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Fantasy Football 2011: Running Back Rankings

Back in May, I did a preliminary set of fantasy projections and rankings for running backs (part I and part II). That was during the lockout, though, and before the crazy free agency period, injuries, and more information came in. I’ve now tweaked my projections and adjusted the rankings to reflect my current thoughts.

A few notes before we get to the list. I was high on Ryan Mathews as a breakout candidate. Then he showed up to camp out of shape, and has worked his way back in the preseason. I’ve lowered him on the list, but I still have him higher than most. Most experts I read have him listed as an overrated candidate, and so I am in the minority. If I’m wrong on him, though, it’s because I will be wrong on my Chargers’ offense projection, because I have San Diego as a top 6 rushing production team in 2011 with a great passing offense in Rivers, a full year of Vincent Jackson, and better special teams that will have this team playing with the lead more. I’ve lowered Mathews’ expected usage down, and as a result Mike Tolbert also jumps in the top 24. Yes, I have both almost as high as where many are saying Mathews is overrated (current ADP in the RB18-20 range). Those two are the clear 1-2 punch, so this isn’t a New England situation where the production is split 3-4 ways. The only way Mathews is overrated, in my opinion, is if Tolbert gets more than 50% of the work even when Mathews is healthy, in which case he should be in people’s top 15.

I did these projections by looking at last year’s running back production, and then adjusting it based on my team projection for overall performance and offensive performance (since rush attempts and totals are tied to winning and playing with the lead), based on specific additions or subtractions to the offense, this year’s schedule, and anticipated change in roles. It’s a lot of guesswork, but at least it’s educated guess work.

After I had the team projections, I went through and divided it by estimating the percentage of carries to each back (assuming 1-2 games missed for each starter, so it slightly underestimates their totals if they play all 16), the distribution of receiving opportunities on the team, and the touchdown split depending on whether the lead back was likely to get goal line opportunities or split them with backups. I then calculated the projected points based on 1 point for every 10 yards from scrimmage, and 6 points per TD. This is not PPR, but I list my projected totals so you can add those for PPR and re-adjust. I also list projected totals so you can see where tiers are. For example, Peterson and Foster are their own tier. Only 12 points separate my 9th (Mendenhall) and 18th (Forte) ranked players. That way, if you disagree on a particular player, or want a different player ranked slightly lower in the same range, you can mentally make that adjustment.

  1. Adrian Peterson, MIN (240)
  2. Arian Foster, HOU (239)
  3. Ray Rice, BAL  (213)
  4. Jamaal Charles, KC (203)
  5. Darren McFadden, OAK (201)
  6. Chris Johnson, TEN (200)* slight downward adjustment for possibility of being limited early
  7. Peyton Hillis, CLE (194)
  8. LeSean McCoy, PHI (180)
  9. Rashard Mendenhall, PIT (177)
  10. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC (177)*shifted some touches to Jennings because of knee concerns
  11. Steven Jackson, STL (175)
  12. Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG (174)
  13. Frank Gore, SF (173)
  14. Jahvid Best, DET (172)
  15. Ryan Mathews, SD (169)
  16. Felix Jones, DAL (167)
  17. LeGarrette Blount, TB (166)
  18. Matt Forte, CHI (165)
  19. Shonne Greene, NYJ (160)
  20. Mark Ingram, NO (159)
  21. Michael Turner, ATL (155)
  22. DeAngelo Wiliams, CAR (155)
  23. Knowshown Moreno, DEN (151)
  24. Mike Tolbert, SD (150)
  25. Marshawn Lynch, SEA (147)
  26. C.J. Spiller, BUF (143)
  27. Beanie Wells, ARI (142)
  28. Ryan Grant, GB (135)
  29. Fred Jackson, BUF (134)
  30. Daniel Thomas, MIA (131)
  31. Joseph Addai, IND (130)
  32. Benjarvus Green-Ellis, NE (128)
  33. Tim Hightower, WAS (126)
  34. Cedric Benson, CIN (125)
  35. Brandon Jacobs, NYG (122)
  36. Reggie Bush, MIA (119)
  37. Michael Bush, OAK (118)
  38. Jonathan Stewart, CAR (111)*dropped substantially with DeAngelo re-signing, plus injuries in preseason
  39. James Starks, GB (110)
  40. Pierre Thomas, NO (100)
  41. Rashad Jennings, JAC (98)
  42. Willis McGahee, DEN (96)
  43. Delone Carter, IND (94)
  44. Danny Woodhead, NE (93)
  45. LaDainian Tomlinson, NYJ (86)
  46. Ben Tate, HOU (84)
  47. Roy Helu, WAS (84)
  48. Thomas Jones, KC (84)
  49. Stevan Ridley, NE (80)
  50. Darren Sproles, NO (79)
  51. Bernard Scott, CIN (78)
  52. Brandon Jackson, CLE (78)
  53. Marion Barber III, CHI (76)
  54. Kendall Hunter, SF (75)
  55. Jason Snelling, ATL (74)
  56. Ronnie Brown, PHI (73)
  57. LaRod Stephens-Howling, ARI (73)
  58. Javon Ringer, TEN (70)
  59. DeMarco Murray, DAL (69)
  60. Ryan Torain, WAS (68)

Projected Points for 2nd Running Backs who did not make top 60: Ricky Williams, BAL (67); Jerome Harrison, DET (64); Toby Gerhart, MIN (58); Isaac Redman, PIT (53); Earnest Graham (53); Jerious Norwood, STL (47); Justin Forsett & Leon Washington, SEA (47).

Deep Sleeper: Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL), Alex Green (GB)

[photo via Getty]

 

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