It used to be a fact that the first two players almost every fantasy football should draft are running backs. That is not clearly the case anymore. While there are some bona fide first rounders, there is a steep drop where their used to be a load of talent. That can be blames mostly on the fact that many teams use a running back by committee format that makes one starting running back not worth as much as they used to be. Find the teams that uses one sole starting runner and then, when they are gone, choose the best possible player available to fill out your roster.
1 Adrian Peterson
A lot of fantasy football experts has Arian Foster ranked No. 1 on their boards, but I need more than one season of good play to earn the No. 1 spot on the list. Last season it was all about Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson when Foster ran in and took control. However, Peterson still ran for over 1,200 yards with 12 touchdowns. He has been this consistent for four straight years and deserves this top spot until someone knocks him out of it.
2 Arian Foster
While I don’t feel Arian Foster deserves the No. 1 spot, I have no problem with putting him No. 2. In his second year at Houston, he took over the starting role and ran for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns while catching 66 receptions for 604 more yards. If you are in a ppr league, he is invaluable but I need a repeat performance to completely sell me on him.
3 Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson ran for more yards than Adrian Peterson and only had one less touchdown. So, why does he get knocked below Arian Foster while Peterson gets the No. 1 position? Chris Johnson has still, as of this ranking, not reported to training camp. Johnson was hit and miss last season and gave a monster performance followed by an underwhelming one. Overall, he is a stud, but if he does not get into camp soon (with his new coaching staff), he might be off to a slow start. But, when on, he is among the best.
4 Ray Rice
Ray Rice won me my fantasy football league last season. He turned it on when he needed to and finished with a monster year. He does not get touchdowns, although that will change with Willis McGahee out of town. Now, in ppr leagues, he is a monster and might move higher on this list with more touchdowns in the future. He averaged almost 70 receptions a season for the last two years and followed up his 2,000 all purpose yard season in 2009 with a 1,776 yard year in 2010. He is solid.
5 Darren McFadden
Oakland Raiders fans have to be happy to see Darren McFadden come into his own and fantasy football owners know they can count on him. He is always dangerous to break a big one (14 carries of 20 or more yards in 2010) and had his first 1,000 yard year in his third season in Oakland. That was in an offense that was anemic. He also catches passes, so be ready for him to step up if the Oakland offense improves with the new head coach.
6 Jamaal Charles
It seems Kansas City always has a quality fantasy football running back. They went from Priest Holmes to Larry Johnson to Jamaal Charles. When one starts to fade, another is ready to step in. Charles is only 24, so he should be good for a few more years. His only downfall is a lack of touchdowns but they will come. Expect 40 receptions to add to his improving yardage totals (1,120 in 2009 and 1,467 in 2010).
7 Maurice Jones Drew
MJD was always one of the players you could count on in fantasy football but is starting to fade, despite only being 26. He had a career low in touchdowns in 2010 (5) thanks to being banged up much of the year. He still finished with his second straight 1,000 yard season but also caught a career low in pass receptions since taking over as starter. You should get more touchdowns and receptions out of him this year but he might drop some in rushing yards.
8 Michael Turner
“Burner” Turner is on his last legs in Atlanta. At 29, he has over 300 carries in two of the last three seasons and that is only because he was injured for five games in one of them. The Falcons are running him into the ground and his ypc suffered in 2010 with only 4.1 per carry. He still gets his touchdowns but can’t be counted on to catch a pass. Expect him to be good this year but he won’t last much longer with the punishment his body is taking.
9 Rashard Mendenhall
Rashard Mendenhall spent most of the offseason mired in controversy over his words but don’t let that take away from his play on the field. While Pittsburgh is not a run first team anymore, Mendenhall still have back to back 1,000 yard campaigns and scored 13 touchdowns last season. The fact he is trusted now to punch in the touchdowns makes him more valuable. His upside is big.
10 DeAngelo Williams
Some may think I am ranking DeAngelo Williams too high. He is coming off a season ending injury and splits the carries with teammate Jonathan Stewart. However, Carolina is a great situation for fantasy football owners because, even when Stewart gets a 100-yard game, Williams gets his carries as well. This is a great one-two punch where both men are valuable. As for his injury, Carolina signed him to a big time extension and that is good enough for me.
11 LeSean McCoy – LeSean McCoy is making people forget about Brian Westbrook and has established himself as the go to man in Phily. With Michael Vick a threat to run as well, McCoy should have a solid year.
12 Steven Jackson – A lot of people (myself included) cut ties with Steven Jackson before the 2010 season because he is getting up there in age. He responded with 1,241 yards as well as pulling down 46 receptions. He just keeps trucking along and with Sam Bradford improving, he will continue to see good yards, but few touchdowns.
13 Frank Gore – Unlike Chris Johnson, Frank Gore showed up to camp while wanting a new contract. Of course, he is coming off an injury plagued season, running for only 853 yards and three touchdowns. If he stays healthy, he is a good No. 2 running back.
14 Matt Forte – Matt Forte is one of the better all purpose backs in the NFL and he can only hope that Mike Martz can do for his career what he did for Marshall Faulk in St. Louis. If he can get the touches, he can get the fantasy football points.
15 Cedric Benson – Cedric Benson is the only veteran playmaker left in Cincinnati after Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Carson Palmer all left town. It looked like they might not sign him but he came back and if they just rely on him, he will have a monster year.
16 Ryan Grant – Another injury risk, as Grant missed all of 2010 and then watched as James Starks tore it up in the playoffs. However, Grant is good and his ankle should be completely healed, so expect a comeback year for the Packers tailback.
17 Knowshon Moreno – Knowshon Moreno is in a new system this year but John Fox loves to run the ball, so expect him to get lots of chances to shine. The problem is staying healthy. He got banged up a lot in 2010 and it hurt his production. He has a lot to prove.
18 LaGarrette Blount – The Tampa Bay youngsters get a lot of love from the fantasy football experts this year but they need to prove they deserve it. The problem with Blount is he is a bruiser who won’t break too many big ones and will catch almost no passes. But, he will get lots of carries and his TD numbers should rise in his second season.
19 Joseph Addai – Lots of people want to write off Joseph Addai but Peyton Manning is not one of them. When Manning agreed to less money in his extension, he asked that Addai be re-signed with part of it. Problem is, his last full season was 2006. When he plays, he is good.
20 Ahmad Bradshaw – Ahmad Bradshaw is the most overrated running back in fantasy football. He is projected as a No. 1 back but is not even the sole starter on his own team. He had his best year in 2010, with 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns but fell off at the end when Brandon Jacobs started heating up.
21 Jonathan Stewart
22 Felix Jones
23 Jahvid Best
24 Fred Jackson
25 Peyton Hillis
26 Shonn Green
27 Beanie Wells
28 Marshawn Lynch
29 Reggie Bush
30 Benjarvis Green Ellis
31 Ryan Matthews
32 Daniel Thomas
33 Mark Ingram
34 Tim Hightower
35 James Starks
36 C.J. Spiller
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