This week and next week, we will continue to look at the 2013 draft class by focusing on running backs that could make a fantasy impact this year.
Giovani Bernard 5’8” 202 (4.53 40) – The undersized back out of North Carolina is stronger than many people think. He has good hands and vision, can cut on a dime and explode through holes. He’s not easy to tackle and can make defenders miss. In college, he displayed excellent acceleration to get around corners, but it may be tougher to do that at the next level. Most project him as a change of pace back behind the Law Firm, and he will certainly be at least that. If Bernard proves that he can protect the quarterback and produces when handed the rock, he could earn up to 50 percent of the carries in the Bengals backfield but if he struggles with his blocks, his touches will be limited.
Eddie Lacy 5’11’’ 231 (4.59 40) – Lacy has good speed for his size, is hard to bring down once he gets going and keeps grinding after contact. Many see him as a three down back who warrants 20+ carries, but I have to see it to believe it. The Packers pass first and only run to keep defenses honest. They also drafted Jonathan Franklin and still have speedster Dujuan Harris who will get some touches. Add in the injury concerns (toe and hamstring) and this Packer may be over-drafted.
LeVeon Bell 6’1” 230 (4.60 40) – Bell enters a great situation in Pittsburgh as he is poised to enter the season as the No. 1 back if he steps up in camp. Bell has good size and is a load to bring down. The problem is that his top end speed is limited and it takes him a minute to get up there. Opportunity is half the battle and he will certainly have that.
Joseph Randle 6’0” 204 (4.63 40) – Randle is a good all-around back but is not great in any one area. He looks decent, if unspectacular, on tape. He has very good vision and is decisive with his breaks. What makes him a sneaky fantasy pick is DeMarco Murray’s penchant for injuries and an offense with weapons such as Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant drawing the attention of defenders and opening up running lanes. Randle is a nice flier with modest upside to target in the later stages of the draft. His lack of high-end speed, however, limits his ceiling.
Andre Ellington 5’9” 199 (4.61 40) – Don’t be deceived by Ellington’s lackluster 40 time at the Combine. He runs fast with pads on. He has lightning quick cutting ability with quick feet and high stride frequency. He’s a threat to score every time he totes the rock. He’s also very strong with perhaps the best balance and athleticism in this year’s running back draft class. He brings with him injury concerns but if healthy, he’s a sleeper due to Rashard Mendenhall’s and Ryan Williams’ health concerns.
Christine Michael 5’ 10” 220 (4.54 40) – Injuries and off the field issues scared some potential suitors away, but the Seahawks got a nice value at the end of the second round. Michael is very strong, with vision, burst and quickness. He’s not easy to tackle, leveraging his legs well to churn out extra yards after contact. His biggest problem in terms of immediate fantasy value is the presence of Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin ahead of him on the depth chart. Unless Lynch receives discipline from his pending DUI incident, Michael is more of a late target in draft champions formats or a potential waiver play later in the season if injuries strike the Seahawks backfield.