There are many good running backs in college football, but I am going to give you the 10 (well, actually 11) best for fantasy purposes for the 2013 season. You could make a case for many of these to be higher/lower than they are. This was an extremely difficult list to compile in an order.
UPDATE 6/30– I did some statistical analysis of these 11 running backs and compiled each one’s fantasy points/touch (FP/touch). This is all based off a league with the standard scoring of 10 yards rushing/receiving per fantasy point. This also does not account for PPR league as I did not give any points for receptions. I also did not factor in 2-point conversions. I did, however, give points for return TDs. Each player’s stats are from all of his fantasy eligible games so they do not include conference championships or bowl games. I did not include these games because not every player on this list played in a conference championship or a bowl game. Some of these players’ FP/touch ratio would be even higher if I did.
1. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona– Arizona had one of the biggest fantasy gems last season in Carey. Even though the team finished a mediocre 8-5, Carey definitely did his part in producing for the offense. He rushed for 1,757 yards and that is not including his bowl game where he ran for 172 more yards. He notched 21 total touchdowns during the fantasy season as well. I wouldn’t say he’s an elite receiver, but he is above average in that department. He caught 30 passes last season for a total of 288 yards. My expectations for him are high, especially being in his 2nd year in a Rich Rodriguez offense. He also lost his starting quarterback to the NFL in Matt Scott. This should mean he will be the offense, especially early in the season. Couple that with the fact that he should not have to share any significant carries this season, and he should be in line for another fantastic season. —1.057 FP/touch
2. Duke Johnson, Miami FL– Johnson may be one of the most exciting players in college football if not the most. He is listed as a running back but I would just list him as “athlete”. In 2012, he tallied near 1,000 yards rushing on just 139 carries. He threw a touchdown pass and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Oh yeah, and he caught 27 passes for 221 yards. But since he is listed as a RB, let’s get back to that. You may be thinking that 139 carries is not enough for an RB1 to get in a season, but expect that total to reach 180 or even 200 this season. He will be expected to carry an offense returning all five of its starting lineman in 2013. This could mean a monster season is in store for Johnson and the Hurricane offense. If your league allows individual return stats Johnson is #1 on this list. If not, he is as strong a #2 as you are going to see. —1.022 FP/touch
3. Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky– Here is the player that I slid to #3 just to be safe. He has all the skills to be the best fantasy RB in the country. Last season, Andrews racked up over 2,000 total yards on the ground and through the air along with 14 touchdowns. He will once again be a workhorse for Western Kentucky. The reason I have him down to #3 is because Western Kentucky has a new coach. As you know, that new coach is former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino. I think it’s safe to say that Petrino will use his best player to carry his offense in his first year as head coach. Petrino likes to lean toward the passing game but he does not have the athletes that he had at Arkansas so look for Andrews to get plenty of touches all over the field. You could make as good a case as any to put Andrews at #1 on this list especially in PPR leagues. I just think that we will have to wait and see how much the new offensive scheme affects him, if at all. —.794 FP/touch
4. Adam Muema, San Diego State– This guy quietly had one of the best seasons a running back can have without anyone noticing. He gained 1,355 yards in his 12 regular season games. This may not seem like a gaudy number, but it helps to know that he split carries with another talented back in Walter Kazee, who finished with over 800 yards himself. Guess what, Kazee graduated and left Muema the throne all to himself. Don’t be surprised if Muema has one of the best years in the history of San Diego State. That speaks volumes considering the school has had the likes of Marshall Faulk and Ronnie Hillman in years past. We could be looking at a breakout season for Muema. I think if he’s on the board when you draft, you couldn’t go wrong taking him.— 1.090 FP/touch
5. David Fluellen, Toledo– This is a player that easily could be #2 on this list. The reason I have him at #5 is because his first two games are at Florida and at Mizzou. That’s two SEC defenses to start the season. Although, he may put up decent numbers, it isn’t fair to expect monster performances in those two games. After those two games though, expect him to go over 200 yards in multiple games against the current MAC schedule. In 2012, Fluellen posted just shy of 1,500 rushing yards, and as a receiver, he caught 32 passes. Like Duke Johnson, he will be expected to shoulder the load offensively with four of five starting lineman returning in 2013. If you can weather the storm of the first two games, Fluellen can be your guy.— .856 FP/ touch
6. James White, Wisconsin-Well…well…well…look who we have here. A guy that has been at Wisconsin for what seems like forever. Except this season, he is the man. No John Clay. No Montee Ball. No one in between him and the starting position. It’s now his turn and there’s no reason to think that he won’t take complete advantage of it. Although being the backup his first 3 seasons, he racked up a total of 2,405 yards and 29 total touchdowns. Now, he did lose a head coach who loves to run the football in Bret Bielema, but his new coach Gary Andersen has schemed around very talented backs in the past. I don’t see this being an issue and believe Wisconsin will continue to lean on it’s running game. His very favorable schedule is another reason to consider White, with games against UMass and Tennessee Tech.— 1.153 FP/touch
7. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor– Here is a guy who was a 5-star recruit in high school before signing with the Oregon Ducks. Long story short, Seastrunk was a part of the most recent NCAA infractions Oregon committed. He was granted release from Oregon and ended up a Baylor Bear. Of course, he had to sit out a season, and in 2012, didn’t really get a good opportunity to shine until about eight games into the season, where he tallied 515 yards on just 70 carries in the last four games. He is now the lead back in the high powered Baylor offense. At the end of last season, Seastrunk said something very interesting to the Sporting News saying, “I’m going to win the Heisman. I’m going to win it in 2013. If I don’t, I’m going to get very close. I’m shooting for that goal. I will gladly say it.” That’s all I need to hear. Truthfully, I’m not expecting him to win the Heisman, but like he said, he will be “very close”.— 1.067 FP/touch
8. Bishop Sankey, Washington– Washington was a team that had a lot of talent that didn’t produce the way they expected to in 2012. Sankey, however, was the lone consistent producer all season long. He reached 1,400 yards without much help from a passing game that was expected to light up scoreboards a season ago. I can’t imagine the passing game being so inconsistent this season and should help Sankey be an even more productive back, forcing defenses to take that extra defender out of the box to respect the pass. I would say that his opening game is a tough one against Boise State, but last season finished with a bowl game against them. Sankey rushed for 205 yards against a defense that is normally pretty stout against the run. I don’t expect 200 yards but he will be the focal point of the Washington offense still, but I imagine he will be utilized even more so in 2013.— .786 FP/touch
9. De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon– The “Black Mamba”, as he is known in the world of college football, lives up to his name. Known as the fastest snake in the world, Thomas may be the fastest player in college football. He has the ability to strike at any given moment. In the Ducks high-octane offense, Thomas played the “playmaker” position. It seemed like every time he touched the football, he made something positive happen. This was while, Kenjon Barner was handling the majority of the carries for the Ducks. With Barner gone in 2013, expect the Black Mamba to see his touches increase. He only had a total of 131 offensive touches in 2012, but he also had two return touchdowns. Look for him to go over 200 touches this season for the Ducks. Oregon’s lead back is always a producer and don’t expect this to change this season. If your league is a PPR and/or uses return stats, this is a no brainer pick. If I had to pick a player on this list to win the Heisman Trophy this season, it would be the Black Mamba.— 1.450 FP/touch
10(a). Jamaal Williams, BYU– This ultra-athletic sophomore would be higher on this list if not for the tough schedule he faces playing for an independent. Just to name a few teams he will face: Texas, Boise State, and Notre Dame. Even though he has some tough games, he also has some very favorable games including Middle Tennessee State and Idaho State. Schedule aside, Williams is an absolute stud. As a freshman in 2012, he posted over 1,000 total yards and scored 13 touchdowns. He wasn’t even a factor in the Cougars’ first four games last season. He did the majority of his work against the toughest opponents on the schedule. He will obviously get more touches this season so expect his numbers to rise close to 1,600 total yards in 2013.— .995 FP/touch
10(b). Todd Gurley, Georgia-There is a reason I included Gurley on this list. He may be the most talented, NFL ready back on this list. He is a beast playing in the toughest conference in college football. That is why I have him so low; because he plays in the SEC. The SEC schedule is always tough but even Georgia’s opening game is no cakewalk as they open at Clemson. His SEC schedule does not look terribly difficult to the eye, but you never know about the SEC. Gurley will be the lead back for the Bulldogs but he will be spelled by another talented back in Keith Marshall. Look for the two to combine for over 2,000 yards in the regular season, and expect Gurley to have the majority of those yards. Like I stated earlier, Gurley is a very talented runner and is worth having regardless of playing in a tough conference.— 1.091 FP/touch