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2003 Player Rankings: Running Backs
Updated: September 2, 2003
 
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<< THE TOP OF THE RB RANKINGS

TIER 6 - The Haystack  NFL   Bye   Upside   Risk     Ht     Wt   Age   Exp     Auction % 
  46 Chapman, Doug MIN 6   5-10 213 24 3   2
  Added 7/9/03 - With the foot injury to Bennett now casting doubts that he can play all season, or even possibly at all this season, his backups enter into training camp with a whole new light shining on them. Chapman has not met his expected promise yet since being selected in the third round of the 2000 draft. In three seasons, Chapman only has 284 yards rushing on 75 carries. Raised 79th to 41st (7/28/03) -Chapman starts out training camp as the #1 RB and will be the replacement for Michael Bennett unless the rookie Onterrio Smith can pull off a camp. Chapman rises in the rankings but most likely will fall again if Onterrio Smith can deliver on his potential. Lowered 41st to 46th (08/04/03) -Chapman now has a hamstring pull and is missing practice. In the meantime, the RB picture in MIN is only getting more muddied and while Chapman still has a shot, it is no longer as favorable.
  47 Davenport, Najeh GB 8   6-1 247 24 1   2
  Davenport really only played in two games last season and both were against Detroit. In week three he had 26 touches for 115 yards and in week 10 he had 73 yards on only ten carries. He became lost for the season when he broke a bone in his eye socket. In limited play he was effective and impressed. With Ahman Green suffering a mild concussion, bruised kneecap and strained quadricep last season, the current plan is to make greater use of Davenport to rest Green so that he may make it through the season healthier. More playing time is more points and Davenport posted some nice runs last season in his two games. Update 7/28/03 - Davenport has looked very impressive in camp so far and could be used more to spell Green.
  48 Fargas, Justin OAK 8   6-1 219 23 R   2
  Huggy Bear Jr. could prove to be a shrewd draft selection by the Raiders when they used their 3.32 pick in April. Fargas has ran a sub-4.4 and could become a replacement for the aging Charlie Garner down the road. It is just not likely this season. His downside is that he was injured several times in college and changed school from Michigan to USC, losing playing time and not recording the sort of extended play needed to fully evaluate him. He impressed at both the Senior Bowl and the combine. He fell in the draft because he had four leg surgeries since 1998 and was considered a medical risk. Update (08/11/03) - Fargas rises in light of his nice 17 carry, 72 yard performance against the Rams on Saturday. Fargas will likely remain buried behind Garner in the depth charts this season but is looking more favorable if Garner is hurt or for future years in keeper leagues. Update (08/15/03) - While he does play in the second half against scrubs, Fargas looked fantastic against the 49ers and gained 126 yards on 18 carries in less than a half of play. He is still a backup behind Garner and Wheatley, but there is no denying that Fargas has talent and plays at a speed and with a burst that no other rookie runners have shown yet. This is still a gamble pick that may not get any playing time, but if the opportunity exists during the season, it is hard to imagine he would not get some playing time. He was quite impressive.
  49 Toefield, LaBrandon JAX 7 5-11 231 22 R   2
  Toefield was selected with the 4.35 pick in the 2003 draft by the Jaguars. While he has good size and strength, he only ran a 4.65/40 at the combine. His biggest attractions are that he plays behind Fred Taylor who gets hurt often and Elvis Joseph was a step down from Mack in 2001. With Mack gone, the Jaguars will be needing a backup for Fred and a probable short yardage guy as well. For now Toefield has upside to him. He was very productive at LSU. At least he was ... when he was not... injured. He is another with durability concerns which is why he dropped in the draft. Update (08/18/03) - Toefield gets bumped up given the injury problems that Fred Taylor already has had this summer. He will still have to contend with Elvis Joseph as being Taylor's backup, but Joseph is nothing special and Toefield has not yet proven that he isn't either. If something good happens for Taylor's backup this season, it will be with Toefield or it just will not happen for any player.
  50 Morris, Maurice SEA 4     5-11 202 23 1   2
  Morris has value as the backup in Seattle where the offense is improving and he has gained favor with the coaching staff. Behind Shaun Alexander, his role will be the occasional resting of the lead back. Morris was hampered both in training camp and later in the year with hamstring problems. Update (08/18/03) - Morris has been so impressive in camp that the coaching staff is trying to devise ways to get him on the field more. He is already the kick returner and third down back. If you own Shaun Alexander, Morris is a must have.
51 Johnson, Larry KC 9   6-1 228 23 R   2
  Johnson was the second RB selected in the draft this year and the first one that could actually play in week one. The Chiefs used their 1.27 pick on the Penn State Senior classman. Johnson was not impressive initially in mini-camp but it is still far too early to ding him for that. Johnson has great size and power and is considered to be a great passing option. Johnson rushed for 2087 yards last season with 20 TD's, setting the yardage record for the Big Ten Conference. He averaged 167 yards per game and led the nation in rushing. Mini-camp aside, Johnson has tremendous upside and hopes to backup Priest Holmes if he is healthy. If Holmes is not, then Johnson is likely to rise in the rankings significantly unless Vermiel continues to suggest that he is not happy with the available runningbacks. Without Priest, either Johnson steps up and becomes a stud or there will be no great back in KC this season. Update (08/18/03) - With Priest Holmes looking healthy again and Johnson yet to impress, there is a chance that he will be replaced by Derrick Blaylock. Even if Holmes does hold out on a contract (unlikely), there is no guarantee that Johnson will provide numbers as a starting fantasy RB.  Update (08/26/03) - Coming off an impressive preseason game which included an 86-yard touchdown kickoff return, Johnson finally looked like the first round rusher he was supposed to be. Move him back up.
  52 Anderson, Mike DEN 10   6-0 230 29 3   2
  Any backup RB that has ran for 1500 yards and 15 touchdowns in his only full starting season is a guy worth having. The absence of Olandis Gary makes his role even clearer. In deeper leagues, Portis owners need this insurance.
  53 Wheatley, Tyrone OAK 8   6-0 235 31 8   2
  With the emergence of the pass happy offense in Oakland, Wheatley's return from an injury shortened 2001 season provided little fanfare. Wheatley only managed 490 yards and two touchdowns on the season and he battled a hamstring problem for much of the year. Wheatley is more likely to fall from this ranking than to rise and at the age of 31 and considering his injury background, he is a risk to do this well in 2002. In his favor, the Raiders resigned him last March and intend to use him.
  54 Jones, Thomas TB 4     5-10 220 24 3   2
  For those that now miss the chance to draft Curtis Enis, Jones has now gone to the Buccaneers where a need opened up once Michael Pittman played tag with his wife using his Hummer. On the plus side, Jones is only 24 years old and had a great college career that took him a few seasons to get started. On the negative, he has been neither durable, productive or benefit to any offense. In three seasons, he has never averaged more than 3.7 yards per carry, started more than nine games or gained more than 511 yards rushing. Hope springs eternal but a misfire can spring a leak in your boat. Update (08/26/03) - Jones has been the most impressive running back in camp that does not have potential incarceration hanging over him.
  55 Bennett, Michael MIN 6   5-9 211 24 2   2
  Bennett doubled his 2001 production and ended 2002 with 1647 total yards and six touchdowns. He could have had 11 more scores were it not for Moe Williams. While his rookie year was frustrating, much of that was because they were not using him well. Bennett is wicked fast and has ran a 4.35/40 before. In 2001, the Vikings tried to get him outside to take advantage of his speed but all it meant was that Bennett could get tackled near the sideline faster than anyone. In 2002, Kleinsasser was moved back to two tight end sets and with the occasional lane to exploit, Bennett had runs that included 85, 78 and 62 yard touchdowns. Over the final 13 games of the season, he averaged 115 yards per game. Bennett still has room to grow but the valid concern is that Williams continues to hawk his short touchdowns and leaves Bennett mostly a yardage guy with the touchdown every other game or less. Dropped (7/9/03) - ESPN reported today that Bennett's off-season foot surgery has not healed and that he will miss at least part of training camp and could miss up to and including the entire season depending on how his foot responds to treatment. Based on this revelation, he drops back and awaits further word on his recovery. Taking Bennett right now would be a risk ploy that could pay off well or could get you nothing.  Dropped (7/28/03) - With the news that it will not be until mid-August when an assessment can be as to whether Bennett will return mid-season or miss the 2003 year, It is more prudent to move him away from starters area and down into more risk plays. In this case, the risk play might net you a very nice RB for the playoffs but also may gain you nothing.
  56 Westbrook, Brian PHI 3     5-8 200 23 1   2
  Though Westbrook looked impressive in training camp last season, he never scored last year and was only good for a few carries a game in an offensive system that likes diversity. The return of Buckhalter makes Westbrook even more unlikely to make a difference. Raised (08/04/03) - With the prolonged holdout of Staley, Westbrook is receiving more practice time and will figure in more heavily this season if Staley holdouts or reports so late that Reid benches him but in the best case scenario for him, he will not be used to the level of Staley last season and would primarily receive third down duty.
57 Joyce, Delvin NYG 4     5-7 195 25 2   2
  Joyce was named the #2 runningback for the Giants in a move that surprised even Joyce.
  58 Hollings, Tony HOU 5     5-10 216 22 R   2
  Hollings is added to the rankings even though Jonathan Wells is officially ahead of him on the depthchart as a backup to Stacey Mack. But Wells has already shown that he is injury prone and likely nothing more than an average running back on a good day. Hollings is still recuperating from an ACL tear during the early season in college last year. This deeply in the rankings you are looking for a homerun sleeper and Hollings probably is not it - at least not this season. But as a college star (even for the brief stretch he was an RB last year), he is an unknown quality and the Texans are spending next year's second pick on him. He is a worthy "shot guy".
  59 Betts, Ladell WAS 8 5-10 221 23 1   2
  While Betts had only three games with any appreciable carries, he had a 5.8 yard rushing average in his final two games of 116 and 98 yards. He broke off runs of 23 and 27 yards as well and looked good during those final two games of 2002 when Spurrier was auditioning 2003 players. While both Betts and Watson have ran well, Betts had less play last season and is lesser known. But Betts was a four year starter at Iowa and the only runner to lead the Hawkeyes for four consecutive years. He is a very good, all-purpose runner and was a good receiver in college as well. Betts is the most versatile of the three backs in Washington and yet not spectacular in any one area. He is a definite watch this summer. Update (08/18/03) - Betts has missed practices the last couple of weeks due to injury and has fallen to a definite #3 on the depth charts behind Kenny Watson and Trung Canidate. He is in no danger of being cut and still could do something this year but right now is behind and needs to make up ground to join in what is already shaping up to be a running back by committee situation.
  60 Stecker, Aaron TB 4 5-10 205 27 3   2
  Stecker's name now pops up with Pittman looking shaky this season and is worth the risk at this point in a draft. He is a big risk since he has never had more than five carries in an NFL game but he did average 6.2 yards a carry last season. Stecker has upside in the sense he is not proven yet and the opportunity appears present. His risk is the same lack of track record and his smaller frame. Lowered (08/15/03) - With all the ever-changing roles in the TB backfield, Stecker appears to once again be relegated to an afterthought.Update (08/26/03) - With Thomas Jones looking better and Pittman still not in stripes, Stecker's stock falls.
  61 Derrick Blaylock KC 9     5-9 205 24 3   2
  Blaylock has been the most impressive runner besides Priest Holmes in Kansas City and is the first backup behind Priest Holmes. Update (08/26/03) - As rises Larry Johnson, so falleth Derrick Blaylock
  62 Mungro, James IND 7   5-9 214 25 1   2
  Being the backup to Edgerrin James has been rather lucrative the past two seasons and while James battled through the season in 2002, Mungro happily stepped in and took eight short touchdowns away from James. In the one game of full-time duty in week 20, Mungro gained 114 yards rushing and two touchdowns in Philadelphia. He is a must have if you own James and a fun to steal if you have the roster room. If you do take Mungro, make sure that Rhodes is not the backup over him.  Update (08/20/03) - The Colts backup RB situation is a mess, with literally every RB injured to some extent except for Mike Green (who is actually more a FB) and a smattering of no name players sure to be cut. All things being equal, Dominic Rhodes is the perfect size and talent for the job but he has been unable to shake knee and shoulder injuries. That primarily leaves Mungro as the next best, but he too has been beset by injury and is a bit smaller than ideal for the role anyway. Mungro drops due to the uncertainty at the position and while he is probably the better bet, none of them are safe bets.
  63 Anderson, Richie DAL 3     6-2 230 31 10   2
  The good news is that Anderson is a sleeper this year. Parcells has indicated that he might reprise the pass catching role that Anderson performed in New York. The bad news is that the high side out of all that is likely about 30 or 40 yards a game with the occasional touchdown. Just enough to lessen the value of others and not improve his stock enough to make a difference for you.
  64 Minor, Travis MIA 4     5-10 205 23 2   2
  Though shifty and fast, Minor was removed from the passing equation last season and never caught anything. He did average 4.1 yards a carry on his meager 44 attempts in relief of Williams. Look for a similar use this season and if Williams goes down, Minor is not big enough to completely fill in for Ricky.
  65 Brown, Chris TEN 9   6-3 220 22 R   2
  The Titans used their 3.29 pick to acquire the fourth overall RB drafted in 2003. A standout at Colorado, the interesting take on this pick is that Brown was the one player in the 2003 draft that most resembled Eddie George in size and rushing style. A severely bruised sternum hampered him last year but Brown has turned in monster games against big time opponents. He set a school record by carrying the ball 124 consecutive times while gaining positive yardage. In his 190 carries at Colorado, he only lost yards four times. Some players manage that in one series. There is a slight knock on Brown for being careless with the football but otherwise he appears ready to wait for Eddie George to be injured to get a shot. Unfortunately, that may take more than this season.
  66 Morton, Chad WAS 8     5-8 186 26 3   2
  Morton was primarily acquired for his ability to return kicks but could figure into the rushing game if RBBC develops.
  67 Richardson, Tony KC 9   6-1 232 31 8   2
  Recent word from HC Dick Vermiel was that if Priest Holmes was unable to play in week one of the season, right now Richardson would be the starter. This is one of the more interesting dramas happening this summer and will not be over until Holmes is definitively proven to be healthy or not this season.
  68 Wells, Jonathan HOU 5     6-1 243 23 1   2
  Wells is the all-time leading rusher in the history of the Texans with his 529 yards, three touchdown rookie season of 2002. He's got great size and power but last year was unable to capitalize thanks to the many line injuries that rendered the Texans running game almost futile all season. Heading into their second season, the Texans still have never witnessed a 100 yard rushing effort from their own back. With Stacey Mack brought in, Wells will take a back seat but most likely will be the backup over James Allen. HC Dom Capers has not ruled out an RBBC using Mack for scores and short yardage. The Texans have made rushing a priority this season but that alone hardly translates into fantasy significance even if Mack was hurt and Wells became the starter. Update (08/18/03) - Wells is not helping his case in Houston so far this summer and could be in jeopardy if sliding down the depth charts. Since he is not likely to become a breakthrough sleeper for your fantasy team, he deserves the big drop.
  69 Taylor, Chester BAL 5     5-11 213 23 1   2
  Last season, Taylor backed up Jamal Lewis which meant about two carries a game and he did catch two touchdowns in his 14 receptions. His limited appeal is hurt with the drafting of Musa Smith and training camp will decide where the two fall on the depth charts.
  70 Cason, Aveion DAL 3     5-10 204 25 1   2
  Cason falls into the same group as Michael Wiley. If the Cowboys turn to RBBC, he could get some playing time and already knows OC Maurice Carthon from Detroit last season.
  71 Smith, Musa BAL 5   6-0 230 21 R   2
  Smith was drafted as the third overall RB, taken by the Ravens with their 3.13 pick. Leaving Georgia as only a junior, he had but one full season without injuries when he gained 1324 rushing yards this year Smith has great size and decent speed and could develop into a full time back if Lewis is injured. With Chester Taylor, will battle this summer for the backup spot.
  72 Griffin, Quentin DEN 10     5-7 195 22 R   2
  Taken with the 4.11 pick by Denver in the 2003 draft, Griffin likely joins the bench watching Portis run. Griffin is a stereotypical college back that is wildly productive and exciting to watch. Fast, shifty and with good hands, he is exactly what every coach wants. At least in college. In the NFL, being 5'7" and weighing 195 pounds normally means third down duty and in Denver, it may not mean that much. Dropped 71st to 77th (07/28/03)- Griffin broke his leg and will likely miss the entire training camp. He had looked impressive in mini-camp but this set-back makes him have value only later in the season if Portis is injured.
  73 Avon Cobourne DET 6     5-8 195 22 R   2
  With the loss of James Stewart several weeks before it was expected, Cobourne has an outside shot at playing time now along with Shawn Bryson. Cobourne was an undrafted rookie which has shown good speed though is a little too light for every down duty.
  74 McGahee, Willis BUF 9 6-0 223 21 R   2
  McGahee is the pick you secretly want to make but do not want to admit it. The consensus #1 RB in the draft experienced a devastating knee injury in the National Championship game last year but was drafted anyway due to his potential and reported quick healing. Smart money right now says he will be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list at the end of the summer which allows the Bills a chance in week 14 to either activate him for the rest of the season or place him on Injured Reserve, ending his season. The likelihood that McGahee plays this season is very small and his value lies mainly with risk takers in keeper leagues.
  75 Davis, Domanick HOU 5     5-9 213 22 R   2
  Houston used their 4.04 to take this LSU product who is considered to be a good pass receiver in addition to being a decent runner. Davis will likely see some time on special teams but could eventually work into a third down role.
  78 Fisher, Tony GB 8     6-1 222 23 1   2
  Fisher stepped in when Davenport went out last season and Green was ailing and gained over 100 total yards in both weeks 13 and 14 when he was called to full-time duty. He also scored once in each game. While the plan is to mix in Davenport with Green and leave Fisher on the bench, he proved a valuable addition in the event he is needed.
  80 Bennett, Brandon CIN 6     5-11 220 30 4   2
  Bennett has been effective in limited relief of Corey Dillon, but he is 30 years old and Dillon rarely gets hurt. No need to rush for him unless Dillon goes down.
  81 Fenderson, James NO 10     5-9 200 26 1   2
  Fenderson is a good pick for McAllister owners, but only in a deeper league as James is not very big and unlikely to provide more than a noticeable step down should McAllister miss time.
  NR Stewart, James DET 6 6-1 224 31 8   12
  There was no guarantee that the Lions were even going to keep Stewart last year but after deciding to retain him, Stewart was the starter for 10 games in 2002 and gained a total of 1057 yards and four scores. Not exactly the stuff of legends. Stewart was hampered much of the season by an early knee sprain and a later neck stinger and at the age of 31, it is hard to imagine him to play in perfect health all season. In his favor, Stewart has already gained the admiration of new HC Steve Mariucci who already had success recycling Charlie Garner and Garrison Hearst. Detroit has a fairly good rushing schedule and Stewart can figure into the passing game as well. He may be 31 years old and has been in the league the same 8 seasons as Curtis Martin, but at least he has only 1478 carries to Martin's 2604 as a benchmark. Still, his risk in a new offense and at his age cannot be overlooked. Update (08/29/03) - Stewart is now out indefinitely with a separated shoulder he suffered in the final preseason game. He apparently leaves no heirs and the state will have to attend to his belongings. If you are going to draft this weekend, and you should be glad you waited too, forget Stewart since it is not known exactly how long he will be out and as an injury-prone player already, Stewart losing it in the preseason is just a bad sign. Watch for him on the waiver wire during the season if he heals quickly enough but be realistic about your expectations even then.  Update (08/31/03) -Stewart's shoulder had no structural damage and requires no surgery. He is considered "week to week" but could miss up to a month. While he can make it back into the lineup this season and will contribute, there is no telling how long he will be back before getting injured again. Be wary and only take Stewart as a #4 RB or deeper. He is too risky to consider a starter and might not even work out as a bye week filler. Update (09/02/03) - Stewart has now been placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
  NR Levens, Dorsey NYG 4     6-1 230 33 9   2
  Levens was brought in as a probable replacement for Ron Dayne (who is still there) and in the best case scenario, Levens will get the same six carries a game he had last year in Philadelphia. Levens best days are behind him and his value is as a veteran who can step in when needed and pick up a few yards. The Giants had better success last season using Barber more and Dayne less and there is no reason to believe that will change with Levens there. Update (09/01/03) - Levens was demoted to #3 when Delvin Joyce became the #2 RB.
  NR Joseph, Elvis JAX 7     6-1 219 24 2   2
  Joseph sat on the bench all last season while Mack helped out Taylor. The Jaguars drafted Toefield to add as a backup and Joseph's best chance to play is an injury to Taylor and the rookie Toefield not getting the job done. Update (08/31/03) - Joseph was cut by the Jaguars.
  NR Murrell, Adrian DAL 3     5-11 210 32 9   2
  Murrell scored a touchdown tonight against the Steelers and while he is not likely to do anything of fantasy significance, he needs to be accounted for here. Update (08/31/03) - Murrell was dropped by the Cowboys.
  NR Julien, Jamar KC 9     5-11 240 23 1   2
  In the mess that has become the RB squad in Kansas City, Vermiel singled out Julien as impressive in mini-camp. Most likely he will fall from this spot. Update (08/31/03) - Dropped by the Chiefs today.
  NR Brown, Dee CAR 3     5-10 209 25 2   2
  It would not be out of character for Stephen Davis to miss a game or two due to injury and Brown is first in line. He only gained 3.5 yards per carry last season on his 102 attempts but scored five times. Update (08/31/03) - Brown was released by the Panthers.
  NR Watson, Kenny WAS 8 5-11 214 25 1   2
  Watson played in almost every game last season even though the more highly drafted rookie Betts was at times not even activated. This was primarily because Watson also played special teams and freed up a roster spot so that Washington could bring yet another crappy receiver or quarterback to the game. In the four games that Davis missed, Watson gained 407 yards and scored once. Watson broke 100 yards rushing against the Seahawks and Texans, but then again - who didn't? Watson was a good fill-in for Davis and had a nice average carry. He must be considered to still be in the mix even with the addition of Canidate to the roster. Update (08/31/03) -HC Steve Spurrier indicated that Watson would be released today and that undrafted rookie Sultan McCullough would make the team. Watson could be picked up by another team, but it would be in the capacity as just a backup RB.
  NR Pinner, Artose DET 6     5-9 227 25 R   2
  Selected with the 4.02 pick in the 2003 draft, Pinner will battle for the backup spot to James Stewart this season. Pinner led the SEC in rushing last season with 1414 yards for Kentucky and also had 13 rushing scores. He can catch well and was considered underrated by many in the draft. The knock on Pinner is that he is only 5'9" which can be a problem if he is expected to run any routes and be seen by the quarterback. He also runs a 4.6/40 though he wisely declined the the workout at the combine. He is a punishing runner, but does not have a lot of moves and is not considered to be explosive or particularly quick. In a season seemingly devoid of rookie standouts, Pinner has a shot at some playing time but his size and speed make him closer to a short fullback than an all-purpose runningback. Pinner suffered from a broken fibula and torn ligament in the Senior Bowl and may not be healed in time for training camp. The Lions envision Pinner as an eventual contributor in the offense but he will be best suited for sharing the rushing load with another back that has the speed and receiving abilities that Pinner lacks. Pinner will likely be placed on the PUP list which would make him inactive until week 10.
  NR Wiley, Michael DAL 3     5-11 203 25 3   2
  With Hambrick still a relative unknown, Michael Wiley gains value as one of the few players that Parcells can turn to in the event Hambrick is hurt or is unimpressive. In very abbreviated play, he has had impressive moments, gaining ten or more yards on five of his 22 carries last year but due to his size he is better suited for third down duty and the one or two carries a game. If Parcells uses RBBC, Wiley will get playing time but he is better suited for a more open attack that what Parcells traditionally employs.Update (08/26/03) - Parcells does not like players who do not heal quickly
  NR Redmond, J.R. NE 10     5-11 215 25 3   2
  Redmond is only 25 and a better size than Kevin Faulk but only had four carries last season. His career season was 2000 when as a rookie he proved incapable of gaining more than about three yards a carry. He may get some additional carries this season, but there is no reason to expect them to matter. Update (08/24/03) - Redmond was cut by the Patriots today.

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