Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs

After looking at the Quarterback rankings a couple of days ago, it's to look at the heart-and-soul of fantasy football... running backs. They can and usually do make or break your season, so it's doubly important to pick the right one.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson - As if there was any doubt. I suspect the numbers will dip a little bit (which, they almost have to after the amazingness that as last year), especially with the switch from Marty Ball to Norv Turner's offense, but LT is still the easy choice as the #1 pick.

2. Steven Jackson - With Larry Johnson still not in camp and coming off of a year in which he had about 1500 carries, I think Jackson is the easy choice as #2. He's becoming a great runner, and is also one of the best pass-catchers out of the backfield, which is big in that offense. He should be excellent again.

3. Larry Johnson - As mentioned, there certainly are concerns about LJ. The Line is not as strong as it has been, the QB situation is very muddled, and he's coming off of a season where he carried the ball a LOT of times. Oh yeah, and he's not signed yet. On the other hand, he's still extremely talented, figures to get the ball a ton, and a deal is reportedly close. Good enough for me.

4. Joseph Addai - I absolutely love Addai this year. For one thing, he's really talented. But more importantly, defenses have to focus on the passing game, which opens up running lanes (as well as dump off passes to Addai). And if that's not enough, his backup is a guy named DeDe Dorsey. This might be a little high, but I think Addai is going to have a huge year.

5. Frank Gore - Gore exploded onto the scene last year, and as long as he can stay healthy should be very productive again. The offense continues to improve around him, with the maturation of Alex Smith, addition of Darrell Jackson, and the athletic skills of Vernon Davis. That means teams won't be able to focus on Gore.

6. Rudi Johnson - Rudi might not put up MVP type numbers, but you know what you're getting. He's really consistent, stays healthy, and is playing in an excellent offense in Cincy.

7. Shaun Alexander - Others are more bullish on Alexander, but I'm not so sure. In year 1 after Steve Hutchinson, he really struggled. He'll get a boost because he'll actually be healthy this year, but I still have a hard time putting him higher.

8. Willie Parker - First off, I never understood why he got the nickname "Fast Willie Parker." I mean, he's fast, but so are a lot of other guys. But that's neither here nor there. The important thing is that he gets a lot of yards, and scored double digit TDs last year. The only concern I have is the change of offensive styles, but he's still going to get his touches.

9. Brian Westbrook - As long as he's healthy, he's great. There's no doubting that. But that's still a concern. Another key is how much he gets the ball. Last year, after Donovan McNabb got hurt, it seemed like Andy Reid started to run the ball more, and Westbrook really shined. Let's see if Reid sticks with the commitment to the run.

10. Laurence Maroney - There are concerns about whether or not Maroney will be able to fully carry the load, but I think he should be OK. With Brady and all the talent that they now have at receiver, he should be able to get ample rest. And score a lot of TDs.

11. Travis Henry - Good running backs tend to flourish in Denver, and Henry should be no exception. All signs point to him being the workhorse back, and that could mean really big numbers.

12. Willis McGahee - McGahee has always been really talented, and I think he'll be very solid in the Baltimore offense. He should definitely get the ball a lot, and rack up the yardage behind a solid O-Line.

13. Reggie Bush - I don't think much detail is necessary here... he's extremely, extremely talented, and should be getting the ball a lot, whether it's running or receiving. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if he starts getting more carries near the goalline... that explosiveness is tough to stop.

14. Ronnie Brown - Brown was disappointing last year, but I think he will bounce back somewhat with a new head coach in Cam Cameron. But there are reasons for concern... namely the lack of a consistent passing game (this is not the Trent Green of 5 years ago) and a young O-Line.

15. Edgerrin James - I'm optimistic about James this year. The passing game should be explosive, meaning defenses definitely won't just be able to focus on Edge. Also, Russ Grimm should come in and help improve the line, and Ken Whisenhunt brings a more run-oriented approach to Arizona.

16. Cedric Benson
17. Brandon Jacobs
18. Maurice Jones-Drew
19. Cadillac Williams
20. Jamal Lewis

- LaDell Betts - He should get a lot of chances (probably in the red zone) even with Clinton Portis healthy. If Portis gets hurt again, Betts has the potential to be a top 10 to 15 back.

- Leon Washington - He showed last year that he can be pretty productive when he plays. If Thomas Jones gets hurt (and he's not exactly Mr. Durable), Washington should be a productive starter.

- Tony Hunt - This is digging a little deep, but I think there is potential for Hunt. For one, Westbrook and Buckhalter are not all that durable in Philly, leaving the door possibly open for Hunt later in the year. Also, there's a chance that he could get some goal line carries right now.