was by far the best fantasy player of 2012. In 15 of 16 weeks he was a top 25 (startable) running back and in 9 of 16 weeks he was a top 5 running back. His consistent greatness in the second half of the season was historic and won fantasy leagues by wide margins. Here is where he finished each week, starting with week one – 3, 28, 15, 14, 18, 8, 2, 4, 2, 1, 20, 1, 2, 1, 23, and 3. There are a few big numbers in there, mostly at the beginning of the season when his knee still wasn’t 100%. And these numbers are for a player who blew away the competition for best running back in the league. It just goes to show you how impossible it is to dominate statistically from week to week when you look at the numbers over a full season.
Peterson will be the number one player taken in every single 2013 draft where its participants haven’t gone off their meds. Of course the chances of him being the number one player again aren’t great. It’s just the nature of this game, but he’s the odds on favorite and I’ll side with the odds here.
Marshawn Lynch – ADP 10 (Finish 4) –Lynch wasn’t as flashy as pretty boy Peterson, but he was nearly as consistent with 14 weeks with a top 25 finish. This is two years in a row now where Lynch’s reliability from week to week has become commonplace. And he’s actually a year younger than Peterson. There’s no reason not to think he’ll get right back on that Skittles horse and ride into the end zone tens of times.
Those were the top 10 running backs in ADP, and now I’ll take a look at who went from outside the top 10 ADP to finish in the Reality Top 10.
Doug Martin – ADP 17 (Finish 3) – Mr. Martin was a beast last season. Not really hamster-like, but more of a jungle cat mixed with a razorback and some hedgehog and what the heck, a little hamster too. No matter the Dr. Moreau amalgamation, he did some great fantasy football work as a rookie.
I’ve heard some complaints that he put all his numbers up in a handful of games, and yes, he did have one monstrously huge game of 251 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns against Oakland in week nine, but he was just as consistent or more so than the rest of the top running backs. Like Lynch, he finished in the top-25 14 out of 16 times to go along with his third place finish in fantasy points. I wouldn’t hide that under a bushel basket.
Next season Martin will go very high and I’ll be the one driving his ADP up (or is it down?) until people start writing articles saying he’s overrated. Then I’ll just take him some more.
Alfred Morris – ADP 60 (Finish 5) – Your bang for your buck winner of 2012 was Alf Morris and there is no debate so don’t even try it! Morris was in the Shanahan mix at running back in preseason, but we had all gotten used to that mixture being poisonous, so some grabbed him as a late round flier and some were able to get him off the waiver wire.
I admit to being a doubter and paid the price for it. Morris is not going to blow you away, but much like the Shanabacks before him who were successful, he fits the zone-blocking scheme perfectly and is talented in other ways beyond speed and ability to make defenders whiff in the open field. He moves well in small spaces, finds a crease and explodes through them, falls forward and stays healthy.
With Robert Griffin III in the mix, there’s no way defenders can focus all their run stopping ability on Morris, so that, coupled with a good offensive line and the perfect scheme for Morris’ skill set make for a long term fantasy back as long as those factors stay consistent.
C.J. Spiller – ADP 37 (Finish 7) – On paper, there weren’t many running backs better than Spiller last season. Over the last two seasons Spiller has run the ball 314 times for 1,805 yards and 10 TDs at 5.74 yards per carry and caught 82 passes (110 targets) for 728 yards and 4 TDs. That’s 396 touches for 2,533 yards and 14 TDs compared to Peterson’s 388 touches for 2,314 yards for 13 TDs last season.
And no, you can’t compare the two straight up because there is no way C.J. Spiller touches the ball close to 400 times in a single season. It’s just not going to happen, but looking at the numbers we can see that Spiller has been putting these numbers up for a while now and has an elite talent.
And many of us fake footballers hope and pray that they’ll give him the ball 20+ times a game so we can see that talent more often, but I think we have to be careful what we wish for. If he did touch the ball 300+ times I truly doubt Spiller would last a whole year uninjured. So I think we just need to hope for a top 5 finish from Spiller next season with a slight increase in touches.
Jamaal Charles – ADP 11 (Finish 8) – J.C. Superstar had a longer time to recover than Adrian Peterson, but his injury was still worrisome coming into the season and dropped his ADP outside the top 10. Even though Charles finished 8th, he still was extremely inconsistent, which had much more to do with his team/coaching than his ability.
Next season he will have a new coach and a new quarterback. It may raise expectations higher than they should be because as we know, change isn’t always for the better, but I’m still betting on Charles’ ability and the fact that Andy Reid has made great fantasy backs in the past.
Steven Ridley – ADP 26 (Finish 9) – I liked Ridley a lot coming into the season, but much like Coach Shanahan, Coach Belichick can be scary when he has your fantasy backs in his hands. Ridley ended up playing much above his ADP and even when he wasn’t topping 100 yards like he did in the first half, he was still getting into the end zone. He finished third in rushing touchdowns with 12 and as the goal line back for a high-powered offense, there’s no reason to doubt he’ll still be a TD machine.
Frank Gore – ADP 19 (Finish 10) – Many, including myself skipped over Gore due to a decline toward the end of 2011, but in 2012 he still put up some healthy numbers. After two straight years of average yards per carry of 4.3 and 4.2, he popped back up to 4.7. His 16 carries a game were low for him, but kept him fresh.
He once again had a worse second half of the season. In the first nine games of the year he averaged 5.4 yards per carry and then in the last 7, just 3.9. But that may have had a lot to do with Kendall Hunter getting hurt in week 12, which put more of a burden on Gore.
Gore will be 30 in May and there’s no doubt the 49ers will want to continue giving his legs rest. LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter depending on health will see plenty of work next season in what could be a three-headed Potter-style monster dog creature.
Those running backs whose ADP didn’t live up to their finishes almost all were injured at some point in the season, well, except for Chris Johnson, but his season wasn’t abysmal either. Only four backs drafted in the top 10 finished in the top 10 and two of those were coming of major knee surgeries. So if you think you know, you don’t, which of course is why this game is fun. If you knew the outcome before playing, why play? Did Bob Dylan say that?
Anyway, running backs get injured, so why not grab one of those quarterbacks who we know is going to be in the top 5 barring a meteor strike? Well, there are many reasons, but I always look at all those running back injuries as a reason to take as many running backs as my team can fit. That and quarterback is insanely deep next season, making for another year of being burned by first round running backs!