Fantasy Football: Ranking the 15 Best Running Backs of 2011

Daniel Stack@@stacdemonContributor IINovember 14, 2011

Fantasy Football: Ranking the 15 Best Running Backs of 2011

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    Running backs have always been the backbone of fantasy owner’s teams ever since the inception of the game. They are guaranteed to have an impact, as they will no doubt touch the ball on numerous occasions.

    If you don’t have at least two capable running backs on your squad, chances are you are climbing an uphill battle. Sometimes, three capable running backs are necessary since most leagues’ institute a flex play.

    Here are the 15 backs that are making the most impact in fantasy this year. If you have at least two of the following, kudos to you, as you are probably sitting pretty. 

    Despite Chris Johnson’s stellar game on Sunday, he has not done enough this year for inclusion. Also, the fine play that DeMarco Murray is exhibiting thus far is just too small a sample size to factor.

Arian Foster: Houston Texans

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    After battling hamstring injuries in the early part of the season, Foster is running on all cylinders now.

    Foster is the Texans offense right now and as long as he is healthy the Texans are a sleeper team to make the Super Bowl. To date, Foster has 740 yards rushing and 445 yards receiving to go with eight total touchdowns.

LeSean McCoy: Philadelphia Eagles

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    Although his team is crumbling behind him, McCoy is still on pace for a career year.

    McCoy has 12 total touchdowns, which paces all running backs. McCoy, who has 1,102 yards from scrimmage, is as elusive as it gets and the sky remains the limit for him.

Adrian Peterson: Minnesota Vikings

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    Arguably the game’s best running back in the NFL, Peterson has done nothing this year to change that perception.

    As of Monday morning, Peterson was second amongst running backs with nine rushing touchdowns. Peterson also ranks in the top five in rushing yards, with 795.

Matt Forte: Chicago Bears

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    Forte does it all.

    If it wasn’t for Forte, the Bears would be nowhere near playoff contenders. Forte has proven himself to be one the game's best dual purpose backs—1308 yards from scrimmage—that can either rush the ball or catch the ball out of the backfield.

Fred Jackson: Buffalo Bills

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    No one saw the season Jackson would be having coming.

    Jackson has gone from a serviceable low end number, to running back or flex play into a top 10 runner. Jackson still leads the league in rushing—917 yards—and has six touchdowns to boot.

Ray Rice: Baltimore Ravens

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    The diminutive Rice is a handful to contain.

    Rice is like the energizer bunny, he just keeps coming at you. Rice is perhaps the best receiving back in the league, as he has 46 receptions for a league leading 470 receiving yards amongst running backs. On the year, Rice has eight total touchdowns.

Michael Turner: Atlanta Falcons

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    Turner just continues to keep doing his thing.

    Turner has to be considered one of the league’s most trusted running backs. Turner ranks third in rushing touchdowns, with seven, and sixth in rushing yards, with 788. When you think durable and dependable, you think Michael Turner.

Frank Gore: San Francisco 49ers

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    Notwithstanding his leg injury in the Giants game, Gore is having another terrific year. 

    Gore is a beast with the ball as he hits holes hard. Despite his zero yards in Sunday’s game against the Giants, Gore still ranks seventh in the league in rushing yards—with 782—to go along with five touchdowns.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Jones-Drew is the Jaguars offense.

    Without him, the Jaguars would probably be winless. With a rookie quarterback and no legitimate receiving threats, Jones-Drew is still getting it done.  Jones-Drew places fourth in rushing yards—with 854 yards—while also accounting for four touchdowns.

Darren McFadden: Oakland Raiders

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    Some may argue about his ranking in this piece, but two games missed does not overshadow the fact of how good a running back McFadden is.

    In seven games—including his game against Kansas City when he got only two carries for four yards—McFadden has amassed 614 rushing yards, 154 receiving yards and five touchdowns.  He maybe even deserves to be ranked higher.

    Perhaps this ranking should also include Michael Bush—who has 371 total yards and two touchdowns—as either Raider running back has proven to be effective.

Steven Jackson: St. Louis Rams

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    You have to feel bad for Jackson.

    If he played for a better team, maybe he would get more recognition. Jackson, while battling injuries, still is one of the NFL’s elite running backs. His 704 rushing yards ranks him eighth in the league.

Darren Sproles: New Orleans Saints

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    Sproles has been a revelation this year and is a perfect fit for the Saints’ offense.

    While not a prototypical running back, Sproles may be the NFL’s best receiving back, as he leads the league in receptions for running backs with 60. For PPR leagues, Sproles is a must start.

Rashard Mendenhall: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    While he is not having a great year, Mendenhall has done enough to matter in fantasy circles.

    His 614 yards rushing, while missing one game, and five total touchdowns still make him a great number two running back.

Beanie Wells: Arizona Cardinals

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    It’s hard to fathom, but Wells is tied for third in the league in rushing touchdowns with seven.

    Although he is lean on the yardage with 588, Wells is still making an impact this year while being the undisputed number one running back in Arizona.

Willis McGahee: Denver Broncos

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    McGahee has rejuvenated his career in Denver, while supplanting incumbent Knowshon Moreno to the sidelines.

    Despite injuring his hamstring on Sunday, McGahee is having himself a fine season. McGahee’s 640 yards rank him in the top 15.