The post-draft quarterback rankings are in, so let’s move on to the running backs, the meat of any fantasy football roster.
With the rookie running back crop being weaker than normal, and only one of the top four backs guaranteed a major role in 2010, the NFL Draft didn’t significantly alter the fantasy landscape for next year.
The biggest developments since my initial rankings , published in early-March, were as follows:
- Ryan Mathews drafted by the Chargers
- C.J. Spiller drafted by the Bills
- Jahvid Best drafted by the Lions
- Ben Tate drafted by the Texans
- LenDale White and Leon Washington traded to the Seahawks
- Brandon Marshall traded to the Dolphins (Knowshon Moreno’s touchdown opportunities take a hit)
- Donovan McNabb traded to the Redskins (Portis looks more intriguing now)
- LaDainian Tomlinson signed by the Jets
- Montario Hardesty drafted by the Browns
- Ben Roethlisberger ’s suspension (more work for Rashard Mendenhall)
I’ll end the suspense—very little changed at the top of the rankings, but there are some significant considerations later on. No change in the top nine.
It’s worth noting that Brian Westbrook is the only notable veteran running back that remains unsigned. However, he passed a physical with St. Louis and is mulling his options, which appear to be limited. Bet on him being a Ram in the coming weeks. Don’t bet on him having any impact on Steven Jackson’s fantasy value.
Each player’s prior ranking is noted in parentheses after the current ranking.
1. (1) Adrian Peterson , MIN
Peterson would have taken a hit had the Vikings taken a solid pass catching back in the draft such as Jahvid Best. However, second round pick Toby Gerhart isn’t such a threat and is very similar to Peterson.
2. (2) Maurice Jones-Drew , JAC
There were some rumors that the Jaguars would use the tenth pick in the draft on C.J. Spiller, but that didn’t happen.
3. (3) Chris Johnson , TEN
The trade of LenDale White removes a slight bit of risk to Johnson’s opportunities, but I figured White’s role would have been the same this year as it was last year had he stayed anyway.
4. (4) Ray Rice , BAL
Rice holds steady at number four.
5. (5) Frank Gore , SF
Gore is in the same position as the prior rankings, but there is more upside here due to the addition of two offensive lineman in the draft. Put it this way—he’s much closer to Rice than he is to Steve Jackson.
6. (6) Steven Jackson , STL
The presence of rookie quarterback Sam Bradford doesn’t impact Jackson much, but the addition of Rodger Saffold helps along the offensive line. Ignore the back surgery—all indications are that it was not a significant procedure.
7. (7) Michael Turner , ATL
8. (8) DeAngelo Williams , CAR
9. (9) Ryan Grant , GB
Waiting until the sixth round to take James Starks shows management’s confidence in Grant.
10. (13) Cedric Benson , CIN
Up three spots. There's no real reason other than I’m more comfortable that his 2009 season wasn’t a fluke.
11. (14) Rashard Mendenhall , PIT
Mendenhall moves up three spots due to Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension and others sliding down.
12. (11) Chris Wells , ARI
13. (12) Jonathan Stewart , CAR
14. (16) Pierre Thomas , NO
Thomas slides up a couple notches. The Saints ignored the position in the draft, and Lynell Hamilton is no threat to eat into Thomas’ carries.
15. (19) Shonn Greene , NYJ
Green is up four spots. The addition of Santonio Holmes makes the offense more explosive, which should translate into more goal line opportunities for Greene.
16. (17) Matt Forte , CHI
I'm getting more convinced that Chester Taylor is destined for backup duty.
17. (10) Knowshon Moreno , DEN
This is likely the most significant drop in the projections as Moreno falls from 10 to 17. Brandon Marshall’s trade leaves the team without a true number one receiver, and if Tim Tebow is starting at the end of the season, Moreno will almost certainly struggle during the fantasy playoffs.
18. (NR) Ryan Mathews , SD
The rookie lucks out going to the Chargers' high-powered offense. Touchdown opportunities await.
19. (21) Joseph Addai , IND
The misfortune of others moves Addai into the top 20.
20. (20) Ricky Williams , MIA
Don’t be surprised to see Ricky ahead of Ronnie. His role in the passing game puts him here.
21. (22) Jamaal Charles , KC
Don’t worry about the addition of Dexter McCluster . He’s going to be used in the slot with Charles as the main threat on first and second down.
22. (23) Ronnie Brown , MIA
Are you getting the player who looked like a fantasy star for the first part of 2009, or the one who seems to get injured just when he’s starting to look like a fantasy stud?
23. (24) LeSean McCoy , PHI
24. (26) Brandon Jacobs , NYG
I guess I believe that his undisclosed knee injury from last season slowed him down. H could be a great value pick in 2010.
25. (28) Felix Jones , DAL
It looks like he’s the starter, but that doesn’t mean much if he can’t shoulder the load.
26. (29) Marion Barber , DAL
Seems like the Cowboys are convinced he’s a backup. At least he’s in a solid offense and figures to get the goal line work.
27. (30) Ahmad Bradshaw , NYG
With Jacobs at full health, does Bradshaw’s role get reduced?
28. (27) Carnell “Cadillac” Williams , TB
Williams fits in the top 30, but there is not a lot of upside here.
29. (35) Clinton Portis , WAS
I can’t believe I moved him six spots. Yikes! Donovan McNabb helps his value, so he moves into the top 30.
30. (31) Darren Sproles , SD
It looks like you can expect a duplicate performance from 2009 while Mathews is the bell cow.
31. (NR) C.J. Spiller , BUF
Here’s the second rookie on our list. It's hard to believe he’s going to bust out behind the Bills' shaky offensive line in a division loaded with solid defenses.
32. (15) Fred Jackson , BUF
Poor Freddie. It takes the Bills' coaches almost a whole season to realize he should be starting ahead of Marshawn Lynch, and then the team’s new management takes Spiller with the ninth overall pick. Jackson is likely the biggest fantasy loser from the rookie draft.
33. (NR) Jahvid Best , DET
I have a sneaky suspicion that Best could have a surprising season. Detroit’s offense is on the way up (but not way up, mind you).
34. (33) Michael Bush , OAK
While others overspend on Darren McFadden, you wait and get the value pick in Bush and are rewarded.
35. (34) Reggie Bush , NO
He keeps losing touches, but that might be reversed in 2010 with Mike Bell out of the picture.
36. (36) Thomas Jones , KC
37. (NR) LaDainian Tomlinson , NYJ
LT is not likely going to eat into Shonn Greene’s goal line carries but should produce behind the Jets' solid offensive line.
38. (NR) LenDale White , SEA
White figures to be get the first and second down work as well as be the goal line back in Seattle. Unfortunately, the offense is looking highly suspect for 2010.
39. (40) Darren McFadden , OAK
I'm not convinced he will bust out or be a solid producer in his third year.
40. (NR) Ben Tate , HOU
The rookie is going to share the load with Steve Slaton and get the goal line work. Tate could surprise in the Texans' powerful offense.
41. (38) Steve Slaton , HOU
He's a bit of a risk due to his neck injury but will be solid if healthy as a change of pace and receiving option for the Texans.
42. (19) Kevin Smith , DET
The Lions didn’t trade up to take Best in the first round to play behind Smith. Once healthy, Smith figures to rotate in and get the goal line work.
43. (25) Jerome Harrison , CLE
Here’s my partial quote from the initial rankings: “The bottom line is that he did nothing for three years, and 89 of his 150 fantasy points came in three games against the Chiefs, Raiders, and Jaguars.” Then the Browns traded up to take Montario Hardesty in the second round.
44. (39) Donald Brown , IND
45. (NR) Montario Hardesty , CLE
Browns' general manager Tom Heckert said he views Hardesty as a feature back. Harrison looks more attractive this year as the pass catching option on a bad team, but Hardesty will get the goal line work, so he’s the better Browns running back in dynasty leagues.
46. (44) Laurence Maroney , NE
47. (41) Tim Hightower , ARI
It's interesting that the Cardinals still list him as the starter.
48. (42) Chester Taylor , CHI
He could surprise if he overtakes Forte, but I don’t see that happening.
49. (43) Willis McGahee , BAL
50. (53) Leon Washington , SEA
The trade to Seattle revives his fantasy value, but it's hard to count on a pass catching running back coming off a bad leg injury playing in what figures to be a poor offense.
51. (46) Sammy Morris , NE —Yawn.
52. (48) Mike Bell , PHI
53. (NR) Lynell Hamilton , NO
Thomas owners better handcuff him with Hamilton. Hamilton could be solid if Thomas goes down.
54. (49) Correll Buckhalter , DEN
55. (52) Kevin Faulk , NE
56. (51) Derrick Ward , TB
Ward's big flop last year has him stuck behind Williams.
57. (NR) Toby Gerhart , MIN
Toby is a must-have handcuff for Peterson owners.
58. (32) Justin Forsett , SEA
He is likely going to get some playing time early in the season but will be stuck on the bench once Washington is healthy.
59. (55) Jason Snelling , ATL
Surprisingly productive last year, I’d rather have Snelling than Jerious Norwood.
The following players dropped off the rankings from last time:
NR. (37) Arian Foster , HOU
NR. (45) Julius Jones , SEA
NR. (47) Leonard Weaver , PHI
NR. (50) Marshawn Lynch , BUF
NR. (54) Bernard Scott , CIN
NR. (56) Jerious Norwood , ATL
NR. (57) Maurice Morris , DET
NR. (58) Brandon Jackson , GB
NR. (59) Mewelde Moore , PIT
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