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Running Back Rankings


By: — March 25, 2009 @ 12:38 pm
Filed under: Forecast

Last year was certainly an odd year for running backs in fantasy football. The theme was breakout players and struggling superstars with a number of major surprises amongst the top ten fantasy performers.

Leading the way was DeAngelo Williams of the Panthers, a player who had failed to beat out journeyman DeShaun Foster two years in a row and who hadn’t topped 750 yards rushing. No surprise then that he went off for 1,639 total yards and 20 touchdowns. Michael Turner of the Falcons certainly looked talented as LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup in San Diego but few would have predicted that he could become fantasy football’s second rated running back.

Rookies also surprised with Matt Forte of the Bears and Steve Slaton of the Texans cracking the top ten and Chris Johnson of the Titans just missing at number eleven, despite not playing in week 17. Jets veteran Thomas Jones also enjoyed a career season at age 30 with over 1,500 total yards and 15 touchdowns.

The surprises on the downside included the Cowboys’ Marion Barber, Joseph Addai of the Colts, Steven Jackson of the Rams, Frank Gore of the 49ers and the Chiefs’ Larry Johnson. Injuries explained a major part of the underperformance in each case. Each of these players would have cost an early pick or major auction dollars but handcuffs wouldn’t have helped much except in Dallas where Tashard Choice, the second handcuff behind first handcuff Felix Jones, performed well.

  1. Adrian Peterson – Trade for Sage Rosenfels should make Peterson’s life easier and he figures to top 2,000 total yards in 2009.
  2. Michael Turner – 2008 wasn’t a fluke but team will want to reduce number of touches from 379.
  3. Marion Barber – Would have been top 5 without the injuries and team will rely more heavily on the run with Terrell Owens gone.
  4. DeAngelo Williams – Panthers will run heavily and no reason why offensive line won’t continue to open the holes.
  5. LaDainian Tomlinson – 1,537 total yards and 12 TD’s is an off year? Sproles isn’t a threat to take over as the number one.
  6. Maurice Jones-Drew – Finally gets to be a true number one but value hurt by ridiculously poor receiving core.
  7. Joseph Addai – Look for a bounce back season and plenty of TD’s.
  8. Frank Gore – Mike Singletary says they’re going to run and, if healthy, Gore’s going to top 1,600 total yards.
  9. Matt Forte – Not overly talented but heady player gets huge touches and makes the most of them.
  10. Brian Westbrook – Still solid but 71% of his production came in just five games which is cause for concern.
  11. Clinton Portis – Top fantasy performer before injuries slowed him down. At just 27, stories of his demise are greatly exaggerated.
  12. Steve Slaton – Almost assuredly will see touches reduced as team wants a big back for short yardage work.
  13. Brandon Jacobs – Top five if he could ever stay healthy. Touches should increase with Derrick Ward’s departure.
  14. Steven Jackson – Second most talented back in the league but no help from the offensive line or the passing game.
  15. Chris Johnson – Proved that size wasn’t an issue but unlikely to see more than the 294 touches he had last year.
  16. Ronnie Brown – Solid production in 2008 with less than 250 touches. Says here there will be less of a committee approach in 2009.
  17. Ryan Grant – Struggled with nagging injuries but still managed to top 1,200 yards rushing. Was hurt by low TD total.
  18. Thomas Jones – Wants more money. Jets might want more Leon Washington.
  19. Kevin Smith – 670 yards rushing and four TD’s over the last eight games, despite having to face the Jags, Panthers and Vikings.
  20. Marshawn Lynch – Solid player who suffers from having to face the Pats, Dolphins and Jets six times each season.
  21. Derrick Ward – New regime in Tampa will hand the reins to their guy with Earnest Graham in reserve. Might not see the short yardage work.
  22. Reggie Bush – Average PPG last three years – 11, 11 , 12. He’s missed ten games in two years.
  23. Jonathan Stewart – Plan is to split carries but will bust out if Williams goes down.
  24. Pierre Thomas – He takes over Deuce McAllister’s role full-time and gets increased touches when Reggie Bush is out.
  25. Darren McFadden – He will be the starter with Michael Bush in a short yardage role. Lack of TD’s will hurt him.
  26. Willie Parker – Productive when healthy and not facing top defenses. Breakaway speed might be gone.
  27. Larry Johnson – Still talented but needs a change of scenery to rekindle motivation.
  28. LeRon McClain – He epitomizes what the Ravens want in a back more than Willis McGahee. Expect increased touches in 2009.
  29. LenDale White – Gets a lot of slack but has averaged 10 PPG two years in a row and gets the short yardage work.
  30. Earnest Graham – Not as effective as in 2007 and rank assumes he will get the goal line touches in Tampa.
  31. Tim Hightower – Looked great as a backup but lost as a starter. Not convinced Arizona will commit to the run.
  32. Jamal Lewis – Bit of a surprise they haven’t tried harder to replace him. TD’s will be hard to come by.
  33. Julius Jones – Greg Knapp brings his massive run production to Seattle but lack of TD’s will hold him back.
  34. Cedric Benson – Only productive Bengal back in 2008 but likely gets some competition in the draft.
  35. Leon Washington – Look for the Jets to get him more involved in 2009.
  36. Willis McGahee – What a waste. Expect this to be his last year in Baltimore.
  37. Darren Sproles – Too small to be a starter, good luck predicting when he’ll go off.
  38. Felix Jones – Absolutely dynamic when healthy last season. Dallas has to give him 8-10 touches a game.
  39. Fred Jackson – Averaged 11 touches in 2008 and will get between two and four starts with Lynch suspended.
  40. Fred Taylor – Unless the light goes on for Maroney, he’s easily their most talented back.
  41. Jerious Norwood – He looks great. Every year we hear about more touches but it never happens.
  42. Ricky Williams – Skills are still there if Brown were to go down.
  43. Michael Bush – Week 17, 177 yard, two TD effort against the Bucs wasn’t a fluke. He produces when given a chance.
  44. Chester Taylor – Touches decreased from 186 in 2007 to 146 in 2008. Expect another drop in 2009.
  45. Rashard Mendenhall – Boom or bust. Hopefully in 2009, he doesn’t take on Ray Lewis.
  46. Correll Buckhalter – Least talented starting back in the league and Denver won’t run as much as in prior years.
  47. Sammy Morris – He’ll have a couple of decent games before he gets hurt.
  48. Ray Rice – Looks good but lost in the shuffle in Baltimore.
  49. Ahmad Bradshaw – Runs as good or better than Ward but not as good as a receiver.
  50. Jamaal Charles – Talented back who will be the first option if Johnson is traded.
  51. Mewelde Moore – Looked better than Parker for much of last year but now 3rd on the depth chart.
  52. Maurice Morris – He is what he is. Now he’s the backup in Detroit.
  53. Brandon Jackson – Proved in 2008 that he had some ability but no challenge to Grant as the starter.
  54. Kevin Faulk – Best of luck figuring out when he will have a big game.
  55. Laurence Maroney – Looks like Tarzan, can play like Tarzan but more brittle than melba toast.
  56. Jerome Harrison – Cleveland’s only backup and Lewis is getting old.
  57. T.J. Duckett – He’ll get some TD’s but not much else.
  58. Kolby Smith – Could produce if Johnson is traded.
  59. Greg Jones – Currently the top backup in Jacksonville.
  60. LaMont Jordan – Buckhalter is unlikely to last 16 games.

  • Taxman

    Good list overall. I don’t care for Forte that high – with the problems on the Bears O-line, I could see him regressing this year. They’ve done nothing to help him out in the offseason. I also like Brown a lot higher. He’s healthy and 2 years removed from the injury. Ricky’s not getting any younger. I think Brown is top 10 this year, thanks to his abilities as a 3-down back.

  • http://www.myofficepool.ca Mike

    Clear cut starter or not, I’d have a tough time taking Derrick Ward at 21 ahead of a handful of more talented backs ranked after him. Is McGahee for sure back with the Ravens? I thought 90% likely they would show him the door. Is Rhodes still the backup in Indy? LOL at Maroney = melba toast.

  • Dave

    Good pts but all of the RBs behind Ward have issues.

 
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