2010 Fantasy Football Preview: RBs

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07: Pierre Thomas #23 of the New Orleans Saints dives into the endzone for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Generally speaking, the running back position is the backbone of any good fantasy football team. But more and more, leagues have tried to de-emphasize the position by changing lineup requirements (i.e. one RB and a flex instead of two RB) or adding a point per reception, which increases the important of workhorse WRs and TEs.

Looking at the list of consensus early round running backs, one thing is clear — there aren’t many so-called ‘studs’ this season. Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew are no-brainers, but after that there’s a drop off to a couple of would-be studs (Steven Jackson and Frank Gore) and an even bigger drop off to a deep tier of backs.

So it’s a good year to think about drafting a stud WR in the middle- to late-first round instead of taking the first of a big batch of very similar prospects. For example — in a PPR league, what are the chances that Pierre Thomas (ADP: 3.07) will outscore Michael Turner (1.09)? If both players stay healthy, I think the chances are pretty good. So therein lies the question: If you’re drafting 1.07, why take Turner when you are likely to have a shot at a similar back in the second or third round?

Here’s the answer — you don’t. I could see jumping on Gore/Jackson at 1.05/1.06, but after that, I’d much rather have Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald (or even Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne or Miles Austin) than the top guy in the next group of RBs.

Look at it this way: Would you rather have Michael Turner and Brandon Marshall or Andre Johnson and Jamaal Charles? I’d rather have the latter.

In fact, this might be the year where I finally do the unthinkable and go WR-WR-WR in the first three rounds, gobbling up three of the top 12 or 13 wideouts and draft a couple of underrated RBs like Chris Wells (4.03), Cedric Benson (4.06), Matt Forte (4.10) or Joseph Addai (5.05) in the 4th and 5th rounds. Of course, you’d only want to pull this trick if your league allows you to start three wideouts.

With that in mind, here are a few backs who could be had in the third round or later that would make a nice addition to a lineup stacked with 2-3 stud wideouts. Who knows, maybe they’ll even outscore Michael Turner…

(Note: All ADP data is from Antsports for mocks drafting in July for a 12-team PPR league.)

Pierre Thomas (3.07)
Thomas was RB16 last year despite scoring just one fantasy point in the first two games due to a knee injury. That’s been his issue — staying healthy. But when he’s playing, he’s productive. And with Mike Bell gone, Thomas figures to get all of the goal line work. Even with Reggie Bush stealing catches, Thomas is very active in the passing game. If he stays healthy, he has a great shot to finish in the Top 10, and he has a couple of nice matchups in Week 14 and Week 16, during the fantasy playoffs.

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10: Ryan Grant #25 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the ball against the Arizona Cardinals during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Ryan Grant (3.06)
Grant was RB9 last year. That’s right…RB9. He finished strong, with six TD and 322 yards in the final four games of the season. He’s not going to catch many passes, but the Packers have a prolific offense, and he’s their main goal line option.

Joseph Addai (5.05)
It’s funny — Addai is coming off another fine campaign (RB6 last year), has no current injury concerns, is just 27 years old, yet he’s going in the 5th round. What gives? He’s an excellent pass catcher and has scored 35 TD in the last three years. If you’re worried about Donald Brown, then burn a 9th rounder on him as a handcuff. There, you’re set.

Shonn Greene (3.03)
When Greene has carried the ball 15+ times, he has averaged 126 rushing yards and 1.0 TD per game. All right, so he’s only had 15+ carries four times in his career — it’s still an impressive stat. He destroyed the Bengals and Chargers in the playoffs with a total of 263 yards and two scores. LaDainian Tomlinson will back him up, but at this point, Greene is far more explosive. However, PPR owners should take note — Greene has one (1) catch in his career, so Brian Westbrook he isn’t.

Chris Wells (4.03)
Last season, Wells only carried the ball 23 times in the first four games and didn’t score a touchdown. Over the next 11 games, he carried the ball 147 times for 679 yards and seven TD. Wells should benefit from the Cardinals’ restructuring the offense now that Kurt Warner is no longer under center. He’s a far better runner than Tim Hightower, who is more of a third-down back. Throw in an easy schedule and Wells could be in for a BIG year.

Knowshon Moreno (3.03)
All in all, Moreno had a pretty solid rookie year (275 touches, 1160 yard, 7 TD), though he battled some injuries throughout. He can catch the ball and is a good natural runner, though he’s not a workhorse back. Correll Buckhalter will take some of his load.

Cedric Benson (4.06)
Assuming the threat of suspension is behind him, Benson projects to have another solid season in the Bengals’ productive running game. He’s a workhorse (301 carries) but his mileage is low for a 27-year-old. Don’t expect much in the passing game, though he’s show ability in that area.

Jahvid Best (5.07)
If you decide to go heavy on the wideouts in the first three rounds, Best is a nice RB2 to grab in the 5th. The indications are that he’ll be RB1 in Detroit and with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, this is an offense that should be on the rise. Plus, he’s good out of the backfield, so he should mop up even when the Lions are trailing big.

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 22: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on November 22, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Matt Forte (4.10)
There are two schools of thought with regard to Mr. Forte. One theory is that he’ll remain the starter and catch a ton of passes in Mike Martz’s offense. The other is that the Bears signed Chester Taylor and will give him a lot of snaps, especially if Forte struggles behind the Bears’ suspect O-line. I think it will be the former (though it should be noted that Anthony Stalter falls into the second group).

Our official RB rankings:

1. Chris Johnson
2. Ray Rice
3. Adrian Peterson
4. Maurice Jones-Drew

5. Frank Gore
6. Steven Jackson

7. Rashard Mendenhall
8. Michael Turner
9. DeAngelo Williams
10. Pierre Thomas

11. Ryan Grant
12. Jamaal Charles
13. Chris Wells
14. Joseph Addai
15. Chris Wells
16. Shonn Greene
17. Knowshon Moreno
18. Ryan Matthews
19. Cedric Benson

20. Jonathan Stewart
21. Jahvid Best
22. LeSean McCoy
23. Arian Foster
24. Ahmad Bradshaw
25. C.J. Spiller

26. Matt Forte
27. Reggie Bush
28. Ronnie Brown
29. Felix Jones
30. Darren Sproles

31. Marion Barber
32. Clinton Portis
33. Michael Bush
34. Brandon Jacobs
35. Carnell Williams
36. Justin Forsett
37. Fred Jackson
38. Jerome Harrison
39. Darren McFadden
40. Ricky Williams

41. Chester Taylor
42. Laurence Maroney
43. Tim Hightower
44. Steve Slaton
45. Correll Buckhalter
46. Donald Brown
47. Montario Hardesty
48. Leon Washington
49. Kevin Faulk
50. Jason Snelling

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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