2012 was a fantastic year for running backs and fantasy football fans alike. We were treated to the usual suspects doing their thing, three rookies who finished in the top ten in fantasy points and you can’t forget Adrian Peterson’s improbable and amazing return to greatness.
This coming season, some teams will look to incorporate the read option (the new “it” play) into their offensive scheme and others will stick to what works for them. Either way, we’re in for a renewed emphasis on the running game; and these five guys look to have the biggest fantasy seasons of 2013.
5. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Rice had another strong year, finishing with 1,143 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 257 carries. He was also the sixth best fantasy running back with 222 points. In my opinion, he could’ve had a much better season, but was hampered by former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s questionable play calling.
Under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, Rice should have another big season as he helps set up the passing game, as well as plays a big part in it. Rice possesses a great ability to turn a short pass into big yards downfield and will continue to be Joe Flacco’s favorite target on third down.
4. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin had an amazing rookie season, rushing for an impressive 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns on 319 carries. He was second to only Adrian Peterson in yards after contact with 614 and fantasy points with 263.
The biggest problem for Martin (and the entire Buccaneers team) last season was a lack of consistency: if the offensive line can do a better job of blocking downfield day in and day out and Josh Freeman can consistently have success through the air, Martin is easily capable of eclipsing the 1,800 yard mark in his sophomore season. Big things are still to come from the “Muscle Hamster.”
3. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Lynch has been able to turn his career around since landing in Seattle and has become one of the best running backs in the NFL. He finished the season ranked second in rushing yards with 1,768 and touchdowns with 13. He was also the third-best fantasy running back with 277 points.
Next season there is no reason not to expect more of the same from Lynch and the Seahawks’ talented offense. The one thing that worries me and will be something to watch: Lynch only had two fumbles all season, then had two in as many games in the playoffs. He’ll need to do a good job of keeping the fumbles under control if he doesn’t want to lose carries to Robert Turbin.
2. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Despite averaging the fewest yards per carry in his four year career (a still highly-respectable 4.1 YPC), Foster had another great year; rushing for 1,654 yards and led the league with 17 touchdowns. He was also the second-best fantasy running back with 313 points.
With the Texans’ lack of playmakers on offense and Matt Schaub’s inconsistent play; Houston will likely lean more heavily on Foster in 2013 and he could contend with Peterson for the top spot on this list by the end of the season.
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
What is there to say about Peterson that hasn’t already been said? He fell just short of breaking the NFL Single Season Rushing Record less than a year removed from having reconstructive knee surgery. No one expected him to have the season that he did.
With another offseason to condition and further strengthen his surgically repaired knee; it’s scary to think of what Peterson will be capable of next year. He has one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the game, and if Christian Ponder can continue to mature and improve as a quarterback, it will open up huge holes for Peterson to run through all game long.