In this article we tackle the running backs, and, like in real football, some are easier to bring down than others. There are more complex backfields in the NFL these days than ever before. I’ve done my best to break the runners down into tiers to give you a feel for where the value breaks are. For those of you who will be drafting teams over the next 10 days or so, I will be updating these ratings frequently — sometimes more than once per day. You can find it all over at Rotobahn, and it’s free as can be.

If you’ve missed any of my other preseason articles, you can access them here:

Quarterbacks
Wide receivers
Tight ends
Redraftable rookies
Players who can outperform their ADP

A lot has happened the last few weeks. In fact, in the few days since I posted the tight end rankings, we have lost Jace Amaro for the year and Julius Thomas for next three weeks or so. Since I posted the wide receivers, we’ve lost both Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin for the season. Things move fast in August, so again, use my most updated materials when it comes time to draft. To know when updates occur, follow @Rotobahn on Twitter.

I’ll be back on Friday with an updated list of players to target based on their average draft position. On Sunday morning, Jim Hackett and I will be back with another edition of the Fantasy Football Hour.

Tier 1 (1-4)

Eddie Lacy, Packers
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

The elite in all drafts at any position. These are the top four players on my board, and the separation between them is razor thin. In fact, I am mixing up what I do at the top of drafts. Lacy is the safe choice because his offense is so stable due to Aaron Rodgers. If you are looking for the most upside without giving away early games, then you go Peterson. If you play in PPR, my choice would be Bell, though you have to deal with a two-game suspension to start the season. If you play PPR and you can’t stomach the suspension, then Charles is a solid option at the top. The truth here is that you really can’t go wrong. These players are going to get it done for you barring injury, and they all project to be fully healthy at this time.

Tier 2 (5-9)

DeMarco Murray, Eagles
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Jeremy Hill, Bengals
C.J. Anderson, Broncos
Matt Forte, Bears

Just a mini-step down from the top tier. Murray is a stud on a team that knows how to run the ball. The reason he’s not in Tier 1 is Ryan Mathews, who will steal enough carries to limit Murray’s statistical upside. Murray is still a lock RB1 in my view. Lynch is a lock starter like Murray, and you can take him up with the Tier 1 options if you have confidence in his health. I have mild concerns about his age and carry totals in recent years, but he’s too good to let him slip very far. Hill and Anderson are the up-and-comers of the group. Hill is a monster runner with three-down capability, but he gets undercut a little bit by Giovani Bernard’s presence. Anderson is a somewhat unproven back, but he is in a fantastic situation with Peyton Manning at quarterback and with new coach Gary Kubiak running the scheme. Kubiak tends to settle on a main runner, and all signs point to Anderson as that guy. Forte is getting on in years and he will not be in Marc Trestman’s scheme any more. That should cost him a lot of receptions, so take note if you play in a PPR league.

Tier 3 (10-12)

Frank Gore, Colts
Lamar Miller, Dolphins
Mark Ingram, Saints

Though they are ranked as RB1 options, there is a drop-off from the elite and near-elite options. Gore, as much as I like him, is 32 years old and he’s got serious mileage to go with the age. If Gore was 25, he’d be ranked with the elite — no question. His age is baked in to this ranking. Still, despite the risks, you have a great runner playing behind Andrew Luck. In seasonal leagues, I’m very willing to roll with Gore, especially if he is my second running back. Miller is an ascending talent. He’s a good option if Gore’s age scares you. Miller has breakout potential. It would not shock me if he was a first-rounder in 2016 drafts. Mark Ingram has disappointed many a fantasy owner over the years. The thing is, he’s playing the best ball of his career and he’s playing behind the best offensive line of his career . I also like his schedule quite a bit. If his injury history worries you, consider using Khiry Robinson as a handcuff option in deeper leagues.

Tier 4 (13-17)

Ameer Abdullah, Lions
Melvin Gordon, Chargers
LeSean McCoy, Bills
Justin Forsett, Ravens
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

We are into the clear RB2 level now. Some of these backs have big upside, but I have concerns with each back on some level. Abdullah will start off in a time share. He has the talent to blow that backfield up, but it still needs to happen. His main competition, Joique Bell, just got healthy. My guess is that Abdullah is the primary back by the end of September. Gordon has a similar issue in that he will not be a full-time back because of Danny Woodhead‘s ability in passing situations and in the red zone, which will cost Gordon a few scores. McCoy will go a lot higher than I have him ranked, but I just don’t trust him. Teams will be stacking the box to stop him. Consider what McCoy did for Chip Kelly last year, and then consider that his new situation is worse. Forsett is older and he has no track record of staying healthy as a workhorse back save for last season. I do think you can bump him up a tier in PPR scoring, so feel free to do that. Marc Trestman’s offense should lend itself to many receptions for Forsett. Stewart could have a big year and he’s great for all scoring formats. The obvious issue is his health. He’s had a very tough time staying healthy. That said, 2014 went well once he got on the field and he is 100 percent right now.

Tier 5 (18-23)

Carlos Hyde, 49ers
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars
Arian Foster, Texans
Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Latavius Murray, Raiders
Joseph Randle, Cowboys

I am a huge fan of Hyde, but his offensive line is not as good as it’s been in recent years and his team may not have many leads to protect, and that hurts the value of an early-down back. Reggie Bush is there to work passing downs, and it’s hard to predict that Hyde will get much of that action. If the Niners were better, I’d move Hyde up, but their problems as a team will make Hyde a little inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Yeldon is a fine back out of Alabama and he projects to play on all downs and in all situations. He may get worked in slowly, because there are some good veterans in Jacksonville. Still, the Jags brought in this kid to be the main guy, and I expect that to happen fairly quickly. Foster is very tough to value because we do not know when he will return from his groin surgery. If you are a risk-taker, I suggest waiting until late-Round 4 or early-Round 5 to pull the trigger. Martin has let a lot of fantasy GMs down in recent years, but he’s looking very good in preseason and the Bucs should open things up with a better downfield passing game. I like Martin a lot as a value RB2. Murray is a bit like Hyde in that he could be more of an early down back with Roy Helu there to handle passing downs. Will the Raiders be protecting many leads? It’s an issue, but Murray’s talent is real, so he’s a solid high-upside RB2. Randle may require some patience as the Cowboys claim to be using a running back-by-committee approach. I just don’t see Darren McFadden staying healthy for long, and that could and should open the door for Randle to make a big impact at some point. I like him as a value RB2.

Tier 6 (24-29)

Todd Gurley, Rams
Andre Ellington, Cardinals
Alfred Morris, Washington
C.J. Spiller, Saints
Chris Ivory, Jets
LeGarrette Blount, Patriots

There’s a lot of potential in this group, but plenty of problems, too. Gurley has RB1 upside on a weekly basis as soon as he is healthy enough to carry the load. But when will that be? The Rams are treating his rehab like a shuttle launch. They won’t let him take off unless conditions are perfect. It makes sense. Perfect sense. Still, there’s no way to tell how they will choose to break him in. I look at drafting Gurley a little bit like drafting Arian Foster. I am willing to take the risk, but I need to build my team’s core first. The fifth round is where I can reasonably take that kind of shot, and that assumes my draft is going according to plan. Ellington has more upside in PPR formats and I love that he fits into Bruce Arians’ scheme. The obvious issue here is his injury history, which is thick and rich. I’m willing to take a flier on Ellington, but I won’t sleep well at night if he’s my RB2. Much better to have him as a strong RB3 or flex option. Backing up Ellington with rookie David Johnson is a very sound move in big formats. Morris will go higher than I have him ranked, and I suggest you embrace that and let somebody else have him. There’s just too much wrong in Washington to buy into an early-down pounder. This is a team that projects to be playing from behind early and often. Spiller has enormous potential, especially in PPR leagues. The issue is his knee scope and the fact that he’s in a backfield that already boasts Mark Ingram, who will be the main guy on early downs. Still, if you can land Spiller at RB3 prices, he offers a high ceiling once he gets healthy, which should be soon. Ivory is looking like the Jets’ lead back and he will be good for as long as he stays healthy, but he is a big risk in terms of health and he is a game-dependent back on a team that has the potential to be behind often. He’s an RB2 when healthy and he can be had at RB3 prices in some drafts. Blount has the suspension for Week 1, so that hurts his value a bit, but I like what he can do for you in non-PPR leagues and he’s reasonably priced.

Tier 7 (30-36)

Ryan Mathews, Eagles
Isaiah Crowell, Browns
Tre Mason, Rams
Rashad Jennings, Giants
Duke Johnson, Browns
Devonta Freeman, Falcons
Tevin Coleman, Falcons

Mathews has the most upside of anybody in this group. All he needs is an injury to DeMarco Murray and he’d be an elite RB1 option. As it stands, Mathews is a decent weekly flex play in 12-team formats. Crowell has upside if he can earn enough playing time, but he plays in a deep backfield. Mason would be higher, but his hamstring injury threatens to limit his appeal in the early weeks of the season, and that is when he was supposed to have the most value. By the time he’s 100 percent, Gurley could be leading the way. Jennings has RB1 weekly potential, but only as a feature back. It appears that Shane Vereen and Andre Williams will get significant playing time, thus diluting Jennings’ impact. Duke Johnson is one of the backs I am targeting in this tier. His recent concussion is a red flag and that knocks him down a peg, but if his ADP slips a bit he still could be a good gamble, especially in PPR leagues. Freeman and Coleman are too close to call. In the end, they could end up splitting the backfield if both do well and stay healthy. Both backs are good fits for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan‘s scheme. If one back takes control, you’ll have a steal on your hands, especially in big formats. Either back could be a bargain if they slip a little bit. It’s usually Freeman who slips farther. Look for him in the 10th round or so.

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Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

Tom Brady might be nervous while he awaits a ruling from Judge Richard Berman on his Deflategate suspension appeal, but he isn’t showing it.

Tom Brady might be nervous while he awaits a ruling from Judge Richard Berman on his Deflategate suspension appeal, but he isn’t showing it.

At the team’s annual charity event Tuesday night at Gillette Stadium, Brady took part in a brief panel discussion with some teammates, and he wasn’t hesitant to poke fun at his situation. When asked if he did anything this offseason to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl title, Brady drew laughs when he cracked, “Yeah, it’s been such an enjoyable offseason.”

Brady went on to say his favorite offseason activity was following Julian Edelman on Instagram.

“When he rubbed the mud all over his body, that’s probably the one I enjoyed most,” he said (via the Boston Herald).

Brady also commented on his dedication to healthy eating and how he tries to pass it along to his younger teammates.

“All of us athletes work pretty hard to stay in shape, and to be really disciplined with what you do,” Brady said. “It takes a lot to come out here and to perform at a high level every single day with the pressure and expectations of trying to accomplish what we try to accomplish every single year. The commitment the players make, and the commitment the coaches make to try to establish such a high level of play year in and year out, is something I learned from being here. I try to pass those things on to the next generation of great Patriots players.”

Added Brady with a laugh: “Sometimes they don’€™t listen very well, but you just keep saying it. Just like I tell my kids. Then you have to repeat it over and over again, and ultimately, maybe it sinks in.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Robert Kraft called Deflategate the “most overblown story in recent NFL history,” adding that he has told his staff to “ignore the noise” and keep the focus on the upcoming 2015 season.

Robert Kraft called Deflategate the “most overblown story in recent NFL history,” adding that he has told his staff to “ignore the noise” and keep the focus on the upcoming 2015 season.

The Patriots owner made his comments Tuesday night while addressing the crowd at the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation’s annual gala, held Tuesday night at Gillette Stadium.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

DraftKings Kick off this football season with the biggest fantasy football contest ever on DraftKings! Prizes worth $10 million are up for grabs, including $2 million for first AND $1 million for second! PLAY IN THE WEEK 1 MILLIONAIRE MAKER, CLICK HERE.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Despite the fact that Reggie Wayne has moved on to New England, his old teammate Andrew Luck still has nice things to say about him. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Despite the fact that Reggie Wayne has moved on to New England, his old teammate Andrew Luck still has nice things to say about him. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

In the days after ex-Colt Reggie Wayne signed as a free agent with the Patriots, the receiver was attacked by some back in Indy as a traitor and turncoat. But on Tuesday, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said he holds nothing against Wayne for his decision, and added that he’ll be recalled as “one of the great Colts” when it’s all said and done.

“There’s a lot of things said and written about a lot of people,” Luck told the Rich Eisen Show on Tuesday. “Reggie will always be one of the great Colts in my mind and a great, great teammate. You can’t control what people write. It doesn’t really matter what’s fair and not fair necessarily as a player. But I know Reg is no traitor to me at all.”

The 36-year-old Wayne, who signed with the Patriots late last month as a free agent, spent 14 seasons with Indy. He has 1,070 career catches, to go along with 14,345 receiving yards and 82 touchdowns.

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Jordan Spieth threw out the first pitch at Tuesday night's Red Sox-Yankees game. (WEEI.com)

Jordan Spieth threw out the first pitch at Tuesday night’s Red Sox-Yankees game. (WEEI.com)

This year’s Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth is also a die hard Cowboys fan, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like the Patriots and Tom Brady.

“I root for the Pats outside the Cowboys,” Spieth said at Fenway Park before throwing out the first pitch Tuesday night. “I root for the Pats in the AFC. Obviously I am a die hard Cowboys fan. I root for my hometown.”

So what will he do when the Patriots play the Cowboys in Week 4, which would also be the potential fourth game of Brady’s four-game suspension?

“Well, I am going to root for the Cowboys. I hope Brady’s back by then and I hope it’s a fair fight and I hope my ‘boys pull it off,” he said.

Spieth, who is in town for this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, threw out the first pitch to Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly, who also hosted PGA Tour golfer Rickie Fowler at the park Tuesday, as he was on the field during batting practice in full Red Sox gear. Spieth was a pitcher growing up before stopping playing right before high school.

Although he golfs right-handed, he throws lefty. He said his dad, who is also a lefty, played college baseball and taught him to throw left-handed. He hits right-handed because he was taught how to hit facing his left-handed throwing dad.

“A little bit of movement on a fastball,” Spieth said of his pitching. “I could never really throw it hard or by anybody so I just hoped they swung and missed.”

Spieth spent some time before entering the park on Lansdowne Street soaking in the atmosphere. He said he roots for the Red Sox besides his hometown Rangers and his favorite player on the Red Sox is David Ortiz.

“It’s cool. I think it’s the greatest ballpark in the world so to be able to go out there on the mound and throw a pitch is something I certainly never thought I’d be able to do,” Spieth said. “It’s really cool. After my Rangers I root for the Red Sox. I truly mean that, it’s not just because I am here. I always root against the Yankees so it’s nice to be here tonight and hopefully we can get a Yankees loss and a Rangers win and we can move up a little bit in the wild card race.”

Although he’s just 22 years old and the winner of two majors in one year, Spieth remains grateful for the opportunities his play has allowed him to have and he only hopes they continue.

“It’s cool to use this position to have the opportunities off the course because I never would have imagined this,” he said. “I haven’t thought much about the year on the course because we’ve just been so focused so much on what’s going on the next week. It’s been awesome, but the times I really notice it are things like this. That’s when you notice how special it is. If you want to keep doing it you have to keep doing what you’re doing on the course, right?”

DraftKings Kick off this football season with the biggest fantasy football contest ever on DraftKings! Prizes worth $10 million are up for grabs, including $2 million for first AND $1 million for second! PLAY IN THE WEEK 1 MILLIONAIRE MAKER, CLICK HERE.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

In their attempts to get to the mandated roster limit of 75 by Tuesday afternoon, the Patriots made a series of moves.

Chris Jones was placed on PUP Tuesday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Chris Jones was placed on PUP Tuesday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In their attempts to get to the mandated roster limit of 75 by Tuesday afternoon, the Patriots made a series of moves.

The Patriots placed linebacker Dane Fletcher and defensive lineman Chris Jones to the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Neither had been on the field in pads for the duration of the summer — the decision to place Fletcher on PUP was hardly surprising given the fact that he had sustained a knee injury at the end of the 2014 regular season with the Bucs. Both players will not be available to play until Week 7.

In addition, they placed cornerback Darryl Roberts on injured reserve, reportedly the result of a wrist injury he suffered in the preseason opener against the Packers. The seventh-round pick out of Marshall had been having a good summer to that point, but will now get the remainder of the 2015 season to work on rest and rehab. They also officially announced the decision to place fullback James Develin on season-ending injured reserve as well.

The team also claimed wide receiver DaVaris Daniels from the Vikings. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder of of Notre Dame was an undrafted free agent who was signed by Minnesota. He didn’t play last season, but caught 49 passes for 745 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013 with the Fighting Irish. Earlier in the day, the Patriots swung a deal with the Saints for wide receiver return special Jalen Saunders, a former Oklahoma product who was part of a trade for a conditional draft pick.

And finally, New England waived linebacker D.J. Lynch and offensive lineman Chris Barker, the latter of whom was suffering from an ankle injury he sustained earlier in the preseason.

For the record, Barker, Daniels, Saunders, and Lynch all have practice squad eligibility.

One of the more noteworthy moves of the afternoon was the fact that the Patriots did not put Brandon LaFell on PUP. The wide receiver, who was not on the field throughout training camp, is working his way back from offseason foot surgery. It’s still early in the process — he could still be placed on PUP when the team completes the cuts to 53 before the start of the regular season — but the fact that he’s still available is a good sign when it comes to his overall recovery.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

DraftKings Kick off this football season with the biggest fantasy football contest ever on DraftKings! Prizes worth $10 million are up for grabs, including $2 million for first AND $1 million for second! PLAY IN THE WEEK 1 MILLIONAIRE MAKER, CLICK HERE.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Judge Richard Berman issued an order late Tuesday afternoon that stated he “anticipates” the Court will issue a decision on Deflategate “by the end of the week.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.