2014 College Fantasy Football RBs

By John Laub
John Laub

2014 College Fantasy Football RBs:

Rankings, Profiles and Projections

By The Gridiron Scholar

Summa Cum Laude

1. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Fantasy diehards are elated that RB Melvin Gordon returned to pursue a lifelong dream: Winning a national championship. In 2013, the Badger game breaker dominated Big 10 competition and finished with 1,609 yards rushing, including three runs over 70 yards. And 10 times during the past two campaigns, the junior tailback gained more than 40 yards on a carry. In three seasons, the homerun hitter has exploded for an astounding 8.1 yards per tote—he is the active NCAA leader—and scored 17 times. During the off-season, he worked to improve his receiving skills in order to become a better all-around player and improve his draft stock. Gordon is clearly worth the top-overall pick in fantasy drafts this summer.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,850 and 17
Receiving Yards and TDs: 100 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 303

2. Todd Gurley, Georgia
Todd Gurley is the most athletically skilled runner in the NCAA, and possibly, the top NFL Draft prospect at his position next year. An astonishing combination of size and speed at 6’1” and 232 pounds, the bruising Bulldog missed three games last year and nearly surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier while scoring 10 times. The blue-chip prospect is also a capable catcher out of the backfield, hauling in 37 receptions and scoring five touchdowns. If not for teammate Keith Marshall in the backfield and turnover at the quarterback position, Gurley would be ranked first among collegiate runners. In Athens, fans believe that Gurley could win the Heisman, but fantasy owners just want to enjoy the weekly production on the gridiron.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,400 and 13
Receiving Yards and TDs: 500 and 5
Total Fantasy Points: 298

3. Mike Davis, South Carolina

Coach Steve Spurrier’s offense used to light up the scoreboard at Florida, but at South Carolina, his philosophy has dramatically changed. Winning 11 games for three consecutive seasons, the old ball coach now prefers to physically dominate opponents on the ground and play intimidating defense. RB Mike Davis is a rising star in Spurrier’s attack after gaining 1,183 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns last year: He also earned second-team All-SEC, accumulating the fourth-most yards in school history. At 5’9” and 216 pounds, Davis is a compact runner with nifty moves in traffic and a worthy catcher out of the backfield, snatching 34 passes for 352 yards. The junior Gamecock offers fantasy managers a stud workhorse, who may make a trip to New York at the end of the season.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,400 and 12
Receiving Yards and TDs: 425 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 261

4. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
Coach Bo Pelini has led the Cornhuskers to six consecutive nine-win seasons; nonetheless, for a program with national championship aspirations, Nebraska has disappointed its faithful. If Pelini’s club reaches the FBS final four, RB Ameer Abdullah will likely carry the team to national prominence once again. The outstanding I-back can reach the perimeter and has big-play ability—speed, elusiveness and swiftness—in the Huskers’ option attack. On the smaller side at 5’9” and 195 pounds, Abdullah is a durable ball carrier with back-to-back 1,000-yard crusades; last season, he carried the rawhide over 20 times in nine games and rushed for over 100 yards in 11 contests, which tied a school record. Pelini, and fantasy diehards, both have high expectations for the workhorse All-Big 10 performer this season.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,600 and 11
Receiving Yards and TDs: 275 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 266

5. Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
The Spartans lost Le’Veon Bell after the 2012 campaign and questions surrounded the running game at kickoff last season. Looking back, there was no need to be concerned: Breakout performer Jeremy Langford carried Michigan State to a Big Ten title and a trip to Pasadena. In coach Mark Dantonio’s dominant ground game, the former defensive back topped 100 yards in eight of the final nine games, rushed for 1,422 yards and reached the end zone 19 times in 2013. A smooth downhill runner with muscle and force, Langford owns three-down skills, seizing 28 passes, and has good vision, balance and body control. Expect another standout season for the Michigan State star in the fall.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,550 and 14
Receiving Yards and TDs: 250 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 270

6. Jay Ajayi, Boise State

New coach Bryan Harsin replaces Chris Petersen, who built a powerhouse in Boise, Idaho. After a decade-worst record last season, Harsin must rely on the Broncos’ first-team All-Mountain West ball carrier to lead the club back to distinction. In 2013, Ajayi gashed foes for 1,425 yards rushing, which was the fourth-best single-season mark in school history. He also scored 19 times and surpassed 100 yards on six occasions, including a 222-yard performance against Nevada. The redshirt junior can reach the edge of the defense with speed, power and poise: An upright runner, he weaves and evades tacklers and immediately heads north. Ajayi was named one of twelve players to watch this upcoming season by the Touchdown Club of Columbus and wise fantasy footballers already have a keen eye on Ajayi.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,400 and 16
Receiving Yards and TDs: 100 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 252

Magna Cum Laude

7. Travis Greene, Bowling Green
Moving from wide receiver to running back last season, the Falcons’ elusive playmaker established a school record for rushing yards with 1,595. Earning All-MAC second team honors, Greene averaged 5.7 yards per carry, reached the end zone 13 times and racked up nine 100-yard games. In Bowling Greene’s zone-read rushing scheme, the 5’10” and 181-pounder never feared darting between the tackles and bounced it outside when the opportunity presented itself. He twists, spins and weaves through traffic making defenders whiff and resembles former East Carolina homerun hitter Chris Johnson. New coach Dino Babers spent spring practices increasing the pace of the offense from frantic to hyperactive, and will rely on Greene to move the chains as should fantasy owners in 2014.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,450 and 11
Receiving Yards and TDs: 300 and 4
Total Fantasy Points: 265

8. Duke Johnson, Miami
In 2013, Duke Johnson was devising an All-American campaign until he fractured his ankle and missed the final five games. The workhorse led the club with 145 carries for 920 rushing yards while averaging 6.3 yards per carry. A multi-purpose threat, Johnson totaled 174.1 all-purpose yards per game and notched his seventh 200-plus all-purpose career performance last year. Despite missing spring practice, Johnson has bulked up in the weight room in an attempt to stay on the field moving forward and reports are positive in regard to a healthy return. Sagacious fantasy contrarians will observe Johnson’s fitness and practice program throughout the summer and draft him at a discounted rate if healthy for gridiron action.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,350 and 12
Receiving Yards and TDs: 250 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 244

9. D.J. Foster, Arizona State
The dual-threat playmaker replaces Marion Grice in the Sun Devils’ backfield. In 2013, D.J. Foster led the nation in receiving yards (653) by a running back, caught 63 passes, which was second on the team, and scored 10 times. During his first two campaigns at school, he totaled over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. A patient ball carrier, who waits for blocks, Foster is a natural runner between the tackles with smooth footwork. Nevertheless, he prefers to take the pigskin to the perimeter and exploit the open terrain. A compact, agile athlete, Foster’s best game came against in-state rival Arizona with 124 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Take pleasure in drafting Foster and enjoy the weekly fantasy production.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,000 and 10
Receiving Yards and TDs: 600 and 6
Total Fantasy Points: 256

10. Tevin Coleman, Indiana
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson’s up-tempo offense has fashioned a perilous ground game for opponents: The Hoosiers averaged 202 rushing yards and 5.3 yards per attempt in 2013. RB Tevin Coleman is the best athlete on the club and has an NFL frame at 6’1” and 210 pounds. With good vision, the speedster broke loose for eight jaunts over 40 yards last year, which tied for most in the nation. Despite missing the final three games, Coleman gained 958 yards rushing and scored 12 touchdowns while averaging 7.3 yards per attempt. He also accumulated 1,275 all-purpose yards. An upright runner with long strides, the Hoosier earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors in a victory over Illinois with 215 yards on only 15 totes. Coleman’s goal is to shatter the 1,000-yard barrier, and there is no reason to doubt his sincerity as a fantasy owner.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,250 and 13
Receiving Yards and TDs: 250 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 240

11. Byron Marshall, Oregon
In the PAC 12 this season, Byron Marshall is the leading returning ball carrier; however, his toughest competition at pacing the conference in rushing may be on the Oregon roster. During spring practice, Marshall battled sophomore Thomas Tyner for carries and playing time in the Ducks’ backfield. At 5’10” and 201 pounds, the junior speedster gained 1,038 yards rushing, averaged 6.2 yards and scored 14 times despite missing two games with an ankle injury last year. He also manufactured a five-game 100-yard rushing streak and recorded a career-best 192 yards and three touchdowns against Washington State. The coaching staff intends to get Marshall more involved in the aerial assault: He has good hands and is a mismatch with linebackers in space. The game breaker even lined up as a receiver during the spring. Keep a close eye on the Ducks’ backfield roster during the summer months, but Marshall will most likely earn the majority of snaps.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,150 and 12
Receiving Yards and TDs: 400 and 4
Total Fantasy Points: 251

12. Jamaal Williams, BYU
Most college fans would not believe that the Cougars ranked tenth in the nation last year in rushing yards. While QB Taysom Hill enjoys the media coverage, junior Jamaal Williams deserves some attention and accolades for his abilities and contributions to the BYU ground game. The speedster is a shifty, explosive runner who was named to the FBS All-Independent team in 2013. He gained 1,233 yards on the ground and scored seven times: During his career, Williams has 45 receptions for 440 yards and 20 total touchdowns. In the spring, he joined the BYU track team and participated in the 4x100 relay squad. The sprinter believes that the experience will assist him taking the pigskin to the promised land more often in Provo this season. An upright runner with power, Williams is the perfect compliment to Hill in the backfield and will generate points for fantasy owners.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,350 and 11
Receiving Yards and TDs: 350 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 248

13. Shock Linwood, Baylor

A redshirt sophomore, Shock Linwood finished the 2013 campaign as the sixth leading rusher in the Big 12 despite being the team’s third-stringer behind Lache Seastrunk—who was a sixth-round selection in the draft—and Glasco Martin. Linwood averaged an outstanding 6.9 yards per carry and accumulated 881 yards rushing on only 128 carries. Scoring eight times, the Baylor bowling ball flashed a skill-set that drives defensive coordinators crazy trying to impede Linwood and stop the Baylor’s video-game output. The 200-pounder first displayed his incredible athletic abilities against Oklahoma on a primetime telecast when he rushed for 182 yards on 23 totes after Seastrunk and Martin left the game. Fantasy fans are intrigued by Linwood’s upside in coach Art Briles’ brilliant system and will not be disappointed in his production.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,250 and 11
Receiving Yards and TDs: 250 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 228

14. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Fans nearly always clamor for the next phenomenon, and many believe that sophomore RB Derrick Henry is the ensuing Alabama hero. Lets back off the expectations and hyperbole for Henry in 2014. A college star, T.J. Yeldon was the first true freshman in school history to surpass the 1,000-yard hurdle in 2012 and has recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard crusades. During his tenure, he has scored 26 rushing touchdowns, made 31 catches for 314 yards and is a legitimate top-three NFL draft prospect at the position. At 6’2” and 220 pounds, Yeldon’s change of direction talents—anticipation, vision and speed—combined with his astounding pass-protection abilities and screen-game mastery ensure that the electrifying runner remains on the gridiron as often as possible. He easily turns defenders ankles and is a rock-solid veteran competitor on a team in need of leadership without AJ McCarron behind center. While Henry will see action in the backfield, Yeldon could be a bargain for prudent fantasy managers.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,300 and 14
Receiving Yards and TDs: 200 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 240

15. Javorius Allen, USC
New coach Steve Sarkisian is implementing an up-tempo, passing attack in place of the Trojan’s classic I-back formation, which is dogma to the Los Angeles faithful. Nailed to the bench last season under former coach Lane Kiffin, Javorius Allen sparkled once given an opportunity on the gridiron after Athletic Director Pat Haden fired the unpopular Kiffin. The red-shirt junior started the final four games of the season and finished with 785 yards rushing on 135 carries, while scoring 14 times. Allen also made 22 catches for 252 yards and raced for four touchdowns of at least 43 yards. For his tremendous performance, Allen’s teammates voted the formidable runner as USC’s MVP. A game breaker, the Trojan tailback possesses shifty feet, is elusive in one-on-one matchups and hits long-distance homeruns. Allen is well worth an investment on draft day in 2014.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,100 and 11
Receiving Yards and TDs: 450 and 4
Total Fantasy Points: 245

16. Karlos Williams, Florida State
The Seminoles return five seniors—who have made a combined 113 career starts—on the offensive line and will blast open holes for the running game. With Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr. gone, senior Karlos Williams is the next man up for coach Jimbo Fisher in the backfield. Williams began his career as a defensive back and special teamer for the Noles and earned two varsity letters. Last year, the big, fast, physical athlete transitioned to running back and proceeded to produce for the national champions. As a third teamer, he gained 730 yards rushing on only 91 carries, averaging 8.0 yards, and scored 11 touchdowns. With a lean frame and quick feet, Williams does not shy away from contact and puts his shoulder down to punish would-be tacklers. A preseason All-ACC first teamer, Williams will lead Florida State in rushing and scoring during the upcoming campaign, and fantasy fans will enjoy watching him throughout the season.

2014 Projections
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,150 and 14
Receiving Yards and TDs: 100 and 0
Total Fantasy Points: 209

Cum Laude

17. William Stanback, UCF
18. Leonard Fournette, LSU (Sleeper)
19. Malcolm Brown, Texas
20. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State (Sleeper)
21. Kareem Hunt, Toledo
22. Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State
23. Kevin Parks, Virginia
24. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech (Sleeper)
25. Derrick Green, Michigan (Sleeper)
26. David Cobb, Minnesota
27. Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
28. Alex Collins, Arkansas
29. Jahwan Edwards, Ball State
30. Dwayne Washington, Washington
31. Kevin Taylor, Florida
32. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
33. Corey Clement, Wisconsin
34. Venric Mark, Northwestern
35. Barry Sanders, Jr., Stanford

With his Masters in history and professional experience as an educator, John Laub is uniquely qualified to research, analyze and discover new insights and trends in college and professional fantasy football. He truly is The Gridiron Scholar.

Twitter: @GridironSchol91 or e-mail: Audibles@aol.com