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Fantasy Rankings: AFC East Running Backs in 2009

Josh SatlerAnalyst IJune 8, 2009

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 4:  Running back Ronnie Brown #23 of the Miami Dolphins rushes upfield against the Baltimore Ravens during their AFC Wild Card Game at Dolphins Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Miami, Floirda.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The AFC East provides both depth and talent at the running back position, and a few early players off the fantasy draft board.

1. Ronnie Brown

Brown came back from an ACL injury to post solid numbers in 2008. He was one of the biggest reasons for the amazing worst-to-first turnaround in Miami. He finished off the season with 900 yards and 10 touchdowns, including five versus the Patriots in week three of the season, which also happened to coincide with the unveiling of the Wildcat formation.

This year, after the Fins went out and got some big bodies up front, and with an entire off season to absorb Sparano's system, look for Brown to put up big numbers once again: 1,400 yards and over 12 touchdowns.

2. Thomas Jones

After a very lackluster first season with the Jets in 2007 (one touchdown), Jones came back with a vengeance in '08 and made a lot of fantasy owners very happy. He posted over 1,300 yards on the ground and put the ball across the goal line 15 total times, two coming in the receiving department.

While he has bickered with management this off season about his contract, we think that once the season comes around, he'll be just fine, and the Jets will rely on him heavily as they look to bring on a rookie QB. Look for another solid year of 1,250 yards and at least 10 touchdowns.

3. Marshawn Lynch

Lynch rarely topped the century mark in 2008, but he did finish with over 1,000 yards and nine total touchdowns. This year, he must serve a three game suspension to start the season, which will definitely hurt his overall numbers, but not enough to place him below Maroney in New England.

And Lynch is a notoriously slow starter anyway. Look for another thousand yard season, with eight to 10 touchdowns and some extra yardage catching the ball out of the backfield, especially with a lot of attention given to Terrell Owens by opposing defenses.

4. Laurence Maroney

This is the enigma of the division. Quite possibly the most talented back in the AFC East, Maroney has been unable to stay healthy. In fact, aside from his rookie campaign, he's yet to finish a season in each of the past two years.

But the talent is there, and the Patriots are loaded at every offensive skill positions. Look for Maroney, who will be sharing carries with Fred Taylor this season, to bounce back and begin to live up to his rookie promise. 1,000 plus yards and eight touchdowns is certainly within his potential.

5. Leon Washington

Washington is an absolute game changer, who does a lot of damage with the football in his hands. And he has the speed to take it to the house, from anywhere on the field. In his limited time last season, he put over 800 yards (both rushing and receiving) and scored eight total touchdowns.

This season, which also happens to be a contract year, look for Ryan to get Washington more involved and for Washington, trying to land a big payday, to deliver.

6. Fred Taylor

Taylor is an excellent role player who the Pats scooped up the minute free agency began. After amassing over 11,000 career yards in Jacksonville, and suffering through an extremely disappointing season in 2008, look for the Pats to pick and choose their spots for him and for Taylor to be the primary ball handler at the goal line.

Draft Tip

Brown is a first round pick, while Jones could sneak into the latter half of the first round, or come off the board in the early second. Lynch will go in the late second while Maroney will come off the board between round's three and five. Washington will be an excellent flex option from round's six and on, and Taylor will go around the same time. A few others not listed here who will be later round value picks are, Miami's Ricky Williams and Buffalo's Fred Jackson.

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