Updated 2012 Fantasy Running Back Rankings (May 1)

Posted: May 1, 2012 in Fantasy, Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL
Tags: , , ,

Source: thepewterplank.com

My running back rankings have gone through a major overall now that the draft is over. Not only am I high on quite a few rookie backs but I’ve expanded my rankings from 50 to 75. Trent Richardson, Ronnie Hillman and Doug Martin lead the way as 10 rookies earned a spot in my Top 75. Check back later in the week for my updated receiver and tight end rankings.

2012 Fantasy Running Back Rankings
(Last updated on May 1)

(I) - Coming back from an injury

1. Arian Foster, Texans
2. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
3. Ray Rice, Ravens
4. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
5. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
6. Chris Johnson, Titans
7. Darren McFadden, Raiders (I)
8. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
9. Fred Jackson, Bills (I)
10. Trent Richardson, Browns
11. Matt Forte, Bears (I)
12. Steven Jackson, Rams
13. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
14. Darren Sproles, Saints
15. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (I)
16. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (I)
17. Frank Gore, 49ers
18. Roy Helu, Redskins
19. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys (I)
20. Michael Turner, Falcons
21. Willis McGahee, Broncos
22. Reggie Bush, Dolphins
23. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
24. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
25. Isaac Redman, Steelers
26. Shonn Greene, Jets
27. Stevan Ridley, Patriots
28. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
29. Peyton Hillis, Chiefs
30. LeGarrette Blount, Bucs
31. C.J. Spiller, Bills
32. Mark Ingram, Saints
33. Jahvid Best, Lions (I)
34. Michael Bush, Bears
35. Toby Gerhart, Vikings
36. Ben Tate, Texans
37. James Starks, Packers
38. Felix Jones, Cowboys
39. Doug Martin, Bucs
40. Donald Brown, Colts
41. Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons
42. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
43. Javon Ringer, Titans
44. Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
45. Pierre Thomas, Saints
46. Bernard Scott, Bengals
47. Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
48. Mike Tolbert, Panthers
49. Jason Snelling, Falcons
50. Isaiah Pead, Rams
51. Evan Royster, Redskins
52. Kendall Hunter, 49ers
53. Ryan Williams, Cardinals
54. David Wilson, Giants
55. Shane Vereen, Patriots
56. Dion Lewis, Eagles
57. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (I)
58. Mike Goodson, Raiders
59. Danny Woodhead, Patriots
60. Curtis Brinkley, Chargers
61. Kevin Smith, Lions
62. LaMichael James 49ers
63. Delone Carter, Colts
64. Lance Ball, Broncos
65. Joe McKnight, Jets
66. Chris Ogbonnaya, Browns
67. Brandon Jacobs, 49ers
68. Le’Ron McClain, Chargers
69. Brandon Saine, Packers
70.  Robert Turbin, Seahawks
71. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
72. Taiwan Jones, Raiders
73. Lamar Miller, Dolphins
74. Michael Smith, Bucs
75. Terrance Ganaway, Jets

Going Up

Hillman - If I do nothing else on this blog I will make the world believe in Ronnie Hillman. One of my first posts was about Hillman and I’ve been singing his praises ever since. I’m far from always being right but I’ll put my record of finding mid-round talent up against anyone. Three years ago when no one was talking about Eric Decker, I was saying he would be a star. Now he’s on the doorstep. Last year when everyone was bashing the Pats selection of Stevan Ridley, I said he would be their starting running back in two years. A year later, Ridley is in line to start. As much as I liked those two, I’m even higher on Hillman.

I get that a lot of you don’t have a chance to see San Diego State play. That’s why I’m here. Anyone can tell you about the Trent Richardsons of the world but I take pride in letting you know about guys like Decker, Ridley and Hillman. I’m telling you this kid has it all and he landed with the perfect team in Denver. As I’ve already stated many times, Hillman wasn’t just one of the most explosive backs in this draft but he’s also a tough inside runner. A guy at one of the most popular fantasy sites who claims to have “tape” said Hillman dances and loses yards. Where? Show me the tape where he’s always dancing. Let’s sit down and watch the tape together and you show me all the plays where Hillman is losing yards. One of Hillman’s best qualities is he hits the hole hard and DOESN’T lose yards. Be careful where you get your info from about these rookies. When most of these guys talk about ‘tape” they are referring to videos on Yahoo! that anyone can watch. That’s just the truth.

Now Hillman will have to pass protect because with Peyton Manning blocking is as important as running. So that’s something we’ll have to monitor in the preseason but just from a talent perspective, Denver got one of the best backs in this draft. If I’m wrong I’ll be the first to say it and I’ll take any abuse you want to dish out. I’ve never seen a player live, confirmed what I thought about him by watching tape and liked the team that drafted him more than I do with Hillman. If you only listen to one thing I ever say; listen to me about Hillman. I’ll stake what little reputation I have on him.

Richardson - Cleveland drafting Richardson was a home run for fantasy owners. When you combine talent with opportunity, Richardson instantly becomes a Top 10 fantasy back in my opinion. There just isn’t anyone else on the Browns roster to seriously threaten Richardson for carries. He won’t get out of Round 2 in most fantasy drafts.

Hillis - The more I think about Hillis the more I like him to have a bounce-back season in 2012. No player can overcome the power of the Madden cover curse. I would never vote for my favorite player to be on that cover. Hillis is 26 and just one year removed from a big season with the Browns. If you’re looking for a mid-round running back with a lot of upside to pounce on, Hillis is your guy.

Rodgers - Michael Turner is winding down and I expect Rogers to be a huge part of Atlanta’s offense this year. With all the checkdowns from Matt Ryan, Rogers could catch 200 balls. Here’s a call: the Falcons saw first-hand what Darren Sproles did for the Saints offense and they will try and do the same thing with Rogers. Right now he’s one of my top sleepers.

Pead - I thought Pead was an excellent selection for the Rams. I believe Pead can be an every-down back in the NFL. He’ll start off as a change-of-pace guy in St. Louis but Steven Jackson is getting older and Pead will be his eventual replacement. If Jackson gets injured, Pead will pay big dividends for fantasy owners. Pead should be one of your top targets in keeper leagues.

Coming Down

Greene - Yawn. Wake when this guy has three good runs in a row. Now with Tim Tebow in town, Greene’s goal line carries will decline. The Jets say they want to return to Ground and Pound. Greene better start running like a 230-pound back because bruising rookie Terrance Ganaway is waiting in the wings in show him how it’s done.

Blount – I view Greene and Blount as the same kind of back. I actually think they’re better when they’re not getting all the carries. Think of Marion Barber. Remember how effective he was coming in and running over tired defenses? That’s the role I think suits both Greene and Blount best. Plus, I just get the feeling Greg Schiano doesn’t love Blount. It’s just a gut call. The Bucs will run the ball a lot, so Blount certainly has value, but the drafting of Doug Martin will hurt his overall production. Martin is a great receiver and blocker, two areas where Blount struggles. I see Martin getting on the field a lot as a rookie and I won’t be shocked if he wrestles away the starting job from Blount at some point this year.

DeAngelo Williams - Williams was once my favorite back in the NFL and if he were on another team I still think he could be a big fantasy factor. However, with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert in line for touches and Cam Newton the best goal line runner on the team, Williams isn’t a guy I want on my fantasy squad this year.

LaMichael James - I love James but I think as a rookie he’ll help the 49ers more as a return man and big-play guy than he will fantasy owners. I’ve been saying how James is a vastly underrated runner between the tackles and Jim Harbaugh has already stated he could get some goal line carries. Still, with all the backs in San Fran vying for carries, I’m much higher on James in keeper leagues than re-draft leagues.

Rankings are based on standard scoring systems but account for 1 point per reception because that’s the method I prefer.

Follow me on Twitter @ThePigskinGuy

  1. JT Marlin says:

    Like the rankings although I can’t imagine myself taking Lynch as high as you have him ranked. Yeah, I know he was a former high draft pick that has legit skills and is still young but this just smells like one of those contract year huge seasons and he ends regressing this season. It looks like you have Richardson appropriately ranked but there’s no way in hell I would take Fred Jackson over him - would you?

    Liking Helu & Murray at 18 & 19 as guys that can be top 10 this season. Also like BJGE & Redman at 24 & 25 as upside guys due to potential high volume of carries (not necessarily their skill set). Every year some experts love Bernard Scott as a sleeper and every year he does jack shit. Maybe the guy’s simply a back-up NFL RB. Could Redman be the next Fred Jackson - a small school, late blooming NFL RB who shines when finally given a full-time shot?

    I did not watch any Boise St games, so my opinion of the guy is only based on what others have said or wrote but it seems like you have Doug Martin too low at #39. The team traded up for him and I would expect at least 250 touches in Schiano’s run heavy offense. Maybe Blount bounces back but the guy’s a confirmed knucklehead and, worse than that, he was being outplayed last season by Earnest f’ing Graham! I really like Martin’s path to touches and success this season.

    Other guys I’m liking after pick 40 are Royster (Shanahanigans), David Wilson & Goodson (backing up 2 injury prone guys), and Vereen (everyone assumes Ridley is going to be the starter but it could just as easily be him and you can get him probably 50 picks later in the draft).

    Again, nice list and appreciate the daily site updates during the offseason.

    • Thanks for the comments JT. I like Fred Jackson more than you do. I thought that was a good spot to put Richardson in my initial rankings. I tend to rank rookies a tad low to start and then move them up. For instance, I agree with you about Martin but at the end of the day these guys are still rookies. Obviously Richardson will come right in and get all the carries but I like to see how these other guys are doing in camp. Look at Helu last year. He struggled in camp with blocking and wasn’t much of a factor until later on in the season. As much as I like guys like Pead and Hillman, pass protection and learning the offense is key. So a guy like Martin could move into the Top 30 at some point. I agree about Vereen. Ridley starting means nothing. He could get 30 carries one week and then not touch the ball for a month. Vereen is one of my big sleepers. I like Ridley but overall I think they are basically the same guy like you said. Drafting is all about value. If Ridley is going in Round 5 and Vereen in Round 11, that’s an easy choice to make if you like both guys. I also agree about Scott. I only ranked him that high because he’s backing up a guy who will be the main ball carrier for the first time but I want nothing to do with him personally. When it comes to rankings if I did them again 10 minutes after posting, they would likely change. At this point things are constantly changing.

  2. anarchyraliv says:

    I’m drooling at the possibly of snatching up one of the big four RBs (Foster, MJD, Rice, McCoy) and Trent Richardson. Yeah my league is filled with a bunch of SEC homers but I think I can target him with my 2nd pick and get him. Where do you like to be located in a 12 team snake draft?

    • I always like to be near the back, so the draft can unfold in front of me. When you select in the Top 6 there are guys you have to take. When you pick around 10 you have much more flexibility to go in any direction you want. There are pros and cons to both but when I got the No. 1 pick last year I traded back twice and ended up picking at 12. Personally, that’s where I like to be. Although, getting Arian Foster isn’t bad either.

      • anarchyraliv says:

        What fantasy system did you use? I don’t remember on the Yahoo or ESPN software being able to trade draft picks. Or maybe my league commissioner never enabled it…I want to trade picks.

      • We do it before the draft. I run a Fire Sale fantasy league that I created a couple of years ago. Once the league is set I have a web site e-mail a randomly drawn draft order to everyone about a month before the draft. That gives us the ability to trade picks, which has happened in each of the two years. Then I go in the system and change the order around based on which picks were traded.

  3. Josh says:

    I pick 9th in my 12 man. I figure I will be looking at Matthews, CJ2k, DMC, Lynch. All of these guys have big question marks. Matthews has a great schedule and should be the man as long as he stays on the field…big IF. I dont believe titans have done much to help their struggling Oline (plus cj burnt me last year) I love DMC but I dont trust him at all, Lynch I question him giving up since they showed him the Money.

    I think I will probably take Trent at 16th overall.
    Help me decide who to take at 9.

    • If I was picking between those guys I would go with Johnson. I know he burnt you last year and the OL is weak but let’s not forget that we wasn’t in shape either. CJ is one of the few backs that doesn’t need a great OL when he’s on his game. I think we see a big bounce back year from him. I believe last year was a perfect storm with the lockout and his contract problems. If you weigh the pros and cons of those guys and look at upside, CJ is the one I would take. Having said that, any one of the backs you mentioned could end up being the best RB in fantasy football, so luck of the draw will have a lot to do with it as well. If you get Richardson at 16 you should do back flips.

  4. Stinkin Ref says:

    love your rankings…for teams that pass on RB early Redman is a nice guy to target after getting somebody else outside of the top 10 or so…..BGJE as well….the message I took away from the draft is that both CIN and PIT seem okay with what they have right now…other thoughts:

    Scott: (too high) I’m tired of waiting on Bernard Scott, I think a good chance CIN may bring somebody else in to compliment BGJE and Scott may be on the bubble….

    Mendy: (way too high) for a guy that WILL start on PUP and may not even play. When/if he does come back, this ain’t Adrian Peterson we’re talking about where he is going to come back and immediately be “the man”….personally Mendy is almost undraftable at this point…I would take everybody on your list before him in any type of draft including redraft…let somebody else play the waiting/guessing game and waste the roster spot…

    Goodson: (too low) I think you could make a case for him being in the late 30′s early 40′s right now….I see him getting more time than most of the RB2′s on teams…DMC injury is lis franc…and that ain’t nothing to mess with…I would take Goodson ahead of many of the guys you have from Dwilly on…

    Ringer: (too high) value is totally dependant on CJ health….if CJ is healthy Ringer gets very few touches….very few….on your list I would have him somewhere behind Woodhead…

    those were just a few quick two cent comments which mean very little, but I LOVE the rest of your list and really like the way you see things….nice job

    • Thanks for the feedback Ref. Hey, if anyone agreed with all 75 of my rankings I would think they were stalking me, so thanks for the input. The funny thing is I go over the rankings a couple of times before I post and I moved Ringer up and Goodson down at the last minute. I agree about Ringer but he’s still a handcuff with some value. If I see the CJ I think we’ll see in camp, he will get moved down. I love Goodson. I hated to move him down but every time I go over guys there are some I think should be higher. Again, if I re-did these rankings 10 minutes after I posted they would probably look different. I would like to take Mendy right out of the Top 75. I’m just waiting to hear a definitive word about whether he’s coming back or not. In all honest, it’s probably a waste to even have him on the list at all. Again, thanks for your viewpoints. They are always welcomed and I take everyone’s opinion under advisement when making future rankings. Feedback actually helps me make the rankings better, so I always enjoy hearing what people have to say.

  5. JT Marlin says:

    I was looking over some draft grade articles and one thing struck me that I had forgotten about - the GB RB situation. I was so sure they’d take a RB in the first 3 rounds that I didn’t give it much thought before the draft. But here we are now with zero RB drafted, Ryan Grant a FA, and Alex Green recovering from an Oct season ending knee injury. At this point, all they have is James Starks. I guess GB can stick with the game plan of “we will pass all day long until you can stop us” but for years GB always had a solid RB to compliment their pass game. Ryan Grant posted some really solid seasons from 07-09, broke his ankle in week 1 of 2010 and wasn’t the same back last year. Now, I’m not saying Starks can for sure be that guy but there is an opportunity for him to be the man from day 1 of the off season mini-camps thru training camp. He’ll have a real chance to carve out a solid roll in one of the best offenses in football. Yes, there is Kuhn and even Rodgers who will steal some goal line TD’s but this is a guy who should easily see 200+ touches in one of the best offenses in football. Sitting at RB 37, I will be all over this guy as he will be picked somewhere in the 70-90 range. Not a lot of risk and considerable upside.

    • You make a good case for Starks but let me throw something out there I’ve been thinking about; Could the Packers have high hopes for Brandon Saine? The coaches were said to really like him last year and he got some run late in the season. Like you I keep looking at that situation and I’m trying to find something. Maybe I’m reaching but could Saine be that something? He’s a guy I’ll be watching closely in camp and preseason. But if no one else emerges, Starks become a nice mid-round fantasy pick.

  6. Stinkin Ref says:

    GB: I have been wondering the same thing about the GB backfield…not sure if I saw it in a dream or something but I have this vision of GB taking a look at Benson….here me out…I know maybe he isn’t a GB type of guy on/off the field and he isn’t the greatest receiver, but I think he would be solid insurance on a team that has some questions at RB right now with some injuries and Starks not neccessarily the poster boy for not getting dinged….Benson could be the type of guy that after GB kind gets out to a lead, he could help eat up some clock/a few series here and there, one to help keep Starks touches down, and two, if Starks does get hurt they would have a solid vet coming off of 3 straight 1000 yard seasons that they could lean on…..he would be cheap and if it looks early on like it ain’t gonna work out….cut his ass…I’m also interested to see where Chris Polk ends up and if I was GB I would have been bringing him in Monday morning for a look…

    maybe GB just thinks Starks with Green and Saine and Kuhn at the goaline can get it done….

    • I don’t think your theory about Benson is crazy at all. What’s the difference between Benson and Grant? If grant can play in that offense so can Benson. I actually wasn’t thinking about GB going after Benson but now that you bring it up it kind of makes sense to me. Also, Polk signed with Eagles right after the draft, so he isn’t available. Apparently his hips made some teams take Polk off their draft boards. I wasn’t aware that they were that bad but his health scared some teams off.

      • JT Marlin says:

        Yeah, the Benson speculation makes sense. You would think that they’ll sign some FA veteran competition. I still think the Pack like Starks and will give him every opportunity to win the lead back role. If I was GM Thompson, I would have been sniffing around CAR for Stewart big time.

      • I would give up my left arm for Stewart. I think he’s a stud in the right system. Preferably one that doesn’t have six other running backs in it.

  7. Stinkin Ref says:

    how is Hillman’s blocking…?…you almost have me sold on him and I think you are higher on him than even the people in the Denver area are….I live about an hour north of Denver….in order to see significant time on the field/touches, Hillman will have to block/pick up blitzes with as much as Manning changes plays, etc…

    you almost have me on the bandwagon, but with McGahee, Ball, Fanin, and even Moreno as of right now, I wonder if we will see the immediate kind of impact out of Hillman this year that would really make him fantasy relevant or if he is a year or so away…..I have a feeling when/if he gets some playing time during preseason when Manning is NOT on the field, he may tear it up and look amzing, but then once the season starts and people are really getting paid to get after the QB and that QB is Peyton Manning, will DEN go the conservative/safe route and stick with guys who have been there once it gets teed up for real….and as fantasy owners we sitting back and wondering why a guy who is so explosive and maybe even a game changer is a healthy scratch or something…

    the thing is….I think the whole DEN situation is going to be tough to gauge because nobody with bad intentions is going to come within 10 yards of Manning all summer….he is going to look like a world beater, accurate, etc….play very little in preseason, even though he hasn’t played for a year and needs to work on his real game speed timing with his receivers, etc…it will be interesting to see how they handle him in the preseason….the “he’s Peyton frickin Manning, he don’t need no preseason” can only go so far under the circumstances…..having a rookie getting meaningful snaps and having to protect the “franchise” might not be a gamble DEN is willing to take once the season really starts…

    I still think a good chance DEN cuts Moreno and brings in Addai…

    • Those people you named; Ball, Moreno and Fannin are just names too me. They are just guys. I think every team has guys like that. Denver traded up to get Hillman for a reason and don’t think Manning didn’t like the kid. First of all, Moreno is gone. Fannin looked good in practice one day and now he was the best back in the state. I’m not buying it. He was so good in college he never got more than 100 carries in a season. I think he’s a longshot. Ball showed some promise but he fumbles. I actually think Addai roaming around is the biggest threat to Hillman. This I know for a fact: Hilman has way more physical talent than Ball or Fannin. Like I said though, his pass protection will be the key. If you can’t block in Peyton Manning’s offense, you don’t play. I have a theory though: If a team is happy with its current players at a particular position, they don’t move up in the draft to get another player at that same position. Denver obviously thinks Hillman can play soon. I believe if something happens to McGahee, Hillman would be the guy to step in. Then again, I like him more than his own mother, so who knows?

  8. Manuel says:

    How further down can Greene go? The guy has been a soft, slow and incompetent runner except for that first Mark Sanchez season and only in the playoffs, and only because Tomas Jones was tired I guess.
    I think I’m still sold on Richardson and him deserving to be my first pick come FF time, he is the sole offense so he’ll be used more often than Todd Haley used excuses as to why he didn’t suck. I think I’ll follow your guide and have a 20 or so ranked RB as my second pick, unless I end up in a PPR league, then it’s Wes Welker.

    • I play in a PPR league, so Greene won’t even by on my draft board. With Tebow there stealing goal line carries Greene will have to run for over 100 yards most weeks to have a lot of value. How many times is that going to happen? The clock is ticking on him. This is his last chance to make an impact.

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