Bills tailback Fred jackson (137.6 yards per game in 2011) was on pace for 2,201 total yards last season before breaking his leg in Week 11.
AccuScore, a company that specializes in thorough game simulations, has released its seasonal projections for the 2012 NFL season.
These 27 running backs, based solely on AccuScore projections (not mine), will collect more than 1,000 total yards this season:
(We'll address total touchdowns for running backs sometime in the not-too-distant future.)
1. Arian Foster, Texans—2,170 total yards (1,520 rushing)
2. Ray Rice, Ravens—1,799 total yards (1,145 rushing)
3. Ryan Mathews, Chargers—1,777 total yards (1,250 rushing)
4. LeSean McCoy, Eagles—1,720 total yards (1,259 rushing)
5. Darren McFadden, Raiders—1,697 total yards (1,224 rushing)
6. Matt Forte, Bears—1,643 total yards (1,026 rushing)
7. Trent Richardson, Browns—1,570 total yards (1,142 rushing)
8. Fred Jackson, Bills—1,537 total yards (1,052 rushing)
9. Chris Johnson, Titans—1,530 total yards (1,108 rushing)
10. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs—1,514 total yards (1,124 rushing)
11. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars—1,502 total yards (1,384 rushing)
12. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants—1,437 total yards (1,009 rushing)
13. Steven Jackson, Rams—1,423 total yards (968 rushing)
- I may not agree with AccuScore on everything, but our projections for LeSean McCoy are only 34 yards apart (mine: 1,754 total yards). We also have McCoy (20 TDs last year) finding the end zone 16 or 17 times in 2012.
- Arian Foster is the undisputed tailback king in AccuScore's world, projected for 2,170 total yards and 17.31 touchdowns. As a clincher, it's important to note that Foster has two home clashes with the Colts and Vikings for Weeks 15 and 16—the final two playoff rounds for most fantasy leagues.
- I'll buy AccuScore's projections for Ray Rice, even though it falls short of last year's 2,000-yard threshold. For whatever reason, Rice only tallies 2,000 yards in seasons that end in odd numbers (2009, 2011).
- Both Matt Forte and Fred Jackson garnered robust estimates from AccuScore. If the tailbacks hadn't gotten hurt in 2011, their per-game projections might have led to 1,985 yards (Forte) and 2,201 yards (F-Jax).
- If I was a betting man (like last week in Vegas), I'd buy the "over" for Chris Johnson (1,530 total yards) and Maurice Jones-Drew (1,502), and "under" for rookie Trent Richardson (1,570 yards) and Ryan Mathews (1,777). That aside, I still love Mathews for nearly 1,600 yards and nine TDs this season.
14. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys—1,364 total yards (1,048 rushing)
15. Shonn Greene, Jets—1,349 total yards (1,121 rushing)
16. Adrian Peterson, Vikings—1,327 total yards (1,124 rushing)
17. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks—1,319 total yards (1,089 rushing)
18. Reggie Bush, Dolphins—1,190 total yards (812 rushing)
19. Isaac Redman, Steelers—1,169 total yards (969 rushing)
20. James Starks, Packers—1,160 total yards (829 rushing)
21. Donald Brown, Colts—1,137 total yards (891 rushing)
22. Willis McGahee, Broncos—1,128 total yards (989 rushing)
23. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals—1,091 total yards (990 rushing)
24. Doug Martin, Buccaneers—1,078 total yards (833 rushing)
25. Frank Gore, 49ers—1,060 total yards (812 rushing)
26. Darren Sproles, Saints—1,010 total yards (334 rushing)
27. Michael Turner, Falcons—1,008 total yards (916 rushing)
- Noticeably absent from this list: Jahvid Best, Roy Helu, Beanie Wells, Stevan Ridley, Tim Hightower, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Ben Tate, Mark Ingram, Mikel Leshoure, Michael Bush, LeGarrette Blount, Rashard Mendenhall, Toby Gerhart and C.J. Spiller.
- Bucs rookie Doug Martin (1,554 total yards, 16 TDs in 2011) may, in time, prove to be the perfect back for head coach Greg Schiano's power-rushing attack. For now, Martin will likely split carries with Blount, but one look at Martin's highlight reel indicates his day as Tampa Bay's feature back will come sooner than later.
- If either Williams (971 total yards, seven TDs last year) or Stewart was given a full-time role in the Carolina offense, they'd be reasonable bets for 1,400 total yards and 10 touchdowns (even with Cam Newton siphoning their red-zone opportunities). But in a time-share agreement, where the backs are randomly featured from week to week, their successful partnership simply serves the greater good.
- I can empathize with the low projections for Frank Gore (1,325 total yards, eight TDs in 2011), as things may be a little different this fall. For starters, the 49ers have upgraded the receivers, adding Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins and Randy Moss to the mix. Next up, Gore, Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James might comprise the NFL's best (and only) four-man backfield.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.