Fantasy football: Is the running back era over?

Peyton Manning Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning’s record-setting season has fantasy players rethinking their draft strategies.
Credit: Getty Images

The fantasy world is ready to bail on the running backs.

As we look back on the 2013 season, people are standing on the rooftops shouting that the era of the running back is over. They’re pointing to Peyton Manning’s historic season, the faceplant of C.J. Spiller and the NFL’s rules leading to ridiculous passing statistics.

There’s only one problem with this argument. Passing has become so easy in the NFL that nearly everyone can do it. Out of fantasy’s top 12 quarterbacks this season, a whopping seven were likely available in the seventh round or later of your draft (Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo, Nick Foles and Ben Roethlisberger). Manning won owners a lot of leagues, but those that loaded up early at the more scarce positions and then got one of these seven later brought home the trophy a lot as well. And next year, Manning won’t be available in the third or fourth round – he’ll likely be the No. 1 overall pick in a lot of formats.

All this brings us back to running backs and the idea of relative value. Yes, it was an awful year for first-round running backs. Spiller, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson torpedoed seasons. But there’s just no replacing a guy like Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte or Marshawn Lynch because the drop-off is so steep behind them. Out of fantasy’s top 12 running backs, just three (Knowshon Moreno, Fred Jackson, Ryan Mathews) were likely available after the third round of your draft.

So even as the NFL landscape changes, the fantasy strategy is going to stay the same. We win with running back production/depth, and cherry pick at the quarterback spot.

NFL news …

Mike Shanahan certainly has his warts as a coach, but in terms of getting production out of both the running game and his “X” wideout, few are better. So Shanny’s firing is bad news for the 2014 fantasy prospects of Alfred Morris and Pierre Garcon. Alf’s inability to play in the passing game caps his upside anyway and we can now safely bet that Garcon won’t lead the NFL in catches, a feat he achieved with 113 in 2013.

NBA pickups …

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, G/F, Bucks – With the Bucks at 7-24, getting their freaky, yet raw, rookie huge minutes is a priority.

2. J.J. Redick, SG, Clippers – The Clips are just 9-7 without Redick (hand). He’ll play 30 minutes per game upon his return.

3. Kendall Marshall, PG, Lakers – Both Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar are sidelined, leaving the pass-first Marshall to run the show.

There’s a big up arrow next to these guys …

1. Reggie Jackson, G, Thunder – More knee woes for Russell Westbrook means another huge opportunity for the talented R-Jax.

2. Anderson Varejao, PF, Cavaliers – Andrew Bynum has infuriated another organization. He’s gone, leaving Varejao as the unquestioned center.

3. Larry Sanders, F, Bucks – The bar fight and thumb injury are behind him. Now it’s time to live up to that $44 million contract.

Follow Metro’s fantasy sports writer Adam Levitan on Twitter @adamlevitan.


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