Here are my top running back options for the 2012 fantasy football season. Please use them under good judgement and may the fantasy gods be with you.
1. ARIAN FOSTER: The dude is a beast, he runs, he catches and now, he has sworn off meat! OK, the last one makes no difference but he does have a great offensive line to pair with great talent.
2. LESEAN McCOY: I don’t think McCoy will put up the same amount of touchdowns as he did last year but I do think he’s going to have another great year.
3. RAY RICE: No real shock for the top 3 guys on the list. Rice is young, a dual threat and he carries the load for the Baltimore Ravens. Not sure what else you want in a running back.
4. CHRIS JOHNSON: I had Ryan Mathews slated for this spot but since he’s already banged up I’ll slide CJ1/2K in here. It’s hard to know which Johnson you’re getting but reports from Tennessee are that he’ll be back to top 5 status. You either believe or you don’t, I’m a believer.
5. RYAN MATHEWS: I’m not going to drop him too far because I think he’s primed for a big year. He may miss a game or 2 to start, andthen you hope for a healthy Mathews for 13 games on the year. No guarantees he stays healthy but Norv Turner loves his RB’s and Mathews will get plenty of work.
6. DARREN McFADDEN: Yes he’s an injury risk but the guy has immense talent. Heck, this is football and every RB is an injury risk so you have to take a stand somewhere and I’m standing on the side of D-Mac. Just make sure you handcuff him.
7. DEMARCO MURRAY: Word out of Dallas Cowboys camp is that Murray looks great, finishing off runs with power. The offensive line is a concern but I think he’s primed to have a great year.
8. MAURICE JONES-DREW: He’s still holding out and there is no word that he’ll be coming to training camp anytime soon. I never like a RB after a holdout because the results are rarely good. He is a one man wrecking crew and if he ends the holdout before camp ends, it would help us fantasy owners out.
9. MATT FORTE: He’s signed, happy and ready to carry the load again for the Chicago Bears. I know they brought in Michael Bush but that doesn’t scare me. Forte has added value as a receiver which will keep him on the field and I see Bush as more of a handcuff. Forte is very under valued.
10. MARSHAWN LYNCH: If he’s going to go ‘Beast Mode’ he may have to do so after a suspension for another arrest. I like Lynch but he’s going to miss some games and I don’t think he can duplicate the end of his run at the end of last year.
11. TRENT RICHARDSON: I don’t care that he’s a rookie or about the minor knee clean up he just. I do care that he appears to be cloned out of the Adrian Peterson mode. He was drafted with the 3rd pick in the NFL draft because he’s really, really good.
12. JAMAAL CHARLES: He will almost be a year away from the knee injury from last year which makes him much further along than some other backs. he might not be as explosive as his old self but he was always more explosive than most anyway. He’ll get better and better as the year goes on.
13. ADRIAN PETERSON: Unlike Charles, Peterson injured his knee very late in the year and he still hasn’t had any real game action to show his knee is OK. It seems as though AP is will but I’m skeptical of such a quick return. The fact that he’s a top 15 RB in such a short time shows what a freak he is.
14. STEVEN JACKSON: The injury label is kind of unfair, he’s only missed 3 games in 2 years so he is durable. He’s the main weapon on offense and Jeff Fisher loves to run the ball, what else do you want in guy who you can get a round or two later than his production warrants?
15. FRANK GORE: The good, he played in all 16 games last year and his coach loves to run it. The bad, the San Francisco 49ers brought in more weapons to spread the ball around on offense. Could easily outplay this ranking but I don’t see it.
17. FRED JACKSON: I know he’s on the wrong side of 30-years old but he doesn’t have the usual wear and tear on his legs. He also is an great receiver as well as a runner. Don’t be scared of CJ Spiller taking away carries, that will help keep Freddie Jax healthy and fresh.
18. REGGIE BUSH: This spot on the list acknowledges how good Bush finished last year. The Miami Dolphins will be leaning on the run with Ryan Tannehill at QB and Reggie Bush as receiving threat holds this spot, even if he doesn’t stay healthy for all 16 games.
19. AHMAD BRADSHAW: I know Bradshaw is a bit of an injury risk on a team that doesn’t run the ball all that well but if Bradshaw stays healthy he can put up solid numbers. A great third/flex option.
20. MICHAEL TURNER: He’s been great ever since he’s been on the Atlanta Falcons but I think he’s slowing down. The Falcons have also transformed into a passing team and Turner is not a great receiver. This is quite a fall for The Burner.
21. DARREN SPROLES: Can he be as good as he was last year, I don’t know but I do know the New Orleans Saints have so many weapons that it’s hard for the defense to stop them all and Sproles benefits from that. He gets plenty of room to operate.
22. BENJARVUS GREEN-ELLIS: Now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, he should get more chances to carry the ball than he did in pass happy New England. Strong, durable and a nose for end zone, he sounds a lot like Cedric Benson. And younger.
23. ISAAC REDMAN: The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new lead runner with the injury to Rashard Mendenhall, and Redman fits the physical model of a Steelers running back.
24. WILLIS McGAHEE: He turns 31 this year but he’ll find plenty of room to run with teams afraid of the new passing offense courtesy of Peyton Manning.
25. SHONN GREENE: Being the main man didn’t go exactly as planned for Greene. His numbers were OK but he hasn’t shown the ability to break tackles or the speed to get to the edge, not a great combination. He’ll be adequate but don’t expect greatness, a #3 at best.
26. BEN TATE: It seems crazy that a back-up could be this high but Tate is no ordinary back-up. Notice I’m not saying he’s a “handcuff” because he’s much more than that. Tate has the talent to be an elite fantasy player if he was the man but as it stands now he’s still very useful as a flex option, even as a back-up. I’d mess with the Arian Foster owner and grab Tate. Even a round or two earlier than you think.
27. STEVAN RIDLEY: Someone has to take over the role the law firm filled last year and we saw some of that at the tail end of last year. the New England Patriots offense is pass oriented but it always seems later in the year their running back gets a bunch of touchdowns. Draft him, spot starts early, fantasy goodness late.
28. JAMES STARKS: Loved him last year but there didn’t seem to be much confidence in him from the Green Bay Packers, which seems to be the case since they just signed Cedric Benson.
29. RYAN WILLIAMS: Williams blew out his knee on his first carry of the preseason last year so he’s had plenty of time to rehab. He’ll be money for you late in the year. Of all the Arizona Cardinals running backs, I’d take Williams over Beanie Wells.
30. DEANGELO WILLIAMS: He’s the starter and gets the more carries than fellow running mate Jonathan Stewart so he ranks higher. He just has to hope Cam Newton doesn’t bogart all the goal line carries again this year.
31. MARK INGRAM, 32. TOBY GERHART, 33. DONALD BROWN, 34. JONATHAN STEWART, 35. CJ SPILLER, 36. KEVIN SMITH, 37. BEANIE WELLS, 38. DAVID WILSON, 39. PIERRE THOMAS, 40. EVAN ROYSTER, 41. ROY HELU, 42. MICHAEL BUSH, 43. SHANE VEREEN, 44. LAMAR MILLER, 45. MICHAEL GOODSON, 46. FELIX JONES, 47. RASHAD JENNINGS-MUCH HIGHER IF MJD HOLDOUT LASTS INTO SEASON, 48. PEYTON HILLIS, 49. BERNARD SCOTT, 50. JACQUIZZ RODGERS, 51. LEGARRETTE BLOUNT, 52. ISAIAH PEAD, 53. JAHVID BEST, 54. TIM HIGHTOWER, 55. RONNIE BROWN, 56. KENDALL HUNTER, 57. PHILLIP TANNER, 58. MIKEL LESHOURE, 59. CEDRIC BENSON, 60. ROBERT TURBIN, 61. RASHARD MENDENHALL, 62. CHRIS IVORY, 63. JAVON RINGER 64. RONNIE HILLMAN