FFN is useful for gauging the fantasy football world's take on preseason fantasy football rankings. Let's take a look at the workhorses of your fantasy league: running backs. A good running back should form the backbone of your team providing consistent scoring each week. There is no shortage of backs in the league so let's take a look at what we can expect when your draft date comes.
Top 10 Running Backs
No surprise here: Adrian Peterson leads the pack. His explosive potential over the past two years has been simply phenomenal. His offensive line is improved over last year which means that holes should open up a little more for Peterson this season. Defenses worry about Minnesota's run game, but they have no fear of the passing game. If Brett Favre lands in Minnesota, Peterson should have even more breathing room. Bottom line: Expect a lot of 100+ yard games in 2009.
Number 2 goes to Michael Turner from Atlanta. He ended 2008 just 1 yard shy of 1,700 yards. The Falcons are bolstered by a talented QB and two solid receivers so the aerial threat exists, which is good for Turner the Burner. The concern with Turner is that he carries the ball an awful lot and his strength of schedule outlook for 2009 is not as easy as it was in '08.
Maurice Jones-Drew grabs our #3 spot. Jones-Drew's value should increase significantly this year with the departure of Fred Taylor. No longer will he be sharing the workload. Instead he's the featured back for the Jags and he'll have many more opportunities to burn defenses. I wouldn't be shocked to see him gain 1,400-1,500 yards this season along with 14-16 TD's.
Chicago's Matt Forte is currently ranked 4th in our consensus rankings as a sophmore. He was a great addition to the Bears last year. With Jay Cutler's arrival, the Bears finally have a QB that can throw and that should work in Forte's favor. The other thing to consider is weather. If you've ever been to Soldier Field in November and December, you know it gets very cold and windy, two factors that don't bode well for quarterbacks. That's when you'll see the workload increase on Matt Forte.
The #5 ranking goes to the Ram's Steven Jackson. He was a monster a few years ago, but injuries over the last two seasons have many fantasy owners scratching their heads. I'm one of those owners. I've had him on teams for the past two years and have been pretty disappointed. If he fell to me in my draft (especially a PPR league), I would still take him without hesitation. He's big. He's fast. He's got great hands. He has the ability to be the best. There's enough upside to quiet the injury concerns.
Carolina's DeAngelo Williams comes in at #6 and fantasy owners should anticipate a great 2009 from him. He was a wonderful surprise for many last year and he's poised to run wild this year.
Last year's #1 pick has fallen all the way down to #7 this year. LaDainian Tomlinson is still a strong back, but he's certainly not the same player he was just a few years ago. He'll still easily break the 1,000 yard mark again and give you 10+ scores, so if he's available - take him.
Chris "Every Coach's Dream" Johnson (#8) exploded on the scene last year as one half of the dynamic duo with LenDale White. He may not possess the bulk that White does, but he's much, much faster. It was fun to watch Johnson break one off and he wasn't even on any of my teams. If your league gives points for TD's or runs of varying yardage, you'll like having him on your team.
#9 goes to Frank Gore of the 49'ers. Like Jackson, Gore left many owners wondering when he was going to start scoring. He was not the same guy who racked up monster stats just a few years ago. His last two seasons fell short of the collective expectations we all had. Perhaps his saving grace this year is Mike Singletary. The legend is a take-no-$!@# type of coach and knows the value that a solid run game can have. Gore is a workhorse capable of running and catching. Many are expecting a much better '09 out of him.
Rounding out the Top 10 is Steve Slaton. Houston's backfield star was an absolute bargain for those who were paying attention last year. This year, you'll most likely have to pay full price for him. That's OK though because he has such upside to him, particularly in PPR formats. He's been looking good in the offseason, so we'll take another look come training camp. He deserves to be in the Top 10 and in your weekly lineups.
Beyond the Top 10
It wouldn't be a good list if Brian Westbrook wasn't mentioned. His ranking of #11 is a departure from last year's Top 10 and that's due primarily to his health. He's a perennial favorite in PPR leagues and will go in either the 1st or 2nd round of your draft. If you can get his handcuff LeSean McCoy in the later rounds of your draft, grab him as insurance. If Westbrook can stay injury-free, he'll score points.
One of the guys I really like this year is Ronnie Brown (#15) and I'm seeing him being taken in later rounds of mock drafts. Miami has upgraded their offensive line and that bodes well for Brown. If you see him, he's a great value even at #15 among RB's.
For those that follow the Fantasy Football Nerd blog, you know that I'm a big Packer fan living an hour away from Lambeau Field. Ryan Grant didn't score a touchdown last season until I attended the Packers/Colts game. Coincidence? Yes, but this is fantasy football so allow me the self-delusion that my attendance had something to do with it. Grant under-delivered last year after a really strong finish in the '07 season. His #16 ranking is indicative of last year's performance, but I'm confident he'll have a better '09 than many expect.
Thomas Jones comes in ranked #20 among RB's this year. He didn't shine when having to share time in Chicago, nor did he shine when he first arrived in New York, but he made up for it last year, didn't he? He cracked the 1K yard mark and added 15 TD's for the Jets. He won't have Brett Favre this year, so the Jets may look to Jones to offset the passing deficiencies that inevitably come from a rookie QB.
Reggie Bush falls in the rankings this year to # 21. That's what happens when you get injured. He's still a threat, especially in PPR leagues where Brees is sure to target him. Unfortunately (or fortunately) he'll be splitting time with Pierre Thomas who comes in ahead of Bush at #17 this year. Thomas showed what he was capable of when Bush and McAllister were out. It's tough to put that genie back in the bottle. If you're in a PPR league, Bush is your man. If not, Pierre Thomas should be the guy you grab first.
The last guy I want to talk about is Knowshon Moreno from Denver who takes the #25 ranking. There's a lot of hype around Knowshon right now, and some of it is warranted. He's incredibly talented and the Broncos definitely need to fill that void in the backfield. My guess is that he'll start off slow, but once he gets used to the NFL, I think he'll really shine.
The fantasy football rankings above were derived from a consensus of 20 of the leading fantasy football websites.
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