Fantasy Football's Top 20 Running Backs For 2010

Craig RondinoneCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2010

SEATTLE - AUGUST 14: Running back Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans rushes against Aaron Curry #59 during the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on August 14, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

If Hard Knocks is on HBO, Madden 11 is available in stores, and Brett Favre is making another comeback, it must be time for fantasy football!

Fantasy football has snuck up on us like Rex Ryan’s weight loss. While we have been embroiled in our fantasy baseball pennant chases, NFL training camps have opened, Chad Ochocinco is teaching Terrell Owens some dance steps, and Albert Haynesworth is busy auditioning to see if he can be a contestant on Wipeout.

You ever get the feeling that the fantasy football gods hate running backs these days? It was not too long ago that a tailback could carry the ball 20-25 times per game, 16 games a season. Gone are the days workhorses like Roger Craig, Eric Dickerson, and even LaDainian Tomlinson would get more touches than the Gatorade cooler on the sideline. Now teams are all into the two-back system, and worse, some even prefer a three-back system. This share-the-carries thinking does nobody any good in the world of fantasy football.

But running backs still rule the roost in fantasy football, and the first round of your draft will still be dominated by running backs. Maybe Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady go early, but the rest of the round will be RB-heavy. If you do not take two running backs within the first three rounds of your draft, chances are you will be the only owner in your league doing so.

Here are the top 20 running backs in fantasy football entering the 2010 campaign –

1. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

The best player, not just running back, in fantasy football. Every time he carries the ball or catches a screen pass could be a 50-plus-year touchdown. Thank LenDale White for quitting drinking tequila and getting out of Johnson’s way. Another 2,000-yard year is not hard to fathom for Johnson.


2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Brett Favre was supposed to keep safeties away from the line of scrimmage and open up running room for A.P., yet Peterson rushed for 400 fewer yards in 2009 than he did in 2008. No matter. Peterson set new career-highs for touchdowns (18) and receiving yards (436) and is still the second-best back at the moment, as long as fumbles do not count against you in your league.


3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars

Any doubters who thought Jones-Drew couldn’t handle a full workload were silenced by this bowling ball’s 1,775 combined yards and 16 scores last year. He was fourth in rushing yards and second in rushing touchdowns, despite running behind a subpar offensive line.

4. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

This double-threat can pile up fantasy points on runs (1,339 rushing yards) and receptions (702 receiving yards). The problem is Rice cannot be a triple threat because Willis McGahee steals all of his touchdown opportunities.


5. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

Four straight seasons of 1,000 rushing yards and 370 receiving yards. Guess all those critics who said Gore was injury-prone and would be a bust when he came out college are eating their keyboards.


6. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams

Someone hand this guy a four-leaf clover. He never has an offensive line to open holes for him or a passing attack to keep defenses from keying on him, and his body is battered more than a demolition derby car, yet Jackson has chugged away for five straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons while being one of the best pass-catching backs.


7. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons

Nobody on this list could be a better battering ram on Halloween than Turner. A severely sprained ankle ruined his 2010 season, but if fully recovered he should repeat his 2009 success (1,699 yards and 17 Tds).


8. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers

Now that "Not So Fast" Willie Parker is out of the picture, Mendanhall will be getting 20-plus carries a game, and possibly more during the opening weeks when Ben Roethlisberger is suspended.


9. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers

I love downhill runners more than Austria loves downhill skiers. What I also love about Grant is that Green Bay does not have a decent No. 2 back that is going to take the ball out of Grant’s hands.

10. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers

Carolina’s two-back system is not doing Williams’ fantasy value any favors. But do not let your short-term memory cause you to forget he just rushed for 1,515 yards and 20 touchdowns just two season ago.


11. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers

One of the favorites for Rookie of the Year, Mathews is jumping right into LaDainian Tomlinson’s grave and is expected to touch the ball close to 300 times between running and passing plays.


12. Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals

It is time for a seismic offensive change in Arizona. Without Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin around, the Cards might be passing less and running more, which would be music to the ears of Wells and anyone who drafts him.


13. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals

You knew he couldn’t go another offseason without getting into any trouble. Hopefully his off-field trouble will not interfere with his on-field career, which saw a resurgence after he galloped for 1,200-plus yards in 2009.


14. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints

While his durability remains a question and he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle considering New Orleans has more weapons than North Korea, Thomas could rack up 1,400 combined yards and 10 touchdowns and be deserving of free gumbo for a long time.

15. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos

Tearing your hamstring one week into training camp is not the best way to start your sophomore season. Let’s hope Moreno’s hammy heals, he keeps his fumbles to a minimum, and keeps Correll Buckhalter on the bench while he becomes the focus of Denver’s rushing attack.

16. Shonn Greene, New York Jets

You have to love the Jets run-first attitude and the way Greene steamrolls defensive backs, but you have to hate that LaDainian Tomlinson will be the one catching the third-down passes and getting the goal line carries.

17. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City head coach Todd Haley has a lot of nerve listing Thomas Jones as No. 1 on the depth chart and making Charles sweat for touches after what Charles did during the last month of the 2009 season (658 rushing yards and four touchdowns). This kid has Chris Johnson-like big-play ability.


18. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

Filling Brian Westbrook’s shoes is an unenviable task. McCoy isn’t as quick but has similar pass-catching skills and elusiveness in the open field. He might have to settle for single-digit touchdowns, though, because of Mike Bell and Leonard Weaver.

19. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers

The best backup running back in the NFL would likely be a 1,400-yard, 14-TD fantasy demigod if he was a starter on another squad.

This mighty mite looks a little small to carry the ball more than 15 times a game, but it sounds like Kevin Smith might make a miraculous recovery from ACL surgery and be ready to spot him at the start of the season.


Next column – Running backs 21-40.

20. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions


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