Extensive early 2010 dynasty running back rankings

The website joblistings.com has announced that hairdressers, elderly caregivers and food caterers are some of the highest turnover jobs in America.

They should add fantasy football running back to that list.

Unlike most of the other main positional players, running backs seem to have the smallest shelf-life, the highest rates of serious injury and now find themselves competing more than ever in committee-heavy backfields.

Is it any wonder that fantasy football owners focus so much on the running back position … especially in dynasty and keeper-based leagues?

Much like my recent early 2010 dynasty quarterback and tight end posts, the following is a composite listing of the top running backs for dynasty leagues.

I scored in rankings from www.fftoolbox.com, www.nooffseason.com, www.rotoworld.com, www.footballdiehards.com and www.fantasyfootballbrothers.com. Included before each player’s name is my own personal ranking for each back.

The overall listing provides an overall composite ranking that saves you from needing to visit numerous sites and compare notes. It is done here for you.

Composite rank, my rank (in parenthesis), player name, team, current age, composite score (in parenthesis).

1. (1) Chris Johnson, Tennessee, 24 (6pts). Johnson was the consensus No. 1 pick at four of the five sites that were added to this composite list, and for good reason. He had nearly 2,500 combined yards and shattered Marshall Faulk’s yards from scrimmage totals. There is no competition for carries now that LenDale White has become an afterthought in the offense. Johnson is here to stay for a while.

2. (4) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, 24  (11pts). Coming off a decrease in overall yardage and a drop in yards-per-carry, Peterson nearly doubled his previous career-high in receptions and receiving yards. Everything you need to know about Peterson’s long-term value can be found in this controversial post.

3. (2) Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville, 24 (15pts). The lone bright spot on a perennially disappointing fantasy roster, Jones-Drew managed full-time duties without a hitch in 2009 and looks to be a solid option for years to come. It helps that GM Gene Smith has announced recently that the team will be emphasizing its running game in 2010 and beyond. MJD offers consistently solid stats in the receiving department, too.

4. (3) Ray Rice, Baltimore, 23 (18pts). Young, uber-talented, on a team that knows how to run the pigskin and a major part of the team’s passing game, too (in fact, he was arguably the Ravens’ best receiving threat in 2009). While it would be nice to see him do it all for a longer period of time than one season, Rice is too talented not to stay in the top five fantasy running backs for the foreseeable future – even if Willis McGahee stays in purple and hawks a chunk of goal-line carries.

5. (5) Frank Gore, San Francisco, 26 (36pts). Gore toted the rock with confidence in 2009 and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl (and the hearts of many of his fantasy owners) for his efforts. Even while missing two games, Gore posted a career-high 13 touchdowns and averaged 4.9 yards per carry in 2009. It appears that while a little delayed, Gore is starting to hit his stride as a reliable fantasy force.

6. (6) Steven Jackson, St. Louis, 26 (38pts). An ageless wonder on a black hole of a NFL team, Jackson continues to churn out impressive stats regardless of the extra defensive pressure he’s forced to endure without a true passing game to bail him out. Some wonder if the extra pounding will take its toll on Jackson in the near future, and he did suffer a herniated disc at the end of the season. However, Jackson continues to defy the odds and should have at least another one or two respectable seasons worth of fantasy output in the tank.

7. (12) DeAngelo Williams, Carolina, 26 (46pts). There is no denying that Williams has plenty of big-play ability and can single-handedly win a fantasy matchup for his respective owners. However, Williams’ recent issues with injury and the big-play emergence of a younger and more agile (although just as injury-prone) Jonathan Stewart really takes away from some of DeAngelo’s potential. If Stewart wasn’t rehabbing from an Achilles injury, than I’d suspect DeAngelo would be a more tradeable commodity, but at this point, it looks as though both backs will be dueling in their own backfield for carries in 2010.

8. (7) Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh, 22 (49pts). The young back has unseated Willie Parker as the Steelers’ primary ball carrier. Some may worry about Pittsburgh’s new-found love affair with the passing game in 2009, but reports in mid-January have team owner Art Rooney II allegedly instructing coach Mike Tomlin to start tilting the focus of the offense back to the running game in 2010.

9. (14) Michael Turner, Atlanta, 28 (50pts). Turner is one of the oldest players in these rankings, but many quickly forget that Turner was buried behind LaDanian Tomlinson in San Diego for quite some time before getting a starting gig in Atlanta. It is still a downgrade in my book that Turner is not a factor in the passing game for the Falcons and that he’s coming off an injury-savaged 2009 campaign.

10. (9) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina, 22 (52pts). Stewart is loaded with great potential and flashed that potential in limited bursts this past season in the wake of DeAngelo Williams injuries. However, the two detractors for Stewart include his current timeshare and that he has his own affinity for injuries.

T-11. (8) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City, 23 (55pts). The Chiefs moved seamlessly from a defunct Larry Johnson to a very capable Charles. The sky is the limit for this young back in that offense, especially with Charlie Weis as the new OC.

T-11. (10) Knowshon Moreno, Denver, 22 (55pts). Out of the impressive running back crop found in the 2009 rookie stable, Moreno looks to have the quickest path to true fantasy relevance thanks to the situation he finds himself in. He’ll be the unquestioned starter for the Broncos in 2010.

13. (11) Matt Forte, Chicago, 24 (61pts). His overall disappointing sophomore campaign did have a few silver lining games, but the best news for Forte was the signing of Mike Martz as the new offensive coordinator. Forte could become Marshall Faulk-lite.

14. (13) Beanie Wells, Arizona, 21 (68pts). After being patient for much of the 2009 season, Wells’ fantasy owners were rewarded with a statistical coming-out party in the final few regular season contests. Wells projects to being the primary ball carrier in 2010 and reports are that coach Ken Whisenhunt will be morphing the team towards a run-first philosophy after the retirement of Kurt Warner.

15.  (18) Cedric Benson, Cincinnati, 27 (76pts). After the 2009 season, I should be able to look past my detest for Benson and give him a pat on the back looking forward. I can’t. His stats saw a marked decline in the second half of the regular season and Benson’s past is likely to come back and haunt him sooner rather than later. He’s a player you can ride into the dirt, just be sure to have Bernard Scott on your roster when that day inevitably arrives.

16. (19) Ryan Grant, Green Bay, 27 (82pts). The primary ball carrier in Packers-land, Ryan Grant had a quietly productive 2009, including six TDs in the final four weeks of the regular season. Grant allegedly wants to be more involved in the passing game, but has historically struggled in catching the ball out of the backfield. It looks as though the Packers may bring in a prospect who can be more pass-friendly, and that Grant winds up in some sort of RBBC moving forward. Time will tell.

17. (16) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia, 22 (96pts). The alleged heir-apparent to Brian Westbrook in Eagles-land, McCoy fared well in spot duty, especially in PPR formats. He has bulked up since the start of the 2009 season and could be in line for 15-plus carries a game for Philly in 2010. Just one question … why did the team lean so heavily on little-known Leonard Weaver when Westbrook missed time in 2009 instead of letting McCoy take his hits and learn from the experience? We’ll find out soon what the Eagles truly think of McCoy after word Tuesday that Westbrook will be cut. So, is it McCoy’s job to lose, or will the Eagles go fishing for another back? Time will tell.

18. (20) Joseph Addai, Indianapolis, 26 (98pts). Addai wasn’t super-explosive in 2009, but he was very effective in the Colts backfield … so much so that he held off younger and arguably more talented rookie option Donald Brown. Addai will continue to get a large portion of the Indy backfield pie, but expect Brown to start getting more and more real-game action.

19. (15) Pierre Thomas, New Orleans, 25 (100pts). Thomas was a statistical beast at times in 2009, including some impressive outings in the playoffs. There is little doubt that Pierre is the most consistently capable running back on one of the highest-octane offenses in the NFL. If the Saints lose Reggie Bush this offseason, Pierre’s stock would jump higher overnight.

20. (21) Ronnie Brown, Miami, 28 (101pts). Uber-talented in everything from downhill running to receiving to wildcat formations, Brown is also a threat to break down every season. Ricky Williams established himself as a legitimate threat and if both players remain with the Dolphins, expect a committee approach as the team attempts to keep both backs healthy for the duration.

21. (19) Shonn Greene, New York Jets, 24 (107pts). With Leon Washington out of action, Greene had some big games alongside aging workhorse Thomas Jones in 2009. It is apparent that Greene can be a fantasy force when he takes over the team’s primary ball carrying duties. It’s just a matter of when Thomas Jones will start to break down.

22. (28) Marion Barber, Dallas, 26 (111pts). Barber is becoming a liability late in the season and has younger, more explosive competition in the backfield from Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Cowboys brass has allegedly admitted that Barber would be playing in a reduced role in 2010 in an effort to keep him healthy for the duration. He better hope that the slashing skills on display from Jones this past postseason won’t continue into the 2010 season.

23. (17) Felix Jones, Dallas, 22 (112pts). Much like Ray Rice, Jones’ talent was never questioned … just his ability to work past roadblocks on his team’s depth chart. After huge performances in the playoffs, it is apparent that Felix will be handed his opportunity in 2010, with Barber playing a third-down breather back. It is no wonder I pegged Jones as my early 2010 sleeper special.

24. (23) Donald Brown, Indianapolis, 22 (120pts). In his big chance to impress the masses at the end of the regular season in place of the resting Joseph Addai, Brown was massively underwhelming. Of the 2009 rookie RB crop, Brown has the potential to be a solid fantasy option, it will just take longer to develop him into a player who can produce those sort of numbers.

T-25. (22) Jerome Harrison, Cleveland, 26 (121pts). If you want to impress your coaches and lock down a starting position, it is harder to make a better case for yourself than to set your team’s single-game rushing record. Harrison is projected as the 2010 starting RB in Browns-land and could produce some solid outings … it remains to be seen, though, just how consistent those outings will be.

T-25. (27) Thomas Jones, New York Jets, 31 (121pts). Jones just continues to blow away the competition and defy the age paradigms of running back productivity. He had arguably one of the best seasons of his career. However, that could, especially at his age and with the young talent behind him, signal a marked decline in the near future.

27. (24) Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants, 27 (125pts). Jacobs admitted recently that he injured his knee early in the 2009 season and played through the pain all year. This would account somewhat for drastic declines in stats, and after a successful scoping procedure this offseason, Jacobs could be in line to bounce back in 2010.

28. (32) Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, 23 (130pts). Two big games against suspect defenses early in 2009 wasn’t enough to jumpstart anything of note for Bradshaw. Surgeries for stress fractures and bone spurs this offseason will likely relegate Bradshaw to a change-of-pace type role in 2010.

29.  (25) Fred Jackson, Buffalo, 29 (140pts). Clearly the best RB on the Bills roster in 2009, Jackson finally became the main offensive centerpiece over Marshawn Lynch. Value here is really dependent on what the Bills do this offseason … if they keep both backs or ship one of them off to another team.

30. (26) Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo, 23 (142pts). Much younger, Lynch has struggled off the field and it affected the start of his 2009 season. He failed to bounce back while on the field and was a disappointment for much of the campaign. However, noting his age, size and overall potential, there is a chance that Lynch could become a factor again given the right situation … such as with the currently LaDanian Tomlinson-less San Diego Chargers or the Philadelphia Eagles after Brian Westbrook’s departure.

31. (29) Justin Forsett, Seattle, 24 (144pts). After replacing Julius Jones, Forsett showed some skills on the field and projects, at the moment, into the lead RB role under new coach Pete Carroll in 2010. However, it seems crazy that Seattle won’t bring in someone else this offseason, possibly even a top RB prospect from the coming draft. Stay tuned.

T-32. (30) Reggie Bush, New Orleans, 24 (149pts). Considering the mega-hype surrounding Bush when he arrived in the NFL, his career has been largely pedestrian. There are questions on whether or not Bush will return to the Saints in 2010, and a lot of his fantasy value will be dictated by where he is playing and what sort of role he is asked to fill.

T-32. (31) Darren Sproles, San Diego, 26 (149pts). With LaDanian Tomlinson out the door, Sproles at the moment is the de facto starter for the Chargers. However, San Diego is likely to add another piece to the backfield puzzle … rookie Jonathan Dwyer is one rumored target … another is trading for Marshawn Lynch.

34. (34) Darren McFadden, Oakland, 22 (153pts). Poster child for the concept that talent doesn’t always equal NFL success, McFadden limped through another disappointing season in 2009. There are so many questions surrounding the talent black hole in Oakland, and it is hard to get excited about McFadden outside of the fact that he’s still very young and very talented.

35. (35) Kevin Smith, Detroit, 23 (156). Need an illustration on RB changeover in fantasy football? Look no further than Smith, who was at one point a quickly climbing presence on various running back rankings, especially in PPR leagues. However, a horrific knee injury in 2009 put an end to all that hype. There is no real timetable for Smith to return, and Detroit allegedly is looking now to bring in extra RB talent, meaning Smith’s time as a clear-cut starting RB is over.

T-36. (40) Carnell Williams, Tampa Bay, 27 (157pts). Cadillac enjoyed a statistical comeback in 2009, although not as potent as some expected. The Buccaneers are a floundering team that will continue to suck the value out of its few talented players until the team can produce a balanced attack.

T-36. (38) Laurence Maroney, New England, 25 (157pts). Maroney is talented and young and had some nice games in 2009. However, the Patriots offense hasn’t produced a top running back, especially in fantasy terms, in quite some time. A stable of older yet still productive backs will keep Maroney’s value up in the air from week to week.

38. (37) LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego, 30 (163pts). How the great have fallen. Tomlinson was a top-five fantasy back for longer than any other player in recent memory. Now he’s be looking for a new place to play. His skillset has definitely diminished, but given the right opportunity on the right team, and Tomlinson could be a decent depth option for your team for the next year or so.

39. (33) Steve Slaton, Houston, 24 (165pts). Exhibit 1B in the RB turnover discussion, Slaton was expected by many to be a top-10 running back in 2009 after an impressive rookie campaign. However, fumbling problems followed by injuries not only cost Slaton his starting gig in 2009, but leaves him as a probable long-term committee-type back.

40. (36) Tim Hightower, Arizona, 23 (175pts). Hightower did all he could to hold off upstart rookie Beanie Wells in 2009, and was very impressive for a large part of the season. However, while still a young player with some upside, he’ll be a change-of-pace player moving forward.

Notable players who missed the cut:

Clinton Portis: Age and durability are major question marks … will he be the “starter” in Washington this year?

(39) Arian Foster: If Houston doesn’t snag another RB in the draft or free agency, Foster should be considered a true sleeper option for 2010 and beyond.

Ricky Williams: Showed he still can carry the ball with authority after Ronnie Brown was lost to injury. Williams is an older back, but many forget just how long he was away from the game, keeping his legs fresh.

What do you think of these rankings? Don’t agree with where your guy is ranked? Think we missed someone? Let us know in the comments below.

3 Responses to “Extensive early 2010 dynasty running back rankings”


  1. Sockonfl

    Jzak, Outstanding list and an overall great read. The only few rankings I disagree with is Cedric Benson as high as he is. I see you personally rank him lower than the composite rank as well. He had a ton of carries in college and really appeared to not be able to handle the complete 16 game schedule last year.

    Clinton Portis and LaDainian Tomlinson ranks should probably be reversed. Portis at least has a starting gig for now, and LT2 is unemployed like the rest of America at the moment.

    One other name worth mentioning is Chester Taylor. Depending where he lands a contract this offseason will dictact if he has any value as a starter or not.

    Overall an nice effort in providing dynasty rankings.

  2. jzak

    Socko,

    Thanks for the comments. It was a fun post to write, although it did take a while. I do personally rank Cedric below others since I have little faith in him until he produces for more than 3/4 of a season. He did tail off last year and I wonder how long until Bernard Scott takes over. He’s another guy who was close to sneaking on the list.

    Chester Taylor is a hard commodity to figure. He’s pretty old in RB terms, but doesn’t have a ton of tread off his tires. Not sure what sort of role he’ll find himself in during the 2010 season. It’s a matter of waiting and seeing at the moment.

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