Fantasy Football 2012: Arian Foster Leads Tailback Tiers

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterAugust 13, 2012

Houston's Arian Foster, a consensus top-3 pick in all fantasy drafts, has accounted for 4,061 total yards and 30 touchdowns in the last two seasons. (US PRESSWIRE)
Houston's Arian Foster, a consensus top-3 pick in all fantasy drafts, has accounted for 4,061 total yards and 30 touchdowns in the last two seasons. (US PRESSWIRE)

Here are my six classifications of running back tiers for standard-scoring leagues (as of Aug. 13).

It's worth noting that Ryan Mathews (broken collarbone) and Trent Richardson (knee scope) were part of the first and second tiers before their respective injuries last week.

In other words, this listing shall remain fluid throughout the preseason.


Tier 1 (1,500 Total Yards and/or 13 TD)



Tier 2 (1,300 Total Yards and/or 11 TD)



Tier 3 (1,150 Total Yards and/or 10 TD)

  • Ryan Mathews
  • Willis McGahee
  • Shonn Greene
  • Trent Richardson
  • Darren Sproles
  • Reggie Bush
  • Doug Martin
  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis
  • Isaac Redman
  • Jonathan Stewart
  • C.J. Spiller
  • Beanie Wells
  • Stevan Ridley


Tier 4 (950 Total Yards and/or 8 TD)

  • Michael Bush
  • Ryan Williams
  • Toby Gerhart
  • DeAngelo Williams
  • Mikel Leshoure
  • Donald Brown
  • Mark Ingram
  • Ben Tate
  • Peyton Hillis
  • James Starks
  • Montario Hardesty


Tier 5 (800 Total Yards and/or 6 TD)

  • LeGarrette Blount
  • Daniel Thomas
  • Felix Jones
  • Shane Vereen
  • Jahvid Best
  • Kevin Smith
  • Mike Tolbert
  • Rashad Jennings
  • Cedric Benson
  • David Wilson
  • Ronnie Hillman
  • Evan Royster
  • Kendall Hunter
  • Ronnie Brown
  • Pierre Thomas


Tier 6 (500 Total Yards and/or 4 TD)

  • Tim Hightower
  • Robert Turbin
  • Isaiah Pead
  • Alex Green
  • Joe McKnight
  • Jonathan Dwyer
  • D.J. Ware
  • Brandon Jacobs
  • Javon Ringer
  • Dexter McCluster
  • Curtis Brinkley
  • Bernard Scott
  • Delone Carter
  • Jacquizz Rodgers
  • Dion Lewis
  • Bernard Pierce
  • Mike Goodson
  • Rashard Mendenhall
  • Knowshon Moreno



Chris Johnson

Most fantasy owners would throw a parade for a running back with 1,465 total yards, but that was hardly the case with Chris Johnson's 2011 campaign. From his August holdout and September slump to the four total touchdowns, it was a turbulent season full of sound and fury, but ultimately signifying nothing.

Still, the year was not a total loss. Johnson posted seven games of 100 total yards or more. He also recorded career highs in targets (79) and receptions (57).


Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch recorded career highs in rushing yards (1,204), total yards (1,416), carries (285), touches (313) and total scores (13) in 2011—on the strength of only one game of 30-plus touches. That tells me the 26-year-old Lynch has the potential for yet another leap in his fantasy development this season, complementing the Seahawks' savvy offseason signing of QB Matt Flynn. Of course, he runs the risk of dropping a tier if the NFL should suspend him for a recent DUI arrest.


DeMarco Murray

From Weeks 7-12 last year (a six-game span), Cowboys tailback DeMarco Murray amassed 915 total yards and two touchdowns. If he had finished the season with that stellar run, he'd be an easy Tier I selection here. Still, there's no shame in the next rung of 1,300 yards and/or 11 touchdowns.


Roy Helu

Washington's Roy Helu corralled 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. And for the record, I'm not worried about Evan Royster or Tim Hightower supplanting him as the Redskins' No. 1 tailback for a large chunk of the season.


DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart

If either DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart were 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 or Mike Tolbert 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.


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