Conventional re-draft fantasy football leagues emphasize getting a running back early due to the lack of quality personnel. In a fantasy league where your only concern is the next 16 games, it’s easy to identify who’s capable of being successful in the short term. But just because running backs are so essential in re-draft leagues doesn’t necessarily mean the same in dynasty leagues. While still important, running backs in dynasty leagues are more easily replaceable than a franchise quarterback, not unlike the NFL. Be careful of how much you offer up to get that rookie running back. As you’ll see below (and in our rankings), there’s plenty of options at running back. Let’s take a look at the first ones drafted this past April.
- Giovani Bernard (CIN) – The first running back off the board in the NFL draft is the one to own in dynasty leagues. After being compared to Ray Rice at the combine, Cincinnati took Bernard to compliment Benjarvus Green-Ellis. Early on, Cincinnati has gushed about his big play ability, even splitting Bernard out wide. With Green-Ellis’ contract expiring after 2014, that leaves Bernard in the drivers seat to be the man in Cincinnati. Sure, this year he’ll be the primary backup for Green-Ellis while getting the 3rd down work but don’t be surprised if they can’t keep him off the field in 2013.
- Le’Veon Bell (PIT) – The 48th overall pick from Michigan State, Bell is a big boy at 6′ 1″ and 244 pounds. Scouts expect him to get the first shot at being a 3-down back due to his ability to block and catch. Plus, there is little-to-no competition among the returning runners like Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. Bell entered, perhaps, the best situation for a fantasy running back. If wouldn’t be a reach to take Bell over Bernard in your dynasty fantasy drafts.
- Montee Ball (DEN) – Drafted 58th overall, Ball was entering a crowded backfield in Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, and Ronnie Hillman. After McGahee was cut, people assumed that Ball was going to be the man but the situation is still murky. With Knowshon Moreno rushing for 100 yards in a the last couple games of 2012 and 2012 3rd round pick Ronnie Hillman still in the fold, it’s not as if Ball has a clear path to being the starter. Furthermore, his heavy workload at Wisconsin will cut into his career carries. For dynasty leagues, it’s something to consider if you’re needing a running back early on. I’d avoid Ball until the running back picture in Denver is more clear.
- Eddie Lacy (GB) – Lacy was presumed to be the first running back off the board but ended up being the 4th. He slipped because of concerns over a fused toe that might cause problems down the road. For dynasty fantasy leaguers, Green Bay isn’t exactly the most ideal place for a running back simply because Aaron Rodgers is too good to take the ball out of his hands. Plus, he does have some competition in fellow rookie Jonathan Franklin and 2012 holdover DuJuan Harris who did show some promise towards the end of the season. On the positive side, he’s been compared to Steven Jackson and should have plenty of opportunities for goal-line work. But how long Lacy lasts remains to be seen. I’d feel safe drafting Lacy in the 2nd round of your dynasty draft. Anything higher would give me pause.
- Christine Michael (SEA) – Perhaps the most intriguing back in this years draft, Michael was drafted with the last pick of the second round by Seattle. Michael didn’t start off his NFL career well by ‘taking too much NyQuil.’ Once he got into camp, his pass protection was questioned, which is common for rookie running backs and can prevent them from getting on the field. But there’s just so much talent to offset the negatives. ESPN’s Matt Williamson has labeled him a top-10 talent in 2016. Plus, since Marshawn Lynch has been missing camp, Michael’s been the one to draw the first team reps over Robert Turbin. Pete Carroll has been one to let the best man win no matter the age or experience and Michael may just have too much talent to keep him off the field. He may not be one to draft in your dynasty drafts first round but could be a steal in the second.