College Fantasy Football: Way-Too-Early 2011 Running Back Rankings

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
College Fantasy Football: Way-Too-Early 2011 Running Back Rankings
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Oregon standout LaMichael James

Our offseason machine rolls on with a look at the 2011 running backs in our latest installment of CollegeFootballGeek.com's "Way Too Early" college fantasy football player rankings.

Please understand there's a reason we're calling them "Way Too Early" rankings.  It's just a first glance at the 2011 prospects.  A gut feel.  We haven't fully analyzed returning o-lineman for each school.  We haven't yet plugged in the incoming stud recruits (signing day is February 2nd). We didn't account for all of the new coaching changes.  And we haven't taken a peek at the upcoming fall schedules.  All of that will come with due time. 

We'll release one article per position per day. Here's the schedule:

Friday, January 21 - Quarterbacks
Monday, January 24 - Running Backs
Tuesday, January 25 - Wide Receivers
Wednesday, January 26 - Tight Ends & Kickers

We're going to pass on defensive rankings until later this spring. So, without further ado, let's dive into the running backs!


"Way Too Early" 2011 Running Back Rankings

The running back position took a significant hit this January with 11 high profile names heading early into the NFL draft. That's a surprising large number especially considering there may not be a full NFL season next fall. 

But the returning college RB cupboard isn't bare.

LaMichael James headlines the returnees, and rightly so. The Oregon Duck posted 1,731 rushing yards and scored 24 total TDs last fall. Let's hope he can keep his nose clean this off-season.

North Texas' Lance Dunbar should be in line for another big year.  With former Iowa State head coach now at the helm, expect Dunbar to get the rock often.  Dunbar was simply unstoppable in Sun Belt play and finished the year with three 200+ yard rushing performances in his final five games.

Speaking of hot running backs, Arkansas' Knile Davis was a monster down the stretch.  His 6.5 yards per carry was tops in the nation for running backs with over 200 carries. 

Bobby Rainey returns for Western Kentucky.  He led the country in carries in 2010 with 340. As long as he doesn't wear down, he should be a force again in the Sun Belt.


Some RB questions to chew on:

* What with the carry distribution look like in Madison next fall?  There should be enough to share between James White and Montee Ball, but who is 1A and 1B?

* Boise State loses both starting wideouts Titus Young and Austin Pettis.  Does this mean the Broncos offense will center more around the running game?  If so, this could be good news for Doug Martin owners.

* Boston College's Montel Harris had a rough first half to the season. He went through a five-game stretch where he didn't reach the endzone.  Harris turned things around in the second half of the year before suffering a season-ending injury. This opened the door for freshman Andre Williams to show his stuff.  Williams logged 108, 185 and 73 yard performances in the final three games.  Should Harris owners be worried about Williams in 2011?

* Virginia Tech loses both Darren Evans and Ryan Williams to the NFL.  Should we assume David Wilson will get the lion's share of carries this fall (a la Ryan Williams, who posted 293-1655-21 in 2009)?

* Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle will look to fill the shoes of the departed Kendall Hunter.  With offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen gone, will Randle be utilized the same way as Hunter was?  Does Jeremy Smith pose a threat to Randle's playing time?

* Can Sooner running back Roy Finch live up to the hype?  With Demarco Murray off to play on Sundays, there's been lots of chatter from Norman that the Sooners will not miss a beat with Finch in there.

* Who will take over for Vai Taua at Nevada?  Is Mike Ball ready to be a lead back?  Will Lampford Mark be recovered from a late season injury to battle for time?

* Will BYU senior-to-be J.J. DiLuigi get the chance to build upon his impressive 2010 campaign?  Or will Bryan Kariya and Joshua Quezada steal just enough touches away to keep DiLuigi from being a borderline elite fantasy RB?

* If Charles Sims returns to the squad as expected, how will Houston share their backfield workload?  Sims, Bryce Beall and Michael Hayes give the coaching staff plenty of options.

* Will new Michigan head coach Brady Hoke roll with Stephen Hopkins as his workhorse?  Hoke did wonders for MiQuale Lewis while at Ball State, and Ronnie Hillman while at San Diego State.

* Can Utah State running back Robert Turbin return to his pre-injury form (he missed 2010 with a torn ACL)?

* After a season of rehabbing back from injury, will Brynn Harvey return to the UCF backfield?  If so, how does that effect up-and-comer Latavius Murray and Ronnie Weaver?  Until we see how Harvey looks in spring ball, it's tough to rank Murray too high.

* Will Texas ever produce another fantasy-worthy running back?  Could incoming freshman Malcolm Brown be the answer?

* Former UConn head coach Randy Edsall loves leaning on a workhorse running back.  Now that he's at Maryland, does he have someone on the roster that fills that RB1 role?  Davin Meggett, perhaps?

* With Texas Tech RB Baron Batch out of the way, will Eric Stephens step in and take the bull by the horns?  Or will we be burned (again) by trusting the Red Raider running game?

* TCU's Ed Wesley ended the year with a whimper.  With everyone around him gone —except for the other running backs vying for his job (Matthew Tucker and Wayman James)—what shold the expectations be for Wesley this fall?

Spring ball will hopefully give us a few answer to these lingering questions.  For now, here's how we rank the running backs...

1 LaMichael James Oregon back for another big season
2 Lance Dunbar North Texas new coach should feed him ball more than ever
3 Bobby Rainey W. Kentucky led country in carries last year with 340
4 Knile Davis Arkansas 6.5 ypc best among RBs with 200+ carries
5 Marcus Lattimore South Carolina can he match his 19 TDs from 2010?
6 Ronnie Hillman San Diego State new coaching staff brings questions
7 Trent Richardson Alabama with Ingram gone, it's his show now
8 Montee Ball Wisconsin John Clay is gone but James White returns
9 Marcus Coker Iowa No Jewel, Wegher or A-Rob to worry about
10 Doug Martin Boise State with star WRs gone, will Martin see more carries?
11 Cyrus Gray Texas A&M finished year with 7 straight 100+ yard games
12 David Wilson Virginia Tech Wililams & Evans are gone
13 Montel Harris Boston College does Andre Williams pose a major threat?
14 Rodney Stewart Colorado quietly accounted for 1600+ yds from scrimmage
15 Brandon Bolden Mississippi surprisingly finished 14th among fantasy RBs in '10
16 James White Wisconsin will battle for carries with Montee Ball
17 Roy Finch Oklahoma Demarco & Madu leave, Finch & Clay are next up
18 Joseph Randle Oklahoma State Kendall Hunter is gone.  Is Jeremy Smith a threat?
19 Zach Line SMU can he replicate his 244-1494-10 statline in 2011?
20 Stepfan Taylor Stanford o-line is decimated, but should still be workhorse
21 Adonis Thomas Toledo had a huge 2nd half of season
22 Michael Dyer Auburn lots of surrounding talent is gone
23 Ray Graham Pittsburgh Dion Lewis exits, new HC Todd Graham enters
24 Chris Polk Washington should be focal point of offense with Locker gone
25 Vick Ballard Mississippi St. get ready for the MSU hype-machine this offseason
26 Andre Ellington Clemson Harper is gone, Ellington needs to stay healthy
27 Orleans Darkwa Tulane ended year with six straight 20+ fantasy pt games
28 Edwin Baker Michigan State will he continue to see most of the workload?
29 Robbie Rouse Fresno State can he stay healthy this time around?
30 Rex Burkhead Nebraska poised to be lead dog with Helu gone
31 JJ Di Luigi BYU Kariya & Quezada make for possible RBBC
32 Tauren Poole Tennessee will continue to be RB1 for the Vols
33 Mike Ball Nevada lots of carries to be had with Vai Taua gone
34 Lennon Creer La Tech had nice but inconsistent season
35 Stephen Hopkins Michigan bigger back that Brady Hoke could throw into fray
36 Pat Shed UAB great PPR league option - 47 rec. (1300+ total yds)
37 Eric Stephens Texas Tech Baron Batch finally departs
38 Isaiah Pead Cincinnati 1200 total yards and 8 TDs last fall
39 Daniel Herron Ohio State will 5 game suspension be reduced?
40 Shawne Alston West Virginia assuming Holgorsen decides Tavon Austin is a WR
41 Darriet Perry Florida Int'l came on strong 2nd half of year, 16 rush TDs
42 Sam McGuffie Rice 1200+ yds and 10 TDs, beware vulture Eddington
43 Silas Redd Penn State Evan Royster is gone, PSU always love to run it
44 Davin Meggett Maryland Randy Edsall loves to run the ball
45 Bernard Pierce Temple injury-riddled 2010 season, new coaching staff
46 Ed Wesley TCU will Tucker & James continue to steal carries?
47 Latavius Murray UCF some uncertainty with Harvey & Weaver in mix
48 Jason Ford Illinois LeShoure is gone, Ford should see lots of carries
49 Charles Sims Houston expected to be back after 2010 suspension
50 Kendrick Hardy Southern Miss Hardy will battle Dennis Johnson for touches
51 Keola Antolin Arizona had 900 tot yards and 9 TDs, now Grigsby is gone
52 Johnathan Franklin UCLA 1127 rushing yards, 8 TDs in 2010
53 Alvester Alexander Wyoming over 900 total yards and 14 TDs in 2010
54 Robert Turbin Utah State should be recovered from knee injury
55 Washaun Ealey Georgia can he break string of UGA RB disappointments?
56 Marc Tyler USC he and Baxter will likely split carries
57 Alfred Morris FAU nearly 1000 total yards and 8 TDs in 2010
58 Kenjon Barner Oregon holds value as backup to LaMichael James
59 Cierre Wood Notre Dame will he get lion's share of touches?
60 Bryce Beall Houston Sims returning knocks Beall down a few pegs
61 Jared Hassin Army totaled nearly 1200 yards and 9 TDs in 2010
62 Lamar Miller Miami FL will Golden use him like a healthy Bernard Pierce?
63 Chris Thompson Florida State had big bowl game, will he see enough carries?
64 James Sims Kansas emerged as frosh for 870 total yds and 10 TDs
65 Michael Ford LSU Ridley is gone, Ford has a chance to step into mix
66 Antwon Bailey Syracuse Carter is gone, Bailey should be RB1
67 Robbie Frey Connecticut Todman gone, new coaching staff in place
68 Asher Clark Air Force rushed for 1031 yds and 5 TDs, Jared Tew is gone
69 Jeremy Eddington Rice 7 TDs in last 3 games, will vulture from McGuffie
70 Malcolm Brown Texas  true frosh has a chance to step right in
71 Cameron Marshall Arizona State racked up over 1000 yds and 10 TDs this fall
72 Shawn Southward Troy DuJuan Harris is gone, Southward has big opport.
73 Jeremy Smith Oklahoma St could battle Randle for carries
74 Jamaal Berry Ohio State will get his chance to shine with Boom out early
75 Brynn Harvey UCF should be back from injury, could push Murray
76 Darius Willis Indiana lost coach, QB and Doss. Is this good or bad thing?
77 Onterio McCalebb Auburn how will touches pan out with he and Dyer?
78 Le'Veon Bell Michigan State excellent frosh year, but disappeared down stretch
79 De'Vion Moore Missouri will Mizzou lean on run game without Gabbert?
80 Brennan Clay Oklahoma pairs up with Finch to form a nice backfield
81 Lache Seastrunk Oregon big time keeper prospect
82 Michael Hayes Houston could get lost in shuffle with Beall and Sims
83 Raymond Carter Colorado State should be RB1 on opening day
84 Matt Brown Temple always a good spot start when Pierce is injured
85 Andre Williams Boston College could be a nightmare for Montel Harris owners
86 Josh Oglesby Virginia Tech could be the thunder to David Wilson's lightning
87 Perry Jones Virginia   Keith Payne and his 14 TDs are gone
88 Eddie Lacy Alabama expected to serve as back up to T-Richardson
89 Mike Trumpy Northwestern had some nice moments late in 2010 season
90 Ronnie Weaver UCF fell off the map late in 2010, Murray took over
91 Deantre Lewis Arizona State dangerous receiving threat - good in PPR leagues
92 Dillon Baxter USC big potential, can he stay out of trouble?
93 LeDarius Perkins Mississippi State multi-dimensional threat who should see more touches
94 Aaron Spikes La-Lafayette nice PPR player, 339 rush, 398 recv, 8 TDs as frosh
95 Vincent Smith Michigan whoever cements RB1 job will shoot up rankings
96 Duane Bennett Minnesota new HC Jerry Kill ran it well at NIU with Spann
97 Jeffrey Demps Florida how will Charlie Weis handle the Gator RBs?
98 Joseph Banyard UTEP filled in nicely for Buckram, has some potential
99 Christine Michael Texas A&M will likely take a back seat to Cyrus Gray in 2011
100 Gregory Ray Memphis should be RB1 on opening day
101 Mustafa Greene NC State showed flashes in 2010
102 Jacquise Terry Kent State after strong first 7 games, vanished late in year
103 Darrian Mallary Florida Int'l forms nice 1-2 punch with Darriet Perry
104 Ryan McCants Oregon State somebody needs to fill Quizz's shoes
105 Paris Cotton C. Michigan had a couple explosive games in 2010
106 DJ Shoemate Connecticut could fight Robbie Frey for carries
107 Caleb King Georgia overhyped last couple years
108 Dennis Johnson Southern Miss could battle for starting role
109 DeLeon Eskridge Minnesota this guy has seemingly been around for like 7 years


Todd DeVries is the founder of CollegeFootballGeek.com, your premier destination for all things college fantasy football.

Load More Stories

Follow B/R on Facebook

Team StreamTM

College Football

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.