Saturday, August 25, 2012

2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Tier 1:
1. Arian Foster, HOU - Last year, on a per game basis, Arian Foster scored the most fantasy points of all RBs. Sure Ben Tate will get a large number of carries (10+ per game) but the Texans have become a run-first team and there are more than enough carries to go around. A bigger and more physical back than Rice and McCoy, Foster has the best chance to finish the year as fantasy's top RB.
2. Ray Rice, BAL - One of the most dynamic players in the league and arguably the best pass catching RB, Rice is a super safe pick who will rack up fantasy points even without finding the endzone.
3. Lesean McCoy, PHI - Like Rice, McCoy is a very dynamic player, both rushing and catching the ball. McCoy's receptions declined from 78 to 48 last year, but he exploded for a career high 20 TDs (previous high of 9). I expect his receptions to remain in the 40-50 range and the TDs to decline.

Tier 2:
4. Chris Johnson, TEN - A year after breaking Marshall Faulk's total yards from scrimmage record with 2509 yards, CJ2K slumped badly last year, showing up out of shape to start the year due to a long holdout finishing with "just" 1565 yards and only 4 TDs. Expect a big bounceback year.
5. Matt Forte, CHI - Forte is getting a better backup in Michael Bush, but the Bears run enough that he should maintain his elite RB rates (6th best RB last year if didn’t get injured). 
6. Maurice Jones-Drew - MJD reported to camp on Sept. 2nd, and while he probably won't start Week 1, I imagine he will be back to his usual workload within a few weeks. I am however, very concerned about MJD's heavy workload the last three years (954 carries most in the NFL, as well as 130 receptions). I'm very worried about MJD staying healthy based on that wear and tear. Note that players that have missed training camps have traditionally struggled to start the year. But with so many question marks at RB, you can count on a healthy MJD being a fantasy stud.
7. Jamaal Charles, KC - Jamaal Charles suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 last season, crushing most of his owners fantasy title hopes. With such a long time to recover, I expect Charles to resume his full workload within a few weeks. At this point, it’s hard to speculate on whether explosiveness will return. But prior to the injury Charles was probably the most explosive player in the league. As well, Charles has been extremely effective while splitting carries and therefore the addition of Peyton Hillis shouldn't hurt him at all.
8. DeMarco Murray, DAL - Murray took over the starting job in Week 6 and didn’t look back. A decisive runner and good pass catcher, Felix Jones will be a mere afterthought in the DAL rushing attack.

Tier 3:
9. Darren McFadden, OAK - Darren McFadden has always been one of the most talented RBs in the NFL. But DMC is always battling some injury and has never played more than 13 games in a year. I doubt he will able to make it through the year without missing any games. 
10. Adrian Peterson, MIN - Best fantasy RB pretty much since he's come into the league, AP suffered a devastating ACL/MCL injury on Christmas Eve. Only 8 months removed from the injury, I expect AP to be pretty effective, but the coaches should limit his carries especially early in the year.
11. Fred Jackson, BUF - Before breaking his leg in Week 11, Fred Jackson was well on his way to a fantasy MVP title. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, but F-Jax has always been super productive just never had the job to himself. Prior to the injury C.J. Spiller was a mere afterthought, and while I think he will still get around 10 touches per game, the Bills will find ways to put both on the field together. 
12. Ryan Matthews, SD - Ryan Mathews broke out as the 9th best fantasy RB last year and his prime competition for carries last year Mike Tolbert, signed in Carolina. Mathews has battled injuries in his career seemingly always getting nicked up. He needs to stay healthy to fully reach his potential, but he's in a perfect situation for success. However, Mathews broke his clavicle and probably will not be ready for Week 1. 
13. Marshawn Lynch, SEA - Lynch was a huge breakout story of 2011, but has been wildly inconsistent in his career. Should get most of the carries in SEA but potential suspension, banged up offensive line and checkered past make him difficult to fully trust.
14. Darren Sproles, NO - Sproles finished last year with 86 catches, 7th most among ALL PLAYERS. A PPR-stud, Sproles still finished as the 8th best RB in standard leagues, however, averaged a seemingly unsustainable 6.9 yards/rush. Expect another big year despite the rushing average declining to more reasonable levels.
15. Steven Jackson, STL - Is there a safer RB2 than S-Jax? One of the toughest players in the league, S-Jax has had seven straight seasons of 1000+ rushing yards, and is a good pass catcher. Don’t expect a big improvement in the TD department, but with limited competition, the floor is high.

Tier 4:
16. Doug Martin, TB - Rookie out of Boise State, Martin could easily run away with the starting job in TB. New coach Greg Schiano plans to run a ton, so the opportunity is there, and Tampa Bay has one of the best offensive lines in the league. However, Martin has had a strong pre-season showing and is already starting over Blount.
17. Trent Richardson, CLE - Number 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, T-Rich will be handed the feature role job in CLE. Anyone that has watched him play at ‘Bama knows he has the skills to be successful in the NFL, but with the Browns' weak offensive line and rookie QB, defenses will be able to load the box against him. I expect decent yardage based on his number of touches, but TDs will be hard to come by. He was moved down slightly from his knee scope, but is expected to be back for Week 1.
18. Michael Turner, ATL - Turner has been a fantasy stud for years, but his effectiveness has declined the past couple years. Excluding his 172 yd - 2 TD effort against the terrible TB defense in Week 17, Turner averaged only 9.3 fantasy points from Week 7. Expected to be given fewer touches to keep him fresh from the playoffs, should take a big step back.
19. Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG - When healthy, Bradshaw puts up great numbers, but after ongoing foot issues, can we really trust that anymore? Jacobs leaving to SF helps, but rookie David Wilson should be able to contribute right away.
20. Frank Gore, SF - Like Turner, Gore is on the downswing of his career, and with so many other RBs in SF, expect Gore’s touches to continue to decline. 

Tier 5:
21. Willis McGahee, DEN - With Tebow in Denver, McGahee was given all the carries he could handle, but Peyton should lead more pass heavy attack, and McGahee is not a great receiving threat.
22. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN - The Bengals run a ton, and while the Law Firm isn't a great talent, but he doesn't fumble (zero in 510 career carries) and will get a ton of touches.
23. Reggie Bush, MIA- Broke out last year and served as the feature back most of the year, but with Daniel Thomas healthy, I expect Thomas' role to increase at Bush's expense.
24. Stevan Ridley, NE - With BJGE now in Cincy, Ridley has the chance to take the starting job and run with it. More explosive and has looked great in camp, expect him to get the majority of the early down work over Vereen.
25. Peyton Hillis, KC - Hillis had a monster 2010 year, but couldn't back it up after suffering from numerous injuries last year. Now splitting carries with Jamaal Charles in KC (where they have pledged to run the ball 500 times in the season), behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, Hillis will be in a great situation to succeed and should be a reliable flex most weeks.
26. Shonn Greene, NYJ - Greene doesn't have much competition for carries, but as more of a plodding back, upside is limited.

Tier 6:
27. Donald Brown, IND - Not a great rusher, but could be the starting guy all year and was extremely effective last year. He should only improve with a better offense around him.
28. Cedric Benson, GB - Should be the starter in GB, but the Packers were 26th in rushing attempts last year and Kuhn and Starks should also get touches. However, Benson looks very sharp in pre-season action and seems like the unquestioned starter.
29. Ryan Williams, ARI - Coming off serious knee injury, Williams has talent to be a feature back in the NFL but must prove he is back to pre-injury form. High risk, high reward pick as he could easily take over starting job. Looks significantly better than Beanie in pre-season so I have decided it's time to move him above Beanie in my rankings.
30. Jonathan Stewart, CAR - Love Stewart as a talent, but not enough touches to go around and now with Tolbert on board, receptions will decline (last year's 47 was by far a career high).
31. Ben Tate, HOU - Backup/handcuff with the most upside in the league. Would be a top ten guy if something would happen to Foster, but regardless he is valuable with his 10-15 touches per week.
32. Michael Bush, CHI - Should get lots of touches behind the Bears good offensive line, and probably most goal line touches. Much more than just a handcuff for Forte.
33. Kevin Smith, DET - With Jahvid Best not even cleared yet from his concussions last year, Kevin Smith looks like the starter in Detroit. He struggles to stay healthy but has proven effective when he can stay on the field. 
34. Isaac Redman, PIT - Due to Mendenhall and Dwyer injuries, Redman almost by default fell into the starting job. Talented enough to keep the starting job all year, but has struggled in the pre-season. He has been banged up in training camp, Mendenhall may be returning sooner than we thought, and Dwyer is nipping at his heels so Redman may not have the opportunity he once had.
35. Beanie Wells, ARI - Beanie rushed for 1000+ yards last year, but is not a great runner and is always injured. The Cardinals often play in the 4pm game and with Beanie often listed as questionable, its tough to rely on him most weeks.
36. C.J. Spiller, BUF - Proved last year that he is too talented to stay off the field. I expect F-Jax to get the majority of touches, but Spiller should be used as WR a bunch and the Bills could line both up in the backfield a fair bit as well. 
37. DeAngelo Williams, CAR - Super talented RB, but splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart and now Mike Tolbert, only got 155 rushes last year, cant see much improvement there. 
38. Toby Gerhart, MIN - Gerhart was extremely successful when AP was out last year averaging 4.9 yds/carry, but with AP coming back, its tough to gauge how involved Gerhart will be in the offense. Worst case, he is a high upside handcuff. 
39. Mark Ingram, NO - Talented guy, but too many RBs in New Orleans and has struggled to stay healthy.
40. Rashad Jennings, JAC - Extremely valuable handcuff with MJD's potential holdout and health concerns. He is talented enough that with the starting job he would be an every week starter.
41. Roy Helu, WSH - Best RB on the Redskins based on skills, with any other coach he would be easily in the top 20 RBs. But with the threat of being Shanahaned, I just don't trust he will get the touches he deserves. Evan Royster and Alfred Morris have gotten first team reps in practice so the Redskins RB situation is in flux, but I like Helu the most for season long value.

Tier 7:
42. Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL - Falcons intend to rest Turner more than previous years and Rodgers should benefit. Rodgers is a pretty small RB (5"6, 193 lb) and not the fastest guy, but he is very quick and is a great pass catcher. With the Falcons moving to a spread offense, Rodgers should get a lot of touches.
43. Jonathan Dwyer, PIT - Dwyer has looked like the best RB on the roster during the pre-season and Redman has been banged up, so there is a great opportunity there. If he impresses in regular season action, Dwyer could run with the starting job.
44. Ronnie Hillman, DEN - Denver moved up in the third round to select Hillman, and has talent to replace aging McGahee by midseason.
45. Daniel Thomas, MIA - Thomas struggled a lot last year, looking indecisive and battled various injuries. He should benefit from going through his first offseason program and training camp, and Reggie Bush is not the healthiest player in the league. 
46. David Wilson, NYG - Profiles similar to Ahmad Bradshaw, but has struggled in pass protection and so won't see any third down work off the bat. He would probably need an injury to Bradshaw to be startable.
47. Alfred Morris, WSH - Not the most talented back, but seems to be the front-runner for the starting job in Washington. With Mike Shanahan's track record, it's anyone's guess who this will play out.
48. LeGarrette Blount, TB - Will probably split early down work with Doug Martin early on, but Martin is a superior talent and Blount hasn't proven he can carry the load as a starting NFL RB.
49. Pierre Thomas, NO - Maybe the best all-around RB on the Saints, but his role is just not large enough to trust as a fantasy starter most weeks.
50. Mike Tolbert, CAR - Great pass catcher, CAR should get him on the field a lot as their fullback and occasional tailback and H-back. Should get touches but limited upside with Stewart and Williams.

Just Missed (in no particular order): Bernard Scott, Shane Vereen, Mikell Leshoure, Robert Turbin, Mike Goodson, Evan Royster, Felix Jones, Isaiah Pead

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