2013 Outlook: It does Peterson a disservice to call him "superhuman." It implies his comeback from a torn ACL to produce the second-highest rush yardage total in NFL history was the result of childhood exposure to a red sun, rather than ridiculously hard work. We know one thing: We'll never doubt the guy again. On a Vikings team with precious little passing game, with defenses stacked against him, AD was a hard-cutting, tackle-breaking, broken-field stud and fantasy's clear MVP for '12. What does he do for an encore? With anyone else, you might worry a 388-touch, 2,214-scrimmage-yards season could set him up for a breakdown in '13. But this is Adrian Peterson. He's the first player off every draft board in existence this summer.
2013 Outlook: Worry-warts look at Foster's declining per-carry average over the past three seasons -- from 4.9 to 4.4 to 4.1 -- and fret that even at age 26, heavy workloads are catching up with him. And indeed, his 1,115 offensive touches from '10 to '12 are the NFL's most. However, we look at Foster's touchdowns and feel fine. He's scored 47 times in that span, eight more than any other player. We'll agree that the Texans' offensive line took a step back in '12 and the team's lack of a diverse passing attack hurts Foster. But he's the game's best runner inside the 5, and Ben Tate barely threatened his workload in '12. Foster is as good a combination of high upside and safety as you'll find.
2013 Outlook: Time to stop worrying Beast Mode is a fluke. All he's done over the past two seasons is finish second in the NFL in total rushing yards and third in rushing TDs while becoming less popular to tackle than advanced calculus. The Seahawks will be a popular pick to make a deep run in '13 as Russell Wilson develops and Percy Harvin integrates into the offense, but Pete Carroll swears he still wants to be a running team. That's great news for Lynch, a dervish who has 13 TDs from inside an opponent's 5 over the past two years. He belongs half-a-peg behind Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster because he regularly gets nicked up, but Lynch has arrived as a surefire top-five pick.
2013 Outlook: Rice has reached a stage in his career where fantasy owners look at him and say, "Yeah, but what else can you do for me?" Ho hum, all he does is produce 1,600-plus yards from scrimmage and double-digit TDs every year with one of the NFL's best combinations of speed, power and elusiveness. Sure, he had some playoff fumbling problems on Baltimore's magic Super Bowl run, but he's bailed out the Ravens too many times to count, including that memorable 4th-and-29 dump-off last season against the Chargers, where he basically avoided San Diego's entire defense. Rice will continue to star in '13, though his capable understudy, Bernard Pierce, will probably siphon off 100-ish carries to keep the bell-cow healthy.
2013 Outlook: He doesn't like being called the Muscle Hamster. But sorry, Doug, it's too great a nickname to retire. And if that's the price of fame and being a top-five fantasy pick, Martin will have to deal. A Ray Rice clone with power, speed, acceleration and hands, Martin was a midseason superstar as a rookie, scoring four TDs and running for 251 yards Week 9 against the Raiders. While his production was hot-and-cold after that, Martin's is a talent you can believe in. At 215 pounds, he's an ankle-breaker in the open field, a homerun threat on every carry, and an accomplished pass blocker. The Bucs need better play from Josh Freeman to keep their offense balanced, but their prime directive is clear: Feed The Hamster.
2013 Outlook: Only a year removed from ACL surgery, J-Mail somehow produced 1,745 yards from scrimmage in a dreadful season that saw Romeo Crennel's staff repeatedly misuse Charles. How do you only give your best player five carries in Week 8 and then tell reporters you "don't know why" he didn't get more? Those days should be done: With Andy Reid's West Coast offense in KC, Charles shouldn't lack for touches or big plays. His carries might go down, but you can bet Charles' career high of 45 catches will shatter. He's never found the end zone more than eight times in a season and Alex Smith doesn't figure to suddenly transform into Len Dawson overnight, so TDs are a concern. But everything else will be there for this sprinter.
2013 Outlook: Spiller is simply the most elusive running back in the NFL. A track star with Bugs-Bunny quicks, Spiller also averaged 2.1 yards after contact per carry in '12, which was third among rushers with at least 200 totes. When Fred Jackson suffered a serious injury for the second straight season, Spiller was ready, asserting himself as the obvious lead dog in Buffalo's backfield for the forthcoming campaign. Jackson is still around, but we're no longer dealing with a strict platoon. There's a pretty good chance Spiller falls shy of elite when it comes to TDs, as the 215-pound Jackson is a better fit for the goal line, but otherwise expect a career-high usage pattern from the 26-year-old they call Thriller.
2013 Outlook: The only thing we don't love about Richardson's game is that there's so much of it. He does everything. He bangs, he breaks away, he catches it. He doesn't come off the field. T-Rich had 16 or more touches in 12 of his 15 games last season; unfortunately, that workload intensity led to injuries. Richardson had knee surgery in August, broke ribs in Week 6, and missed the season finale with an ankle problem. Considering he plays behind a decidedly non-elite line with a decidedly non-elite QB, the weight of Cleveland's offense rests on his broad shoulders. And T-Rich can hack it. After just one season, he's already one of the league's best pass-catching RBs and goal-line runners. Now he just needs to stay healthy.
2013 Outlook: As a sixth-round rookie out of Florida Atlantic, Morris made Mike Shanahan forget about his usual indecisive backfield ways. Morris was The Man from Week 1 forward, getting 28 carries in the opener and never looking back. The real question is: Why don't we like him more than this? After all, he was fantasy's No. 5 RB in his rookie campaign while flashing tremendous feet, vision and patience. Our hesitation comes from how little Morris gives Washington in their passing game, and a worry that the offense will be restricted to begin the year if Robert Griffin III can't play. Yards should be there for Morris, but there's a chance TDs might not. Still, he deserves to be at least a top-20 fantasy pick.
2013 Outlook: Even before his Week 10 concussion, Shady was on his way to a pretty shady year. He'd produced just five TDs and averaged only 98.5 yards from scrimmage per game, a season after producing 20 scores and averaging 108.3 yards. When he returned, things were even worse, as Bryce Brown had burst on the backfield scene. But Chip Kelly's advent to Philly is good news for McCoy and Brown. The Eagles will play fast and spread defenses out, but they'll run a lot and get Shady the ball in space. Questions about Michael Vick and the offensive line are valid, plus that 20-TD season was always a bit of a fluke. But under Kelly, McCoy's workload will stay strong enough to keep among fantasy starters.
2013 Outlook: We've heard the skeptics. Jackson has been a lukewarm fantasy option for years and turns 30 in July. But we love this fit. Jackson has been held hostage by a terrible Rams offense that's seen him get 43 carries inside an opponent's 10 over the past three years combined. Michael Turner had 102 in that same span! Suddenly the TD-thirsty Jackson will be swimming in chances. Plus his terrific hands will bolster an offense that greatly enhanced its screen game in '12, and unlike Turner, he'll stay on the field for many third downs. Sure, young Jacquizz Rodgers will see plenty of action. But Jackson doesn't need a 300-touch workload to produce. Give him Turner's 241 touches from last year, and Jackson will score double-digit TDs.
2013 Outlook: There's no other way to say it: Durability is becoming an issue for Forte. He's missed six games over the past two seasons, and has been questionable for many more, leaving his fantasy owners scrambling to make lineup changes. When he's in there, Forte is a fantastic combination of size and shiftiness; for a 6-foot-2, 218-pound human, he sure can dance and leave lingerie on the deck. He's also an elite pass receiver. Unfortunately, his ankles and knees always seem like they're hurt, and five seasons in Chicago have proven that Forte doesn't have good instincts when it comes to goal-line rushing, which is why Michael Bush is in town. Forte's raw ability should probably see him ranked higher than this, but we're wary.
2013 Outlook: What's the world coming to, when Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan both stick to their lead rushers and make fantasy stars of them? While Alfred Morris was tearing it up in D.C., Ridley became the latest goal-line monster in New England, except unlike his predecessor BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ridley has legitimate between-the-tackles explosiveness. We hesitate to call Ridley a fantasy first-rounder because he doesn't play on third downs. But New England has 14 more rushing attempts from inside an opponent's 10 than any other NFL franchise over the past three seasons combined. Provided LeGarrette Blount doesn't get involved on the goal line (and we don't think he will), Ridley will post 10-plus TDs again this season, many of the short variety.
2013 Outlook: In '12, Gore played 16 games for the second straight year, easing concerns that he'll inevitably get hurt. How have the 49ers kept him healthy? It's tempting to say a diminished workload, but Big Frank was still 12th in the NFL in rush attempts last year. More than anything, we think it's the quality of his offensive line. As a road-grading group, this 49ers offensive line is unmatched. Gore averaged more than three yards before contact per carry, a number that put him among the NFL's elite speed RBs last year, and he's no speed merchant. He's just got room to run. Gore won't get near 300 touches in '13, but he doesn't need to. If he stays healthy, even at age 30 another solid season awaits.
2013 Outlook: Three games into the '12 season, CJ1K had produced 108 yards from scrimmage on 42 touches and sent his fantasy owners into anaphylactic shock. Things got better after that, but not good enough to save Johnson from a winter filled with questions about his desire. What's so maddening is that his speed and quickness are obviously still there, as evidenced by TD runs of 80, 83 and 94 yards last season. But too often he's willing to bounce runs outside, looking to crack a big one but failing to move the sticks. Now Shonn Greene is in Nashville to steal short-yardage totes, meaning you can forget an elite TD number from Johnson. He'll have to make his '13 bones with yards from big plays.