On Monday we did the intro to this series on previewing the upcoming fantasy football season, and it’s drafts. The quarterback spot led it off and now let’s get into the most pivotal position in all of the game:

Running Back

This position is the most critical in all of fantasy because it is guarantee spot. The ball gets to the RB’s hands without contest from the defense, so he has a chance to make an impact regardless, unlike quarterbacks and receivers. Also they are called on in the red zone to hold the majority of close scores, which makes them invaluable in the touchdown department. In the game now, many more running backs also are crucial in the receiving department, which gets them many easy, short-range targets, with a chance to go far with it.

Can Chris Johnson possibly reach the heights he did in 2009? His status as a #1 overall depends on it.

While there are a grouping of elite backs that can carry the load on their own, more and more teams are utilizing multiple and specialized backs, many of whom are focused on different parts of the game. It is important to understand what you are getting when drafting many RBs, due to how that can impact what you expect from that player. Don’t count on big touchdowns from a guy that gets yanked every time they reach the goal line. Likewise, don’t expect big yardage from the goal line hammers. Of course there are guys that just get it done everywhere and ones that can score as easily from 70 yards out as they done from seven. If you snag one of these guys you have a lot less to worry about (and most likely you have a top 3 pick in the draft). Let’s get into breaking them apart and putting it all together in part 2 of the fantasy preview.

1. Adrian Peterson-Minnesota Vikings

–          2009: 1,383 rush yards, 18 TD; 436 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          3 year average: 1,494 rush yards, 13 TD; 276 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: The most balanced of all NFL backs, Peterson has both a rushing title in 2008 and touchdown title in 2009. There is nowhere that he won’t make a difference at, and with Chester Taylor leaving in Minnesota, there should be more runs for him in 2010. With Brett Favre in tow, the defense cannot stack up on him and he has room to run. Fumbles are a concern, but not enough to not make him one of the top 2 players off any draft board. Trend: Steady

His yards went down, but his scores went up in 09. A meeting in the middle is top pick heaven in Peterson.

2. Chris Johnson-Tennessee Titans

–          2009: 2,006 rush yards, 14 TD; 503 receiving yards, 2 TD

–          2 year average: 1,617 rush yards, 11 TD; 381 receiving yards, 1 TD

–          Summary: Coming off one of the great seasons in NFL history, the sky seems to be the limit for Johnson in 2010. He showed he can carry the whole load in ’10, and set the single season total yardage record in 2009, and also adds a scoring threat as a receiver as well. However, there could be some decrease in his workload this year, to extend his durability, but with his ability to score from anywhere, he is a must grab with either the 1 or 2 pick, or a steal at 3 overall. Trend: Upwards

3. Maurice Jones-Drew-Jacksonville Jaguars

–          2009: 1,391 rush yards, 15 TD; 374 receiving yards, 1 TD

–          3 year average: 994 rush yards, 12 TD; 448 receiving yards, 1 TD

–          Summary: MJD doesn’t get the fanfare of the either of the top two names, but over the course of a season he gives almost the same worth. He has had only one season in his four-year career where he didn’t notch double-digit rushing scores and finished with 9 that season. In his second season as the featured back, he should get just as many touches as he did last season, which makes in a must grab in the upper first round. Trend: Steady

4. Ray Rice-Baltimore Ravens

–          2009: 1,339 rush yards, 7 TD; 702 receiving yards 1 TD

–          2 year average: 896 rush yards, 3 TD; 487 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: Rice took the biggest leap forward of any back not named Chris Johnson in ’09. In Baltimore’s run heavy offense, he became the main open field option on the team and a dangerous threat in the receiving game. While he was not used in goal line situations often, he still managed to score 8 times. His impact in the receiving game could be impacted by Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth joining, but it should make him a more effective runner. A safe pick at any point after #3 in the first round. Trend: Steady

5. Michael Turner-Atlanta Falcons

–          2009: 871 rush yards, 10 TD; 35 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          3 year average: 962 rush yards, 9 TD; 30 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: Injuries limited Turner’s ability to repeat his 2008 season, where he surpassed 1,600 yards. He missed 2 full games and parts of others, but still reached 10 touchdowns. He is being reported as being in good health for this year and a median impact between his two Atlanta seasons should be in order. A solid pick between the mid to late first round. Trend: Upwards

With 5 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, Jackson is the model of consistency for the lowly Rams.

6. Steven Jackson-St. Louis Rams

–          2009: 1,416 rush yards, 4 TD; 322 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          3 year average: 1,153 rush yards, 5 TD; 324 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: Mr. Everything in St. Louis finished as the second leading rusher in the NFL in ’09. He accounted for virtually the entire Ram’s offensive showing, and should be leaned on similarly while they break in rookie QB Sam Bradford. He has had some health issues, as a result of the constant runs he takes, but is a safe pick in the mid to late first round. Trend: Steady

7. Frank Gore

–          2009: 1,120 rush yards, 10 TD; 406 receiving yards, 3 TD

–          3 year average: 1,086 rush yards, 7 TD; 405 receiving yards, 2 TD

–          Summary: When he’s healthy he’s great, but he has missed several games per season over the last 3 years and makes it dangerous to build an entire draft around him. However, he will give a few great games a season and is a steady high tier producer, especially as a receiver at the RB position. Played best at the end of the season when the 49ers first employed the scheme they will use this entire year. Mid to late round 1 pick. Trend: Steady

8. Ryan Grant-Green Bay Packers

–          2009: 1,253 rush yards, 11 TD; 197 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          3 year average: 1,137 rush yards, 7 TD; 152 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: Off backs with 3 plus years as a starter, Grant is among the top five in consistency in football. Playing in Green Bay’s pass heavy offense limits some of his opportunities, but he takes full advantage of what he gets and is a safe bet for 1,000 plus yards, even if he doesn’t reach the end zone in double digits. Early to mid round 2 pick. Trend: Steady

9. Rashard Mendenhall

–          2009: 1,108 rush yards, 7 TD; 25 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          2 year average: 583 rush yards, 3 TD; 139 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: He stepped up and took over as full-time back in ’09 and capitalized on his potential that was shortened after four games in a disappointing rookie year. With Willie Parker gone and Ben Roethlisberger sidelined for the beginning of the year, Mendenhall could be one of the most productive RBs in football early in the year. Trend: Upwards

10. DeAngelo Williams-Carolina Panthers

–          2009: 1,117 rush yards, 7 TD; 252 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          3 year average: 1,116 rush yards, 9 TD; 182 receiving yards, 1 TD

–          Summary: After one of the best finishes of any player in 2008, Williams was pegged as a top 5 overall fantasy option for 2009. However, injuries and the emergence of Jonathan Stewart decreased is impact on 2009. As now part of certain shared backfield, his decreased impact should be more of what is expected this year, while still giving a very solid output that could reach double digit touchdowns. A mid to late 2nd round pick. Trend: Downwards

The emergence of Stewart has decreased Williams' time in the endzone.

11. Shonn Greene-New York Jets

–          2009: 540 rush yards, 2 TD; 0 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: Headed into his second season, and coming off a huge playoff breakout performance, Greene should be the most improved runner in football. With both Thomas Jones and Leon Washington out of the backfield, he will get many more opportunities. If he overcomes rookie injury problems, he should be able to give a top 10 performance this year, even while being spelled by newly acquired LaDainian Tomlinson at times. Good for the late 2nd to early 3rd round. Trend: Upwards

12. Jonathan Stewart-Carolina Panthers

–          2009: 1,133 rush yards, 10 TD; 139 receiving yards, 1 TD

–          2 year average: 984 rush yards, 10 TD; 93 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: Stewart started off the 2009 as the backup to DeAngelo Williams, but soon his overall talent took him into and equal to greater role than him by season’s end. In both his first two seasons, he has reached 10 touchdowns and should get equal carries as Williams this season, which should equal, if not improve, his 2009 totals. An early to mid third rounder. Trend: Upwards

13. Cedric Benson-Cincinnati Bengals

–          2009: 1,251 rush yards, 6 TD; 111 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          3 year average: 890 rush yards, 4 TD; 139 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: In his first full season in Cincy, Benson’s career revival went into overdrive, with him passing 1,000 yards for the first time. Although the passing game will get much more emphasis, Benson’s impact should stay about the same. A safe late 2nd to third round selection. Trend: Steady

14. Ryan Matthews-San Diego Chargers

–          2009*: 1,808 rush yards, 11 TD; 122 receiving yards, 0 TD (*College stats)

–          Summary: The second RB drafted should have the biggest immediate impact. With LaDainain Tomlinson moving to New York and Darren Sproles showing he is not a full-time option, Matthews will get plenty of opportunities to make an impact in his rookie year. As with an unproven player, don’t jump to take him too early, but feel safe in the 3rd round to add him as a complimentary back if possible. Trend: Upwards

Matthews is the only rookie with a starting guarantee and a playoff supporting cast in place.

15. Beanie Wells-Arizona Cardinals

–          2009: 793 rush yards, 7 TD; 143 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: In an up and down rookie year, where he would fluctuate between heavy to little usage, Wells finished the year strong. In his sophomore campaign with the now Warner and Boldin-less Cardinals, he should be used even more and totals that surpass 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns could be the result. Middle third to fourth round pick. Trend: Upwards

16. Pierre Thomas-New Orleans Saints

–          2009: 793 rush yards, 6 TD; 302 receiving yards 2 TD

–          3 year average: 556 rush yards, 5 TD; 245 receiving yards, 2 TD

–          Summary: With Mike Bell leaving, Thomas will get much more of the rushing load in 2010. While Reggie Bush will still get looks, the goal line chances should belong to Thomas, along with virtually all of the primary runs. This should lead to an increase of 5 to 10 chances a game, which could go a long way for him, since he already averages around five yard per carry. A solid pick in the fifth round, a great value in the sixth. Trend: Upwards

17. LeSean McCoy

–          2009: 637 rush yards, 4 TD; 398 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          Summary: After being used as third down/back field receiving threat as a rookie, McCoy will be unleashed as more of an every down threat in 2010. He will be most likely leaned upon frequently as new starting QB Kevin Kolb gets established and should approach 1,000 yards with little difficulty, despite Mike Bell being added to support him. Trend: Upwards

18. Jamaal Charles-Kansas City Chiefs

–          2009: 1,120 rush yards, 7 TD; 297 receiving yards, 1 TD

–          2 year average: 738 rush yards, 3 TD; 284 receiving yards, 1 TD

–          Summary: Charles finished the season on fire in 2009 and showed the potential to be able to do a lot more this year. However, he will most likely be limited in effect by Thomas Jones’ presence in KC this year. He will still get plenty of looks, but not on the level of a premier starting back. He is a great complimentary RB and solid sixth round option. Trend: Steady

Despite one of the fastest finishes in football, Charles could be slowed by his own backfield mate.

19. Matt Forte-Chicago Bears

–          2009: 929 rush yards, 4 TD; 471 receiving yards, 0 TD

–          2 year average: 1,083 rush yards, 6 TD; 474 receiving yards, 2 TD

–          Summary: Forte suffered along with the rest of the Bears offense in his second season. He was one of the most productive backs the NFL as a rookie and being used in Mike Martz offensive scheme should have some improvement, but nothing to the level of his rookie season. A solid compliment grab in the sixth round. Trend: Steady

20. Joseph Addai

–          2009: 828 rush yards, 10 TD; 336 receiving yards, 3 TD

–          3 year average: 814 rush yards, 9 TD; 302 receiving yards, 2 TD

–          Summary: Addai’s decline in yardage was offset by his ability to still reach the end zone at a premier rate. He has not surpassed 1,000 yards in two years now, but being the premier back in the Colts offensive machine guarantees he will be in place to score frequently and is good second back if a first or second tier RB is already selected. Look for him in the seventh round. Trend: Steady

Top Sleeper Options: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Thomas Jones, Jahvid Best, Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller

  1. […] perfect sense to me to leave an undrafted free agent, who only had ONE good week the year before, outside my top 20 running back for fantasy football in 2010. Little did I know that he’s have 16 GREAT weeks in his this year. I won’t be caught […]

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