2013 Outlook: It was all going so smoothly for the folks who risked drafting MJD during his contract holdout last summer. Sure enough, there he was: Carrying a full workload for the Jags in Week 1. Alas, by Week 7 he was done for the year with a mid-foot fracture. He should be ready to go for the '13 regular season, entering a contract year at age 27. But Jacksonville is switching to a zone-blocking scheme and signed Justin Forsett this winter; theoretically Forsett is no threat to MJD's job, but he did just spend a year in a zone offense in Houston. All this is to say: While Jones-Drew's upside is unquestioned, his risk factors are high. You could get a steal, or you could get a headache.
2013 Outlook: Wilson fits the breakout mold. Ahmad Bradshaw is gone from Gotham, leaving a void in the Giants' backfield. Andre Brown was impressive last year scoring eight TDs in a short-yardage role, but he fractured a leg in the final preseason game. A ringside seat in a potentially high-powered offense is available, and Wilson has the speed and toughness to take advantage. Poor ball security earned him Tom Coughlin's ire early in his rookie year, but explosive plays on the ground and on special teams whetted New York's appetite. Squint when you're looking at Wilson and you see C.J. Spiller, and a Spiller-esque leap is a real possibility in '13. The Giants don't trust Wilson implicitly in pass protection yet, so they'll likely seek a veteran backup. But Wilson is a fantasy starter in all leagues.
2013 Outlook: One of these years, Run-DMC will make it through a season unscathed. It just shouldn't be on your dime, at least not if you have to spend an early-round pick. McFadden has never played more than 13 games in a season and missed nine contests in '11 and '12 combined. In addition, his production was utterly dreadful last year, as he averaged 3.3 yards per carry and scored three TDs. New offensive coordinator Greg Olson will scrap the Raiders' zone-read system and change back to a power scheme that's served McFadden well in the past, so there's hope. But Oakland may have the NFL's least-talented roster, and Run-DMC has long since used up the benefit of the doubt. He's not worth a heavy draft-day investment.
2013 Outlook: Lacy is 231 pounds of backfield menace, with an elusiveness in the hole that belies his size. He may not be a burner, and durability questions are fair, but the Packers have clearly grabbed themselves a potential goal-line star. Unfortunately, they also grabbed Johnathan Franklin in April's draft, which could lead to a frustrating platoon. Lacy is our favorite in '13 because inside an opponent's 5 last year, Green Bay threw it 15 times and gave it to an RB only eight times. With a power back like Lacy around, that's sure to change, and short TDs should ensue.
2013 Outlook: Murray has missed nine of 32 NFL games with leg injuries. It's too early in his career to call him soft -- after all, his rookie campaign was cut short by a broken leg -- but the fact is that Murray arrived in Dallas with a collegiate reputation for missing time. When he's out there, Murray fills out the uniform impressively: At 227 pounds he can play the banging role but he's also nimble in space with very good hands. Sixteen games of starting work for Murray would likely result in a superstar season. Maybe his third year will be the charm.
2013 Outlook: Sproles is the most dangerous receiving RB in the NFL: During his time in New Orleans, he's caught 5.6 passes for 47.5 yards per game with 14 receiving TDs, all easily NFL highs among RBs. An utter beast in PPR leagues, Sproles deserves to be well regarded in standard leagues, too, because no matter whether Mark Ingram or Pierre Thomas gets handed the rock, there's always a place in the game plan for Sproles' catches. In 18 of 28 games with the Saints, he's finished with double-digit fantasy points. That kind of week-to-week safety is tough to find among RBs. With Sean Payton returning in '13, Sproles will continue to be devastating in the passing game.
2013 Outlook: The Lions are a great fit for Bush, provided they don't lean on him too much. Matthew Stafford set an NFL record with 727 pass attempts last year, 144 of which were aimed at RBs far less accomplished than Bush in the passing game. We expect the majority of those passes to head Bush's way this year, as the former No. 2 overall pick assumes the Jahvid Best role in Detroit's attack. Where the Lions may get into trouble is if they make Bush a feature back. His injury history scares us. We think a pairing where Mikel Leshoure or Joique Bell does the banging would be best.
2013 Outlook: With Reggie Bush out of town, Miller has the inside track to be the RB on whom the Dolphins lean. His primary competition for carries figures to be Daniel Thomas, but Thomas has failed to take advantage of opportunities in each of his pro seasons, and now looks concussion-prone to boot. Meanwhile Miller is a 4.40 runner with a lean 212-pound frame. He, too, is considered something of an injury risk, and his excellent straight-line speed isn't always backed up with much lateral quickness or elusiveness. But homerun hitters are valuable in fantasy, and a homerun hitter is what Miller may be.
2013 Outlook: The Broncos made Ball a second-round pick in April's draft, and cleared up their backfield in the process. Willis McGahee is gone from Denver, and Knowshon Moreno is returning from a knee scope to a backup role. Ball's collegiate workload was intense -- 983 touches, to be exact -- so maybe his long-term upside is curbed. But for one year, as Peyton Manning's feature back, Ball looks like a TD maker. Moreno and Ronnie Hillman will be factors, but Ball is our nominee for the most valuable back in Denver.
2013 Outlook: Ivory leaves a bad situation on a good offense, and lands in a good situation on a bad offense. Known for a couple seasons as the best No. 4 RB in football, this 220-pound power runner has 33 carries of 10-plus yards on his 256 career totes. He was underutilized in New Orleans -- though to be fair he's battled knee, hamstring, foot and concussion problems -- but he should get all the work he could want with the Jets, who traded for him in April. Mike Goodson will miss at least the season's first four games, leaving Bilal Powell as the backup. If Ivory stays healthy, he could be a fantasy star.
2013 Outlook: When you break more collarbones (two) than you scored TDs (one), you know it was a bad year. Mathews faced high expectations in each of his first three NFL seasons, but those are long gone. What's left is a brittle player who couldn't convince his coaches he was a better third-down option last year than Ronnie Brown, and that's alarming. Given the fact that Danny Woodhead is now a Charger, you can expect Mathews to remain a two-down player, and San Diego needs offensive line upgrades. Mathews is talented, but there are too many question marks here to feel good about him as a fantasy starter.
2013 Outlook: Bradshaw is 27 and commands respect in NFL circles, but his feet have failed him. He's undergone three surgeries on his right foot, one on his left, and had surgeries on both ankles. The Giants decided they couldn't spend big money on a RB with such durability issues and released him, and now Bradshaw has landed in Indy. The Colts won't make him an every-down player, but Bradshaw is a great pass blocker, a fine receiver, and a good goal-line back. He'll platoon with Vick Ballard, but if he's able to stay healthy, he'd be the Indy runner you'd want.
2013 Outlook: How bad was former Panthers GM Marty Hurney's strategy when it came to running backs? Williams and Jonathan Stewart have had the primes of their careers ruined by the world's most frustrating platoon, to say nothing of Mike Tolbert's presence on this roster. Stewart's ankle surgeries have put his season in question, meaning Williams should have a chance to win a lion's share of early-down carries. But how many rushing TDs are available with Tolbert and Cam Newton around? D-Willy is still capable of breaking big runs, but he's too feast-or-famine to be a No. 2 fantasy RB.
2013 Outlook: Bernard is a jitterbugging nightmare to tackle in the open field, a terrific pass catcher, and a sick return man. He didn't produce a whole lot of physical runs at North Carolina, preferring to make defenders miss in the hole, and that caused some NFL teams to worry he's not a three-down player. At least initially in Cincinnati he won't have to be, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis will handle much of the inside work. Consider the Law Firm favored to lead the Bengals in rushing TDs, but consider Bernard the man opposing defenses will fear more. He's a knee-buckler extraordinaire.
2013 Outlook: Give the Law Firm credit: In his first season in Cincy, he eclipsed 1,000 yards and scored six TDs. There were times when he looked the part of a feature back, especially when he topped 100 yards from scrimmage every game from Week 11 to Week 15. But even the Bengals know he isn't a true leading man, and they drafted Gio Bernard in the second round of April's draft. BJGE will have the more valuable share of this platoon, because he's the short TD maker. But Bernard possesses escapability Green-Ellis doesn't, and will put a cap on the Law Firm's fantasy value.