Fantasy Football: The Top 12 Running Backs You Should Draft In The First Round

Fantasy football continues to get closer and closer, leaving many of us that play desparately trying to quench our thirst by participating in mock drafts to try to dream up exactly which players will lead our team to the promised land within our leagues. While I won't tell you exactly which running back to grab in the first round, I will help you reason and formulate an opinion as to which back you think will be a cut above the rest in 2015.

Another disclaimer I think that you, the reader, need to be informed of is this: I've drafted a running back first in every fantasy football draft, whether it's a been a mock draft or for an actual league. I share this sentiment with many fantasy football writers and experts, as most believe that it's the most logical method for success. Point blank: you can always find a quarterback or receiver on the waiver wire, but it's always tough to find a dependable, top-notch running back.

So I present to you, future fantasy owner, the pros and cons of the top 12 running backs of my top 30. Hopefully after reading this, you'll be able to decide which of these running backs will lead you to fantasy glory.

12. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

Pros: Ingram is the workhorse in the Saint's backfield and will continue that role in 2015. I was able to pick him up off of the waiver-wire in one of my leagues last season, and he didn't disappoint. As a matter of fact, he far exceeded my expectations, and made me feel a lot better about my team during the period when Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs was injured last season. Ingram had far more touches than any other running back on the Saints' depth chart with 226 rushing attempts and was very close to being a 1,000 yard rusher in 2014.

Cons: Ingram had some concerns with health last season and made the Saints' injury report eight times during the season. His hand injury early in the year caused him to miss three consecutive weeks. He's had a nagging toe/ankle injury that's plagued him since 2013 but claims to be healthy headed into 2015. The Saints also signed free agent C.J. Spiller, who will be the speedster that compliments Ingram in the backfield. If Spiller makes the most of his touches in 2015, he could prove to be a handcuff to Ingram's fantasy points.

11. Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens

Pros: Forsett was very efficient in 2014, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He's a 29 year old veteran of the NFL, and up until last season his fantasy value really wasn't significant. Forsett has good security for keeping his starting job and has also done well staying healthy throughout the 2014 season. 

Cons: The biggest knock on Forsett would be the Ravens' tendency to use deep, vertical passing plays more than any other team in the NFL. Joe Flacco has a cannon for an arm, and you can't knock the Ravens for trying to beat teams with it. The impact on Forsett caused by this is the diminishing of his red zone productivity. Forsett only scored eight touchdowns in 2014, and this total could've been more if the Ravens weren't so good throwing the deep ball. Flacco completed 50 passes last season that were over 20+ yards, which ranked him the twelfth-best among NFL quarterbacks.

10. DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles

Pros: Murray is the NFL's returning leading rusher from 2014. He stayed in the NFC East, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. He proved his doubters wrong last year by leading the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He also led the NFL in all-purpose yards in 2014 with 2,261 yards gained. He was the Dallas Cowboys' workhorse last season (and many fantasy teams' workhorse, for that matter), with 392 attempts. The only other running back with 300-plus attempts was, LeSean McCoy, the man he replace in Philadelphia. 

Cons: Eagles' Head Coach Chip Kelly is very creative with the way he designs his offensive schemes. While it's easy to see that Murray will be the number one running back on the depth chart, it's still unknown as to how Kelly will find a balance in rotating carries between him and Ryan Matthews. Murray also had some nagging injuries in 2014, but none of those injuries were significant enough to make him miss any regular season starts.

9. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills

Pros: McCoy moves from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Buffalo Bills this season and will be the featured running back for the Bills. He's been selected to represent the NFC in three Pro Bowls, including consecutive selections in each of the last two seasons. McCoy has proved that he can handle the grind of being a three-down running back and had the second-most rushing attempts in the NFL last season. McCoy is one of the most versatile running backs in the league and has proven to be a reliable pass-catching target out of the backfield, catching 25-plus passes in each year that he's been playing professionally. 

Cons: McCoy joins a Bills' team that averaged just 3.7 yards per carry on the ground, which tied them with the Oakland Raiders for the fifth-worst average in the NFL. Buffalo ranked towards the bottom in just about every rushing category, and McCoy's numbers could be reduced with the Bills' offensive line leading the charge. 

8. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

Pros: The Texans will lean on Foster and the running game again this season, as they go into camp with Ryan Mallet as the starter. Foster will not suffer from any sort of shortages to his carries caused by a pass-heavy offense. Foster posted the sixth-best rushing yards total in 2014 with 1,246 yards, despite missing three games last season. As long as he's starting, this is a guy that you won't have to rationalize sitting in leiu of another option.

Cons: The Texans led the NFL in rushing attempts per game last season, and their run-first attack has taken its toll on Foster the past couple seasons. Foster has missed at least three games the last two seasons to injury. Overall, health is basically the only concern you'll have with drafting Foster with your first pick, but the reward here can most certainly outweigh the risk.

7. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals

Pros: Hill proved to be the answer that the Bengals were looking for in selecting a running back in the 2014 NFL Draft with their second round pick. The rookie took the job and ran with both it and the football last year, ranking third-best among running backs in touchdowns scored with nine touchdowns. If you select a running back with your first pick and find he's still on the board in the second round, then I highly reccomend that you use a pick on Hill. Barring any significant issues, Hill will be the leading rusher for the Bengals in 2015.

Cons: The only knock on Hill is ball security. In 2014, Hill had the second-most fumbles among running backs in the NFL with four. Depending on how turnovers are scored on your league, you might want to try let Hill slip into the second round.

6. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

Pros: Bell proved to be a great fit for the Steelers last season, and many experts thought he would be handcuffed significantly by LeGarrette Blount before the start of last season. Since then, Blount now plays for the New England Patriots, and Bell is one of the most productive running backs in the NFL. If you're playing in a PPR-based league, then Bell might be the guy for you to pick up in the first round. In 2014, Bell was the second-best receiver of all NFL running backs with 83 catches for 854 yards. Though he's great as a receiver out of the backfield, Bell also runs it well too. He was the NFL's second-leading rusher in 2014, with 1,361 yards.

Cons: Bell had some off-the-field issues prior to last season, including an incident that led to Blount's release. If your league drafts right before the season, you'll have time to adjust for this issue. If your league drafts early, you can still bet on him to start in week one, but if an issue does arise, it'll be Bell's second offense as a player. Another issue to think about when considering Bell is that the Steelers feature the best wide receiver right now in Antonio Brown. Brown's going to get a guaranteed share of his touches, and opposing defenses will decide which weapon they'll want to key on preparing for the Steelers' offense.

5. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

Pros: The best receiver out of any NFL running back last season, Forte led all NFL backs with 102 catches. He's a trusted target for Jay Cutler, who often had to check down to him during passing plays last season. Forte runs the ball well also, rushing for at least 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons. He's a great addition for the PPR leagues and doesn't diminish from your team's rushing statistics.

Cons: Forte's catches could see a significant drop in 2015 with the hiring of new offensive coordinator Adam Gase. This is one of the things that makes Forte so valuable as a fantasy asset. Forte enters his eighth season as the Bears' starting running back at age 29, and this is about the age you usually see a significant drop off in performance among running backs. Nonetheless, he's definitely worth the high draft pick.

4. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

Pros: Lynch is a force to be reckoned with, headlining a Seahawks' backfield that ranked first in the NFL with 5.3 average yards per carry last season. "Beast Mode" is one of the most reliable picks you can make in your fantasy draft, and the Seahawks are going to be just as good (if not better), on the offensive side of the ball this season. Lynch is a player that's explosive between the tackles and is a threat to score on any given carry.

Cons: Seattle added one of the best red zone targets in the NFL with tight end Jimmy Graham in the offseason, acquiring him during free agency from the New Orleans Saints. How does this affect Lynch? We all saw the Seahawks attempt to throw a pass at the goal line during last year's Super Bowl loss to the Patriots that lost them the game. I don't see Graham taking all of Lynch's red zone opportunities from him, but I do see him at least getting some. While it may not sound significant, just think about those fantasy games that you've lost in the last couple season where a touchdown would've made all the difference.

3. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

Pros: Lacy has developed nicely into the leading rusher for the Packers, and I fully expect this trend to continue into the 2015 season. Many sites have Lacy ranked as the top running back heading into the 2015 season, and he could end up being the top fantasy scorer among all running backs this season. The Packers love to use Lacy in the red zone, and he keeps defenses honest so Aaron Rodgers can torch them by throwing the ball downfield.

Cons: Lacy has been a reliable starter, starting all 16 games for the Packers last season. He did have to work through some nagging injuries in 2014, but none of those injuries made him miss any significant playing time. The only negative point I can make about Lacy is the Packers' love for throwing the football, and their heavy passing game is to be expected with their elite receiving corps. This is an offense that will move the ball with whatever methodology that's working, and if you've got the fifth pick or higher, then Lacy will probably be off the board already.

2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Pros: Many owners were very disappointed after picking Peterson with their first pick last year only to not see him play a snap after week one in 2014. It doesn't appear as though that will be a concern heading into 2015, and Peterson is looking like he hasn't missed a step after great production in both 2012 and 2013. Peterson will be game plan for the Vikings, and if he can keep pace with the single-season numbers that he's produced so far in his career, will be a great centerpiece to any fantasy roster.

Cons: Every good player has their critics, and many don't think "AP" will return as strong as he was in 2012 and 2013. Peterson could take some time adjusting to the speed of opposing defenses, as he hasn't played an official snap since week one of last season. Peterson also possesses some health concerns, suffering a couple of serious knee-injuries throughout his career.

1. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

Pros: Charles is everything and more to the Chiefs' offensive scheme. He's a dynamic player that has the ability to score everytime he touches the football. He's been a 1,000 yard rusher and scored a minimum of five touchdowns on the ground in each of the last three seasons. Charles can also contribute to your team if you play in a PPR league, catching at least 35 passes in each of the past three years. He headlines just about everything the Chiefs try to do with their offensive scheme and can lead your fantasy team to an enormous amount of points week-in and week-out.

Cons: With Charles being the center of the Chiefs' offense, opposing defenses often dedicate a lot of their game plan to stopping him and making Alex Smith throw the football. Smith didn't throw a single touchdown to any of his wide receivers last season, and if Kansas City can't improve that total, then opposing defenses aren't going to respect the Chiefs as a passing team. Charles has dealt with some injuries that have made him miss a game in each of the last two seasons. This guy will be off the board within the first three picks of most league's drafts.

Hopefully you've gained some insight on which running back you'd like to take first by reading this. If you have any fantasy football questions, find me on Twitter @griffaldo and ask away!

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Related Topics: Pittsburgh Steelers, Le'Veon Bell, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Matt Forte, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Justin Forsett, Cincinnati Bengals, Jamaal Charles, Baltimore Ravens, Marshawn Lynch, Green Bay Packers, Fantasy RB Rankings, Arian Foster, Eddie Lacy, Fantasy Football, Adrian Peterson, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Mark Ingram, Jeremy Hill, LeSean McCoy, Seattle Seahawks, Demarco Murray, Chicago Bears