Anyone who has played fantasy for a few years has noticed that the RB position is being continually harder and harder to predict because of the rise of the passing game. This year in particular is the hardest to predict because outside the top 3 runners every single option comes with question marks. Will MJD holdout? Will Johnson bounce back? Can Lynch maintain beast mode now that he is paid? Can Charles, and Peterson bounce back from a torn ACL? Can Mathews and DMC stay healthy? Can the rookies Richardson and Martin live up to the hype? These are all concerns for the upcoming season and the truth is that only time will tell. But we as fake football managers need to try and sort out the players who can help our team the most. So following is my attempt to rank the top 30 RB’s in the league. (All ADP/analysis/points use ESPN and ESPN standard scoring)
1. Ray Rice (ADP 3.5) Has had 2,000 yards from scrimmage 2 out of the past 3 years and is the teams 3rd down and goal line back. He wont come off the field much and has Leach paving lanes for him.
2. LeSean McCoy (ADP 5.1) Will he sore another 20 touchdowns this season? Probably not but he is almost a lock to post 1600 plus scrimmage yards and double digit touchdowns.
3. Arian Foster (ADP 2.4) He is probably the second most talented back in the league behind a healthy Adrian Peterson, but with Ben Tate in town I don’t see him as fantasy’s top RB.
4. Chris Johnson (ADP 10.1) Chris Johnson dissapointed countless owners last season but I think he is motivated again and is in line for a bounce back season. He stated this off season he still views himself as the best RB in the league and wants to be the only RB in history to go over 2,000 rushing yards twice. That probably wont happen but he is still capable for a huge season.
5. Darren McFadden (ADP 21.1) If McFadden can stay healthy for an entire season he can easily be fantasy’s top scoring back this season especially considering he is now the goal line back with Michael Bush gone. That is a big if, but I still feel that 13 plus games from DMC is worth a late 1st round early 2nd round pick.
6. Matt Forte (ADP 15.3) Even with Brandon Marshall in town Forte is still going to get plenty of touches this season both on carries and catches. Now that he is paid 1500 scrimmage yards and 6 plus touchdowns is easily within reach. Just remember the Bears didn’t pay Michael Bush $1o million to just ride the pine, he will get touches especially near the goal line.
7. Ryan Mathews (ADP 37.7) Yes Ryan Mathews has a broken collarbone and might not make it back till week 3, but in 14 games last season he still posted 1,547 scrimmage yards and 6 touchdowns and that was with Mike Tolbert stealing touches. Once he is back on the field there is no other significant RB to take away touches, and if he is able to somehow make it back week 1 he will be the steal of the year. I would not scoff at taking him in the 2nd round, it will be worth it in the end.
8. Marshawn Lynch (ADP 16.4) Was last season just Lynch running for a contract, or is this the something we can expect to continue? Its a risk because players who get paid sometimes underwhelm the following season but with the murky atmosphere in RB this season he is definitely worth this rank.
9. Jammal Charles (ADP 24.6) Hillis is in town and will take away a lot of looks away, but Charles has flourished in a time share before with Thomas Jones. He has had almost a full year to recover from a torn ACL and should be able to hit the ground running and show what made him a 1st round selection last season.
10. Trent Richardson (ADP 37.1) He has had his knee scoped twice this season but as the second procedure was a clean up job and he is slated to make a week 1 return I think Richardson will flourish this season. He may be eased into action the first couple weeks but he will take the reins of the running game quickly and show why he is being touted as the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson. He can easily post 1,300 yards and double digit touchdowns this season.
11. Demarco Murray (ADP 21.6) In the short time frame from week 7 to week 12 Murray showed he has potential to be a fantasy star as he averaged 126.8 yards and scored 2 touchdowns. Sure Murray has had injury issues dating back to college and has only 2 touchdowns as a pro, but like I said with the present NFL climate he is still a top option and can be considered a low end RB1.
12. Steven Jackson (ADP 31.3) Jackson is not a sexy name in fantasy football but the fact remains that he has averaged 1,604 scrimmage yards and 8 touchdowns per season since 2005. Yes he has had a very heavy workload and may be slowing down a bit, but there is still some gas left in the tank and he should still post solid numbers this season. In fact with the addition of Isaiah Pead in the backfield, Jackson will be able to stay fresher this season allowing him to keep it going through December.
13. Fred Jackson (ADP 34.1) Jackson was on pace to be one of the top fantasy scorers last season before he broke his leg. In his absence C.J. Spiller showed what he could do with a lead role, but with Jackson healthy he should still see the lion share of the carries. I think Jackson will be a top end RB2 and is great value late in the 3rd or late 4th depending on who is sill available.
14. Ahmad Bradshaw (ADP 46.8) The Giants selected RB David Wilson in the 1st round, but Bradshaw is still going to see the lion share of the carries. He has had some foot problems which limited his 2011 season, but those appear to be solved. If healthy he will be anoter high end RB2 and the fact that he has an ADP of round 5 make him an absolute steal.
15. Michael Turner (ADP 34.7) Turner had a definite drop in production in the second half of the season as he scored 88 fantasy points in the final 8 games with 29 coming against a Tampa Bay team that had completely quit playing. If you take out that huge game he scored 59 points in 7 games while scoring 115 in the first 8 games. But to be honest with the RB position this season being as it is he still qualifies as a good RB2. He has had double digit touchdowns every season since 2008 so if e can continue that trend should be fine. Just be warned the cliff is coming.
16. Maurice Jones-Drew (ADP 10.2) If there were no holdout MJD would easily be my 4th ranked RB, but as things stand now I would not want MJD on my team. Who knows what will happen with the holdout, and when/if he does report you have to wonder if how long it will be before he gets into football shape and if he will get injured. If you do roll the dice drafting Rashad Jennings is a must.
17. Adrian Peterson (ADP 22.0) The history of RB’s coming off of torn ACL’s is not pretty and the later the injury occurs the worse the following season usually is. A.D. has barley been cleared for contact, and I fear that he is rushing his recovery. If he performs like he has for the majority of the season then he is a huge bargain, but it is too much risk for me. Personally I would not touch him till the 3rd round, meaning he is not going to be on my rosters this season.
18. Doug Martin (ADP 67.5) Martin has clearly earned the starting gig in Tampa as he has a skill set that Blount does not. He is a very capable RB2, and id feel very comfortable taking him with a late 4th early 5th round pick (depending on who is available)
19. Reggie Bush (ADP 53.6) Bush finally had his breakout year after many wrote him off because of his lack of success in New Orleans, posting 1,382 scrimmage yards and 7 touchdowns. Still he is far from durable and you have to wonder if Daniel Thomas might take over at some point in the season.
20. Darren Sproles (ADP43.4) If this were PPR Sproles would be ranked much higher, but in standard leagues I really do not see him as anything more than an average to low end RB2. I personally do not think that he can have another season like last year with Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas taking away opportunities.
21. Willis McGahee (ADP 50.6) McGahee showed that he still had tread left on the tires last season accumulating 1,250 scrimmage yards and 5 scores. With Peyton Manning in town and a suddenly strong passing game defenses will be unable to stack the box, which will lead McGahee to have another strong season.
22. Frank Gore (ADP 36.2) I know that Gore has been productive his entire career, but I think this year he slows down quite a bit. With Jacobs, Hunter, and James also in the backfield Gore will be hard pressed to see the amount of touches necessary to justify anything more than a average RB2.
23. Shonn Greene (ADP 67.8) Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has stated that he sees Greene getting more than the 253 carries he had last season, and with New York’s dreadful passing game its not hard to imagine that being true. Tebow will vulture a lot of touchdowns, but the opportunity is there for Greene to post 1,000 plus yards yet again.
24. Steven Ridley (ADP 64.9) Ridley has looked impressive this preseason and looks to have the starting RB position in New England won. I think that he has upside to post 1,000 plus yards and 8 or more touchdowns.
25. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (ADP 58.2) Green-Ellis’ value was tied in large part to his ability to score touchdowns as he scored 24 times in the past 2 years. He is a mediocre runner who play’s in for a team who will not be in the red zone enough for him to be anything but a decent RB3 or flex play.
26. Cedric Benson (ADP 98.8) Benson will be the RB to own in Green Bay as Alex Green is still working his way to full strength and James Starks who has been riddled with injuries his entire career is slow to recover from a toe injury. I think with Benson in town the Packers might run the ball a bit more than they have to keep defenses honest and to open up the play action. He should be a decent option who has ridiculous value starting in round 7.
27. Jonathan Stewart (ADP 69.4) I’m not a big fan of Carolina RB’s because of the committee approach they have with 4 very capable runners. Stewart is in my opinion the most talented back on the team and despite splitting carries has still been a decent flex option every season.
28. DeAngelo Williams (ADP 84.6) Like I just mentioned Carolina has too many RB’s which is good in real life but bad for us fake football owners. I actually like Williams the best this season in Carolina because of his ADP (like I said I still like Stewart better overall)
29. Peyton Hillis (ADP 90.3) Don’t discount Hillis this year because of last season, he should get 45% of the carries and most importantly should see the goal line touches. His ADP is the best at his position this year and I would feel comfortable taking him in round 6-7 depending on my needs and who is available.
30. Donald Brown (ADP 101.4) He is a starting RB for a team with a rookie QB meaning he should see a decent amount of touches to make his current ADP of round 11 look like a joke.
31. Kevin Smith (ADP 89.9) As of right now he is the Lions starting RB because of a injured Jahvid Best and suspended Mikel Leshoure. Will he hold it after week 3 when Leshoure comes back? I have my doubts.
32. Ben Tate (ADP 83.8) The best backup RB in the NFL showed what he could do last season posting nearly 1000 rushing yards and should see enough time this season to be an average RB3 or flex play.
33. Rashad Jennings (ADP 127.5) Every day the MJD holdout drags on the more value Jennings will gain. Personally I would be happy if MJD decides to pull a Vincent Jackson and leave the door open for Jennings to be a great draft day steal. With no MJD he would be a very capable RB2.
34. Michael Bush (ADP 92.0) The Bears didn’t pay Bush $10 million to sit on the bench…he should see plenty of touches this season and get TD’s as he is one of the best goal line backs in the league.
35. Mark Ingram (ADP 99.4) He just might show the NFL what made him the lone RB selected in the 1st round in 2011.
36. C.J. Spiller (ADP 94.1) Spiller exploded last season for an injured Fred Jackson scoring 89 fantasy points in 6 games. Chan Gailey has said he sees Spiller and Jackson being on the field together this season, so he should get enough looks to warrant decent flex play consideration.
37. Ryan Williams (ADP 132.3) He in my opinion is the more talented back out of him and Wells and as Wells has had injury issues his career I feel Williams will eventually either win out the job or else take over if Beanie gets hurt.
38. Mikel Leshoure (ADP 143.3) Like I said I think he takes over for the Lions after his suspension lifts week 3.
39. Toby Gerhart (ADP 111.2) Gerhart will see plenty of touches early this season as Peterson recovers…how long it will last I have no idea.
40. David Wilson (ADP 107.7) He will spell Bradshaw enough to be an o.k. bench stash and possible flex play in deep leagues. Also if Bradshaw who has not been the picture of health lately gets injured, Wilson could easily take over.