Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fantasy Football: Running Backs

The Running Back position is one of the most sought and most important positions on any Fantasy Football team. A star player will get 20-30 touches a game, opportunities to score touchdowns, and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. While RB's seem to be a dime a dozen nowadays, with a shelf life career average of 3-4 years in the league, finding a good back can carry your entire team.

Factors to consider when drafting a RB: is he a starter or back-up; is he used in goal line situations; receiving skills; type of offense used; is there running back by committee; does he play for a good team; and what does the offensive line and fullbacks look like blocking for said player.

Heading into the 2008 season, who are the Top 20 Fantasy Football Running Backs?

Top 5

1. LaDainian Tomlinson (Chargers) Compared to his record breaking 2006 MVP season, 2007 was a disappointment, but he still led all RB's with 1474 rushing yards and 19 TD's. He's never caught less than 50 passes in a season in his entire career either. Despite coming off an injury, expect Tomlinson to once again be one of the best overall fantasy players.

2. Adrian Peterson (Vikings) Nobody expected the rookie to put up 1341 yards and 13 TD's last season. He has one of the best Offensive Lines blocking, will play for a contending team, but will have to split reps with RB Chester Taylor to stay healthy. Still a Top 5 draft pick in Fantasy.

3. Joseph Addai (Colts) Indy's top back racked up 1072 yards and 15 TD's in 2007. Its hard to root against an offense that is led by QB Payton Manning. Addai will get the numbers but will have to share some of the load with RB Dominic Rhodes, recently returned from Oakland.

4. Brian Westbrook (Eagles) In leagues that reward 1 point per reception, Westbrook is an elite back. He is a mismatch for defenders and posted 1333 yards rushing with 90 catches and 771 yards receiving, 12 TD's. QB Donovan McNabb is back and fully healthy and will keep the RB the focal point of the offense.

5. Frank Gore (49ers) OC Mike Martz has come to town and is going to do whatever possible to turn Gore into RB Marshall Faulk. Gore is a north-south runner and still ran for 1102 yards despite playing for the leagues worst offense and missing two games in 2007. He has come to training camp stronger, faster and determined to be an elite RB in the league.

The Rest of the Best

6. Marion Barber III (Cowboys) Leader of 2-back pack, Dallas will score, and score a lot
7. Clinton Portis (Redskins) Should improve on 11 TD's last year with new Jim Zorn offense
8. Larry Johnson (Chiefs) Will get the ball, but who is blocking for him?
9. Steven Jackson (Rams) Has not shown up for camp yet, and that's not good
10. Marshawn Lynch (Bills) Talented back but needs to get in the End Zone more
11. Laurence Maroney (Patriots) Hot/Cold but does play for the Patriots
12. Reggie Bush (Saints) Needs to adjust to being feature back, worked hard this offseason
13. Willis McGahee (Ravens) Has to stay healthy, his OL is weak and may share carries
14. Ryan Grant (Packers) Huge Fantasy surprise, will be relied on with no Favre in GB
15. Jamal Lewis (Browns) Has a lot left in the tank, will be playing for a contender
16. Thomas Jones (Jets) Sleeper Alert, new Pro Bowl FB and OL blocking, and FAVRE
17. Maurice Jones-Drew (Jaguars) Shares carries with Fred Taylor, still good though
18. Ronnie Brown (Dolphins) Should be a breakout season with new look Miami
19. Willie Parker (Steelers) Must regain 2006 status, and fight off rookie Mendenhall
20. Edgerrin James (Cardinals) Great fantasy pick in 2005, but will still get carries

Rookies to look out for:

Ray Rice (Ravens)
Jonathan Stewart (Panthers)
Darren McFadden (Raiders)
Kevin Smith (Lions)
Matt Forte (Bears)
Chris Johnson (Titans)
Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers)
Felix Jones (Cowboys)

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