Fantasy Football Rankings 2015: Top 10 Best Running Backs

adrian peterson, best running backs 2015

Adrian Peterson looks to rebound from 2014, where he wore a suit more often than a helmet (Getty).

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We may live in the Golden Age of quarterbacks, but to the fantasy-playing world, running backs are more valuable than ever. There are still elite rushers to be drafted, there’s just less of them. With running back by committee becoming more and more commonplace in the NFL, it’s important for fantasy owners to have at least one workhorse back on their roster.

For an early 2015 ranking, you’d be a fool if you don’t think Adrian Peterson will immediately return to form as the best back in football. It seems as though 2012 is a distant memory, when Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, but expect AP to be fresh and motivated to dominate once again.

After him, it depends on your league scoring. This is a non-PPR ranking, so players like Shady McCoy and Matt Forte would be valued slightly more in that format.

Here’s an early ranking for the 2015 season:

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

After spending nearly a full season off the field, Peterson will return to the Vikings in 2015. All Minnesota did in his absence was get better, strengthening depth at his position, developing Teddy Bridgewater and signing Mike Wallace in the offseason. NFL be warned: the most violent runner around now has a chip on his shoulder.

2. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

As long as Charles stays healthy, he’ll continue to be the focal point of the Chiefs offense. Although he stands out as one of the league’s most explosive backs, Charles 206 rushing attempts ranked a meager 16th among running backs. Still, few guys can put up the kind of stat line Charles can, and if healthy, he’s more than worth the value.

3. Leveon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell was the savior to owners during the stretch run last year, scoring in every game from weeks 11-15. Bell finished 2nd in yards from scrimmage in 2014, and has sole ownership of the Steeler’s running back spot. Bonus points- Bell played every game, and did not lose a single fumble.

4. Demarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles

Demarco Murray broke out in 2014, finally staying healthy and running behind the league’s best offensive line in Dallas. Now Murray is taking his 1845 rushing yards to division rival Philadelphia, to share time with Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews. Don’t fear the crowd; Murray is the most talented of the trio and the lighter load will help him stay healthy.

5. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

Forte is unique to the backs in that he is far more valuable in PPR leagues than in standard scoring. Forte was targeted in the passing game 130 times last year, an incredible total for an offense with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Martellus Bennet. Forte hauled in 102 of those passes, 19 more than the next leading running back (Bell) and the 4th most in the entire league. Forte is right in his prime and should continue to get tons of touches. However, Chicago is now a John Fox team, so a committee setup may be on the horizon.

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6. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

Our lasting memory of the 2014 season was the final drive of Super Bowl XLIX was Seattle’s decision not to enter full-on Beast Mode to win their 2nd championship. The argument was valid; Lynch led all non-quarterbacks with 17 total touchdowns in 2014. Lynch might see a dip in production this year, if only to preserve his health for a possible playoff run.

7. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

When Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback, everybody’s going to win. The Packers were a few close plays away from being in the Super Bowl in 2014, and will field almost the exact same roster this season. Lacy is an old school every down back, and almost a lock to finish in the top 10 at his position. His hands continue to improve, and he should do better than his 42 catches last season.

8. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills

LeSean McCoy debuts in the red and blue of Buffalo this year, and will be the feature back for Rex Ryan’s Bills team. Some consider last year a down season for McCoy, but truthfully Shady had the second most carries in the NFL (312). If he can score more than five touchdowns, Shady should regain his spot among the elite backs in the league. Rex Ryan loves to have his teams grind the ball and keep his defense fresh, and having McCoy in the backfield alleviates pressure on whoever takes snaps for Buffalo this season.

9. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

The lifeblood of the Texans offense, Foster, when healthy, was as good as it gets in 2014. Foster missed three games with nagging injuries, but still racked up 13 touchdowns. Foster was consistent too, scoring in 9 of 13 games played. Houston is a team on the rise, and Foster will probably have the lowest value among top rushers moving forward.

10. Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals

Ok here’s the thing: after the aforementioned backs, there aren’t many other players I would trust as a week-to-week starter. Can Knowshon Moreno rebound from injury in Miami? Will Justin Forsett, who turns 30 in October, be able to carry the Ravens?

Because of the lack of known talent, I’m going with Ellington at the 10 spot. Ellington, who had 3 straight weeks with a touchdown, was able to succeed despite awful quarterbacking for most of the season. That’s enough for me, and if Bruce Arians can get any type of consistency under center, Ellington will be able to find space and improve on his 1,055 yards from scrimmage.

The Next 10

Listed alphabetically

CJ Anderson, Denver Broncos
Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
LeGarrete Blount, New England Patriots
Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens
Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins