Fantasy managers were stung when Bell was given a three-game suspension for a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy. However, Bell's appeal of the suspension was succesful, and it was knocked down to two games. Now that we know how long Bell will be gone (and that it's shorter than originally anticipated), Bell returns to the top running back spot for us in fantasy football in 2015. His point-per-game average last year was among the league's best and he will be a monster when he returns from the suspension to be the starting running back for the Steelers. He'll be running with added motivation in an offense that has it's sights set on scoring 30 points per game.
Peterson missed nearly the entire 2014 fantasy football season as he served out the year on the commissioner's exempt list for an off-the-field incident. But he has been fully reinstated for 2015 and will be highly motivated to regain the title of the game's top running back. This will be Peterson's first real chance to work with offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has worked well with elite running backs in the past including Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson and Eric Dickerson. Peterson will also have more stability under center with an emerging Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, who has a wealth of targets in the passing game to create space for Peterson to run through. A motivated Peterson will be a beautiful thing for fantasy players.
The Packers would like to keep Eddie Lacy below the 300-touch plateau for the coming season, but he will still touch the ball enough to be an elite fantasy runner. Lacy had 286 touches last year and still managed to finish in the top six of fantasy running backs. So similar production will be welcomed and should be expected. The reason? Lacy was heavily involved in the passing offense last year, as he finished with a career-high four touchdown receptions. That figure could actually increase in this prolific offense. He's rated higher than other runners here because he plays alongside Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb in one of the league's best offenses. Scoring opportunities will be plentiful.
Charles battled through injuries last season, but still managed to finish seventh among fantasy running backs as he averaged an amazing five yards-per-carry. In fact, Charles has averaged at least five yards-per-carry in each of his seven NFL seasons. The former Texas Longhorn will be one of the top running backs taken in the draft this season. The offensive line is a bit suspect in Kansas City, but he will continue to be the focal point of Andy Reid's offense. Still, when you look at his supporting cast compared to Peterson and Lacy, it pales in comparison. He slots in behind them because of that.
Lynch has bulldozed his way through opposing defenses for the past couple of seasons and is an expected first-round pick, but a lot of fantasy gamers will hesitate because of the amount of touches he's racked up over the past couple of seasons. Lynch has logged a lot of carries both during the regular season and in deep playoff runs. In fact, Lynch had those concerns last year and he set a career-high with 13 rushing touchdowns and finished third among fantasy running backs in scoring behind DeMarco Murray and Le'Veon Bell. Beast Mode is still a first-round talent and should be drafted as such this fall.
Forte is coming off another solid fantasy season as he finished fourth in fantasy scoring thanks to his record-setting 102 receptions, but there are changes afoot in Chicago. John Fox is the new head coach and he brought along Adam Gase as his offensive coordinator from Denver. We know Fox likes to run the ball, so the Bears figure to feature Forte plenty. But Fox is also known as a committee guy from his days in Carolina and there are rumblings about it this year. Forte will be 29 years old when the season kicks off, and with a potential committee backfield being built around him fantasy owners will want to be a little careful.
Many fantasy managers weren't sure what to expect from Foster last year, but he delivered another fine fantasy season as he finished in the top five scorers among running backs. Foster will once again be the lead back for Bill O'Brien's offense, even though there was rumored interest in Melvin Gordon in the draft. While there will again be anxiety for the fantasy player who lands him given recent injuries, Foster typically delivers -- even if he misses a few games. Foster should be targeted at the end of the first round in most standard drafts with at least 10 teams.
McCoy being dealt to the Bills was one of the most stunning developments of the 2015 offseason. But there is a chance McCoy could be even better for fantasy managers this year. Rex Ryan is expected to run the ball extensively, and McCoy could end up with the most touches of any running back this season. That would be a departure from the way he was used in Philly, as McCoy could often get lost in the shuffle with the way Eagles coach Chip Kelly used him. And that's a polite way of putting it. Expect a bounce-back from McCoy in 2015, making him once again worthy of a first-round pick -- even if it is a little later in the round.
Hill was one of the top sleepers on NFL.com headed into the 2014 season, and he sure did deliver on that promise. Hill finished ranked 10th among fantasy running backs last year, despite the fact that he had to caddy for Giovani Bernard in the early part of the season. Expect Hill to open the year as the Bengals' top running back and build on his impressive rookie campaign. Bernard has shown he is a nice complementary back, meaning it will be Hill who gets the majority of the touches for the Bengals this year (especially around the goal line). The first round might be a bit rich for Hill, but any owners who can grab him in the second round should be thrilled.
Anderson was another NFL.com preseason sleeper who made a huge impact for fantasy managers last year as he helped carry folks to fantasy championships all over the place. Anderson didn't enter the year as the Broncos starter, but he certainly proved to be an effective closer in fantasy and reality as over the final seven games of the season he averaged 95 rushing yards and one touchdown per game. Anderson could be poised for a huge year with new coach Gary Kubiak in town. Kubiak helped get Arian Foster to the top of the fantasy mountain in Houston, and also helped to revive the career for Justin Forsett as the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens in 2014. Anderson is an excellent running back to target in the second or third round.
Murray was fantasy football's top running back from a year ago, but he's going to have some obstacles to overcome for a repeat performance. Murray defected to the rival Eagles during the offseason, which means he'll endure a step-down in offensive line talent. He also joins a crowded backfield with Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews (whom the Eagles also acquired in free agency), which is going to impact Murray's point totals as he'll have to compete for touches. Plus, head coach Chip Kelly has never favored his stars, so don't expect Murray to run the ball as much as he did last year. All in all, Murray will still have value, but those expecting to draft Murray for his 2014 production again this year will likely be disappointed.
Ingram had his best season as a pro in 2014, when he set career highs in rushing yards (964), receptions (29), receiving yards (145) and rushing touchdowns (nine). The backfield situation is a little muddled in New Orleans with the arrival of C.J. Spiller, but Ingram is expected to be the top running back. The 2015 Saints will boast a revamped offense which will feature the run more prominently. At least that's what they've led the football world to believe after they stunned most NFL observers with a high-profile trade of tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks for center Max Unger and a first-round draft pick. The arrival of Unger and rookie tackle Andrus Peat should be a boon to the running game, which will in turn help Ingram remain firmly on the RB2 radar.
Miller had a surprisingly good year for the Dolphins in 2014, and finished among the top 10 fantasy scoring running backs. Miller could take another step this season as the Dolphins have added some talent on offense, which should help take pressure off him. Wide receivers Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and first-round draft pick Devante Parker will help keep secondaries honest and out of the box to stop Miller in his tracks. Miller could be a top-five running back if he becomes more involved in the Dolphins' passing game, because that is really the only ding against his game at this point. He'll have to fend off rookie rusher Jay Ajayi, who figures to get into the mix at some point, but heading into the season, Miller should be targeted as an RB2 in all formats.
Forsett had an amazing season for the Ravens in 2014, and he could be even better this season. Forsett flourished with Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator last year, but Kubiak has moved on to be the coach of the Denver Broncos. However, the Ravens have a new offensive coordinator in Marc Trestman who could be a boon for Forsett as well. Trestman has been great with similar backs in the past, having recently helped Matt Forte take his game to another level in Chicago. But the team's drafting of Javorius "Buck" Allen could put a dent in Forsett's touches, as they might try to find their running back of the future sooner rather than later.
Morris had a pretty decent fantasy season in 2014, as he finished an unspectacular 13th among running backs. Morris doesn't always see the work on the goal line (much to the chagrin to fantasy managers everywhere) and he's a non-factor in the pass game, so his quest to join the fantasy elite at his position remains an uphill battle. But he is in a contract season in 2015, which has been known to motivate others in the past. He will be a solid pick as a low-end RB2 with limited upside.
When healthy, Stewart has shown flashes of brilliance on the football field as he did in 2014. The problem is, of course, he hasn't always been healthy. Stewart did play in 13 games last year, which was his highest total since the 2011 NFL season when he played in 16. Unfortunately, he played in just 15 games from 2012 to 2013. The Panthers' plan is to likely limit Stewart to around 15 carries per game this coming season after drafting Cameron Artis-Payne out of Auburn, which will hinder his fantasy value. Stewart remains the most talented back on the team and should provide plenty of value as an RB2, but owners will want to proceed with extreme caution (and possibly draft Artis-Payne a round or two early as a handcuff just in case).