Fantasy football leagues tend to be won and lost based on running back production. Most fantasy leagues start two running backs with an additional spot for a third running back.
When drafting a running back within the top 20 ranked, going risky can sometimes hit you where it hurts. For instance, DeAngelo Williams was drafted as a top 10 running back and ended up compiling 361 yards and a single touchdown.
All rankings are provided by espn.com, and the risk value is dependant on the ranking. With that said, we dive into deciphering the top five risks at the running back position in 2011.
6) Peyton Hillis--Peyton Hillis plays on a Browns team that will struggle again in 2011. It's tough when you play in the AFC North and have to play both the Steelers and Ravens. There remains questions at the quarterback position as well. Hillis finished 2010 as a top five back and carries the #13 ranking into 2011. Hillis is only 25 and 2010 was his first season carrying the load. Hillis did get dinged up a bit in 2010, and expectations should be tempered for Hillis in 2011.
7) Jonathan Stewart--Jonathan Stewart has possibly the biggest upside of anyone on this list. Stewart brings in the #14 ranking, although this could rise if DeAngelo Williams departs in free agency. Stewart is an absolute beast with 2,739 yards and 22 TD in his first three seasons behind Williams. Stewart's yards per carry sits at a great 4.7. There are a few things going bad for Stewart in Carolina. First off is the quarterback position. It is a guarentee teams will stack the box against the Panthers. The Panthers offensive line is also a bit shaky making Stewart a risk.
8) Arian Foster--Arian Foster finished up 2010 as the #1 fantasy running back and now carries the #2 ranking going into this season. Foster is at the ripe age of 24, but prior to 2010 he was very unknown. Foster carries some risk in 2011 due to the fact that who knows how he will bounce back from a great season. Defenses may stack the box, although the Texans passing game is very efficient. When you take a guy #2 overall, you want a guarantee. Is Foster a guarantee to repeat his great season?
2010 stats--1,371 yards and 12 TD
Michael Turner bounced back from his injury plagued 2009 season with a monster 2010 season. Turner has put up three straight seasons of 10 or more TD and barely squeaks his way onto this list.
The Falcons have a very solid offensive line, and the offense as a whole is getting very good. With Matt Ryan blossoming into a very solid starting quarterback, defenses cannot stack the box like they once could.
Michael Turner is now 29 and does not catch the ball very well out of the backfield. Backup Jason Snelling showed last season that he is a very efficient all around running back.
Last season Snelling rushed 87 times for 324 yards and 2 TD. He also caught 44 balls for 303 yards and 3 TD.
Turner is much bigger and more physical than Snelling. Turner and Hillis are like two peas in a pod with the way that they run. They run people over, and sometimes that can invite injury.
Turner could still be in store for a big season, but the Falcons won't lean on him as much as they have in the past. Turner had over 300+ carries for the second time in his career and we could see a small drop in his numbers this season.
2010 stats--1,157 rushing yards, 507 receiving yards, and 10 total TD
Darren McFadden proved in 2010 that he can be the running back that the Raiders drafted him to be. The thing that lands McFadden on this list is the fact that the guy has been somewhat injury prone in his three years in the NFL.
McFadden missed three games in 2010 due to a hamstring injury. In 2009 McFadden was bothered by a slew of injuries and in 2008 he was bothered by an injury to his big toe.
It has been one thing or another for McFadden in his young career, and he may lose carries if the Raiders choose to resign free agent Michael Bush.
McFadden ended up a top 10 back in 2010 and he could be in for a big 2011 if he can stay healthy. The Raiders are finally getting better, and he could be a major contributor.
2010 stats--1,324 rushing yards, 317 receiving yards, and 7 total TD
Maurice Jones-Drew missed two games in 2010 after playing with a torn meniscus in his left knee. MJD saw his TD numbers drop by 10 last season following a phenomenal 2009 season.
MJD continued to rack up yardage, but in most fantasy football leagues touchdowns are golden.
MJD has been healthy throughout his NFL career, but as the picture above shows he is a very small guy. MJD is a very physical running back and his small body takes a beating.
The meniscus injury is a thing of the past, but MJD still has some risks as a top five pick as he finished out of the top 10 last season.
2010 stats--361 yards and 1 TD
There are many questions revolving around DeAngelo Williams as he is set to hit free agency. He only played in six games in 2010 due to a foot injury.
Williams also missed three games in 2009 because of injuries, meaning health will be a major question for Williams in 2011.
If you got burned by Williams in 2010, chances are you won't even put Williams on your cheat sheets. William's value will ultimately be determined by the team that he signs with.
If Williams goes to a team (completely hypothetical) like the Colts for instance, then he could be in store for a big 2011 season. If Williams can stay healthy, then he could have a big 2011 as he has a 5 yard per carry career average.
2010 stats: 853 rushing yards, 452 receiving yards, and 5 total TD
2011 ranking: 9
Frank Gore has not played in a full season since 2006. He has been injured each season since and has really obtained the injury-prone tag.
Gore suffered a hip injury in 2010, which cut his season five games short. He would have been in store for a big 2010 season had he stayed healthy.
Last season was also the first season since 2006 that Gore did not rush for more than 1,000 yards. He has injuries ranging from his wrist down to his ankle.
With Jim Harbaugh as the new head coach in San Francisco, Gore could have a huge 2011 season, if healthy. The 49ers a team that has leaned on Gore in seasons past, and they will need him once again to be big in 2011.