2014 Outlook: He's baaaaack. As All Day again reclaims his place atop the fantasy world, he does so with a host of worthy challengers -- and more than a few bumps and bruises. Peterson has missed significant time down the stretch in two of his past three seasons and just passed the ominous 2,000-carry plateau. But this wouldn't be the first time Peterson defied conventional wisdom. He has scored double-digit TDs in each of his seven NFL seasons and finished below 1,400 total yards only once. Trust us: He won't fall off a cliff in his age-29 season. Take him first overall with confidence.
2014 Outlook: Shady complements Chip Kelly's offense like Cheez Whiz on chipped steak. He won his first NFL rushing title last year -- by a whopping 268 yards. Over the past three seasons, McCoy is second only to Adrian Peterson in cumulative fantasy points among all RBs. You're allowed to fret a little about his role as a receiver, as the newly acquired Darren Sproles likely will siphon off receptions, but McCoy's carries aren't decreasing any time soon. Behind one of the league's best lines, he has displayed his all-world elusiveness -- the key ingredient in Kelly's attack.
2014 Outlook: Charles rode an NFL-best 19 TDs to fantasy's MVP in 2013. And he did it in Andy Reid's West Coast attack, which limited his carries (259) but increased his receptions (70). Charles led all RBs with 104 targets -- 38 more than his previous career high. The Chiefs have questions to answer on an offensive line left barren by free agency, but as long as Charles stays healthy, he's a big-play threat deserving of this ranking. Last year he produced 14 plays of 20 yards or more, tied for third best in the league among RBs.
2014 Outlook: Forte has perhaps the NFL's best combination of speed, power and receiving hands, and after years of disappointing TD totals, he registered 12 trips to the end zone in 2013. If there's any hesitation in recommending Forte, it comes down to wear and tear. He played 887 offensive snaps last year, tops among RBs, and each of the past three rushers who've led the position in snaps has failed to register a top-nine fantasy campaign the following season. So yes, Forte is coming off the best stat output of his career and by any measure is a clear No. 1 fantasy RB. But it's hard to deny his hangover risk.
2014 Outlook: How can you not love Beast Mode? The most important offensive fantasy contributor on the Super Bowl champs, Lynch leads the world with 35 rushing TDs over the past three seasons. There's risk of a downturn here: Lynch also leads the NFL in carries since 2011, averaging almost 300 per year. The past 15 RBs who've averaged at least 300 carries in a three-year span have dropped by an average of 86.7 totes the following season, often due to injury. Lynch is an ultraphysical player, and when the end comes for him, it could come quickly. But on a team this good and this committed to the run, we're wagering he's got one more stellar campaign in him.
2014 Outlook: The NFL's offensive rookie of the year in 2013 was this 230-pound ball of thunder with soft receiving hands who carried the Packers while Aaron Rodgers was out with a broken clavicle. Lacy's running style is reminiscent of Larry Johnson's, and you'll recall that LJ had a dominant fantasy stretch in the mid-2000s. In truth, Lacy has a combination of talent and every-down opportunity that could make him the No. 1 player in fantasy by season's end. The reason we don't quite rank him there? He's done it for only one season.
2014 Outlook: If we were going purely on skills, Foster would be ranked in the top five. He's the NFL's best current example of a one-cut stallion who can turn the faintest crack of daylight into a big gain. But it makes sense to use caution with a player who averaged 371.7 touches from 2010 to 2012 and is coming off serious back surgery. Word is that Foster will be healthy by training camp, and the Texans have good reason to emphasize the run. So perhaps a bounce-back season is in store, but the prospect of an injury-related decline is daunting.
2014 Outlook: If you're looking for a cautionary tale about not overreacting to one great season, here it is. As a rookie in 2012, Martin was tied for second in fantasy points among RBs. But last season he produced few big plays, barely participated in the passing game and tore a shoulder labrum in Week 7 that landed him on IR. Durability concerns aside, Martin's size/speed combo hasn't gone anywhere. His talent and Lovie Smith's propensity for conservative offenses could be a match made in fantasy heaven. Just be wary that sometimes even really good RBs can go -- and stay -- awry.
2014 Outlook: Murray has every skill you want in a fantasy back. He's big, he's fast, he can catch and he was third among all qualified RBs with 5.2 yards per carry in 2013. So why don't we rank him higher than 10th? Injuries. Broken ankle, sprained wrist, sprained ankle, sprained knee -- Murray has often earned a "questionable" tag even when he played. When he is 100 percent, the Cowboys have proved they're willing to give Murray a big-time workload. He averaged 21.3 touches per game after Week 10 last year. That's RB1 material ... if he can stay healthy.
2014 Outlook: Someone needs to remind Bell that he's 244 pounds. His running style just isn't as punishing as it should be. Every time he hurdles a potential tackler, he sends a message that he's not thrilled with physical play. The numbers prove it too: Bell's 1.58 yards after contact per rush in 2013 was 26th among RBs. That's not high enough for a guy who generates his kind of power. The upside of Bell's smaller-back skills is that he's a terrific pass catcher; his 8.9 yards per catch last season ranked ninth among running backs who snagged at least 40 passes. He'll again be an attractive option in PPR leagues.
2014 Outlook: No rusher in 2013 was more of a revelation than Stacy. A fifth-round rookie, he seemingly vanished from the Rams' plans after an awful summer, but by Week 5 he ascended from nowhere to seize the starting job. From that point forward, he averaged more than 20 carries per game and flashed a punishing skill set that was reminiscent of a young Frank Gore. The Rams drafted Tre Mason this spring, perhaps signaling a slight decrease in Stacy's workload. But his proven track record near the goal line -- he had 6 TDs from inside the 5-yard line last year -- makes him an RB1.
2014 Outlook: Alf is a pure inside, two-down runner perfectly suited for a zone-blocking scheme. Morris' uncanny vision makes up for his less-than-elite measurables. But his drawbacks are clear: When the Redskins trail, he doesn't play much because he won't contribute as a receiver. Jay Gruden's new coaching staff in DC has pledged to keep most of Mike Shanahan's old run-game concepts in place, which is what Morris owners want to hear. You're not getting a record-breaking, fantasy-MVP season from Alf, but he's not likely to bust either.
2014 Outlook: Let's be clear: Ball didn't do enough in his rookie season to prove he's worth ranking among the top 20 running backs. In fact, he blew a golden depth-chart opportunity, allowing Knowshon Moreno to swoop in and become the No. 5 fantasy RB. The main culprit was his inadequate pass blocking, a big no-no in Peyton Manning's offense. But now that Moreno is gone, Ball will get first crack to inherit a workload that includes tons of catches, goal-line carries and garbage-time touches. He's a talented all-around player with size and short-area burst, and he should be a breakout star -- if he can learn to block for Mr. Manning.
2014 Outlook: The biggest test for Cincy's first-year offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson: how he handles his running backs. Bernard proved he had feature-back potential during his rookie season, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis still got a whopping 220 carries -- and then the Bengals spent a second-rounder on Jeremy Hill this spring. If given more touches, Bernard has the game-changing elusiveness and breakaway ability as a receiver to open up the Bengals' offense. Evidently, though, Cincy wants to pair him with a short-area bruiser. There's still a chance Gio busts out, but there's also a chance he gives away a ton of short TDs.
2014 Outlook: Taken in total, Bush's first year in Detroit was a success. For the first time in his career, he eclipsed both 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season. But it was a bit of a wild ride. Bush missed two games with knee and calf injuries and also battled fumble issues. Most disconcerting was the emergence of Joique Bell, in whom the Lions made a significant investment this winter. While Bush is still a devastating receiver and lightning-quick in space, Bell is a better pure ball carrier. Bush deserves to be a fantasy starter in all leagues, but this is shaping up as a committee.