These 2009 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings will be updated often throughout the summer, so make sure you check back from time to time. Also, be sure to check out my other 2009 Fantasy Football articles, which will include sleepers, busts, tons of 2009 Fantasy Football mock drafts and other things.
2009 Fantasy Football Rankings - Running Backs:
Last Updated: Sept. 5, 2009
Adrian Peterson, Vikings. Bye: 9. AUG. 17 UPDATE:
Adrian Peterson looked like he was in mid-season form, as he had a powerful run up the middle for 13 yards to get the Vikings into the red zone during the preseason opener. Of course, once the Vikings got there, Chester Taylor got the carry and pummeled his way into the end zone. And so Brad Clueless' games begin...
There's nothing more frustrating (or flustrating, if you're Mike McCarthy) than having Brad Clueless debacle you in fantasy football. I thought Adrian Peterson was a bit overrated in fantasy football last year because of his injury history. Peterson played all 16 games, but scored only 10 touchdowns. Why? Because in his infinite wisdom, Clueless sometimes took Peterson out of goal-line situations, opting to go with Chester Taylor instead. Very flustrating indeed.
However, despite Clueless' best efforts, Peterson still managed 1,760 rushing yards on a 4.8 YPC. The latter number should be even higher this year with Phil Loadholt at right tackle. Still, he's not the touchdown machine you'd like him to be.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,725 rushing yards. 25 catches. 180 receiving yards. 13 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 268. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 293.
Matt Forte, Bears. Bye: 5. AUG. 31 UPDATE:
Matt Forte scored both of Chicago's first-half touchdowns Sunday night. He rushed for 21 yards on nine carries and also caught four balls for 11 more yards. With Chicago's offense clicking, Forte has a shot to lead the league in total touchdowns this year.
AUG. 24 UPDATE:
Matt Forte looked like the best running back in the league on Saturday night, and given the first pick in any fantasy football draft, I'd probably lean toward drafting him. Forte finished with 58 rushing yards and a score on nine attempts. He also had a 9-yard reception. Forte broke a run off left tackle for a gain of 17 yards in which he shattered Kevin Dockery's ankles with an incredible juke move. He later scored on a 32-yard scamper off left tackle again.
Forte was split out wide on one play and was in on the goal-line carries.
During a sideline interview in the second half, Forte acknowledged that there was a lot more running room for him with Jay Cutler under center. It also helps that he has Orlando Pace paving the way for him on the left side.
Forte rushed for 1,238 yards and 12 total touchdowns in 2008. Making him the No. 1 back in PPR leagues, Forte also caught 63 balls for 477 receiving yards. Forte's YPC (3.9) will skyrocket now that opposing defenses will have to respect Chicago's passing game.
My only concern about Forte? If you have him as your RB1, you won't get as much rushing production out of him come playoff time. In Weeks 15 and 16, the Bears battle Baltimore and Minnesota, two of the best teams against the run. Luckily, Forte will still produce in the passing game.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,375 rushing yards. 55 catches. 410 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 268. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 323.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars. Bye: 7.
For the first time in his career, Maurice Jones-Drew won't have to share carries with Fred Taylor. Jones-Drew has never received more than 200 carries in a single season, but you know he can shoulder the load because in addition to his 197 rushes in 2008, he also caught 62 balls.
Jones-Drew is a good bet to receive 300 carries this season, easily putting him in the top five. He's also a touchdown machine; in his three NFL campaigns, he's scored 15, 9 and 14 times.
Jones-Drew will also benefit from Jacksonville's new "Andre Smith Man-Boob" formation. The team spent its first two selections in the 2009 NFL Draft on offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, who join William Tra Thomas and Tony Pashos to form an amazingly deep front - something Jacksonville didn't have last year.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,275 rushing yards. 54 catches. 450 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 262. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 316.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers. Bye: 5. AUG. 24 UPDATE:
LaDainian Tomlinson looked like the Tomlinson of old at times Saturday night. He was very impressive on a 19-yard screen that unfortunately was wiped out by a San Diego personal foul. Tomlinson later eluded a tackler on an 8-yard reception. Playing well into the second quarter, Tomlinson rushed for 18 yards on eight carries and caught two balls for 18 more yards.
LaDainian Tomlinson is incredibly underrated. Last year, he was coming off an MCL tear. He also suffered a toe injury during the season and had to endure San Diego's mediocre offensive line. Despite all that, Tomlinson still rushed for 1,110 yards, caught 52 passes for 426 receiving yards, and scored 12 touchdowns. How awful!
I don't know if Tomlinson is ever going to revert back to 2002-2007 form again, but he's certainly healthier than he was in 2008. The Chargers didn't draft a running back until the middle rounds, so they don't seem too concerned either. And to top it off, A.J. Smith and Tomlinson are friends on Facebook again despite all of that offseason drama.
By the way, it should be noted that Norv Turner predicted that Tomlinson would win the rushing title in 2009. He also said Tomlinson is expected to garner 320 carries this season. Tomlinson had 290 in 2008.
Tomlinson won't go until the bottom of the first round in most leagues. If I'm drafting in the middle of Round 1, I'm going with him.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,250 rushing yards. 42 catches. 350 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 250. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 292.
Chris Johnson, Titans. Bye: 7. AUG. 10 UPDATE:
Chris Johnson did all of the work during Tennessee's second drive against the Bills, but once the Titans reached the end zone, LenDale White received both carries. Despite losing 30 pounds this offseason, it's evident that White will continue to serve as the goal-line back, which limits Johnson's fantasy potential.
Chris Johnson spent the offseason down in Florida, pushing around golf carts four days a week. This was better than LenDale White's strategy of cutting down from 75 to 50 pancakes every morning. White has somehow dropped down to 238 pounds this offseason. Any more weight loss, and I'll have to cut out the fat jokes, which will be a dark day for me.
Johnson rushed for 1,228 yards and 10 total touchdowns on 251 carries. He also caught 43 balls for 260 receiving yards. Note that this took place in 15 games; Johnson sat out the season finale because the Titans had homefield advantage wrapped up.
Those aren't great numbers, but consider this quote from Jeff Fisher, "We didn't get as much done with [Johnson] as we wanted because it was his first year and he was learning. We're going to expand on what we did with him. Any time you get someone with his ability, you want to create mismatches and move him around."
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,350 rushing yards. 54 catches. 420 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 237. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 291.
Steve Slaton, Texans. Bye: 10. SEPT. 4 UPDATE:
Steve Slaton fantasy owners, I've got some bad news for you. Gary Kubiak told the media that Chris Brown will be his goal-line back this year despite the fact that Slaton has been effective in those situations this preseason. Slaton is still worth a late first-round pick in 12-man leagues, but he doesn't have the same upside.
SEPT. 1 UPDATE:
Steve Slaton struggled to find any room against the Williams Wall on Monday night, garnering 27 yards on 12 carries. On the bright side, Slaton also had three receptions for 20 more yards, and scored on his only goal-line opportunity.
AUG. 25 UPDATE:
Steve Slaton was in the game for only a quarter Saturday night, rushing for 30 yards on six carries. He also had two receptions for 13 more yards. More importantly, Slaton remained in the lineup on a 3rd-and-4 on New Orleans' 8-yard line. Chris Brown didn't even play until Slaton left the game in the second quarter, so Slaton's goal-line carries remain safe for now.
AUG. 17 UPDATE:
The big question during the preseason opener from a fantasy perspective was who would get the goal-line carries between Steve Slaton and Chris Brown. Well, the game's over and we still don't know.
Here's what happened: Slaton received the first four carries of the game, obtaining seven yards in the process. During the middle of Houston's second drive, the skies opened up and it started pouring really hard. At that point, Gary Kubiak decided it would be best to take Slaton out of the game, and rightly so.
Chris Brown stepped in and helped the Texans get into the red zone. Brown eventually scored a touchdown, but Slaton was already out of the game at that point. We still don't know whether Slaton or Brown will get the goal-line carries, though this isn't the best news for Slaton's fantasy prospects; Brown looked good in the situation.
Think Gary Kubiak was convinced that Steve Slaton needed more work when the rookie runner compiled 156 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries against the Colts in Week 11? From that point on, Slaton averaged 21.7 carries and 96.8 rushing yards per game. Slaton also demonstrated that he was matchup-proof, twice collecting 100 rushing yards against Albert Haynesworth and the Titans.
Now in his second year, Kubiak is going to figure out how to get the ball into Slaton's hands more often. This includes down on the goal line; the Texans didn't draft a short-yardage back.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,275 rushing yards. 55 catches. 425 receiving yards. 9 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 224. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 279.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers. Bye: 4. AUG. 24 UPDATE:
DeAngelo Williams broke a 25-yard touchdown on the second drive Saturday night. Williams' score was one of the best runs I've seen in the past few years; he shook off four tackles (Jason Ferguson, Kendall Langford, Akin Ayodele and Gibril Wilson) and then sprinted into the end zone.
Williams finished with 40 yards on eight carries. Once again, John Fox will not take touches away from Williams because he's far too talented. Jonathan Stewart hasn't even played because of a nagging Achilles injury. And besides, Fox has shown us time and again that he prefers using veterans over rookies.
AUG. 18 UPDATE:
DeAngelo Williams had six carries for 29 yards in the preseason opener; his best rush was where he eluded a few tacklers and ran nine yards for a first down. People like Matthew Berry are projecting that Jonathan Stewart will take more of Williams' touches away, but I don't see that happening. Williams is just too talented, and Stewart has been banged up with an Achilles injury. Stewart did not play.
Everything went right for the Panthers last year, as DeAngelo Williams rushed for 1,518 yards and 20 total touchdowns behind a healthy, dominant offensive line and a solid defense. Williams became a fantasy MVP with a four-touchdown performance against the Giants in Week 16.
I can't see Williams matching those numbers again. Jonathan Stewart will get more carries. The schedule is tougher (like Atlanta, the Panthers won't battle the Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Lions, Packers, etc. this year again). And odds are everything won't go right this year. There could be a huge injury on the offensive front. Maybe the defense disappoints. I feel as though Williams' 2008 numbers happened as a best-case scenario. He could be overdrafted.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,325 rushing yards. 20 catches. 125 receiving yards. 13 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 223. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 243.
Clinton Portis, Redskins. Bye: 8. AUG. 23 UPDATE:
Clinton Portis looked great and the offensive line opened some nice running lanes for him against the Steelers' tough defense Saturday night. Portis rushed for 26 yards on five carries. However, Jim Zorn foolishly used Ladell Betts on the goal line, which was predictably unsuccessful. Zorn must have been smoking crack before the game because there is no good reason not to use Portis where it counts most.
The addition of Albert Haynesworth really helped Clinton Portis. As I wrote on my 2009 Fantasy Football: Free Agency Stock Up page, with Haynesworth on board, Washington's defense has suddenly become very potent. They already ranked sixth in points allowed in 2008, so Haynesworth's presence will mean even more three-and-outs for the opposition.
With more leads and possessions, Clinton Portis will have more opportunities to touch the ball. And when he does, he'll have more running room with newly signed Derrick Dockery back at left guard.
Portis carried the ball 342 times for 1,487 yards and nine touchdowns in 2008. With a better defense behind him, there's no reason to think Portis can't at least match those numbers.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,350 rushing yards. 24 catches. 200 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 215. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 239.
Michael Turner, Falcons. Bye: 4. AUG. 16 UPDATES:
In the season opener last year, Michael Turner abused the Lions for 200 rushing yards and a long touchdown scamper. Detroit fans experienced deja vu, as Turner scored on a 40-yarder on the second drive of the game. Turner compiled 63 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
A case can be made for Michael Turner to be atop this list; Turner carried the ball 376 times in the regular season for 1,699 yards and a whopping 17 touchdowns. The addition of Tony Gonzalez and an improved defense can only help Turner's YPC (4.5).
However, if you take his 376 attempts and add on 18 from the playoff loss to Arizona, you get 394 carries.
Why is this important? Check out this 2009 fantasy football article chronicling the history of running backs with high carry totals and how they performed the following year. It's not pretty.
Also, it's worth noting that Turner's schedule is a lot tougher this year. You may scoff and remark that it's tough to predict how good defenses will be, but think about it this way: Turner had the luxury of trampling the Lions, Chiefs, Packers, Raiders and Rams in 2008. Instead of battling the NFC North and AFC West, the Falcons get the NFC East and AFC East in 2009. That means that contests against Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis, Kansas City and Green Bay will be replaced by New England, Miami, Washington (Albert Haynesworth), Philadelphia, the Giants and the Jets. Ouch.
One last thing - Turner will have two good games against the defensively challenged Buccaneers. Unfortunately, one of those contests is on Week 17.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,250 rushing yards. 6 catches. 30 receiving yards. 14 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 212. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 218.
Steven Jackson, Rams. Bye: 9.
Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur plan to install a run-heavy offense. That's great news for Steven Jackson owners.
Even better news is that the Rams acquired left tackle Jason Smith and center Jason Brown this offseason, both of whom will open up large running lanes for Jackson. Jackson's YPC, which was 4.1 in 2008, can only increase.
Though Jackson has caught a combined 78 passes for 650 yards the past two seasons, he hasn't topped 1,050 rushing yards or seven touchdowns since 2006. His biggest problem has been his durability; Jackson has missed eight games the last two years, and he's managed more than 255 carries in a season only once. If you draft Jackson, make sure you have a deep running back stable.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,110 rushing yards. 48 catches. 400 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 211. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 259.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants. Bye: 10. AUG. 24 UPDATE:
Brandon Jacobs gained 27 yards on seven carries Saturday night. Jacobs ran right through Brian Urlacher on an 11-yard gain, and then later smashed into Urlacher, who helplessly collapsed onto the field. Jacobs also had a 16-yard reception where it took four Bears to bring him down. This was an encouraging sign because Jacobs had just six catches in 2008.
AUG. 18 UPDATE:
Brandon Jacobs started the preseason opener and looked like he was in mid-season form. Jacobs rushed for 31 yards on four carries. He also caught a 13-yard reception, which is important because he had just six grabs in all of 2008.
Brandon Jacobs will once again have to share carries with two running backs (Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown), so he's never going to be a RB1 in a non-Touchdown League. Still, as his 15 scores indicated last year, he's going to find the end zone almost every week.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,090 rushing yards. 14 catches. 80 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 210. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 224.
Kevin Smith, Lions. Bye: 7. AUG. 30 UPDATES:
The Lions wasted no time getting Kevin Smith involved in the offense Saturday afternoon. Smith touched the ball on the first five plays of the game: a 9-yard gain left tackle; a 4-yard reception; a 3-yard run up the middle; a loss of one yard; and a 10-yard screen pass - which was good enough to move the chains on a 3rd-and-9. Later, Smith had a 19-yard reception to convert another 3rd-and-long. Smith then had a 24-yard run out of a big hole on the second possession.
Smith finished with 50 rushing yards on eight carries and three receptions for 33 more yards. He's an excellent RB2 you should be able to get in the third round. In deep PPR leagues, he's a low RB1.
AUG. 16 UPDATES:
The Lions are going to get the ball a lot to Kevin Smith this year. Smith was featured on the first four plays, which were two runs for 11 yards, one reception for 11 more yards and then a third carry for a short gain. Smith finished with 39 total yards and is one of the best RB2s in fantasy football.
Kevin Smith rushed for 976 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie, which was remarkable when you consider that he didn't receive more than 16 carries in any game until Week 10. From then on, he averaged 21 attempts and 83.9 yards per contest. Smith was also a factor in the passing game, catching 39 balls for 286 yards.
Now that Smith is in his second year, look for the Lions to get the ball into Smith's hands at least 330 times in 2009. If only Detroit drafted an upgrade up front...
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,180 rushing yards. 48 catches. 375 receiving yards. 9 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 209. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 257.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos. Bye: 7. SEPT. 3 UPDATE: Updating yesterday's note, Knowshon Moreno finished Tuesday's practice without any problems. On Wednesday, Josh Mishandles stated that Moreno is healthy enough to play right now. Moreno will sit out Thursday's preseason finale for precautionary reasons, but will be good to go Week 1.
SEPT. 2 UPDATE: Knowshon Moreno finally returned to practice Tuesday, and appears to be on track to be ready Week 1. Don't be scared to draft him as a RB2 with immense upside.
AUG. 31 UPDATE: Knowshon Moreno didn't play Sunday night, but the good news is he warmed up with the team. All indications are that Moreno should be ready for Week 1. With the Broncos so devoid of offensive talent (except for Eddie Royal), they're going to have to lean on Moreno to have a shot at winning a game or two this year.
AUG. 28 UPDATE: Now nearly two weeks removed from his knee sprain, Knowshon Moreno still isn't practicing. The Denver Post believes Moreno won't be at "full speed" by Week 1. I'm dropping Moreno a bit in my 2009 Fantasy Football Rankings, but not too much; this could actually be a blessing in disguise because there's a very good chance the Bengals will clobber the Moreno- and potentially Brandon Marshall-less Broncos in Week 1. This could force Josh Mishandles' hand into using Moreno as much as possible. Besides, once Moreno's healthy, he'll dominate for you later in the year when it matters most.
AUG. 16 UPDATE: Great news from ProFootballTalk - Knowshon Moreno's MRI revealed that he has a minor sprained MCL, meaning he's out for two weeks at the very most.
AUG. 15 UPDATE: Knowshon Moreno's knee was rolled on during one of Kyle Orton's picks. Moreno left the preseason opener with a knee sprain and will get an MRI tomorrow. If you have a fantasy draft this weekend (like me), I feel your pain.
Moreno had just three carries, but looked impressive on every touch. Forum moderator VBSiena said it best, "Two runs already proved he is the best RB on that roster by far." Moreno impressively showed power-running ability on his third carry, so I'd like to see him get some goal-line opportunities this year.
AUG. 13 UPDATE: I said yesterday in my 2009 Fantasy Football Training Camp Fantasy Stock page, "It's only a matter of days until [Knowshon] Moreno is declared the starter." Well, how about "a matter of hours?" Moreno has been named Denver's starting running back for the preseason opener. Helping matters even further is the fact that LaMont Jordan is injured.
AUG. 9 UPDATE: The Broncos agreed to terms with Knowshon Moreno. Moreno will be the centerpiece of Denver's offense, and if Josh Mishandles actually wants to win some football games (his actions this offseason say otherwise), Moreno will be on the field as often as possible. There's no way Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan are getting touches over the No. 12 overall selection.
JULY 7 UPDATE: Josh McDaniels called Knowshon Moreno a "three-down back" recently. This isn't really breaking news as far as I'm concerned; I've had Moreno in the top 10 of my 2009 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for a while now. Maybe ESPN will move him up from No. 29, and finally acknowledge that Correll Buckhalter won't be receiving a bulk of the workload.
The only question with Moreno is whether or not he'll get goal-line carries. Right now, it looks like Peyton Hillis and LaMont Jordan are the favorites, but Moreno is far too talented to be counted out.
Knowshon Moreno is in the best position out of any rookie running back. Chris Wells doesn't have a great offensive line. Moreno does. Donald Brown and Shonn Greene will have to share carries with another running back. Moreno won't.
Moreno also happens to be the most talented back to come out of the 2009 NFL Draft. He'll thrive behind an excellent offensive line. He'll also be the recipient of all of Kyle Orton's checkdowns, making him even more lucrative to own in PPR Leagues.
I've seen Moreno get drafted in Rounds 4 or 5 of some fantasy mocks. Personally, I would have no problem selecting Moreno late in the second round of any non-Touchdown League.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,125 rushing yards. 44 catches. 350 receiving yards. 8 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 195. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 239.
Marion Barber, Cowboys. Bye: 6. AUG. 22 UPDATE:
Marion Barber was involved on six of Dallas' first nine plays Friday night. On those touches, Barber had five rushes for 20 yards, as well as an 8-yard reception. Barber eventually scored a touchdown from the 1-yard line.
With Felix Jones and Tashard Choice as teammates, there's a very slim chance that Marion Barber will have more than 225 carries this year. What he will have is a bunch of goal-line touches, which makes him very valuable in Touchdown Leagues.
Barber has garnered 96 receptions the past two seasons. Expect that number to drop in 2009; Jason Garrett will get Jones and Choice more involved in the aerial attack.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 880 rushing yards. 41 catches. 330 receiving yards. 12 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 193. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 234.
Pierre Thomas, Saints. Bye: 5. AUG. 30 UPDATE:
So much for Mike Bell getting a heavy dose of the ball. With Pierre Thomas out, you may have speculated that Bell would have gotten a lot of work Saturday afternoon. That was hardly the case, as he had only 15 yards on five carries and one reception for 11 yards. Bell was also replaced on the goal line. This is great news for Frenchie owners, though you still never know with Sean Payton.
I liked Pierre Thomas as a late-round sleeper last year. I looked like an idiot until Week 11, when Sean Payton finally realized that the Frenchman was the most talented runner on his roster. I don't know what took Payton so long, but Thomas was able to score six touchdowns in his final six games of the season.
The Saints didn't find a goal-line back in the 2009 NFL Draft, but all of the talk about them possibly drafting Chris Wells definitely had a positive effect. Thomas has put on 10 pounds of muscle, and is now up to 220. He now squats 675 pounds, which is up from 495 last year. All indications are that Thomas will be getting all of the end-zone carries.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,000 rushing yards. 36 catches. 300 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 190. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 226.
Brian Westbrook, Eagles. Bye: 4. AUG. 26 UPDATE:
Brian Westbrook will get the start for the Eagles on Thursday against Jacksonville. This will be the first live-game action Westbrook will see since his ankle surgery. We don't know how he'll respond, but it's good news that he's even in the lineup.
AUG. 4 UPDATE:
The Eagles have been raving about LeSean McCoy's ability to pick up the blitzes thus far. That aspect was a concern going into training camp, so it looks like McCoy is silencing his doubters. If Andy Reid is content with McCoy's pass-protection skills, the rookie runner will be on the field more than Brian Westbrook owners would like.
JUly 28 UPDATE: A month ago, there was speculation that Brian Westbrook wouldn't be ready for the regular season. However, Westbrook is already out of his walking boot and is currently working out. He was also not placed on the PUP list, indicating that Westbrook could be ready by mid-August, which is what Andy Reid has been saying all along.
Brian Westbrook's always a risky proposition because he's always banged up. Though he has missed just four games in the past three years, he's always questionable or doubtful on the injury report. Westbrook turns 30 on Sept. 2, so some of those questionables and doubtfuls could turn into "outs" this season.
Nevertheless, if Westbrook plays, he's going to debacle the opposing defense. He compiled 1,338 total yards and 14 touchdowns in 2008 in 14 contests. This was actually a huge dropoff from what he did in 2007 (2,110 total yards, 12 TDs).
Though his age and durability are both concerns, you have to like Westbrook because of the additions the Eagles made to their roster. Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews, despite their deficiencies in pass protection, are very good run-blockers. Leonard Weaver is a huge upgrade at fullback. And don't forget that Shawn Andrews will be back in the lineup.
With all of this in mind, Westbrook's YPC should bounce back to 4.8 (2007) or 5.1 (2006) instead of 4.0 (2008). Whether he plays or not will be your greatest concern.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 860 rushing yards. 54 catches. 440 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 194. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 229.
Ryan Grant, Packers. Bye: 5. AUG. 30 UPDATE:
Ryan Grant had a lot of room to run with Aaron Rodgers and all of his weapons garnering all of the attention Friday night. Grant carried the ball only five times, but gained 22 yards. More importantly, he was in the backfield on the goal line.
AUG. 24 UPDATE:
Ryan Grant couldn't pick up a 4th-and-1 on the opening drive Saturday night, but received a goal-line carry on the next possession, which resulted in a 3-yard score. Grant rushed for 43 yards on 10 carries and chipped in with two receptions for 21 more yards. Injuries debacled Grant's 2008 campaign, but it looks like he's ready to bounce back this season.
AUG. 17 UPDATE:
I was very impressed with Ryan Grant in the preseason opener. He converted a third-and-one up the middle on the first drive. This is a big deal because Green Bay struggled in short yardage last year. Grant later scored on a 2-yard run, and followed that up with a nice cut for a gain of 14 on the next drive. Of course, this was all against the Browns, so it may not count.
Ryan Grant held out last year, so it took him a while to get going. Grant eventually had four 100-yard rushing performances, though he scored just five touchdowns.
Grant will have the entire offseason to get ready for the 2009 campaign, but don't expect anything great; both of Green Bay's starting offensive tackles suffered ACL tears last year.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,200 rushing yards. 24 catches. 190 receiving yards. 8 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 187. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 211.
Frank Gore, 49ers. Bye: 6.
I've always felt that Frank Gore is perennially overrated in fantasy football. He's never had more than 312 carries in a single season. He's never broken the double-digit touchdown barrier (his career high is 9 TDs in 2006). And when Mike Singletary took over, Gore had just 11 receptions in six games, compared to 36 in the previous eight.
Chances are that Gore will be overdrafted in your fantasy league. I'd look elsewhere for my running back needs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 35 catches. 250 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 177. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 212.
Ronnie Brown, Dolphins. Bye: 6. AUG. 24 UPDATE:
I don't like Ronnie Brown this year because he always gets hurt and has never carried the load by himself, but I'd be remiss if I didn't say that he was really impressive Saturday night. Brown rushed for 31 yards on seven carries and caught three balls for 25 more yards.
Now that Ronnie Brown is two years removed from ACL surgery, Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano may decide to give him more of a workload. In my opinion, that would be a huge mistake. Even in high school and college, Brown has never shouldered the load by himself. He's had Cadillac Williams and Ricky Williams taking a good amount of his carries. And when he's been the only guy, he has broken down.
Brown could start off hot, which will make me look stupid, but I'm willing to bet that if he's getting too many touches, he'll break down by mid-November.
Some quick facts on Brown: He has never rushed for more than 1,008 yards in a single season. He has never scored more than 10 touchdowns. He has missed 13 games in four years.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 1,000 rushing yards. 41 catches. 310 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 173. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 214.
Ray Rice, Ravens. Bye: 7. AUG. 31 UPDATE: Ray Rice once again started and looked great Saturday night. He had 32 yards on 10 carries, but caught eight balls for 67 more yards. Rice was in the backfield for Baltimore's first trip on the goal line, but Le'Ron McClain, the up back, got the ball. Rice later picked up a 3rd-and-1 on the second drive with a 6-yard gain, but was not given the chance to carry the ball on the next trip to the red zone. Instead, Willis McGahee scored. Still, Rice was outstanding and only cemented his role as Baltimore's feature back.
AUG. 25 UPDATE: Ray Rice once again started for the Ravens on Monday night. He touched the ball on four of Baltimore's first five plays, including a 3rd-and-1 conversion on a running play. Rice finished with 29 rushing yards on eight carries and a 3-yard reception. Most importantly, Rice was in the backfield for Baltimore's first goal-line trip. Even better, he scored on a 3-yard run on a Statue of Liberty-type play. If Rice can steal the goal-line work away from Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain, he might have an even bigger year than I've been anticipating.
AUG. 15 UPDATE: Ray Rice started the opening preseason contest and looked very impressive. His first carry was a nice gain of six yards. On his first reception, Rice caught the ball over the middle and ran away from London Fletcher for a gain of 34 yards. Rice finished with 22 rushing yards on five carries and three catches for 38 receiving yards.
AUG. 11 UPDATE: Ray Rice is listed as the top running back on the Ravens' depth chart. Willis McGahee is penciled in behind him, while Le'Ron McClain is listed as a fullback. This is what this site has projected all along; Rice is the Baltimore running back you want in any traditional or PPR league.
JUNE 7 UPDATE: As predicted, Ray Rice is currently running with the first team. With Le'Ron McClain moving to fullback and Willis McGahee receiving less of a workload late in 2008, it seems like a given that Rice will lead Baltimore in carries in 2009.
John Harbaugh apparently liked what he saw out of Rice when his second-year runner was practicing with the first team:
"People see him as a third-down back because of the success he had last year, but I don�t think we have any question that he can be an every-down back," Harbaugh said.
Take Rice in the seventh or eighth round of your draft as a sleeper running back; I doubt you'll be disappointed.
I love Ray Rice as a sleeper for a number of reasons. First, Lorenzo Neal is gone, so LeRon McClain will be moving to fullback. This means that McClain won't get as many carries this year. Second, Willis McGahee just had another knee procedure. It may not have been serious, but it's yet another reason to make John Harbaugh favor Rice. Third, Baltimore drafted right tackle Michael Oher, a punishing run-blocker. And fourth, Rice isn't a rookie anymore and there's no denying his talent, so Harbaugh and Cam Cameron will figure out more ways to get him involved in the offense.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Stats: 975 rushing yards. 54 catches. 400 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
Projected 2009 Fantasy Points: 173. Projected 2009 PPR Fantasy Points: 227.