2011 NFL Playoffs: Ranking the Top 25 Fantasy Running Backs

Nick Caron@@nicholascaronAnalyst IJanuary 4, 2011

2011 NFL Playoffs: Ranking the Top 25 Fantasy Running Backs

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 21:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Playing fantasy football during the NFL playoffs might be a new concept to some, but speaking as a person who plays in a separate league for the playoffs, let me tell you—it’s a blast.

    In fact, it can oftentimes be more dramatic and exciting than playing in the regular season, as you find yourself truly cheering for teams along with your individual players.

    View the rest of the 2011 fantasy football playoff rankings:

    Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

    Playoff fantasy football can be an thrilling way to shorten the already prolonged offseason if you’re one of the millions who is addicted to fantasy football.

    In the league I play in, we will draft a team that must consist of each of the following:

    • One Quarterback
    • Two Running Backs
    • Three Wide Receivers
    • One Tight End
    • One Kicker
    • One Defense / Special Teams Unit

    If you have filled up your roster with each of these, you are free to draft six more players at any position. This often means that some teams have two quarterbacks, two or more kickers or defenses, etc.

    The scoring system is simple: total points on your fantasy roster throughout the entirety of the playoffs.

    This means that you do not set a “starting lineup” each week. Every player on your roster is automatically in your lineup until his team is eliminated from the playoffs.

    (Note: Because kickers and defenses are almost guaranteed to accrue at least some points in every game, they are often selected earlier in the playoff system than they would be in your standard preseason fantasy draft.)

    With a limited talent pool in the playoffs, this means that selecting players who you believe will be on a team that will make it the furthest in the playoffs is of the utmost importance.

    It also can mean slightly downgrading players on teams that have a first round bye, as they will have one less opportunity to gain points than the players on teams that do play in the Wild Card Round.

    With the basics out of the way, let’s move on to ranking the running backs for this season’s playoffs!

25. Mike Hart, RB, Indianapolis Colts

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    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Hart #32 of Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball during  the NFL game against the Houston Texans  at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 1, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Hart was beginning to emerge as perhaps the replacement for Joseph Addai while he was out but ended up getting injured himself not long after.

    The Colts’ crowded backfield is now even more crowded with the healthy returns of Mike Hart and Addai for the playoffs.

    One of these players will likely be inactive, and it could be Hart, like it was in Week 17, but he could step in and perform if any of the other backs gets bitten by the injury bug again.

24. Chester Taylor, RB, Chicago Bears

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Chester Taylor #29 of the Chicago Bears runs against the New York Jets at Soldier Field on December 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Jets 38-34. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Supposedly he’s still the goal line running back in Chicago, but who would have known? The Bears simply don’t get down into that area of the field very often, and they usually pass when they do.

    Taylor rushed for touchdowns in Weeks 13 and 14 but has only accumulated one total fantasy point since then despite remaining healthy.

23. Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle Seahawks

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    SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 02:  Running back Justin Forsett #20 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after a run against the St. Louis Rams during their game at Qwest Field on January 2, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2010 looked like it could be a promising one for the young running back, but the acquisition of Marshawn Lynch has relegated Justin Forsett to backup running back status.

    While he still gets between three and eight carries per week, his production hasn’t warranted much fantasy appeal all season, and that isn’t likely to change in the playoffs.

22. Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 24:  Jason Snelling #44 of the Atlanta Falcons stiff arms Keith Rivers #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Georgia Dome on October 24, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    An impressive start to the season had many experts wondering if Jason Snelling would be able to remain splitting rushing duties with Michael Turner. Since Week 3, though, Snelling has not taken more than eight carries, and his main value remains as a receiver out of the backfield.

    Turner is certainly not a third down back, which means Snelling gets on the field a decent amount, but he is still a fraction of the value of the Falcons’ top dog.

21. Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 19: Donald Brown #31 of the Indianapolis Colts runs as he is pursued by Tyron Brackenridge #37 of the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   The Colts defeated the Jaguars 34-
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    The Colts’ leading rusher in the regular season, Donald Brown may now be considered a low-priority part of the Colts’ offense due to the healthy return of Joseph Addai and the sudden reemergence of Dominic Rhodes.

    Brown took just three carries for the Colts in Week 17, while Addai and Rhodes both took 11 carries.

20. Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore Ravens

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 19:  Willis McGahee #23 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball during the game against the New Orleans Saints  at M&T Bank Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Saints 30-24. (Photo by Larry F
    Larry French/Getty Images

    With only one touchdown since Week 7, Willis McGahee can hardly be considered a goal line back anymore. Ray Rice, although not the traditional body type for that role, has taken it over along with his duties as the team’s primary ball carrier.

    McGahee does still have some value, as he has steadily been getting between five and eight carries per game, but even if he averages over five yards per carry, that still leaves him in the low single digits in fantasy points unless he gets into the end zone.

19. John Kuhn, RB, Green Bay Packers

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  Running back John Kuhn #30 of the Green Bay Packers runs the ball during the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  The Patriots won the game 31-27. (Photo by
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Packers haven’t given John Kuhn more than six carries in a game since Week 9, but he has scored five total touchdowns in that time frame.

    He’s pretty much the definition of a goal line back at this point, but the Packers may need him to run it in near the goal line a couple times during the playoffs.

18. Dominic Rhodes, RB, Indianapolis Colts

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    NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 09:  Dominic Rhodes #30 of the Indianapolis Colts catches a pass before the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans  at LP Field on December 9, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    From seemingly out of nowhere, Dominic Rhodes has returned to the Colts to be their leading rusher in each of the last two weeks of the season.

    Certainly Joseph Addai has to be considered the top back on the team if he is healthy, but Rhodes does know the offense and is trusted by the coaches in Indianapolis.

17. Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Reggie Bush #25  of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by Alex Magee #97 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.   The Buccaneers defeated the Saints 23-13.  (Photo
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    A broken femur in Week 2 knocked Reggie Bush out for the majority of the season, but he has begun making himself fantasy-relevant again.

    While he may never be a great or even good between-the-tackles runner, Bush is always capable of breaking loose on a long run. His biggest value, though, is as a receiver. Bush has caught 24 passes over the past five weeks and does have a history of big games in important situations.

16. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks

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    TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 26: Running back Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    It’s hard to say that Marshawn Lynch has been a fantasy star this season, but in comparison to the other players on the Seahawks roster, he has been exactly that.

    There’s really nothing spectacular going on in this offense, and Lynch hasn’t even averaged 12 carries over the past month of the season.

    He’s ranked this high simply because he is considered the starting running back on a team.

15. Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers

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    GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 26: Brandon Jackson #32 of the Green Bay Packers carries the ball against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field on December 26, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    It has been over two months since Brandon Jackson broke into double-digit fantasy numbers, but certainly Jackson has been getting the majority of the snaps at running back for the Packers and their high-powered offense.

    He has some additional value in PPR leagues, as he has averaged nearly three receptions per game.

14. Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears brings down Shonn Greene #23 the New York Jets at Soldier Field on December 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Jets 38-34. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Considered one of the biggest potential breakout running backs going into the 2010 season, Shonn Greene disappointed fantasy owners by failing to crack even 100 fantasy points on the season in standard-scoring leagues.

    Greene and Tomlinson were both held out of the Week 17 contest in order to keep them healthy, but it is worth noting that Greene had equaled or outscored Tomlinson in four of the previous five games.

    The Jets face the Colts and their below-average run defense in the first round of the playoffs.

13. Thomas Jones, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 26:  Thomas Jones #20 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball during the game against the Tennessee Titans on December 26, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Jamaal Charles has definitely overtaken Thomas Jones as the Chiefs’ top-scoring running back, but Jones does remain a part of the Chiefs and their suddenly productive offense this season.

    Despite being outrushed by Charles by nearly 90 yards during Weeks 15 and 16, Jones took 45 carries during that span to Charles’ 24.

    Certainly the Chiefs will need both players performing at a high level to have a chance against the Ravens and their fourth-ranked fantasy run defense.

12. Chris Ivory, RB, New Orleans Saints

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    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 05:  Chris Ivory #29 of the New Orleans Saints runs for a touchdown during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The Saints won 34-30.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Ge
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    After spending most of the season as the Saints’ only healthy running back, Chris Ivory joined the injury list in Weeks 15 and 16 when he missed both games with an injured hamstring.

    Ivory returned in Week 17 but was knocked out of the game with a left foot injury in the first half.

    The Saints have not yet released an update on Ivory’s status. If he is healthy, expect Ivory to be very much in the competition for the Saints’ carries. His big games during Weeks 11 through 13 should not be forgotten so quickly.

11. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, New York Jets

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 21:  LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the New York Jets runs against the Houston Texans on November 21, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Tomlinson, who was inactive in an irrelevant Week 17 game against the Bills, has scored only one touchdown since Week 6 and only broken into double-digit fantasy points twice during that span.

    While he remains the best fantasy option in the Jets backfield, their offense simply isn’t clicking at a high enough rate to trust Tomlinson with a high draft choice during the playoffs.

10. Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 12:  Pierre Thomas #23 of the New Orleans Saints runs past the defense of the St. Louis Rams at the Louisiana Superdome on December 12, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Rams 31-13.  (Photo by Chris Graythe
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas missed most of the regular season with an injured ankle. He returned in Week 14, taking limited carries in his first two games back before getting 19 in the hugely important game against the Falcons in Week 16.

    The Saints won that game and despite missing out on a division title were able to secure themselves a playoff spot and a chance to bring home the Super Bowl trophy for the second straight season.

    Thomas’ injury flared up again and kept him out of an inconsequential Week 17 game. It is the biggest concern for him going into the playoffs. If he can get healthy, he should do some damage.

9. Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 26:  Danny Woodhead #39 of the New England Patriots runs against the Buffalo Bills  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. New England won 34-3. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Truly one of the league’s most surprising fantasy breakouts, New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead has made the most of his opportunities this season and become one of the biggest PPR studs in the league.

    Despite taking over 10 carries only twice during the span, Woodhead has caught at least one pass in every game since Week 4.

    His small stature makes him a candidate for injury, and he does lose out goal line opportunities to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but Woodhead’s value is particularly high in PPR leagues.

8. Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis Colts

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    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Joseph Addai #29 of the Indianapolis Colts runs against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December  26, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Joseph Addai, who missed Weeks 8 through 15 with a shoulder injury, is by far the best running back on the Indianapolis Colts roster.

    That said, the Colts remain a predominantly pass-first offense with a little bit of run mixed in to keep the defense honest. If the Colts get near the goal line, Addai will almost certainly be the one to punch it in if they do run, but there’s no guarantee of much of that.

    The Colts face the Jets and their second-ranked fantasy run defense in the first round of the playoffs. Fantasy owners will be hoping for a Colts win in order to get Addai more carries.

7. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, New England Patriots

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots congratulates BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 after Green-Ellis scored a 5-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    With double-digit fantasy points in seven of the final eight weeks of the season, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has quietly become one of the league’s most consistent fantasy running backs.

    He doesn’t do it in a flashy way, and the Patriots certainly like to keep the attention on Tom Brady, but Green-Ellis may very well by the second-best fantasy player in this option during the playoffs and perhaps even going forward into next season.

    Green-Ellis scored 13 rushing touchdowns during the regular season and should expand on that during the playoffs.

6. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 26:  Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs makes a catch in the endzone for a touchdown as Gerald McRath #51 of the Tennessee Titans defends during the game on December 26, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missou
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    It has to be disappointing to fantasy owners that a player who nearly broke Jim Brown’s record for yards per carry in a season couldn’t even average 15 carries per game.

    Charles has done more than his share for the Chiefs this season and can be largely credited for the team’s remarkable turnaround. He and fellow backfield member Thomas Jones combined to run for over 2,400 yards on the year, catapulting the Chiefs to an AFC West division title.

    Charles would be ranked higher on this list if there was much confidence in the Chiefs making it out of round one.

    Still, he remains a valuable fantasy player, as he could put up enough points in one game to make him worth this ranking.

5. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears

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    GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 02:  Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears carries the ball after making a catch against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 2, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Forte cracked 1,000 yards rushing on the season in Week 17 despite the rest of his team completely falling apart against the Packers. His 151 total yards in the game were practically the Bears’ only source of offense, much like he was back in the 2008 season.

    The Bears will need him to continue to be a huge part of the offense if they hope to make it deep in the playoffs.

4. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 23:  Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the game on December 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jare
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Considered by many to be one of the top backs going into the season, Rashard Mendenhall’s smooth and steady fantasy season was a source of solid fantasy points for his owners in a year with a lot of up-and-down backs.

    Though Mendenhall didn’t turn in any huge fantasy days, he avoided having too many terrible ones as well. He ran for 13 touchdowns on the year, including four of them in the final three games of the season.

3. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 28, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    One of the league’s most exciting young backs, LeSean McCoy compiled nearly 1,700 total yards in just his second season as a pro.

    While he only barely cracked 1,000 yards rushing, his 78 receptions led the league at his position, and he has become an every-down back, something that not everyone thought he would be when he came into the NFL in 2009.

    McCoy did disappoint somewhat during the fantasy playoffs in Weeks 15 and 16, but he has been a stud throughout the season, finishing sixth at his position in scoring on the year.

2. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons

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    SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 19:  Running back Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Michael Turner was one of the bigger regular season fantasy football playoff busts.

    In Weeks 15 and 16, Turner compiled just 10 total fantasy points and did not score a touchdown despite being in the most important part of the Falcons’ season.

    Atlanta did secure the division and a bye in the first week of the playoffs, which makes Turner’s situation a little tougher, but he is one of the few playoff running backs who should get 90 percent or more of his team’s carries.

1. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens

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    CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 26:  Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs by linebackers Eric Barton #50 and Matt Roth #53 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty I
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Selected as one of the top four picks in almost all fantasy drafts going into the year, Ray Rice has to be considered one of the high-pick fantasy disappointments of the year.

    While he finished ninth among running backs in fantasy scoring on the year, he was supposed to be one of the players who carried his fantasy owners to the championship.

    Even given his somewhat unsatisfactory season, Rice is our top fantasy running back going into the playoffs simply because of the likelihood that he will not only get to play in one playoff game against the Chiefs, but also a second if the Ravens win the game.

    Rice is a PPR stud with 63 receptions on the year and should remain a very valuable asset in the Ravens offense as they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl.