Here is a quick rundown of my top 10 fantasy running backs for next year.
All of my top guys are pretty close together though and no one running back stands clearly above the rest for one reason or another. Sure some guys have the talent to be a clear cut number one fantasy back but the situation does not always allow it.
1) Adrian Peterson- Even in an ‘off ‘ year this guy is great. Over 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 13 tds. Plus 1, that’s right, 1 fumble after 16 the previous 2 years. However the quarterback situation in Minnesota is a mess. If, and that’s a big if, the QB can utilize Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin to threaten defenses then All-Day is set for a big year. If their gun-slinger proves incompetent *Ahem, Tavaris Jackson* then AP could be looking at another ‘down ‘ year.
2) Arian Foster- The clear cut breakout running back of the year and the NFL’s leading rusher with 1616 yards and a whopping 16 rushing tds. Foster came out of seemingly nowhere to lead Fantasy in scoring. He is a quick runner who is very capable of the home run play but also can run tough for the shorter yards. He also received the goal line carries and was a huge (66 rec, 604 yards, 2td) receiving threat. The only thing that keeps him from being my number one is the return Ben Tate. Keep an eye on the Texan’s backfield situation but I fully expect Foster to be a monster again.
3) Darren McFadden- Run DMC finally showed what he was made of this year and, when healthy, validated his 4th overall selection in the 2008 draft. The Raiders began to show some major life in the offense. McFadden not only racked up 1157 yards and 7 tds on the ground but also had 507 yards and 3 tds through the air. Keep in mind these numbers are lower due to injury. If McFadden can stay healthy, I like him to have a huge year.
4) Chris Johnson- CJ2K became CJ1.3K this year. This is not so much due to bad play but more because defenses focused solely on him. He still had 1609 total yards and 12 tds. I think that is the lowest you will get from him which is still a very solid number. He has very elite potential but is hindered by the QB play. Having Kenny Britt back will help keep defenses honest but I am not sure if Kerry Collins is scary enough to stop opposing D’s from stacking the box once again making CJ’s life miserable.
5) Maurice Jones-Drew- Man this guy is one fast bowling ball. He is just as capable of running people over as he is of blowing past them with speed. MJD is also a legitimate threat in the passing game. The only thing that scares me about him is that Rashad Jennings proved just annoying enough to steal some touches away from MJD. Jennings proved inept at the starting gig so don’t expect him to steal too much away from the Jag’s most skilled offensive player.
Plus he stuffed Shawne Merriman which is one of my favorite plays ever.
Video courtesy of youtube and vdtech543
6)Michael Turner- The Burner managed to stay healthy for a year which was a very nice reward for owners who took a chance on him. Turner’s YPC were way down but he still received 334 carries and is the crystal clear number one running back in a very prolific Falcons offense. He is not much of a threat in the passing game (12 receptions) but he will get carries and plenty of them. That will lead to a ton of yards and tds. If he can stay healthy, expect him to make fantasy owners very happy once again.
7) Deangelo Williams- I am sure I will catch some heat for this ranking but I still like him a lot. I know he was inefficient this year and had some major injury problems but he was plagued by being on the worst team in the NFL. Remember 2008 when he was totally healthy and had 20 total tds and 1600+ total yards, yeah that guy is still in there. He is certainly limited by his team and the thought of Jonathan Stewart stealing touches but he is also a free agent. If Williams manages to land on a different team (believe me anywhere is better than Carolina) then he could return to his elite status. The guy has number one running back written all over him, he just needs a team that can support him.
8 ) Jamaal Charles- Now I absolutely love Charles and ranking him this low really kills me but Chief’s coach Todd Haley just does not like to use this guy. An incredibly efficient Thomas Jones still receives the majority of the carries (245 carries, 3.7 YPC). Haley looks to take over the offensive play calling with Charlie Weiss on the way out and that scares me. Haley hasn’t seemed to figure out that Charles is the biggest threat on the offense. He was the sole bright spot in the blowout against the Ravens (9 carries, 82 yards, 9.1 YPC, 1 td) but he still only received 9 carries which just boggles my mind. Charles had an amazing 1467 rushing yards on just 230 carries this year…a record setting 6.4 yards per carry. He also picked up 468 yards on 45 catches but his downfall was the tds. Only 8 total due to Jones vulturing them. If Charles was the clear cut number one running back in KC then I would have him as my number one fantasy back, no doubt about it. With Jones and Haley consider Charles a very good fantasy back with elite potential, someone I would certainly take a risk on.
8* )Peyton Hillis- A reader mentioned him and it is very true that I overlooked Hillis and I apologize for the oversight. Hillis is an animal and is the only legitimate running back the up and coming Browns have. I’ve liked Hillis dating back to his Denver Bronco days. I love his punishing running style but also his agility and speed for a big guy. He faltered near the end of the season which scares me a little but I am willing to look past it and see his season as a whole. His workhorse load and punishing running style are why I don’t have him ranked higher. I am worried the injury bug might bite him during the wear and tear of an entire season. The idea of a healthy Montario Hardesty to steal touches scares me too.
9) Lesean McCoy- The Pittsburgh product is a great talent but his value is hurt because of Mike Vick’s presence. Vick’s talent as not only a passer but a runner opens up plenty of lanes for McCoy and makes the shovel pass particularly deadly. He also had 78 receptions making him arguably the most threatening running back in the league through the air. However, from anything 5 yards and in, Vick is more likely to just tuck the ball and run for the td himself which limits McCoy’s td potential. I like McCoy from a skill perspective but I don’t think he will receive enough carries or td opportunities to be a truly elite fantasy running back.
10) BenJarvus Green-Ellis- The Law firm has a very firm hold on the Patriot’s running situation. Sure Danny Woodhead is around as a change of pace back but make no mistake, this BJGE’s show. Tom Brady and the Pat’s passing offense is a machine and defenses are much more concerned with stopping them than BJGE. He should find plenty of lanes and with the Patriot’s most likely playing up a lot of the time, he should get plenty of carries even if most come in the 4th quarter. I predict over 1200 rushing yards this year plus a sprinkling of receiving yards and upwards of 15 tds (he had 13 this year).
Well my favorite time of year is fast upcoming. It is almost NFL season and that means fantasy football, an addiction so great it deserves its own version of AA. There have been days I’ve spent more time researching prospects than sleeping and I know that I am not alone in that feat.
Fantasy football leagues aren’t won in the first 3,4 or even 5 rounds of the draft. They aren’t won with the Petyon Mannings or Chris Johnsons (although those guys certainly help). They are won with the under the radar guys, guys like Miles Austin or Jamaal Charles, guys that were drafted in the very last rounds or in most leagues, not drafted at all. Fantasy leagues are won in the later rounds with those guys who are just one injury or opportunity away from becoming the next big thing. I have some candidates for that guy, the one that everyone will say at the end of the season, “Man I wish I had taken the chance on him”. Each day I will list one or two of my sleeper picks and why I think this is their year to breakout. Granted some of these guys may not get the chance and may fizzle out and I’m sorry but thats the way it goes, nothing is a sure fire pick. However I think a late round pick is a very low price to pay for a chance at greatness. Without further ado, my first sleeper pick of the season is……….
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Photo Courtesy of Nick de la Torre of the Houston Chronicle
I’ve been high on this guy since the beginning of the off-season. With the recent and apparently severe injury to rookie Ben Tate, the path is becoming clearer for Foster to have a strangle hold on the starting gig in Houston. Foster, at 6’1″, 215 is a solid back who has the speed to beat guys but also can power through the hole and run in between the tackles. Foster played four years for the Volunteers before joining the Texans as an undrafted free agent. Foster didn’t even see the field till week 14 of last season and only managed 41 yards on a limited 15 carries through two games. But, when given the role of feature back, Foster proved more than competent gaining 216 yards on 39 carries while scoring 3 tds in the final 2 weeks of the season. He also added 26 yards on 3 receptions. The two opponents, the Dolphins and Patriots were both respectable defenses. As I mentioned before, Ben Tate is out of the picture and really the only other competition is Steve Slaton (and to a much lesser degree, Chris Henry). Now asking Steve Slaton to hold on to the ball is like asking Rex Ryan to resist an all you can eat buffet, its just not going to happen. Foster looks primed to take over the starting running job and also factor into the Texan’s lethal aerial attack. Don’t be surprised if this guy is the last starting running back hanging around on the draft board. He could be a late round pick that could be the difference maker between missing the playoffs and winning a championship, you just never know.
Fearless Forecast: ~30 receptions, 1200-1300 total yards, 11-13 total tds