The Top 30 Fantasy Football Running Backs
If you're anything like me, the threat of no NFL season not only crushed your dreams of your team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, it also smashed your visions of taking down the fantasy league and rubbing it into your friends faces.
But, the NFL is back. I couldn't be more ecstatic. So, first on the agenda: the draft.
And what's arguably the most important position on your team? The running back, of course. A big yardage day, a few touchdowns, some receptions and a big run or two can single-handedly win the week.
It's time to delve deep; it's time to rank the top 30 fantasy football running backs!
30. Marshawn Lynch
As your number one back, Lynch isn't the ideal fit. Rushing for just 737 yards and six TDs in 2010 doesn't exactly make him a glamorous pick, but the Seahawks added some talent from the free agent pool that might take some focus off of Lynch.
Also, it's not like the NFC West screams defense. Lynch shouldn't have too hard of a time running wild all over his division and putting up numbers similar to his rookie campaign in Buffalo.
29. Fred Jackson
This might be the final year Jackson makes the top 30, since he turned 30 this past off-season. But in 2009 and 2010, Jackson averaged 1,000 per season, scored seven rushing TDs and caught four receiving touchdowns.
Jackson has a good pair of hands in the backfield, too. His 371 receiving yards in '09 and 215 receiving yards in '10 are the kinds of statistics most fantasy owners overlook. A few points here and there can make the difference between a win and a loss.
28. Brandon Jacobs
Even though Jacobs hasn't recaptured the magic of the '08 season where he scored 15 rushing touchdowns, he still put together a decent 2010 campaign. While splitting duties in the backfield, Jacobs rushed for 823 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. But his most noteworthy stat was his touchdown total: nine.
If the G-Men continue using Jacobs on the goal line in 2011, he could rack up much needed TDs for your team. I mean, it's hard to stop a 6'4", 264 lbs. man, no matter who you are.
27. Daniel Thomas
The 62nd overall pick of the Dolphins may have a breakout year. The Kansas State standout scored 19 touchdowns in 2010 as he rushed for almost 1,600 yards.
But, this is the NFL. Guys are bigger, stronger and faster and the rookie will have to adjust to the league in order to be effective on the ground.
A solid 230 lbs., Thomas has an NFL body, and if he gets the bulk of the load, he could put up gaudy fantasy numbers.
26. Ahmad Bradshaw
If the Giants use Bradshaw the way they did in 2010, he might be a top-tier back. Unfortunately for the Marshall standout, it looks like his role may be cut down from what it once was.
Bradshaw's problem is securing the football. Though he rushed for a career-best 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns, Bradshaw fumbled seven times (six for a loss).
But, he is a worthwhile passing target. In '09, Bradshaw caught 21 balls for 207 yards, last year he made 47 receptions for 314 yards.
25. Knowshon Moreno
Knowshon is just coming into his own in the NFL and 2011 might be a huge season for the back out of Georgia. Last season, Moreno missed three games for the Broncos but still put up 1,151 all-purpose yards.
The key to Moreno's success (and to every back) is staying healthy, but he adopted a new training regiment in the offseason that could sustain his durability.
24. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Even with Danny Woodhead splitting carries in the backfield, Green-Ellis still managed to rush for over 1,000 yards in 2010. He also added 13 rushing touchdowns for the versatile Patriots and if he repeats those numbers, can be a solid number two back on your team.
The question is whether Green-Ellis has what it takes to continue what he started last year. As we all know, Coach Belichick likes to mix things up. If Green-Ellis isn't consistent, the Pats may use more packages containing the scrappier Woodhead.
Another note: Green-Ellis isn't a prolific pass catcher. In 2010, he caught just 12 balls for 85 yards. He is extremely sure-handed, though, as he has yet to fumble a ball in his first three NFL seasons.
23. Cedric Benson
Since Benson has been getting considerable starting time for the Bengals, he has shown that he is a solid featured back. Rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, Benson has also scored a combined 14 TDs in that same span.
The problem with Benson is his fumble-itis. Before the 2010 season, Benson had only coughed it up seven times (four for a loss) in five seasons. In 2010, he put the ball on the ground seven times and lost it five times.
If Benson cleans up, he might help carry the load en route to a fantasy championship.
22. Mark Ingram
Here's another rookie with huge potential up-side. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner ran for 1,658 yards and scored 17 times on the ground and three times through the air.
Sidelined with injuries in 2010, Ingram still collected 13 rushing TDs, and a first-round selection by the New Orleans Saints. With Reggie Bush in Miami, Ingram should see a lot of carries in 2011.
21. Ryan Mathews
It seems like every fantasy "expert" was ultra high on Ryan Mathews last year. Coupled with San Diego's prolific passing game, Matthews seemed like a slam dunk as a number one fantasy back.
But Mathews had a hard time staying on the field and his back-up, Mike Tolbert, cleaned up the scraps to round out the Chargers running game.
In 2010, Mathews ran for just 678 yards in 12 games and scored seven times. If he stays healthy, Mathews could pay huge dividends for whoever drafts him on their fantasy team.
20. Felix Jones
Felix Jones should get the carries he deserves in Dallas in 2011. Last year, the talented back out of Arkansas started just seven games, but racked up 1,250 all-purpose yards. Jones only scored twice for the 'Boys, but if Jones carries the bulk of the load, there's no reason why Jason Garrett won't let him finish what he started.
Jones' talents aren't simply limited to carrying the football, he's a skilled receiver who caught 48 passes in 2010. So, if your league favors catches and receiving yards, Jones is a very good back to draft.
19. Ryan Grant
Remember how good Ryan Grant was for your team in 2009? The Notre Dame alum ran for 1,253 yards and 11 TDs. Remember how big of a let down he was in 2010? If you took him early, you were deeply regretting it. Grant went down in week one, busting up his ankle, never to return to your lineup.
But 2011 is a new year and the Packers are the defending Super Bowl Champs. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, a lot of the Pack's heat is on the QB which should really open up the field for Grant.
Ankles are so fragile and obviously incredibly imperative for a running back. Maybe that's why Grant didn't crack the top 10. If he shows he can cut like he did two seasons ago, Grant might be a nice pick in the third or fourth round.
18. Shonn Greene
Here's another guy who didn't live up to his fantasy expectations in 2010. But, Greene should be a solid number two running back this year for your team.
Rushing for only 766 yards and two TDs, Greene only started once in 15 games played last season. This year, Greene has been announced as the starter with veteran LaDanian Tomlinson slated to take a third down role.
More carries means more yards. And with Greene's potential, he might have a huge season for the Jets.
17. Jahvid Best
Jahvid Best is another running back who gives you two chances to rack up fantasy points. Sure, his 555 rushing yards wasn't anything special last year. But his 487 receiving yards makes him a viable double-threat out of the backfield.
Best scored six TDs in 2010, but only put the ball on the ground once in 171 carries and 58 catches. He's fast, too. At the combine, Best ran a 4.35 40. It's that type of break away speed that can equate to huge fantasy bonuses and the type of player who can make a serious impact.
16. DeAngelo Williams
Another featured back hampered with injury in 2010, Williams might be the savior you're looking for this season. In 2008, Williams rushed for more than 1,500 yards and got into the end zone a total of 20 times. Now that's production.
It's probably not fair to hope for Williams to repeat the magic that was the '08 season, but it is probably fair to assume he can average 90 yards per game and 10 touchdowns by season's end.
Williams averaged more than 5 yards per carry in three consecutive season, so you know he has what it takes to be an every down back. The backfield may be a bit crowded if Jonathan Stewart keeps getting equal time.
15. Matt Forte
Matt Forte had a decent 2010, but I think most fantasy owner's were disappointed in his numbers. His 1,069 yards and six TDs were good, not great. He did add 547 receiving yards and three touchdowns to round out his season.
But we are still waiting for Forte to recapture what he did his rookie season. Forte scored 12 times in 2008 while making all 16 starts and only fumbling once. Last year, Forte lost his handle three times (two for a loss) despite carrying the ball 79 fewer times.
Forte is a good number two back, but a lackluster number one.
14. LeGarrette Blount
Probably best known for cheap-shotting a Boise State defensive end after a 19-8 Oregon loss, Blount showed what he possesses as a ball-carrier in 2010. The physical 247 pounder ran for over 1,000 yards in 13 games for the Bucs last season.
Blount averaged five yards per carry and scored six touchdowns. If Blount continues what he was doing at the end of last year, he might be one of the finest backs in fantasy football.
Another top-tier number two back, Bradshaw might put up the numbers to consider taking him in the first two rounds.
13. Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson is Mr. Reliable when it comes to both the Rams and fantasy football. The bulky running back has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his last five seasons and has racked up 54 TDs in seven NFL campaigns.
Last season, Jackson ran for more than 1,200 yards, scored six touchdowns and only fumbled once. The 28 year old doesn't show any signs of slowing down and it shouldn't be a surprise to any fantasy enthusiast to see him this high on the list.
12. Peyton Hillis
After getting his first chance as a featured back, Hillis did not disappoint last year. Running for almost 1,200 yards whilst catching 61 balls made Hillis the surprise running back of 2010.
Hillis had a nose for the end zone, too. He ran in 11 TDs and caught two touchdown passes.
Hillis is also the type of running back who is capable of scoring enough points on his own to make you relax on Sunday.
The only negative for Hillis (other than the fumbles) is that he made the cover of Madden NFL 12. I bet Cleveland his rooting hard against that seemingly unstoppable curse.
11. Michael Turner
Michael Turner is really good, and he plays on a really, really good team. Last season, Turner turned in 1,371 rushing yards and scored 12 times. He carried the ball 334 times and only fumbled twice as the Falcons put together a very successful season.
So, why isn't Turner higher on the list? For one, he's a one-dimensional back. With only 85 receiving yards in 2010, Turner has only collected 232 career receiving yards in seven seasons.
He's also getting up there in age. Most backs are productive through their 20's and see a considerable drop-off after their 30th birthday. Turner is 29.
He's still a great number two, and a feasible number one back. My guess is that he will still have a 1,200 yard season and get into the end zone nine times.
10. Frank Gore
Despite a fractured right hip in week 12 of the 2010 season, Gore still proved that he can move the football. His 853 rushing and 452 receiving yards don't seem like much until you consider he piled up that yardage in 11 games.
Gore crossed the goal line five times last year, and 13 the year before when he missed two weeks due to injury. Gore hasn't started every game since 2006, but the multi-faceted back is still a difference maker on fantasy teams the world over.
With more viable passing targets for Alex Smith, Gore should put together a marquis year for the Niners.
9. Rashard Mendenhall
Even though he hates America and supports 9/11 conspiracy theories, Mendenhall can still make it happen on the gridiron. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the last two seasons, but last year, Mendenhall proved he could get into the end zone.
The former Fightin' Illini crested the goal line 13 times and had a 50 yard touchdown run. The Steelers are a run-first offense, and Mendenhall carries the bulk of the burden.
Rashard is a number one back who should be available at the end of the first round (depending on the size of your league). If he's there, snap him up and watch him score.
8. Darren McFadden
Last year, you would have been considered crazy to take McFadden in the first round of your draft. This year, it's another story.
McFadden put together one hell of a 2010. He rushed for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns. He received 47 passes for 507 yards and scored three times. Did I mention he missed three games?
If McFadden stays on the field he might be one of the most productive backs in all of fantasy. His ability to break big runs, carry the ball consistently, and catch passes makes him an interesting first round pick.
7. Ray Rice
Ray Rice has been a model of consistency in Baltimore's backfield over the past two seasons. Despite Willis McGahee's uncanny ability to steal touchdowns from Rice, Ray still managed to score five rushing and one receiving TD.
It looks as though Rice has the league figured out at just 24 years old. His 1,220 rushing yards were amongst the league leaders and his 556 receiving yards were comparable to any other NFL back.
Rice learned how to take care of the football last year, too. In 2009, he fumbled three times (all for a loss). In 2010, he never fumbled despite carrying the ball 207 times and catching 63 passes.
6. Maurice Jones-Drew
MJD turned in an exceptional 2010. He carried the ball for 1,324 yards and five TDs. He also caught two receiving touchdowns. But for fantasy owners, MJD was somewhat of a disappointment in 2010. The season before he stunned the NFL and the world of fantasy when he scored 16 touchdowns.
This year may be a repeat of 2009. The rest of MJD's stats were comparable to what he did in 2010, he simply didn't get the touches near the goal line.
MJD is pretty durable, too. He missed two games last season, but before that, he only missed one game in four seasons. Afforded the same chances as last year, MJD could be the steal of the first round.
5. LeSean McCoy
The Eagles probably added the most to their team during the off-season. But one position they didn't need help at was at running back. LeSean McCoy put together a stellar year for Philly as he scored nine TDs, rushed for more than 1,000 yards and received for almost 600.
The upside to McCoy is insane. He's quick, nimble, and most defenses worry more about the guy who is under center. With that type of distraction, McCoy should see a lot of action.
LeSean also averaged 5.2 yards per carry and shouldn't see his playing time deteriorate despite the signing of Ronnie Brown.
4. Arian Foster
For Arian Foster to repeat what he did last year is probably impossible. The former Volunteer literally came out of nowhere in 2010. He rushed for 1,616 yards, received for 604 yards and scored 18 combined touchdowns.
He also added some monster plays. His long run was a 74 yarder that resulted in a TD. He also made a 50 yard reception, averaging about nine yards per catch.
Foster may go first overall in a lot of drafts, but it is hard to have back-to-back seasons with that kind of production. Foster may eclipse 1,500 yards this year but expect his touchdown total to drop.
3. Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson may be the best player in the NFL, but he fell a long way between 2009 and 2010.
In 2009, Johnson broke the 2,000 yard barrier, rushed for 14 TDs, and made 50 catches for 503 yards. In 2010, Johnson still played exceptional. He rushed for 1,364 yards, 11 TDs and caught 44 passes for 245 yards.
2011 is a bit of a mystery, but Johnson is a sure-fired first round choice. He typically stays in games he should come out of, and is seemingly very stats-minded.
Though the Titans don't seem like they'll be any good this year, you can count on Chris Johnson to win a few fantasy weeks for you.
2. Jamaal Charles
Even with the aging Thomas Jones in the backfield sharing some of the duties, Charles is a two-pronged back that is in the prime of his career.
His 1,467 yards were gained with a 6.4 yard per carry average. He scored a total of eight touchdowns, grabbed 45 passes for 468 yards and lost only two fumbles in 2010.
Charles only started six games in 2010, and with the likelihood of starting all 16 games this year, Charles has a chance at rushing for 2,000 yards in 2011.
1. Adrian Peterson
All Day has found a way to become more effective with each passing season. Last year, he rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. In 2009, he put up similar numbers (except he scored 18 times) but fumbled seven times (six for a loss).
At 26, Peterson is the perfect combination of wisdom and youth for his position. You can expect another big season out of Peterson if he stays healthy.
Though Peterson may have the best season of any running back in the NFL, he may not be a clear first overall pick depending on how your league is set up. Regardless of where you draft Peterson, he's a lock at a size-able point total that may lead all the way to the championship game.
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