Here are my top 20 RBs for PPR format. For all PPR Fantasy Football advice, visit www.halfppr.com.
1) Chris Johnson
I'd have ranked him No. 1 even if he hadn't won me the league last year. Johnson's the most dynamic offensive player in the NFL. He's going to get all the touches again for the Titans, and I have no concerns about his durability (the only question mark I've heard surrounding CJ).
Johnson got stronger as the season went on last year, and while I don't expect another 2,000-yard season, it's certainly in the ballpark. Toss in 60-reception potential, and Chris Johnson is the clear-cut No. 1 in any format.
2) Adrian Peterson
I struggled with this one... Obviously we’ve all seen what AP’s capable of when he’s healthy and holding on to the football. Brett Favre’s return actually devalues Peterson in my mind, because the Vikings have so many weapons to involve on offense, and they’ll undoubtedly throw more with Favre than they would have with Tarvaris Jackson.
Nevertheless, he’s just too good to pass up at No. 2. While he could again be a disappointment, he could also reel off a 2,000-yard season. In the end, I think the recent surplus of AP naysayers will motivate him all the more.
I don’t think he’s a clear-cut No. 2, but if given the second pick, I couldn’t bring myself to pass on AP. We’ve all seen him at the top of his game, and it’s a beautiful thing. That kind of potential alone merits a No. 2 ranking for AP.
3) Ray Rice
Rice was a monster last season, and I’d honestly be tempted to draft him at No. 2. With over 1,300 rushing yards and 700 receiving yards, he’s a PPR manager’s dream.
I expect an even bigger year out of Rice in 2010 for a couple reasons. One, the Ravens bolstered their offense with the addition of Anquan Boldin. Opposing defenses will no longer have the virtue of keying on the Ravens' run game. A balanced offensive attack will allow Rice to produce in the run and pass game.
What’s more, Rice heads into 2010 as the undisputed RB1. His ’09 numbers were hampered by the Ravens' insistence on giving Willis McGahee significant carries early on. With a better offense, a more seasoned line, and title of “lead back,” Rice could explode in 2010.
4) Maurice Jones-Drew
Take this advice with a grain of salt, as MJD is my RB1 in RnD's and my fantasy league. As I see it, MJD is the worst of the best in this year’s RB class. He just doesn’t have the potential that RBs 1-3 do. I expect consistent, healthy production from MJD, but I see no reason to assume improvement.
The Jaguars haven’t really improved their offense from last year, and David Garrard has certainly seen his best years. Mike Sims-Walker was a nice surprise last year, but opposing defenses can get away with making MJD their priority.
Still, he’s only 25 and should have the legs for 300-plus carries—carries the Jags will certainly give him. MJD doesn’t have the ceiling of RBs 1-3 but is clearly the best back remaining at No. 4.
5) Frank Gore
The issue with Gore has always been his health. He’s put big numbers when he’s been healthy, but he hasn’t proven he can be a workhouse for an entire season. Mike Singletary’s a smashmouth kind of coach, so Gore will unquestionably get tons of touches if he’s on the field. Count on him for 10 to 12 solid weeks, but don’t expect a healthy 16-game season.
6) Michael Turner
Turner missed the majority of 2009 with an ankle injury, so I’m naturally skeptical of Turner reverting to 2008 form. He might begin the season with a lighter than normal workload, but if he stays healthy, the Falcons will again make him their horse. I’m not terribly confident in Turner, but he has top-five potential at RB.
7) Shonn Greene
I wasn’t a huge Shonn Greene fan when he was in college, and I didn’t think he’d be a great pro. But the Jets' offensive line is the best in the business. Any halfway decent back would put up nice numbers with the Jets, and Greene should do just that. 1,100 yards and 10 TDs are foreseeable for Greene.
8) Jamaal Charles
Only one thing scares me about Jamaal Charles: Todd Haley. Haley loves to employ the "move your best player down a slot on the depth chart" motivational tactic, and that’s scary for any Charles fantasy owner. It’s basically a guarantee that Haley will give Thomas Jones more touches than he deserves, if for nothing else than to stay committed to the trendy “two-RB scheme.”
Still, those concerns are minor when considering what Charles accomplished at the end of the 2009 season. Right now I see him as an RB2 in an 8-10 team league, but he certainly has RB1 potential.
9) Pierre Thomas
I’m really high on Pierre Thomas this year. He averaged a whopping 5.4 YPC last year but was forced to share carries with Mike Bell. Bell signed with the Eagles this offseason, leaving Thomas as the lead back for the defending champ Saints. Reggie Bush will slightly impede Pierre’s workload, but the Saints prefer to limit his carries and utilize him in the passing game.
Pierre should be the man around the goal line, an exciting prospect for his fantasy owners. New Orleans has a high-powered attack, so Thomas should have ample scoring opportunities. I fully expect a breakout season from the former Illinois back.
10) Ryan Mathews
Admittedly, I haven’t seen much of Ryan Mathews in action. The Chargers obviously think highly of him, and he put up monster numbers at Fresno State—albeit against the not so mighty defenses of the WAC. He looked good against the Cowboys in the last preseason game and will likely pile up some nice yardage in 2010. The Chargers are also keen on his pass-catching ability, so expect some nice receiver numbers for the rookie back.
11) Steven Jackson
I just won’t rank Steven Jackson as a first-rounder anymore. I refuse to do it. It seems like every year fantasy analysts argue that Jackson’s talent is too much to pass up. Don’t buy into that. Jackson is an amazing RB, but the Rams are actually so bad that it doesn’t matter.
He’s only rushed for 16 TDs over the last three years, and I’m skeptical of his surgically repaired back. All horses eventually turn to nags, and Steven Jackson is in the “nag” stage of his career.
12) Rashard Mendenhall
Mendenhall’s in a seemingly good situation in Pittsburgh. For all the talk about Pittsburgh transitioning to a passing-oriented offense, Mike Tomlin still loves to pound the ground game. Their defense should be back to form with Troy Polamalu healthy, and not being forced to play from behind should help Mendenhall.
The problem? I don’t think he’s that good. I want to like him, I want him to be good, but every time I watch him play I’m unimpressed. He’s not possessed with blazing speed, and for a back that supposedly loves contact, he’s not particularly elusive. I see 1,000 yards but nothing great for Mendenhall.
13) DeAngelo Williams
The Panthers have a stellar ground game, but Jonathan Stewart’s a beast when he’s healthy, and either one could emerge as the feature back in Carolina. I give DeAngelo the edge because he’s the Week One starter, but as the season goes on his touches are likely to diminish.
14) Ryan Grant
While incredibly unexciting, Ryan Grant is a decent RB2. He benefits from a high-scoring offense and is surprisingly consistent (back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons). He’s far from a sexy pick, but he’s more productive than you might think.
15) LeSean McCoy
McCoy disappointed last year when thrust into the starting role, but he should benefit with a year of experience under his belt. That said, the fact that McCoy never eclipsed the 100-yard marker in 2009 scares me. Bottom line? He’s the clear-cut starter on what I think will be a good offense, making him a viable RB2.
16) Jonathan Stewart
I’m worried about his heel. He suffered from the same injury while at the U of O, and his foot never seems to be 100 percent. He played in every game last year, but his constant “Questionable” status on the injury report is a peeve for any fantasy manager.
However, Stewart’s got top talent and puts up big numbers when healthy (5.1 YPC). Stewart’s situation is such where the risk could be worth the reward. If this bruising back stays on the field, he will do wonders for fantasy owners.
17) Cedric Benson
I’ve never been a big “Ced-Ben” fan. Like Ryan Grant, he’s uninspiring to watch. Unlike Ryan Grant, Benson doesn’t find the end zone (only six rushing TDs in ’09). The Bengals absolutely ran him into the ground last year, and I expect his YPC (4.6 in ’09) to sink closer to the 3.5 range (roughly his totals in ’07 and ’08). He was a pleasant surprise last year, but his potential is maxed.
18) Ronnie Brown
Known for spurning fantasy owners with injuries, Brown is once again heading the Dolphins backfield. He could end up being a nice RB3 option and spot starter if healthy, but don’t gamble on your health and take him as your second back. I know firsthand—he’s not worth the risk.
19) Beanie Wells
Beanie’s the victim of one of the most aggravating timeshares in the NFL. Tim Hightower is once again the starter in Arizona, severely limiting Beanie Wells' fantasy value. Wells has always looked to be the better of the two RBs, but Ken Whisenhunt, for whatever reason, has a lot of faith in Hightower.
I’d like to write off the timeshare and assume Wells will take over as lead back, but Hightower just wont go away. Another nice RB3 option, but I’d be reluctant having him as my RB2.
20) Jahvid Best
Jahvid dazzled in his college years as a Cal Bear and has the makings of a solid NFL RB. The knocks? He’s a rookie, and the Lions don’t put their RBs in positions to score. I like his potential, but it’s unrealistic to expect major production from a Lions rookie RB.
For all PPR Fantasy Football advice, visit www.halfppr.com.