Detailed Top 25 RB Rankings

These are the running back rankings for a Non-PPR league.  The notations after the description represent the move in a player’s stock in a PPR league.


1. Adrian Peterson – AP has the capability to do something special this year.  With the passing game losing Rice to a hip injury for the first half of the season, there will be a few more rushing attempts in Minnesota.  Another key issue is the departure of Chester Taylor.  From what it looks like, Purple Jesus will now receive third down carries as well.  By having Toby Gerhart and Albert Young only occasionally give Peterson rest, the possibility for greatness is real.  My only question is with this heavy workload, will AP be healthy when we need him the most, the fantasy playoffs.  My guess is that he will be a little banged up by the time the playoffs come and pull a McNabb (choke).  If he stays healthy than we have the chance to see an extraordinary season from AP.

2. Ray Rice – I believe the Ravens offense will be explosive this year and Rice will be the headlining act.  Rice is a tough, quick runnner.  With his short and stocky “bowling ball” build he faces less injury risk.  He is an MJD style running back on a talented offense. He has a great O-line and a good young quarterback who loves Rice as his safety valve.  He is a very consistent pick due to the fact that if the Ravens get down early and must throw, Rice is still an integral part of the offense.  The McGahee factor is an issue, but the fact that there were trade rumors swirling around McGahee represents the Ravens lack of commit to the former Hurricane.  Just throwing this out there, Cam Cameron (Ravens OC) was the offensive coordinator for San Diego during the Ladanian Tomlinson era.  Everyone agrees Rice is an amazingly talented running back, but his one drawback is Mcgahee and even Mclain vulturing touchdowns.  The same was said about Chris Johnson and Lendale White in 2009. (+)

3. Chris Johnson – The stud of last year and the most common number one overall choice.  I am not down on CJ2k, its just that I predict a slight drop in production. I still think he puts up 1700 total yards and 12 TDs.  My biggest pet peeve with other fantasy rankings is their lack of ability to think outside of the box and forget last season’s stats.  CJ was an absolute moster last year, and I believe he will be very good again this year, but you cannot assume a repeat performance.  Of the five rushers to ever rush for 2000 yards, only Barry Sanders gained over 1250 yards rushing the following year.

4. Michael Turner – “The Burner” had his season cut short in 2009 by injury.  People were not raving about him last year, but if you project his 9.5 games played over a full 16 game season, he comes out with 1450 rush yds and 17 TDs.  Not too shabby.  That said, Turner admits to being out of shape last year.  Between improved conditioning and the Falcon’s promise to involve him more in the passing game, Turner has a very high ceiling this year. (-)


5. Frank Gore – When healthy, Gore is an animal.  The 49ers have a chance to be very good this year.  Add in a highly talented lead back and the potential for greatness is there.  However we all know the injury risk that one must take on when drafting Gore.

6. Maurice Jones-Drew – I was low on MJD before the rumors about offseason knee surgery surfaced.  Although Drew is the unquestioned lead back in Jacksonville, his team is subpar.  With an average passing game and offensive line, the original bowling ball should post solid numbers again but lacks the potential to be the #1 fantasy RB.


7. Ryan Grant – I don’t think Grant is the most talented back in the league, but he is a prime example of an opportunity player.  Grant is put in the perfect situation. The lead back for possibly the best passing offense in football.  Grant will rarely ever face eight in the box, and with an improved O-line he can be a borderline RB1.  Green Bay will be in the red zone plenty this year. Even if the offense only rushes the ball occasionally in the red zone, that is still a solid amount of chances for Grant to get in the end zone.

8. Arian Foster – This is probably the highest you will ever see Arian Foster ranked and I cannot figure out why.  With rookie Ben Tate out for the year and Slaton’s fumblitis, Foster will be the lead back.  Last year whoever came in as the starter in Houston did fantastic.  In his two games as the starter in weeks 16 and 17 last year, Foster accumulated 240 yds and three touchdowns.  A young, fresh back who will be receiving the majority of the carries, including the goal line looks, for one of the most powerful offenses in the league sounds like a bargain third round pick to me.

9. Jamaal Charles – Charles is one of the most intriguing backs this year.  He showed at the end of last year that he is one of the most talented RBs in the league.  After his performance to end the season, I do not think there is any way Coach Haley keeps Charles as the #2 RB behind Thomas Jones.  The former Jet will undoubtedly steal some goal-line carries from Charles, but do not worry, a back as talented as Charles will get more than his share of looks at the different end zone art around the league. (+)

10. Ryan Mathews – This is another very interesting scenario.  A rookie running back that may for once be overrated.  Mathews is a tremendous talent, as seen by the Chargers trading up to the 12th pick in order to choose him in the draft this year. It is unsure (before the first game) who will get the goal line carries between FB Mike Tolbert, Mathews, or even Jacob Hester.  Either way, I think Mathews will be in there at times, and on the rest of the field he should see a solid opportunity.  The O – line scares me a little with LT McNiel still in a holdout. Was Tomlinson’s 3.3 YPC due to age or the line? (+)

11. Deangelo Williams – A grossly talented back on a run first team.  Sounds great, but J-Stew has the same description.  Remember in 2008 Deangelo finished the season on a tear amassing 20 total touchdowns on the year. If Stewart gets injured, Deangelo is a  top five back.  Until then, he remains a good RB2.

12. Rashard Mendenhall – With the decision coming out before the first game that Isaac Redman would be receiving goal line carries, Mendys stock drops.  I was not sold on Rashard talentwise, but his opportunity was too much to pass up.  Now that Tomlin reports Rashard is not receiving goal line carries, (which I believe because Redman looked good in the preseason) Mendy can drop from his early second round ADP to a mid third round choice.  Tomlin did note that Mendy would stay on the field for third downs. A good RB2 with some upside.

13. Cedric Benson Benson was one of the most surprising backs in 2009.  He was not flashy, but he was a true grinder.  The man whose mug shot we all remember from the 2009 offseason put up over twenty five carries in six games last year and over 34 carries three different times!  That kind of wear and tear cannot be sustained for long periods of time in todays NFL.  Benson should put up solid numbers again this year, but I would rather have other running backs at his third round ADP. (-)

14. Stephen Jackson – Stephen Jackson WAS the Rams offense last year.  After drafting Sam Bradford the Rams are aiming to change that, but Jackson is already at the tail end of his prime. He has been the feature back for too many years for my liking.  Over 1500 carries in six years with an additional 280 receptions is too much mileage for a first or second rounder.  With Bradford at quarterback, SJax should continue to face eight defenders in the box the majority of the time.  As much as I like him as a real running back, Jackson probably will not be on any of my fantasy teams this year. (+)

Tier 4

15. Jahvid Best – Best looked like he was playing against a college defense in the preseason the way he made defenders miss.  His combination of speed and agility in incredible.  If he can stay healthy, which is a big if with his style, he has the chance to be phenomenal.  Had he not injured his neck at the end of last year, Best may have went higher than Spiller.  Instead he landed with the up and coming Lions offense.  I think he has the ability to really break out this year.  A decent RB2 with very good upside. (+)

16. Jonathon Stewart – The second part of the Dueling Panthers.  J-Stew showed at the end of last year that he has top tier running back talent.  The Panthers continue to say they will be a run first team.  With the two running backs they have on their roster, why not.  Stewart is a low end RB2 to start the season, but if Deangelo goes down, bump Stewart into Tier 2.  Stewart also seems to be prone to injury.  A bit of a risk, but very high possible reward. (-)

17. Shonne Greene – Rex Ryan’s supposed “bell cow”.   I think Greene should take Thomas Jones’ position, with LT being the Leon Washington prior to the leg injury.  Shonne’s stock is definitely higher in Non PPR leagues, as his reception total should be nothing to brag about.  Still a solid, consistent RB2. (-)

18. Knowshon Moreno – Knowshon begins 2010 with another injury (hamstring).  He should play week one but we are not sure if he will be 100%. Moreno when healthy is a solid RB2.  He has the talent to become a RB1. However the questions remain will he stay healthy and will McDaniels offer him the opportunity.  Considering the coach drafted him 12th overall in 2009 with his first ever draft pick, I think he will.  A bit of a risk, but a fairly solid RB2 with some upside.

19. Pierre Thomas – Pepe Le Pew presents an interesting option at RB.  He is the favored back in one of the best offenses in the NFL.  Last year he could not put up any consistency with Mike Bell and Reggie Bush around.  With Bell now in Philadelphia, Thomas and Bush look to see their roles expanded.  How far is the question.  Thomas will have big games and disappointing ones.  An inconsistent RB2 with upside.

20. Beanie Wells – Another young, talented back.  With Derek Anderson at the helm, the Cardinals offense can go a few different ways.  The first being a chaotic, unorganized offense that tries to force the ball to Larry Fitzgerald.  The second being a ground and pound game that features Wells, with Hightower coming in on third downs.  In this scenario Anderson would only need to occasionally make solid passes which I think is reasonable.  Another possibility is Wells solidifying his pre-draft label of being injury prone.  And the final and most unlikely scenario is Derek Anderson returns to his pro bowl form giving Wells the opportunity to run all over the place.  I would say 1,2, and 3 are realistic.  A low RB2 with some upside.

Tier 5

21. Jerome Harrison – One of my biggest targets this offseason, Montario Hardesty, had his season cut short by an ACL injury.  Harrison will now have less of a threat for the lead back role.  I think James Davis can make a push by the end of the season, but to start the year look for Harrison to see a large amount of carries.  This team has an underrated offensive line.  Harrison makes for a prime example of a player to get on your team only to trade high (after week 5 against Buffalo).  He should be a good RB2 until something changes.  Harrison has the makings of  Cedric Benson in 2009.

22. Matt Forte Forte has the chance to return to fantasy prominence in 2010 after his sophmore slump.  Forte has never been a great between the tackles rusher, but I think he can play the Marshall Faulk role in Martz’s offense (to a lesser degree of course).  Forte has great hands out of the backfield and runs good routes.  Chester Taylor is a bit of an issue, but I believe Forte will still be the majority shareholder of the Bears backfield.  A RB2/flex with upside.

23. Justin Forsett –  Forsett is another back who closed out well last season.  He averaged 5.4 YPC on over 100 carries, and also displayed good hands.  Pete Carroll has named Forsett the starter for now, so we will see where this opportunity takes Forsett.  A risky RB2/good flex with solid upside. (+)

24. Ahmad Bradshaw -As a Giants fan, it pains me to say it but Jacobs will probably never be the same.  He is a huge guy who can beat up defenses, but I think the hits he gives and takes are catching up to him a little.  It is now Bradshaw’s turn.  After still showing great burst with injuries to both feet last year, if he comes back healthy Bradshaw can be a very solid RB2.b

25. Joseph Addai – As much as I dislike his running ability to Donald Brown’s, Addai remains the starter due to his pass protection and familiarity with the offense.  I think there is a decent chance he is unseated as the starter (at the least sees his role diminished) by the seasons end.  However it is currently the start of the season and Addai should be very solid.  Another good draft and trade candidate (around week 5 after he faces Kansas City sounds about right to me).

Honorable Mention

Lesean McCoy – I have the Eagles starting RB lower than most rankings.  There could be a little bias coming in, but I think between Weaver, Mike Bell, and Vick, McCoy will not receive a big share of goal line carries.  This leaves him more in the low end RB2/flex range.

Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams – They both have good potential with decently high risk of injury.  Brown is a higher risk/reward candidate with Ricky having more stability.

Michael Bush – Once his hand heals, I believe he will overtake McFadden for the starting RB role.

Felix Jones – Great talent, but can he stay on the field.  Also how will that Cowboys O-line shape up?

C.J. Spiller – Another amazing talent.  Will he see enough touches with Fred Jackson healthy to be a RB2?

Donald Brown – Can this be the year he takes over for Addai?  If it is then he is a top 20 back.

Marion Barber – Does he have the burst that Jerry Jones hyped up in the offseason?  If so can he stay healthy?

Fred Jackson – He was a top target of mine before the Bills drafted Spiller.

Reggie Bush – He looked very good in the preseason.  He makes for a good flex in PPR leagues.

Kareem Huggins – Will likely be the starting back in Tampa by seasons end.

Ladanian Tomlinson – Can 21 show some of his legendary quickness?  He looked to be in good shape in the preseason and with that O-line I think Tomlinson has flex possibilities.

Brandon Jacobs – I hope Big Papa returns to glory, but I just don’t see it.

Cadillac Williams – Still currently sitting as the starter in Tampa.

I see the first tier as sure fire RB1s, barring injury.  The second tier should also be solid RB1, but they have a lower ceiling and a higher risk of injury.  The third tier players all have the potential to be RB1, but all of them carry some sort of risk with them, age, injury history, or lack of experience.  The fourth tier consists of young RB who have the potential to really step into the fantasy limelight.  The final tier, the fifth, is full of players with question marks or lacking significant upside.

Hopefully this will help you realize why I have these RBs ranked where they are.  Check out my WR rankings, and continue to check back because more updates will be coming throughout the season on McShaft’s Fantasy Football Insight.