As we approach another season of Fantasy Football filled with glorious wins and crushing defeats, along with that one missed field goal, that plea for just one more touchdown, or that one player sitting on the bench that would have made the difference. If you play the game you understand the rhetoric, and not you soon will come to believe. So getting started researching players and their all around potential is pivotal in your quest for fantasy glory.
Running backs are usually the best place to begin in most leagues, depending on the varying formats, so let’s take a look at who stands atop the speculative mountain.
1 – Arian Foster – Foster missed 3 games last season, 4 if you count Week 2 where he reinjured himself, and still put up over 1,800 total yards and 12 TDs. He has solidified himself as the top fantasy running back and should easily be the first pick off the boards.
Point: The Texans are a run first team and Foster will serve as their main point of attack and a safe 1st overall pick.
Counterpoint – The emergence of Ben Tate last season could cut into some of Foster’s carries, though he will mainly serve to spell Foster during games.
2 – LeSean McCoy – He was a monster last season as he established himself as an elite fantasy RB. McCoy also scored a TD in 14 of his 15 games. He will be a threat to score whenever he touches the ball and has shown to be one of the better pass receiving RBs in the league.
Point – McCoy will produce in every game, if the defense stifles the run he can put up receiving numbers and vice versa.
Counterpoint – The Eagles offense had issues last season and there are reasons to doubt the offensive line.
3 – Ray Rice – With the Ravens no longer having Ricky Williams and having 3rd round pick Bernard Pierce currently serving as the back up, the feature back job now appears to belong solely to Ray Rice making him a solid pick. The Ravens showed a willingness last season to use Rice on the goal line and he responded with a career best 12 TDs on the ground. With Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach clearing the way, Rice should be in line for a solid follow up to last season.
Point – The Ravens are a run first team and Rice’s ability as a receiver makes him a monster in PPR leagues.
Counterpoint – In 6 games last season Rice was held to under 60 yards on the ground, though he made up for it in the pass game the idea that he can be slowed on the ground could be a cause for concern.
4 – Maurice Jones-Drew – A lot of people, including myself, raised a lot of red flags on whether or not his knee problems would affect him along with the inept look of the Jaguar offense. He prove many of us wrong by putting up 1,600 yards on the ground with 8 TDs and adding 3 more through the air, all despite the ineptitude of the Jags offense. With that in mind, it’s hard to write him off after Jacksonville brought in Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon, who should help ease some of the pressure on the run game. He should not drop past the 4-5 position for RBs.
Point – He played for the league’s worst offense last season and set career highs in yards and carries.
Counterpoint – His knee could still be a concern after carrying the ball 343 times last season.
5 – Chris Johnson – Yes, Chris Johnson tanked last year, and for owners who felt the sting of their first round pick stinking up their league, most would not blame you if you passed up on Johnson if the opportunity presents itself. However, Johnson came into last season without a real training camp due to the lockout and a contract dispute. He still has the talent to be a top flight fantasy RB and is still easily the most talented back on the Titans roster. Look for his career lows in carries (262) and yards-per-carry (4.00) to go back up this season.
Point – He is still a threat to take it to the house on every possession both rushing and receiving.
Counterpoint – Last season still leaves reason to question CJ2K.
6 – Ryan Mathews – The Chargers 3rd year back struggled at times last season and was brilliant at others. Now, with Mike Tolbert gone, Mathews has a chance to truly take the reigns in San Diego. He is predicted to have somewhere around 20-30 touches a game, clearly feature back touches. The Chargers still have a viable offense, despite some hick-ups last season, which should also lead to a good amount of opportunities for Mathews to improve on his 6 TD total from last year. He has also improved each season as a pass catcher which, with his breakaway speed, should make him a big offensive threat this year.
Point – The Chargers are looking to lean on Mathews this season and see what he can truly bring to the team. He’ll have every opportunity for a breakout campaign this year.
Counterpoint – Mathews has yet to shake the injury prone tag, as well as being viewed as tentative when running into contact.
7 – Darren McFadden – D-Mac was looking to follow up his breakout 2010 season with a strong showing in 2011, and until Week 7 he was doing just that. With over 700 total yards and 5 TDs in the first 6 games of the season McFadden was fantasy gold, but a Lisfranc sprain cut his season short. When healthy he is a fantasy beast and is well worth a flier in the latter part of the first round.
Point – He will be the corner stone of the Raiders offense and should be coming into the season fully healthy.
Counterpoint – He is another player who can’t shake the injury bug.
8 – Marshawn Lynch – Easily one of the top fantasy backs in the last half of the season last year, Lynch has been given a hefty extension by the Seahawks and is in line to be the workhorse again this season. Beast Mode should be in full effect.
Point – He scored in 9 straight games last season and will be the unquestioned goal line back for Seattle.
Counterpoint – Lynch runs strong, but a body can only take so much punishment before it starts to break down.
9 – DeMarco Murray – For a 8 game stretch Murray looked like a star in the making, averaging 103 yards per game, before going down with an ankle injury. He runs with power, has great speed, and soft hands. The addition of fullback Lawrence Vickers could also help open up lanes for Murray to exploit this season, especially in the red-zone.
Point – His potential is sky high is Dallas’ offense.
Counterpoint – He is yet another player known for injuries throughout his career.
10 – Adrian Peterson – It’s true that Peterson is coming off of an ACL injury suffered in week 16 of last season, and that even if clear may not start in week 1 this year. However, there won’t be many times fantasy owners will get a chance at Peterson this late in a draft. He may not come into the form we’ve come to know Peterson for until around mid-season, but he has shown to be a physical beast and could return to form sooner than anticipated. He could be worth the risk this late in a draft, though this could be subject to change if he slows in preseason and has to start the year on the injury/PUP list and miss the first 6 games.
Point – Either way, drafting Peterson will be a risk, but his value is worth it in the late 1st to early 2nd rounds.
Counterpoint – Players returning 1 year after ACL injuries usually take a full season before they return to prior form. Though Peterson could prove the exception.
About the Author
Written by David Willow
My name is David Willow. Your NFL and Fantasy Jedi. I have lived in Dallas, TX most of my life. I have been following both football and basketball since I was a child. I love being able to research and analyze different players and teams. I've been a fantasy sports enthusiast for around 8 years with some titles to back that. I have a Bachelors degree in History with a minor in English. Other hobbies include me being part of an acting workshop for five years, playing guitar, and working out. Hit me up with any comments, questions or opinions.