I recently ranked the Top 10 running backs for the upcoming fantasy football season. Click here for that list.
Today we’ll take a look at the next tier of backs, Nos. 11-20.
For the rest of my 2010 fantasy football draft analysis, click the following links:
• Click here for: Top 25 Fantasy Football Picks for 2010
• Click here for: Top 10 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks for 2010
• Click here for: Top 10 Fantasy Football Wide Receivers for 2010
• Click here for: Top 10 Fantasy Football Tight Ends for 2010
No. 11 through No. 20 Fantasy Football Running Backs for 2010
11. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
Take your pick between Mendenhall and my No. 10 selection, Shonn Greene of the New York Jets. Mendenhall rushed for 1,108 yards and seven touchdowns in 2009, his second year in the league, so he’s proved he can deliver the goods. I gave Greene the slight nod over Mendenhall for that top 10 spot because with Ben Roethlisberger out at least six games to start the season, and rookie Jonathan Dwyer joining the Steelers, there are a couple of questions surrounding Mendenhall. I don’t, however, anticipate either factor to be much of a holdup in his 2010 production.
12. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions
This guy was a lot of fun to watch at California – speed, power and a nose for the end zone. He suffered a scary injury at Oregon State on Nov. 7, 2009, and missed the last bit of the season, but still managed to score 12 times in 2009. Best will get plenty of opportunities early on with the Lions, as Kevin Smith continues recovering from offseason knee surgery.
13. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals
Benson showed doubters he still had some gas left in the tank with an impressive 2009 season, in which he turned in 1,251 yards and six touchdowns. Benson heads into the season as the Bengals’ top dog in the backfield, and the promise of a prolific passing game – featuring Carson Palmer throwing to Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant – could mean room to run for Benson.
14. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Mike Bell is gone, so the three-headed running back that carried the ball for the Saints in 2009 is down to a two-header, with Thomas sharing time with Reggie Bush. The way the Saints utilize Bush, however, leaves plenty of room for Thomas to be the primary ballcarrier. He rushed for 793 yards and six touchdowns on 147 carries in 2009, and also caught 39 passes for 302 yards and two TDs.
15. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers
Grant’s coming off back-to-back seasons of more than 1,200 yards, and he reached the end zone 11 times in 2009. That followed a 2008 season in which he ran for 1,203 yards and four TDs. If healthy, there’s no reason to think Grant will dip back below 1,000 yards in 2010.
16. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Charles rushed for 1,120 yards and seven touchdowns in 2009, and also caught 40 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. More of the same in 2010? I tend to think so, although I’m curious to see how much the Chiefs plan to use backup Thomas Jones, whom they signed in the offseason. Jones tallied 1,402 yards and 14 TDs for the Jets last season, after all.
17. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins
There’s no questioning Brown’s abilities, but his health is another thing. When healthy, Brown is a threat to reach 1,000 yards and double-digits in touchdowns. In 2009, while playing just nine games, he rushed for 648 yards and eight TDs. All reports out of Miami are that Brown is going full speed in preparation for 2010, so if he can stay that way, I’d be happy to draft him here.
18. Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals
Pluses and minuses for Wells in 2010 – on the plus side, he’s expected to take over as the Cardinals’ lead back; on the minus side, it’s anybody’s guess as to how well Matt Leinart will run the offense. Nobody expects him to be Kurt Warner, but if Leinart falters and the passing game sputters, defenses will be able to key on Wells and the running game. If he has room to run, though, Wells is very capable – he rushed for 793 yards and seven touchdowns on 176 carries in ’09.
19. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
In two seasons in the NFL, sharing carries with starter DeAngelo Williams the whole time, Stewart has rushed for 1,969 yards and 20 touchdowns. As committee running back situations go, Stewart’s tandem with Williams is not one to shy away from, particularly if the 5-foot-10, 235-pound Stewart continues finding the end zone 10 times each season.
20. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Dual threat Brian Westbrook is gone, so McCoy will get the chance to be the top tailback during his second season in the NFL. Will the Eagles utilize McCoy in the passing game the way they did Westbrook? McCoy looks capable, having caught 40 passes for 308 yards in 2009 to go with 637 rushing yards and four TDs on 155 carries.
What do I know?
I’ve been playing fantasy football since 1998, and have participated in a keeper “dynasty” league since 2003. I also play in two or three single-season leagues each year, because as much as I love the keeper format, it’s just fun to draft each season. I’m putting together these lists not because I think I’m a fantasy football expert (although I DID finally win my keeper league, plus another single-season league in 2009) but because I’m researching these players and stats and figured maybe I could help out other fantasy managers along the way. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these lists, and I’ll continue rolling out positional and overall lists through the month of August, while fantasy football drafts are ongoing and while new information becomes available on players as they prepare for the 2010 season.