Here are my rankings for the top 25 running backs in fantasy football for 2012
1. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
After Foster’s spectacular, out-of-nowhere campaign in 2010 (2,220 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns), he followed it up with impressive numbers in 2011 (1,841 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns) even after having missed a couple of games due to injury.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
After proving to everyone how healthy he was by winning last season’s rushing title, Jones-Drew’s numbers could improve even more this season with the arrival of a deep threat by the name of Justin Blackmon, who should theoretically take pressure off Jacksonville’s running game.
3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles admit that they overworked McCoy last year, but how much of a dip in carries will McCoy actually see? With two straight years of attaining over 1,500 yards from scrimmage, McCoy will continue to get the rock. A lot.
4. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants
No other football analyst has Bradshaw anywhere near their top five with regard to fantasy football. So why am I going out on such a big limb here? Two reasons: First, Bradshaw will no longer be splitting carries with Brandon Jacobs and second, if Bradshaw can finish in the top twenty for the past two seasons when he’s banged up, just imagine what he can do when he’s fully healthy.
5. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Last season’s number one fantasy running back Ray Rice is currently holding out and refusing to sign his franchise tender. Holdout = decreased fantasy production. See: Chris Johnson, 2011.
6. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Speaking of which, here is CJ2K sneaking back into my top ten after a lackluster 2011. Still, Johnson finished last season with a blaze of glory, averaging 115 yards from scrimmage per game over his final six starts. With no holdout threat looming (Johnson signed a 4-year, $53 million contract last year), Johnson should be good to go.
7. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
And why not? Richardson is extremely durable, difficult to bring down, and he won’t have any credible competition for carries in the backfield. I wouldn’t hesitate to take Richardson as early as the second round.
8. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
With his rehabilitation ahead of schedule, AP should be a solid top ten running back, although it remains unclear if he will be able to play week one.
9. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
In his sophomore outing, Mathews had the breakout fantasy year everyone thought he was going to have during his rookie campaign. In shedding the “fragile” label that had bedeviled him in his first season, Mathews started 14 of 16 regular season games last year.
10. (tie) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Was Lynch’s awesome, 13-touchdown 2011 season a fluke or a trend? I’m leaning toward the latter and so are the Seahawks, since they graced the running back with a four-year, $31 million contract.
10. (tie) Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
With ten or more rushing touchdowns in each of the last four seasons, Michael Turner is one of the most reliable starts in all of fantasy football.
And now, the best of the rest:
12. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
13. Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints
14. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
15. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
16. Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals
17. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
18. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
19. Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins
20. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
21. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
22. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
23. Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos
24. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions
25. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Honorable Mention: Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots, Roy Helu, Washington Redskins and Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers