Quarterbacks get all the fame and credit, but running backs win you fantasy championships! Ever since fantasy football has been in existence, one rule of thumb has remained consistent – draft your running backs early! Every once in a blue moon, a person will win a fantasy trophy with just a quarterback and some stellar receivers, but more often than not, a team without one or two stud running backs is a team without hope! As you prepare for your 2010 fantasy football draft and study your cheat sheets, keep this list handy, as it reveals beneficial running back rankings for your fantasy football knowledge!
1. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
OK, he has a solid quarterback to scare defenses, a great offensive line, an above average receiving corp. around him, he gets more goal-line carries than he ever did before, and he no longer has to share the ball with Chester Taylor. Throw in the fact that he had over 1,800 all purpose yards and nearly 20 touchdowns last year and there is absolutely no reason you can remove him from the #1 ranking! (Chris Johnson will not repeat his iconic 2009 performance!)
2. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans
Johnson was a fantasy machine last season, but to expect him to rush for over 2,000 yards (and over 500 yards receiving) again is just delusional. No, it doesn’t seem fair to prevent a guy who ended the season with 11 straight 100-yard games from being the #1 ranked running back, but all that glory was LAST YEAR! The guy had over 400 touches last year. He’ll have to get another 400+ touches to come close to repeating those numbers. To assume he can go another season with 400+ touches without getting injured is very risky! Expect impressive numbers again from Johnson, but not nearly as eye-popping . . . he should end up with around 1,500 yards rushing, with another 300 yards in receiving.
3. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens
If not for Chris Johnson stealing all the glory with his 2,000-yard season, then A LOT more people would’ve recognized how remarkable a season Ray Rice was having! Rice ended the year with over 2,000 all purpose yards and proved to be on of the most dangerous receivers out of the backfield since Roger Craig! Rice had an astounding 78 catches last season for over 700 yards. Rice is a lethal weapon on a run-first team and has a welcome new addition (Anquan Boldin) to hold defenses back just a little more. Even with McGahee stealing some carries and perhaps even some touchdowns, there is no reason to expect that Rice won’t duplicate (or enhance) last year’s performances.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars
The guy had 8 games last season in which he ran for under 80 yards, yet he still has one of the top rankings for running backs. Well . . . you can’t ignore nearly total 1,400 yards rushing for the season and another 374 yards receiving! MJD is a dynamic running back that can play any down. He may not pile up the 100-yard rushing games like some other elite backs, but he easily makes up for it with touchdowns and receiving yards.
5. Frank Gore – SanFrancisco 49ers
Gore is due for a dangerously big season. Combine the emergence of Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree and you have more running room for Frank. Oh, and he can still catch, too. Last year, Gore had 52 catches for 406 yards. Assuming Alex Smith, or whoever else plays QB for this team, can protect the ball and “manage the game,” then Gore should have another great season for his fantasy owners.
6. DeAngelo Williams – Carolina Panthers
So, are you still afraid to pick DeAngelo because of his talented backup, Jonathan Stewart?? If you are, you need to end the paranoia! Despite missing nearly a quarter of the season, Williams tallied over 1,100 yards rushing and 250+ receiving yards. His total touchdowns (7) were a bit lower than expected, but Williams should improve upon that number, especially if they can get a quarterback who can get them near the goal line more often!
7. Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons
Having Turner on your fantasy team was frustrating to say the least, last year! He only had two games over 65 yards rushing through week 6. He then finally got things rolling and ran for over 100 yards on 3 consecutive occasions, but shortly thereafter, he was injured and was basically useless for the rest of the season! If 100% healthy again, Turner should be good for at least 1,350 yards and 12 touchdowns, although, the Falcons’ offense struggled often even when the entire squad was healthy last year, so don’t be overly confident in these projections!
8. Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers
Now that Willie Parker is completely out of the picture, Mendenhall is the clearly the go-to back in Pittsburgh. Mendenhall proved his fantasy worth last year, posting an impressive average per carry of 4.6 yards and displaying some superior skills in the passing game, as well, as he averaged over 10 yards per catch. Moreover, Ben Roethlisberger will be suspended for 4 to 6 games, which equates to even more touches for Mendenhall!
9. Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams
Somehow, some way, Jackson always puts up good numbers on one of the consistently worst teams. People always have the assumption that defenses will smother him because the Rams’ offense has no other weapons. Will people once again make this assumption? Jackson had over 1,400 yards rushing last year and only an injury will prevent him from getting near that mark again. You have to be leery of Jackson, though, as he only had a total of FOUR touchdowns last year. Jackson will remain dangerous between the 20’s, but If the Rams’ new quarterback can’t turn this sloppy offense around, Jackson could once again be hard-pressed to find that end zone.
10. Shonn Greene – New York Jets
You have to love a guy that averages 5.0 yards per carry! And don’t you worry about L.T., Shonn Greene fans! This team has made too much progress to take a step back and let L.T. take the reigns at running back. L.T. no longer seems to have that big play ability, however, he is still very decent at scoring touchdowns from the one-yard line. Expect L.T. to vulture a couple of touchdowns from Greene, but despite that, Greene will still have numbers worthy enough for him to be in the top ten. Now if only Greene can get involved in the passing game! (ZERO catches in 2009)
11. Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers
Grant has never broken a run longer than 27 yards and has yet to eclipse 1,300 yards rushing for a single season; however, he is still a top notch running back that help carry anybody to fantasy trophy land! Grant may throw you a couple “duds” every now and then, but one thing you have to love about Grant is his ability to come through in the fantasy playoff season! As the season gets older and colder, Grant sees more and more paydirt-in his three-year career, Grant has scored 24 touchdowns, HALF of which have come during the final 4-game stretch of the seasons. That is what you call “playoff presence!”
12. Pierre Thomas – New Orleans Saints
Reggie Bush finally showed the ability to make plays without running around corners and darting toward sidelines, but Pierre is the #1 fantasy back in New Orleans. When the going gets tough, Pierre will be the man they call on-perhaps the only man, as Mike Bell is no longer there to back him up. Without the duet with Bell, Pierre’s carries should increase significantly and this will equate to even more touchdown opportunities on one of the most dangerous offenses ever known to man!
13. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs
This guy played a key role in many fantasy championship teams last season. Charles was a reckless bat out of hell in the 2nd half of the 2009 season. In the final 6 games of the ’09 season, he accounted for over 750 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns. Oh, and just for gravy, he added another 140+ receiving yards! Will he continue this trend into the start of the 2010 season? Nobody knows for sure, but it is expected by many! His fantasy future looks very bright, although, keep in mind that the Chiefs acquired Thomas Jones in the offseason. If Charles falters in any way, Jones could eat up a ton of his carries and end Jamaal’s 15 minutes of fantasy fame!
14. Cedric Benson – Cincinnati Bengals
Benson established himself as a very reliable back last season, although fantasy owners would really love to see more receptions and some bigger game-breaking runs. Not once did Cedric score more than one touchdown in any game last season, so if you are looking for a guy that can single-handedly win some weeks for you, this is not the guy! In his last six games played, he scored ZERO touchdowns. Reason for concern? Maybe, but nevertheless, he is going to be a threat for 100 yards and a score nearly every single week for a team that has been concentrating a lot more on the run as of late.
15. Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys
With Marion Barber gradually losing grasp as the go-to guy in the Dallas running game, it is only a matter of time before Felix takes over as the main carrier of choice. Owner, Jerry Jones, always seems to have a big grin on his face when talks about Felix and he is always very proud of selecting him in the draft . . . having an owner that is extremely excited about you is always a good little boost to earn you a starting role! In the final four games of the Cowboys’ 2009 season, Jones had 49 carries for 258 yards. If he can maintain that momentum going into the 2010 season, then Marion Barber and Tashard Choice will end up like two desperate dogs near a dinner table, scrounging for anything that they can get!
16. Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers
Mathews looks like a future stud in the making. Unless he becomes a complete flop in training camp and pre-season, he should become the clear-cut #1 running back for San Diego very shortly. Darren Sproles is as explosive as they come, but there is no way that San Diego can rely on him to get 25 carries every week. Expect Sproles to come on during obvious passing downs and/or 3rd downs, with the rest of the playing time going to Mathews. The Chargers’ offense is a great one to start your career with . . . let’s see if Mathews can capitalize on this gold-mine opportunity!
17. Knowshon Moreno – Denver Broncos
With nearly 1,000 yards rushing and 7 rushing touchdowns, Moreno generated a very respectable rookie season with the Broncos. He is sure to break the 1,000 yard barrier this season and will also give you two or three catches a game. Correll Buckhalter always poses a threat to steal a bulk of carries from Moreno, but Moreno is younger and he is the future of this team, thus, the priority will be given to him. If you’re really worried about Moreno losing carries to Correll, then take a quick glance at the final three games of the 2009 season. During those games, Buckhalter had a measly 15 carries while Moreno had 42.
18. Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills
There are two other notable running backs on this team, but Marshawn Lynch is rapidly going downhill and C.J. Spiller is too young to be relied upon. Jackson certainly made his case in the last game of the season, during which time he rushed for 212 yards, although that was against a Colts team that didn’t have a whole lot to play for. Jackson has a lot of potential for fantasy greatness, but be very cautious when selecting a running back from a team that combined for only SIX rushing touchdowns in 2009!
19. Beanie Wells – Arizona Cardinals
With Kurt Warner gone, Wells will certainly get more carries, but will the defenses gang up on him? Or will the defenses still throw extra coverage on Larry Fitzgerald? Assuming that Fitzgerald and Breaston can still keep the defenses worried, Beanie should be able to produce reputable numbers this season. Reputable, but not remarkable. He’s a decent #2 back, but if he’s your #1 back, your team could be in dire jeopardy!
20. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
With the departure of Donovan McNabb, the Eagles will likely show a little more love for the running game, which should prove to be beneficial to McCoy. LeSean had nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards last season and should easily exceed that this year. His main concern may be the arrival of Mike Bell, but don’t be surprised if this is not the same Mike Bell that you saw in New Orleans. Bell did a commendable job in New Orleans, but one has to wonder how much of that success was due to having Drew Brees standing in front of him?!
*all statistics obtained from Yahoo Sports