The NFL season is almost here, and you need to have updated fantasy football rankings for 2011 and an accurate list of fantasy football sleepers.
NFL trade rumors are still swirling, but we feel we have determined an accurate listing of this season’s fantasy football stars. In our latest rankings there has been a bit of a shake-up, but most names are where you would expect.
We have scoured the news wires and training camps while creating accurate 2011 NFL predictions and have determined which running backs are poised to lead you to a fantasy football championship.
Not all of us are in position to draft Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster, but now you can figure out who is worth reaching on and who isn’t.
1(1) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Peterson is the most consistent back in fantasy, but has yet to be the No. 1 overall back since coming into the league in 2007.
This year, the Vikings are going to focus more on a power-running offense similar to the style that the Falcons used to make Michael Turner the best back in fantasy in 2008. The team has also said they will involve AP more in the passing game, and the Pro Bowl back has been petitioning all offseason to be the team’s primary third-down back.
2(3) Arian Foster, Houston Texans
We are becoming more and more of a fan of Foster, but not because he has done anything extra this offseason.
We’ve been reviewing the tape of the Texans’ 2010 season, and the real MVP of that offense was the offensive line. The zone-blocking system in Houston could make any back look good, so Foster should be due for another great year.
Even if Foster only records 75 percent of the stats he had last year, he would still be one of the best in fantasy.
3(4) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
If you already own Charles you are likely sweating, because he is still listed as the No. 2 back on the depth chart, but don’t worry.
Although that is where Charles is listed, he will no doubt have the numbers to be a top-five fantasy back come season's end. The combination of Thomas Jones and Charles is great for Charles’ health and longevity, just not his touchdown count.
It may be asking too much for Charles to record another 1,400-plus-yard campaign, but there is no doubt he will rush for more than five touchdowns this season.
4(6) Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Rice is poised to have a tremendous year in 2011, the only thing holding him back being the two games against Pittsburgh on the schedule.
Other than that, Rice should benefit from having the league's best run-blocking fullback (Vonta Leach) and the added security of having his talented right guard back in his normal position (Marshall Yanda).
What we really like about Rice, however, is that the Ravens will focus their entire offense around him.
Last year, the Ravens couldn’t find an identity on offense, and it showed. This year they will allow Rice to run until the wheels fall off, and will even allow him to choose when to come off of the field.
Rice is also expected to take all of the goal line snaps this season as well, something Willis McGahee did last year.
5(2) Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Johnson is allegedly a workout freak and a weight room hero, so there shouldn’t be too many concerns about him being out of shape just because he isn’t in camp.
One thing you should worry about is how Johnson will mesh with a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback. Johnson will have limited time to prepare for the season—if he doesn’t completely hold out—and it will likely affect his stat lines.
As much as Johnson is a workout freak, however, we are worried about the increase in pulled hamstrings this offseason, and there should be some concern the same fate will befall Johnson this year. It may not mean any missed games, but it could result in fewer touches.
6(7) Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
MJD claims he is completely healthy and will be good to go this season.
The Pro Bowl running back has yet to play in a preseason game, however, and likely won’t until the final contest of the preseason. Many think MJD’s initial knee surgery was much more severe than once thought, but the Jaguars running back has looked 100 percent in team practices.
At the very least, MJD will be good for 1,300 yards and around eight to 10 touchdowns, but his upside is massive and worthy of a first-round pick.
7(5) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
McCoy is taking a bit of a drop in our rankings this season, not because of any injury concern or scheme changing, however.
We are a little worried about what the effect of Ronnie Brown will have on McCoy’s rushing statistics. There is no doubt that McCoy is a superior receiver and will find lots of work in the Eagles' pass-heavy offense, but will his rushing stats be enough to make him a top-five back in fantasy?
We don’t think it will, and if the Eagles have protection issues again this season, there is also reason to believe that Ronnie Brown could be used more frequently. Brown has a clear pass-blocking advantage over McCoy.
8(11) Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
He may look dumb on Twitter, but Mendenhall will make you look very smart on draft day. Mendenhall saw his stats drop significantly after Big Ben returned from suspension last season, but the Steelers plan on using Mendenhall more often in passing situations.
The team has lauded Mendenhall’s progression as a blocker and his blitz pick-up ability, so Mendenhall should have added value in PPR leagues. Mendenhall has dazzled in camp so far as a runner, which is hard to do against the tough Steelers defense.
9(9) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
We love a guy in his contract year, and Gore has yet to be given that long-term deal he is asking for.
The Niners have all the leverage, considering Gore’s injury history and the fact that rookie Kendall Hunter has had his share of impressive training camp moments.
Team personnel say they want to make him a 49er for life, but his price tag may be too much—and don’t expect Gore to reduce his asking price.
Although an injury is almost a guarantee for Gore somewhere along the line, his added motivation this season could make him a very dangerous back in fantasy.
10(10) Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
Run DMC could be one of the league’s best this season—it all depends on whether his offensive line can give him the holes.
The Raiders are going to change their blocking system to fit McFadden’s play style better in 2011, but we're always skeptical about the success of a new system in its first year.
Still, McFadden has the entire coaching staff in his corner, so you can expect him to see an increase in stats across the board.