Fantasy Football Rankings 2012: Top 5 RBs to Build Team Around
This slideshow is going to eliminate the fear involved with picking a fantasy running back.
Having a great RB is the backbone of a fantasy team, but projecting ball-carriers from season to season is risky business. Age, injuries, team performance, changes in offensive line or schemes, all leave a running back vulnerable to falling off the production map.
Here are five that have nothing standing in the way between them and a stellar fantasy season.
No. 5: Ryan Mathews
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Ryan Mathews made huge strides in his sophomore effort last season after disappointing in his rookie year as he struggled to hold onto the ball.
Last season, he went for 1,091 rushing yards with six TDs at 4.9 yards per carry, and added 455 receiving yards on 50 catches.
Mathews reportedly showed up to camp in "great shape," which is a good thing because he is going to get a ton of work this season. He had been splitting carries with Mike Tolbert, but Tolbert is no longer in San Diego.
The only concern with Mathews is his health. This guy can't stay healthy, and likely won't this year, but as long as he avoids a big injury, he is going to put up big numbers.
No. 4: Chris Johnson
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Ah, the enigma that is CJ2K. Johnson was one of the huge fantasy busts last season, and there were games where it looked like he was barely trying. This would be enough to leave him off a squad this season, except, Johnson is in camp and looking good.
It's not like Johnson was slowed by age last year—he is just 26—and even with all his struggles, he still ended the year with 1,047 rushing yards and 418 receiving yards on 57 receptions.
The Titans also added guard Steve Hutchinson to help open up holes for Johnson, and you better believe this franchise will ride him for all he's worth.
Johnson is going to have a bounce-back year, and he should be a relative bargain in drafts.
No. 3: LeSean McCoy
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After going for 1,309 rushing yards, 315 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns in 2011, McCoy is likely going to be overdrafted this year. He simply can't reproduce those numbers.
He only had nine touchdowns the previous season and four in the season before that, and it's not just his huge jump in TDs that is alarming, but that kind of production is just difficult to reproduce. Especially in the brutal world of a running back.
All of that said, McCoy is still going to be very productive. He is astonishingly talented, and the Eagles have nice pieces in place around him.
No. 2: Ray Rice
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In a points-per-reception league, Ray Rice merits consideration for being the first back taken, and in any kind of league, the guy is going to be a stud.
Earlier in the offseason, Rice got the long-term deal he's been looking for, so he will enter this year happy and with a full dose of training camp and preseason.
Rice just might be the surest bet out there. He is just 25, has played a full 16 games in all but his rookie year, has never been overloaded with carries and is the focal point of his offense on what figures to be a winning team.
The other great thing about Rice is that he is such a huge threat catching the ball. Last season, he had 704 receiving yards on 76 catches.
No. 1: Arian Foster
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Arian Foster has had a brilliant past two seasons, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. The Texans did a little reshaping of their offensive line, but not enough that anyone should be worried about Foster not having holes to hit.
Besides, he can always supplement his running numbers with his receiving skills. Foster has gone for over 600 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons.
There is the legitimate concern that backup Ben Tate will cut into his carries, but this is only going to be done enough to help keep Foster fresh, which will in turn keep him consistent and productive all year.
This is a low-risk, high-reward pick.