Tuesday, June 30, 2009
My Top 10 Fantasy Running Backs for 2009
It's that special time of year when fantasy football fanatics start to plot out their drafts. Most fantasy owners would agree that the art of drafting the running backs is based on knowledge, patience, and determination. Here are 10 guys to look out for during draft day. If you can get multiple guys from this list, you'll have a decent chance at making the post season.
10) Clinton Portis (Washington Redskins)
Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis is known for his comedy antics with the media, but he's also known as one of the most prolific rushers in the league. With him shooting down reports of a riff between himself and coach Jim Zorn, Portis appears poised for another season of over 1500 yards rushing.
He just missed that mark last season with 1,487 yards and a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. That was enough to get him to his second Pro Bowl. Look for Portis to post a good season; as long as he doesn't fade out near the end.
9) Steve Slaton (Houston Texans)
Steve Slaton had one heck of a rookie season. The third round pick (86th overall) was named the starter for the Houston Texans last season and never looked back. He put up impressive numbers that allowed him to finish sixth among all running backs in the league.
In week 11, Slaton ran a 71-yard touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts; the longest in Texan's history. He would finish the season with 1,282 yards making him the top rookie running back in the league. Look for Slaton to do even more during his sophomore season with the Texans.
8) LaDanian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers)
L.T. has fallen quite a bit in the draft rankings this year. He had cemented the top spot for several recent seasons before sustaining injuries that held him back. Last season Tomlinson posted career lows in rushing statistical categories including: rushing yards (1,110 yds) and rushing attempts (292).
His latest injury, a severe groin pull, sidelined him during the playoffs last season. Still, he managed to score 11 touchdowns and surpass 1,000 yards for the 8th straight season. If he happens to fall to the second round, it will be a steal.
7) Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams)
Last season, the St. Louis Rams had a disappointing 2-14 season. And yet, Steven Jackson still managed to rush for over 1,000 yards (1,042) and average 4.1 yards per carry. Now with new coach Steve Spagnuolo in place, the Rams hope to rebound and compete for the NFC West division title.
They drafted arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft in Jason Smith; an outstanding offensive tackle out of Baylor. This should help soften the blow of Orlando Pace's departure and allow Jackson to continue his production.
6) Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers)
In 2008, 49er running back Frank Gore played under offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system that is known for its passing of the football. It is a complex system that requires the quarterback to throw on most downs and turnovers are common. Yet, Gore managed to rush for over 1,000 yards (1,036) on 240 carries (4.3 yards per carry) for 6 touchdowns. He became the first 49er running back to rush for 1,000 yards through 3 consecutive seasons.
This season, Gore appears healthy and will be in a new system that focuses on the running game. With new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and former 49er fullback Tom Rathman as the running backs coach, look for Gore to have a standout season. If that doesn't convince you, the 49ers also added fullback Moran Norris to pave the way for Gore.
5) Chris Johnson (Tennesee Titans)
Tennesee Titans running back Chris Johnson was a rookie last season. But, you wouldn't know that by his rushing numbers. Johnson ran for 1,228 yards on 251 carries. He boasted an impressive 4.9 yard per carry average and 9 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl his rookie year and finished 2nd in the AP voting for rookie of the year to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Johnson was actually part of a two running back tandem referred to as "Smash and Dash" with Johnson being the Dash of the duo and Titans running back LenDale White being Smash. This season Johnson proclaims that the moniker is no more and wants to be referred to as "Every Coach's Dream". This move didn't sit pretty with his coach or LenDale White.
4) DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers)
DeAngelo Williams made plenty of fantasy football friends with his rushing statistics last season. The running back for the Carolina Panthers ran for 1,515 yards on 273 carries; that's an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Williams' production didn't just translate into yards. He also added a staggering 18 touchdowns on the season.
Another reason Williams was a fantasy favorite was his meticulous handling of the football. The Carolina Panther was fumble free for the entire 2008 season. I'm also pretty sure that his 4 touchdown game against the Giants didn't hurt either. It was a shame that Williams was snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting. Hopefully that will add further motivation to this talented runner.
3) Matt Forte (Chicago Bears)
In 2008, Matt Forte made his professional football debut with the Chicago Bears against the Indianapolis Colts. He would rush for 123 yards on 23 carries and score a touchdown. He set a Bears franchise record for most rushing yards in a running back's first game.
The impressive victory over the Colts and Forte's debut performance caused the rest of the league to take notice. He became the first Bears running back to rush for over 1,000 yards since 2001 (Anthony Thomas). He would finish the season with 1,238 yards and a whopping 316 carries; averaging 3.9 yards a carry. Altogether, Forte would total 1,715 total yards from scrimmage in his rookie season. NFL.com ranks him 2nd on their fantasy running back list, behind Adrian Peterson.
2) Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons)
Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons had a monster of a season in 2008. In fact, with 1,699 rushing yards on the season, Turner tied for second place in the AP's NFL MVP award voting. The former San Diego Chargers back-up for LaDainian Tomlinson broke the Falcons franchise single game rushing record in his first game for the team. In that game alone, Turner ran for 220 yards on 22 carries and 2 touchdowns.
Later in the season, Turner would score 4 touchdowns in a win over a tough Carolina Panthers team. In all, Michael Turner would reach the end zone 17 times last season; a franchise record. 17 touchdowns is only second all-time in NFL history for a player debuting with a team.
1) Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
Adrian Peterson was the top running back for 2008 and there is no reason to believe he will slow down in 2009. He led the league in rushing with a monstrous 1,760 yards by the end of the regular season. That total was second highest in league history for a running back's sophomore season. In fact, the past two seasons for Adrian Peterson have been the third best start for any NFL running back.... ever.
Most of Minnesota's team will remain intact as the team intends on making a run for the Super Bowl next year. Time will tell if they end up with retired (yeah, right) quarterback Brett Favre on the roster. But with Adrian Peterson coming off of another stellar season in which he scored 10 touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards per carry, the team will remain tough to beat; regardless of the starting quarterback.
Well, those are my top 10 fantasy running backs for 2009. Other notables: Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Jacobs, Marion Barber, Joseph Addai, and one of my favorites, Brian Westbrook. Normally, Westbrook would be no lower than 3 on this list. But with Westbrook still nursing a high ankle sprain, it looks like he'll be out the entire training camp and preseason. Look, for him to be probable for the season opener and a steal in the fantasy draft.
Check out NFL.com's fantasy list here: http://www.nfl.com/fantasy/rankings/rb
Photo credit: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma