Apr 22, 2009
As the draft quickly approaches, we’re trying to bang out as much of the magazine writeups as we possibly can, and I’ve just completed about the top-50 RBs. Of course, the draft will change a lot of things, so it’s hard to rank any player for certain. We have also not yet plugged in projections, which can change things once you see the raw numbers. But I do have some rankings and comments on the top-50 guys now, and I’m pretty comfortable with this list, knowing it’s very early.
So here’s what I got at this early stage.
1. Adrian Peterson, MIN – Has to be top dog this year given youth and talent but more action in the passing game would be nice.
2. Michael Turner, ATL – Carried the load all season with great effectiveness in run-heavy offense and was money near the goal so a no-brainer.
3. Maurice Drew, JAC – Major jump in receptions key for 3rd straight strong season and now he truly carries the load plus Holt will help their shaky team.
4. Matt Forte, CHI – Addition of Cutler should help them move the ball and create more opportunities for the slick and productive runner and receiver.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD – Concerns about age are legit but offense is too strong to ignore and as bad as he was playing with a bad toe he was still 7th in PPG.
6. Steven Jackson, STL – He’s a horse and they are building offense around him but weak supporting cast won’t do him any favors and creates downside.
7. Chris Johnson, TEN – A special player who commands a healthy number of touches and seriously challenges defenses so the production will continue in run-based offense.
8. Brandon Jacobs, NYG – Injuries always a concern but he was okay last year and his 19 goal line carries were a great sign and no reason to believe he won’t continue to rack of TDs so a very solid starter.
9. Joseph Addai, IND – Colt line and overall offense should be better off plus depth behind him is poor so he will likely bounce back with plenty of touches.
10. Brian Westbrook, PHI – Still very dangerous and Eagle OL beefed up, which helps but should split time more this year and durability is always a major issue.
11. Clinton Portis, WAS – Age and wear and tear are big concerns but he always finds a way to produce and always gets the rock a ton.
12. DeAngelo Williams, CAR – Insanely productive and dynamic last year but numbers are bound to go with the stud-like Stewart commanding a healthy number of touches.
13. Marion Barber, DAL – Too many other qualities backs here but Barber’s role as their bruiser and goal line back is secure so 10+ TDs will be in order.
14. Frank Gore, SF – An elite talent but the production hasn’t been there on a bad team but a terrific #2 back in an offense that will be centered around him and the running game.
15. Reggie Bush, NO – His limitations are clear but was very productive in 2007 when he played and if healthy should be ready to take full advantage of his skills and favorable situation.
16. Steve Slaton, HOU – Texans won’t over-expose him but he’s too versatile and dangerous to keep off the field so a nice #2 back in potentially a potent offense.
17. Ryan Grant, GB – Not a special talent and lack of action in the passing game but good overall offense and he can be the workhorse, so a nice #2.
18. Thomas Jones, NYJ – His OL is solid and he will get the rock a ton, but he’s beyond 30 and with no Favre he’s bound to fall well short of last year’s production.
19. Ronnie Brown, MIA – Should be in better shape two years removed from knee injury and total yardage and TDs should slot him in the top-15 if he can stay healthy despite timeshare.
20. Pierre Thomas, NO – Not a stud and Bush will take away catches but a quality player in a good situation as long as they don’t add another bigger back.
21. Willis McGahee, BAL – Last year was a train wreck but expected to move back into more of a lead role and a good situation under Cameron on a good team.
22. Marshawn Lynch, BUF – Suspended three games for now and RBs Rhodes and Jackson are quality players, but the offense is bound to improve
23. Jonathan Stewart, CAR – Not someone you can count on as a starter but a high-end talent in a good spot so a good bet to finish in the top-25 this year.
24. Darren McFadden, OAK – Still shaky as a runner and an RBBC situation but he will get plenty of touches as runner and receiver and will have upside compared to the others in this range.
25. LenDale White, TEN – No reason to think he won’t be fed the rock near the goal, so the TDs should be there again but very limited otherwise.
26. Derrick Ward, TB – Brought in as a free agent and he’s bigger and more talented than anyone else here so he should get a healthy number of touches and a pretty decent situation.
27. Kevin Smith, DET – Finds a way to produce despite poor situation and team should be better but Mo Morris hurts his value and Smith lacks special qualities so best a #3 fantasy RB.
28. Larry Johnson, KC – Future up in the air but has to go up the list if he’s here still as he averaged 4.5 YPC in 2008 and this could be a solid situation even as he’s not a great fit for their offense.
29. Jamal Lewis, CLE – His 2008 season was closer to his normal production so don’t expect much from an aging back on a bad team but he will carry the load for sure.
30. Cedric Benson, CIN – Nothing special at all but if he carries the load as expected should be serviceable as Palmer is a major upgrade over last year’s QB.
31. Julius Jones, SEA – Production will be sporadic but worth having around for depth as he’ll likely carry the load with Morris gone.
32. Willie Parker, PIT – Production has decreased four years running and Mendenhall and Moore will limit production but he should still be top back.
33. Tim Hightower, ARI – Value a little up in the air with James status but should be considered a good bet to get at least half the carries and most of the goal line carries.
34. Rashard Mendenhall, PIT – Probably a year away from exploding and Parker should still start but he could be a Parker injury away from exploding.
35. Correll Buckhalter, DEN – Total numbers over his last three seasons are impressive so definitely has a chance to excel and stand out above the rest.
36. Earnest Graham, TB – A solid player but the addition of Ward destroys his value yet he will play and would be a nice starter if Ward got hurt.
37. Darren Sproles, SD – He averaged a TD every 15 touches last year so if he gets 10 touches a game he should be worth starting as a flex.
38. Felix Jones, DAL – Impressive yards per carry (8.9) and a TD every 10.7 touches last year so with more touches this year will come more production.
39. Fred Taylor, NE – Won’t carry the load and may not get the goal line carries so despite the good situation won’t likely do anything special.
40. Jamaal Charles, KC – Should at worst be their top receiver out of the backfield and possibly much more as he’s a good fit for a spread attack.
41. Ricky Williams, MIA – Brown trade rumors do bode well for him as he will at worst get 35-40% of the touches.
42. Leon Washington, NYJ – Coming off his best season he’s a threat o get a TD anytime and his role in the passing game is increasing so a nice depth option.
43. Sammy Morris, NE – Addition of Taylor does hurt a lot but he might still be their top goal line back since Taylor’s not a great one.
44. Chester Taylor, MIN – Keeps plugging along and does well with his touches but really need a Peterson injury to have serious value.
45. Fred Jackson, BUF – Nice player and Lynch suspended for three games but addition of Rhodes throws a monkey wrench into his fantasy plan this year.
46. Jerious Norwood, ATL – Had 5.1 yards per carry and a TD every 22 touches last year so he’s a viable flex starter.
47. Le’Ron McClain, BAL – A fine fall back plan again if McGahee falls off again otherwise won’t likely get nearly as many touches at FB this year.
48. Maurice Morris, DET – Quality player and the new regime did bring him in but he won’t likely get many goal line carries.
49. J.J. Arrington, DEN – Should have a role similar to Kevin Faulk’s for McDaniels and has some upside as a depth option for fantasy.
50. Justin Fargas. OAK – He still managed to rack up 853 yards on 219 carries and he’s back so will continue to get carries.