This is the year of disappearing running back depth. The top of the class is so strong that taking one in the first round can lull an owner into a false sense of security. While picking off studs at other positions you can quickly find yourself with either a very old or very injury prone second running back. The depth looks even worse when you are playing in a standard scoring league with no PPR. Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles go from borderline first round picks in deeper PPR leagues to a 2nd or 3rd running back that you are not too happy about having on your roster in standard leagues. More and more fantasy experts are embracing going with three straight running backs in the first three rounds if the value fits and I am becoming a convert.
Don't get me wrong there are RB2s with excellent potential. In 10 team leagues I love teams that have Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, and Maurice Jones Drew as their RB2. In 10 team PPR Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles as RB2s can make an owner look like a genius. I even like veterans that are in the third to fourth-round range like Frank Gore and DeMarco Murray. It's when you start having Darren McFadden and Ryan Mathews as your RB2 that you should lose some sleep. I would also toss and turn if I was relying on a rookies like Eddie Lacy or Montee Ball as well.
The injuries to Jonathan Stewart and LeVeon Bell have further depleted the running backs worth targeting as RB2s in drafts. The injury histories of Rashard Mendenhall, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Chris Ivory make taking them a complete gamble. With all the question marks and speed bumps at running back after the first round I have to say I am very comfortable going RB-RB or even three straight running backs in drafts.
When drafting running backs make sure to look at my running back tiers. (.5 PPR is my basis for scoring)
Doug Martin, Jamaal Charles, C.J. Spiller, Arian Foster (not buying the injury), LeSean McCoy
Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris
Matt Forte, Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones Drew
Stevan Ridley, DeMarco Murray, David Wilson, Frank Gore, Lamar Miller
Darren McFadden, Ryan Mathews, Shane Vereen, Giovani Bernard, Daryl Richardson
Eddie Lacy, Ahmad Bradshaw, Montee Ball
Chris Ivory, Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, Andre Brown, Mark Ingram
Note: LeVeon Bell is already out of his walking boot and could be a factor in the second month of the season.
There are a few wide receivers that can't be overlooked when drafting this year. Calvin Johnson is a first-round pick in any scoring system and if you get him at the bottom of the first round count yourself lucky. After Megatron there are a handful of second-round worthy wide receivers that can be drafted before a borderline RB2. Dez Bryant leads this list as he is looking more and more unstoppable after his breakout second half last season. In PPR leagues I am not letting him slide past the 14th pick. A.J. Green is a monster as well, but there a few too many mouths to feed on the Bengals offense for him to really push my top two rated wide receivers. Brandon Marshall is a wild card at this point because of his hip issues and his frustration with his recovery. When healthy and with Jay Cutler throwing him the ball there are few wide receivers in the league I would rather have.
The next two guys are neck and neck for me. Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas are both tremendously talented wide receivers who play in high scoring offenses, but both lose targets because of the talented pass catchers they happen to be teammates with. Julio is poised to finally take over the lead roll from Roddy White, but we have said that before. His up and down production can be maddening, but his potential to be dominant is tough to pass up. Demaryius is Peyton Manning's best target in Denver and only slides down my list because of Eric Decker and Wes Welker stealing targets. Even with limited (for a WR1) opportunities he should top 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Now let's see how my wide receiver tiers stack up. (.5 PPR is my basis for scoring)
Dez Bryant, AJ Green, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas
Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Roddy White
Victor Cruz, Vincent Jackson, Randall Cobb
Danny Amendola, Marques Colston, Jordy Nelson, Reggie Wayne,Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Bowe, Pierre Garcon
Wes Welker, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, DeSean Jackson, Eric Decker
James Jones, Cecil Shorts, TY Hilton, Mike Williams, Josh Gordon (suspended 2 games)
Anquan Boldin, Miles Austin, Stevie Johnson, Kenny Britt, Kenbrell Thompkins, Golden Tate, Chris Givens
Tavon Austin, Lance Moore, Michael Floyd, Vincent Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Justin Blackmon
Note: Justin Blackmon will be a WR2 when he comes off his 4 game suspension.
I want to wish everyone a fantastic fantasy football season and would love if my tiers ended up helping you to a championship. Please keep me informed throughout the year by following me on twitter @Coachesser or liking my Facebook page CochEsser's Playbook. You can also keep in touch by visiting my website www.coachesser.com each week. Every Monday from 8-9 p.m. I am available for your Fantasy Football questions on Google + by stopping by Catching up with the Counselor on #FFCentral.