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Fantasy Football - Running Back Rankings

2008 Fantasy Football Rankings
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  1. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 1.
    If you don't take LaDainian Tomlinson with the first pick of your fantasy draft, you might as well burn the money you're spending on the league. If the league's free, you're just embarrassing yourself.
    Projected Stats: 1,700 rushing yards. 550 receiving yards. 23 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 363
    Player Value: 197

  2. Steven Jackson, Rams
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 2.
    There's a reason I gave the Rams a four-star rating at running back. Not only did Steven Jackson rush for 1,528 yards, he also caught 90 passes. Ninty passes!
    Projected Stats: 1,450 rushing yards. 750 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 310
    Player Value: 142

  3. Frank Gore, 49ers
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 4.
    Unless he gets hurt, Frank Gore has an excellent shot at winning the rushing title in 2007. Furthermore, he should be able to increase his production in the passing game. Sixty-one receptions could easily become 75 or 80.
    Projected Stats: 1,750 rushing yards. 525 receiving yards. 13 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 305
    Player Value: 137

  4. Joseph Addai, Colts
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 6.
    In 2006, Joseph Addai was a decent running back to have on a fantasy roster; he compiled 1,081 yards at a 4.8 clip. Now that Dominic Rhodes is gone, Addai's numbers should see a sharp increase. Keep in mind that he also generates numbers in the passing game. The only way Addai doesn't produce is if he gets hurt.
    Projected Stats: 1,525 rushing yards. 550 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 297
    Player Value: 129

  5. Larry Johnson, Chiefs (Huge Injury Risk)
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 3.
    As I mentioned in my 2007 Chiefs Season Preview, running backs who carry the ball more than 380 times in a single season have a tendency to break down. If you draft Larry Johnson, be careful and make sure you have solid depth on your team. Furthermore, Johnson's average yards per carry, which dropped a full yard in 2006, could go down even further without Will Shields.
    Projected Stats: 1,480 rushing yards. 475 receiving yards. 16 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 291
    Player Value: 123

  6. Laurence Maroney, Patriots
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 10.
    An excellent mixture of power and speed, Laurence Maroney rushed for 745 yards at a 4.3 clip. Now the full-time starter, Maroney's stats will also improve tremendously.
    Projected Stats: 1,450 rushing yards. 250 receiving yards. 19 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 284
    Player Value: 116

  7. Brian Westbrook, Eagles
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 8.
    If you have a late first-round pick in a league that counts receptions, consider Brian Westbrook. The Villanova product rushed for 1,217 yards, caught 77 passes and scored 11 touchdowns in 2006.
    Projected Stats: 1,200 rushing yards. 800 receiving yards. 12 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 272
    Player Value: 104


  8. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 15.
    Despite receiving more than 20 carries just twice in 2006, Maurice Jones-Drew was able to rush for 941 yards and 15 total touchdowns. He also caught 46 passes for 436 yards. Now in his second NFL campaign, Jones-Drew should get more of the workload.
    Projected Stats: 1,200 rushing yards. 550 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 265
    Player Value: 97

  9. Travis Henry, Broncos (Underrated)
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 14.
    As I mentioned above, I'm expecting a lot out of Travis Henry this season. Henry, who registered 1,200 yards as a Titan in 2006, is a tough, physical runner who will thrive in Denver's zone-blocking system. A 1,600-yard campaign is definitely possible.
    Projected Stats: 1,600 rushing yards. 175 receiving yards. 14 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 261
    Player Value: 93

  10. Willie Parker, Steelers
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 7.
    OK, so maybe he can get into the end zone. Willie Parker took Jerome Bettis' red-zone opportunities and capitalized, scoring 16 total touchdowns in addition to his 1,494 yards. Parker is one of the top running backs in the game - whether it's real or fantasy.
    Projected Stats: 1,520 rushing yards. 200 receiving yards. 14 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 256
    Player Value: 88

  11. Marshawn Lynch, Bills
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 26.
    My pick to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Marshawn Lynch is already the starter and will have the luxury of running behind one of the largest offensive lines in the game. Projected Stats: 1,400 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 11 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 221
    Player Value: 53

  12. Shaun Alexander, Seahawks (Overrated)
    ESPN Positional Ranking: 5.
    Lots of reasons not to take Shaun Alexander: He could still be injured; his offensive line won't be as great as it was in 2005, so he's a bit over-valued; and his yards-per-carry average was mediocre even before he got hurt. If you take Alexander, make sure you have great backups.
    Projected Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 50 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
    Projected Fantasy Points: 220
    Player Value: 52


Getting Creative: Exploiting Weak Defenses

It's a problem tons of fantasy owners face every year. Stuck drafting in the lower end of a 12-man league, all the good running backs are gone in the third round. So, what do you do? Neglect the RB position? Draft scrubs? Ask for your money back because the commissioner obviously rigged the order? Try getting creative instead.

Indianapolis, Kansas City, St. Louis, Buffalo, Washington, Cleveland, Seattle, NY Jets, New Orleans, Tennessee, Houston and Detroit were among the worst teams against the run last year. Scratch Seattle and the Jets off the list because they've each made improvements to their front seven. Take the Colts out, because if they establish a great enough lead, your running back won't get many carries. So, we're looking for marginal running backs (excluding Tennessee and Oakland because of shaky situations) who play the remaining nine squads:

  • Week 1: DeAngelo Williams, DeShaun Foster, Fred Taylor, Ahman Green
  • Week 2: Cadillac Williams, DeAngelo Williams, DeShaun Foster, Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson
  • Week 3: Cadillac Williams, Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns, Deuce McAllister, Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson
  • Week 4: Marion Barber, Julius Jones, Warrick Dunn, Jerious Norwood
  • Week 5: Edgerrin James, Marion Barber, Julius Jones, DeAngelo Williams, DeShaun Foster, Warrick Dunn, Jerious Norwood, Fred Taylor
  • Week 6: Brandon Jackson, Cadillac Williams, Fred Taylor
  • Week 7: Edgerrin James, Warrick Dunn, Jerious Norwood, Ahman Green, Cadillac Williams
  • Week 8: Jamal Lewis, DeAngelo Williams (vs. IND), DeShaun Foster (vs. IND)
  • Week 9: DeAngelo Williams, DeShaun Foster, Fred Taylor, Brandon Jackson
  • Week 10: Deuce McAllister, Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor
  • Week 11: Ahman Green, Deuce McAllister, Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns, Marion Barber, Julius Jones
  • Week 12: Fred Taylor, Cadillac Williams, Jamal Lewis, Ahman Green, DeAngelo Williams, DeShaun Foster, Brandon Jackson
  • Week 13: Warrick Dunn, Jerious Norwood, Edgerrin James, Ahman Green, Cadillac Williams, Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson
  • Week 14: Cadillac Williams, Warrick Dunn, Jerious Norwood, Marion Barber, Julius Jones
  • Week 15: Brandon Jackson, Jamal Lewis, Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns, Edgerrin James
  • Week 16: Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns, Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson

    If you manage to draft Cadillac Williams and DeAngelo Williams, you're already covered every week except: 4, 10, 11, 15 and 16. Because 15 and 16 are so crucial, I would recommend picking any two of the backs you see there. The Giants runners help because they also cover Week 11. As for 4 and 10, attempt to plug those holes the best you can. Just hope the other owners don't draft all those guys. If that happens, you might as well ask for your money back.


    1. Cedric Benson, Bears
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 17.
      I hope Cedric Benson didn't cry when he heard Thomas Jones was traded. Benson will be the featured back this year. He should be able to put up solid numbers on the ground, although he's pretty useless in the passing game.
      Projected Stats: 1,300 rushing yards. 100 receiving yards. 13 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 218
      Player Value: 50

    2. Rudi Johnson, Bengals
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 9.
      Rudi Johnson has rushed for more than 1,300 yards the past three years. Problem is, he doesn't do much in the passing game. If your league counts receptions, take him a bit later than you would in a traditional league.
      Projected Stats: 1,400 rushing yards. 100 receiving yards. 12 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 212
      Player Value: 44

    3. Thomas Jones, Jets
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 18.
      Thomas Jones finally gets to have the starting job all to himself without some overrated, overpaid, cry-baby behind him on the depth chart.
      Projected Stats: 1,200 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 11 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 201
      Player Value: 33

    4. Reggie Bush, Saints
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 13.
      If receptions count in your league, make sure to bump Reggie Bush up a couple of notches; as a rookie, he caught 88 passes. The majority of his aerial work came in December; Bush had 24 receptions for 311 yards in that month.
      Projected Stats: 650 rushing yards. 800 receiving yards. 9 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 199
      Player Value: 31


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    5. Marion Barber, Cowboys
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 21.
      As I mentioned in the offensive portion of my season preview, I believe Marion Barber will be featured more in Dallas' offense. I don't know if he'll get most of the carries, but he should receive at least half.
      Projected Stats: 940 rushing yards. 225 receiving yards. 13 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 194
      Player Value: 26

    6. Willie McGahee, Ravens (Overrated)
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 12.
      Willis McGahee garnered a 3.8 yards-per-carry average behind a decent offensive line. Now, he'll be running behind a front that allowed its former back to rumble at a 3.4 clip. Suddenly, McGahee doesn't seem too promising.
      Projected Stats: 1,150 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 190
      Player Value: 22

    7. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers (Sleeper)
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 32.
      The Panthers use two running backs and cannot open interior lanes very well. DeAngelo Williams will, however, score you points in the passing game.
      Projected Stats: 800 rushing yards. 575 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 179
      Player Value: 11

    8. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins (Overrated)
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 11.
      Defenses will continue to stack the line of scrimmage against Ronnie Brown because the Dolphins don't have an aerial attack. Miami's offensive line stinks.
      Projected Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 310 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 177
      Player Value: 9

    9. Deuce McAllister, Saints
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 16.
      I guess you can say Deuce McAllister is the polar opposite of Reggie Bush; he rumbled for 1,057 yards in 2006, but only had 30 catches for 198 yards. Just 10 touchdowns.
      Projected Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 11 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 176
      Player Value: 8

    10. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 23.
      I think it's safe to assume that Brandon Jacobs will receive at least half of Tiki Barber's carries.
      Projected Stats: 900 rushing yards. 180 receiving yards. 11 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 174
      Player Value: 6

    11. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 27.
      Cadillac Williams won't be as bad as he was in 2006, but he might not be as solid as he was in 2005. It's worth the risk, but he could rebound.
      Projected Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 250 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 171
      Player Value: 3

    12. Jamal Lewis, Browns
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 24.
      The left side of Cleveland's offensive line looks promising. Jamal Lewis doesn't.
      Projected Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 100 receiving yards. 8 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 168
      Player Value: 0

    13. Brandon Jackson, Packers (Underrated)
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 43.
      Will Brandon Jackson start right away? How talented is he? Will he fit into Green Bay's system? These are questions no one has answers to. He's worth a shot if he falls, but I wouldn't take him early.
      Projected Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 100 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 156
      Player Value: -12


    14. Clinton Portis, Redskins
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 19.
      Clinton Portis will regain his job as starting running back, but he'll likely split carries with Ladell Betts, who proved himself last year.
      Projected Stats: 900 rushing yards. 200 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 152
      Player Value: -16

    15. Ahman Green, Texans
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 22.
      Over the hill and running behind a very poor offensive line. Let someone else take him.
      Projected Stats: 700 rushing yards. 325 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 144
      Player Value: -24

    16. Reuben Droughns, Giants
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 44.
      Didn't do much with the Browns last year. Then again, no one else did either.
      Projected Stats: 800 rushing yards. 300 receiving yards. 5 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 140
      Player Value: -28

    17. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 52.
      Four words any fantasy player doesn't want to hear: Running back by committee. No one but Brad Childress knows how the number of carries will be split between Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson.
      Projected Stats: 800 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 131
      Player Value: -37

    18. Ladell Betts, Redskins
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 28.
      I can't see Al Saunders going away from Ladell Betts, who had a higher yards-per-carry average (4.7) than Clinton Portis (4.1).
      Projected Stats: 700 rushing yards. 300 receiving yards. 5 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 130
      Player Value: -38

    19. Warrick Dunn, Falcons
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 30.
      Warrick Dunn turned 32 in January, so he's at that age where things start going downhill. His yardage dropped from 1,416 in 2005 to 1,140 in 2006. Jerious Norwood will undoubtedly steal more of his carries.
      Projected Stats: 900 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 4 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 129
      Player Value: -39

    20. Jerious Norwood, Falcons
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 36.
      With Warrick Dunn getting older, Jerious Norwood will get more opportunities to carry the ball.
      Projected Stats: 850 rushing yards. 175 receiving yards. 4 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 126
      Player Value: -42

    21. Julius Jones, Cowboys
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 33.
      If the rumors about the Cowboys attempting to trade Julius Jones this offseason are true, Jones will be featured less in Dallas' offense.
      Projected Stats: 800 rushing yards. 100 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 126
      Player Value: -42


    22. Kevin Jones, Lions
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 35.
      The Lions don't run the ball much, and Kevin Jones has problems staying healthy. When he's in the lineup, however, he does play a role in the passing game; Jones caught 61 passes for 520 yards in 2006.
      Projected Stats: 500 rushing yards. 400 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 126
      Player Value: -42

    23. Fred Taylor, Jaguars
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 29.
      A decent backup fantasy running back you can use against horrendous rush defenses. Taylor isn't a starter because the last time he had at least 10 touchdowns was 2002. Maurice Jones-Drew should see even more carries his second season.
      Projected Stats: 800 rushing yards. 125 receiving yards. 5 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 122
      Player Value: -46

    24. Leon Washington, Jets
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 48.
      Won't get enough touches to warrant him as a fantasy pick, but he's exciting to watch.
      Projected Stats: 500 rushing yards. 400 receiving yards. 4 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 114
      Player Value: -54

    25. Chester Taylor, Vikings (Overrated)
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 25.
      Chester Taylor rushed for 1,216 yards last year. That number may be cut in half with Adrian Peterson on the roster.
      Projected Stats: 700 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 4 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 109
      Player Value: -59

    26. Tatum Bell, Lions
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 47.
      Tatum Bell's more reliable than Kevin Jones in terms of staying healthy, but he's a fumbling machine.
      Projected Stats: 500 rushing yards. 300 receiving yards. 4 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 104
      Player Value: -64

    27. LaMont Jordan, Raiders
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 31.
      Oakland's offensive line won't open up any holes for LaMont Jordan or anyone else in the backfield. I'd rather take a backup running back on San Diego or Chicago rather than the Raiders' starter.
      Projected Stats: 575 rushing yards. 125 receiving yards. 3 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 87
      Player Value: -81

    28. DeShaun Foster, Panthers
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 37.
      He shares his carries with DeAngelo Williams and provides nothing in the passing game. Pass.
      Projected Stats: 650 rushing yards. 3 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 83
      Player Value: -85

    29. LenDale White, Titans
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 40.
      I'm not really sure what to make of Tennessee's running back situation. LenDale White's listed as the starter, but Chris Henry may take over. Maybe Jeff Fisher will promise to give White a cheeseburger if he runs for 150 yards per game. He'd definitely gain 2,400 yards - no problem.
      Projected Stats: 500 rushing yards. 140 receiving yards. 3 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 82
      Player Value: -86

    30. Chris Henry, Titans
      ESPN Positional Ranking: 45.
      Probably more motivated of the two running backs, assuming no food is involved. Chris Henry couldn't start at the University of Arizona. Then again, Willie Parker was also a reserve in college.
      Projected Stats: 350 rushing yards. 50 receiving yards. 3 total TDs.
      Projected Fantasy Points: 58
      Player Value: -110



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