2010 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs <br> By Steve Strange
By Steve Strange. Steve Strange, a graduate of Penn State's Center for Sports Journalism in 2006, is currently writing Fantasy is Reality, a book geared around the commissioner aspect of fantasy sports. Steve has been playing fantasy sports of all sorts and sizes since 1997. Feel free to e-mail Steve questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These 2010 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 the other 2010 Fantasy Football articles, which will include sleepers, busts, tons of 2010 Fantasy Football mock drafts and other material.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. Bye: 9.
Well, Chris Johnson had a pretty good fantasy season in 2009. He gained an NFL-record 2,509 yards from scrimmage. He led all rushers with 2,006 yards on the ground, and scored 16 touchdowns. Congratulations if you knifed those numbers in the second round.
What to Like: Touchdown hog LenDale White is gone, Vince Young's not an accurate passer, and Jeff Fisher's a good enough coach to correctly utilize Johnson's greatness. As if electric talent isn't enough, Johnson even has the fantasy intangibles on his side.
Concern: He's 5-11 and 200 pounds, and there's concern about how his size will hold up. Don't worry: He's only 24, and his frame served him well last season.
X-Factor: Johnson also catches balls (50 receptions, 503 yards and two receiving touchdowns last year).
I honestly can't see a downside. In Week 16 Johnson plays a Chiefs defense that gave up 388 yards a game last year. Draft him, and go win your championship.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,800 rushing yards. 52 catches. 500 receiving yards. 19 total TDs.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings. Bye: 4.
"I wish every day was Sunday," just like Adrian Peterson says in the State Farm commercials. That way we could watch this thoroughbred run every day of the week.
What to Like: Peterson's a sculpted machine who enjoys hurting defenders. His chilling blend of speed, power, agility and elusiveness makes him hard to cleanly tackle.
Concern: Peterson led all running backs with six fumbles last season.
X-Factor: The Vikings traded up in the second round to land bulldozer Toby Gerhart. I'm in the minority, but I feel Gerhart will steal touchdowns as the goal-line back. Why would the Vikes go out of their way to get a short yardage specialist, and then not use his best attribute? Peterson's catches will see a spike, however, with receptions-vacuum Chester Taylor in Chicago.
The only things that can slow Peterson down are coaching mismanagement and injuries.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,700 rushing yards. 53 catches. 550 receiving yards. 14 total TDs.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars. Bye: 9.
Maurice Jones-Drew runs, catches, scores touchdowns and stays injury free. On a Jacksonville team short on playmakers, Jones-Drew is a cash register for fantasy points.
What to Like: Can you believe that Jones-Drew is only 25 years old?
Concern: Jones-Drew carried the ball 100 more times than he's used to in 2009. Skeptics wonder if his 5-7, 208-pound body can take every-down seasonal abuse.
X-Factor: Jones-Drew complained about the offensive play calling after a loss last season, and scored three touchdowns the next game. He runs the show in Jacksonville.
The human bowling ball will continue to do his thing.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,400 rushing yards. 55 catches. 500 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. Bye: 9.
Injuries and a pathetic team collaborated to diminish Steven Jackson's fantasy worth the last couple of seasons. Now is the time to steal Jackson.
What to Like: Jackson is a beast of talent in his prime. Rams brass is slowly building pieces around him. With Sam Bradford learning on the job, it's Jackson's world to dominate.
Concern: The 2009 Rams handicapped Jackson into only four total touchdowns. Hopefully the roster plays at a more professional level this season.
X-Factor: Don't forget that Jackson caught 90 balls in 2006. He displays supreme pass-catching ability when used properly.
It's time for Jackson's touchdown total to even itself out.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,500 rushing yards. 60 catches. 400 receiving yards. 13 total TDs.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens. Bye: 8.
Rice burst onto the fantasy scene in 2009 and became a stud. Is he a one-year wonder or first-round regular?
What to Like: There's nothing like a running back that catches tons of passes. Rice had 78 receptions for 702 yards in 2009. Rice's hands make him a low-risk pick.
Concern: It seems like a few decades ago that Will Allen destroyed Willis McGahee's knee in the Fiesta Bowl, but McGahee's only 28. Rice has his own touchdown vulture.
X-Factor: Anquan Boldin and desperate Donte Stallworth will give Joe Flacco some downfield passing options this year. The new receivers could chip into Rice's pass-catching value.
Rice's exclamation points outweigh his question marks.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,200 rushing yards. 70 catches. 600 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers. Bye: 9.
Mike Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye like to run the football. Frank Gore is their guy.
What to Like: Gore has run for more than 1,000 yards for four straight seasons. He's a complete back.
Concern: Gore battled his usual host of nagging injuries in 2009. Between hurt toes, eyelids and ankles, Gore rarely plays a full season.
X-Factor: Like all top-tier running backs, Gore's a pass catcher. He's caught 209 balls over the last four seasons.
The 27-year-old Gore is set to explode.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,250 rushing yards. 58 catches. 470 receiving yards. 13 total TDs.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers. Bye: 5.
I watch every second of every Steelers game, and Rashard Mendenhall is the real deal. His legs are fresh, fast and elusive.
What to Like: Steelers are going old-school Barry Foster/Bam Morris style while Ben is out. The Rooney's were publicly campaigning to run more before the Roethlisberger alleged sexual assault saga unfolded. With Ben suspended, and Willie Parker and Santonio Holmes gone, Mendenhall is the undisputed dynamic player in the Steelers offense.
Concern: Mendenhall was benched in Week 3 of last season for not knowing his playbook. That was less than a year ago.
X-Factor: Maurkice Pouncey should be able to step right in and play guard. He'll help solidify an underrated offensive line.
Mendenhall is a key member of a talented offense that needs to run the football. He has the skill to produce big time numbers.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,350 rushing yards. 30 catches. 300 receiving yards. 13 total TDs.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. Bye: 8.
A badly sprained ankle derailed Turner's 2009 causing him to miss six games. Turner's a good back, on a good team, in his prime.
What to Like: Turner has 27 touchdowns in 27 games over the last two seasons.
Concern: Turner has 15 receptions... in the last three years! Turner doesn't catch any passes at all, and that separates him from the top seven.
X-Factor: Jerious Norwood takes all the third-down reps. Norwood, who missed six games last season, is explosive. Any success Norwood has only hurts Turner.
Turner gets a lot of carries and touchdowns, but draft cautiously.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,400 rushing yards. 5 catches. 30 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles. Bye: 8.
When talent meets fantasy opportunity, the results are usually good. LeSean McCoy has the potential to be a top-five back next year if things go right.
What to Like: Andy Reid calls plays that dink and dunk the ball to the running back. Those who had fantasy legend Brian Westbrook know how valuable the running back slot in Philly's offense can be. McCoy is the unquestioned starter.
Concern: McCoy is only 22 years old. In his rookie season he rushed for 637 yards. If you take McCoy, you're gambling on upside.
X-Factor: I remember watching McCoy run for the Pitt Panthers. He carved West Virginia up a few Thanksgivings ago, and it was obvious he'd be running on Sundays.
Academics were a problem for McCoy in college, and his pass blocking has been questioned. High-risk/high-reward picks are fun.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 900 rushing yards. 65 catches. 500 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals. Bye: 6.
You have to wash that Benson-Bears taste out of your mouth. Benson is now a 27-year-old talented battering ram with a good offensive line.
What to Like: Benson was one of only six backs with more than 300 carries last season. The Bengals will continue to feed him the rock.
Concern: Benson is a short-yardage specialist, but he only managed six touchdowns last season.
X-Factor: Benson caught 17 balls last season, while Bernard Scott hauled in five. Benson needs to make sure he keeps his majority share of the Bengals backfield receptions.
Benson is either a bust at heart, or a really late bloomer. This year should tell us.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,350 rushing yards. 15 catches. 100 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.