Dynasty League Draft Board: Running Backs

Posted: June 2, 2012 in Dynasty Leagues, Fantasy, Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL
Tags: , , , ,

Source: buffalonews.com

I continue my updated dynasty league rankings with a look at the running back position. I like a few rookie backs quite a bit this year, so dynasty league owners have a number of good young players coming up on the horizon in my opinion. Here are my Top 35 dynasty league running backs.

Rankings are based on a 12-team league flex format with 1 point awarded per reception

1. Arian Foster, Texans
Foster is the best back in the NFL, he gets fed the ball consistently and he’s only 25-years old. That’s a pretty good combination for continued fantasy success. Plus, the guy is an absolute machine near the goal line and a great receiver. Add it all up and that’s why Foster is ranked No. 1.

2. Ray Rice, Ravens
As good as Rice has been so far in his career, his best years could still be yet to come. Like Foster, Rice is just 25, so he has plenty left in those legs. With only rookie Bernard Pierce standing in his way for touches, Rice is in line to have the best season of his career in 2012.

3. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
McCoy is personally my favorite player in all of fantasy football. I’ve had him on my team the last two years and in my opinion McCoy is similar to Marshall Faulk because of what he adds as a receiver. Plus at 23, he’s still just a young pup. If you play in a PPR league, McCoy is worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.

4. Trent Richardson, Browns
Listen, if Richardson is a bust he’s a bust. You live with it and move on. But on paper Richardson is one of the top running back prospects to come out in a long time and he’s going to get pretty much all of the touches in the Browns backfield from Day 1. The only way Richardson isn’t a fantasy stud is if he can’t play. I believe that’s a risk worth taking. Not many veterans are guaranteed the touches Richardson will see over the next couple of years.

5. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews and Darren McFadden are in the same boat. They have all the talent in the world, they just need to stay healthy. When he was at Fresno State I thought Mathews had the ability to become one of the top backs in the NFL. This could be the year he joins that group. Everything points to Mathews putting up monster numbers in 2012 and beyond. Injuries are the only thing that can stop him.

6. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
There isn’t a tougher guy out there than MJD. Imagine what he would do in an offense that could actually throw the ball to take pressure off of him. Jones-Drew is 27 and he’s carried the ball quite a bit but he doesn’t take a lot of  bighits. MJD should have at least four more big years in him.

7. Chris Johnson, Titans
Some people think CJ is on the decline. I’m not one of them. Last year was a perfect storm in a bad way. He had a contract dispute and the lockout, so Johnson never got into football shape. I expect a big bounce-back year from CJ and he’s still only 26.

8. Matt Forte, Bears
I love Forte. When I worked for the Patriots he was one of my top sleepers coming out of the draft, so I’ve always had a soft spot for him. I wish his contract wasn’t a problem but on the field Forte is similar to McCoy for what he brings to the table as a receiver. Michael Bush is around to steal goal line carries but I believe Forte will still see most of the touches. That’s assuming Forte’s contract situation gets resolved relatively soon.

9. Darren McFadden, Raiders
Talent-wise, McFadden is Top 5. However, he just can’t seem to stay on the field. I had McFadden last year for the first month before trading him away and the guy couldn’t be stopped by any defense in the NFL. If he ever plays 16 games, McFadden will easily be one of the top scoring fantasy backs. The problem is playing the 16 games.

10. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
I know a lot of people are concerned about Lynch getting paid but I have another take. You know who Lynch reminds me of? Thomas Jones. Remember how Jones was a late-bloomer? I see the same thing in Lynch. He’s finally taking football seriously and Lynch is on a team that’s going to feed him the rock every week. I actually think Lynch is entering the prime of his career. I love him this season.

11. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
I liked what I saw out of Murray last season and that says a lot because as a Dallas fan I like very little about that organization these days. Murray hits the hole hard and adds value as a receiver. My concern is Murray is like McFadden. He had a lot of nagging injuries in college and then got hurt again last year. If he stays on the field, Murray will be a fantasy stud for at least the next couple of years.

12. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Charles is coming back from a knee injury but he’s only 25. As fantasy owners know all too well, he’s also never carried a full workload, so there isn’t a lot of mileage on the tires. That likely won’t change this year with Peyton Hillis in town but Charles is still one of the most explosive players in the NFL. If I had this guy I would try and get him the ball as often as possible. Charles is always welcome on my fantasy team if I can get him at the right price.

13. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
I hate to put Peterson down this low but the guy has been running defenders over since the first time I saw him as a freshman at Oklahoma and said to my wife, “That kid is only 18 if you can believe it.” Peterson is an absolute beast and I won’t bet against him but his running style, age (27) and the fact he’s coming back from a major knee injury could mean his most productive days are behind him. Hopefully that’s not the case because I love watching Peterson run.

14. Darren Sproles, Saints
Sometimes the seas part and a player ends up in a perfect situation. That’s the case with Sproles. As long as he’s playing with the Saints Sproles will be a machine in PPR leagues. Think of it this way; Sproles is usually in the game on passing downs. That’s a good thing considering the Saints air it out as often as any team in the NFL.

15. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Bradshaw may be the most underrated running back in the NFL. Sure, he’s had some injuries and his feet are being held together with Scotch tape but when Bradshaw plays, he produces. Plus, he’s only 26 and hasn’t had a ton of careers in his career up to this point. David Wilson is a future stud but Bradshaw still has a couple of strong fantasy seasons left in the tank.

16. C.J. Spiller, Bills
Spiller is a fantasy stud in the making. I like Fred Jackson in re-draft leagues but for the long-term, Spiller is the guy you want to own. He should be much more involved in the offense even with Jackson back and there’s a good chance Spiller will be the starter in 2013. Once that happens Spiller will be a Top 5 fantasy running back, so he’s a guy you really want to target in dynasty leagues.

17. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Stewart is a great running back in a bad situation. Despite splitting time last year, Stewart was still able to put up strong fantasy numbers thanks to his receiving skills. The addition of Mike Tolbert is a concern but I still believe Stewart is going to be the most valuable running back in Carolina and he’s only 25.

18. Reggie Bush, Dolphins
Bush came on strong last season but some are expecting his numbers to go down this year. I don’t know if I’m buying that. New coach Joe Philbin is a smart guy and I seriously doubt he’s going to limit the touches of the one dynamic playmaker Miami has on offense. If anything, look for Bush to be even more involved in the Dolphins offense this season. For the first time in his career, Bush may actually be undervalued. Also, I said last summer that Daniel Thomas was average and he did nothing in his rookie year to make me change my mind.

19. Steven Jackson, Rams
Jackson seems like he’s been playing forever but he’s still only 28. Although, unlike some of the other aging backs, Jackson has received a ton of carries over his NFL career. I think the addition of Isaiah Pead is actually going to help Jackson prolong his career. He probably has two good fantasy seasons left but given Jackson’s heavy workload, don’t expect much more than that out of him.

20. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
The bad news is Mendenhall is coming off a knee injury and probably won’t play for at least the first half of the 2012 season. The good news is he’s just 24 and plays on what is emerging as one of the top passing offenses in the NFL. If you’re playing for beyond 2012, there’s some good value in a younger, talented back like Mendenhall this far down in the rankings.

21. Frank Gore, 49ers
Gore is in a similar situation as Jackson. He’s the same age and like Jackson, Gore has piled up a lot of touches over the years. The 49ers also have other capable running backs in the mix. I’m not all that worried about overrated Brandon Jacobs but both Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James are explosive young players who will eat into Gore’s carries. I still like Gore for 2012 but after that it’s a crapshoot.

22. Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
If you read my blog you can’t be surprised I have Hillman ranked this high. Hillman will begin the season as the Broncos No. 2 back and only the aging Willis McGahee stands in his way. It’s just a matter time before Hillman becomes a star in the Broncos offense. I’ve been high on Hillman since I saw him as a freshman and I’m even higher on him now considering he landed in Denver. I spoke with a guy who covers the Broncos and he told me something interesting. He said Peyton Manning is infatuated with how the Saints used Sproles last season as a receiver out of the backfield and that’s the role he sees for Hillman in Denver. A Darren Sproles role in a Peyton Manning offense? Sign me up for that in a PPR league.

23. Doug Martin, Bucs
I like Martin and I think he’s going to be a good NFL running back but he’s being a little overvalued right now. He’s not going that much later than Richardson at this point and that’s borderline crazy to me. I understand Martin is being tabbed as the starter in Tampa Bay but LeGarrette Blount didn’t die. He’s still going to have a role, especially later on in games when backs rack up those valuable garbage fantasy points. I think Martin is a good but overvalued player right now.

24. Mark Ingram, Saints
Ingram is a perplexing player for me. I still like him but I was concerned when Christopher Ivory returned late in the year and looked a lot better than Ingram. Now another minor knee injury has surfaced. The talent still outweighs the negatives but Ingram is looking more and more like a risky proposition moving forward. No matter how you sugarcoat it three knee surgeries in three years isn’t the ideal situation for an NFL running back.

25. Roy Helu, Redskins
This poor bastard can’t catch a break. I still like Helu and think he has a chance to put up strong numbers this season but the Tim Hightower signing hurts his overall value. The biggest problem in PPR leagues is Helu caught 49 balls last year but Hightower will likely play more on passing downs because he’s such a good blocker. I’m high on Helu as a player but I don’t know if he’ll ever be an every-down back. He wasn’t used that way at Nebraska and if the Redskins were comfortable with Helu in that role they probably wouldn’t have re-signed Hightower. This is obviously a situation worth monitoring throughout the summer.

26. David Wilson, Giants
I thought Wilson was a Top 20 prospect in this year’s draft and it makes me feel good that Giants General Manager Jerry Reese, agrees. I’ve always liked Bradshaw but the Giants don’t like to overuse him, so Wilson should make an immediate fantasy impact. He’s a guy that can go 80 yards in a blink of an eye and Wilson was also one of the toughest runners in this year’s draft class. Wilson has value as Bradshaw’s backup this season but in a year or two he has a chance to be a stud for dynasty league owners.

27. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
People that have followed me over the years know I tabbed Beanie as soft back when he played at Ohio State. There’s a difference between being hurt and playing through pain. This guy doesn’t like pain. He never has. It doesn’t surprise me that when Wells is healthy he’s productive. I never said he didn’t have talent but guys that don’t play though pain rarely play 16 games. Proceed with extreme caution.

28. Ben Tate, Texans
Tate is one of the most talented backups in the NFL. He proved that last season when Foster was injured. Tate has some fantasy value even when Foster is healthy but it’s hard to consistently count on a guy who’s second on the depth chart behind the best running back in fantasy football. Still, Foster has had some injury issues in the past and Tate could start for a lot of NFL teams.

29. James Starks, Packers
I liked Starks coming out of the draft a couple of years ago and I’m still high on him. The Packers will never run the ball a lot but I think Starks’ skill-set is a good fit for Green Bay’s offense. Now with Ryan Grant out of the way, Starks should post career bests across the board in 2012. If he doesn’t, it’s a problem. There isn’t much standing in Starks’ way at the moment.

30. Michael Turner, Falcons
It’s tough to say a guy who ran for 1,340 yards and scored 11 touchdowns last year is declining but that’s what I see with Turner. Turner blew up against Tampa bay in Week 17 but his four games prior to playing a team that had quit in October he looked like a back that was slowing down. I can see Turner putting up one more good season but in a PPR dynasty league I’m not really looking for a 30-yeard old battering ram that doesn’t catch the ball.

31. Shonn Greene, Jets
Greene is only 26 but he’s shown very little since becoming the Jets primary ball carrier. I really believe Greene is better suited for the Marion Barber/Brandon Jacobs closer role. Tim Tebow is going to steal a lot of goal line carries and that’s a concern considering Greene only scored six times last season to begin with. As a matter of fact, Greene has scored a whopping 10 touchdowns in three seasons, which isn’t very impressive considering the guy weighs 230 pounds. This is Greene’s last chance to prove he can get the job done as a starter. I don’t think Greene is awful. I just think he is what he is; average.

32. Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Last year people hated the pick of Ridley but I thought he was the most underrated players in the draft. Listen, the Patriots are never going to use one back exclusively, so Ridley obviously comes with some risk. However, I think he’s the most talented back on that roster and in New England’s offense I expect Ridley to post solid fantasy numbers.

33. Kendall Hunter, 49ers
Hunter showed a lot of potential as a rookie and I would have him even higher on the list if the 49ers hadn’t selected LaMichael James. Hunter and James bring a lot of the same things to the table but if something were to happen to Gore, it would likely be Hunter who benefits the most. I think Hunter is one of the more undervalued players in fantasy football right now.

34. Isaiah Pead, Rams
Pead is a guy I thought could come in and be a change-of-pace back right away and then eventually be a starting running back in the NFL. So what do we have in St. Louis? Pead will be a third-down back at first, while being groomed to take over for Jackson. Pead reminds me a lot of Ray Rice. He may be small in stature but Pead runs a lot bigger than his size. He should be high on the wish list of dynasty league owners. I see Pead having a bright future in the NFL.

35. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
It seems like just yesterday I was writing about Williams being the best back in the NFL. Now he’s 29 and stuck in a muddled backfield. The fact that both Williams and Stewart stayed in Carolina and the Panthers then added Mike Tolbert is just a kick in the stones to fantasy owners. Not to mention the best short yardage runner on the team is the quarterback. On another team, Williams would be ranked a lot higher but in Carolina he simply has to split touches with too many people.

Follow me on Twitter @ThePigskinGuy

  1. irish says:

    PSG, not sure why you are so high on CJ Spiller. I mean, I see the talent, but he doesn’t seem to be durable enough to take the pounding of a full-time RB. From a fantasy point of view I am not sure I see much more upside, not enough to be elite anyway. I see him maxing out at Jamal Charles’ level. JMHO.

    • I just love him Irish, especially when you factor in what he can do as a receiver. I think he has a chance to catch 60 balls this year because the Bills started using him as a slot receiver too at the end of 2011. You mentioned Jamaal Charles. I would take that. Charles is a really good player. I actually think that’s a pretty good comparison. I may steal it from you in the future. lol I’ve always been high on Spiller but we’ll find out this year if he’s the real deal or not. I think he is but Fred Jackson is still a good player as well, so he’ll have to wait his turn.

      • irish says:

        I hear ya. He is very physically talented and he has some great shiftiness and open field moves, but you said he could be elite. When I think of elite I think of Arian Foster, Ray Rice, MJD, Lesean “The Real” McCoy (yep, no one says that anymore but WTF). AP was elite, we will see if he can get back to it. Same with CJ. Steven Jackson was, but he is definitely in the twilight of his playing days.

        I think Jamaal Charles is a Tier 2 RB, very good, but not elite. He has elite games and streaks, but I don’t think he can be durable or tough enough to do it year after year.. I think Spiller can be a great Tier 2, but I don’t ever think that he will ever be on the level of the Elite Backs I mentioned. To me you gotta be 3 down to be elite and you have to be the primary goal line back as well…..speaking of Jamaal, I am definitely targeting Cyrus Gray in the later rounds of our rookie dynasty draft this year. Jamaal could easily get nicked up this year which would open the door for Cyrus.

      • I hear what you saying and I kind of agree with you. Charles is a very good player but I wouldn’t put him in the same class with the guys you mentioned either. Those are the premier running backs in the NFL right now.

    • But remember I also fully admit that I’ve been wrong about the Bills running back situation every step of the way over the last two years. So now Spiller probably won’t see the field at all this season.

      • irish says:

        LOL. I keep thinking that Jerra Jones will pull his head out of his ass, for the last couple years myself. Eventually he will and I will be right…

  2. JohnnyD says:

    A case could be made that Shonne Greene should be quite a bit higher. Given the Jet’s retooled offensive approach, supposedly will lead to more running & Greene as the focus of the offense. Where have we heard that before though? If 1/2 true, Green should have decent value this year though - if nothing else based purely on the volume of carries he’s likely to get.

    • Greene is going in Round 5 on average and I think that’s a good spot to take him. Let’s be honest, Greene didn’t have much competition last year and it’s not like he set the world on fire. I think at the end of the day he’ll be a decent fantasy running back, that’s why I like him in the fifth round area. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. #nerd says:

    I’ve soured on Greens value in 5 a bit since i learned a big chunk of his fpts came in 2 games last yr. The two games where they really fed him the rock though. Honestly, he had a lot of 10, 15, 13, 14 carrie games last yr, and piss pour production when that happened. I thought the J.E.T.S Jets Jets Jets ran the ball? I hate starting a guy and waiting for him to pay off. He’s a flex play most weeks, i just don’t know if I’m drafting a flex in rd5.

    • He’s an average football player. He’s still living off his two runs in the playoffs three years ago. Since then he’s been average, both statistically and when you actually watch him. He’s not really good or really bad. He’s just average. Those guys tend to get replaced a lot.

      • Irish says:

        I think Shonne has shown us who he is and all that he has to offer as a RB. In that offense, with the opportunity he was given to work with Tomlinson and take over the lead role, He has flopped and is not worth drafting IMO. I would much rather draft another player and look at a different position. He has no upside and I am sure that Powell or another running back is going to be given every chance to supplant Greene as the starter.

  4. darewreckb says:

    Carolina is going to have a great offense this season, but maybe not for fantasy football. Check this out, Jonathan Stewart doesn’t want you to draft him on your fantasy team. It’s a good read.

    • Thanks for the story. I like Stewart the most out of all the Panthers backs for fantasy purposes but it’s true that they will be more beneficial in terms of real football. I appreciate the feedback.

    • #nerd says:

      “Drafting Jonathan Stewart Will Give You Diabetes”,.. ha!! That was actually pretty funny read.

      • Well, I already have diabetes, so I guess I’m in a no-lose situation then. I’ll take Stewart in Round 8. He’s going to be a solid flex play in PPR leagues just like last year. In dynasty league I really like him because I think he’ll be playing elsewhere next year. I just don’t see how Carolina can afford him.

  5. darewreckb says:

    Doug Martin is going to be a hot commodity this year in drafts. I wouldn’t take him too early though, Blount is still capable. An ADP of 70-80 is okay with me for Martin. Who knows if that’ll hold up though once we get closer to the season.

    • I agree. It’s not that Martin won’t be a good fantasy player it’s that people are getting a little too ahead of themselves thinking Blount is going to be a non-factor.

  6. Brian Daboll OC at KC + Hillis in a contract + Charles injury and sharing carries = a fantasy gem for value in Hillis. He was overvalued last year and undervalued this year.

    • No doubt that Hillis is being undervalued this year, especially in a PPR format. If I can get a guy like him in Round 7 that’s a pretty good deal in my opinion. He’s one of those guys people are down on because they got burnt so bad by him last year.

  7. JT Marlin says:

    How good do you think David Wilson or Isiah Pead could be this year if pressed into near full-time duty as the result of a Bradshaw or SJax injury? I like the odds that 1 (if not both) will miss some games due to injury this season.

    • I like both guys for the future but if we are talking about right away I say Wilson. I know a lot of Giants fans and they were surprised the team selected a RB in Round 1. That shocked me. Other than Bradshaw the Giants don’t have much. They got rid of Jacobs because he sucks. Bottom line is the team doesn’t like to overuse Bradshaw, so Wilson will have some immediate impact. Then if Bradshaw gets hurt you have a potential stud. I like Pead too but looking at the quality of the teams and situation, I would lean Wilson.

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