This week's blog entry on wide receiver tiers was such a resounding success, we've decided to keep the love going with running backs, as well. Some people have asked about quarterbacks and tight ends and, yes, even kickers, but the fact is I don't consider a tiered system truly valuable except for wide receivers and running backs.
The impetus behind separating players into tiers is to help a fantasy owner make quick decisions about scarcity of depth in the heat and rush of a draft or auction. As with wide receivers, if you're sitting there in the sixth round and can't decide what to do, if there are five players left in your top tier at one position but only one in another, the call is more obvious. It's also important to note that just because Hakeem Nicks is a Tier 4 wide receiver, it has no bearing on the running backs in the same number tier. That's what overall rankings are for, but this is about positional depth. Oh, and running back gets uglier much quicker.
As with wide receiver, we hope this is a helpful exercise and gets you ready for drafts. I would caution owners to make their own tiers and their own decisions, and use everything you see at ESPN Fantasy and in the draft kit as a guide, not gospel. They are, after all, your teams. After the player/team, you'll see my personal running back rankings and overall rank in parenthesis. Agree or disagree -- it's all good, after all -- and share your thoughts below, perhaps even convince me of the error of my ways! I'm also on Twitter @karabellespn. Enjoy!
Arian Foster, Texans (1st RB, 1st overall)
Ray Rice, Ravens (2nd, 2nd)
LeSean McCoy, Eagles (3rd, 3rd): These are my first three picks off the board. No worries.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (4th, 5th): Still not terribly worried, but talk to me in a week. I think it all gets settled.
Chris Johnson, Titans (5th, 6th): I think he bounces back strong, obvious from this nice ranking.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks (6th, 11th): I know who he is and what's he done to us. And still...
Matt Forte, Bears (7th, 12th): His new goal-line vulture doesn't scare me.
Darren McFadden, Raiders (8th, 20th): One of these years, he's fantasy's best.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys (9th, 24th): Seven career starts, two touchdowns. Scary.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (10th, 25th)
Michael Turner, Falcons (11th, 26th): Went to high school with your grandfather. Not really.
Steven Jackson, Rams (12th, 28th): Not exactly a teenager himself. And his backup is in place.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers (13th, 29th): Yes, even if he misses two weeks of September.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings (14th, 31st): Do you feel lucky?
Darren Sproles, Saints (15th, 32nd): Safest guy in the tier, really.
Frank Gore, 49ers (16th, 36th)
Fred Jackson, Bills (17th, 38th)
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (18th, 39th)
Trent Richardson, Browns (19th, 40th): Wouldn't expect great September numbers.
Willis McGahee, Broncos (20th, 41st): A bit underrated.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins (21st, 44th): Fewer runs, more catches, but a full season again?
Peyton Hillis, Chiefs (22nd, 54th): Potential for big things. Nice flex choice.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals (23rd, 57th)
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (24th, 58th): I think he'll make his mark.
Roy Helu, Redskins (25th, 59th): On the verge of dropping about four tiers.
Ben Tate, Texans (26th, 60th): One injury away from Tier 2.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals (27th, 61st)
Doug Martin, Buccaneers (28th, 68th)
Shonn Greene, Jets (29th, 70th): Might not score much, but should run enough.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers (30th, 73rd)
Stevan Ridley, Patriots (31st, 74th): So underrated he's becoming a tad overrated.
Donald Brown, Colts (32nd, 79th): About to jump two tiers for me.
Cedric Benson, Packers (33rd, 80th): Same with him. He's their guy.
Kevin Smith, Lions (34th, 83rd): Durability is the problem.
Isaac Redman, Steelers (35th, 85th)
Toby Gerhart, Vikings (36th, 91st)
Michael Bush, Bears (37th, 92nd): I think Forte has a big year.
Mark Ingram, Saints (38th, 94th): Was drafted by the wrong offense.
C.J. Spiller, Bills (39th, 96th): Should catch many passes, PPR owners.
David Wilson, Giants (40th, 101st)
Felix Jones, Cowboys (41st, 102nd)
Mike Tolbert, Panthers (42nd, 109th): I think he hurts the quarterback's value for rushing scores more than Stewart.
Pierre Thomas, Saints (43rd, 110th)
LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers (44th, 111th): Don't forget about him, because he will play.
Ryan Williams, Cardinals (45th, 114th)
Tim Hightower, Redskins (46th, 119th): Might start Week 1, or be outta work. Really.
Daniel Thomas, Dolphins (47th, 120th)
Mike Goodson, Raiders (48th, 121st)
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (49th, 126th): Wildly underrated if he starts by end of September.
James Starks, Packers (50th, 127th): On the verge of irrelevance, if he's not already there.
Kendall Hunter, 49ers (51st, 150th)
Bernard Pierce, Ravens (52nd, 161st)
Jahvid Best, Lions (53rd, 162nd): If only he didn't have the concussions. Nice to stash away.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons (54th, 165th): He won't be Turner if Turner goes down.
Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers (55th, 166th)
Bernard Scott, Bengals (56th, 167th)
Isaiah Pead, Rams (57th, 173rd)
Shane Vereen, Patriots (58th, 174th)
Ronnie Hillman, Broncos (59th, 176th)
Evan Royster, Redskins (60th, 181st): If Helu isn't ready, Royster could rise fast.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions (61st, 182nd): Might be worth waiting for.
Delone Carter, Colts (62nd, 183rd)
Taiwan Jones, Raiders (63rd, 185th): Fast guy could be backup, but must stay healthy himself.
Rashad Jennings, Jaguars (64th, 186th): Yes, if MJD doesn't show up, moves up to perhaps Tier 8.
Ronnie Brown, Chargers (65th, 187th)
Brandon Jacobs, 49ers (66th, 188th)
Le'Ron McClain, Chargers (67th, 192nd): Touchdown sleeper like Tolbert last season.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins (68th, 193rd)
Jason Snelling, Falcons (69th, 196th)
Alex Green, Packers (70th, 197th): Another sleeper, but needs time.