FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT KIT

2012 Player Rankings: Running Backs
Updated: September 2, 2012
Top 10's:        
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Tier 1
Arian Foster - HOU YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 1
Keeper: 1
Auction 10: 34%
Auction 12: 38%
2009 HOU 6 350 3 54 257 4.8 3 8 93  
2010 HOU 16 2220 18 327 1616 4.9 16 66 604 2
2011 HOU 13 1841 12 278 1224 4.4 10 53 617 2
Avg   12 1470 11 220 1032 4.7 10 42 438 1
Proj HOU   2000 18   1500   15 60 500 3

Foster missed two of the first three games and was limited to 10 carries in the other by a hamstring issue that slowed his 2011 launch. Then he dropped 155 yards on the Steelers in Week 4 and he was back on track en route to another stellar fantasy season. The Texans saw a little upheaval on their vaunted offensive line, but that shouldn’t dramatically impact Houston’s zone blocking scheme and Foster’s quest for a third straight 1,000-yard season. And with the running game so dominant it’s easy to forget Arian also has back-to-back 50- catch, 600-receiving yard seasons as well. Even with Ben Tate swiping 1,000 combo yards and four TDs off of Foster’s plate, there’s more than enough productivity here to make Foster the first pick in virtually all redraft leagues.

Ray Rice - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 34%
Auction 12: 38%
2009 BAL 16 2041 8 254 1339 5.3 7 78 702 1
2010 BAL 16 1776 6 307 1220 4.0 5 63 556 1
2011 BAL 16 2068 15 291 1364 4.7 12 76 704 3
Avg   16 1962 10 284 1308 4.7 8 72 654 2
Proj FA*   1900 16   1300   12 70 600 4

Rice was the top-producing running back in fantasy football last season and should last no more than three picks into your redraft. There is, however, this little contract issue to be dealt with. Rice skipped OTAs in May but there’s plenty of time to reach an agreement before Rice has to decide whether to play under the $7.7 million franchise tag or hold out. Rice is too valuable to the Ravens for them to nickel-and-dime him; he’ll be in camp in July and off the board extremely early in the first round of your fantasy draft.

07-16-12 Update: As expected, Rice signed at the last minute for $35 million over five years and with $17 million in year one and $24 million guaranteed.

LeSean McCoy - PHI YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 30%
Auction 12: 35%
2009 PHI 16 945 4 155 637 4.1 4 40 308  
2010 PHI 15 1672 9 207 1080 5.2 7 78 592 2
2011 PHI 15 1624 20 273 1309 4.8 17 48 315 3
Avg   15 1414 11 212 1009 4.7 9 55 405 2
Proj PHI   1730 15   1250   13 60 480 2

There is a new Westbrook in town and he is even more productive. Coming off his third season, McCoy had a monster season with 1309 rushing yards and 48 catches for 315 yards. He led the league with 17 rushing touchdowns (no one else had more than 12) and three more receiving scores for a total of 20. Oddly enough his receptions went down from 78 to only 48 last year but all those touchdowns mattered more. The stated intention this year is to - of course - give McCoy fewer touches just the same as they said every year with Westbrook (who then would have just as busy a season). The schedule is average and the offense relies heavily on McCoy and almost no one else in the backfield. McCoy is only 25 and has plenty of tread on his tires. He's a lock for a top five season if he remains healthy.

Tier 2
Darren McFadden - OAK YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 26%
Auction 12: 28%
2009 OAK 12 602 1 104 357 3.4 1 21 245  
2010 OAK 13 1664 10 223 1157 5.2 7 47 507 3
2011 OAK 7 768 5 113 614 5.4 4 19 154 1
Avg   11 1011 5 147 709 4.7 4 29 302 1
Proj OAK   1680 12   1200   9 50 480 3

(-Risk) (+Upside) Hard to argue against McFadden not being one of the elite fantasy backs. In 2010, he turned in eight of 13 games with at or over 100 rushing yards and scored in over half his games. Each season he has at least one or two monster games. He started out 2011 on fire with his first four games producing over 140 total yards each and scoring four times. Two games later - Lis Franc injury that robbed him of the rest of the year. After four seasons in the NFL, McFadden has missed 19 games and never played in more than 13 games in any season. When he is there he is a tremendous fantasy play. But he has never stayed healthy. This Lis Franc injury is reported as healed now and that he made full speed cuts even in the offseason. There is no Michael Bush behind him anymore so McFadden owners will be crossing their fingers every week and reaping the reward until he is injured. An added bonus - McFadden never played with Palmer last year and a much improved passing game can only help McFadden.

Chris Johnson - NYJ YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 26%
Auction 12: 26%
2009 TEN 16 2509 16 358 2006 5.6 14 50 503 2
2010 TEN 16 1609 12 316 1364 4.3 11 44 245 1
2011 TEN 16 1465 4 262 1047 4.0 4 57 418  
Avg   16 1861 11 312 1472 4.6 10 50 389 1
Proj NYJ   1780 9   1280   8 58 500 1

2011 was a nightmare for CJ owners who had to spend a high pick not knowing what sort of shape that he was in after holding out the entire offseason. Ends up - not that great. It was a new offense being installed with a new quarterback and coaches and Johnson just flopped. Oddly he had four decent games and then floundered with less than 60 rushing yards in the rest. He only scored four times. You could not trade him and he mostly hurt you when you started him. Now he has been in the offense a full year and has been a very prominent participant in all offseason activities. He has bulked up to nearly 200 pounds as he was when he was a rookie. There are reasons why he could bounce back and make everyone happy again. And yet it is undeniable that since his 2006 rushing yards of 2009, he has declined from 5.6 YPC to 4.3 and then just 4.0 last year (which was far lower in most games). Johnson has lost his homerun and needs to find that extra gear that allowed him to slice off huge gains earlier in his career. CH is only 27 and should have several good seasons left but since his 430 touches in 2009 it is a legitimate concern if he has not lost a very important step. So far he has done everything you want to see in a player dedicated to a good season but his schedule is slightly tougher than last year and he has to turn the tide. Most important - the coaches still believe in him and have done nothing to get any other RBs. Munchak wants CJ to be successful.

08-06-12 Update: Johnson has an all new dedication this year to returning to his top form after a bad 2011. By all accounts, he looks primed to have a big year.

Marshawn Lynch - SEA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 15
Auction 10: 18%
Auction 12: 20%
2009 BUF 13 629 2 120 450 3.8 2 28 179  
2010 BUF 16 882 6 202 737 3.6 6 22 145  
2011 SEA 15 1416 13 285 1204 4.2 12 28 212 1
Avg   15 976 7 202 797 3.9 7 26 179 0
Proj SEA   1400 11   1200   10 26 200 1

It doesn't usually happen this way. Lynch spent three largely ineffective seasons in Buffalo and then landed in Seattle in 2010 where he had one of his worst seasons with a 3.6 YPC average on his 202 carries and six touchdowns playing in the platoon backfield. Last year something happened. After five yawn inspiring years, Lynch started the season out with a couple of bad games in SF and PIT and then for the rest of the way he was suddenly golden. He scored at least once in 11 straight games and topped 100 rushing yards six times - about the same total he had from his first five years. He gained 1204 yards on 285 carries but only had 28 catches for 212 yards and one more score. The coaches now talk about limiting his touches to keep him fresh but they always say as much and never mean it. Two factors could work against him this year though. For one, the Seahawks drafted Robert Turbin who will be the #2 back and could be more reliable than past options. The Seahawks also have a fairly tough rushing schedule this year and Lynch doesn't provide many receptions. If his touchdown total takes much of a decline he'll be back to being mostly a mediocre back. If nothing else, he has invigorated the sales of Skittles but his Beast Mode needs another year of proof before he can trademark it.

07-18-12 Update: Lynch was arrested on a DUI charge but appears to be likely to avoid any suspension this year.

Matt Forte - CHI YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 10
Auction 10: 18%
Auction 12: 20%
2009 CHI 16 1400 4 258 929 3.6 4 57 471  
2010 CHI 16 1616 9 237 1069 4.5 6 51 547 3
2011 CHI 12 1487 4 203 997 4.9 3 52 490 1
Avg   15 1501 6 233 998 4.3 4 53 503 1
Proj CHI   1500 8   1000   6 55 500 2

If you’re drafting Forte based purely on his on-field value as perhaps the best all-purpose back in the league, you’re banking on the notoriously stingy Bears prying open the wallet and throwing big bucks at a running back coming off a significant knee injury who the team has overworked and underpaid since drafting him in the second round in 2008. So, uh… good luck with that. If Forte’s in camp he’ll be the cornerstone of Mike Tice’s offense, an offense that during his time in Minnesota produced a 63-catch season for Moe Freakin’ Williams to give you an idea of Forte’s upside. If he’s not, you’re betting against tradition that Chicago will show Forte the money.

07-16-12 Update: CHI coughed up around $8 million per season for the next four years to retain Forte. That's a lot of love in the era of committee backfields and a sign that his role is not expected to change much with Michael Bush there.

08-05-12 Update: Michael Bush is definitely in line for goal line work and that takes away from Forte's touchdowns.

DeMarco Murray - DAL YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 13
Auction 10: 18%
Auction 12: 20%
2009                      
2010                      
2011 DAL 13 1080 2 164 897 5.5 2 26 183  
Avg   13 1080 2 164 897 5.5 2 26 183 0
Proj DAL   1430 9   1130   8 36 300 1

(-Risk) (+Upside) Where Murray belongs in a fantasy draft could be hotly debated. On the positive, he blew up in week seven with 253 rushing yards on the Rams and then posted two more 100+ games over that mark. He had four games with at least four or more receptions in them. When he was good - he was great. Speed and power the likes that had not been seen in Dallas since the days of Emmitt Smith. However... Murray's three big rushing games were all at home and facing STL, SEA and BUF. He only scored twice all season though he played in 14 games. He also ended his year in week 14 with a fractured ankle and he was hampered a bit by an earlier shoulder injury. Murray was highly productive at Oklahoma but fell in the draft for one main reason - durability. He has not had blown knees or anything too severe but missed games in college for more nagging problems and now did not finish his first season. That makes him a slight risk with injury and yet undeniably with upside for a season as the full-time, primary back for the Cowboys. He is expected to be completely healthy for training camp.

Maurice Jones-Drew - OAK YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 14%
Auction 12: 14%
Movement:
2009 JAC 16 1765 16 312 1391 4.5 15 53 374 1
2010 JAC 14 1641 7 299 1324 4.4 5 34 317 2
2011 JAC 16 1980 11 343 1606 4.7 8 43 374 3
Avg   15 1795 11 318 1440 4.5 9 43 355 2
Proj OAK   1400 9   1210   9 37 190  

(-Risk) Simply put, the Jacksonville offense runs through Jones-Drew. A whopping 1,085 touches over the past three seasons—despite missing two games —indicates as much. If MoJo can produce 1,980 yards and 11 TDs with zero offensive help, you have to like his chances for something similar now that Blaine Gabbert has a couple more playmakers at his disposal. Jones-Drew will still get his—he’s never finished lower than 13th among running backs in fantasy scoring—and he’s one of the few feature backs you can say that about with any degree of confidence.

07-20-12 Update: There is a chance that MJD does not report to training camp because he intends to holdout for a new contract that the Jaguars say is NOT coming. MJD has two years left on his old contract but wants to cash in after coming off a rushing title and carrying the entire team last year. This could go into the season and the risk of drafting MJD is starting to rise sharply.

08-21-12 Update: It is getting worse and not better. This is a situation to stay away from. The risk is too big. MJD wants to hold out into the season and is asking for a trade.

09-02-12 Update: Jones-Drew will report today having accomplished nothing but a million in fines. Raised in rankings but have to wonder how this impacts his season. We know "I-Got-Paid-Disease" is bad but what is "I-Got-Nothing" going to do?

Ryan Mathews - SDC YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 12
Auction 10: 14%
Auction 12: 16%
2009                      
2010 SDC 12 823 7 158 678 4.3 7 22 145  
2011 SDC 14 1546 6 222 1091 4.9 6 50 455  
Avg   13 1185 7 190 885 4.6 7 36 300 0
Proj SDC   1450 8   1050   8 38 400  

(-Risk) (+Upside) There’s plenty of hype behind Mathews heading into 2012. After busting as a highly-regarded rookie, Mathews quietly ranked seventh among RBs in fantasy points last year—despite missing two games and ceding 165 touches and 10 TDs to Mike Tolbert. Mathews carries the injury prone tag, but with two missed games last year he’s trending the right way. LeRon McClain won’t take all—or even most—of Tolbert’s touches, so for a healthy Mathews top- 7 is a baseline; give him even half of Tolbert’s numbers last year and Mathews is a top-3 fantasy back easy… if he stays healthy.

08-10-12 Update: So much for staying healthy. Broken clavicle in the first preseason game. His first play actually.

   
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