2010 RotoRob NFL Draft Kit: Running Back Rankings
Ray Rice is coming off a brilliant season for the Ravens.
We’re back with more of the 2010 RotoRob NFL Draft Kit. So while we wonder if the Rams can bounce back from a 1-15 season behind a rookie QB, let’s take a look at the top Fantasy running backs in the game.
Legend: Rank, name, team, tier
1. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, 1
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, 1
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2
4. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens, 2
5. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, 2
6. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, 2
7. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, 2
8. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers, 3
9. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers, 3
10. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals, 3
11. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers, 3
12. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos, 4
13. Shonn Greene, New York Jets, 4
14. Ryan Matthews, San Diego Chargers, 4
15. Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals, 4
16. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles, 5
17. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, 5
18. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints, 5
19. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers, 5
20. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts, 5
21. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins, 6
22. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears, 6
23. Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, 6
24. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants, 6
25. Jerome Harrison, Cleveland Browns, 6
26. Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins, 6
27. Marion Barber III, Dallas Cowboys, 7
28. Justin Forsett, Seattle Seahawks, 7
29. Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints, 7
30. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions, 7
31. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills, 7
32. Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins, 8
33. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders, 8
34. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills, 8
35. Thomas Jones, Kansas City Chiefs, 8
36. Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts, 9
37. Arian Foster, Houston Texans, 9
38. LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets, 9
39. Laurence Maroney, New England Patriots, 9
40. Cadillac Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 9
Without a doubt, Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson are the two best running backs in the league. The difference in the last year is that Johnson’s surprisingly dominating sophomore year gave him 2,006 rushing yards on 358 carries averaging 5.6 yards per rush. This, along with 14 rushing TDs and 50 receptions for 503 yards and two receiving TDs, gave him 329 Fantasy points last season in standard point systems. This season, Johnson should put up similar numbers with fewer yards on the rushing side, but still rank as the best in the league. Peterson’s fumbling problem cost him the No. 1 spot, as he suffered from inconsistency with his running last year, as his yards per carry dropped to 4.4 after 5.6 in his rookie season and 4.8 in his second season. I expect Peterson to regain some of his consistency this year, as with the veteran Chester Taylor gone, the team will rely more on Peterson now that his backup is being is rookie Toby Gerhart. Look for Peterson to get more touchdown chances given his size advantage over Johnson. In addition, with Brett Favre back in Minnesota for at least this season, it makes the Vikings a better team and gives Peterson more chances. Plus, given Favre’s fragility and the fact that they need him for the long haul through the playoffs should they make it, the Vikings should be getting back to rushing the ball more than they did last year. Johnson and Peterson should deliver each and every week and there should be no question whether or not to draft them in the top two spots.
Despite Maurice Jones-Drew’s small size of 5’7″, he is strong, weighing in at 208 pounds. After all, back in 2008 he did stop the 6’4″, 265-pound Shawn Merriman where he stood on one of the best pass rushing blocks I have ever seen. MJD should be the life on the Jaguars and bring many TDs and points. Last season, he led the league in red zone carries and was third in carries inside the 10 last season. With Fred Taylor gone since 2008 and still no veteran to replace him, MJD has become the star for this team rushing, receiving, and scoring. Another small (5’8″, 205) back, Ray Rice, took over for the veteran Willis McGahee on the Ravens and had an amazing 78 receptions for 702 yards and one TD as a running back. That’s more receptions than many receivers get in a season, and along with that, Rice had 254 carries for 1,339 yards and seven TDs. Look for his offense to continue to improve in 2010. Many who drafted Michael Turner at the number three spot last season were very disappointed when he could not put up the same numbers after becoming a starter for the Falcons. After playing as a backup for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego his first four seasons, Turner exploded in Atlanta with 377 carries, 1,699 yards and eight TDs in 2008, only to drop to 178 carries, 871 yards and four TDs last year. Despite his uninspired season, Turner should be able to get back to form, getting over 300 carries, more than 1,200 yards and more than ten TDs. The once amazing Steven Jackson has fallen out of the spotlight with his team winning just one game last season, however, he was still able to put up great numbers with 324 carries, 1,416 yards, and four TDs, along with 51 receptions for 322 yards. Jackson can run, he can catch, and he can move. As long as new rookie QB rookie Sam Bradford is not a big bust like JaMarcus Russell, Jackson should get even more numbers, at the very least as far as TDs goes. The last player of this tier is Frank Gore, who we all know has the talent after his 2006 season, but has been injury prone, missing two games last season due to an ankle injury and failing to play a full season since 2006. On the plus side, he did reach double digits in touchdowns for the first time in his career last season with ten. Look for the 49ers to go back to a more balanced attack, rushing the ball more, with Gore’s numbers improving as his team continues to win and push for a division title in the NFC West.
The Carolina Panthers are a powerhouse running team; they got rid of Jake Delhomme who, after his amazing 2008 season helped lead the team to the playoffs, was very inconsistent last year to the tune of almost three picks a game. Now Matt Moore holds the reins, but a possible rookie surge with Jimmy Clausen could help DeAngelo Williams improve his 216 rushes for 1,117 yards (5.2 yards per rush) and seven TDs of a year ago. The only thing he has to be afraid of is his backup, Jonathan Stewart, who continues to run stride for stride with Williams as this one-two punch breaks down each defense. After being overdrafted in 2008, Ryan Grant was possibly underdrafted in 2009 as his downhill running style built with power and speed had 282 carries for 1,253 yards and 11 TDs. With Aaron Rodgers handing it off to him, and his Green Bay Packers battling the Vikings for the division crown, Grant should get more than 250 carries again next season. Another big surprise last season was Cedric Benson, the runner who fell out of favour in Chicago after being unable duplicate Thomas Jones’s play the led the Bears to a Super Bowl appearance in 2007. Benson averaged 3.4 yards per carry in 2007 with Chicago, and 3.5 yards per carry in 2008 in Cincinnati. Last year, he then propelled the Bengals to the AFC North title over the Steelers and the Ravens with career highs of 301 carries for 1,251 yards and six TDs, matching his career high. Benson has set a new standard for his play this year and while missed a couple games in November due to injury, as long as this Bengal team continues their play from last year, then Benson should have another phenomenal campaign. After taking over for Willie Parker, who clearly did not have much left in his tank, Rashard Mendenhall bounced back from his awful rookie season in which he missed almost the whole year, to almost 250 carries and over 1,100 yards with seven TDs. I believe that Mendenhall is just getting started and his numbers will get better this year as he starts the season as the featured back. The Steelers are going to need to rely on Mendenhall’s rushing to win them games, especially at the outset, with Ben Roethlisberger suspended for four games.
Knowshon Moreno’s rookie effort was not bad, but not as promised as hoped as he averaged 3.8 yards per carry with 247 carries for 947 yards and seven TDs last year for the Broncos. He had to share the load with Correll Buckhalter who was given double-digit touches each game, but this year, Moreno should be getting more touches and I predict he will get over 250 carries and over 1,000 yards with close to ten TDs. With Thomas Jones and his great post-season performance gone, Shonn Greene is growing from a 109-carry backup with 541 yards to a full blown starter with LaDainian Tomlinson guiding him as his backup. Greene may lose some goal-line carries to LT, but should still get over 250 carries and eclipse over 1,000 yards this season. No one knows how the rookie out of Fresno State can hold up as the starter in San Diego after LT, but Ryan Matthews has pure talent and was drafted in a great spot. He is projected to do very well, but he is a rookie who has not played, let alone proved himself in the NFL yet. But if he plays well, look for Matthews to be the new star Charger with over 200 carries and possibly over 1,000 yards his rookie season. Beanie Wells is a risky pick here, but with Kurt Warner gone, and everyone skeptical about Matt Leinart, this team should be running more this season after throwing the third-most passes in the NFL in 2009. After all, Ken Whisenhunt came from the Steelers where he learned the powerhouse running system of Bill Cowher. Wells will still have to share carries with Tim Hightower, but not as much as last year. The Cardinals were worried about Wells’s durability and injury concerns, which he brushed off in the last half of the season, scoring six TDs in his last eight games and showing his true breakout potential. He has also improved his pass blocking ability, and that could gain him more plays over Hightower. Wells just doesn’t catch as much, with only 12 receptions last season. However, look for Wells to get around 240 carries for 1,100 yards and close to ten TDs.
With Kevin Kolb the new QB in Philly, the Eagles are still a passing team, but with Brian Westbrook gone, LeSean McCoy is the new starter. He is not the best pass-blocker and was not used as a short-yardage guy, but he should be able to put up enough to make him a top 20 running back. If he plays well he can get over 200 carries and over 1,000 yards, but he most likely won’t reach double-digit touchdowns. Another Chris Johnson-type of player that took over the starting job for the Chiefs when Larry Johnson left, Jamaal Charles was able to get over the 1,000-yard mark last season on only 190 carries. He totaled 1,120 yards and averaged 5.9 yards per carry with seven TDs, while pulling down 40 receptions for almost 300 yards. Charles may lose some carries to his new veteran backup, Thomas Jones, but he is a home run threat and can be a solid pick. In the crowded Saint backfield, Pierre Thomas starts for a primarily passing team behind Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. But Thomas also shares carries with Reggie Bush, who had eight touchdowns to Thomas’s six. However, Thomas is a more complete back and should get roughly 50 more carries this year, getting him up to 200 and he may possibly get over 1,000 yards if he can continue the 5.4 YPC average he had last season. Now the second punch on the Carolina Panthers, Jonathan Stewart proved himself right off the bat since he got in the league in 2008, and handled a bigger workload last season. However, he is still a backup, albeit, the highest ranked backup with 221 carries last year, which is more than some starters. Stewart averaged 5.1 yards per carry rushing for 1,133 yards and ten TDs. Look for him to duplicate these numbers in 2010. Joseph Addai has been a little bit of a disappointment after rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and racking up 15 TDs in his second year. After an awful, injury-marred 2008, he failed to bounce back much last year, with just 828 yards on 219 carries and he has has failed to average over 4 yards per carry since 2007. On the plus side, Addai still finds ways to score with 13 total last season, which makes him rank higher. He will probably lose more carries to Donald Brown this year, but Addai should still get over 200 carries with ten or more touchdowns, if he stays healthy.
With 33-year-old Ricky Williams still getting it done, Ronnie Brown is getting lower numbers. Also, since everyone knows the Wildcat offense now, Miami can’t take everyone by surprise like it did to the Patriots in 2008. The Dolphins are still a great running team, and both Brown and Williams should be getting close to 200 carries, possibly along with double-digit touchdowns. I would give Brown the edge this season if he doesn’t get hurt, but they are both good RB2s. After an amazing rookie season, Matt Forte was one of the biggest disappointments last year. He was one of eight players to get over 250 carries, yet he only rushed for 929 yards, a terrible average of 3.6 yards per carry. Forte only had four touchdowns last year, a number which should improve this year, but if he doesn’t get his yardage back up, then Jay Cutler will have to throw more, and may throw 26 interceptions again. Even though Felix Jones is still battling with Marion Barber, he is becoming more of a star. It seems almost every time he gets the ball, he breaks out for a big play. Jones has just been injury prone in each of his two seasons, but if healthy he’s a real sleeper capable of getting close to 1,000 yards rushing and a good amount of scores. Brandon Jacobs, the big man from New York, is always injured now, it seems. He is so powerful, but needs to get back to his play from 2008 when he scored 15 TDs in 13 games. If Jacobs does not get hurt this season, look for him to reach double digits in TDs. If the Browns give Jerome Harrison enough carries this year and he plays like he did at the end of last season, he could be a big threat. He may lose some carries and possibly touchdowns to rookie Montario Hardesty, but Harrison is very talented and can get 200 carries and several touchdowns.
After Marion Barber suffered injuries in back-to-back seasons he is falling behind Felix Jones now. However, Barber is still a big power back and while he will definitely lose carries this season, he can still score double-digit touchdowns. Justin Forsett, the best rusher on the Seahawks last year, averaged 5.4 yards per carry and can get up to 200 plus carries this year. He has to be careful of newly acquired Leon Washington stealing some goal line and red zone carries from him. Reggie Bush has clearly not been able to get a starting job, but he did improve on some things last season. Despite only getting 70 carries, he averaged 5.6 yards per carry and eight total TDs. Did you see him against the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs last year? Bush destroyed them, and if he can play like that all season, this could be his best year. He should get over 100 carries this year, and get touchdowns again — probably close to eight or more — whether from punt returning, rushing, or receiving. Next up is a pair of rookies, Jahvid Best and C.J. Spiller. Best is on the Lions, so who knows how that will go, but with over 150 carries, his speed can give him some yards and TDs. Spiller, who is the same size and speed as Best, has a chance to be a top rookie. His problem is that he has to battle both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch for the starting job, but with if things break right, Spiller could get 200 carries and close to 1,000 yards…and yes, it’s a stretch.
With Donovan McNabb as his new QB, if Clinton Portis can stay healthy, he can get back to his old form with 250 carries and maybe 1,000 yards and a handful of TDs. However, he does have Larry Johnson, Ryan Torain and Willie Parker running behind him which could cause some problems. But for now, Portis is the way to go on the Redskins. After a great college career, Darren McFadden has been a big disappointment in the NFL. He is injury prone and has yet to prove himself worthy of a big starting job. McFadden has the talent, but he is on the Oakland Raiders. Maybe with Jason Campbell as his new QB he can get more than 100 carries and break out more often to get more than one touchdown like last year. The Bills have talented backs, but with a weak offensive line and injuries, they never quite get as much as they could. But Fred Jackson was able to get 237 carries for 1,062 yards last year. With the recent addition of rookie C.J. Spiller, however, Jackson will lose a lot of carries and potential yardage. He can be a good option if you need a running back and he is available. Thomas Jones has had great seasons with the Bears and the Jets, reaching at least 1,119 yard for five straight seasons, including going over 1,300 in each of the last two, with a career-best 14 TDs last year. On a new team and as a 32-year-old veteran, Jones is now probably going to vanish away behind Charles, going from 331 carries last year to possibly less than 200 and less than 1,000 yards. At least Jones will get the goal line carries, which can still get him a good amount of touchdowns.
For the last tier, these players are still important to a Fantasy team, but won’t produce as much as the other guys. For instance, Donald Brown is a great player with potential for big breakout plays for the Colts, but playing behind Addai, he has not been able to get many carries. Brown had 78 carries last year, and he can double that this year and get more scores as well. With Ben Tate’s injury on the Texans, Arian Foster can take the carries in Houston. Steve Slaton is the only threat left, but he had a poor year last year. So it’s reasonable to imagine Foster getting over 200 carries and close to 1,000 yards with plenty of scores. And then there’s the former number one Fantasy pick and one-time best player in the game pick, LaDainian Tomlinson. He’s now on a new team with the Jets and is now a backup. However, he is a worthy backup and is still a good player; he just hasn’t been efficient lately. But Tomlinson will get goal line carries and likely over 150 totes in total. He won’t have numbers close to his glory years, but he could get a good amount of TDs for a backup. I am always skeptical about drafting a running back from the Patriots, because they use so many and you never know if your guy will get the touchdowns or not. However, with all the injuries to their running backs last year, Laurence Maroney was able to get almost 200 carries and had a career high nine TDs, although he only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Look for him to possibly duplicate his 2009 numbers, but they may not be as high. The final player in our top 40, Cadillac Williams has solidified his starting job in Tampa Bay, but averaging less than 4 yards per carry is not too compelling. With enough carries, Williams can get some scores with higher yardage.