The running back position has changed dramatically over the past few seasons in the NFL which means it has changed dramatically in fantasy football as well. With the increasing trend of NFL teams using committee backfields, the list of true running back workhorses continues to shrink. As a result, running backs are likely to fill the first and second rounds of most 2012 fantasy football drafts making it more important than ever to snag one of these guys early.
1. Arian Foster
In terms of complete running backs there is no one more complete than Arian Foster. He is a great combination of size, speed, and sure hands. Foster will get carries between the twenties, on the goal line, and stay in for all passing downs. If Foster stays healthy the entire year a 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdown season is not out of the question.
2. Ray Rice
Over the past three seasons Rice has been a stud fantasy running back with last year being his best season due to the fact that Rice finally got the goal line carries. His 15 total touchdowns nearly doubled his previous career best and we see no reason why the numbers will not be similar in 2012. Rice had always been a points per reception stud but with these touchdowns added into the mix he comes in as our second best back. One other bonus is the fact Rice has played in all 16 games for the last three years.
3. LeSean McCoy
McCoy was a machine last year – finding pay dirt an incredible 20 times however the touchdowns alone is not the reason he comes in as our 3rd overall back. McCoy does it all for the Eagles and rarely ever comes out of the game. In a league that see almost every team using a two back system if you can draft a guy that will get almost all the touches and be a beast due to his amazing talent you be happy about that.
4. Ryan Mathews
We have seen Mathews all over draft boards but we are on the side that believes in him. Norv Turner has always produced solid running backs and the Chargers want Mathews to succeed. They let Tolbert leave town which leaves the door wide open for Mathews to have a monster year. We said this in our early top ten article but it rings so true, but he is a little risky but his upside is thru the roof. We would not be shocked if Mathews ended the year as the best player in fantasy football – yeah that kind of upside.
5. Maurice Jones-Drew
Last season’s rushing champion comes in at number five for us. Every year we want to rank him lower but it is hard to argue against the numbers as he just keeps producing. Yet again we will bet on Mojo and we expect to be right, yet again. Of course the quarterback situation is not ideal but the Jags do have a solid offensive line and will lean heavily on Jones-Drew.
6. Chris Johnson
We would be shocked if Johnson was as bad as he was last year again this season, with bad being a relative term. He still ended with close to 1500 total yards. Now we are not expecting a repeat of his 2010 numbers either but somewhere in the middle sounds about right for this season. The Titans added some depth to the o-line to help out Johnson and CJ2K is apparently motivated as ever to prove to the world last year was a fluke.
7. Marshawn Lynch
It was truly amazing what Lynch did last year, headed into the season he went undrafted in numerous leagues and by the end of the year he was helping teams win championships. Lynch is a solid back and if Flynn pans out this year he could improve on his impressive numbers from a season ago. The touchdowns should be there and he is even more of a sneaky play in points per reception leagues as we would not be shocked if he upped his catches to over 40 this season.
8. Matt Forte
Forte is our first change from our early top ten article. As you can see we bumped Lynch over him and that all comes down to one reason -Michael Bush. Forte has never had the best nose for the end zone and Bush is maybe the best vulture in the league. Now, it is not like we are dropping Forte out of our top ten as he is still a monster between the twenties. The arrival of Brandon Marshall should open up running lanes for Forte as well since he saw eight men in the box all last season it will be a welcomed change.
9. Adrian Peterson
Talk about a freak of nature – AP was scene literally jumping up stairs a few days ago and he believes he will be ready to go week one. We find that hard to believe since his nasty injury happened toward the end of last year but if anyone might be able to come back from that – it is Peterson. Like no one else, Peterson’s draft status will really depend on what we see out of him in the pre-season and training camp but if you are in an early draft look at AP as the ultimate risk/reward selection (and we think the he is worth the risk in the second round at this point…)
10. DeMarco Murray
Man did we love us some DeMarco Murray last year. Heading into the year we never believed in Felix Jones so told the world to grab Murray late in all drafts especially in deeper leagues and when he got his shot he definitely did not disappoint. Murray is a great fit for the Cowboys offense and we expect him to build off of his nice rookie campaign. Jones will take some touches but last year it was a changing of the guard in Big D so Murray will get every chance to produce big numbers this season.