2015 Outlook: Of the veterans vying for time behind the Cowboys' great offensive line, Randle is the only one who had success in 2014. We've always viewed him as an upright runner who drifts and doesn't generate power. But as DeMarco Murray's backup, Randle showed some legit breakaway ability last season: 12 of his 55 touches gained 10-plus yards, including 2 TD runs of 40-plus. He faces questions about some troubling off-field behavior, but if Randle puts things together and winds up atop the depth chart in Dallas, big things could be in store for his fantasy owners.
2015 Outlook: When McFadden signed with the Cowboys this winter, a faction of the Twitterverse rejoiced that DMC would finally prove himself behind a great offensive line. Clearly, those people have never owned him in a fantasy league. Yes, we remember that McFadden was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 draft and had that one nice season way back in 2010 (1,664 total yards). But this hype train has run out of fuel. If an oft-injured and no-longer-explosive McFadden succeeds in Big D over the likes of Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams, it would be legit proof that the Dallas O-line can make anyone a star.
2015 Outlook: Don't mistake Ivory for agile: He rarely attempts hard cuts. Instead, he's a no-nonsense tooth rattler who squares his shoulders and swerves downhill. Now that he's been with the Jets for two years, it's clear they're hesitant to give him a feature-back role. (He's averaged exactly 200 touches per season since 2013.) And considering he was often injured early in his career, we can't knock that strategy. RB Bilal Powell will handle third-down duties, and Stevan Ridley or Zac Stacy could see some early-down work. So while Ivory is the favorite to lead the Jets in rush yards and TDs, he's again unlikely to handle a top-20 workload.
2015 Outlook: Mathews doesn't have DeMarco Murray's footwork or elusiveness, but he's a legit force between the tackles. Given Chip Kelly's preferred tempo, there's enough work for Murray to start and Mathews to see 10 to 12 touches per game. But let's face it, bodies will drop: Sam Bradford's injury woes are legendary, Murray is coming off a 449-touch season and Mathews missed 10 games last year. If everyone stays upright, this has the makings of a great power-running offense. But that isn't going to happen. We'll grant you this: Mathews would have a ton of fantasy value if Murray is the guy who misses time first.
2015 Outlook: Vereen has never topped 100 carries in a season, and he won't do so with the Giants in 2015. But as his yeoman's work in the Super Bowl proved, he's a damaging weapon catching passes out of the backfield: He finished fifth in RB receiving yards last year. With WR Odell Beckham Jr. likely to draw major attention in New York's West Coast offense this season, Vereen could find room to roam on third-down screens and safety valves. Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams will divvy up between-the-tackles work, allowing Vereen to produce numbers similar to those from his Patriots days.
2015 Outlook: Mason had a nice rookie year, but the Rams rightly never viewed him as a true full-time back. The 5-foot-8, 207-pounder just isn't big enough. So in this spring's NFL draft, the team selected Todd Gurley, who will be the future centerpiece on offense. Gurley, of course, is coming off a torn ACL, and it's possible he won't be ready to dominate snaps right away. If that's the case, Mason will be ready. His quickness and burst are impressive, and we expect he has improved his pass protection, which was a weakness in 2014. At worst, Mason will contribute as a change-of-pace back. At best, he could sneak into a starting role.
2015 Outlook: Martin's breakout 2012 rookie season -- he was fantasy's No. 2 RB -- seems like it happened a million years ago. All we've gotten since then is a string of injuries and 15 missed games in two seasons. Worse, it's possible these physical affronts have sapped the life out of Martin's legs, which made him such an exciting prospect. The Bucs are rebuilding (again) and simply don't have the talent in the trenches to guarantee production even for above-average rushers. Martin has to prove anew that he's anything more than mediocre if he's going to protect his starting job from second-year RB Charles Sims.
2015 Outlook: In college, Abdullah was a playmaker with terrific change-of-direction ability and acceleration. The question is whether his size (5-9, 205) will remove him from feature-back consideration. With the Lions, he'll initially slide in behind Joique Bell, though if he clears up his collegiate fumbling issue, we think there's a chance Abdullah sees early-down work. At the very least, he should bypass Theo Riddick on the depth chart and make some noise catching the ball. Abdullah is a high-upside bench player who should be drafted in all leagues.
2015 Outlook: It's tough to separate any single player from the Bucs' 2014 dumpster fire. Sims did some good things last year after returning from a broken ankle. His highlight: a late-season juke that turned Panthers LB Luke Kuechly inside out. But like all Tampa rushers, his production was dreadful. Doug Martin will try again to stay healthy for a full campaign, which could relegate Sims to passing-down duties, but the Muscle Hamster likely won't make it through the full 16. Of course, unless the Bucs block better, fantasy stardom is not in the cards for any Tampa RB.
2015 Outlook: Freeman can be an important part of a good NFL team, but he might not be feature-back material. A second-year pro who played sparingly as a rookie, Freeman faces the same challenge as backs like Andre Ellington, Tre Mason and Jerick McKinnon. He's got legit chops between the tackles and has the cutting ability to make onrushing tacklers whiff, but his size (5-8, 206) makes him a shaky bet to stay healthy if he gets 300 touches. The Falcons drafted Tevin Coleman this spring, which means some form of platoon is in the offing. Our early guess is that Coleman, a true sprinter, brings more big-play value in 2015.
2015 Outlook: It's hard to be great while playing in a terrible offense, and the Titans were terrible in 2014. So Sankey is partly forgiven for never topping 74 total yards in a single game. Countless times, unimpeded tacklers had the rookie wrapped up shortly after he received a handoff. Still, we wish we saw more glimpses of greatness. Sankey didn't show much power, and in the rare moments when his line gave him a crease, he looked mediocre getting to daylight. Tennessee drafted David Cobb this spring, and we're fans of his no-nonsense power approach. Sankey's rope will be short this season.
2015 Outlook: West's carry totals in his final seven games of last season read like an EKG: 26, 5, 14, 7, 15, 5, 18. Coach Mike Pettine gave no believable justification for interchanging West and Isaiah Crowell, leading us to the conclusion that perhaps West simply likes even-numbered weeks. In truth, we thought Crowell outplayed West, who's a bit too east/west as a runner and needs to understand that his strength comes from his power. Given the Browns' mess at QB, though, there could be some big workloads awaiting West again in 2015. If he uses those 225 pounds the right way, he could establish himself as a legit short-TD maker.
2015 Outlook: Williams produced fine stats as a rookie last year, but we don't see a future fantasy star. While he's got the big body (5-11, 230) to handle big workloads, an uptick in carries isn't on the horizon with Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen filling out a crowded backfield. The Giants might use Williams as their goal-line closer again in 2015: 6 of his 7 TDs last season came from inside an opponent's 3. But any time Williams isn't running north/south, he's essentially useless. He was held to one yard or less on an incredible 37 percent of his carries in 2014. We expect to see his total touches come down quite a bit in 2015.
2015 Outlook: We don't want to get too excited about a back with 68 career carries whose 2014 rookie season ended with a mysterious foot sprain. But we loved what we saw from Taliaferro on tape last year. He has rare agility for a back his size (6-0, 226), routinely showing the ability to plant his foot and change directions hard. But Justin Forsett re-signed with Baltimore, and after his impressive 2014 season, he's likely to get first crack at the starting job. The Ravens also added Javorius Allen in the 2015 draft. Watch out for Taliaferro, though. If he returns to full health, he's got a shot to be a prototypical thumper.
2015 Outlook: The only running back 34 years or older to top 500 rushing yards in a season since the turn of the century is Emmitt Smith -- and he averaged 3.5 yards per carry. That's what Jackson will be up against in 2015. Certainly, with LeSean McCoy atop the depth chart, the Bills won't ask Jackson to be their main guy; Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown will probably also be hanging around. But Jackson has amassed at least 149 touches in seven straight seasons, usually with a more talented option on the roster. This year Jackson will likely be a drain on -- and a handcuff for -- Shady.