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Preseason Previews - Running Backs
David Dorey
July 20, 2010
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Other Positions:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Wide Receivers  |  Tight Ends

It is hard to tell which came first - fantasy football or the "Stud Running Back Theory". But times are changing and the focus on the running game has changed for many teams at least in the manner they accomplish it and how many players that requires. Below is a team by team break down on where their running game has been for the last three years for a good idea of what they want from training camp.

Running Back Totals by Year

Year Runs Rush Yards Rush TD Passes Comps Pass Yards Pass TD Tot Yd Tot TD
2005 12,739 51,825 380 3,223 2,326 17,440 75 69,265 455
2006 12,717 53,336 374 3,431 2,519 19,377 58 72,713 432
2007 12,612 52,365 348 3,502 2,529 18,889 55 71,254 403
2008 12,518 53,170 418 3,338 2,416 18,926 88 72,096 506
2009 12,410 53,181 376 3,358 2,437 19,275 84 72,456 460

The overall view doesn't show much change to the position in terms of total output. They are accomplishing largely the same stats, it just may be done differently than in the past. The one area that has truly shown growth is using backs as receivers. Yards and scores via the pass has involved more third down backs than we have been used to seeing, particularly as scorers.

Top Ten Running Backs Totals

Year Runs Rush Yards Rush TD Passes Comps Pass Yards Pass TD FFP
2003 3,389 15,880 131 731 548 4,125 13 2,865
2004 3,189 13,994 120 545 414 3,572 17 2,579
2005 3,277 14,808 140 520 364 2,882 10 2,669
2006 3,080 14,603 120 743 536 4,600 19 2,756
2007 2,797 12,292 95 592 451 3,668 18 2,285
2008 2,950 13,163 116 516 394 2,959 17 2,413
2009 2,866 13,564 114 577 415 3,401 10 2,240

Grab your hanky, stud running back pigs. The top ten running backs (using standard fantasy scoring) show a continued decline at the top in almost all areas. Yards and scores are up as receivers overall and yet not so for the top dogs. That comes from involving other specialists. The mighty top ten is in a decline. The total points from the top ten have never been lower and that's even after Chris Johnson scorched the league for a 2000 yard rushing season. It could have been even worse.

Arizona Cardinals

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 366 1,344 3.7 8 64 529 1 1,873 9 30 25
2008 307 1,100 3.6 14 81 612 1 1,712 15 30 19
2009 328 1,423 4.3 15 98 727 3 2,150 18 20 11

The Cardinals finally discover a rushing attack and just in the nick of time since Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin are gone and with them one of the best passing games in the league. Beanie Wells is already a known commodity now after he ended his rookie season with scores in three of the last four games. This will still be Wells and Tim Hightower but with more work for Wells than his 192 carries in 2009. Training camp won't matter much here with Matt Leinart focusing on how to drive the passing game.

Atlanta Falcons

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 349 1,383 4.0 7 71 551 0 1,934 7 28 29
2008 491 2,266 4.6 21 58 525 2 2,791 23 2 4
2009 405 1,761 4.3 14 69 585 3 2,346 17 10 13

After a tremendous 2008 season when Michael Turner re-ignited the rushing game, the Falcons saw a reversal in 2009 when he was injured. Same scheme and coaches with only Tony Gonzalez added to the offense, the Falcons fell from top five in both total yards and scores from the position to no better than 10th last year. What the team discovered was that Jerious Norwood was not going to be a factor despite years of fantasy dreams and that Jason Snelling was a decent backup for Turner. The expectation is that Snelling remains involved and Turner won't be asked to repeat his 376 carry season from 2008. But camp is worthy of note because Turner is both reported to be looking crisp and rejuvenated in the offseason despite his contention that he is only 90% recovered from the ankle injury that ruined 2009. Hopefully he'll show up in preseason games at least enough to prove the ankle is okay.

Baltimore Ravens

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 404 1,623 4.0 10 85 520 2 2,143 12 17 16
2008 523 2,079 4.0 17 83 604 1 2,683 18 5 12
2009 418 2,080 5.0 21 115 932 3 3,012 24 1 2

The Ravens have long loved their running game and last year saw them return to elite ranking for the first time since Jamal Lewis cracked 2000 rushing yards back in 2003. Not only did this backfield produce the most total yards (3012) and second most touchdowns (24), but Ray Rice became the newest fantasy stud when he turned in over 2000 total yards. Camp is not going to change anything here and Rice just needs to remain healthy and make good on that imaginary chip on his shoulder. No changes here otherwise.

Buffalo Bills

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 403 1,598 4.0 7 58 486 1 2,084 8 20 26
2008 386 1,612 4.2 11 86 616 1 2,228 12 19 23
2009 367 1,568 4.3 4 81 605 2 2,173 6 17 30

This will be a camp worth watching though the reality is that the offensive line has been so bad here it just may not matter what the preseason suggests may improve. This has been a below average rushing team for years and the addition of Marshawn Lynch failed to make any difference. Now the Bills have opted to grab the speedster C.J. Spiller in the NFL draft and all eyes should be on him in Bills camp. He'll likely be the only player of significance on this squad or at least the only one who represents a change from last year. Fred Jackson remains involved and camp should help indicate what the roles may be. It mostly depends on Spiller and fantasy football loves a rookie running back.

Carolina Panthers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 406 1,635 4.0 7 61 429 2 2,064 9 22 24
2008 475 2,379 5.0 28 39 208 2 2,587 30 7 1
2009 491 2,419 4.9 18 59 491 2 2,910 20 2 6

The Panthers continue to produce elite running back numbers and since they limit it all to just the two runners - DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart - it's like there are truly two starting backs. Camp isn't going to change the roles at all which tend to favor Williams around 60/40 when he is healthy. If you do not get one, get the other. No changes here. Stewart's Achilles surgery is reported as 100% healed and he should be good to go in camp.

Chicago Bears

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 384 1,286 3.3 8 86 693 0 1,979 8 26 27
2008 396 1,542 3.9 10 82 591 5 2,133 15 21 17
2009 327 1,320 4.0 5 67 511 0 1,831 5 31 31

The Bears seemed to have improved their rushing game in 2008 when Matt Forte was force-fed 316 carries and 63 receptions. But while that resulted in some unexpected fantasy numbers overall the rushing attack was still below average. Last year was actually slightly more effective in rushing when the team finally managed to break the 4.0 yard per carry average (just barely). But Forte did not show any improvement and his role as a receiver was reduced with Jay Cutler there to actually pass to the wide receivers. Camp is worth following here since Chester Taylor has been added to the backfield and the roles of both runners will be cemented with what the coaches see in August. The addition of OC Mike Martz puts a whole new spin on the backfield since that traditionally means fewer rushes but at least above average passes thrown to the position. But Taylor is an excellent receiver so Forte is no lock to repeat his big 2008 season. Camp is a must watch for those in reception points leagues since at least one of the backs should have decent fantasy value as a receiver.

Cincinnati Bengals

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 376 1,468 3.9 10 75 535 2 2,003 12 24 17
2008 345 1,108 3.2 4 53 375 0 1,483 4 32 32
2009 452 1,868 4.1 6 61 440 0 2,308 6 11 29

The Bengals continue to be one of the worst teams for scoring with running backs but Cedric Benson finally put together a complete season with 301 carries for 1251 yards while missing three games. Bernard Scott rushed for 321 on 74 carries and proved a viable alternative to Benson when he misses time from his annual "whatever injury". No changes here this summer.

Cleveland Browns

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 396 1,766 4.5 10 69 591 4 2,357 14 9 12
2008 346 1,364 3.9 5 71 541 2 1,905 7 27 30
2009 409 1,597 3.9 6 63 396 3 1,993 9 27 26

The Browns offense in general has hit hard times and the running backs are no better with a 27th ranking in total yards for two straight years. And that only happened thanks to Jerome Harrison rolling up huge numbers for the final three weeks (more than he had in the previous three years). He ran for 561 yards on 106 carries and scored five times in those three games (KC, OAK and JAC). But no one cared. Instead the Browns used their 2.27 pick to snare Montario Hardesty out of Tennessee and going into training camp it is Hardesty who has the lead on being the primary back. There's a potential starting rookie runner here so all eyes will be watching. For the last two years, owning all of the Browns tailbacks has really made no difference outside of the freakish three game showing by Harrison against the soft spot ending 2009. Camp will be key to assign roles.

Dallas Cowboys

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 383 1,617 4.2 12 74 542 2 2,159 14 16 13
2008 362 1,626 4.5 12 77 619 3 2,245 15 17 15
2009 394 1,966 5.0 13 61 477 0 2,443 13 8 18

Despite rumors in the offseason, the trio remains intact here and the intention is to use Felix Jones more. He ended the year as the primary back and the outlook on Marion Barber continues to decline. Add in Tashard Choice to fill-in whenever and wherever needed and this backfield produces nice fantasy points, just not so much for any individual runner. Nothing is happening here this summer though we may see Choice a little more while the Cowboys keep Jones healthy with minimal preseason play. One interesting development last year was that Romo had never passed better and yet the running backs had their worst year as receivers.

Denver Broncos

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 375 1,698 4.5 9 59 423 1 2,121 10 19 21
2008 316 1,558 4.9 13 43 413 2 1,971 15 25 18
2009 405 1,729 4.3 9 63 472 2 2,201 11 15 20

This is a big alert on Knowshon Moreno who ended his rookie year with 947 rush yards, 213 receive yards and scored nine times. Moreno had to share with Correll Buckhalter on 158 touches. But Buckhalter is now 32 years old and had declining use at the end of the year while Moreno was given a full load. The Broncos did not add any runners of note so Moreno should be taking more of the load this year. That means you may see less of him in camp but no reason for alarm. Camp won't change anything here.

Detroit Lions

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 285 1,180 4.1 12 78 490 0 1,670 12 31 19
2008 321 1,225 3.8 9 68 470 1 1,695 10 31 27
2009 352 1,308 3.7 6 91 849 2 2,157 8 19 27

The Lions continue to search for a credible ground game and they have soured on Kevin Smith thanks in no small part to his health issues that include a blown ACL. The Lions drafted Jahvid Best with the #30 pick overall which is a little ironic since he missed most of his final year at CAL with a severe concussion. This training camp is one of the most important ones in fantasy football because the opinions are split as to whether the 5'10", 195 pound Best can handle a full load and be the closest thing to Barry Sanders the Lions have had. Or if he will just play a support load ala Reggie Bush. Smith underwent ACL surgery but is expected to be in camp at some point. Best was very impressive in the offseason. We all want to believe Best can be a big fantasy factor but we'll know a lot more once the pads are on.

Green Bay Packers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 342 1,534 4.5 13 95 603 0 2,137 13 18 15
2008 374 1,590 4.3 7 65 412 4 2,002 11 24 25
2009 374 1,561 4.2 15 65 513 3 2,074 18 24 12

The rushing attack here is not even average and has been less effective since Aaron Rodgers took over though the scoring as a receiver has been up. Rodgers actually does a fair amount of rushing himself (58-316, 5 TDs). Ryan Grant remains the only real option at running back but he only had 282 carries last year and 312 in 2008. The scoring is up sharply for running backs (Grant) but this is only an average attack at best and even the relatively heavy load of Grant doesn't allow him more than just average numbers. Nothing should happen of note here this summer.

Houston Texans

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 372 1,493 4.0 10 81 486 2 1,979 12 27 18
2008 385 1,705 4.4 14 76 526 1 2,231 15 18 16
2009 365 1,351 3.7 13 101 845 6 2,196 19 16 7

The Texans come off one of the worst seasons ever in terms of an effective rushing attack. At only 3.7 yards per carry, it was among the worst in the league. But the prolific passing of Matt Schaub spilled over to the tailbacks for both yards and scores via receptions. This is a backfield worth watching this summer. If they will stick with any one back for any measure, he'll have fantasy value and probably significant value in a reception points league. Arian Foster enters camp as the primary back and he ended 2009 with two starts that both were over 96 rushing yards with a touchdown or two. But Steve Slaton has been cleared for contact in training camp. He may end up as a third down back since his days as the primary ball carrier are over. But to muddy the waters more, the Texans drafted Ben Tate with their 2.26 pick and at 5'11" and 217 lbs and he could, potentially, become the primary carrier. There may not be a primary carrier by the end of the season but at least camp should help unwind this mess a bit. New OC Rick Dennison comes over from the Broncos where he mixed Correll Buckhalter (158 touches) with Knowshon Moreno (288 touches) and involved two other runners for almost 50 more touches. Doesn't bode too well for any back here to rack up a heavy load. Following camp could get you a decent value on a runner later in your draft though. With any luck, just one back will really shine in preseason games.

Indianapolis Colts

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 447 1,746 3.9 17 62 500 5 2,246 22 14 1
2008 347 1,250 3.6 12 79 615 5 1,865 17 28 13
2009 338 1,281 3.8 16 70 560 3 1,841 19 30 8

The Colts rushing game continues to languish despite being the complement to a much feared passing attack. It's been years since the team has averaged more than four yards per carry and in the last two seasons, they've only rushed about 340 times in total by the running backs. Joseph Addai was injured part of 2008 and last year still only turned in 219 carries for 828 yards. He had a career best 51 catches for 336 yards though. He was expected by some to give way to Donald Brown (78-281) but the rookie proved even more ineffective than Addai. Fortunately the team scored 19 times by the running backs and Addai's 13 total scores boosted him into the top ten for running backs in many fantasy leagues. No changes here this summer unless Donald Brown can suddenly become what he never was last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 445 2,116 4.8 17 61 568 2 2,684 19 3 4
2008 348 1,445 4.2 15 95 828 4 2,273 19 15 10
2009 357 1,617 4.5 16 74 489 1 2,106 17 23 14

What you didn't notice last year was that the Jaguars overall numbers from running backs actually decreased and their ranking fell significantly. What was once top five in both yards and scores was only 23rd in yards and barely average in scores. The rushing remained healthy enough but what happened was Fred Taylor departure merely meant a heavy shift of work to Maurice Jones-Drew but almost nothing to anyone else. The second busiest runner was Rashard Jennings with only 39 of the 45 non-MJD runs. And Jones-Drew fell back a bit to only 53 catches for 374 after turning in 62 for 565 in 2008. Jones-Drew went from 197 carries to 312 but his receptions had to suffer - and no one else picked up the slack. This year looks much the same with Rashard Jennings as the backup and the only possible chance that could change is if 6.11 pick Deji Karim can pick up work with a good camp. Karim is a bit under-sized at only 200 pounds but could win the backup job from Jennings with a good camp. The Jaguars running back attack has suffered overall with no replacement for Fred Taylor. Camp will indicate if that remains true.

Kansas City Chiefs

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 339 1,159 3.4 6 63 407 1 1,566 7 32 30
2008 311 1,382 4.4 6 59 417 1 1,799 7 29 31
2009 377 1,662 4.4 8 77 546 2 2,208 10 14 23

The Chiefs took a significant step forward with the running backs and reversed the trend of two seasons that had them at the bottom of the league. Larry Johnson was ineffective and later released but Jamaal Charles came up huge with 1120 yards on just 190 runs and 40 catches for 297 yards mostly in the second half of the season. He ended with four big yardage games and scored eight times last year. The Chiefs picked up Thomas Jones as a secondary back to help Charles make it through the season and that begs the question - "who gets how much?" All indications is that Charles remains the primary back and the 32 year-old Jones will just help out. The Chiefs want to use a run-first attack and added Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator. Despite the notion that the Patriots have always been about sharing the backfield, under Weis there were several seasons that just one back shined. Charles should remain safe in his role so camp is only to make sure all remain healthy and the new offense is installed.

Miami Dolphins

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 406 1,609 4.0 14 122 1,024 1 2,633 15 4 9
2008 409 1,748 4.3 15 89 775 4 2,523 19 9 9
2009 455 2,022 4.4 20 83 594 4 2,616 24 6 3

While this seems like a team that should be having a lot of change going on in the backfield - not so much. The Dolphins have been in the top ten in yards in touchdowns for a few years now mainly because they focus on the rushing game so much. They run so much even their own running backs have been on the decline in receptions. The team has been committed to sharing between Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown when all are healthy. But Brown had a Lis Franc injury in 2009 and needed screws in his left foot. He is a restricted free agent this year but the Fins are not moving to keep him long term. Ricky Williams is 33 this year but comes off a nice 1121 yard season thanks to Brown being out later last year. Patrick Cobbs is another back who the coaches want to see more from but he has his own durability issues. Lex Hilliard is also in the mix to a minor degree. Camp should show that Brown is healthy again and that Williams continues to be somewhat ageless. This team loves to run and use their running backs. The addition of wideout Brandon Marshall is not going to change that.

Minnesota Vikings

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 428 2,326 5.4 19 66 693 1 3,019 20 1 3
2008 464 2,159 4.7 14 83 568 2 2,727 16 4 14
2009 423 1,779 4.2 19 97 892 2 2,671 21 5 5

Adrian Peterson remains one of the elite runners in the NFL and the only change here is that Chester Taylor left and the Vikings used their 2.19 pick on Toby Gerhart out of Stanford. The Great White Hope is 237 pounds and 6'1" and is expected to take over Taylor's vacated spot. But last year that only accounted for 94 carries for 338 yards and one score with 389 more yards coming on 44 receptions. That's barely worthy of a fantasy bye week cover. Gerhart needs to learn the offense and is worth watching in camp if only because he's in a very sweet spot in the event that Peterson was ever injured.

New England Patriots

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 399 1,695 4.2 14 62 583 1 2,278 15 13 11
2008 432 1,988 4.6 19 81 743 3 2,731 22 3 6
2009 418 1,794 4.3 17 74 608 1 2,402 18 9 10

The Patriots have been decent with top ten yards and scores from their backfield but are legendary for doing it in all different ways, with different players and without any clue as to who will do what when. There were five runners with more than 30 carries for the Patriots last year and Laurence Maroney was best with only 194 runs for 757 yards. The eclectic group still contains those five runners and Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor all are over 33 years of age. Nothing in camp is going to give you any better feeling about drafting one of these runners. The job will get done and the stats will be good overall. But who and when will remain the weekly mystery. Preseason will not change anything here.

New Orleans Saints

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 366 1,442 3.9 12 147 898 3 2,340 15 11 10
2008 371 1,542 4.2 19 124 978 9 2,520 28 10 2
2009 431 1,984 4.6 19 107 781 7 2,765 26 4 1

Pierre Thomas emerged last season to be the most heavily used back during the championship run in January but Mike Bell actually ended with the most regular season carries thanks in part to an early injury to Thomas. Bell is gone and the Saints did not draft any replacements. The backfield here was very prolific, scoring 26 times in all last season and racking up almost 2800 total yards including 107 carries. Reggie Bush has been relegated to just a support role as a runner but the leader among running backs in receptions. Preseason is not going to change the roles here and Thomas is in like for more work this year.

New York Giants

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 435 2,076 4.8 14 72 518 3 2,594 17 6 7
2008 471 2,484 5.3 18 60 514 2 2,998 20 1 8
2009 413 1,729 4.2 13 46 429 2 2,158 15 18 16

This had been one of the most productive backfields for many seasons but last year the wheels fell off with injuries among every running back on the roster. Ahmad Bradshaw had surgery on both his feet and an ankle during the winter though he only missed one game. Bradshaw never had more than 14 runs in any game and was limited by his injuries for nearly the entire year. Brandon Jacobs played with a hurt knee last year and had surgery on it as well. Both players are expected to return healthy and that should help the offense but the Giants had more success passing the ball last year and won't abandon what worked in 2009. All you want to see in camp is that both runners are healthy after a nightmarish 2009 season.

New York Jets

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 381 1,472 3.9 4 64 430 1 1,902 5 29 32
2008 381 1,833 4.8 19 86 571 4 2,404 23 11 5
2009 518 2,321 4.5 16 28 199 0 2,520 16 7 15

This will be a closely watched training camp. Thomas Jones is gone and with him 331 carries for 1402 yards and 14 touchdowns. Shonn Greene took a backseat to Jones until the playoffs when he had two big games (21-135 and 23-128) with a score in each. Now Greene is the future of the franchise and sure to be the primary back on this team that had 518 carries from the backfield. But the Jets also added LaDainian Tomlinson who believes he is competing for the starting job (if no one else). They also drafted Joe McKnight with their 4.14 pick but the 5'11". 195 pound runner is unlikely to be more than a special teams player and possible change of pace back. The story of this season is in the sharing ratio between Greene and Tomlinson. Pretty much everyone not related to Tomlinson believes Greene will be the new starter and that Tomlinson will take a lesser role much like Greene had last season. Camp is worth watching to see how all three runners respond. Tomlinson needs to show he can be a bigger factor this season than most believe and McKnight needs to show up enough to warrant a late pick in a dynasty league banking on getting the #2 guy in New York no later than 2012 if not 2011.

Oakland Raiders

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 448 1,887 4.2 8 89 671 1 2,558 9 7 22
2008 429 1,775 4.1 8 74 626 1 2,401 9 12 28
2009 360 1,437 4.0 7 76 610 0 2,047 7 26 28

This should be an all new team this year. Giving up on JaMarcus Russell could have a very positive effect on all elements of the offense including the rushing game. Now that Justin Fargas is also gone, the Raiders have to rely on either Michael Bush or Darren McFadden. The intention is to replicate what works on so many other teams - Bush takes the role as the power back and primary scorer and McFadden tends more to the third down role as a receiver or edge runner. After two rather inglorious seasons, McFadden is pretty much a known quantity now and with never more than 500 rushing yards in a year and having missed three or four games injured each season, he is what he is. And that's marginal as a fantasy player. Bush is the one to watch though he'll likely not be displaying much in the preseason.

Philadelphia Eagles

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 355 1,680 4.7 12 111 919 5 2,599 17 5 6
2008 333 1,367 4.1 12 98 815 7 2,182 19 20 11
2009 301 1,278 4.2 8 80 629 3 1,907 11 29 22

The Eagles backfield has suffered declining numbers for several seasons and last year was a low point. Brian Westbrook was released due to inescapable durability issues. LeSean McCoy takes over as the starter in week one but he only had two games over 14 carries in all of 2009. McCoy is a capable receiver as well and makes for a "Westbrook-lite". The Eagles also added Mike Bell who should end up as the #2 back. But this offense has been more about the pass in recent years with Westbrook no longer effective and the loss of Donovan McNabb won't make the defenses respect the passing game any more with Kevin Kolb in there. Bell could replicate Correll Buckhalter's past with around 75 carries in a season but with barely 300 combined from the backfield, the fantasy value here is not as great other than those receptions.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 453 1,906 4.2 7 55 424 2 2,330 9 12 23
2008 409 1,549 3.8 13 51 375 1 1,924 14 26 21
2009 377 1,630 4.3 7 53 483 4 2,113 11 22 21

Rashard Mendenhall came on strong last year and made Willie Parker expendable in the offseason. But the rushing game still was below average overall and scored a paltry seven times on the ground. The Steelers have just not had the same quality rushing attack as they did for many years. Mendenhall returns as the starter but that only accounted for 242 carries for 1108 yards last year. That number may go up a bit without Parker around to siphon off carries but the Steelers are heading into a season with Ben Roethlisberger suspended for at least the first four weeks if not six weeks. The Steelers also have a brutal schedule and have released Santonio Holmes. This will be a different offense in 2010 and potentially could change a few times during the season. The only player that the Steelers added was Jonathan Dwyer with their 6.19 pick. Dwyer is the one to watch in camp to see how much work he may get in the season and if he can take anything away from Mewelde Moore.

San Diego Chargers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 440 1,987 4.5 18 83 550 4 2,537 22 8 1
2008 385 1,572 4.1 13 106 1,030 8 2,602 21 6 7
2009 385 1,360 3.5 16 97 932 7 2,292 23 12 4

This is where all eyes will be from the fantasy world. LaDainian Tomlinson has left behind an offense that has produced top ten and even top three numbers from the backfield for many years. Even last year with Tomlinson in decline still posted 23 touchdowns from the running backs. The Chargers have kept Darren Sproles as the complement and drafted Ryan Mathews with their 1.12 pick as the first back taken in April. The Fresno State star has perhaps the only clear-cut shot at a big rookie season and steps into the starter role for a team that knows how to post points. Unfortunately, Mathews has already been so hyped that if he shows up well in preseason games he'll likely to overdrafted in every league. Receiving is a major component of the running back's jobs and that could involve Sproles more than Mathews depending on how well he shows he can catch the ball.

San Francisco 49ers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 316 1,361 4.3 6 84 633 1 1,994 7 25 28
2008 335 1,320 3.9 7 79 733 3 2,053 10 22 26
2009 329 1,389 4.2 12 76 537 3 1,926 15 28 17

No changes here in one of the precious few backfields that have a workhorse type back. Gore missed all of part of three games but still had 229 rushes for 1120 yards and 10 touchdowns. Gore also turned in 53 catches for 406 yards and three more scores. Gore has little competition for the ball and the sixth-round pick of Anthony Dixon won't even unseat Glen Coffee. Nothing new here other than staying healthy which Gore has not done for the last three seasons. With the same offensive being used for 'gasp' two years in a row, Gore should be very reliable in 2010.

Seattle Seahawks

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 384 1,509 3.9 9 86 675 2 2,184 11 15 20
2008 387 1,595 4.1 10 59 453 4 2,048 14 23 20
2009 349 1,449 4.2 6 109 773 5 2,222 11 13 19

This could be a mess to figure out and even when the roles are defined, there is no certainty that they will be staying that way. With Pete Carroll taking over and bringing OC Jeremy Bates with him from USC, this will almost certainly be a committee. Julius Jones and Justin Forsett are the holdovers with Leon Washington joining the race. Seattle has a really nice rushing schedule this year as well and should produce at least decent overall numbers from their backfield. Most believe Forsett will end up as the starter but Leon Washington could really cut into the workload if his compound leg fracture has healed enough to allow him to participate in training camp and preseason games. This is all worth tracking and much remains up in the air but sadly it could end up like last year where there just wasn't any one Seattle back worthy of a fantasy start. This could be a headache to rely on but it could also produce a really nice starter by the end of the season when you need him the most.

St. Louis Rams

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 378 1,512 4.0 5 83 555 1 2,067 6 21 31
2008 382 1,518 4.0 7 83 728 1 2,246 8 16 29
2009 378 1,652 4.4 4 79 478 0 2,130 4 21 32

Ouch. The good news is that Stephen Jackson is a workhorse back. The bad news is that he is the only player that defenses care about and he has only once lasted all 16 games during his six years in the NFL. WIth a rookie starter for quarterback and the same ragtag set of receivers, Jackson gets the heavy load yet again this year. It's mostly a question of how many weeks he will miss and just how bad will they hurt your team. Jackson is the man here. But a marked man.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 468 1,883 4.0 15 130 928 2 2,811 17 2 5
2008 403 1,648 4.1 12 98 663 0 2,311 12 13 22
2009 345 1,305 3.8 5 67 485 5 1,790 10 32 25

There is no debating - this is one sad backfield. No set of runners had less total yardage than the Buccaneer backs last year. All combined they only managed ten touchdowns and five of those came via a reception. Greg Olsen is the new offensive coordinator but there is precious little here to work with. Despite the poor results of 2009, the team did nothing to find talent in the offseason. Carnell Williams returns as the starting back but last year that only meant 823 yards and four rushing scores. He doubled as a receiver with 28 catches for 217 yards and three more scores but that all combined to make for a very marginal fantasy back. But the Buccaneers are apparently happy with that level of production and changed nothing. Derrick Ward proved last year that he really is nothing more than a career backup. This is not a pretty picture here and they apparently do not care.

Tennessee Titans

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 437 1,699 3.9 14 54 355 0 2,054 14 23 14
2008 469 2,086 4.4 24 67 457 3 2,543 27 8 3
2009 431 2,281 5.3 16 65 596 2 2,877 18 3 9

Titans ended 2009 on a decent note with Chris Johnson merely becoming the sixth player to ever rush for over 2000 yards (soon to be sort of meaningless if the NFL opts for an 18 game schedule). Johnson will be playing his one year contract this year in the hopes for a major payday in 2011. With 358 carries last year, no doubt that Johnson takes at least a slightly easier workload this year. But Lendale White is gone (perhaps forever) and Javon Ringer only had eight runs as a rookie. The only interesting possible development would be if undrafted rookie LeGarrette Blount can unseat Ringer as the #2 back. This is all only interesting to the Chris Johnson owner but it is more than prudent to backup the guy taken no deeper than #2 in fantasy drafts.

Washington Redskins

  Rushing Receiving Total Rank
Year Runs Yards YPC TDs Comp Yards TDs Yards TDs Yards TDs
2007 446 1,675 3.8 14 85 680 2 2,355 16 10 8
2008 425 1,755 4.1 10 63 525 1 2,280 11 14 24
2009 338 1,260 3.7 6 85 811 4 2,071 10 25 24

It is an all new world in Washington (yet again) with new HC Mike Shanahan bringing with him new OC Kyle Shanahan (no relation... no wait that impossible). And to accompany the likely cloak and dagger approach to starters and injuries, the Redskins have added Larry Johnson and Willie Parker to Clinton Portis. They even took Ryan Torrain from free agency to rekindle the days when we thought Shanahan was going to plug him into the offense and get spectacular results. This backfield mob may not be quite as hopelessly confusing as it seems. Portis is expected to hold off Johnson and Parker and remain the starter and to be even more reasonable - Parker and Johnson were both dumped by their old teams for being ineffective. Portis may end up a nice value pick in drafts since he has a very nice schedule and should hold off the other two.

When it is all said and done, chances are best that there will be less shifting of starters than we want to believe. Only the Chargers, Jets, Texans and probably the Browns and Lions will see a new primary back. But there is going to be potential shifting of workloads on many teams and largely based on what comes out of the preseason. And running backs tend to either be good or not. They need far less development than receivers. There are always surprises as well if not an injury or two to shake things up.

Other Positions:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Wide Receivers  |  Tight Ends

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