2012 Fantasy Football: Early RB Rankings
With the 2012 Fantasy Football season right around the corner, it’s time to hand out our early rankings for the upcoming season. Kevin Roberts already handled the early Quarterback Rankings, now it’s time to look at the top 40 running backs heading into next year.
OTA’s have already begun for all the NFL teams, so now lets take a look at who should be off the board first overall for the running back position in your fantasy football draft.
Here are my early running back rankings for 2012:
1. Arian Foster (Houston Texans)
Not much of a shocker here. Foster has been a consistent fantasy player since the day he took over the starting running back job for the Houston Texans late in 2009, and if it wasn’t for his injury early in the season last year, he would have probably ended up as the top running back in 2011. Take Foster and don’t look back.
2. Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens)
I love me some Ray Rice. I had the first overall pick last season in my fantasy football draft, and with the injury concerns of Arian Foster I took the gamble in drafting Rice, and guess what it paid off handsomely. Now Rice does come with a bit of a red flag this season, as he has yet to sign with the Ravens, but rest assure he’ll be in the backfield come Week 1.
3. LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles)
I believe that any of these three top running backs in my rankings have the case to be number 1. “Shady” McCoy had a career season last year, in which he rushed for 1,309 yards with 17 rushing touchdowns. Does a healthy Michael Vick take away from McCoy’s touches? Maybe, but you can’t go wrong with McCoy next season.
4. Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans)
After a disappointing 2011 campaign, Johnson comes into 2012 with the label of being a huge sleeper. The holdout clearly hurt Johnson early in the season, but he did have a 2 week stretch in which he rushed for 343 yards and 2 touchdowns. The addition of Steve Hutchinson will only help one of the best running backs in the game.
5. Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Jones-Drew is considered somewhat old as a running back, 27, but he has yet to slow down even on a bad Jaguars team. It’s truly incredible that Jones-Drew can continue to put up great numbers when opposing defenses knows he’s the only weapon they have. Expect another consistent year for the 7th year pro.
6. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
I know I’m going to be much higher on AP than anybody else out there, but I am a believer. Peterson is a hard worker and I fully expect him to be 100% and ready for Week 1. Wes Welker suffered the same injury (torn ACL) in week 17 in 2009 and didn’t miss a game in 2010. If AP falls, grab him you won’t be disappointed.
7. Ahmad Bradshaw (New York Giants)
Another player I’m much higher on than the other experts. Brandon Jacobs is gone, so he can’t steal goal-line carries anymore, and there is not a running back in the Giants roster that can challenge Bradshaw for carries in 2012. He could end up as a top 5 fantasy running back in 2012.
8. Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs)
Charles suffered a torn ACL in Week 2, and should be fully healed in time for Week 1 in 2012. Some might be worry some in taking a running back coming off of a torn ACL, but this was his first major injury in his career, so he should not be considered injury prone. Peyton Hillis might take away some goal-line touches, but Charles is not a goal-line back so that shouldn’t hurt his value.
9. Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers)
I’m not a big fan of Mathews here, but when he is healthy he’s a top 10 running back in the NFL. The big question is IF he will be healthy enough not to give you headaches all season long. The main reason he’s ranked inside the top 10 is that Mike Tolbert is no longer there to take away goal-line touches, which is a good thing for Mathews.
10. Matt Forte (Chicago Bears)
It was either Forte or Darren McFadden for the final spot in my top 10. Forte has shown to be the healthier of the two backs even with his season ending knee injury last season. The worry here is that Forte has said he will hold-out if a new deal is not reached, and the Bears aren’t looking like they’re going to give in. Ranked 10th now, but he could drop rapidly if he indeed does hold-out.
11. Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders)
I love McFadden’s skills, I hate that he can never stay healthy enough for an entire season. Word out of Raiders camp is that he’s fully healed from the Lisfranc injury he suffered last season, so there’s that.
12. Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks)
Many will speculate that a contract year for Lynch was the main reason for his breakout campaign in 2011. Sure that may be the case, but Lynch has always been a solid running back when healthy, and he will get plenty of touches in Seattle with no clear threat behind him.
13. DeMarco Murray (Dallas Cowboys)
Murray is also an injury risk, but he proved last season when he’s the feature back, he can produce big time. Felix Jones is still in the mix for some carries, but Murray is clearly the better back at this point.
14. Fred Jackson (Buffalo Bills)
Jackson was on an MVP-caliber season in 2011 before suffering a season ending broken leg in Week 11. C.J. Spiller is still in the mix, but Jackson is the better back and should receive 85% of the touches in 2012.
15. Trent Richardson (Cleveland Browns)
I normally don’t draft rookie running backs early, with that being said Richardson would be too hard to pass up. Drawing comparisons to Adrian Peterson, Richardson will be the main back in Cleveland and will not come off the field on third-downs due to his great pass catching abilities.
16. Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams)
At 29 years old, Jackson is getting close to that age where running back are no longer relevant. Luckily for Jackson, he has been consistent throughout his career and has yet to have any serious injuries. Look for another productive year from the 8th year pro.
17. Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons)
Turner slowed down a bunch last season, however he is still going to score a lot of touchdowns this season. Head coach Mike Smith has already said Turner will see less carries this season, while Jacquizz Rodgers will steal some of his touches.
18. Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers)
San Francisco’s backfield is loaded with talent, so Gore could be in-line to be the big loser here. With that being said, Gore is still the best running back on the 49ers when he’s healthy.
19. Darren Sproles (New Orleans Saints)
Sproles is a PPR machine, although he did have a career year last season, he will most likely not be able to duplicate that again. He has also only missed one single game since 2007, so you’ll be able to count on him week after week.
20. Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers)
Stewart is the better of the two backs between himself and DeAngelo Williams, and it’s only a matter of time before the Carolina coaching staff realizes that.
21. Roy Helu (Washington Redskins)
Who knows what Mike Shanahan will do from week to week at the running back position. Helu is the most talented out of the bunch, but who really knows.
22. Reggie Bush (Miami Dolphins)
A career year for Bush in 2011 was well overdue. In his final four games of 2011, Bush rushed for over 500 yards with 2 touchdowns. I like another 1,000 yard plus rushing season for Bush this season.
23. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Cincinnati Bengals)
BJGE might not bet the best running back on the Bengals roster, but there’s two things he can do great, score touchdowns and not fumble the football.
24. Chris “Beanie” Wells (Arizona Cardinals)
Health is always a concern for Wells, but as he proved in Week 12 last season, he has the potential to be a beast if his knees can hold up.
25. Willis McGahee (Denver Broncos)
With Tim Tebow now out of the picture, Willis should regain the roll of being the goal-line back for the Broncos. I won’t reach for McGahee in the draft, however if he falls I’d snatch him up in a heartbeat.
26. Shonn Greene (New York Jets)
There’s no one really else to push him for carries in 2012 besides Tim Tebow.
27. Isaac Redman (Pittsburgh Steelers)
With Rashard Mendenhall (torn ACL) not likely for the season opener, Redman will get the first crack at being the feature back in Pittsburgh. Mendenhall isn’t a top tier running back either, so Redman could be a nice sleeper here.
28. James Starks (Green Bay Packers)
Ryan Grant is 95% out the door, which leaves Starks as the main guy in Green Bay for carries.
29. Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Reports are already coming out of Tampa that Martin and not LeGarrette Blount will be the starter in 2012. He could be a good sleeper next season.
30. DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers)
The Carolina Panthers still love him for some reason, and will likely to continue to split carries with Jonathan Stewart.
31. Michael Bush (Chicago Bears)
He wasn’t brought in not to play. If Forte sits for a extended period of time due to his contract, expect Bush to take advantage of his playing time.
32. Ben Tate (Houston Texans)
Tate flourished while Arian Foster was hurt, and he still got enough carries when Foster came back to be a valuable running back last season.
33. Jahvid Best (Detroit Lions)
Concussions have been a problem for Best in the past, but if he can stay healthy he has the burst to be a top 10-15 running back in 2012.
34. C.J. Spiller (Buffalo Bills)
He wasn’t terrible when he got his chance after Fred Jackson went down with an injury, and with Jackson’s age he could prove to be a deep sleeper on draft day.
35. Mark Ingram (New Orleans Saints)
He’s the starting running back for the Saints and should continue to receive the bulk of carries near the goal-line.
36. Peyton Hillis (Kansas City Chiefs)
Hillis should be in-line for plenty of work in 2012 near the goal-line. He still has something to prove after a disappointing 2011.
37. Ryan Williams (Arizona Cardinals)
Williams was touted as the back that could push Beanie Wells for carries in 2011, but after suffering a blown out patella in the 2011 preseason, he never could prove his talents. I love Williams this year as a solid sleeper.
38. Mikel LeShoure (Detroit Lions)
If Best goes down, LeShoure will be the benefactor in Detroit. He has the ability to keep the job as well.
39. Toby Gerhart (Minnesota Vikings)
Gerhart is the backup behind Peterson, and if AP isn’t fully healthy, Gerhart will be ready to handle the load.
40. Daniel Thomas (Miami Dolphins)
Reggie Bush had a great year last season after Thomas was ineffective, but Thomas, entering his second year, will have plenty to prove in 2012.