The thing that sticks out to me, when viewing the running backs for this season, is what a muddled mess the group is. I stared at a group of about 15 players -- those ranked from six to 20 -- for probably 45 minutes while tinkering with how to rank them. Some will pan out, and some will end up being viewed as busts. May the force be with you. (Last Updated: 8/27/09)
|1. Adrian Peterson
| Not much real discussion here anywhere you look. I'm actually starting to get worried. No one should be such an overwhelming consensus, right?
|2. Maurice Jones-Drew
| Freed from a time-share and behind a reworked offensive line; MJD is primed for a career year.
|3. Michael Turner
| When people talk about his workload from last season, why don't they use total touches? Players take hits on receptions, too. Matt Forte only had two less touches last season. LaDainian Tomlinson had 390 touches in 2005 and followed it with a record-breaking effort.
|4. Matt Forte
| Improved offensive line and better quarterback play will only help the second-year man from Tulane.
|5. Steven Jackson
| When he's on the field, he's one of the best in fantasy. Put my money on a full season of health, which means big things.
|6. LaDainian Tomlinson
| He battled injuries all year in 2008, but he still compiled 1,536 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns while only fumbling once. And he played all 16 games. Pretty damn stellar "off year."
|7. DeAngelo Williams
| He's not scoring 20 touchdowns again, but don't expect to look back in a few years and view 2008 as an outlier in Williams' career. He's a stud.
|8. Frank Gore
|Hasn't shown a ton of durability in his four seasons, but we know the potential is there. He'll benefit much more under Jimmy Raye than he did under Mike Martz -- despite the popular and misguided opinion that Martz makes running backs into fantasy machines.|
|9. Chris Johnson
|The only downside here is the time-share situation with LenDale White, but few in football are more dynamic than Johnson.|
|10. Steve Slaton
|I trusted Stephanie Stradley last year when it came to Slaton. This year, she's telling me there are eerie similarities between the start of his career and the beginning of Terrell Davis'-- such as the offense, the blocking scheme, Slaton's size, Slaton's reading and cutting ability, etc.|
|11. Clinton Portis
|The Redskins still haven't done a ton to address their offensive line issues, but the passing attack is improved and will help ease the burden on CP26.|
|12. Brandon Jacobs
| Derrick Ward is gone. Even with Ahmad Bradshaw around, Jacobs will get a slightly higher percentage of the workload.
|13. Brian Westbrook
| He'll be looking over his shoulder a bit at LeSean McCoy, but he's not ready to step down just yet. Do monitor his health.
|14. Ronnie Brown
| Traditionally, running backs' second season after ACL surgery is when they really come back to life. We like a career year for Brown.
|15. Pierre Thomas
| Popular breakout pick here. Be careful to not draft him ahead of sure things, but he's looking like a quality RB2.
|16. Kevin Smith
|He's unchallenged and the Lions will need to count on him for consistency. Very solid RB2.|
|17. Ryan Grant
|For me, he's shaping up as a nice value pick. Last season, a holdout slowed him a bit early in the season, but he finished with 1,203 yards rushing. His touchdowns need to increase, but that's what we said about Thomas Jones before last season.|
|18. Marion Barber
| There will always be concerns about his health, considering he plays like a human battering ram. He's also going to lose much of his workload to two others as the Cowboys try to preserve their horse.
|19. Darren McFadden
|I haven't personally been too shy about hiding my man-love for McFadden this season. He broke a 45-yard run in preseason to remind everyone just how explosive he was in college. He will be again. This year.|
|20. Joseph Addai
|High risk/high reward here. We know Addai's potential, but we also know the Colts can win without him and have drafted Donald Brown.|
|21. Knowshon Moreno
|He's definitely the top option in Denver, but there are reasons to be cautious. Josh McDaniels is coaching, and he's a Bill Belichick disciple. When was the last time we could count on one Patriots running back all season? Moreno has plenty of company, too.|
|22. Reggie Bush||Saints|
|High upside here if he can stay healthy. Remember, he was an absolute monster through three weeks last season.|
|23. Thomas Jones
| After a huge season, Jones has competition for carries and a new coaching staff. Plus, he'll be 31 when the season begins. 2008 could very well have been his last hurrah.
|24. Larry Johnson
| He's two years removed from consecutive 1,700-yard-plus seasons, but he's not old or broken down just yet.
|25. Felix Jones||Cowboys|
|We have Jones ranked far higher than any other rankings I've seen. We're counting on his explosive nature (much like his former collegiate teammate, listed at No. 19) getting him lots of work this year, as the Cowboys find ways to utilize him.|
|26. Jonathan Stewart
| Whenever he got the carries in 2008, he was productive. The problem was that DeAngelo Williams was busy taking the league by storm. Expect a similar 2009 from Stewart if he can stay healthy.
|27. Willie Parker
|Can he hold off Rashard Mendenhall? Yes, but that doesn't mean he's a sure pick. There's enough here to be worried about -- which knocks him down to high-end RB3 range.|
|28. Marshawn Lynch
| He'll play like a top-10 pick once he returns from a three-game suspension. The question becomes when you can safely draft him and not punt the first three weeks of your fantasy season.
|29. LenDale White
| He's motivated and in much better shape. He'll still have the short-yardage carries and will have a shot to gain additional work if he shows more agility.
|30. Derrick Ward
| The top option in a time-share situation on a bad team.
|31. Ray Rice
| The Ravens are going with a three-headed monster, but the most upside lies here.
|32. Beanie Wells
| A training camp injury didn't do much to quell concerns about the oft-injured Buckeye.
|33. Cedric Benson
|Benson has absolutely no competition at this point for his job, which may not bode well for a guy who has had motivation problems in the past.|
|34. Julius Jones
| Count on a large increase in yardage, but not many touchdowns.
|35. Jamal Lewis
| He'll be 30 this season, and he's garnered over 2,600 touches worth of tread on his tires in his career. Oh, and his team sucks. The only positive is that he's a starting running back without a committee situation. But how long does that last?
36. Leon Washington, Jets
37. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
38. Donald Brown, Colts
39. Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
40. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
41. Fred Jackson, Bills
42. Darren Sproles, Chargers
43. Fred Taylor, Patriots
44. Tim Hightower, Cardinals
45. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
46. Willis McGahee, Ravens
47. Chester Taylor, Vikings
48. Le'Ron McClain, Ravens
49. Jerious Norwood, Falcons
50. James Davis, Browns
51. Edgerrin James, Seahawks
52. Shonn Greene, Jets
53. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
54. Michael Bush, Raiders
55. Sammy Morris, Patriots
56. Ladell Betts, Redskins
57. Kevin Faulk, Patriots
58. Ricky Williams, Dolphins
59. Tashard Choice, Cowboys
60. Brandon Jackson, Packers
61. Bernard Scott, Bengals
62. Glen Coffee, 49ers
63. Laurence Maroney, Patriots
64. Justin Fargas, Raiders
65. Chris Brown, Texans
66. Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
67. Greg Jones, Jaguars
68. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
69. LaMont Jordan, Broncos
70. Mike Goodson, Panthers
71. Mewelde Moore, Steelers
72. Jerome Harrison, Browns
73. Rashad Jennings, Jaguars
74. Maurice Morris, Lions
75. Xavier Omon, Bills
76. Peyton Hillis, Broncos
77. Mike Bell, Saints
78. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots
79. Danny Ware, Giants
80. Frank Summers, Steelers