Fantasy Football 2012 Week 2: Top 50 Running Backs for the Rest of the Year
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Alfred Morris added one more option to the fantasy running back picture with his strong performance in Week 1 at New Orleans. The scarcity of the position was a serious concern heading into the 2012 season.
It still is.
Like Morris, other runners turned in performances during Week 1 that dramatically changed the landscape of desirable fantasy running backs.
Call it overreacting if you want, but if Adrian Peterson is playing 16 games this year and gets the work that he had in Week 1 (17 carries, one catch), then he’s worth at least a second-round pick in standard leagues.
You’re looking at 250-plus carries if Week 1’s opportunities represent an average day at the office for Peterson in 2012.
Conversely, there are guys who were colossal disappointments in Week 1 like Chris Johnson and DeAngelo Williams. It’s tough not to overreact to a pair of featured backs combining for three rushing yards.
But that’s exactly what a lot of fantasy owners are going to do. Especially those that started guys who fell short of expectations.
The following list is not a ranking of running backs in order of how I would prefer to start them in Week 2.
Rather, the following list is a representation of how much I value them going forward for the rest of the season.
It can be used as a loose trading guideline or as a list of suggestions on who to add/drop in standard-scoring leagues.
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2. Arian Foster, Houston Texans (Preseason: 2): Two touchdowns in Week 1. 26 carries. Obviously, the job is his.
3. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (Preseason: 7): Didn’t get a whole lot of carries in the first game. But he did see 18 targets and should be at or near the top of this list as long as he is healthy.
4. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens (Preseason: 3): Rice found the end zone on two of his 10 carries in Week 1. That ratio won’t continue, but it’s through no fault of Rice’s that he dropped a spot in the year-to-end ranks.
The Ravens have transitioned into a more passing-oriented attack while McFadden is still the focal point of the Raiders offense. And I’m not going to predict injury for McFadden.
5. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (Preseason: 5): I’m not going to predict injury for Murray, either. And as long as the Cowboys will feed him the ball 20-plus times, he’s going to remain an elite fantasy running back.
Six Through 10
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6. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (Preseason: 12): Peterson is not 100 percent, and he still came out Week 1 with two rushing touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
7. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Preseason: 18): Martin vaults 11 spots since the preseason rankings with his strong showing against the Carolina Panthers. The Bucs showed that they are not afraid to use him frequently.
Martin got 24 carries in his first NFL game and looked good with how he handled them. He could be a great buy-low candidate.
8. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars (Preseason: 11): MJD returned from his holdout and got his job back because of injury to Rashad Jennings. He was likely going to win it back in the long run anyway, but with the process being sped up, he returns to being a top-10 fantasy running back.
9. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans (Preseason: 4): Johnson struggled in Week 1 against the Patriots on limited carries. If he has problems in Week 2 as well, he will continue to drop down this list. But it would be a good idea to wait on trading him.
10. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (Preseason: 8): Lynch played in the Seahawks’ first game, and if he continues to get the workload to which he is accustomed, a top-10 status should not be difficult to maintain.
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11. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (Preseason: 6): Jackson got leap-frogged by a few running backs with questionable situations. Until the Rams offense improves, it will be hard for Jackson to get back into the top 10.
Jackson registered 21 carries in Week 1, but they were only converted into 53 rushing yards. His workload should not diminish, however, so he remains near the top of the list.
12. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills (Preseason: 25): The injury to Fred Jackson thrust Spiller back into the featured back role for the Bills. He answered in Week 1 with a 12 yards-per-carry average. The guy’s pretty good.
Spiller is the top-scoring running back in standard leagues thus far, but you don’t get his points from last week by trading for him now. The uncertainty surrounding Jackson’s return keeps Spiller from being even higher.
13. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots (Preseason: 52): Speaking of uncertainty, Ridley made the Patriots’ backfield situation a little clearer.
14. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (Preseason: 10): Charles had a strong start to the season in his return from an ACL tear.
15. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (Preseason: 22): The Giants want to throw the ball. There are still enough carries to go around for Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson, but Bradshaw will find himself in a featured position if Wilson continues to fumble the football.
16 Through 20
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16. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals (Preseason: 21): Green-Ellis put up a five-yards-per-carry average against the celebrated Baltimore Ravens defense in Week 1. A touchdown on top of 91 yards rushing is legitimate production.
17. Michael Bush, Chicago Bears (Preseason: 40): The injury to Matt Forte puts Michael Bush in a similar position to that of C.J. Spiller. Bush has shown the capability to handle the starter’s duties at running back, but he has less of a chance to take control of the starting job from Forte than Spiller does from Fred Jackson.
18. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (Preseason: 13): Richardson got work in Week 1, but mustered just over two yards per carry against the Philadelphia Eagles. If the Browns offense continues to struggle, he’ll have difficulties compiling statistics.
19. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (Preseason: unranked): Morris’ breakout came after the preseason when running back rankings were released. Since then, he’s taken a stranglehold of the starter’s job in Washington to the tune of 96 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1.
He currently leads the NFL in carries per game with 28. (Cedric Benson has 29 in two games.) But there’s still uncertainty with Morris. Until it’s proven that Morris is the lead back for the Redskins’ season rather than just their first game, he can’t be higher on this list.
20. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (Preseason: 19): Gore came out strong in his first game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. But he isn’t catching the ball out of the backfield like he used to.
21 Through 30
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21. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (Preseason: 20): Remains to be seen when he’ll return to the game field.
22. Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins (Preseason: 17): Bright spot for the Dolphins.
23. Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints (Preseason: 15): Scored in Week 1, but got zero carries.
24. Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts (Preseason: 23): Saw just nine touches in Week 1. The Colts need to get him the ball a bit more to keep defenses honest.
25. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions (Preseason: 49): Scored twice in Week 1 and will have the job to himself in Week 2 at San Francisco, but Mikel Leshoure will return to the team following his suspension after that game.
26. Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (Preseason: 26): Had 16 carries in Week 1 and averaged four yards per against the Steelers in Denver.
27. Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals (Preseason: 33): If the Cardinals’ rushing game continues to struggle while being led by Beanie Wells, Williams will take the keys sooner rather than later.
28. Shonn Greene, New York Jets (Preseason: 30): Collected 94 yards and a touchdown in the Jets’ blowout of the Buffalo Bills. Needed 27 carries to do it.
29. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (Preseason: 24): Should play in Week 2. The Panthers' running game was completely stifled without him in Week 1.
30. Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons (Preseason: 46): Should ascend to the starting job in 2012, or at least see the field more often. The offense used to be built around Michael Turner, but Rodgers fits more favorably into the Falcons’ new pass-happy scheme.
31 Through 40
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31. Ben Tate, Houston Texans (Preseason: 29): Had five carries and three catches (on three targets) while Arian Foster dominated the ball in Week 1. Should definitely be a priority for the Arian Foster owner.
32. Cedric Benson, Green Bay Packers (Preseason: 45): He’s already played his Week 2 game and has been outscored on the season by the performances of 14 different running backs in Week 1.
33. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (Preseason: 9): Uncertainty surrounding his Thursday night injury causes Forte to tumble just like Michael Bush jumped up the ranks. I wouldn’t trade him straight up for Jacquizz Rodgers because I don’t have to.
Forte’s still got the name recognition to get added value in a trade. He can’t help your fantasy team while he is on the sideline, which is why he is so far down my year-to-end ranks. He will rise as his return to the field nears.
34. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (Preseason: 14): See Matt Forte, C.J. Spiller.
35. Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers (Preseason: unranked): Dwyer has the potential to produce a couple of nice games while Rashard Mendenhall is on the mend.
36. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers (Preseason: 28): Had nowhere to run in Week 1, but the stat sheet is unforgiving.
37. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons (Preseason: 16): See Jacquizz Rodgers.
38. Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals (Preseason: 43): See Ryan Williams.
39. Ronnie Brown, San Diego Chargers (Preseason: 47): Should have another start or two before Mathews returns, but didn’t do a lot with it in Week 1.
40. David Wilson, New York Giants (Preseason: 39): Wilson is going to tumble if he continues to be frozen out of touches in the Giants offense. But he has the potential to rise up this list as well.
41 Through 50
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41. Mikel Leshoure, Detroit Lions (Preseason: 36): Will be out Week 2, but it’s a matchup with the 49ers anyway. Should return to the team for its Week 3 contest.
42. Peyton Hills, Kansas City Chiefs (Preseason: 32): Lost out in the touches battle to Jamaal Charles, 16 to 10 in Week 1. Should have better weeks in games where the Chiefs are competitive.
43. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Preseason: 35): It’s probably still going to be his job in Pittsburgh when he’s ready to take it.
44. Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings (Preseason: 27): So much for putting together a string of solid starts at the beginning of the NFL season while Adrian Peterson gets severely limited touches.
45. Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks (Preseason: unranked): Should still be owned by the Marshawn Lynch owner. Or anybody that dislikes the Marshawn Lynch owner.
46. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos (Preseason: unranked): Got a red-zone carry in Week 1 and cashed it in with a touchdown.
47. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (Preseason: 37): Limited opportunities in the Saints offense.
48. LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Preseason: 34): Clearly a backup in Tampa, but he leaped over another player in Week 1.
49. Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers (Preseason: 49): Likely to be off this list as soon as Mendenhall returns. He looks to have been jumped by Dwyer in the running back pecking order for the Steelers.
50. Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers (Preseason: 60): May find himself with even fewer touches as soon as Jonathan Stewart returns. Only had three catches and a carry in Week 1.