1) Chris Johnson – Obviously Johnson gets the nod at number one after the amazing season he had last year. Steven Jackson was the number two rushing lead and he was 500+ yards behind Johnson. Lendale White is gone (and currently unemployed). The center for the Titans was apparently horrible at run blocking and has been replaced this season. All indicators are suggesting Johnson will have another outstanding season BUT…
CJ2K has simply seen an amazing amount of wear last season with over 400 touches. The other downside is the unpredictability of his contract situation. While I’m typically not a fan of players restructuring their contracts before finishing them, I think Johnson needs a raise. We all remember Michael Turner and Matt Forte last year?
Listen if you have the number one pick then your drafting this guy no questions but for all Johnson’s upside there is a decent amount of uncertainty that comes with fantasy football.
2) Adrian Peterson – Believe it or not this number two recommendation was back and forth with the number 3 pick. ADP is young but it is hard to ignore his decreasing yards per carry every year he has played not to mention his problem holding onto the ball. Good news is that All Day is grabbing a lot more passes (probably the reason they let go of Chester Taylor). The Vikings and Brett Favre both believe that Peterson is the main core of the offense. That mindset and the fact that Peterson puts up fantastic fantasy numbers for all three of his career years is the reason why he is number two.
Peterson brought home the bacon with his touchdown totals. This year should be more of the same as Brett Favre returns to complete his unfinished business. I expect Peterson to stay on par with last year and first the first time in four years his yard per carry will increase. With Chester Taylor gone and Peterson’s pass catching ability on the rise we should see an increase in his third down yards.
3) Ray Rice – I was oh so close at putting Rice second in my 2010 fantasy football running back picks. Bill Belicheck once sought Ray Rice and called him the complete back. This kid is on the upside and the addition of Anquan Boldin only spreads the field creating more lanes for this shifty back to work in. The thing about Rice is that he is built like Brian Westbrook and is very hard to spot behind the large offensive linemen in front of him, by the time someone catches a glimpse of him he’s close to full speed.
Ray Rice caught more passes than any other back last year. The only downside to Rice is that darn Willis McGahee who is still on the team. With a nose for the end zone it’s unlikely that Rice’s carries will increase inside the 5 yard line. My super bold prediction for the 2010 fantasy football season is this: Ray Rice will have more yards from scrimmage than Chris Johnson. So why not place Rice #1 or #2? CJ2K however should have more touchdowns and carries which CJ2K will even the playing field.
4) Maurice Jones-Drew – Another mighty mite running back. This guy has shown he can handle the load in his first full season as the starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. MJD is also an excellent pass catcher and has no immediate threats to his full time gig (read: no RBBC). Jones Drew gained 1391 yards last season to place him fourth among running backs. Not bad. His yards per carry were second behind Chris Johnson out of the top five backs.
This year should being more of the same. MJD is an excellent pass catcher as well and should see ample time in goal line situations. The Jaguars are smart and still keep Jones-Drew’s carries around 300 per season. There is no reason to believe that will change.
5) Frank Gore – The fifth spot is tricky but I like Gore this year assuming he can stay healthy. He only had 229 carries last year due to injuries so his 1120 yards and 10 TDs should increase. With Mike Singletary at the helm for the forty-niners it’s safe to say the team will never become a pass first offense. San Fran also drafted to improve their offensive line by getting some talented run blockers.
All signs point to a very productive season for Gore and friends. There should be no reason why a quarterback or wide receiver is taken before Gore. I’m looking for in excess of 1400 yards and 15 touchdowns. The chances of Gore finishing in the top 5 are good money.
6) Michael Turner – Turner is very similar to Frank Gore as injuries shortened both of their season and they both look to bounce back. Turner had even less carries than Gore as he was hampered by the dreaded high ankle sprain near the end of the season. Despite the injury bug Tuner still bruised his way to 10 touchdowns and 871 yards.
There is a lot of upside for Turner and the thought has crossed my mind that Turner should be placed higher than Gore. The factor that swayed the lower ranking was the potential of Matt Ryan and his targets to run a more efficient passing attack thus utilizing Michael Turner slightly less than Frank Gore. In theory the difference should only be about 20-30 points during the season.
7) Steven Jackson – It is really hard to put Steven Jackson in the top 10 for two reasons.
1 – The Rams suck and Jackson is again the focus of the offense which equals serious punishment (read: injury waiting to happen).
2 – Despite finishing second in rushing last year Jackson only found the end zone 4 times despite 324 carries.
Can we really expect Jackson to keep producing decent yardage on a bad team with tons of carries? Common sense says no but here he is at number 7. If Jackson is left on the board during a late first round pick I am going to seriously consider going QB or WR instead of a back that gets almost every touch. Bottom line: Use caution.
8) Ryan Grant – This dude is steady if nothing else. Grant had fewer than 300 carries and got 11 TDs with 0 fumbles. I like that. There is no immediate threat to his job so you know what you are getting. The only reason Grant is so low is his mediocrity. It seems like he was supposed to blow up for a few years now but never has. He is painfully average.
But with that average play comes a certain amount of security. Aaron Rodgers will spread the field which will allow Grant ample opportunities to break off some nice runs. One thing that could put Grant over the bar of mediocrity is if Aaron Rodgers stops running for touchdowns. Either way Grant is a safe pick and might even be had as late as the third or fourth round.
9) LeSean McCoy – Brian Westbrook is out and LeSean McCoy has the reins to the RB1 position. McCoy has garnered the same type of fantasy football analysis as Westbrook: A small shifty back with equal opportunity to break a play or break himself. McNabb is out at QB and Kolb is going to surprise some people.
There is a certain assumption that McCoy will not be a stud running back. While somewhat impressive last year he didn’t exactly set any records or take charge of any games. There should be a steep increase in his production this year and top that off with his an average draft position of 45. Grab him while you can.
10) Ryan Mathews – That’s right, one T not TT. LT is gone and Darren Sproles will do what Darren Sproles has always done which leaves the main running back duties to Mathews. San Diego has a high powered offense that can and will utilize the running back as a potent weapon. Early word is that Mathews will get around 300 carries.
Mathews recently promised not to hold out of training camp due to contract issues. This most likely means he understands full well the opportunity that is being presented to him. Forecasting Matt Forte rookie numbers is reasonable and make sure you save a spot on your roster for this kid.