Thursday, June 21, 2012

Revised Running Back Rankings

A day and a post ago, I made a similar list, but soon realized that my predictions were completely contrary to historical considerations. I have revised the list, and hope that it is a better representation of this season than the previous version, found here

Running Back Power Ratings: Ranks 1 through 15
Compare to my opinion one month ago.
Feel free to post your own list below.

Over the last 4 seasons there have been about 15 running backs per season who broke the 1,000 yard mark (the true number ranged from 14 to 17 depending on the season). That being said, I can think of at least 5 running backs who absolutely would have gotten to 1,000 yards; Forte (997 yards), Peterson (970), Jackson (934), McFadden (614 yards in 7 games), and Charles (he averaged 6.9 yards per carry before getting injured). Thus, my predictions will have approximately 20 runners breaking the 1,000 yard mark, keeping in mind that 25% of those will probably fail to reach that mark due to injury.


1. Arian Foster: (1,514 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 600 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, and 2 turnovers) 18.21 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.

I have honestly tried my hardest to find a reason to downgrade Arian Foster from the #1 spot, but I can't think of any. Coming off a hamstring injury, he had the lowest YPC of his career at 4.4, but his career average is 4.7 so I could hardly downgrade him for that. I tried to convince myself that Ben Tate will take carries away from Foster, but Tate had 175 carries last season with Foster still carrying the ball 278 times. Arian Foster is the better blocker than Tate, so he should keep his 3rd down duty. He could easily have more than 1400 yards and more than 2 receiving touchdowns, so draft him first overall. He will outscore most of the starting quarterbacks you will face this season. 


2. LeSean McCoy: (1.363 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, 340 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, and 1 turnover) 16.52 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.

"Shady" McCoy gave Foster a run for his money, but he just doesn't have the receiving tendencies that are necessary to be such a high pick. It definitely didn't help that coach Andy Reid said that McCoy was overworked last season. In my prediction, I upped McCoy's carries to 290 because McCoy missed the last game of last season. He could easily surpass Foster if he gets some extra carries, and there isn't really anyone to take carries away from him, if we remove Vick from the equation. McCoy and Foster are neck-and-neck in my book, but Foster's production has been consistently phenomenal for the past two seasons. Don't believe the shit about McCoy's touchdowns, either. Plenty of great backs have scored over 15 TDs in consecutive seasons. If McCoy is as great as he seems, he can definitely do it.


3. Ray Rice: (1,357 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, 680 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, and 2 turnovers) 16.23 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.
If it weren't for his contract situation, I probably would have put Ray Rice ahead of Arian Foster. Rice does everything for the Ravens, and this is one of the few times that I am siding with the player in a contract dispute. The franchise tag is disrespectful to the only player on the Ravens' offense that truly makes a difference. If he holds out into training camp, and I think he will, you can expect his numbers to drop a little from these predictions. His holdout shouldn't have as much of an impact on his game as Chris Johnson's did last season because Ray Rice is more mature and disciplined than CJ2k seems to be. If he holds out into the season, the Ravens wouldn't make the playoffs.


4. Ryan Mathews: (1,248 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns, 500 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, and 2 turnovers) 14.80 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.

Mathews (there is only one 't') should have a monster season with Tolbert out of the way. Norv Turner is on record saying that he expects Mathews to be the workhorse this season, and that is music to every fantasy owner's ears. Mathews will be given the opportunity to get 300 carries if his body can handle the workload, and his injury rating (87.5%) is not especially bad amongst running backs. It would not surprise me if Mathews lead the league in points from a running back this season, but he really needs to prove himself. Mathews had a 4.9 ypc average last season, but I dropped him down to 4.6 for my prediction. He could rush for 1,600 yards if he can attain that 4.9 ypc again this season. He and Aaron Rodgers are of even value for me.


5. Chris Johnson: (1,305 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, 390 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, and 2 turnovers) 14.09 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.
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The difference in value between Johnson and Mathews is much smaller than these numbers indicate. Chris Johnson has not missed a game in his career, and Johnson's numbers are better than Mathews' when I fact in my injury rating. I prefer Mathews because of his huge potential, but I could justify taking Johnson ahead of Mathews for injury reasons. I think Johnson can bounce back, and there are reasons to believe that he will out-perform that 350-receiving-yards value. Johnson gains value if Locker starts. Draft Mathews, Johnson, or Rodgers based on your personal risk vs reward philosophy.


 6. Maurice Jones-Drew: (1,376 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns, 350 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, and 3 turnovers) 13.79 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.

Pocket Hercules is a fighter, but the Jaguars refuse to budge on their refusal to renegotiate his contract. There have been reports from numerous sources that MJD showed reduced ability towards the end of the 2011 season,and that is no surprise with his 343 carries last season. After being on the injury report all last season, basically, I really think Father Time is catching up to MJD, which is why he goes just below Johnson on this list. The Jaguars, who have absolutely nothing else going for them, are willing to risk MJD sitting out for the season (or at least training camp). That should tell you something.


7. DeMarco Murray: (1,302 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns, 366 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, and 0 turnovers) 13.43 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.

DeMarco Murray makes the biggest jump on this list because I broke down the carries between he and Felix Jones over the last half of the season (when Jones was healthy again) and then projected those numbers over the whole season. I did the same thing with his receiving yards, and he ended up 7th. Be extremely cautious when drafting Murray, but he was a rookie last season. The Cowboys should be more prepared to use him in such a way that doesn't hurt his body too early in the season, but make sure you have a nice backup RB in case he goes down. If he plays 13 games this season he should make the top-15 RBs in fantasy, very easily.


8. Matt Forte: (1,141 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns, 500 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, and 1 turnover) 12.76 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.


Forte, like so many other top running backs, is currently struggling with the Bears' front office. The Bears have mistreated Forte for the last two seasons, and he must be furious about the lack of commitment at this point. Forte has great value, even with the addition of Michael Bush, because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Forte has never had enough carries to make a huge impact in rushing yards or touchdowns, and that is unlikely to change with Michael Bush in town. Drop Forte a few spots if he holds out until training camp, but I believe he will be an RB1 in most leagues. 


9. Trent Richardson: (1,102 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, 320 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, and 3 turnovers) 12.26 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.

I took a look back through the history of rookie running backs and found that most of them sucked, but some of them were pretty good. Richardson's numbers are in between the two possibilities. For starters, Eric Dickerson ran the ball 390 times as a rookie and racked up 1,800 yards. Richardson probably won't have so many carries, and the Browns had an atrocious running game last season. I am putting more faith in Richardson than I would like to, but he is going to be a featured back who should see plenty of carries this season. I wish him the best.


10. Darren McFadden: (1,229 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns, 300 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, and 3 turnovers) 12.18 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.


 McFadden will be winning you games until he goes on IR. His 79% injury rating means that he would typically be good for only 12-13 games each season, and his history suggests the same thing. Last season was a bit of a unique situation, especially since he seemed to be close to returning for multiple weeks, before ultimately missing the last 9 games of the seasons. This latest injury was a foot injury, which makes it an issue for any football player, but I would be willing to give McFadden a chance, especially in the third round. Michael Bush is gone, so McFadden should have free reign for as long as his body can handle it. I actually believe that McFadden can perform for most, if not all, of the season. Steven Jackson showed similar tendencies at the beginning of his career, but he has played all but two games in the last 3 seasons. Players can change.


11.  Steven Jackson: (1,204 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns, 350 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, and 2 turnovers) 12.09points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.

Steven Jackson's career is going to go one of two directions this season. Either the passing game is finally going to step up and help alleviate some of the pressure he has been facing for the last 8 seasons, or he is going to get pounded into oblivion again. Either way, I believe these numbers will stand. He has never been able to get into the end zone often, but that is most directly related to the fact the his team can't get the ball close enough to the goal line for him to run the ball in. After three relatively injury-free seasons, I am ready to endorse Steven Jackson.


12. Marshawn Lynch: (1,160 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, 200 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns, 2 turnovers) 11.63 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.
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Marshawn Lynch will have trouble getting back to the same state of mind that he was in for the end of 2011. I still think he is going to be a great fantasy back, but I don't think he will be quite as dominant as he was last season. He should be a featured running back (unlike many other backs in the league), but his ypc and receiving yards will be lower. I think you can go either way in this place, using Best, Lynch, and Jackson interchangeably to fit the team you are building. Lynch should be used consistently, but might not have the same spark that Best has. They are so close, in my eyes, that you can go with your gut...although Best will have a much lower draft position.


13. Michael Turner: (1,204 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns, 100 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns, and 3 turnovers) 11.53 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.


Turner the Burner is not so much of a burner anymore, but the man knows how to find the end zone. If he gets banged up early in the season, you can bring those numbers down towards 1,000 rushing yards. He never had too much injury trouble last season and was extremely consistent, so I would feel confident drafting him. He is a big guy who has goal line duty for a team with an emerging offense. As an owner, I hope he gets more involved in the passing game this season. There is very little to suggest long-term injury issues, which gives me confidence in drafting him.


14. Adrian Peterson: (989 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 150 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, and 1 turnover) 11.49 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.

I believe that the Vikings will hold off from overworking Peterson outside the Red Zone until the 6th game of the season, so he will probably see lower yardage totals, but similar touchdown production. A.D. is still young, but there are concerns about whether he will even make it back for the start of the season. Peterson could move up or down this list as we learn more about how his injury is progressing, but the fact that he is racing his teammates is a good sign. The Vikings might be pushed to bring him back more quickly if their second best offensive weapon decides to hold out. Keep and eye on Peterson once training camp arrives.


15. Reggie Bush: (1,109 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns, 300 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, and 3 turnovers) 11.43 points per game in standard NFL scoring leagues.

Reggie Bush really took off at the end of last season, and it sounds like the team plans on using him more as a receiver IN ADDITION TO hi role as a running back. The NFL website, as they are accustomed to do, reported only the part of the story that would get people to click on their link and left out the part of the interview where Bush said he would still be getting lots of carries. Regardless, Bush is looking like he could be a top-10 scoring running back, even if he doesn't produce as many rushing yards or touchdowns as some other backs. He should be a good RB2 this season.


Post your own Rankings below!

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