In the second part of the 2012 Fantasy Football rankings, we will take a look at the top five runningbacks for the upcoming season. For years now, runningback has been considered the most important position to snag in the early rounds. Mostly because there are so few elite options given that only one runningback can be the starter for a given team, while most teams have at least two starting wide receivers.
Now, that has become even more of the norm considering fewer and fewer teams are featuring just one runningback as their workhorse. You can still usually pinpoint the starter and the backup, but teams drive fantasy managers crazy by mixing up the carries each week.
You won’t have to worry about that with these five runningbacks, however. These guys will almost certainly go in the top 15 and most likely the top 10 in your draft.
Here is my projected top five fantasy runningbacks for the 2012 season.
5. Ryan Matthews – San Diego Chargers
With Mike Tolbert out of the picture, fantasy owners of Ryan Matthews can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The Chargers had one of the most frustrating runningback situations last season, with Tolbert getting most of the goal line carries and third down receiving opportunities.
Matthews had 1,546 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns last season, but expect that number to increase in 2012 as he takes over as the main option.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars
MJD is one of the few true remaining workhorse runningbacks that do everything for a team. You never have to worry about him getting taken out of the game that often. He had 1,980 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011, and has been a top five runningback in the NFL for years now.
One may be worried about the emergence of Rashad Jennings, but he will not replace MJD in the lineup just yet.
3. Arian Foster – Houston Texans
You might be thinking this is too low for Foster. Most have him in the No. 1 spot overall and definitely in the top two for runningbacks. One concern of mine is that the entire right side of the offensive line is gone and being replaced by either backups or rookies. That kind of uncertaintly would lead me to take the next two guys over Foster, despite him leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage per game last year (by a wide margin).
Foster’s numbers were impressive given he missed three games last season. He had 1,841 total yards and 12 total touchdowns in 2011. Those are great numbers for an entire season, let alone 13 games. If the right side of the line picks up where Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston left off, Foster should be the top option.
2. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
Everyone figured McCoy was due for a breakout 2011 campaign after he rushed for his first 1,000 yard season the year before, but nobody expected the kind of year he had. McCoy totaled 1,624 yards and 20 touchdowns last year, making him the second best fantasy runningback in most formats.
McCoy is obviously a focal point of that offense and could get even better as he enters his prime. This is just his fourth season in the league, so the sky is the limit this season.
1. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens
Not only do the Baltimore Ravens have one of the best offensive lines in football, but they have the best all-around back as well. Ray Rice has been killing it for the Ravens since he was drafted out of Rutgers. He had 2,070 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns in 2011 (he was the only back to go over 2,000 yards).
His durability, toughness, and the fact that the Ravens do not have much of a passing game make him the most appealing option to me.
What? No Adrian Peterson? Well given the nature of his injury (torn ACL and MCL) and the fact that it happened so late in the season (Week 16), I would be skeptical of his health and not risk taking him in the first round. In fact, I would be worried about his health for the entire season and might stay away from him in general.
Check back later next week as we look at the wide receivers and tight ends.
Jeff is an NFL Featured Columnist for RantSports.com. He contributes mainly to the New York Giants and NFL Rumors pages. He also will occasionally touch on the NBA and humorous videos involving all sports.
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