Top 80 RBs: 2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings (Updated 8/15)

Sean E. DouglasSenior Writer IIIAugust 15, 2012

Don't hold out too long, MJD!
Don't hold out too long, MJD!US PRESSWIRE

Heading into the second week of the preseason,  there are a couple star running backs in the NFL we need to take a closer look at. Both Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew have the skill set to be top five fantasy options on draft day, but one is moving up the boards while the other is trending downward.


MJD Will Be Worked Back Into Offense

Those of you who follow my work know I’ve been a fan of Rashad Jennings for a few years now. A knee injury cost him the 2011 season, but Jennings was back this spring running with the first team. By the start of training camp new head coach Mike Mularkey singled out Jennings as a standout player through there OTA camps.

Jennings has been the clear-cut No. 1 option in the running back core without Maurice Jones-Drew around and has the talent to be a starter in this league.

In his first preseason action, Jennings looked good, showing a burst on the edge, picking up the hard yards in situations where the Jaguars needed a first down on third-and-one.

Just before their second preseason game, coach Mularkey has now gone on record to tell us Jones-Drew will be worked slowly back into the offense if and when he ends his holdout.

If his holdout ended in the coming weeks, he would probably be first in line for the starting job come Week 1. However, if he should string this out into September, we would see Jennings start.

This makes sense, as we’ve seen running backs such as Chris Johnson struggle with not only conditioning but a new playbook when he returned from his holdout.

At this point, I have Jones-Drew just ahead of Ryan Mathews as a low-end RB1 to high-end RB2. Again, if he should return by next week, he should have enough time to be the starter to open the season but after that, fantasy owners will almost have to treat him like a flex play option until he gets up to speed.

If Jennings should start over Jones-Drew he would hold flex play value to start the year. If Jones-Drew is still in a holdout when the season begins, look to Jennings as a low-end RB2 option weekly.


McFadden Looks Ready For Week 1

Back from his Lisfranc injury, Darren McFadden is the fourth-best tailback on my board for standard and PPR leagues. Based on his performance against the Cowboys, McFadden looks ready to start the season, showing the same burst he had before the injury.

Off to an MVP-like start of the year, McFadden should continue to play close to that level when on the field in 2012.

Clearly a much tougher and stronger runner at this point in his career, McFadden is one of the best running backs in the league. With Michael Bush finally leaving the team, McFadden should see more goal-line touches, but I will be interested to see if Marcel Reece gets some looks at fullback.

After Rice, McCoy and Foster are off the board, fantasy owners will have to choose among options with drawbacks be it health, a long holdout, poor offensive line play, a pending suspension or lack of production from the previous season.

Of those options, go with McFadden; we know what he will do on the field. Just make sure you snag Mike Goodson in the late rounds, assuming he recovers from his injury last week.

2012 Redraft Rankings Top 200 | QB | WR | TE | Cheat Sheets |