Fantasy Football Rankings 2011: Initial Week 1 Running Back Rankings

Kevin Hanson@EDSFootballAnalyst IIISeptember 7, 2011

HOUSTON - JANUARY 02:  Running back Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans scores as he is tackled by Courtney Greene #36 of the Jacksonville Jaguars at Reliant Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

There are three elite running backs in the AFC South: Tennessee's Chris Johnson, Houston's Arian Foster and Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew.

When it comes to Week 1, there is a huge range of what their production may be due to the risks posed by each of them. One lost his starting quarterback yesterday, one is dealing with a hamstring injury and the other recently ended a holdout and may yet to be in "game shape."

Coincidentally, all three of them have made news since they have last played a regular-season game for what they did on Twitter.

Jones-Drew was the first, with his criticism of Chicago's Jay Cutler sitting out the second half of the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury. More recently, Foster tweeted the MRI of his injured hamstring, and Johnson had some choice words (or letters) for the "fake" fans who  thought he was greedy.

Here are our initial fantasy running backs for Week 1 (opponents in parenthesis):


1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (at SD): The last time these two teams met in 2007, Peterson rushed for an NFL-record 296 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. While I don't expect a repeat performance, the team's offensive coordinator has said the Vikings' plan this season is to "major in giving the ball to Adrian."


2. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF): Charles finished second in the league in rushing last year. The Bills allowed the most rushing yards in the league last year.

It's a match made in (fantasy) heaven.


3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (at STL): Even better in leagues with point-per-reception (PPR) scoring, McCoy averaged more than 100 yards from scrimmage per game, despite getting more than 16 rushing attempts only twice last year.


4. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (at DEN): Only Arian Foster averaged more yards from scrimmage per game than McFadden last year. No team allowed more rushing touchdowns (26) than the Broncos last year.


5.Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans (at JAX): Last year, Darrelle Revis suffered a hamstring injury after his holdout.

Let's hope Johnson does not suffer the same fate. With a full doze of carries, Johnson should be in store for a big week.


6. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (vs. SEA): In the 10 games before he fractured his hip, Gore piled up 1,253 yards from scrimmage during that span.


7. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (vs. ATL): Only three backs have more yards from scrimmage since Forte was drafted in 2008: Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson.


8. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. TEN): With no David Garrard, who was released Tuesday, more of the offense will run through Pocket Hercules.

Then again, more of the defense will be focused on him as well.


9. Arian Foster, Houston Texans (vs. IND): Last year, Foster had his coming out party against the Colts in Week 1 with a 231-yard performance.

This year, he may just be coming out (of the game). While it appears as though he will play in Week 1, I worry that the Texans limit his work and/or he reinjures his hamstring.


10. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons (at CHI): In three years in Atlanta, Turner has averaged 20.6 rush attempts per game and has scored 39 touchdowns in 43 games.


11. LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers (vs. DET): Blount became the second undrafted rookie free agent to rush for 1,000 yards in his rookie season.

Even more impressive, he had only 30 rushing yards in his first five games.


12. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (vs. PHI): The Rams' offense has long run through Jackson. Facing a team with three elite cornerbacks, the versatile back should get a lot of work in Week 1.


13. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers (at BAL): The bad news is Mendenhall averaged only 56.7 rushing yards per game and 2.58 yards per attempt in three games against the Ravens last year.

The good news is he scored four touchdowns in those games.


14. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens (vs. PIT): The Steelers have ranked in top three in run defense for seven straight seasons. Rice struggled against them last year—29 carries for 82 yards (2.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown, plus 10 receptions for 59 yards in three games counting the playoffs.

That said, Rice will be an even bigger part of Ravens' offense in 2011 and is a weekly must-start (even against the Steelers).


15. Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns (vs. CIN): While his physical style of running may cause him to wear down by the end of the season, no worries about Week 1 against the Browns' cross-state rivals.


16. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers (at ARI): While a platoon with The Daily Show is not ideal, the Cardinals allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2010.

That is ideal.


17. Shonn Greene, New York Jets (vs. DAL): For a second year in a row, there is buzz around Greene heading into the season (albeit less than last year).

Let's hope he gets off to a better start this time around.


18. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos (vs. OAK): While Willis McGahee may vulture some goal-line carries, the Broncos will certainly run the ball much more this season, and they open up against the team that allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in 2010.


19. Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals (vs. CAR): By default, Wells will be the team's workhorse in 2011. To get things going on the right foot, he faces one of the most favorable defenses against running backs in Week 1.


20. Tim Hightower, Washington Redskins (vs. NYG): Coach Mike Shanahan likes to change up running backs, but Hightower is the guy to start the season, and the Giants continue to lose defensive players at an alarming pace.


21. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions (at TB)
22. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (at WAS)
23. Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys (at NYJ)
24. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (vs. MIN)
25. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England Patriots (at MIA)
26. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (at KC)
27. Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers (vs. MIN)
28. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (at GB)
29. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals (at CLE)
30. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants (at WAS)
31. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (at SF)
32. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (at ARI)
33. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers (vs. NO)
34. James Starks, Green Bay Packers (vs. NO)
35. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints (at GB)
36. Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins (vs. NE)
37. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts (at HOU)
38. Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins (vs. NE)
39. Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (vs. OAK)
40. Thomas Jones, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)

More Week 1 rankings: Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Kickers and Team Defenses.

Good luck in your Week 1 matchup(s)!


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