Fantasy Football 2012 Week 1 Rankings: Top 40 Running Backs

Eric StashinSenior Writer ISeptember 2, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Which running backs do we expect to get off to a strong start?  Who faces a difficult matchup?  Whose health brings question to their potential value?

 Let’s answer all these questions as we look at our Week 1 Fantasy Football rankings:

  1. LeSean McCoy—Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland
  2. Ray Rice—Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati
  3. Arian Foster—Houston Texans vs. Miami
  4. Darren McFaddenOakland Raiders vs. San Diego
  5. Matt ForteChicago Bears vs. Indianapolis
  6. Doug Martin—Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina
  7. Marshawn Lynch—Seattle Seahawks at Arizona
  8. Chris Johnson—Tennessee Titans vs. New England
  9. Kevin Smith—Detroit Lions vs. St. Louis
  10. DeMarco Murray—Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
  11. Fred Jackson—Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
  12. Steven Jackson—St. Louis Rams at Detroit
  13. Rashad Jennings—Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota
  14. Ahmad Bradshaw—New York Giants vs. Dallas
  15. Frank GoreSan Francisco 49ers at Green Bay
  16. Jamaal Charles—Kansas City Chiefs vs. Atlanta
  17. Michael Turner—Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City
  18. Adrian PetersonMinnesota Vikings vs. Jacksonville
  19. Trent Richardson—Cleveland Browns vs. Philadelphia
  20. Willis McGahee—Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh
  21. Jonathan Stewart—Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay
  22. Stevan Ridley—New England Patriots at Tennessee
  23. Shonn Greene—New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills
  24. Reggie BushMiami Dolphins at Houston
  25. Darren Sproles—New Orleans Saints vs. Washington
  26. Peyton Hillis—Kansas City Chiefs vs. Atlanta
  27. DeAngelo Williams—Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay
  28. Donald Brown—Indianapolis Colts at Chicago
  29. Beanie Wells—Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle
  30. Isaac Redman—Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver
  31. Toby Gerhart—Minnesota Vikings vs. Jacksonville
  32. BenJarvus Green-Ellis—Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore
  33. Cedric Benson—Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco
  34. David Wilson—New York Giants vs. Dallas
  35. Ryan Williams—Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle
  36. Ben Tate—Houston Texans vs. Miami
  37. Mark Ingram—New Orleans Saints vs. Washington
  38. Ronnie Brown—San Diego Chargers at Oakland
  39. Roy Helu—Washington Redskins at New Orleans
  40. Evan Royster—Washington Redskins at New Orleans


Last season the Miami Dolphins defense allowed just eight rushing TDs (tied for the third fewest).  Yes, it’s a new season and, yes, I would expect Arian Foster to still put up very good numbers for the opening week.  However, it’s hard to project him as the top option given the matchup.

Mikel Leshoure is out…Jahvid Best is out…As long as Kevin Smith is healthy (and all reports are that he is), he should be in line for a big day against a St. Louis Rams defense that allowed 152.1 rushing yards per game in 2011 as well 17 TDs.  While we all know he’s a risk given his injury concerns, if you need a one week fill-in, he’s a pretty good bet.

Chris Johnson has looked bad in the preseason, hurting his stock.  Plus, wouldn’t you think that there’s a good chance the Titans are playing from behind early?  That could mean fewer rushing attempts in Week 1.  I would still consider him a RB1, as he should play a factor in the passing game, but he’s not a top-5 option this week.

Doug Martin has won lead back duties, and while it’s impossible to think LeGarrette Blount isn’t going to play a role, Martin should be in store for a solid NFL debut against a Panthers defense that was subpar against the run in 2011.  While the passing game in Tampa Bay should be improved this season, Martin could very well be the key to the offense.

How healthy is Adrian Peterson?  How often is he going to get the ball early on this season?  The answer to those questions will determine his value.  Until we have a better idea, you’d be best suited to consider him a RB2.

In Fred Jackson’s only game against the Jets in 2011, he posted 120 total yards (82 rushing and 38 receiving).  Yes, New York’s defense should be good, but don’t shy away from Jackson.

I don’t believe that Michael Turner is going to have a good season overall.  Between his age and the shift to a more pass-oriented attack (wouldn’t you if you had Roddy White and Julio Jones), you have to think that Turner is likely going to be limited this season.  That said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get off to a good start against the Chiefs.  Consider him a mid-level RB2 for this week, but it likely won’t be that way normally.

We’ll have to track the injury status of Jonathan Stewart and Trent Richardson before settling in on their final spot on these rankings.  Stewart is a more curious case, given the Panthers' depth in the backfield.  Even if he plays, they could easily just spread the carries around instead of depending on him.  If he were the lead back, he would be a top-15 option.  Instead, he’s more of a low-end RB2/FLEX play because of the uncertainty at this point.

There has been a lot of talk of late about Jonathan Dwyer significantly eating into the carries of Isaac Redman.  Time will tell, but those whispers definitely suppress Redman’s value for this week.

Cedric Benson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are going to have value most weeks, but they both draw incredibly difficult matchups in Week 1.  They are FLEX plays for this week, at best.

Roy Helu or Evan Royster??  Anyone?  Anyone?  It’s tough to count on either one right now.

Make sure to check out the rest of our Week 1 rankings:

Top 25 Quarterbacks

Haven’t drafted yet? Make sure to check out our 2012 preseason fantasy football rankings:

Top 30 Quarterbacks

Top 40 Running Backs

Top 50 Wide Receivers

Top 25 Tight Ends


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