2013 fantasy football profiles and projections (RBs 17-32)

Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports/NFL.com

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The fantasy world has been waiting for Gore's numbers and value to fall off a cliff, but he continues to be a solid starter for owners. In fact, he has improved his rank (based on fantasy points) among running backs in each of the last three seasons. Now 30, Gore will again be the subject of both praise and skepticism. He has carried the football 300-plus times in each of the last two years including the playoffs, and he's at the age when countless runners before him have started to see a decline in statistical success. While the threat of lost carries looms -- Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James could see more work -- the unshakable Gore is still going to be considered an attractive No. 2 fantasy back in most leagues. He'll be picked in Round 2 or 3 in most drafts.

Bush has broken the "brittle" tag over his last two seasons, playing in all but one game for the Dolphins while averaging 1,036 rushing yards with 15 total touchdowns. That's a huge improvement from his rushing numbers in New Orleans, where he never recorded more than 565 yards on the ground in a single season. Now in Detroit, he figures to start while sharing some of the workload with Mikel Leshoure. Regardless, Bush will be a viable No. 2 fantasy runner or flex starter in standard leagues with even more appeal in PPR formats. A perfect fit for the pass-laden offense of coordinator Scott Linehan, Bush could easily catch 60-plus balls out of the backfield. While Leshoure will no doubt vulture goal-line chances and put at least a slight dent into his appeal, Bush is still a nice option at some point in the middle rounds.

If fantasy value were based on talent alone, McFadden would be a first-round selection. Unfortunately, he continues to deal with various injuries that hinder his rise to an elite level. McFadden has never played in more than 13 games since being drafted in 2008 -- that includes a 2012 campaign that saw him miss a combined four games. It is that lack of durability that makes McFadden a serious risk-reward selection and no longer a viable No. 1 fantasy runner. While he is in a contract year and should find more success in the team's new "downhill offense," owners still shouldn't consider McFadden before the second or third round as a No. 2 fantasy back. If you do decide to take a chance on the talented but brittle Arkansas product, be sure to grab Marcel Reece in the middle-to-late rounds as insurance.

Murray was a major breakout candidate last season, but an injured foot cost him six games and any chance at moving up the fantasy food chain. Therein lies the issue with Murray -- he's missed a combined nine games in his first two NFL seasons due to injuries. He has been effective when he's been on the field, however, averaging 4.8 yards per carry with 1,560 rushing yards and six touchdowns. So fantasy leaguers will have to decide whether to take a chance on his youth and statistical upside, or pass on him due to his lack of durability. It's that temptation that makes Murray a viable No. 2 fantasy runner, but he shouldn't come off the board until the fourth or fifth round as a No. 2 runner in most formats. Consider him one of the bigger risk-reward selections at his position in drafts.

Lacy was considered the top running back in the 2013 class, but he fell into the second round (No. 61 overall) due to durability concerns and his limited body of work at Alabama. Still, it's hard to argue with the fact that he rushed for 1,322 yards, scored 19 total touchdowns and averaged 6.5 yards per carry in his final collegiate season. Lacy is in a good position to succeed in the Packers offense, which has lacked an impact running back since the days of Ryan Grant. On the downside, the team also drafted Johnathan Franklin out of UCLA -- so with incumbent veterans Alex Green and James Starks also in the mix, there's a chance this could morph into a backfield committee. If Lacy does win a prominent role and stays out of the trainer's room, he'll be a candidate to score enough points to be a top-20 fantasy running back.

One of the most electric and versatile running backs in the league, Sproles led his position in receptions (75), receiving yards (667) and touchdown receptions (7) last season. What makes that even more impressive is the fact that he accomplished those statistical feats despite missing three games. The veteran out of Kansas State has emerged as the top fantasy option out of a crowded Saints backfield in standard leagues, and his skills as a pass catcher make him one of the 10-15 best runners in all PPR leagues. With little wear and tear on his body compared to most backs at age 30, Sproles shouldn't see a major decline in his offensive role under coach Sean Payton. A viable flex option in standard leagues and high-end No. 2 back in PPR formats, Sproles is worth a middle-round pick.

Fantasy owners looking for a potential sleeper at the running back position should target Miller. The second-year player out of Miami (FL) is the clear favorite to start in 2013, as the Dolphins decided to part ways with veteran Reggie Bush during the offseason. A talented runner who averaged close to five yards per carry as a rookie, Miller has a lot of statistical potential playing a prominent role under coach Joe Philbin. He also comes from a school that has had more than its share of stud fantasy running backs (Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee) -- an interesting trend to consider. While he could lose some short-yardage work to Daniel Thomas, Miller will be in a very good spot to develop into a potential flex starter or No. 2 fantasy back in all leagues. He is someone to have on your radar.

Fantasy leaguers looking for a potential sleeper or breakout candidate at the running back position should look no further than Ivory, who was traded to the Jets during the 2013 NFL Draft. The bruising runner out of Tiffin was buried on the depth chart in New Orleans for the last three seasons, but he was effective when he was on the field. In fact, Ivory averaged a solid 5.1 yards per carry in 256 career attempts. Now the favorite to see early-down and goal-line work for coach Rex Ryan, the veteran should see somewhere between 250-275 carries in a role similar to the one played by Shonn Greene a season ago. As long as he can avoid the trainer's room, Ivory should shatter his previous career bests and is in a position to emerge into a viable No. 2 fantasy back in standard leagues. He'll come off the board no later than Round 5.

Bradshaw was a mild fantasy disappointment last season, finishing 18th in points among running backs while missing a pair of games due to injuries. At age 27, the Marshall product still has plenty of fantasy production left in his tank. He's been an asset in the past, rushing for 1,000-plus yards in two of the last three seasons and has scored a combined 25 touchdowns since 2010. The problem is that Bradshaw has been prone to foot injuries and is coming off yet another surgical procedure to repair his right foot. He did land in a decent spot with the Colts, though, and is the favorite to start for coach Chuck Pagano. If he can meet expectations and pass second-year runner Vick Ballard on the depth chart in training camp, Bradshaw should be considered a low-end No. 2 fantasy runner in most 2013 leagues.

Ball has a chance to be the best rookie in fantasy football this season. The talented runner out of Wisconsin is a hard-working athlete who rushed for a combined 5,140 yards and scored an NCAA-record 83 all-purpose touchdowns at the college level. He also compiled 924 carries, proving he can be a bell cow back. If Ball earns the top spot on the depth chart for coach John Fox, he'll be in a great position to find a high level of statistical success in an offense that should be one of the league's most prolific with future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning under center. In fact, he would be a good bet to rush for better than 1,000 yards with seven to nine touchdowns. A first-rounder in dynasty leagues, Ball will be one of the first 50 players selected in all seasonal formats as a major option in the Broncos offense.

Mathews took a step back in his NFL development last season, missing four games and ranking 30th in fantasy points among running backs. He also suffered two broken clavicles -- that was more than the number of touchdowns he scored (1). He also touched the football just five times on third downs. Considering all the preseason fantasy hype surrounding him, that made the Fresno State product one of the bigger busts in fantasy land. With three pro seasons under his belt and little statistical success to show for it, Mathews is clearly in the doghouse for fantasy leaguers. He'll be one of the most avoided players in drafts regardless of the scoring format. There will come a time when Mathews will be worth a roll of the dice, but it won't be until the fifth or sixth round as a possible flex starter in most 10-team leagues.

Mendenhall was once considered a No. 1 fantasy runner, but his stock has taken a serious tumble in recent seasons. After failing to rush for 1,000 yards and suffering an ACL tear in 2011, Mendenhall missed 10 games last season and was barely on the fantasy radar. Still, the fact that he's just 26 and doesn't have a ton of carries on his body at the pro level is a positive -- so is the potential for a starting role under new coach (and his former offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh) Bruce Arians. If he can pass the oft-injured Ryan Williams on the depth chart, Mendenhall would be well worth a look in the middle rounds as a potential flex starter. With an upgrade at quarterback in Carson Palmer and offensive line help in rookie OG Jonathan Cooper, don't be surprised if the Illinois product gets around 1,000 rushing yards in 2013.

Richardson showed flashes of potential in his rookie season, rushing for 475 yards while averaging a solid 4.8 yards per carry playing behind former starter Steven Jackson. Now that the veteran runner has left St. Louis, Richardson has a chance to earn the vacated top spot on the team's depth chart during training camp. While a committee approach with fellow second-year running back Isaiah Pead is also a possible scenario, Richardson possesses plenty of upside and could emerge into a legitimate fantasy sleeper in an offense that will continue to lean on the run. Fantasy owners should be certain to keep close tabs on this backfield battle in camp, as the eventual winner will possess plenty of appeal. In a best-case scenario, Richardson will become a viable flex starter with middle- to late-round value in 2013 drafts.

Once considered an elite fantasy running back, Williams scored a mediocre 146.40 fantasy points in the 2012 NFL campaign. More than 55 percent of those points came in the final four weeks of the regular season, when he recorded 318 rushing yards, 139 receiving yards, four total touchdowns and 73.70 fantasy points (18.42 PPG). With Jonathan Stewart on the PUP list to start the season with ankle issues, Williams will now be back in a featured role for at least ther first six games. So despite the fact that he's 30, which is the age when a lot of runners start to break down, Williams is back on the radar as a possible flex option.

Vereen didn't make much of an impact in fantasy football circles during the 2012 regular season, ranking just 51st in fantasy points among running backs while playing behind both Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead. That's due in large part to the fact that he saw just 70 touches in his 13 contests. Vereen did post a huge stat line in a postseason win over the Houston Texans, though, and the loss of Woodhead as a free agent means an increase in touches is imminent. While Ridley is the New England runner to target in drafts, Vereen showed enough last year to be considered a deep sleeper in a Patriots offense that ran the ball effectively. In fact, Vereen will be in a good position to record around 40-plus receptions as the primary pass catcher out of the backfield. Consider him in the middle to late rounds.

Bernard, a rookie out of North Carolina, was selected in the second round of the NFL draft. Lightning-fast and elusive, he figures to step right in and form a two-headed backfield monster with incumbent starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis. While he's not expected to unseat the Law Firm atop the depth chart, Bernard should see more than his share of opportunities as a third-down option and in passing downs. A skilled receiver, he recorded a combined 92 catches, 852 receiving yards and found the end zone six times as a pass catcher in his two seasons with the Tar Heels. Bernard is also effective on special teams, returning two punts for touchdowns. A legitimate middle- to late-round selection in all seasonal drafts with much more value in dynasty leagues, Bernard could also be a flex starter in all standard formats.

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