Just so it’s clear, these rankings are mine. My personal feeling on how these players stack up before the NFL season gets under way. I favor upside over age and definitely like consistency. This list is also subject to change, so check back for updates. Lets discuss the good and the bad in the comments below!
1. MIN Adrian Peterson
2010 Stats – 1298 YDS, 12 TD, 4.6 AVG, 36 REC, 341 YDS, 1 TD
How can you not love this guy? His consistency says it all and with the No.1 pick, you don’t want to start gambling. He did miss one game in 2010 and fell below in almost every single category from 09 but did you see his team last year? The Vikings were putrid. I’m not saying the Vikings will amount to much under first time head coach Leslie Frazier but they will lean on their best player All Day. I say he ends the season on the top of the RB heap! As a plus, he’s the most fun player to watch. Hole or no-hole he cuts back-in the field of play to lay a hit on someone.
2. TEN Chris Johnson
2010 Stats – 1364 YDS, 11 TD, 4.3 AVG, 44 REC, 245 YDS, 1 TD
So you say CJ’s production is down 36% from 2009 to 2010… eh, who cares! On the plus side he’s played 3 seasons, never missed a game and got you double digit touchdowns every year. He IS the best player on the Titans and will once again be called on, to carry the load. If I had to be scared of anything, it’s the number of touches he’s gotten in the past two seasons, 674 carries. That’s a lot for any back.
3. HOU Arian Foster
2010 Stats – 1616 YDS, 16 TD, 4.9 AVG, 66 REC, 604 YDS, 2 TD
Arian was the single best RB last year in all formats. He was incredible, right from the start when he torched the Colts in week one. On a team with a high powered arial attack it’s really good to have the complimentary power Foster can provide. He’s not super fast, and gets most of his production between the tackles but strong enough to break first contact. Statistically, he should be No.1 on a lot of boards, but I won’t be the only one dropping him a bit just because it’s still too early to put him on that pedestal.
4. JAX Maurice Jones-Drew
2010 Stats – 1324 YDS, 5 TD, 4.4 AVG, 34 REC, 317 YDS, 2 TD
I really struggled with who to put at number four. I love the upside of Charles, but MJD holds a spot near to my heart. I drafted him in a keeper league, rookie year and haven’t let go. 2010 was supposed to be the huge year and it just wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, his run of six 100 yard games mid-season was huge but the lack of TD production and missing out on two games in the fantasy playoffs is tough to overlook. Nonetheless, I believe this fellow fantasy player is up for the challenge in 2011, to show his full capabilities.
5. KAN Jamaal Charles
2010 Stats – 1467 YDS, 5 TD, 6.4 AVG, 45 REC, 468 YDS, 3 TD
With only 230 rushing attempts, Charles made the most of them. Averaging an absurd 6.4 per carry is ridiculous! We can’t expect those kind of numbers again, can we? It just seemed like every time he touched the ball, carry or reception, he could just break out for 40-60 yards on a whim. He’s so much fun to watch, reminds me of watching Barry Sanders. While not the same, he just makes me smile.
6. BAL Ray Rice
2010 Stats – 1220 YDS, 5 TD, 4.0 AVG, 63 REC, 556 YDS, 1 TD
Darn that Willis! If Rice had gotten just a few more TD’s last year he would have been superb. Don’t get me wrong, he still had a very good year but those TD’s in standard leagues are the gold. In PPR leagues he was without a doubt a stud. Just be prepared for him to share the goal line work again.
7. PHI LeSean McCoy
2010 Stats – 1080 YDS, 7 TD, 5.2 AVG, 78 REC, 592 YDS, 2 TD
In 2010, his yardage total from scrimmage was enough to make most of his owners happy and 9 TD’s is nothing to sneeze at but it’s in PPR leagues where he really shined. I would expect much more of the same from McCoy this year with slightly better rushing numbers.
8. CHI Matt Forte
2010 Stats – 1069 YDS, 6 TD, 4.5 AVG, 51 REC, 547 YDS, 3 TD
Forte made some big strides as the year went on in Chicago under Martz’ system. He’s always been a dual threat out of the backfield but averaged nearly 11 per catch. Great for the PPR leagues. And with a career best 4.5 avg on the ground, he should increase his carries a bit this year. Especially after Chester Taylor did little in 2010.
9. PIT Rashard Mendenhall
2010 Stats – 1273 YDS, 13 TD, 3.9 AVG, 23 REC, 167 YDS, 0 TD
Who doesn’t love a workhorse? That is exactly what you will get with Mendenhall. 324 carries last year with 13 TD’s. He is the feature back in Pittsburgh. I don’t love him in PPR formats but standard leagues may bump his ranking up a bit. Owners may want to cuff him with Isaac Redman who showed good numbers in 2010 in a limited role.
10. ATL Michael Turner
2010 Stats – 1371 YDS, 12 TD, 4.1 AVG, 12 REC, 85 YDS, 0 TD
Think Mendenhall, only used even less in the passing game, although the Falcons did get him double digit catches for the first time. He’s also 29 and getting close to the dreaded 30 for running backs. If for some reason he was dropped in a keeper league, I might shy away from him in the first round. Go for the younger legs. One-shot redraft leagues, he should still be a beast in standard formats.
11. OAK Darren McFadden
2010 Stats – 1157 YDS, 7 TD, 5.2 AVG, 47 REC, 507 YDS, 3 TD
I was so tempted to put him in the top 10 and even around 7 or 8 but just couldn’t do it. I believe he could end up the No.1 RB this year if he stays healthy. Last year was his break-out campaign everyone was looking for in 2008 and 2009. He showed his versatility in the passing game and the speed from Arkansas. I think it just took a little bit longer for him to get into the NFL mindset. Heck, can you blame him? He was drafted by Oakland after all.
12. DEN Knowshon Moreno
2010 Stats – 779 YDS, 5 TD, 4.3 AVG, 37 REC, 372 YDS, 3 TD
This may take a bit of explaining but I believe! With Fox as the new coach, it’s sure to be more of a run-first offense and Moreno should be poised for a breakout. He increased his rushing avg, rec total and rec yards in 2010.
13. SF Frank Gore
2010 Stats – 853 YDS, 3 TD, 4.2 AVG, 46 REC, 452 YDS, 2 TD
In 2010, Gore started out on fire, then as in almost every season, he goes down with an injury. This one in week 11 and he was done for the rest of the campaign. Devastating Gore owners. His numbers per game are among the best but he always seems to get hurt at some point. You could call it the curse of Stephania Bell… duh duh duh. So don’t go drafting Gore alongside the likes of DeAngelo Williams.
14. STL Steven Jackson
2010 Stats – 1241 YDS, 6 TD, 4.6 AVG, 46 REC, 383 YDS, 0 TD
Oh SJAX, I love the way you play. I want to put you higher on the board, I really do. But alas, it’s not meant to be. I really hope you prove me wrong and show all these youngsters you still got it. It’s the TD totals that kill your value. 8, 4, and 6 the last three years just won’t cut it for elite fantasy RB. And now that you have a decent offense to work off of, maybe you will have a resurgence in 2011… one can only hope! He still gets decent PPR value for his 46 rec but again no help in the TD dept.
15. CLE Peyton Hillis
2010 Stats – 1177 YDS, 11 TD, 4.4 AVG, 61 REC, 477 YDS, 2 TD
I’m not sure why he fell to this point but maybe it’s just because his name is Peyton Hillis and I don’t trust him yet. I mean, what was that last year? It’s like Scott Mitchell turned into a RB and delivered a career year. Question is, can it be done again? Even with defenses keying on him, he still produced. At least till the final few weeks when you really needed him. But can you blame the guy for wearing down toward the end. He was THE best player on a team with very few offensive bright spots. He has surprisingly nice hands out of the backfield for a guy his size and can really punish would-be tacklers.
16. CAR DeAngelo Williams
2010 Stats – 361 YDS, 1 TD, 4.1 AVG, 11 REC, 61 YDS, 0 TD
Hurt most of the 2010 season, DeAngelo poses the ability to be an every-down back. Back with the panthers as RB1, Williams will look to show the fans and NFL why he got that big extension.
17. TAM LeGarrette Blount
2010 Stats – 1007 YDS, 6 TD, 5.0 AVG, 5 REC, 14 YDS, 0 TD
The surprise RB of 2010 for sure. Undrafted rookie Blount didn’t start to shine till week 4 when, if you were lucky to get him, kudos are deserved. Crazy production for standard leagues but the Caddy still revs his engine taking valuable third down production away from Blount.
18. NYG Ahmad Bradshaw
2010 Stats – 1235 YDS, 8 TD, 4.5 AVG, 47 REC, 314 YDS, 0 TD
Great talent and all-round skills are what come with Bradshaw but also fumbling and ankle issues. When healthy, he is awesome to watch. And last year, he proved that even when banged up, he will get out there and produce. Bradshaw is a FA, so beware of who picks him up. If the Giants re-sign him, I love him even more.
19. SD Ryan Mathews
2010 Stats – 678 YDS, 7 TD, 4.3 AVG, 22 REC, 145 YDS, 0 TD
The stats for Mathews do not tell the whole story. Just looking at them, you might say he did ok for a rookie. But hold up, he was drafted in the first round of almost every league I was in and was putrid for the first two-thirds of the season losing time to Mike Tolbert. Hopefully he can pull it together in 2010 but look for Tolbert to take the goal line work.
20. NYJ Shonn Greene
2010 Stats – 766 YDS, 2 TD, 4.1 AVG, 16 REC, 120 YDS, 0 TD
With a high ceiling, Green could be a great pick in 2011. I just don’t think so. I’ve never been a Green fan. I expect him to be better in terms of value than in 2010 but nowhere near the top.
NOTE: From here on, you are all on notice. The list gets tougher and tougher to rank. All have promise in some respects but all have some serious questions about playing time, team and injuries. Drafter beware…
21. NO Mark Ingram
2010 Stats – Rookie
Woot, our first rookie hits the board at No. 20. Ironically, my favorite player of All-Time, Barry Sanders, number is 20… A sign of things to come? Maybe but he isn’t going to be like Barry, that much is for sure. I like Ingram a lot coming into 2011 and so will a lot of other fantasy team owners. He is this years, Ryan Mathews and we all know how that worked out. But there is something to be said about the first RB taken in the draft to a team with a stout offense. And with Bush in FA and Thomas always banged up. The only threat is Chris Ivory.
22. CAR Jonathan Stewart
2010 Stats – 770 YDS, 2 TD, 4.3 AVG, 8 REC, 103 YDS, 1 TD
I am super excited about Stewart’s opportunity this year with Cam Newton under center. Hopefully the Panthers will let the first year QB play immediately just to give the fans something to watch (note: This is not an endorsement of Cam Newton to be a great QB). Everytime Stewart has gotten the starting nod all to his own, he seems to deliver. Now that DeAngelo Williams is probably gone to FA, Stewart may be the main man, sharing time with sleeper Mike Goodson.
23. DET Jahvid Best
2010 Stats – 555 YDS, 4 TD, 3.2 AVG, 58 REC, 487 YDS, 2 TD
Within the first two weeks, Best believers were running wild! Then the rest of the season happened. Have we seen the best from Best? No, I believe he will become a much more consistent threat this year with Mikel Leshoure shouldering some of the load. He will make much more of an impact in PPR formats.
24. GB Ryan Grant
2010 Stats – 45 YDS, 0 TD, 5.6 AVG, 0 REC, 0 YDS, 0 TD *Played only one game
I put him here only out of respect for what he did in 2008 and 2009. He was poised for a big 2010 but it got caught cut short in week 1 and missed the remainder of the season. While the Pack ran with a committee approach much of the year, they did find James Starks in the playoffs, and he didn’t disappoint. It will likely be Grant’s job at first but he will have Starks nipping at his heels.
25. CIN Cedric Benson
2010 Stats – 1111 YDS, 7 TD, 3.5 AVG, 28 REC, 178 YDS, 1 TD
Benson, a self-proclaimed workhorse, hopefully will get re-signed by the Bengals, where his value is greatest. He may try and test the market but I doubt he will get the same opportunity and work the Bengals have given him.
26. BUF Fred Jackson
2010 Stats – 927 YDS, 5 TD, 4.2 AVG, 31 REC, 215 YDS, 2 TD
I really thought he would amount to better stats last year but too often, the Bills were playing catch-up. Which made Ryan Fitzpatrick fantasy relevant but help Jackson’s potential in check. A good versatile back with little upside. And Spiller sure to get more touches, his value may go down.
27. DAL Felix Jones
2010 Stats – 800 YDS, 1 TD, 4.3 AVG, 48 REC, 450 YDS, 1 TD
He’s really fast and led the Cowboys in carries… unfortunately it wasn’t enough to make him a superstar. There are too many backs in Dallas to make any of them a No.1 or No.2 for that matter. Choice, Barber and now DeMarco Murray (rookie from Oklahoma) are all vying for snaps. Try to stay away if you can help it.
28. NE BenJarvus Green-Ellis
2010 Stats – 1008 YDS, 13 TD, 4.4 AVG, 12 REC, 85 YDS, 0 TD
The Law Firm proved he could be a good RB for the Pats but was it enough? He also showed a good nose for the endzone. But of course it’s the Belichick system and we have Danny Woodhead eating up third downs and rookie Shane Vereen looking to make a splash.
29. SEA Marshawn Lynch
2010 Stats – 737 YDS, 6 TD, 3.6 AVG, 22 REC, 145 YDS, 0 TD
Oh Marshawn, I thought you were going to be a freak in Seattle but it just didn’t happen in year one. Maybe this year? I’m not holding my breath but you could surprise.
30. WAS Tim Hightower
2010 Stats – 736 YDS, 5 TD, 4.8 AVG, 21 REC, 136 YDS, 0 TD
If Tim Hightower could learn to hold onto the football better, he could be a top 20 back. Problem is, he’s lost the ball 8 times on the ground in the past two years. Coaches don’t like players who drop the ball. His numbers are good and that 4.8 Avg. is money but you gotta hold onto the ball! He’s also not a great blocker, another reason he won’t make a great every-down type back.
31. ARI Beanie Wells
2010 Stats – 397 YDS, 2 TD, 3.4 AVG, 5 REC, 74 YDS, 0 TD
Lets see, he was out played by Tim Hightower in almost every category and I still put him at 34? What was I thinking. I’m not sure either but here he is. I just feel like he’s better, but hasn’t shown up yet. Maybe this is the year. In fact I think it has to be, make or break time for Beanie.
32. NO Pierre Thomas
2010 Stats – 269 YDS, 2 TD, 3.2 AVG, 29 REC, 201 YDS, 0 TD
Coming off an abysmal 2010 year, Thomas will look to regain his starting job. Don’t look now Pieree, but you have the top drafted Mark Ingram breathing down your neck…
33. GB James Starks
2010 Stats – 101 YDS, 0 TD, 3.5 AVG, 2 REC, 15 YDS, 0 TD
It’s tough to guess whether Starks or Grant will end up the starter but Starks proved in the playoffs, that he has what it takes to be a starter. If I had an extra spot and wanted to guess, Grant is still the starter with Starks backing him up.
34. MIA Daniel Thomas
2010 Stats – Rookie
With the duo of Ronnie and Ricky most likely done, the Dolphins elected to draft Daniel Thomas to start fresh. Most likely they will keep one of the R’s but may not. Daniel Thomas may not be the most talented rookie this year but he could easily end up as the most productive rookie RB.
35. NYG Brandon Jacobs
2010 Stats – 823 YDS, 9 TD, 5.6 AVG, 7 REC, 59 YDS, 0 TD
If for some reason the Giants fail to sign Bradshaw, then Jacobs stock moves up quick. He had a really good year considering he shared time and still has tremendous strength running North and South. But I hate when he tries to bounce outside! Not many things make me more angry than owning Jacobs and watching him try to break outside. He played in all 16 games last year so I’m not too concerned about his health.
36. IND Joseph Addai
2010 Stats – 495 YDS, 4 TD, 4.3 AVG, 58 REC, 487 YDS, 2 TD
Can still be useful out of the backfield for the Colts if he’s still on the team. But you constantly have to worry about his health. He can do the most damage catching balls from Peyton.
37. SD Mike Tolbert
2010 Stats – 735 YDS, 11 TD, 4.0 AVG, 25 REC, 216 YDS, 0 TD
This strong fullback turned into a huge fantasy stud during the year and helped a lot of teams rack up wins. I don’t expect Tolbert to get the kind of workload he saw in 2010 but you never know. Ryan could tweak his ankle again…
38. OAK Michael Bush
2010 Stats – 655 YDS, 8 TD, 4.1 AVG, 18 REC, 194 YDS, 0 TD
If he could get traded to a team with a real need like Seattle, I believe Bush could be a top 15 back easy. But with the emergence of DMC, he will be relegated to playing second fiddle.
39. WAS Ryan Torrain
2010 Stats – 742 YDS, 4 TD, 4.5 AVG, 18 REC, 125 YDS, 2 TD
The dreaded running back by committee starring Mike Shenanigans Shannahan. No telling how this story unfolds in the end. Torrain will most likely start the season in first position but newcomer Roy Helu or even my Brother In-Law Tony Schaab could overtake him by midway.
40. BUF CJ Spiller
2010 Stats – 283 YDS, 0 TD, 3.8 AVG, 24 REC, 157 YDS, 0 TD
He had a lot of people high on him coming into 2010 and not so many this year. If he steps up and Fred Jackson stumbles he could do well for a late round flyer.
41. PHI Ronnie Brown
2010 Stats – 734 YDS, 5 TD, 3.7 AVG, 33 REC, 242 YDS, 0 TD
He has talent and has gotten through some tough injuries but if he can what he had in the beginning of 2009 he’ll be a stud again. 2010 was disappointing, he had decent numbers for a time-share back but never had even one outstanding performance. The other problem is knowing who he’ll be playing for once the FA transactions start happening.
42. JAC Rashad Jennings
2010 Stats – 459 YDS, 4 TD, 5.5 AVG, 26 REC, 223 YDS, 0 TD
He’s not MJD but all MJD owners need to snatch him up. He showed late in 2010 that he can put up some serious fantasy numbers.
43. CAR Mike Goodson
2010 Stats – 452 YDS, 3 TD, 4.4 AVG, 40 REC, 310 YDS, 0 TD
Goodson showed some great stuff in his first real opportunity. When Stewart and Williams were down with injury, he came through with back-to-back 100 yard performances. And with the panthers only having Stewart in 2011 most likely, Goodson’s value as a handcuff is higher on the radar.
44. MIA Reggie Bush
2010 Stats – 150 YDS, 0 TD, 4.2 AVG, 34 REC, 208 YDS, 1 TD
Another underwhelming season for the highly thought of Bush (who continues to get drafted too early). BUT, he can be very effective as a third down back in PPR leagues and even leagues where they award points for special teams.
45. NO Darren Sproles
2010 Stats – 267 YDS, 0 TD, 5.3 AVG, 59 REC, 520 YDS, 2 TD
Now in New Orleans, hopefully Sean Payton will utilize Sproles much in the same way he did with Bush. Sproles might be moving up the chart quickly if either Thomas gets hurt or Ingram struggles early.
46. CLE Montario Hardesty
2010 Stats – Injured
An interesting late round pick up. Hardesty didn’t get a chance to shine in 2010 but could be a valuable player alongside Hillis. And for this reason he will most certainly come in as Hillis’ hand-cuff.
47. NYJ LaDainian Tomlinson
2010 Stats – 914 YDS, 6 TD, 4.2 AVG, 52 REC, 368 YDS, 0 TD
While he most certainly has lost a step coming into his eleventh professional season, LT showed he can still produce at a high level. He made sure that Shonn Green owners were frustrated all year.
48. NE Danny Woodhead
2010 Stats – 547 YDS, 5 TD, 5.6 AVG, 34 REC, 379 YDS, 1 TD
Danny became a fan favorite last year. First people loved him on Hard Knock’s and then as an underdog story for the Patriots. Along the same lines of Wes Welker, he was utilized heavily in the passing game. But he also had some extremely nice running skills as his 5.6 avg will attest to. I hope he plays the same role no matter who the main back ends up being which will make him worth owning for sure.
49. IND Delone Carter
2010 Stats – Rookie
Here is my sleeper pick of 2011 at the RB position. Just a hunch that he somehow makes his way to the top of the depth chart by week 4.
50. WAS Roy Helu
2010 Stats – Rookie
There is a lot of talk about Helu being perfect for Mike Shanahan’s scheme but we’ll wait and see on that. With so many backs in the system currently and Torrain the likely starter, Helu will be a gamble. But hey, that’s what makes this fun!
51. KC Thomas Jones
2010 Stats – 896 YDS, 6 TD, 3.7 AVG, 14 REC, 122 YDS, 0 TD
I’d love to see what he could do in his 13th season as the unquestioned starter but that’s not going to happen. He had a couple big games in the middle of 2010 but looked old as the year wore on. I would definitely hand-cuff Charles with Jones.
52. NE Shane Vereen
2010 Stats – Rookie
Just when you think the Pats have a steady backfield rotation with the Law Firm and Danny Woodhead, Belichick goes and drafts Shane Vereen out of Cal. He most likely has more talent than the Law-Firm so look for Vereen to challenge him for lead back.
53. SEA Justin Forsett
2010 Stats – 523 YDS, 2 TD, 4.4 AVG, 33 REC, 252 YDS, 0 TD
Many including myself ranked Forsett high going into the 2010 draft thinking he would emerge as the No.1 back in Seattle. So much for that. Like Sproles, he is extremely useful in the return game. So look for him to handle the return duties and be a third down back.
54. HOU Ben Tate
2010 Stats – Injured
Hurt before he could become a sleeper like many had predicted, Tate looks to be healthy coming into 2011. In 2009 it was Steve Slaton, 2010 Arian Foster, so why can’t it be Ben Tate in 2011? I don’t see why not, crazier things have happened. UPDATE: With Arian Foster injured in camp already, Tate would make for an excellent hand-cuff! Tate has also looked real nice in the preseason. He is almost assured to take some work from Foster if he keeps it up.
55. NO Chris Ivory
2010 Stats – 716 YDS, 5 TD, 5.2 AVG, 1 REC, 17 YDS, 0 TD
Probably the biggest loser in terms of Mark Ingram getting drafted, but Ivory showed some good skills and could be a factor again if Thomas gets hurt again and Ingram underwhelms.
56. IND Donald Brown
2010 Stats – 497 YDS, 2 TD, 3.9 AVG, 20 REC, 205 YDS, 0 TD
Donald Brown had one really nice game last year. What more do you want? It got him in the top 60, sheesh.
57. CIN Bernard Scott
2010 Stats – 299 YDS, 1 TD, 4.9 AVG, 11 REC, 60 YDS, 0 TD
Backing up Benson looked to be a decent gig in 2010. Scott shows good numbers with a minimal amount of touches. If the Bengals choose to let Benson go, Scott’s stock skyrockets to somewhere in the top 40 for sure.
58. DAL DeMarco Murray
2010 Stats – Rookie
Here is another shot at lightning in a bottle. DeMarco Murray left Oklahoma as their all time yards from scrimmage and touchdown leader among RB’s. Drafted in the third round, Felix Jones is on watch. UPDATE: Finally got on the practice field, an ESPN Dallas blogger said he looked real nice.
59. DET Maurice Morris
2010 Stats – 336 YDS, 5 TD, 3.7 AVG, 25 REC, 170 YDS, 0 TD
Now that Mikel Leshoure is lost for the season with a torn Achilles, Mo Mo will get another shot to run #2 behind Best. Morris is likely to get more work than in 2010 unless the Lions elect to bring someone else from the Free Agent pool.
60. NE Stevan Ridley
2010 Stats – Rookie
Has been really impressive during the preseason. Enough in fact, that I’ve seen him get drafted in some leagues. Haven’t seen much of fellow rookie Vereen yet, but Ridley could be a big time sleeper.
There you have it. What a long winded article. Now to work on the QB’s and WR’s. I’m thinking the WR’s will be mostly a list since there are just too many to write about.