The NFC East features a collection of talented runners, who also happen to rank among the elite in fantasy. Here's how they rate in 2009.
1. Brandon Jacobs
The mammoth Giants back put up over 1,000 yards in 13 games last season and scored 15 TDs. His biggest obstacle to overcome is the injury bug, as he's been unable to stay healthy for an entire season in each of his two seasons as the full-time starter. But with the Giants more committed to the run in 2009, look for Jacobs to have his number called 15-20 times per game and put up big numbers, especially in the six-point variety.
Westbrook is still one of the top two or three most dangerous game breakers in the NFL, but age seems to be catching up and the injuries over the past few seasons are beginning to take their toll. The Eagles went out and drafted LeSean McCoy in the second round this year, so look for Westbrook's load to be lightened. But he'll still be a 1st round selection and solid fantasy threat.
3. Marion Barber
The Cowboys will adjust to the loss of T.O. by focusing more on the running game. And Barber will be the beneficiary of the increased carries. He seemed to wear down towards the end of last season—his first as the full-time starter—and sustained a toe injury, but we like him to bounce back with over 1,000 yards and double digit TDs in 2009. He's also very good as a receiver out of the backfield.
Portis is still a premier back, but he was used heavily last season and began to wear down towards the end. The Skins don't have too many weapons (outside of Portis) to put fear into opposing defenses and play in the toughest division in football, as the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles all possess top 10 defenses. Look for Portis to post solid numbers, but we expect his carries, yards and TDs to be lessened in 2009.
5. Ahmad Bradshaw
Bradshaw finally assumes the No. 2 role in the Giants running back rotation and should provide an excellent change of pace to the bruising Jacobs. In his limited time during the 2007 Super Bowl run, he showed flashes of brilliance. Now, he gets to show what he can do over the course of the season, and we expect he'll put up 1,000 yards and break a few long TDs.
6. Felix Jones
Before injuring himself, Jones showed his tremendous speed and took a few balls—on both special teams and out of the backfield—to the house. As the complement to Barber, and with the Cowboys relying more on their running game as well, look for Jones to have the opportunity to get between 700-900 yards and take a few more to the house.