It's early, but I wanted to share my top 15 fantasy running backs entering the 2010 season. This list will more than likely be updated as the offseason continues, and I will post my updates accordingly.
This list was made according to how I would draft these players based on past performances, and how I feel they will finish at the end of the season. One problem a lot of fantasy fanatics have, is drafting based how a player performed last season, and last season only.
For example, guys like Michael Turner who were on the top of the list last season, will see a significant drop in draft status because his performance wasn't the same as it was the year before.
Should that affect his draft status this season? No. People don't read between the lines and see that he actually did really well, considering he missed a few games. Give him those six games back and he's a top fantasy back again. Same goes for many players.
Also, just because Chris Johnson ran for over 2,000 yards it doesn't, and shouldn't, make him the No. 1 pick. That was last season. This is this season.
In Week Four last season, Cleveland's Jerome Harrison got his first opportunity to start and exploded for 121 yards on 29 carries. With the Browns' weak passing offense, Harrison didn't get many more opportunities until Week 15.
Harrison ran wild over the last three games of the season, averaging 187 yards per game. He rushed for 286 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas City.
Don't jump too early on him, though. Three out four of his 100-plus yard games were against Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Oakland. One was against a fairly tough Cincinnati team but more evidence is needed before I would risk taking him any sooner.
Cincinnati's Cedric Benson had the biggest workload of his career last season with 301 carries in 13 games. He averaged 23.2 carries per game, which would put him at 371 carries over a 16 game season.
That would be 13 more carries than Chris Johnson, and nearly half the production with 1,251 yards and six touchdowns.
Still, I wouldn't bid too high on Benson this season. Cincy QB Carson Palmer came back from injury, and it took him a while to get comfortable in the pocket again, which is part of the reason for Benson's extra workload. Not to mention, the loss of wideout T.J. Houshmanzadeh.
Antonio Bryant was signed in the offseason to aid in that loss of Houshmanzadeh, and with a healthy season for Palmer under his belt, I'm willing to bet they're going to let the ball fly again.
The only reason Benson is listed this high, is because a good passing attack will help the running game but if it's too good, it may take away carries significantly. With only six touchdowns and that many opportunities, he's not worth taking too early.
Ryan Grant quietly had a decent season rushing for 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns for Green Bay. Grant was ranked seventh in carries last season. I don't expect it to go up, but I wouldn't expect it to drop too much either.
Look for Grant to come close to repeating last seasons performance without expecting much more production, if any.
Jamaal Charles got his opportunity to start in Week 10 versus Oakland, where he rushed for 103 yards on 18 carries. He didn't slow down finishing the season with 1,120 yards with seven touchdowns on only 190 carries.
He finished with a league leading 5.9 yards per carry. Not to mention 40 receptions.
Thomas Jones was acquired during the offseason. Most don't seem too threatened by this as I've seen many mock drafts, with Charles being taken in the first round.
However, it's not often that a player is third in rushing one season and isn't given ample opportunity to succeed the next.
Jones is no slouch, and could easily steal red zone carries, or dig heavily into Charles's touches until Charles emerges as the clear No. 1 running back. Jones will be 32 years old by the start of the season, but ages 30 and 31 seemed to have no affect on him.
Charles is a boom or bust player, and I would be cautious. The potential is there with Cassel having a full year under his belt, but with addition of Thomas Jones, its a bit risky.
Chris Wells had a decent rookie season for only having 176 carries for 793 yards and seven touchdowns.
The retirement of Kurt Warner, and the departure of wide recevier Anquan Boldin should affect the passing game, but will give Wells more opportunity to run the ball with Matt Leinart behind center.
If Wells remains healthy, I'd expect his 2009 stats to double. With the addition of Offensive Lineman Alan Faneca, and still having Larry Fitzgerald to stretch the field, he should have no problem finding open holes, as long as their defense doesn't let them get too far behind.
Leinart knows the offense and should do fine, but I expect them to tone it down a little and run the ball more often.
I've seen a lot of preseason fantasy rankings that have Stewart ranked much higher. Unfortunately, as good as Stewart is, he is still part of a running back by committee that is split with Deangelo Williams.
Stewart at this time appears to still be running back 1B to Williams' 1A. Stewart finished 2009 with 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns on 221 carries for an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Sounds great, right?
Most of Stewart's production came after Williams' injury, and after Matt Moore took over at QB. Other than Week Six, Stewart didn't have a 100-yard rushing game until Week 13, which is exactly when Moore came in to the lineup, and Williams went down with an injury.
Stewart has all the potential to be a top fantasy back, but with Williams standing in his way it's tough to rank him any higher especially with Williams being just as effective (5.2 YPC), and being the better receiver.
Moore for now seems to have the upper hand for starting quarterback going in to 2010. This should help Stewart and Williams production.
Shonn Greene, a rookie in 2009 rushed for 540 yards and two touchdowns on 108 attempts behind Thomas Jones. Jones, now in Kansas City, has now been replaced by future hall of famer LaDanian Tomlinson.
During the 2009 regular season, Greene averaged 7.7 attempts per game. But during the postseason, Greene seemed to take over rushing duties, averaging 18 attempts per game.
In the playoffs, Greene rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati, and 128 yards and a touchdown against San Diego.
I'm going to go ahead and assume that Tomlinson will strictly have third down-and-goal duties, and that Greene will carry on his success from the 2009 postseason in the 2010 regular season.
With New York's top-notch defense, a full year experience under Mark Sanchez's belt, and the addition of Santonio Holmes's (four-game suspension) ability to stretch the field Greene should be a top fantasy back in 2010.
Not much to say here that wasn't said for Jonathon Stewart, except for the fact that as of now, Williams is considered running back 1A.
Williams rushed for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns, with an average of 5.2 yards per attempt. Williams was very productive even with the declining play of Jake Delhomme under center.
Williams went down with an injury at the same time Matt Moore took over for Delhomme. So if Moore continues his success, look for Williams production to be increase.
Because of Stewart's role increasing, I'm looking for Williams to maintain the starting role and being the more productive back.
Steven Jackson was quietly second in rushing last season. It's not his fault hardly anyone noticed.
Jackson rushed for 1,416 yards with only four touchdowns. But his receiving ability made up for the lack of scores, with 51 receptions and 322 yards coming out of the backfield.
The drafting of Sam Bradford in the first round, and OT Roger Saffold in the second round could help Jackson’s production. All they need now is a decent WR. Donnie Avery appears to be a promising receiver but he's going to need help from Bradford.
There is a lot of risk in Jackson, which is why he slips down to seventh on my list.
First off, he's missed 12 games in his six-year career thus far. Jackson also had minor back surgery to repair a herniated disc sustained last November. All reports say minor but no back surgery is minor, especially when you have the workload of Jackson.
Frank Gore had a great opportunity to be a top five fantasy back in 2009, but missing three games in the first quarter of the season hurt his production.
Gore finished the season with 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns. Gore also a good receiver out of the backfield compiling 52 receptions for 406 yards and three touchdowns.
If Gore can stay healthy he has a great chance being a top five fantasy back in 2010. Alex Smith appears to be the clear-cut starter after starting most of 2009. Michael Crabtree got some playing time and should help stretch the field for the running game.
San Francisco spent both of their two first-round draft picks on offensive tackles, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati.
Head coach Mike Singletary has hinted about being more run-oriented, but since he's taken over his carries have dropped from 312, 260, 240, to 229.
Keep in mind, that Gore has only played one full season where he didn't miss more than three games. He hasn't played a full season since 2006, when he carried the ball on 312 attempts for 1,695 yards.
Expect Gore to produce heavily as long as Singletary sticks to his plan, and gets Gore back around the 300 carry mark. Even if Gore misses a couple of games he is very valuable, especially in PPR leagues.
It's not a bad idea to handcuff Gore with either Glen Coffee or Anthony Dixon. Coffee went down with an injury in the preseason in 2009, but never made it back in the regular season. He seemed promising and shined in his preseason appearances.
Remember him? Michael Turner missed five starts last season, had 1 rush in one game and only nine in another. He still managed to rack up 871 yards and 10 touchdowns, while averaging 4.9 yards per attempt.
Turner should come back strong and healthy this season, and should come close to repeating his 2008 form. Atlanta spent most of the offseason buffing up their defense.
This should slow the game down and allow them to run more. I expect Turner to be a top five back this season. You can count on it.
Chris "CJ2K" Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns. According to history, he won't repeat. The closest any running back that's gone over the 2,000 yard mark was Barry Sanders when he rushed for 1,491 yards the folowing season.
Could he rush for 2,000 again? Yes. This season? I highly doubt it. There is no reason (in my opinion) to put him at No. 1 like many are doing because of his 2,000 yard accomplishment, no matter how amazing it is. He did that last season and you can never predict a runningback to do that. Did any of you predict it last season? No.
I'm sure Johnson will be a top five back, but he's no No. 1. He is currently scheduled to sit down with the team in June to discuss his current contract. It is never good when a player has to do that or is threatening to sit out.
Rice Rice took on a much bigger role in 2009 for his sophomore season. I expect that role to increase with Willis McGahee turning 30 before the end of the season.
Rice rushed for 1,339 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had 78 receptions for 702 yards and a touchdown. Compiling for 2,041 total yards.
Baltimore traded for receiver Anquan Boldin, and signed free agent Donte Stallworth. These two should open up the field for bigger holes for Rice and take pressure off of the running game.
Look for Rice to explode and be competitive for top back in the league in 2010.
Jacksonville, like Atlanta, spent most of its offseason beefing up their defense. This should help Maurice Jones-Drew by allowing the offense to slow down and not play so much "catch-up".
Jones-Drew rushed for 1,391 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also totaled 53 receptions for 351 yards and a touchdown.
Adrian Peterson has been the most consistent running back since he's come into the league. Who else would you want to take at No. 1? Chris Johnson had an amazing season but that was only ONE season, just like Jones-Drew and Rice.
Peterson even with a decrease in rushing attempts still rushed for 1,383 yards and 18 touchdowns. With the addition of Brett Favre in 2009 Peterson's rushing attempts went from 363 in 2008 to 314 in 2009. But his receptions went from 21 for 125 yards in 2008 to 43 for 436 in 2009.
Whether or not Favre returns, Peterson should and will be the No. 1 back in all fantasy leagues. Chester Taylor is no longer with the Vikings, and if Peterson can work on his fumbling habits he'll get more opportunity to be the third down back.