Top 10 NFL Running Backs For 2009

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IJune 13, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - DECEMBER 28:   Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs the ball in for a touchdown as James Butler of the New York Giants defends on December 28, 2008 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Giants 20-19. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

A little over two weeks ago, Bruno Boys Cavigs regaled us with a sneak peek at his top 10 QBs for 2009. And, boy did the article ever whet my appetite for the 2009 fantasy football season! Sadly, we're not quite there yet, though the season is fast approaching.

Hopefully, to make the time pass a little quicker, I figured I'd supply all of you out there in Bruno Boys Nation with a sneak peek into my (Bruno Boys Whooley) 2009 fantasy football top 10 running back list. Remember these rankings are based on my personal opinion and are not the Bruno Boys official rankings. 

But, mark your calendars because our official 2009 consensus position-by-position rankings, compiled based on the opinions of NINE Bruno Boys Staff Members, will be released on July 1st.


1. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)

Peterson may not have ended the 2008 season as the king among fantasy running backs. In fact, the Vikings' back finished third in fantasy points at the running back position behind both DeAngelo Williams and Michael Turner.

Still, he tops my list of running backs going into 2009, and, here's why. Peterson, while he didn't top the charts in fantasy points, did lead the league in rushing yards in 2009 with a very healthy 1,760 rush yards from scrimmage. In addition, the massive year he put up wasn't his first such year like it was for Williams and Turner as Peterson had already made fantasy owners happy in 2007, going for 1,341 rush yards, 268 receiving yards, and 13 total TDs in just 14 games. 

The perfect build for a running back, Peterson is able to wear defenses down and then explode late it games. He'll continue to be the workhorse for the Vikings, even if the team adds Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, and should be a workhorse for your fantasy squad.


2. Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons)

Following four very solid years in San Diego as LT's back-up in which he averaged no less than 4.5 yards per carry in a season, Turner left for Atlanta prior to 2008 to see if he could cut it as a starter in the NFL. The answer...an emphatic yes!

Turner posted stellar numbers in his first year as a starting back, going for 1,699 rush yards and 17 rush TDs, playing a large role in the Falcons' incredible turnaround. Going into 2009, there is some concern regarding the workload Turner shouldered in 2008 as he rushed the ball 377 times.

However, the Falcons should be able to keep him a bit fresher this year thanks to Matt Ryan's rapid development and the addition of tight end, Tony Gonzalez—two things that should lead to an even better passing attack than the team displayed last season.

A better passing attack may mean fewer carriers for "Burner Turner," but it will, also, open the field more meaning Turner should be able to do more with less.


3. Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars)

In a time in which the majority of NFL teams are turning towards running backs by committees, the Jaguars have gone against the grain, releasing veteran, Fred Taylor, this off-season while paving the way for Jones-Drew to be the team's featured back. The move has fantasy owners (myself included) salivating.

Over his first three seasons in the league, MJD has averaged 844.33 rush yards, 469.33 receiving yards, and 12.67 total TDs—numbers he accumulated while getting less than 200 carries in each of the three seasons.

While the Jags may be somewhat careful in how dramatically they increase MJD's load, 250-270 carries over the season seems reasonable.

Those extra touches along with the additions of veteran, Tra Thomas, and rookie, Eugene Monroe, to the offensive line should result in an excellent 2009 for "Thunder Thighs" MJD .


4. LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers)

The "what have you done for me lately?" mentality of fantasy football will cause LT to fall on many fantasy owners' cheat sheets due to his down year in 2008. However, while I've removed him from the top spot, I can't remove him from the top 5.

Even in a down year, the man still managed to finish 6th in fantasy points among running backs, totaling 1,536 yards and 12 TDs for the year.

Numbers any fantasy owner would love to have on their roster, and numbers that he should be able to improve upon in 2009 as he's entered offseason workouts healthy and could get over 300 carries in 2009 if Norv Turner gets his way.


5. Matt Forte (Chicago Bears): Forte had a stellar season as a rookie in 2008, totaling 1,715 yards and 12 TDs on the year. But, the year is even more impressive when you consider the offense Forte compiled those numbers on.

Playing for a team whose best receiver was Devin Hester with 665 yards, Forte was the focal point of opposing defenses, yet, he still managed to score 34.29% of the team's touchdowns and averaged 36.22% of the team's offensive yardage per game.

Jay Cutler's  arrival should help alleviate some of the attention Forte received last season and allow the back to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.


6. Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams): The best way to describe Steven Jackson as we head towards draft day is a "boom or bust" selection. It's no secret that new head coach, Steve Spagnuolo, wants to make the stud running back the center point of the team's offensive scheme.

And, to it's credit the team did everything it could to make sure the plan works. Not only did the team draft outstanding tackle, Jason Smith, in this year's draft, but they, also, brought in blocking-extraordinaire, full back, Mike Karney. Those two should help open up plenty of holes for Jackson.

However, with the team's starting receivers likely to be Donnie Avery and Kennan Burton, Jackson may find those holes closing faster than he can get through them as defenses will be stacking the box more often than not.


7. Brian Westbrook (Philadelphia Eagles):

Any time you hear ankle surgery in regards to a stud running back, red flags come up. But, in all honesty, Westbrook's recent trip under the scalpel shouldn't have any detrimental effect on his 2009 season.

The surgery was minor and Westbrook is expected to be good to go come opening day. A dual-threat as both a runner and receiver, Westbrook has had at least 900+ rushing yards, 400+ receiving yards, and 11 TDs in each of the last three seasons.

Some experts are concerned that the drafting of running back, LeSean McCoy, will significantly hurt Westbrook's fantasy value; however, I believe the opposite as McCoy's presence should keep Westbrook fresh, helping him to be more durable than in years past.


8. DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers): Perhaps the best value pick of 2008, Williams, expected to be no more than a low-end RB2, put up a monster season, going for 1,639 total yards and 20 total TDs while finishing the year as the top fantasy running back. So, why does he rank just 8th in my top-10? The answer is simply Jonathan Stewart.

The Panthers like to employ a two-back system and, despite Williams' success in 2008, will do so again in 2009. And, unlike 2008 when Williams had 274 carries to Stewart's 183, the touches should be a bit more even this go around.

That puts Williams in an interesting position as he can go from being the best value pick of 2008 to one of the worst in 2009.


9. Steve Slaton (Houston Texans)

At just 5'9" and 203 lbs., Slaton was supposed to struggle against the behemoths of the NFL, so much so, that he wasn't taken until the 89th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Someone, though, forgot to tell Slaton this.

Taking advantage of injuries to Chris Brown and Ahman Green, Slaton put together a tremedous rookie campaign running behind the Texans' zone-blocking scheme. He collected 11 double digit fantasy outings on the year, including a 30 point performance in week 13 against Jacksonville, and helped a good deal of fantasy teams to the promised land.

While his size and durability will always be a concern, Slaton has silence the critics at least for now.


10. Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans): Rounding out my list of the top-10 running backs heading into 2009, is yet another rookie from the 2008 season, Tennessee Titans' running back, Chris Johnson.

Despite sharing carries with LenDale White in 2008, a time share that left Johnson with 251 carries to White's 200, Johnson was able to surpass the 1,000-yard rushing mark his rookie season as he posted 1,228 rushing yards to go along with 260 receiving yards and 10 total TDs.

Not bad at all, considering he also missed a game as the team rested him in week 17 in order to have him fresh for the playoffs. Johnson will once again split time with White in 2009, and while that will hurt his TD totals as White is the goal-line back, Johnson will find ways to get you fantasy points much as he did in 2008.


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