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).
Yeah, I know, what you see in the preseason doesn’t translate all that well to the regular season. I do believe that some of what has been seen in the preseason can be used to predict what will happen in the regular season.
1) Jamaal Charles is clearly the most talented back in KC. Through 2 games he has 9 carries for 63 yards (a very healthy 7.0 YPC) and 5 catches for 29 yards. Meanwhile Thomas Jones has 10 carries for 31 yards (3.1 YPC) and a paltry one catch for 2 yards. I know its early but Charles is clearly outplaying Jones and the Chiefs would do well to put the ball in his hands as much as possible.
2) Anthony Fasano hasn’t died…or he did and he’s been resurrected. He amassed a meager 31 catches for 339 yards and 2 tds last year and has already matched last year’s touchdown amount through 2 games of the preseason. Don’t go crazy with this but with Brandon Marshall around to take some heat off of Fasano, he might suddenly find more single coverages and start to discover his touchdown scoring ways again.
3) Having a healthy offensive line is really, really important…just ask Tony Romo. RT Marc Colombo may miss up to a month with knee surgery and LG Kyle Kosier could miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Their absence really showed against the Chargers. The patchwork O-line had no chance of protecting Romo and he ended up running for his life on most of his plays. 4 Romo-led Cowboy drives resulted in him going 4-11 for 30 yards, 1 td and 1 ugly pick. Keep an eye on the beginning of the season as these two O-line injuries could really hurt the Cowboy’s high octane offense.
4) Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon both had solid games against Giants. Neither really distanced themselves from the other in terms of becoming the starter while Big Ben serves his 4-6 game suspension. Leftwich went 3-6 for 95 yards and 1 td including a very nicely thrown deep ball right into the hands of a streaking Mike Wallace for a 68 yard td. Leftwich even had an 11 yard carry where he…get ready for this….made some defenders (sorry Jason Pierre-Paul, you got schooled by one of the least fleet-footed qbs in the NFL, yeah we’re talking Albert Haynesworth conditioning test kind of speed) miss in the open field…shocking I know. Apparently statues can gain some yards once they start rolling. Dixon was 7-8 with 82 yards and chipped in 27 yards on the ground. Bottom line is Leftwich does have the stronger arm but he will get sacked, alot. Dixon is quite the elusive athlete and is turning into quite the game manager so it will be interesting to see who gets the nod.
5) The Colts have another emerging offensive weapon. Last team in the world that needs one but they seem to have found one to add to Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. His name is Brody Eldrigde and he is a rookie TE out of Oklahoma. He was stuck behind all-star Jermaine Gresham at Oklahoma and never got a chance to show case his pass catching talents but he has been putting up some nice performances in the preseason and in camp. Maybe the Colts will use some two tight end sets…scary to think about having to cover Eldridge, Clark and Wayne in the same play but don’t be too surprised if it happens.
6) The Patriot’s offensive plays have clearly shifted. They are no longer pass, pass, pass and then run just so they can do play action for the next 3 plays. The two pronged attack of Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris proved to be very effective especially coupled with Brady’s short passes to Wes Welker. This led to effective, albeit methodical drives down the field. Brady still took one shot downfield to Moss and was only a couple of inches away from connecting. Expect a more balanced Patriot’s attack that gets back to basics and throws in a couple of downfield bombs to utilize Moss and keep opposing defenses honest.
7) TO certainly likes Cincinnati more than Buffalo. Besides being the only weapon in Buffalo, he didn’t even have a quarterback with the arm or the time to get him the ball. TO seems to be thriving in Cincy. Ochocinco is removing the double coverage he faced all last year and Palmer has the accuracy and power to make TO a legitimate deep threat. Palmer and TO already seem to be developing quite the rapport in the preaseason. TO has 9 catches for 108 yards in very limited action. Now say what you want about all of the ego in Cincy but I think these guys will get along great and could be forming an unexpectedly potent offense.
8 ) Larry Johnson sucks…still. He managed a meager 4 yards on 8 carries this week against the Ravens. Johnson can’t seem to regain even a glimpse of the the skills that made him a star in ’05 and ’06 when he rushed for back-to-back 1,750 yard, 17+ td seasons. I can’t see him having any significant role on the Skins this year, that is assuming he even makes the team. Mike Shanahan has a knack for rejuvenating old running backs and spawning 1,000 yard rushers out of seemingly nowhere so could we a see a Clinton Portis this year that resembles the consistent 1,500 yard Portis of the past, can Shanahan turn back the clock and bring the overworked and injury torn Portis back to life and the magic of his youth? Only time will tell but I wouldn’t be surprised if Portis goes for 1,100+ on the ground.
9) Bradford still doesn’t look comfortable. Granted the Rams O-line leaves something to be desired (like maybe a couple of king-sized mattresses to fill the void left by the blockers) but the Rams Swiss cheese O-line didn’t stop A.J. Feeley from completing 5 of 6 passes for 45 yards and a td (7.5 yards per attempt). The game was being played in Cleveland and was buffeted by some lake-effect rain but that didn’t stop Jake Delhomme (12-16, 127 yards, 1td, 7.9 yards per attempt) and Seneca Wallace (5-9, 67 yards, 1td, 1 int, 7.4 yards per attempt) from slinging it around much more effectively than Bradford who was 6 of 14 for 24 yards for a mere 1.7 yards per attempt. Bradford hasn’t looked good yet and if Feeley’s thumb injury proves to be anything significant, the rookie’s time could be fast approaching. A couple of shaky preseason games is no reason to worry but hopefully Bradford begins to look more comfortable in the Rams offense otherwise 0-16 and a whole lot of questions are not that far off.
10) Kyle Orton has looked good, I mean really good this postseason. In fairly limited action he has gone 24-35 for 261 yards, 4 tds and 1 int good for a 116.4 rating. What is really impressive about Orton’s numbers is the personnel that have been around him during these games. In seven preseason drives, he has manufactured 4 touchdowns behind a patchwork o-line, a slew of injured halfbacks and a revolving door of receivers. Orton does seem to be developing quite the relationship with Jabar Gaffney (8 catches for 135 yards in the preseason and 24 catches for 282 yards and 2 tds through the last 2 weeks of last season). Between Gaffney, Georgia Tech rookie Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal, Orton does have some weapons to work with. Keep an eye on Orton and the Denver passing attack, they could be the surprise of the season.