By now you’ve probably drafted in most (if not all) of your leagues. If you’re not done, just make sure you finish them before Sept. 4th, when the NFL season kicks-off as the Redskins take on the Giants.
Speaking of, this seems like an appropriate time to remind you that Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, and Plaxico Burress (and if you’re having a hard time letting go, Jeremy Shockey) are all good, but not elite fantasy players. If you take them before players like Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Terrell Owens or Jason Witten, then in addition to being a stinking Giants fan, you won’t be setting your fantasy team up for success. (This woudn’t be as dumb as say, drafting ANY Philadelphia Eagles’ Wide Receivers. But it bears mentioning, because – lo and behold – people are still doing just that). Finally, for any waste-of-space Redskins fans out there, it’s not that I revile your team any less than the Eagles or Giants, it’s more just that there really aren’t any ‘Skins players who are impact fantasy football players, aside from Clinton Portis).
With that said, here are my RB rankings. These assume 6 point touchdowns and 10 yards per point. Also, these are re-draft rankings, not Dynasty or Keeper rankings.
1) LaDainian Tomlinson – for what seems like forever, LT remains #1.
2) Brian Westbrook – Westbrook isn’t better than Adrian Peterson, but until the Eagles trade for a WR with a pulse, he and McNabb constitute their offense.
3) Adrian Peterson – Remember when Peterson had 14 carries for 3 yards in week 14 vs. the “Niners?!? Peterson owners vividly do, especially since week 14 is a playoff week in most leagues. You can expect AD (That’s for Adrian “All-Day” Peterson, for you non-Oklahoma University fans out there) to range from 20 to 25 carries per week this year, destroying the attempts-weighted Yards Per Carry (YPC) record while he’s at it.
4) Steven Jackson – the Rams’ O-line self destructed so badly last year that it would be like winning the lottery twice if it happens again. He’ll improve tremendously.
5) Marshawn Lynch – eeks out the #5 spot over Addai, due to an improved YPC with an improving Edwards at QB and thus less 8 man fronts to run through.
6) Joseph Addai – is by far the safer choice than #’s 2 through 5. Lower risk, but a lower ceiling with Indy’s pass-oriented offense.
7) Maurice Jones-Drew – ascends to Top 10 for the first time in his young career, as additional wear on ageless Fred Taylor and a bona-fide passing game bolster Jones-Drew’s opportunities.
8 Earnest Graham – Ranking him this high is unorthodox, but I think Cadillac Williams’ career is over, and Warrick Dunn is a creaky change-of-pace passing option. The Bucs play an easy schedule – you can expect to see Graham on the field A LOT.
9) Ryan Grant – A little risky in keeper leagues since his role isn’t cemented (forget the big contract: only $4.5 is guaranteed, and that’s all for this year). But he’s the feature back in one of the NFC’s best offenses.
10) Laurence Maroney – Teams have upgraded their secondaries and pass-rushes to try and disrupt the NE passing game. This will open up opportunities for Maroney and the other NE running backs (Morris, etc.) Hopefully a little load balancing will help ease Maroney’s myriad nicks and scrapes.
11) Clinton Portis – call him by whatever name or character you like, he’s less injury prone than people think. Like Marshawn, he will benefit from an improving QB.
12) Larry Johnson – Herm Edwards is entertaing and a great motivator, but KC is a terrible team. But I think LJ will accumulate good stats despite seeing nothing but 8 or even 9 man fronts.
13) Ronnie Brown – Who knows what to expect here. I really don’t know if he’ll shake the injury bug, but he’s got great upside if he does. Also, I don’t buy Ricky Williams as an alternative – I think Parcells and Co. might be trying to trade Ricky b/c they know that rookie Jalen Parmele is already a great backup.
14) Brandon Jacobs – Jacobs is a wrecking ball who’s a risk to get hurt on every play. But he’s in his prime. I would feel ok having him on my team, so long as I had his primary backup, Ahmad Bradshaw as well.
15) Darren McFadden – Zone blocking schemes do great, great things for running backs. And unlike the Denver Broncos RBs that made the system famous (exception: Portis), McFadden is actually a great running back.
16) Frank Gore – Mike Martz offenses do terrible, terrible things for RB fantasy production. Gore is still a fine choice, but as a #2, not a #1 back. (With luck the Martz system might save wear and tear on him).
17) Marion Barber III – It’s two factors that make me want to avoid Barber this year 1) Any injury to Romo or any O-Lineman would really hurt him, and 2) Felix Jones is a rocket who’ll get 5 to 10 carries per game. As a Cowboys fan, I hope that Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett is smart enough to keep Barber’s carries under 250. (i.e., Barber ending up as a top 20 fantasy RB may be better for the Cowboys as a team than Barber as a top 10 RB).
18) Jamal Lewis – I don’t see as good a year as last year, but 1300 total yards is still pretty good.
19) Fred Taylor - The Jags will be good this year. I think Taylor will cede 40+ carries to MJD.
20) Willis McGahee – Unfortunately the Ravens will stink this year, and the O-Line is really young. I like McGahee better next year than this year.
21) Willie Parker – Pittsburgh’s line is going to be terrible this year, as their best players signed with the Jets. “Fast Willie” is still fast, but the key is I think he’s as fast as rookie Rashard Mendenhall.
22) Rashard Mendenhall – The first of many great years for him in Pittsburgh.
23) Edgerrin James – Uses luck and a lock on the starting job on his way to 1200 total yards with a bad YPC.
24) Reggie “I’m Not a Bust” Bush – Reggie’s definitely not a bust. He’s just not a fantasy FB all-star.
25) Thomas Jones – He and Jerricho Cotchery had to be the happiest guys in NY when Farve was signed.