Friday, August 22, 2008

Top 20 and Then Some: Running Backs in The NFL

The following list provides fantasy owners with a look at the top 20 running backs in the NFL. The recent termination of Rudi Johnson and injuries to other backs are taken into consideration in this list. If you do not have any of these players on your fantasy team, it is very likely that you will be a disgruntled fantasy owner in 2008.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD: Without question the best running back in the NFL, LT has led all running backs in total points for the past three seasons. Do not let his knee injury scare you into selecting another running back with the first pick. LT should go first in all fantasy drafts this season.

2. Adrian Peterson, MIN: The downside is that he has a terrible offense and he had 70 yards or less in seven games last season. The upside is that he is more comfortable in the offense, is the primary back in Minnesota, and will get more carries in 2008. AP will give LT a run for his money in 2008, so draft him as the second running back in all leagues.

3. Brian Westbrook, PHI: Westbrook finished 14th in the league with 90 receptions in 2007. Combine his receptions with his success in the backfield and he should have an extremely productive year in 2008. Look for Westbrook to amass 2,000 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008.

4. Steven Jackson, STL: The holdout is over and Jackson can now focus on being one of the best running backs in the NFC. A healthy Orlando Pace and Marc Bulgar will take some of the pressure off of his shoulders. An improvement in the passing game will open some holes for Jackson during the 2008 season.

5. Frank Gore, SF: He is on a terrible team with about as much controversy at quarterback as the dispute between Madonna and Alex Rodriguez. However, he was in a similar situation in 2006 and was able to accumulate 2,180 total yards and nine touchdowns. Mike Martz will kick start the San Francisco offense, so look for Gore to have another monster year in 2008.

6. Joseph Addai, IND: The argument can be made that he should be ranked higher than Gore and I would respect that argument. However, Addai is not the focal point of Indianapolis' offense, which Gore most certainly is in San Francisco. Also, Addai is a big runner who may get more touchdowns, but lacks the potential for 1,500 yards in a season. You will be happy with Gore or Addai, but relying on Addai will be the safe play in 2008.

7. Marion Barber, DAL: He was great in 2007 without even starting a single regular season game. Felix Jones will steal some carries, making the workload no heavier for Barber in 2008. He is a touchdown machine and will be a solid #1 back selected in the middle of round one in all drafts.

8. Marshawn Lynch, BUF: A lot of owners recognized his rookie campaign, totaling over 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns in only 13 games. Edwards is now at quarterback, Evans began to emerge as a reliable receiver towards the end of 2007, and the addition of James Hardy will help improve the passing game in Buffalo. Lynch should be just as impressive in 2008 as long as he can stay healthy and stop driving his car at night.

9. Clinton Portis, WAS: Another surprise performance in 2007, Portis proved to fantasy owners that there is still something left in the tank. He was able to stay healthy and his numbers reflected this. Although Portis is capable of producing like a first round pick, but I would advise grabbing Manning or Moss, leaving Portis to get injured on another roster. He is a low-end number one running back who should be drafted with a late pick in round one or early pick in round two.

10. Larry Johnson, KC: The experts predict that his numbers will be down due to a poor offense and a weak offensive line. I agree that he will not perform as well as he did in 2006, but the probability of LJ totaling 1,400 total yards and 10 total touchdowns is very high. Look to draft LJ somewhere in round two.

11. Jamal Lewis, CLE: His age will deter a lot of owners from taking early, but the youth of his offensive line and a high powered offense in Cleveland should not. Lewis became more of a threat out of the backfield, compiling more receiving yards in 2007 than any previous season other than 2002. This is a sign that he will continue to be a part of the receiving corp in Cleveland. Look for Lewis to produce like a number one back behind Joe Thomas and gang.

12. Earnest Graham, TB: If you were lucky enough to grab him off the wire in 2007, you understand the potential he has in 2008. He started in only ten games in 2007 and was able to accumulate 1,222 total yards and ten touchdowns. As long as he stays healthy, he will produce for your squad as a top number two fantasy back.

13. Brandon Jacobs, NYG: This is a high placement for Jacobs, but with the nagging hamstring injury to Grant, knee surgery on McGahee, and ankle sprain to Drew lands Jacobs atop of them. He is on a team with a solid offense, so as long as he remains healthy, his numbers will be up in 2008. He is a big back, so look for him to get into the end zone, but 50 yards scampers to the end zone will be very unlikely to occur.

14. Ryan Grant, GB: I loved him in the preseason, but my love for him in the regular season fell about as fast as my love for my girlfriend the first time she took a dump in front of me. He will get plenty of chances to prove he is the real deal, but Brandon Jackson will remind him that he has never been a bona fide starter. Draft him in round three and if you take him before, I feel bad for you.

15. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC: He hurt his ankle and he is splitting carries. This is terrible news but MJD will find a way to make it happen. Fred Taylor gets his AARP card in November, so once he takes the discount, his yards will go down just as much as the prices. Monitor MJD, if he is healthy, he will be better than most of the first round picks..

16. Willis McGahee, BAL: Knee surgery, old age, bad offense, all factors that are going against McGahee in 2008. I don't even know why he is on the list......yea I do. McGahee had over 1,400 is limited action as the primary back and Baltimore's offense will not get any better in 2008. They will continue to rely on McGahee to tote the rock, so as long as his knee holds up he will produce. Draft Ray Rice with a late round pick to secure your asset.

17. Michael Turner, ATL: He is just a back up, right?????? Wrong! Turner is now the starter in Atlanta and will be given a chance to prove his worth. He will be a solid running back if you give him a year to adjust to the offense and Matt Ryan. Take Turner with a pick in Rounds 4-6 and let him contribute to your fantasy squad.

18. Darren McFadden, OAK: If this list was based on individual talent, he would be much higher on the list. Taking into consideration that he is a backup and a rookie in the league justifies his placement at number 18. He is talented and will help fantasy owners, but it may take a few weeks to establish himself. If you have other options, leave McFadden as you third running back and start him once he bumps Fargas on the depth chart.

19. Julius Jones, SEA: The good news is that he is the starter and will see the majority of the carries in Seattle. The bad news is that he has not seen a goal line carry in the last two years and Holmgren loves to pass the pigskin, making it no coincidence that Favre was so successful under his reign. Jones will be most productive when Engram and Branch are out, but his numbers should decrease when they return and the passing game improves.

20. Laurence Maroney, NE: This is a difficult year to predict how the running game will be in New England. Coming off of a 50 touchdown performance in 2007, one would assume that defenses will be thinking pass. If this is the case, Maroney will have a huge year with New England. If defenses keep the running game in mind, Maroney may struggle, similar to his numbers during the 2007 season. In the last six games of 2007, Maroney accumulated a ridiculous 586 yards and seven touchdowns. If he can start where he left off, Maroney will be the steal of the draft, averaging a pick in fantasy drafts between round three and round five.

21. Chris Perry, CIN: The recent demotion of Rudi Johnson forced me to add a 21 to this list. Rudi Johnson is out and even though the Bengals are hurting on offense, Perry should thrive in Cincinnati. The only reason that Perry is not higher on the list is because he is unproven as a starter. I think he will succeed for the same reason I thought Johnson would succeed if he remained healthy (or present for that matter, see sleepers and creepers running backs), Cincinnati's offense is always on the field do to a porous defense. Take Perry in the middle rounds, securing him with Watson in the event of an injury.

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