Running backs, running backs, running backs.... Here's my top 25 for 2010:
First up, the guys who are guaranteed to be "the guy" on their teams and won't be splitting carries with anyone else:
1. Chris Johnson - tops last year, no reason to think he won't be this year.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew - Jacksonville loves to run, and it's all MJD all the time.
3. Adrian Peterson - The definition of "fantasy stud."
4. Ray Rice - Last year was not a fluke.
5. Michael Turner - Last year was a fluke.
6. Frank Gore - Over 1400 yards from scrimmage in each of the last 4 seasons. He also had a career-high 13 touchdowns last year.
7. Steven Jackson - The Rams were awful last year, and Jackson still managed over 1700 yards from scrimmage despite dealing with a bulging disc in his back all season. He's healthy this year after surgery, and I don't see him being held to 4 touchdowns in consecutive seasons.
8. Rashard Mendenhall - Pittsburgh's going to run a lot, which means Mendenhall's going to run a lot.
9. Ryan Matthews - Don't let the fact that he's a rookie scare you. The Chargers are going to use him all year.
10. Cedric Benson - The improvements to the Bengals' passing game mean that Benson won't have to be relied on as much, making it more likely that he'll play the whole season.
11. Ryan Grant - Over 1000 yards from scrimmage every season in his career.
Next, the guys who will likely be splitting carries this year but are expected to get the lion's share:
12. Shonn Greene - Ladainian Tomlinson's presence drops him out of the top 10, but Greene's legs are younger, and with LT only averaging 3.3 yards per carry last season, I don't see him taking too much away from Greene.
13. Jamaal Charles - Pretty similar to the situation Shonn Greene's in, except that Thomas Jones was more productive than LT last year. It's a split, but as the season goes on, I expect Charles to see most of the work as the Chiefs look to develop their talented young running back.
14. Jahvid Best - This placing is purely based on upside potential and comes with a lot of risk. Best has the talent, and the starting job is his to lose. If he capitalizes on all that potential, he's in for a big year.
15. Beanie Wells - Arizona will likely be running the ball a lot this year while Matt Leinart takes the reigns full time this season. Tim Hightower could still get a lot of touches, but the talented Wells should win the job and have a productive season.
16. DeAngelo Williams - Jonathan Stewart ended up with most of the touchdowns last year and will probably be the guy in short-yardage situations this year, too. Williams will produce consistently, but there's less upside here than you'll find with other backs.
17. Lesean McCoy - Mike Bell's presence drops his value some, but McCoy will still be a valuable play. The Eagles will likely find creative ways to use him in the passing game, which gives him a lot of upside.
18. Matt Forte - Forte struggled last season while the Bears stubbornly tried to force him through the middle on every play. With Mike Martz in town, Forte should have more room to run. Martz also likes to involve his running backs in the passing game, which will also help Forte's value. Chester Taylor's presence hurts Forte's value some, but Forte's the clear starter hear.
19. Knowshon Moreno - Moreno struggled with injuries in '09. If he can stay healthy, he's got a chance to have a huge season on a team that's rebuilding its passing game and will rely heavily on the run this year.
20. Joseph Addai - Indianapolis is a passing team, no matter how you slice it. Not much in terms of yardage, but he'll get touchdowns. If the Colts decide to use Donald Brown more, that will only hurt Addai's value more.
And finally, the guys in significant time shares that are either even splits or committees...
21. Pierre Thomas - The Saints pass first, and when they run, Pierre gets the ball down the field, but Reggie Bush will get the touchdowns.
22. Jonathan Stewart - Too bad he's behind DeAngelo Williams. Over 1000 yards last year, 5.3 yards per carry, and 10 touchdowns in each of the last 2 seasons.
23. Reggie Bush - Reggie was used primarily in the red zone last season, and with Mike Bell's departure, his role will likely increase this year. He says he's 100% for the first time in his NFL career, which bodes well. Look for the Saints to find creative ways to involve him in the offense this season.
24. Brandon Jacobs - He's coming off knee surgery and could see a return to his old self this year. If he does, he could have a very productive season, but Ahmad Bradshaw is also reinvigorated, and this looks to be a near 50/50 split.
25. Ronnie Brown - Like so many players, he's got that "if he stays healthy" clause attached to him. He'll see the majority of the touches "if he stays healthy," but Ricky Williams will still be a big part of the Dolphins' running game this season.
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