Despite QB and WR starting to run RB out of the late first round, the RB will be the meat of your points on your fantasy roster, because they pile up yards and touchdowns more consistently than almost any other position.
Top 10 Fantasy RB's this Year:
Adrian Peterson. Yes, I'm ranking him above CJ. I don't think it's a far jump to put AP over CJ for this upcoming year. CJ had over 400 touches last year, with around 360 carries and 40ish receptions. His season statistically is one of the top ever, tying Jim Brown's 7 rushing TD's from farther than 30 yards out from a 12 game season in 1959. It's only natural I think for CJ to regress back to the mean and AP to continue doing what he has done, despite an offensive line that might be in decline and his lack of ball security. In three full years of service, AP has averaged nearly 100 yards a game, from the day he came into the league. People point to his declining yards per attempt and how far he has "fallen" since his 1800 yard season. I'd rather point to the fact that this year AP caught more balls than his first two years combined, with 43 receptions good for a 10 yard average and 436 yards. That puts his yards from scrimmage roughly the same as 2008 AP, and there is only one thing I want in my first round pick, and that's consistency. AP has dominated fantasy football from day one and I'll go ahead and take him to terrorize fantasy on this day too.
Chris Johnson. For all the shit I just talked about CJ up there, I have him ranked behind only one person. If I'm number two in the draft I hope AP falls to me, but I'll be perfectly satisfied with CJ, one of the fastest players in the league and one with amazing vision. The Titans will also stay dedicated to the run no matter what, so he's guaranteed to get 350+ carries, barring injury. Injury is the only thing that keeps me away from CJ, because I know Fisher will remain dedicated to the rushing attack no matter what happens there, but CJ already withstood the test of one 400 touch season, at the young age of 25. Is he going to end up Priest Holmes'd out of the league in 3 years like that? Or will he fizzle out much sooner, like Dickerson or any of the other backs from the 370 touch club did. I contemplate putting Ray Rice over CJ to be brutally honest.
Ray Rice. Ray Rice plays like a better MJD sometimes. Gets the tough yards between the tackles with the ability to turn any play into a 40 yarder. They both catch beautifully out of the backfield. The main difference will be in PPR leagues Flacco may feed Rice in the neighborhood of 80-100 Recs plus 1400-1700 rushing yards. Even in non-PPR leagues, I think Rice pushes MJD for number 3. I cannot stress how much of a game breaker Ray Rice is. He crossed 2000 yards from scrimmage with 332 touches (254 attempts, and 78 receptions.) If Flacco continues to get him the extra touches on the check downs that he loves so much, Ray Rice will carry your team in PPR easily. McGahee vulturing short yardage touchdowns might hurt his value a little bit, but not enough to make me rank him any lower (McGahee had 12 TD's last year, a good portion of them coming in the red zone if I remember right.)
- Maurice Jones-Drew. I have MDJ behind RR because the Ravens are more likely to be in situations to maintain the run instead of playing from behind. MJD will have his huge games, he always does, but they come fewer than Rice's because MJD doesn't always get his chance in losing efforts.
- Micheal Turner. Coming off of injury, I fully expect Burner to be back in action as he was in the 08 season. On top of that, he faces the Saints and Bucs twice a year each. Neither team is really equipped to stop Micheal Turner if he gets on a tear.
- Frank Gore. I'll be honest, I'm a little wary putting Gore number 6. He hasn't really performed to expectations since his monster 06 season and injuries have nagged him lately. However, it's too much too ignore the development of a possible passing game in San Francisco along with what might develop into one of the best young lines in the NFL. Behind that line, a healthy Frank Gore could reap the benefits of a boosted passing attack.
- Rashard Mendenhall. With Ben out the first 4 games at the very least, Mendenhall will figure to be a large part of the gameplan. Likely that isn't to change much when Ben gets back. Mendenhall's value comes in his soft hands out of the backfield for checkdown king Byron Leftwich and the fact that he will lose very few carries to his competitors on game day.
- Shonne Greene. I don't think that he will share many carries with LT, and barring injury, he will become a 1200 yard back with lots of short yardage TD's for the Jets this year as Sanchez struggles in the red-zone and in general. The Jets will definitely look to rely on their running game and even if LT does manage to get a decent share of touches, the Jets should be running it enough times per game to get Shonne his valuable touches.
- DeAngelo Williams. DeAngelo Williams is an absolute monster in that he has a first round pick behind him and he still gets his fantasy points. I've drafted him both of the last two years and I have never been disappointed. I watch him play on a regular basis since I live in NC, and I always wish I had this guy on my team. I would rank him higher but Stewart does get his share of carries.
- Steven Jackson. Another RB that would be listed higher if it wasn't for his situation. He scrapes out 1500 yards a year on a team with no threat of any form coming from the air. He will probably do it this year, but don't expect his TD total to increase too much from last season, as the Rams are still going to suck pretty badly.
Be Aware of These Fantasy RB Busts:
Ryan Matthews. Some draft pundits have this scrub going at the end of the first round in some drafts. He is a rookie coming to a team that a future HOFer couldn't get good stats on. LT said it himself -- SD isn't a running team anymore. I have never even thought about taking a rookie in the first round of my fantasy draft, not because I don't think that rookies can't preform, but because I think the first and second rounds you need surefire producers. Your first two rounds aren't there to win you games, they are there to make sure you don't lose games. I have found that usually I win games because of a good waiver wire pickup as long as my stars match my opponents stars. You can consistency, so you can know what to expect from your first/second round picks. I'd never choose a Ryan Matthews just because you never know what might happen and it might be wasting a very very valuable early round pick. Can anyone really justify taking a rook over a Peyton Manning or a Aaron Rodgers in the late first/early second? Especially in deeper leagues, no.
- Jamaal Charles. Jamaal did amazing in his last few games, all against terrible run defenses. Jerome Harrison did the same thing but he's not being considered for the second round. Jamaal Charles finished the season with four consecutive hundred yard games, against the likes of Buffalo, Cleveless, a Cincy that was backing into the playoffs and a Denver that was doing it's best to not get in. For an example at how bad Cincy's run defense had become towards the end of the year, the 5 games before Charles pillaged them Cincy allowed an average of 147.8 yards/game. If you think about it in those terms, Charles actually did below the average when he played against Cincy. Jamaal Charles never got more than 6 touches in a game before week 9, against Oakland. And from then until the end of the season, he only got 25 carries twice. I don't have an immense amount of faith in Charles being the guy to step up in KC and I don't think the management does either. Look at what they did, took what is pretty much a better Charles in the second round and signed TJ. It doesn't seem like the KC management is sold on him being the premier back. I don't think I'd take Charles in the second round, he's too slight to not get hurt. And with Thomas around, he might not be getting enough carries to warrant a second round pick. If he lasts until 3rd/4th+, I'd grab him and TJ as a late round handcuff. This is not saying that he won't produce, as the AFC West is a rather weak conference, but I wouldn't draft this guy with intentions of him being an every week meat and potatoes starter that just doesn't move from the line up, as many are deeming him this season.
Ronnie Brown. Ricky Williams is back in the NFL with a vengeance after finishing in the top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards despite sharing carries with Brown. What really brings Brown back to earth despite him being an amazing RB is his injury history. He's been nagged by injuries lately, and if that continues this year with the apparent agelessness of Williams, he may not produce on the fantasy gridiron as well as most would expect him to. In Ronnie Brown's entire career, he has only averaged 68 yards a game, but when he's in, he often scores TD's and plenty of them. In 9 games last year he scored 8 touchdowns and had 4.4 yards/attempt. To me, these numbers are good, but not good enough to be my number one back, aka one worth of going in the first two. I'd grab Ronnie in a heartbeat past round two, and attempt to get Williams as the handcuff before too long. It all depends on your league though. In some drafts Ricky will go in the third or late second and Brown will be sitting there until the fifth. In some, it might go the other way around.
The Changing Role of RB's in Fantasy Football
When I started playing Fantasy FB, running backs were the shit. You picked two of the best in the two first rounds usually and those are the cornerstones of your team. You aimed for someone to consistently bring you 15-20 points a game, and the fact of the matter is that RBs are quickly falling to the more glam positions, like QB and WR. Perosnally, if I was sitting in the bottom half of the first round, I'd rather tank a Peyton Manning than a Frank Gore. QBs are starting to invade the first and second round, but RBs should not be underrated. Good RB depth is slipping lower and lower in the draft, and you can pick up starters in the third and fourth rounds if runs on WR/QB go on. In essence, you still want your RBs to be the bulk of your points, as they are usually more consistent than QB even and especially WR. It's important to play your ranking sheets. Take the BPA within reason. Even if there is a run on WR, Miles Austin in the early second might not be the best pick for the value, if there is still a Steven Jackson or even a DeAngelo Williams left.
PS, I'm not telling you my sleepers so I can still get them undrafted or late late rounds.