Fantasy Football 2012: Top 60 Running Backs in Points-Per-Reception Leagues

Jay Clemons@ATL_JayClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterAugust 7, 2012

Ravens running back Ray Rice (2,068 total yards, 15 TD last season) has never crossed the 2,000-yard threshold in an even-numbered year.
Ravens running back Ray Rice (2,068 total yards, 15 TD last season) has never crossed the 2,000-yard threshold in an even-numbered year.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Here's my current listing of the top 60 running backs in Points Per Reception leagues.

This countdown will likely undergo a few changes before September, but right now, it's a reasonably accurate profile of my preseason rationale.

For an in-depth look at my top 40 tailbacks (standard-scoring rules), click here.

1. Ray Rice, Ravens
2. Arian Foster, Texans
3. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
5. Chris Johnson, Titans
6. Matt Forte, Bears
7. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
8. Darren McFadden, Raiders
9. Fred Jackson, Bills
10. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
11. Steven Jackson, Rams
12. Darren Sproles, Saints
13. Roy Helu, Redskins
14. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
15. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
16. Frank Gore, 49ers
17. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
18. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
19. Reggie Bush, Dolphins
20. Trent Richardson, Browns
21. C.J. Spiller, Bills
22. Shonn Greene, Jets
23. Doug Martin, Buccaneers
24. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
25. Michael Turner, Falcons
26. Jahvid Best, Lions
27. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
28. James Starks, Packers
29. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
30. Isaac Redman, Steelers

Breakdown of Nos. 1-30

**The five leading running backs in combined targets from 2010/11: Ray Rice (186), Darren Sproles (186), LeSean McCoy (159), Arian Foster (156) and Matt Forte (146).

**In his four pro seasons, Ray Rice has developed a pattern of 2,000 total yards and 70-plus catches in odd-numbered years, with totals short of that in even-numbered ones. Using that convoluted logic, Rice likely won't become just the 10th running back in NFL history to cross the 2,000-yard threshold in consecutive years this season.

**Of the top eight tailbacks in this countdown, Forte (1,487 total yards, 4 TD) is the only one who endured a four-game stretch without 100 total yards last year. Normally, that wouldn't be such a deal-breaker, but we're talking about Forte—and his 7.1 TDs per season. Bottom line: Forte (who flirted with 2,000 total yards before a knee injury) is a Round 1 lock in PPR drafts.

**Fred Jackson was the AFC's leading rusher at the time of his season-ending injury, a setback that helped perpetuate the Bills' late slide in 2011. In 10 games last season, Jackson averaged 137.6 total yards.

**On the flip side, C.J. Spiller tallied 563 total yards, five touchdowns and an NFL-high 32 targets from Weeks 13-17 last season.

**From Weeks 7-12 last year (a six-game span), DeMarco Murray amassed 915 total yards and two touchdowns. If he had finished the season with that stellar run, he'd be a top-10 pick in August.

**Roy Helu squeezed 1,019 total yards and three touchdowns out of only 200 touches (5.1 yards per touch); with 50 to 60 more touches—an ultra-conservative estimate for a high-end back—that's 1,300 easy yards. But to gain the ultimate respect in his second season, Helu must be a force around the goal line. Let's just hope the extra touches entails a bump in red-zone opportunities.

**Reggie Bush (1,382 total yards, 7 TD) garners a strong ranking for two reasons: four straight 100-yard rushing games (519 yards total) to close out the season...and the Dolphins have no big-time receiving options to steal the spotlight from Bush and No. 2 back Daniel Thomas. But then again, perhaps Bush should be downgraded for having no other Miami stars to distract opposing defenses. It's important to remember that 2011 was Bush's first 1,000-yard rushing campaign. He only had two outings of 50-plus receiving yards, as well.

31. Toby Gerhart, Vikings
32. Pierre Thomas, Saints
33. Peyton Hillis, Chiefs
34. Donald Brown, Colts
35. Stevan Ridley, Patriots
36. Willis McGahee, Broncos
37. Ben Tate, Texans
38. Evan Royster, Redskins
39. Tim Hightower, Redskins
40. Mikel Leshoure, Lions
41. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
42. Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
43. Michael Bush, Bears
44. Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons
45. Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
46. Ryan Williams, Cardinals
47. Mark Ingram, Saints
48. Rashad Jennings, Jaguars
49. Felix Jones, Cowboys
50. Isaiah Pead, Rams
51. Mike Tolbert, Panthers
52. Kendall Hunter, 49ers
53. LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
54. Alex Green, Packers
55. David Wilson, Giants
56. Kevin Smith, Lions
57. Montario Hardesty, Browns
58. Robert Turbin, Seahawks
59. Dion Lewis, Eagles
60. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs

Breakdown of Nos. 31-60 

**If Adrian Peterson had never suffered a devastating knee injury (torn ACL in Week 16), Toby Gerhart (per-game averages of 96.8 total yards, two TDs in 10-touch games last year) likely wouldn't have accrued enough touches to be known as an elite handcuff. By extension, Peterson (1,109 total yards, 13 TDs in 12 games last year) would be classified as a "workhorse" back in fantasy circles and would be an easy top-five selection during the August drafts (standard-scoring).

**Instead, he'll have to share the limelight with Gerhart while recovering from an injury that will likely bump him into the 31-to-40 range on draft day.

**The fantasy optimist would point to Ben Tate collecting 1,000 total yards in a season where Arian Foster played 13 games. The fantasy pessimist would remind prospective owners that Tate eclipsed 100 total yards only once after Week 9 last year, and in the season's biggest game, a loss to the Baltimore in the AFC divisional playoffs, Tate had zero carries, zero catches and zero yards.

**For me, Tate's 2012 fate probably lies somewhere in the middle. If Foster (1,841 total yards, 12 TDs) is healthy all season, then Tate just isn't a strong candidate for 1,000 total yards. But in games where Foster gets shelved due to injury or fatigue, Tate is a reasonable weekly bet for 90 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns.

**Mikel Leshoure's decent ranking is an equal acknowledgement of his immense potential (1,893 total yards, 20 TDs with the University of Illinois in 2010) and the tenuous prospects of Jahvid Best getting on the field...and staying on the field in Detroit.

**Even if Best remains healthy and concussion-free for the entire 2012 campaign, Leshoure—the single-game rushing record-holder at Wrigley Field (college or pro)—is still a good candidate for eight touchdowns in his de facto rookie season.

**Regardless of how Steven Jackson fits into each puzzle, I will prioritize Rams backup Isaiah Pead in the latter rounds of all standard-scoring and PPR drafts. His running style, physical upside and track record at the University of Cincinnati (1,578 total yards, 15 TD in 2011) hold great appeal to me. Fingers crossed on Pead sliding down to the 16th round.

Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.


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