This year in fantasy is truly the most unpredictable I have ever been a part of. Gone are the days of selecting running backs exclusively in the 1st round as more and more owners are taking signal callers and even a few big name receivers with their top picks. Nearly every RB in the league has a question mark this year as many are coming off of injury, holding out for a new contract, or are in a committee attack. That being said I have done my best to create a list of tier 2 runners who I would feel the most confident with as my RB1 on my fantasy team. Based on a 10 team league I have done my list of tier 2 runners ranked 5-10 since my tier 1 list only had 4 names on it (Rice, Foster, McCoy, Jones-Drew). Here are my conclusions…(all scoring based on ESPN standard scoring)
5. Ryan Mathews: All signs point toward Mathews having a huge year in 2012 with the shadow of Mike Tolbert now in Carolina. Despite missing 2 games due to injury Mathews still managed an impressive 1,546 total yards and 6 touchdowns. Now ponder what Mathews numbers might have been if Tolbert wasn’t around to steal 175 touches, 923 yards and 10 total touchdowns. San Diego has no back nearly as capable as Tolbert to steal touches from him this year so Mathews should easily post huge numbers if he can remain healthy. Once the top 4 come off the board he is the back I am targeting.
6. Chris Johnson: Johnson ruined countless fantasy rosters last seasons (including mine) as he showed up unmotivated and out of shape after he finally got the contract he sought after an ugly holdout. In 2011 Johnson had 9 games last season in which he had 75 or less total yards and only managed to find the end zone a total of 4 times. If you watched Johnson last year the contract seemed to have gone to his head as he appeared to have no heart and was unmotivated. Toward the end of the season Johnson showed flashes of the talent that made him a top 5 pick. Through the first 8 games Johnson managed 57 fantasy points whereas he scored 100 throughout the last 8 games. Johnson I feel will be motivated to rebound this year as he has stated this off season “”I feel I am still the best back in the league” and “”I want to be the first back to go for 2,000 yards twice, and I think it can be done.” I am not that optimistic but he should rebound and have a great year.
7. Marshawn Lynch: Lynch came back to fantasy relevance last season as he racked up over 1,400 total yards and 13 combined scores. Lynch had 10 games last season with double digit fantasy points and had at least one score in the same amount of contests. Lynch has had some injury problems his career as he has never played a full 16 games but if he can stay motivated is still a solid pick. It feels like Lynch has been in the league forever but is only 26 and is in the prime of his career. As long as he stays focused and training staff doesn’t run out of skittles, Marshawn should do just fine.
8. Trent Richardson: Richardson is one of the only running backs in the league that has no significant other to steal time from him and will be a true workhorse for his team. Peyton Hillis was a fantasy stud in 2010 as he accumulated over 1,650 total yards and 13 touchdowns. Richardson has a skill set much more impressive than Hillis and is playing in a division whose defenses are not as impressive as 2 years ago. I feel that the Richardson who is being touted as the best prospect since Adrian Peterson will have great success as a rookie and will be well worth a pick in the 2nd round.
9. Matt Forte: Despite only playing in 12 games last season Forte still managed to rack up nearly 1,500 yards and 4 touchdowns. Throughout his career he has averaged 1,554 yards and 7 touchdowns. Forte based on talent alone would be my 5th ranked back however there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding him this season. He is still holding out for a contract and the longer it lasts the more he loses value. He has stated he will not miss any games because he feels he doesn’t really have a choice, but if he does not make training camp I think he will be rushed to get back into football shape and will either struggle or get injured at some point. There is also questions surrounding his knees as he missed the Bears final 4 contests with a sprained MCL. Chicago has also added Michael bush who will steal plenty of touches this season especially near the goal line. Matt Forte is a very sketchy pick this season because of all the question marks surrounding him.
10. Darren McFadden: McFadden is one of the most talented backs in the league and if it were not for injury issues would easily be ranked much higher. Last season he accumulated 768 total yards and 5 touchdowns in only 7 games. While he has never played in more than 13 games in his career I feel his elite talent makes him deserving of this spot. When healthy he is a fantasy machine and this season will be no different. In 2010 in only 13 games had 1,663 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns. So I feel that if he can manage to stay healthy even the majority of the season is worth a selection in the 2nd or 3rd round. Just remember if you do draft DMC you MUST ALSO DRAFT HIS HANDCUFF.
So there you have it my tier 2 runners who all are capable of being your RB1. Like I said this was a hard list to compile because of all the questions surrounding each back but in the end I like the ranks of each player. As always comments are encouraged.