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2010 Player Rankings: Running Backs
Updated: September 9, 2010
Top 10's:        
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Tier 1
Adrian Peterson - MIN YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 1
Keeper: 1
Auction 10: 36%
Auction 12: 40%
2007 MIN 14 1609 13 238 1341 5.6 12 19 268 1
2008 MIN 16 1885 10 363 1760 4.8 10 21 125  
2009 MIN 16 1819 18 314 1383 4.4 18 43 436  
Avg   15 1771 14 305 1495 4.9 13 28 276 0
Proj MIN   2020 15   1550   13 45 470 2

In Peterson’s three NFL seasons he’s ranked third, third, and second in fantasy scoring among running backs. He’s posted double-digit touchdowns each of the past three years, and only LaDainian Tomlinson’s 42 scores since 2007 exceed All Day’s total of 41. And you’re concerned about the fumbles? Sure, they’ve come at some brutally inopportune moments for the Vikings, but even if you were to lose two fantasy points for each of his seven miscues last year he still outscored Maurice Jones-Drew (who fumbled six times in 2008, by the way). So what if Peterson puts the ball on the ground once every 50 or so touches; he’s the focal point of an offense that will either a) draw attention away from him with the passing passing of Brett Favre (in which case he’ll put up numbers similar to last year) or b) be forced to rely on him because of their lack of talent at quarterback (in which case he’ll put up numbers similar to 2008). He was second in the league in stuffs (with 37), but third in the league in rushes of 10 or more yards (38). Again, where’s the downside here?

Peterson should also see a slight uptick in receptions as he takes over at least some of Chester Taylor’s third down work, though Percy Harvin and Toby Gerhart also factor into that mix. You could have some mild concern over Gerhart stealing the occasional goal line look, but it’s not as if the Vikings are going to totally replace AP at the stripe. After all, Peterson converted nine one-yard scores last year and had as many TDs from the 10 and in as any other back had total rushing scores. He also ranked sixth in both attempts converted into touchdowns from the three and in (59 percent) and the 10 and in (38 percent). We’ve already seen the worst-case scenario for Peterson, in which the Minnesota offense is shackled with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback and another back steals a half-dozen scores off his plate: that’s exactly what happened in 2008, and AP was still the third most productive fantasy back in the league. If that’s as bad as it gets, imagine how good the good could be.

Chris Johnson - NYJ YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 36%
Auction 12: 40%
2007                      
2008 TEN 15 1488 10 251 1228 4.9 9 43 260 1
2009 TEN 16 2509 16 358 2006 5.6 14 50 503 2
Avg   16 1999 13 305 1617 5.3 12 47 382 2
Proj NYJ   2060 14   1550   12 50 510 2

What’s not to like about a runner who ranked #1 with 358 carries, 2006 rush yards, 408 touches, 2509 total yards and was tied for #2 with 16 total touchdowns. Johnson experienced a rather successful season overall. Breaking the 2000 yard barrier for only the sixth time in NFL history alone indicates what a season it was. He was a devastating runner but did have 358 carries to get there and the team intends on somehow using him less. He was a key receiver who led his own team with 50 receptions. Johnson was “the man” last year and by such a margin that even falling a good bit still results in him being the #1 runner again. His schedule is even roughly the same strength as last year.

The Titans also did not bring in anyone to compete for carries with him so consider Javon Ringer as nothing more than whatever Johnson doesn’t want (or is allowed by coaches). But the big problem – at least potentially – is that Chris Johnson just reeled off one of the greatest rushing seasons in NFL history and yet is slated to earn only $550,000. That is maybe a tenth or even less of what he should be making. The projections are assuming that he does either sign or agree to play the season out with gusto but could change depending on Johnson. It is going to be a worry to anyone holding the first pick in their fantasy draft until Johnson's situation is resolved.

Maurice Jones-Drew - OAK YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 35%
Auction 12: 38%
2007 JAC 15 1175 9 167 768 4.6 9 40 407  
2008 JAC 16 1389 14 197 824 4.2 12 62 565 2
2009 JAC 16 1765 16 312 1391 4.5 15 53 374 1
Avg   16 1443 13 225 994 4.4 12 52 449 1
Proj OAK   1770 16   1420   15 48 350 1

Jones-Drew only ranked 5th in the league with 312 carries and 1391 rush yards but he was tied for second with 16 overall touchdowns and his 1765 yards from scrimmage was fourth best. Jones-Drew was one of the first backs drafted last summer in every league and he rewarded his owner for the pick. Jones made the most of his first season as the unquestioned starter and increased his workload from around 195 carries in 2008 up to 383 carries for 1391 yards last year. His role as a receiver remained static with a typical 53 catches for 374 yards and one more touchdown.

Jones-Drew is only 25 years old and now entering the absolute prime of his career. Consider him as the focus of the Jaguars offense again this season since they added no new players of note to the offense.

Tier 2
Ray Rice - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 30%
Auction 12: 32%
2007                      
2008 BAL 13 727   107 454 4.2   33 273  
2009 BAL 16 2041 8 254 1339 5.3 7 78 702 1
Avg   15 1384 4 181 897 4.8 4 56 488 1
Proj FA*   1880 11   1400   9 60 480 2

The Ravens were 4th best in the NFL with 2080 rush yards by running backs and were #1 in the NFL among all running backs with 21 rushing touchdowns, 151 catches for 932 yards and overall produced 3012 total yards. That was largely due to the breakout season of Rice who ranked 6th in touches (332) and second in total yards (2041) and #1 with 78 receptions – 15 more than any other running back. But Rice averaged 5.3 yards on his 254 carries and only had three games with more than 20 carries. Rice was a delight in reception point leagues where he became a top back. He only scored seven rushing touchdown thanks to McGahee supplying a goal line role but 702 yards and another score via receptions thrusts Rice into the elite fantasy back status.

Rice has a bad rushing schedule as he did last year and that is one reason for all the receptions. The addition of Anquan Boldin should cut into Rice’s catches but regardless, Rice is a consistent fantasy scorer and a dual threat.

Frank Gore - SFO YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 4
Auction 10: 30%
Auction 12: 32%
2007 SFO 15 1538 6 260 1102 4.2 5 53 436 1
2008 SFO 14 1409 8 240 1036 4.3 6 43 373 2
2009 SFO 14 1526 13 229 1120 4.9 10 52 406 3
Avg   14 1491 9 243 1086 4.5 7 49 405 2
Proj SFO   1720 13   1320   12 45 400 1

(+Upside) Gore comes off one of his better seasons when he gained 1120 yards on 229 carries and scored a career best ten rushing touchdowns. He also added 52 receptions for 406 yards and three more scores. Gore has averaged 52 catches per year over the last four seasons. He struggled with a poked eye and a injured toe that limited him to four games but at least Gore gets nearly all the carries that are available. The 49ers ranked 29th in rushing attempts by running backs (329) and Gore had 229 in 14 games. The 49ers did not add any players to directly compete or share with Gore, so he should have a big workload once again figuring in his role as a receiver as well.

Gore is going high in most drafts and appropriately so. He is a risk to miss a few games since he had only once managed the full 16 but he has never played less than 14 games. He is the rare back who gets all the action from first down to goal line and figures in prominently as a receiver. Throw in a softer schedule than most and Gore makes a fine pick in your draft.

DeAngelo Williams - CAR YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 28%
Auction 12: 30%
2007 CAR 16 892 5 144 717 5.0 4 23 175 1
2008 CAR 16 1636 20 273 1515 5.5 18 22 121 2
2009 CAR 13 1369 7 216 1117 5.2 7 29 252  
Avg   15 1299 11 211 1116 5.2 10 25 183 1
Proj CAR   1510 14   1270   13 28 240 1

Williams enters the final year of his rookie contract and he’s been caught by the 30% rule and will play out the season at roughly $2.1 million which is rather underpaid for a starter. Williams underwent ankle surgery back in February and was hampered later in the season with that and foot injuries. He ended the season with 216 carries for 1117 yards and seven scores and still had a 5.2 yard average. He also added 29 catches for 252 yards. It was a decent showing but far less than the 1515 yards and 18 touchdowns of 2008.

Williams will go against a slightly lighter schedule in 2010 with only a week 16 game in Pittsburgh as a fantasy problem. The emergence of Jonathan Stewart has now prompted the Panthers to use the duo at a 1:1 ratio unlike 2008 when Stewart had 184 carries to 273 for Williams. And Stewart has been nursing a bad foot for two years now. Expect a bounceback year from Williams but the sharing with Stewart will prevent any big stats. This is a running team and will rack up the points. Both Williams and Stewart have fantasy value as starters, but either would become a top stud if the other is injured. Williams is okay with sharing but this is a contract year for him – expect him to play for a much bigger and more fair contract.

Michael Turner - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 8
Auction 10: 24%
Auction 12: 26%
2007 ATL 16 332 1 71 316 4.5 1 4 16  
2008 ATL 16 1740 17 376 1699 4.5 17 6 41  
2009 ATL 11 906 10 178 871 4.9 10 5 35  
Avg   14 993 9 208 962 4.6 9 5 31 0
Proj FA   1350 15   1300   14 8 50 1

Turner has reported as 100% healthy this spring after suffering a high ankle sprain and other dings that made him miss five games and limited him in others last season. After a breakout year of 1699 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2008, Turner dropped to just 871 yards and ten scores last year. Turner admitted to not keeping up with his conditioning in the offseason after running the ball 376 times the previous year. He has also dropped some weight and should be much better prepared to withstand the rigors of the season.

That all said, the coaches want to limit Turner’s carries this year and he is okay with it. Jason Snelling was effective as a replacement and will be worked into the mix along with Jerious Norwood in the hopes that Turner remains at 300 carries or less this year. Turner also has almost no role as a receiver with just 11 catches over two years. Turner will not gain as much yardage as he did in 2008 but he should bounce back from his disastrous 2009 season and he remains a tremendous goal line weapon playing in a somewhat easier schedule this year.

Ryan Grant - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 11
Auction 10: 24%
Auction 12: 24%
2007 GBP 15 1101 8 188 956 5.1 8 30 145  
2008 GBP 16 1319 5 312 1203 3.9 4 18 116 1
2009 GBP 16 1450 11 282 1253 4.4 11 25 197  
Avg   16 1290 8 261 1137 4.5 8 24 153 0
Proj FA   1450 13   1200   11 33 250 2

When you start listing your top 10 fantasy running backs, it may take you a while to get to Grant. Sure, he’s been a solid fantasy RB2 since taking over for Ahman Green, but... Top 10? So you may be surprised to learn that Grant’s numbers in 2009 ranked him firmly in eighth place among fantasy backs, ahead of Steve Jackson, De Angelo Williams, Jamaal Charles, LaDainian Tomlinson... you get the picture. Fluke, right? After clocking in at #22 in 2007 and #17 in 2008, Grant’s lofty perch came only because everybody else got hurt or something.

But aside from Grant’s TD drought in 2008, his numbers have stayed remarkably consistent; in fact, his yardage per game has been on a steady incline from 73 in ’07 to 82 in ’08 to 90 last year. And it’s not as if Brandon Jackson or sixth- round pick James Starks are threatening to reduce Grant’s workload, which was actually down a little more than one touch per game from the previous year. So: unchallenged feature back with steady touches on a dynamic offense with an elite passing game and an improving line; where’s the downside again?

Rashard Mendenhall - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 10
Auction 10: 20%
Auction 12: 24%
2007                      
2008 PIT 4 75   19 58 3.1   2 17  
2009 PIT 16 1369 8 242 1108 4.6 7 25 261 1
Avg   10 722 4 131 583 3.9 4 14 139 1
Proj FA   1580 10   1310   9 24 270 1

Mendenhall became the full-time back starting in week four of last year and ended with 242 carries for 1108 yards and seven touchdowns for a healthy 4.6 yard rushing average. He also added 261 yards and a score on 25 receptions. Oddly enough, he only had three games where he exceeded 100 rushing yards and each were against AFC West opponents he will not meet this year. Mendenhall will have more carries this year but may not be as productive with each one as in 2009. Only two of his eight total touchdowns came against a team he will face again this year. With Roethlisberger out for at least the initial month, no doubt Mendenhall is used more than last season.

Some will look for Mendenhall to have a dramatically better 2010 season and that may be tough given the more challenging schedule this year. But Mendenhall enters his third NFL season at only the age of 23 so he has plenty of room for development and has already become the main threat in the offense. His upside will spawn optimism but regardless he performs well enough to merit a fantasy start in any case.

Steven Jackson - ATL YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 18%
Auction 12: 20%
2007 STL 12 1273 6 237 1002 4.2 5 38 271 1
2008 STL 12 1421 8 253 1042 4.1 7 40 379 1
2009 STL 15 1738 4 324 1416 4.4 4 51 322  
Avg   13 1477 6 271 1153 4.2 5 43 324 1
Proj ATL   1830 5   1380   4 45 450 1

(-Risk) (+Upside) Jackson was supposed to spend the offseason just relaxing his back but when it continued to be a problem, he underwent surgery that relieved the pain and discomfort from his disc area. The Rams also revealed that Jackson has been battling back issues for several seasons now but hopefully this will cure his bulging disc. He is confident that he will be ready for training camp and enters the season in better shape than last year.

Jackson is now three years removed from his last 16 game season though but has played in pain constantly. He has rushed for over 1000 yards in each of the last five years and actually comes off his second best season. In 2009, Jackson rushed for 1416 yards and added 51 catches for 322 yards but only scored four times. The plus to this year is that Jackson gets a very soft rushing schedule and should be healthier if the surgery proves successful. But he also will play with a rookie quarterback and very young wideouts so the Rams as a whole should continue to struggle. The Rams will lean heavily on him but so far Jackson has never held up for every game. He has upside with that schedule and the surgery but he’s also always a risk.

08-10-10 Update: Gets a bump up because he is still coming along in his recovery from offseason back surgery and he has a tremendous schedule. But - his line is questionable as is the rest of the offense and Jackson is always a health risk.

   
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