Quarterback might the most important position in the NFL, but running back is the most important position in fantasy football.
If you have no running backs, then you have no chance of winning your fantasy league. That is why the first rounds of fantasy drafts are usually dominated by running backs, with only one or two quarterbacks and receivers getting taken that high.
Here are the top 25 running backs in fantasy football heading into the 2009 season.
1. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
Peterson's not only the No. 1 running back, but he's hands down the No. 1 pick overall in fantasy football.
And if 800-year-old Brett Favre can make defenses back off the line, Peterson will be even better.
2. Matt Forte (Chicago Bears)
He only averaged over 100 total yards per game and scored 12 touchdowns during his rookie season.
Yup, that’s all.
That was with defenses totally focused on him because he was Chicago’s only weapon, too. That is not the case anymore, thanks to Jay Cutler.
3. Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons)
The "Burner" blazed for 1,699 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in his first season as a full-time starter.
It would be nice if he did not have hands of stone, though, as he had just eight receptions in 2008.
4. DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers)
Williams was fantasy football’s MVP during the second half of the 2008 season with 1,101 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in Carolina’s last nine games.
5. Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams)
Despite having the worst and most-injured offensive line "blocking" for him, Jackson still averaged more total yards per game last season than the four backs ahead of him on this list.
6. Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars)
No more sharing carries with Fred Taylor might mean 1,600 total yards and 15 touchdowns for fantasy football’s favorite three-named bowling ball of a back.
7. Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans)
He has Olympic sprinter speed, plays behind an above-average offensive line, and is the featured back in a run-first offense.
You cannot ask for more.
8. Steve Slaton (Houston Texans)
Thought of as more of a change-of-pace, third-down specialty back coming out of college, Slaton destroyed all expectations with 1,659 combined yards and 10 touchdowns in his rookie year.
9. Brandon Jacobs (New York Giants)
This superhuman with the body of a linebacker but the speed of a receiver should get a couple more carries now that Derrick Ward is no longer in the picture.
10. Frank Gore, (San Francisco 49ers)
A more conservative offense should translate into more touches for the multi-dimensional Gore, although rookie Glen Coffee is pushing him for playing time with his outstanding preseason.
11. Brian Westbrook, (Philadelphia Eagles)
He is still the best pass-catching running back in the game, but he has had his knee drained more times than I have had my toilet drained, so to say he is an injury risk is an understatement.
12. Clinton Portis, (Washington Redskins)
Luckily for Portis and his fantasy owners, Washington head coach Jim Zorn does not utilize Ladell Betts as much as Joe Gibbs did.
13. LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers)
Two straight seasons of declining numbers suggest the tread left on L.T.’s tires is thinner than an Olsen twin.
14. Kevin Smith (Detroit Lions)
Smith galloped under many radars during his rookie campaign.
If he can amass 1,282 total yards and eight scores on a winless team, imagine what he can do if Detroit goes 4-12.
15. Ryan Grant (Green Bay Packers)
A hamstring injury and limited work in the preseason killed his production during the first month of 2008, yet he rebounded nicely to still finish with over 1,200 rushing yards.
16. Reggie Bush (New Orleans Saints)
Bush can score from anywhere on the field via rushing, receiving or returning, but his injuries and inconsistency have still made him one of the most overrated players in the NFL.
17. Ronnie Brown (Miami Dolphins)
The "Wildcat" offense helped boost his fantasy numbers last season, but he will no longer be running it now that rookie quarterback Pat White is in the fold.
18. Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos)
Moreno should be the leading contender for Rookie of the Year, but a preseason knee injury will have him playing catch-up for the first few weeks.
He is not to be confused with Keyshawn Johnson or Moses Moreno.
19. Marion Barber (Dallas Cowboys)
You get the feeling that super-speedy sophomore sensation Felix Jones is going to get more touches at Barber’s expense.
20. Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo Bills)
Being suspended for the first three games of the season puts a dent in one’s fantasy value.
21. Pierre Thomas (New Orleans Saints)
Thomas singlehandedly shipped Deuce McAllister out of New Orleans after his scintillating second half of the 2008 season.
22. Thomas Jones (New York Jets)
Jones will be hard-pressed to duplicate the 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns he had last season if new coach Rex Ryan employs a three-pronged rushing attack with Jones, Leon Washington, and first-year bruiser Shonn Greene.
23. Darren McFadden, Raiders
No kicker or punter had more toe problems than McFadden had during his rookie season, so let’s hope his fleet feet are protected by Dr. Scholl so he can score some long touchdowns.
24. Larry Johnson (Kansas City Chiefs)
It's a new season with a new offense, with a new lease on life, and hopefully no more spitting incidents that get him suspended.
25. Beanie Wells (Arizona Cardinals)
Wells has been looking like a world beater in the preseason, and it is not like the NFC West is loaded with stingy run defenses.
Next column: Running backs 26-50.