Running backs are quite the fickle beast. Big names go down, unknowns step in and fill the role. Its the position with the highest demand yet the lowest supply. Here is how my draft board is looking two months from the season start.
2009 Stats from Yahoo! Fantasy Football players page, 2010 projections from fftoday.com
1. Chris Johnson, TEN
2009 – Rushing 2006 yards, 14 TD Receiving 503 yards 2 TD – 342.9 points
2010* – Rushing 1572 yards 12 TD Receiving 446 yards 2 TD – 287.8 points
What else can he show us? 1200 yards his rookie season, followed by 2000 in year two, we are looking at potential Hall of Fame numbers. He is the clear number one coming into the draft, but considering he has carried the ball 609 times in his very short time in the NFL, I would grab the rookie that will back him up (once that is decided, they have a stable of 3 behind him) in the later rounds for insurance.
2. Adrian Peterson, MIN
2009 – Rushing 1383 yards 18 TD Receiving 436 yards 0 TD – 277.9 points
2010* – Rushing 1576 yards 14 TD Receiving 356 yards 1 TD – 283.2 points
Last season we saw many teams decide that Peterson was not going to beat them. His numbers took a big hit from his 2008 total of 1760 yards. Luckily they had ol’ man Favre who was able to carry the team to the NFC title game before breaking down. I think we see a lot of the same this year. As good as the old man is, you are probably better off stopping AP and taking your chances from there. I see his yards slipping, but the TD’s will stay the same keeping him a solid 2-3 pick.
3. Ray Rice, BAL
2009 – Rushing 1339 yards 7 TD Receiving 702 yards 1 TD – 246.1 points
2010* – Rushing 1265 yards 8 TD, Receiving 602 yards 2 TD – 246.7 points
I have a feeling that Ray is in for his best year as a pro. The Ravens will up his workload from 250 carries to around 300, and Willis McGahee will steal fewer TDs. He has averaged 5 yards per carry in his first two years, his receiving ability makes it very hard to set up a game plan to stop him.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX
2009 – Rushing 1391 yards 15 TD Receiving 274 yards 1 TD – 270 points
2010* – Rushing 1298 yards 14 TD Receiving 444 yards 2 TD – 270 points
Last year was MJDs first as the lone feature back in Jacksonville’s offense. He was feast or famine, high points of 177 yards and 3 TDs vs the Rams, low points of 34 yards 0 TD vs Seattle. This year I predict more stability, it is his nose for the endzone that makes him so potentially valuable.
5. ? Here is where we enter the winter of our discontent. 5-12 contains many solid running backs, but all with some things that make me a little uneasy making him my top RB.
Frank Gore, SF
2009 – Rushing 1120 yards 10 TD Receiving 406 yards 3 TD – 226.6 points
2010* – Rushing 1095 yards 9 TD Receiving 385 yards 2 TD – 214 points
Excluding his rookie season when he earned his job, Gore has had a very solid, but somewhat unspectacular run. Averaging 250 carries and a little over 1000 yards each of the last three seasons, there is little reason to think he will not do it again. His production is solid, but its the time in the draft to think about a game breaking QB or WR that will be more than a solid 10 in the bank every week.
6. Ryan Grant, GB
2009 Rushing 1253 yards 11 TD Receiving 197 yards 0 TD – 209 points
2010* Rushing 1195 yards 9 TD Receiving 225 yards 1 TD – 202 points
His three years in the NFL have been very solid, 1200 each of the last two years, and he is on a very stable team with a good young quarterback. Again I see good numbers coming out of Grant, but nothing to get excited about. He does have the backfield to himself, thats more than you can say about most backs when you get down this far.
7. Michael Turner, ATL
2009 Rushing 871 yards 10 TD Receiving 35 yards – 146.6 points
2010* Rushing 1225 yards 13 TD Receiving 77 yards – 211 points
His 2009 season was cut short by a high ankle sprain, but he is once again ready to be the man in Atlanta. Durability is an obvious concern, but he has the job to himself. If he stays healthy its 1300 yards and 10 TD in the bank with potential for much more.
8. Jamal Charles, KC
2009 – Rushing 1120 yards 7 TD Receiving 297 yards 1 TD – 183.7 points
2010* – Rushing 1179 yards 9 TD Receiving 316 yards 1 TD – 209 points
Caught absolute fire the last half of 09, I would put him higher except for the Thomas Jones factor. Jamal will be the feature, but I wonder how many carries Jones, coming off a monster year, will steal away.
9. Rashard Mendenhall, PIT
2009 Rushing 1108 yards 7 TD Receiving 261 yards 1 TD – 178 points
2010* Rushing 1225 yards 11 TD Receiving 256 yards 1 TD – 220 points
Can he make it through all 16 games? Who is blocking for him? Who is handing him the ball? I actually think we will see an up tick in his production, IF he can stay on the field.
10. Steven Jackson, STL
2009 – Rushing 1424 yards 4 TD Receiving 314 yards – 193.8 points
2010* – Rushing 1265 yards 7 TD Receiving 345 yards 2 TD – 209.5 points
He will drive someone insane this year. With the sheer amount of platooning, SJ is up here only because there is no one else in the Rams backfield that can overtake him, and the dude put up some solid numbers despite being on a terrible team. Injuries are starting to pile up, but as long as the Rams improve at least a little SJ will have a solid year, but there will be pain for whomever ends up with him on their roster.
11+ We enter the world of platoons and rookies. My next post will focus on the platoon situations that need to be observed over the next couple months of camp before I can make much sense of it.
*= 2010 projection from fftoday.com based on MFL scoring.