Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs

Even with the league becoming more pass oriented, elite running backs are still essential to fantasy football success. They are the only players that can give you significant points in multiple categories so it is important to try and grab one of the top tier backs and adequate bench support when you can.

Fantasy Beasts:

  1. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: If you draft Johnson don’t expect him to put up last year’s totals, but he should still put up numbers that make him more than worthy of the number one pick. Bye: Week nine

2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Up until the Sidney Rice injury, I was going to have Peterson a few spots lower on the list. While the passing game will still be effective, Peterson will be asked to carry the Vikings offense a good part of the season. Bye: Week four

3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: Many fantasy owners are worried about the knee injury that Jones-Drew had during the preseason. However, he should be ready for week one and is the perfect storm for fantasy owners. With limited weapons around him, Jones-Drew is the heart of the Jaguars offense and even gets all the red zone touches. Bye: Week nine

4. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: Rice had a breakout season last year but could be even better in 2010. The Ravens improved their passing game which should take the pressure off the running game. Rice should also start getting more of the goal line touches that Willis McGahee was getting last year. If you are in a league where you get points for receptions, Rice should be even higher on the list. Bye: Week eight

Solid starters/proven performers:

5. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons: Turner had to deal with some injuries last year but the Falcons now know they have capable backups to avoid him being overworked. He isn’t getting the hype of the other top backs, but he could have similar numbers at the end of the year. Bye: Week eight

6. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: It’s a shame that Jackson had to waste a year of his prime on a team that only won a single game last year. He is a complete back and is one of the few remaining backs who will carry the ball 25 times a game. Jackson should also benefit from having a passing threat in quarterback Sam Bradford and should be in for another productive year. Bye: Week nine

7. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Gore has had some bad knee injuries throughout his career, but he has been healthy of late and is a great fantasy option. If the 49ers passing game continues to build on the promise they showed late last year, Gore could be in for a very big year. Bye: Week nine

8. Shonn Greene, New York Jets: Greene flashed his ability in the playoffs last season and now walks into the perfect situation in his second year. With a strong offensive line and an improved supporting cast, Greene could put up some big numbers and emerge as an elite fantasy back. Bye: Week seven

9. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers: As high as this may seem for a rookie, many have him ranked even higher. Mathews should have big numbers considering the opportunities he will have in San Diego but not many rookies come in right away and have an Adrian Peterson like impact. Bye: Week ten

10. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers: Mendenhall started only 12 games last year but ran for over 1100 yards and seven touchdowns. Considering he had only 19 carries before a season ending injury his rookie year, this is essentially his second season. With Ben Roethlisberger out the first four games of the year, Mendenhall will have the chance right away to show he will avoid a sophomore slump. Bye: Week five

11. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers: Williams isn’t likely to replicate his 2008 numbers anytime soon but he is still one of the better options at running back. While he may share carries, there isn’t a more even distribution in the league between Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Bye: Week six

12. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers: You don’t hear much about him but Grant managed to record over 1200 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. While the Packers are a passing oriented team, Grant will still get his share of opportunities and doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Bye: Week ten

13. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: McCoy plays in a pass happy offense but considering his ability as a receiver, he is still a very valuable fantasy option. It wouldn’t be surprising if he eventually puts up numbers similar to the man he is replacing in Brian Westbrook used to put up in his prime. No promises on if McCoy will be listed as questionable every week though. Bye: Week eight

14. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals: Before coming to the Bengals, Benson was on the verge of being considered a bust as a top five pick. Now, he is coming off a year where he ran for over 1200 yards and six touchdowns. The Bengals were more of a running team last year but with the depth at receiver and the selection of Jermaine Gresham in the draft, Benson could see his value take a hit. Bye: Week six

Breakout players/questions remained to be answered:

15. Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals: Wells was impressive last season as a rookie and should build on his performance in his second year. While he should receive more carries, it is worth mentioning with Derek Anderson at quarterback more focus will be put on the run. That isn’t even considering that Tim Hightower is a very effective back around the goal line. Regardless, Wells is worth selecting and could emerge as an elite fantasy back. Bye: Week six

16. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions: I am very high on Best but it’s a little early to compare him to Barry Sanders. Regardless, he has all the makings to make a big impact in fantasy leagues as a rookie. Best played very well this preseason and shows flashes as a receiver but his injury history is a major concern if you are in a dynasty league. Bye: Week seven

17. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: Charles ran wild the second half of last year and if it wasn’t for the addition of Thomas Jones in the offseason would have been much higher on the list. While Jones is still a very good player, the cream will eventually rise to the crop and Charles will show that he isn’t a fluke. Bye: Week four

18. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Thomas doesn’t get as many touches as other top fantasy backs but he makes the most of them. He is also a very good receiver and there are plenty of balls to go around in the Saints offense. Bye: Week ten

19. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers: Stewart was very productive when he was given his chance to start and even though he is sharing carries with DeAngelo Williams gets lots of red zone carries. He is a very solid number two running back. Bye: Week six

20. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins: Durability has always been the question for Brown but when healthy, he has shown that he can be an effective fantasy back. Ricky Williams will get his fair share of carries though so put that into consideration when selecting him. Bye: Week five

21. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts: Addai hasn’t lived up to some expectations but until Donald Brown emerges, Addai is the starter. In the Colts offense he should get his share of opportunities and that has to count for something. Bye: Week seven

22. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants: Bradshaw showed what he was capable of last season and should now overtake Brandon Jacobs as the starter. He is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball so he could put up a few huge weeks. Bye: Week eight

23. Arian Foster, Houston Texans: After a huge game against the Cowboys on national TV, Foster shot up on many fantasy owners want lists. However, the Texans are very passing oriented and Foster will be on a short leash. He could end up being one of the year’s fantasy surprises but the chance to flop is there as well. Bye: Week seven

24. Jerome Harrison, Cleveland Browns: Harrison was very impressive when he finally got his chance to start last season. His value took a big hit after the selection of Montario Hardesty but after he tore his ACL, Harrison should now be the clear number one guy for the Browns but don’t be surprised if Peyton Hillis ends up taking some of his goal line carries. Bye: Week eight

Capable backups with the chance to be more:

25. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos: Moreno was productive as a rookie but hasn’t been healthy this preseason. That and the limited supporting cast make up for a lower rating than you would expect. Bye: Week nine

26. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: Forte was a top five pick in most leagues last year but he is hardly getting that recognition going into this year. That is due to a poor offensive line and a Mike Martz offense that relies on the passing game. Forte could end up being a very valuable option if the Bears offensive line gets patched up as he is a very good receiver. Bye: Week eight

27. Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins: Portis isn’t the same back he was a few years ago but he is going to get his carries in Washington. That alone makes him a back that could make an impact on your team. Bye: Week nine

28. Justin Forsett, Seattle Seahawks: Even with Julius Jones in the picture, it appears that Forsett will end up being the number one option for the Seahawks. He is a well rounded player and could end up being one of this year’s biggest fantasy surprises. Bye: Week five

29. Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys: For the past few years, it seems like we have been hearing that Jones is going to be the starter in Dallas. However, he hasn’t managed to stay healthy but when he has the playmaking ability has been on display. Now entering his third year, it will be interesting to see if he develops into an every down back. Bye: Week four

30. Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys: Barber was still effective last year and is a very good option around the goal line. However, he is part of a three headed monster at running back which will affect the total number of touches he gets. Bye: Week four

31. Cadillac Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Williams has had to fight through very serious knee injuries just to get to this point. While he was solid last year, he is still an injury risk. Bye: Week four

32. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders: With Michael Bush out the first few weeks of the year, McFadden will get the chance to show why he was a top five pick a few years ago. Up to this point he has also had a hard time staying on the field so it will be interesting to see how he performs. Bye: Week ten

33. CJ Spiller, Buffalo Bills: Spiller performed well in the preseason but with a poor offensive line and two other capable running backs, it is uncertain what his role will be in the Bills offense. Bye: Week six

Notable Handcuffs worth monitoring:

34. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants: Jacobs wasn’t as effective this past year as people have come to expect. However, he is still going to vulture his fair share of touchdowns so he is worth a look. Bye: Week eight

35. Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints: Bush was effective when he carried the ball last year but where he is most valuable is as a receiver. If you are in a league where you are rewarded for receptions, he is worth a long look. Bye: Week ten

36. Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins: Williams showed last year that he is still a very capable back even at this stage of his career. Considering Ronnie Brown’s past injury history, it is definitely worth having Williams as a handcuff if you draft Brown. Bye: Week five

37. Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders haven’t seemed to notice that Bush has been far more effective than McFadden the past few seasons. Bush will be out the first few weeks of the year but when he returns should see his fair share of carries. Bye: Week ten

38. Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals: Scott showed to be a very capable backup last year and is worth handcuffing if you happen to draft Cedric Benson. Bye: Week six

39. Tim Hightower, Arizona Cardinals: Hightower is an underrated fantasy back as he is a good receiver and is also very effective around the goal line. Even if he doesn’t get a ton of yards, he will be a consistent performer. Bye: Week six

40. Kareem Huggins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Huggins was very impressive this preseason and cemented his sleeper value after being given the label “Cadillac Williams’ backup”. If he isn’t taken in your draft, he is definitely worth keeping an eye on throughout the season.  Bye: Week four

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