As I’ve said before, I’m a list guy. I make to do lists, follow “honey do” lists, and will take time to read a top five or top ten list of almost anything. This series of articles will bring you a top 5 ranking about a myriad of topics in the world of dynasty fantasy football.
The dynasty value of a player is very dynamic and can be affected by anything from a surprise injury to an offensive lineman to a covered up assault at a night club. With the access to information available to the average fan specifically via Twitter, fantasy owners must be aware of the current value of their players and of the players they hope to acquire. Often, how an owner values a player can be different than how he would rank that player. For example, many owners and experts would rank Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden, or Jamaal Charles in the top five, but during a startup draft or a trade discussions, the true value of players is discovered.
Here are the top five most valued running backs in PPR dynasty leagues, according to the most up-to-date information and data. The ages listed are as of September 2012.
1.) Arian Foster, RB HOU (26 years old)
The running backs are very difficult to rank. Dynasty owners have been split on the ranking and value of the three top ball carriers. With a slightly better ADP and back-to-back seasons finishing as a top four running back, Foster gets the edge over the next two on the list.
Foster burst onto the scene in 2010 and shocked all fantasy football owners finishing as the top running back after amassing over 2,200 combined yards and 18 total touchdowns. Despite missing three games in 2011, Foster still managed to finish as RB4 overall and RB1 according to average PPG. Foster’s receiving ability and the Texans’ use of the running back out of the backfield gives him a nice advantage over many others. The past two seasons, Foster is averaging 60 receptions, over 600 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
The presence of Ben Tate should only serve to add more value to Foster as Tate is an explosive reserve taking some of the carries from Foster, while possibly lengthening his season, and even his career. Both running backs have great dynasty value thanks the zone blocking scheme employed by the Texans. The only knock on Foster when compared to the next two could be age, but while he is a few months older than Ray Rice, he has significantly fewer touches in his career. Even LeSean McCoy, while almost two years Foster’s junior, still has more touches than the Texans’s stud back.
Current Startup ADP (average draft position): 2.4
Team A gave Arian Foster, Denarius Moore
Team B gave Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, Roy Helu
* = Note: this was completed during a startup draft. Foster had been drafted and was traded for multiple picks that became Nicks, Britt and Helu.
2.) Ray Rice, RB BAL (25.6 years old)
The next two running backs are truly a coin flip. Ray Rice is coming off a 2011 season that saw him finish as the RB1 in fantasy football. In fact, he provided nearly a 2 PPG advantage over McCoy in many leagues. Rice will again be counted on to be the workhorse running back for Baltimore and should also continue to see plenty of action in the passing game – he caught 76 balls last season for over 700 yards and three touchdowns.
It is somewhat of a concern that the Ravens do not currently have an established backup running back. Veteran Ricky Williams retired in the offseason, leaving Anthony Allen as the primary backup. With several veteran backs still available, Baltimore signing a player like Joseph Addai or Cedric Benson could aide Rice as he aims for his fourth consecutive season as a starting level fantasy running back.
Current Startup ADP: 3.5
Team A gave Ray Rice, Laurent Robinson
Team B gave Larry Fitzgerald, Torrey Smith
Team A gave Ray Rice
Team B gave 2012 rookie pick 1.02, 2012 rookie pick 1.04
3.) LeSean McCoy, RB PHI (24.2 years old)
I know many owners would make a case that McCoy is the running back with the greatest value in fantasy football, in large part due to his age. While age is certainly an aspect that dynasty owners have to give attention to, it should not be the only deciding factor. McCoy broke out and established himself as a top dynasty running back in 2011, thanks in large part to twenty total touchdowns. It is easy to assume that this number will regress in the coming seasons, affecting McCoy’s overall dynasty value. Other areas that ding his value include his role in the Eagles’ passing game (he has over 300 fewer receiving yards than both Foster and Rice) and the recent season ending injury to LT Jason Peters.
Current Startup ADP: 3.8
Team A gave LeSean McCoy, Brandon Pettigrew
Team B gave Beanie Wells, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Ponder, Marcedes Lewis, 2012 rookie pick 1.05, 2012 rookie pick 3.10
Team A gave: LeSean McCoy, Emmanuel Sanders, Marcedes Lewis
Team B gave DeMarco Murray, Mike Wallace, Phillip Tanner, 2012 rookie pick 2.08
4.) Ryan Mathews, RB SD (25.4 years old)
With a clear drop after the “big three,” we find a large group of backs with very similar value. In fact, there are three different running backs with an ADP of 15. Again, this will be a matter of opinion and could be successfully argued multiple ways. For me, Mathews gets the edge over the others in the group.
All running backs in the tier seem to have their questions and doubters. Mathews seems to have some injury concerns – he missed two games in 2011 battling lingering calf and groin injuries. He also has five fumbles in each of his first two seasons, despite a part-time role in the Charger offense.
The true test will come this season as Mathews will be handed the starting job, as Mike Tolbert signed with the Carolina Panthers. Tolbert was often cursed by Mathews’ owners as a touchdown vulture, collecting 21 total scores the past two seasons. Now is Mathews’ chance to earn some of those score, as well as more touches. In fact, Chargers’ head coach Norv Turner recently projected Mathews to have a “breakout, big time year.” Expect San Diego to bring in another back to serve as Mathews’ #2, hopefully not one who will steal goal-line carries.
Current Startup ADP: 15.1
Recent Trades: Team A gave Ryan Matthews, Stevan Ridley
Team B gave Darren McFadden, Sam Bradford
Team A gave Ryan Matthews, 2012 rookie pick 1.07, 2012 rookie pick 3.07
Team B gave AJ Green, 2013 rookie pick round 1
5.) Trent Richardson, RB Rookie (22.1 years old)
Although the startup draft ADP does not support Richardson being placed this high, the trades I have observed for the 1.01 rookie pick do. In fact, many owners likely value Richardson over Mathews. Richardson is the most heralded and hyped rookie running back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. His age gives him a big advantage in dynasty leagues when compared to the aging and injured backs in this same tier.
His negatives are obvious to most fantasy football players. The complete unknown of what team he will be playing for and how he will be used by that team has a huge affect on Richardson’s value. The former Crimson Tide star has most often been mocked to either the Cleveland Browns or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but we’ll find out soon enough! While the young nucleus of the Bucs could be a good home for Richardson, along side of Josh Freeman, Mike Williams and Lagarrette Blount, manning the Browns’ backfield would likely lead to too many carries and not enough protection.
There are also many owners who would rather invest in a more proven player and may devalue Richardson somewhat. It is very difficult to place a true startup dynasty value on Richardson as so few of the early startup drafts have included the incoming rookies. Most leagues opt to either hold a completely separate rookie draft in their initial year, or draft placeholders for an upcoming rookie draft. It’s a safe assumption that Richardson will be selected with the 1.01 rookie pick in a majority of leagues, so I will also address the ADP of the 1.01 rookie pick as well as include trades made involving the 1.01.
Current Startup ADP: 19.5
Team A gave 2012 rookie pick 1.01
Team B gave: AJ Green, Kyle Rudolph
Team A gave 2012 rookie pick 1.01
Team B gave Ahmad Bradshaw, Eric Decker, 2012 rookie pick 1.05
Just missed: Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson
In next week’s “Making a List,” I’ll focus on the current value of quarterbacks. Follow Ryan McDowell on Twitter @RyanMc23Add to favorites