Fantasy Football: 5 Early-Round Running Backs for 2014

Whether you won your fantasy football league this year or had to suffer another losing season, it’s time to move on and start focusing on your 2014 draft.

This year, the running back position had a bunch of letdowns. If you drafted Isaiah Pead or David Wilson early on and thought they were going to have breakout years, then I am sorry for you.

Look at the bright side, though. Both of their backups proved that they can be reliable fantasy running backs in 2014, and you now have a shot at getting one of them on your team next year.

With the running back position being the most important one in fantasy football, here are five running backs to target in the early rounds of your 2014 fantasy football draft.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Karl Walter/Getty Images

Despite missing the first three games of the season as a rookie, Le’Veon Bell demonstrated to fantasy football owners that he is going to play a huge role in the Pittsburgh Steelers offense in the upcoming years.

He finished the season with more than 800 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while also notching 45 receptions. Here is the most impressive statistic about his season: In 11 out of 13 games played this year, he recorded at least 20 touches.

When a running back gets that many touches on carries and receptions, he is a must-own in fantasy football. Bell is going to have potential No. 1 running back value and could be drafted anywhere from the end of the first round to the early second round. Expect him to put up numbers very similar to Rashard Mendenhall’s 2010 season with the Steelers (1,273 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns).

Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams

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Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

If you drafted Zac Stacy at the beginning of the 2013 fantasy football, then I salute you.

He came out of nowhere for the St. Louis Rams this year. With all the hype surrounding Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson, it was Stacy who locked down the starting running back position a few weeks into the season. After receiving just one carry in the first four games of the season, he finished the year with 973 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

With the starting running back position solidified heading into next season, Stacy will make a great No. 2 running back. Look for him to be off the draft boards somewhere in the second round.

Andre Brown, New York Giants

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Though Andre Brown missed eight games this season due to an injury, he still flashed enough to keep his fantasy stock on the rise.

Though his overall statistics weren’t overly impressive (492 rushing yards and three touchdowns), he still got a decent amount of touches. In seven out of eight games, he recorded at least 15 touches. With the uncertainty of David Wilson’s health and the retirement of Brandon Jacobs, it looks like Brown is going to be the New York Giants’ starting running back in 2014.

He should be drafted as a low-end No. 2 running back or a starting flex.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans (Free Agent)

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Bob Levey/Getty Images

After years of being a fantasy football vulture to Arian Foster, Ben Tate appears to be moving on from the Houston Texans.

He will be a free agent this offseason, and all signs are pointing to him leaving the Texans. Wherever he goes, Tate is going to be the featured running back in the offense and should make a great No. 2 running back or flex.

Over the past couple of years, he has consistently shown that he can be an effective runner. This season, he took over for an injured Foster and ran for more than 770 yards on 181 carries while recording 34 receptions. In 2014, Tate will be a starting running back and will get at least 250 carries to surpass the 1,000-yard mark.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

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Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As the season progressed, so did rookie Giovani Bernard’s play. Although he was in a split backfield with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, by the end of the season, Bernard was a key factor on the Cincinnati Bengals offense.

He finished the season with eight total touchdowns and 56 receptions for more than 500 yards. In six out of the last seven games, he had at least 15 touches.

It’s obvious that his role in the Bengals offense is only going to increase, while Green-Ellis’ diminishes. In 2014, expect Bernard to be getting closer to 20 touches per game and putting up big fantasy numbers, especially in points-per-reception leagues. 

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