Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 50 Running Backs for Week 1

Kevin HansonAnalyst IIISeptember 5, 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

Going into the fantasy football draft season, there were a lot of question marks (injuries, contract disputes, off-the-field issues, etc.) at running back beyond the big three backs of Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy.

As we begin the regular season, there are plenty of concerns about players that were drafted to be a starting running back in your fantasy league.

When fully healthy, you could argue that Minnesota's Adrian Peterson is the best fantasy running back in the NFL. But he's not fully healthy, as he returns (or may not) in Week 1 from the ACL injury that ended his 2011 season.

Peterson did not play in the preseason and coach Leslie Frazier has described Peterson as a game-time decision for Sunday's matchup against the Jaguars. If he does play, it's likely that the Vikings will limit Peterson's touches to protect their $100 million investment.

If faced with a choice between Toby Gerhart and Peterson in Week 1, I'd prefer to go with Gerhart, who should get a larger share of the workload this week.

While the Vikings have decisions to make about their rushing attack, so does their opponent.

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, last year's rushing champion, ended his holdout over Labor Day weekend, but coach Mike Mularkey has kept his word, saying that Rashad Jennings would get the start. MJD is expected to be used in a third-down role only a few days after he returned to the Jags.

Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson, perhaps the best running back prospect since Peterson, has had two arthroscopic knee surgeries this offseason, including the latest last month.

He has looked good in his return to practice, and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer wrote earlier in the week that Richardson "looked fluid and quick taking handoffs" and "completely healthy catching passes and running around with the ball."

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was arrested earlier this offseason for DUI. It wasn't his first run-in with the law, as Lynch was suspended by the league for three games a few seasons ago and may be facing another one down the line.

That said, it might be Lynch's back that keeps him out of the lineup in Week 1. ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that his status for Week 1 is "uncertain" against the Cardinals due to back spasms. If he misses the game, rookie Robert Turbin would be a potential top-20 fantasy running back for the week.

Considering the Seahawks have a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff, it would make sense for fantasy owners to go in a different direction when setting their fantasy lineups if they don't own both Lynch and Turbin unless Lynch's status is resolved before the 1 p.m. start times.

Although San Diego's Ryan Mathews returned to practice earlier in the week, it seems unlikely that he will suit up on Monday night against the Raiders as he tries to return from a broken clavicle.

With Mathews expected to miss this week's game, Ronnie Brown becomes a solid flex play for Week 1.

Here are my fantasy running back rankings for Week 1:

1. LeSean McCoy, Eagles (at CLE)
2. Arian Foster, Texans (vs MIA)
3. Ray Rice, Ravens (vs CIN)
4. Darren McFadden, Raiders (vs SD)
5. Matt Forte, Bears (vs IND)
6. Chris Johnson, Titans (vs NE)
7. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys (at NYG)
8. Doug Martin, Buccaneers (vs CAR)
9. Steven Jackson, Rams (at DET)
10. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers (at TB)
11. Fred Jackson, Bills (at NYJ)
12. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (vs DAL)
13. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (vs ATL)
14. Michael Turner, Falcons (at KC)
15. Kevin Smith, Lions (vs STL)
16. Frank Gore, 49ers (at GB)
17. Darren Sproles, Saints (vs WAS)
18. Reggie Bush, Dolphins (at HOU)
19. Trent Richardson, Browns (vs PHI)
20. Toby Gerhart, Vikings (vs JAX)
21. Peyton Hillis, Chiefs (vs ATL)
22. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks (at ARI)
23. Rashad Jennings, Jaguars (at MIN)
24. Stevan Ridley, Patriots (at TEN)
25. Mark Ingram, Saints (vs WAS)
26. Shonn Greene, Jets (vs BUF)
27. Willis McGahee, Broncos (vs PIT)
28. Donald Brown, Colts (at CHI)
29. Ronnie Brown, Chargers (at OAK)
30. Robert Turbin, Seahawks (at ARI)
31. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (vs JAX)
32. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals (at BAL)
33. Beanie Wells, Cardinals (vs SEA)
34. Ryan Williams, Cardinals (vs SEA)
35. Cedric Benson, Packers (vs SF)
36. David Wilson, Giants (vs DAL)
37. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (at MIN)
38. Isaac Redman, Steelers (at DEN)
39. Ben Tate, Texans (vs MIA)
40. Michael Bush, Bears (vs IND)
41. C.J. Spiller, Bills (at NYJ)
42. Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers (at DEN)
43. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (at TB)
44. Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons (at KC)
45. Pierre Thomas, Saints (vs WAS)
46. Keiland Williams, Lions (vs STL)
47. Evan Royster, Redskins (at NO)
48. Roy Helu, Redskins (at NO)
49. Alfred Morris, Redskins (at NO)
50. LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers (vs CAR)

Also, check out: