Fantasy Flex Rankings – Running Backs

Wouldn’t it be nice to live our lives by committee?  Imagine two or three teachers in a single elementary school room, tagging in and out when the other one gets tired, or a student at college about to take a high-pressure exam suddenly waves for a substitute to take it for him.  Life would be so much easier and relaxing.  The problem is we all can’t live like an NFL running back.  This year more than ever, there seem to be less full-time, every down backs that a fantasy player can rely on.  See, there’s a revolution going on in fantasy football, as well as in the NFL, leading to many questions here in the preseason.  Of course, all questions beg to be answered.

We transition from QB rankings to RB rankings.

Disclaimer:  Below are my rankings for the Top  55 running backs for whom I would prefer with no respect to average draft positions from current mock drafts.   The rankings apply to re-draft leagues and do not take into consideration keeper league rules.  These rankings were done with my gut and the most up to date information as of the time of this writing.

1. LeSean McCoy
2. Ray Rice

Ranking running backs is a giant pain.  You have to consider such questions as, “What do you do with James Starks?” and “How do I account for (insert name)’s injury risk without ranking (insert backup’s name) over likely starters on other less run-heavy teams?”   These questions don’t take long to get started either.  Arguably, the only two solid running backs lacking these questions are LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice, who are my #1 and #2, respectively.

3. Arian Foster
4. Jamaal Charles
5. Matt Forte
6. Adrian Peterson (assuming beginning of season return)

After the top two, everyone has issues of some kind.  At that point, you just have to trust your judgement and essentially rank the probability a player’s questions will affect in comparison to their potential.  Now, before you get on my case saying, “But AD is always the number one pick, why would you have him at 6?” Remember he is coming off an ACL tear that only happened the day before Christmas.  Normally, ACL’s take around 6-7 months to fully rehab and some more time to get back into playing condition.  Essentially, Peterson will only just be reaching playing condition as the season starts.  Also, keep in mind Minnesota isn’t stupid.  Adrian Peterson may be one of the main reasons the Vikings stayed in Minnesota and didn’t head out to California. Why would you put your franchise player in a harmful spot where re-injury might occur and threaten to end his career?  The Vikings will likely ease him back into his full workload, while using Toby Gerhart as the workhorse back for at least the first half of the season. If Adrian Peterson is somehow not ready by the beginning of the season, I would drop him down even further.

7. Fred Jackson
8. Marshawn Lynch
9. Darren McFadden
10. Maurice Jones-Drew
11. Steven Jackson
12. Frank Gore
13. Ryan Mathews
14. DeMarco Murray
15. Michael Turner
16. Trent Richardson
17. Rashard Mendenhall

Fred Jackson?  Number Seven?  Really?  Yes.  Fred Jackson was a top 5 running back before breaking his right fibula in week 11 last season.  In the 9 full games he played, Fred Jackson had six 100-yard rushing games and six touchdowns.  He also had nearly 400 yards receiving on 30 catches during those games.  What about his 31 years of age?  Well, he doesn’t have much mileage on his legs even with his NFL Europe and Arena football experience.  Take into consideration C.J. Spiller is being projected as a good change of pace back, which may not even affect him that much, instead, helping Jackson’s value over the long-term.

BUT, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I am an NFL chameleon, and this year I’m all in on the Buffalo Bills as a wildcard playoff team.  As a side note, be sure to keep an eye on the situations with Rashard Mendenhall (injury) and MJD (contract) as they may offer strong opportunities for rookie running backs Isaiah Pead and Chris Rainey.

18. Chris Johnson
19. Ahmad Bradshaw
20. Reggie Bush
21. Darren Sproles

Just to throw it out there, I believe Darren Sproles was a fluke last year.  I may end up eating my own words, but it’s a bet I’m willing to take.  Other notorious bets I lost last year: Torrey Smith as a top 20 WR and Tebow having more fantasy points than Terrelle Pryor.  I thought Tebow wouldn’t last more than a game and Al Davis was crazy enough to do it.

These four guys as a whole are fantasy “questionable” to me.   I haven’t heard much news out of the Titans camp saying Chris Johnson is back to normal, Ahmad Bradshaw had more foot surgeries this off-season, and Reggie Bush is, well, Reggie Bush.

22. Benjarvis Green-Ellis
23. Ryan Williams
24. DeAngelo Williams
25. Shonn Greene
26. Mark Ingram
27. Toby Gerhart
28. Willis McGahee
29. Beanie Wells

Another team I’m high on this year is the Arizona Cardinals.  I expect Ryan Williams to make a name for himself this year after tearing a tendon before his season began last year.  Some experts have proclaimed Williams as having the vision of Marshall Faulk, which is, obviously, high praise.  Ken Whisenhunt, head coach of the Cardinals, has also openly expressed his confidence in the second year running back saying that Beanie Wells better get going if he plans on keeping his starting job.

30. David Wilson
31. Doug Martin
32. Jahvid Best
33. LeGarrette Blount
34. Daniel Thomas
35. Michael Bush
36. Peyton Hillis
37. Jonathan Stewart
38. James Starks
39. Roy Helu
40. CJ Spiller

Is Jahvid Best over his concussions having a full off-season to heal?  Can Doug Martin take the starting job from LeGarrette Blount?  Has Bradshaw’s body reached it’s physical limits allowing for David Wilson to sneak into a 50-50 share of the workload?  Will Daniel Thomas get back on track after the preseason sleeper lost the starting job to Reggie Bush?  How will Peyton Hillis affect Jamaal Charles in Kansas City after saying he is open to accepting a normal fullback role?  Lastly, is James Starks enough for the Green Bay Packers or will there be a platoon on Lambeau Field?  Questions, questions, questions.  I’m putting my confidence in the two rookie running backs winning their starting jobs by week 6 and Jahvid Best holding up as long as another Lions running back can step up as the workhorse.

40. Jacquizz Rodgers
41. Ben Tate
42. Isaac Redman
43. Stevan Ridley
44. Kevin Smith
45. Mickel LeShoure
46. Felix Jones

These guys are all solid fill-ins, with Mickel LeShoure and Kevin Smith fighting for the possibility of being a top 25 running back.  Rodgers, meanwhile, will likely pick up some of the slack from a slowing Michael Turner.  In New England, the starting running back situation is a giant competition.  My guess is that Stevan Ridley will likely come away with what will be considered the “starting” job but will likely be a large platoon.

47. Isaiah Pead
48. Chris Ivory
49. Donald Brown
50. Chris Rainey
51. Ronnie Hilman
52. Marcel Reece
53. Edwin Baker
54. Joe McKnight
55. Chris Polk

I’m littering the bottom part of the rankings with some high up-side rookies such as Chris Polk, Edwin Baker, Isaiah Pead, and Ronnie Hilman.  There will be others who will likely get more touches and fantasy points this season, but there’s just something telling me we will have a couple of solid rookie running back contributors this season.  If I had to put my money where my mouth is and choose two guys who are the most likely to break out, I would say Edwin Baker (after a Mathews injury) and Isaiah Pead.

Have problems with my rankings?  Try it yourself, then let me know how it went in the comments section.  Also, don’t forget to check out my article on quarterbacks and follow me on twitter.

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About nichbeesley

Nicholas Beesley is a Michigan State University student majoring in television and film, a producer for MSU&U, and a lifelong wrestling fan. Also, he will gladly argue over facts, but will spend hours trying to form a simple opinion on any topic that’s not wrestling or fantasy football related.

View all posts by nichbeesley


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2 Comments on “Fantasy Flex Rankings – Running Backs”

  1. The Fantasy Fumble Says:

    I like the Jamall Charles and Fred Jackson love, but I think that you are a little low on MJD, Ryan Matthews, and Chris Johnson. Nice rankingns



  1. Fantasy Flex Rankings – Tight Ends | - June 29, 2012

    […] the comments section and don’t forget to check out my previous two Fantasy Flex Rankings for running backs and quarterbacks.  Oh and feel free to follow me on Twitter @twoxtreme. Rate this:Share […]

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