Time to square away my Top 50 Running Backs coming into the 2012 fantasy season. Many of the names are the same with only a few newbies but where oh where did Jamal Charles end up? Keep reading to find out!
1. BAL Ray Rice / 2011 Stats – 1364 YDS, 12 TD, 4.7 AVG, 76 REC, 704 YDS, 3 TD
How can you not like the way this guy performs? He’s built like a bowling ball and hasn’t missed a game since his rookie year. He led all backs in total yards last year and has topped 2,000 total yards 2 out of the last three seasons. He finally got the goal line work that had eluded him in previous seasons and it made his stock rise, now look to him to be the #1 pick this year.
1a. HOU Arian Foster / 2011 Stats – 1224 YDS, 10 TD, 4.4 AVG, 53 REC, 617 YDS, 2 TD
Keep in mind that Arian got those numbers in only 13 games. And for a couple of the games after his return, he was kept on limited touches as to not re-aggravate the injury. So he should be amazing again this year. Of course he could have been the #1 but I just have a feeling about Rice. And 1a isn’t bad, right?
3. PHI LeSean McCoy / 2011 Stats – 1309 YDS, 17 TD, 4.8 AVG, 48 REC, 315 YDS, 3 TD
LeSean continues to get more involved in every aspect of the Eagles game plan. While he did take a hit in catches last year, he threw for 3 touchdowns. He is a terrific player to watch and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
4. TEN Chris Johnson / 2011 Stats – 1047 YDS, 4 TD, 4.0 AVG, 57 REC, 418 YDS, 0 TD
I will not be the only one to give CJ2K another shot at glory. He had a terrible year in 2011. He did show life in the second half of the season but it was still a terrible year. I think he bounces back… at least he’s played in all 16 games the previous 3 seasons! That’s more than I can say for a lot of other backs. I’m looking at you Darren McFadden!
5. CHI Matt Forte / 2011 Stats – 997 YDS, 3 TD, 4.9 AVG, 52 REC, 490 YDS, 1 TD
My main problem with Forte is his lack of scoring. When he went down in week 13 I believe he was leading the league in total yards, but the scoring just has not been there. I think in the new system with Martz gone and Brandon Marshall taking serious heat off the running game, Forte is in line for a monster season.
6. MIN Adrian Peterson / 2011 Stats – 970 YDS, 12 TD, 4.7 AVG, 18 REC, 139 YDS, 1 TD
There is not another running back I like watching more that AP. He is exactly what I would want if I was a coach in the NFL. He’s aggressive, strong, fast and can score with the best of them. I’m not scared of him coming back from the torn ACL. He is a freak of nature physically and should be fine. I expect him to be ready by the Sept 9th opener. But rest assured, I will be checking in with Stephania Bell of ESPN to be sure!
7. JAC Maurice Jones-Drew / 2011 Stats – 1606 YDS, 8 TD, 4.7 AVG, 43 REC, 374 YDS, 3 TD – MOVED DOWN
You gotta love this guy. He’s on a terrible team, yet produces at such a high level, leading all running backs in yards rushed. Every week, teams were keying on stopping him and it still didn’t matter. Plus he’s a fantasy football nut, which just makes it more cool to own him. I’ve had MJD in a keeper league since he was a rookie. I’m not letting go yet. UPDATE: Now that his hold out is getting a little heated, I’m downgrading MJD. He needs to just swallow his pride and get back on the field. Another week of this and he slides even further.
8. KC Jamaal Charles / 2011 Stats – 83 YDS, 0 TD, 6.9 AVG, 5 REC, 9 YDS, 1 TD – MOVED UP
With almost a whole season removed because of injury, his amazing 2010 campaign in which he averaged 6.4 YPC on 230 carries is a distant memory for some. It would scare off some analysts but not me. The more concerning thing about Jamaal is his new running mate, Peyton Hillis. Peyton catches the ball out of the backfield almost as well as JC without all of the speed so expect to see both used all season in that regard. And Peyton should get most of the goal line work to boot. But, the wonderful thing about Charles, is that he can score from anywhere.
9. SEA Marshawn Lynch / 2011 Stats – 1204 YDS, 12 TD, 4.2 AVG, 28 REC, 212 YDS, 1 TD – MOVED UP
Marshawn had a resurgent season in 2011, establishing himself as the workhorse back Seattle had been lacking since Shaun Alexander. I bet they run with Lynch all year, giving him 20+ a game more often than not. He will get his chances, and if Matt Flynn can establish a good counter, Lynch should have a very nice year. The impending suspension from the league has me a little worried. If I were to grab Lynch, I’d be sure to grab rookie Turbin just in case. UPDATE: At this point, it might be safe to draft Lynch without worrying about the suspension. Word is that the league may wait till after his trials have concluded which won’t be till after the season.
10. OAK Darren McFadden / 2011 Stats – 614 YDS, 4 TD, 5.4 AVG, 19 REC, 154 YDS, 1 TD
I had DMC pegged to be the number one back in 2011, that didn’t work out for me. Ohhhhhhhh, if he could just stay healthy! I say there is no way of it, but if you see him slip down the draft, snatch him up. Either as trade bait after a quick start or just enjoy the ride and hope you get 12-13 quality starts. Just expect him to miss time.
11. ATL Michael Turner / 2011 Stats – 1340 YDS, 11 TD, 4.5 AVG, 17 REC, 168 YDS, 0 TD
Turner is obviously not a PPR monster, even though he had his best outing in that regard last season, but has finished in the top 10 among running backs each of his last three years. He’s probably got one more solid year left, so take him if the value is right. I bet he slides down the board as more trendy picks get snatched up when it should be Turner’s turn. Remember that the Burner, is on a team with an outstanding offensive line and an offense capable of winning through the air. Witch means more wiggle room up the middle for this fantasy rock.
12. DeMarco Murray / 2011 Stats – 897 YDS, 2 TD, 5.5 AVG, 26 REC, 183 YDS, 0 TD
Every year, there are players that become waiver wire legends and then there is DeMarco Murray. Going off for 250+ against the Rams was one of the single best games for a running back in history! We’ll see if he can regain form. One thing is for sure, Felix is still lurking to take carries, but are you really worried about that?
13. STL Steven Jackson / 2011 Stats – 1145 YDS, 5 TD, 4.4 AVG, 42 REC, 333 YDS, 1 TD
One of the only true workhorse type backs left, SJAX should get the majority of work in 2012 while also schooling second round pick Pead. I would expect about the same from Steven in 2012 that he delivered in 2011. The offense isn’t going to get worse… hopefully.
14. NO Darren Sproles / 2011 Stats – 603 YDS, 2 TD, 6.9 AVG, 86 REC, 710 YDS, 7 TD
I know that Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas are going to be the between the tackles runners but Sproles is just so dynamic. He is a young 29 and should have another fantastic year. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get 100 carries this year. Obviously if you were in a PPR league, Sproles jumps up 8-9 spots on this list.
15. SD Ryan Mathews / 2011 Stats – 1091 YDS, 6 TD, 4.9 AVG, 50 REC, 455 YDS, 0 TD – MOVED DOWN
Ryan Mathews is due to have a huge year. They should lean more heavily on him with the absence of Vincent Jackson and Tolbert being shipped off to Carolina. UPDATE: Mathews broke his clavicle and is out 4-6 weeks. Stephania Bell, ESPN’s injury expert has said to expect it to be on the longer end of that timetable and to be weary of him possibly getting hurt again in the same area.
16. BUF Fred Jackson / 2011 Stats – 934 YDS, 6 TD, 5.5 AVG, 39 REC, 442 YDS, 0 TD – MOVED UP
If you just looked at Jackson’s numbers you might think he had an ok season but look again and no that was just in 10 games. You might be asking why is Fred so low on the list? Mainly because of how well Spiller played in Fred’s absence. Buffalo will have two good backs to split time coming into 2012 and Spiller deserves as much time touching the ball as Jackson. If either one gets hurt, the other gets a major upgrade.
17. CLE Trent Richardson / 2011 Stats – Rookie
Everyone is loving Trent Richardson right now. I would too, if I was playing in a dynasty league, not a standard one. Everything sounds great, a la Ryan Mathews, but it’s buyer beware on rookies. They RARELY perform up to their hype.
18. SF Frank Gore / 2011 Stats – 1211 YDS, 8 TD, 4.3 AVG, 17 REC, 114 YDS, 0 TD
He finally made it though an entire year but lost significant playing time on third downs. Still very effective on the ground though. I expect much of the same for Gore in 2012. Nothing flashy just steady production. He’ll be a solid RB2 if he stays on the field.
19. PIT Isaac Redman / 2011 Stats – 472 YDS, 3 TD, 4.4 AVG, 18 REC, 78 YDS, 0 TD – MOVED DOWN
With Mendenhall on the mend from a week 17 ACL, Redman should be the guy coming into 2012. He finished last season strong and had nice game on the road agains the Bronco’s in the playoffs. With the Steelers drafting two early offensive lineman, that shouldn’t be their weakest point in 2012, helping Redman become a solid RB2.
20. DEN Willis McGahee / 2011 Stats – 1199 YDS, 12 TD, 4.7 AVG, 18 REC, 139 YDS, 1 TD
He showed in 2011 that he’s still very capable at the position and now that Peyton is in town, his job should be much easier. Remind me to check on McGahee’s blocking on passing downs. If that is a liability, I would be concerned a little that he would be taken out of the game much more regularly. Aside from that I like Willis a lot.
21. NYG Ahmad Bradshaw / 2011 Stats – 659 YDS, 9 TD, 3.9 AVG, 34 REC, 267 YDS, 2 TD
With Brandon Jacobs not coming back to New York, Bradshaw is due his chance to be the main guy. The Giants will still want to deploy a two-back system, probably using the rookie David Wilson. And you also gotta like a guy that has shown his willingness to play through nagging injuries. If he comes into the year 100% and stays healthy, this could be a great value!
22. MIA Reggie Bush / 2011 Stats – 1086 YDS, 6 TD, 5.0 AVG, 43 REC, 296 YDS, 1 TD
Reggie completely shocked everyone last year. He not only stayed healthy and played 16 games, but he did so productively, averaging 5 a carry. If I had confidence that he would stay healthy again, I would have had him 5 spots higher, but I don’t. I love his skills and really hope he can make another full season.
23. NYJ Shonn Greene / 2011 Stats – 1054 YDS, 6 TD, 4.2 AVG, 30 REC, 211 YDS, 0 TD
Shonn managed to break 1,000 yards but it wasn’t by much. And while his average was respectable you can’t help but wonder why he looks so terrible live.
24. CIN BenJarvus Green-Ellis / 2011 Stats – 667 YDS, 11 TD, 3.7 AVG, 9 REC, 159 YDS, 0 TD – MOVED UP
I find it interesting that the Bengals went from one not so fast bruiser in Benson to another. I like the Law Firm, but he was in the perfect place to be that type of guy. New England gave him many chances to score and he did a good job of it. But the Bengals just won’t give him that many opportunities. I see BJGE getting right around 1,000 yards with about 5 TD’s.
25. TB Doug Martin / 2011 Stats – Rookie – MOVED UP
Doug Martin is going into a nice situation. All he has to do is wait for LeGarrette Blount to disappoint and he can safely take the reins of starting running back in the NFL. Pretty sure it happened sometime while you read this. UPDATE: With Blount tweaking a groin in the second preseason game, Martin’s stock moves up a little.
26. IND Donald Brown / 2011 Stats – 645 YDS, 5 TD, 4.8 AVG, 16 REC, 86 YDS, 0 TD- MOVED UP
Now that Joseph Addai has left the building, along with most of the 2011 Colts, it is Donald Brown’s job to lose. He did show considerable signs of improvement during the second half of 2011, during a time when most teams didn’t trust the passing game. So if Andrew Luck is as good as advertised, Brown could be in for a surprising year.
27. CAR Jonathan Stewart / 2011 Stats – 761 YDS, 4 TD, 5.4 AVG, 47 REC, 413 YDS, 1 TD
Not only do the Panthers keep Stewart and Williams to be the dynamic duo, but they bring in vulture specialist Mike Tolbert to do the dirty work? You’re killing me Panthers, and killing Stewart’s value.
28. ARI Ryan Williams / 2011 Stats – Injured – MOVED UP
Injury kept Williams off the field his rookie season, but many experts had him pegged as the best rookie RB coming into last year. Beannie proved serviceable in 2011, but Williams should bring a new dimension to the Cardinal’s backfield.
29. KC Peyton Hillis / 2011 Stats – 587 YDS, 3 TD, 3.6 AVG, 22 REC, 130 YDS, 0 TD – MOVED UP
Boy did he need a new team. Kansas City will love Hillis and his style of play… if he gets back to it.
30. NE Stevan Ridley / 2011 Stats – 441 YDS, 1 TD, 5.1 AVG, 3 REC, 13 YDS, 0 TD
This has got to be a mistake. Why would I have any Bill Belichick coached running back in the top 25? We shall see who claims the throne left vacant by The Law Firm.
31. WAS Roy Helu / 2011 Stats – 640 YDS, 2 TD, 4.2 AVG, 49 REC, 379 YDS, 1 TD
It must be getting late. I just followed a Belichick player with a Mike Shanahanigans player. Someone get me more coffee!
32. BUF CJ Spiller / 2011 Stats – 970 YDS, 12 TD, 4.7 AVG, 18 REC, 139 YDS, 1 TD
Fortunately for me, I benefitted in the CJ Spiller lottery last season on a couple teams. He went OFF after Fred Jackson went down with an injury and led all running backs on a per game basis from weeks 12-17. Now that Fred has been paid and is healthy, CJ will go back to change of pace mode. He might be the number one handcuff to own after Ben Tate.
33. CAR DeAngelo Williams / 2011 Stats – 836 YDS, 7 TD, 5.4 AVG, 16 REC, 135 YDS, 0 TD
See Jonathan Stewart, above.
34. ARI Beannie Wells / 2011 Stats – 1047 YDS, 10 TD, 4.3 AVG, 10 REC, 52 YDS, 0 TD – MOVED DOWN
Coming into the 2011 season it wasn’t Beannie making everyone’s cheat sheet sleeper lists, it was Ryan Williams. Now, we all know Williams went down in the pre-season with a season ending injury but he’s back and itching to show everyone why he was so coveted. Beannie had a nice year, but he’s not the guy out there on third downs. If Williams has a nice couple games, Beannie could be playing second fiddle.
35. NO Mark Ingram / 2011 Stats – 474 YDS, 5 TD, 3.9 AVG, 11 REC, 46 YDS, 0 TD
He’s on a team that likes to throw most of the time and there are 3 other RB’s that are more than capable.
36. DAL Felix Jones / 2011 Stats – 575 YDS, 1 TD, 4.5 AVG, 33 REC, 221 YDS, 0 TD
Sitting behind DeMarco Murray may prove to be a good thing for Jones. I actually think this is a role better suited for him. As a change of pace back he will prove more productive on a per touch basis.
37. HOU Ben Tate / 2011 Stats – 942 YDS, 4 TD, 5.4 AVG, 13 REC, 98 YDS, 0 TD
If he was the MAN, he would be top 10 for sure. But he’s behind THE MAN and relegated to handcuff duty for now.
38. GB Cedric Benson / 2011 Stats – 1067 YDS, 6 TD, 3.9 AVG, 15 REC, 82 YDS, 0 TD – MOVED UP
Now that Benson has been signed up to play with the Cheese Heads, his stock is rising fast. I’ve tentatively placed him farther down but I expect this to change sooner rather than later.
39. MIA Daniel Thomas / 2011 Stats – 581 YDS, 0 TD, 3.5 AVG, 12 REC, 72 YDS, 1 TD
He was a hot commodity on draft days in 2011 but Reggie quickly stole the show in Miami. I place Thomas a little higher than most basically because the injury bug is always close to stinging Bush and Daniel could be starting. Lets just hope he learned to not shy away from contact this offseason.
40. CHI Michael Bush / 2011 Stats – 977 YDS, 7 TD, 3.8 AVG, 37 REC, 418 YDS, 1 TD
I think Chicago got a great backup and third down back in Bush. And if something happens to Forte, they know Bush can step in and perform. He’s only been in the league 4 years, and saw his first big workload last season.
41. DET Kevin Smith / 2011 Stats – 356 YDS, 4 TD, 4.9 AVG, 22 REC, 179 YDS, 3 TD – MOVED UP
It will be very interesting to follow the Lions backs this year. If any of them stay healthy, they might be in for a good year opposite Stafford and Co. Now that Jahvid is on the preseason PUP list, Kevin is the only starting RB on the team left standing. Mikel is hurt and suspended for the first two games, and Steffan Logan has moved in to take RB2 duties. I see the Lions adding a veteran at some point… maybe Ryan Grant.
42. GB James Starks / 2011 Stats – 578 YDS, 1 TD, 4.3 AVG, 29 REC, 216 YDS, 0 TD
He clearly out performed Grant but still had a disappointing season. Especially after his playoff run in 2010. He could be a steal if he goes late in drafts. Starks would move up if anything happened to touchdown king Kuhn. UPDATE: With Benson in town, this may destroy Starks’ chance at relevancy for fantasy owners.
43. Toby Gerhart / 2011 Stats – 531 YDS, 1 TD, 4.9 AVG, 23 REC, 190 YDS, 3 TD
He might be starting for the Vikes early on if AP isn’t fully recovered. But I expect Peterson to be ready to go. And Gerhart will be nothing more than handcuff material while Adrian is on the field.
44. NYG David Wilson / 2011 Stats – Rookie
If this rookie can get the workload left by Jacobs, he will have the opportunity to be fantasy relevant.
45. CAR Mike Tolbert / 2011 Stats – 490 YDS, 8 TD, 4.1 AVG, 54 REC, 433 YDS, 2 TD
In a less crowded backfield, Tolbert moves up on this list. Unfortunately for him, he’s playing behind two pro bowl type guys.
46. NO Pierre Thomas / 2011 Stats – 562 YDS, 5 TD, 5.1 AVG, 50 REC, 425 YDS, 1 TD
I really like Pierre Thomas, so much so, that I wish they didn’t try and feed Ingram the ball so much. Thomas was clearly more effective last year in every way but Ingram got almost an equal share. If something happens to Ingram, I’m skyrocketing Pierre into the top 30 for sure!
47. LeGarrette Blount / 2011 Stats – 781 YDS, 5 TD, 4.2 AVG, 15 REC, 148 YDS, 0 TD
We will see what kind of dedication Blount has to football. With the highly touted rookie coming to town, Blount is going to need to step up his game. He improved in his pass catching last season, and will need to make another improvement this year if he wants to be the starter from day one.
48. DET Mikel LeShoure / 2011 Stats – Injured
Another Lions running back? Yep. He was injured all of 2011 and is suspended for the first two games coming into 2012. But he has Kevin Smith and Jahvid Best in front of him. So he should be starting by week 6!
49. OAK Mike Goodson / 2011 Stats – 970 YDS, 12 TD, 4.7 AVG, 18 REC, 139 YDS, 1 TD – MOVED DOWN
Darren McFadden is going to go at some point. Am I right, am I right? So it would be safe to assume, Goodson has some value at some point in the season. He did well for a few weeks in 2010 for the Panthers and is a nice option catching balls out of the backfield.
50. DET Jahvid Best / 2011 Stats – 390 YDS, 2 TD, 4.6 AVG, 27 REC, 287 YDS, 1 TD – MOVED DOWN
Being a Lions fan makes me wish Jahvid could stay on the field. Being a fantasy owner makes me want to cut myself for just looking at his name. But as a RB3, there is no other player with as much upside. If Best hasn’t been cleared to practice by mid-August, I’m taking Best down to around 40th. UPDATE: Still has not been cleared to practice and at this point is dropping faster than Pam Anderson’s top in the 90’s…
• These projections are based on standard scoring. Many of these running backs would be ranked differently in a PPR league for instance.