Do you pick a running back in the first round no matter what? Do you wait for that mid-round back that’s ready to break out? Maybe you do both?
In any case, it pays to know when running backs are being picked on average, enter average draft position. There are a lot of overvalues and undervalues to be had based on ADP in 2010.
By reading the blurbs about these running backs, no matter how long or short, it should be blatantly obvious whether I agree or disagree with a player’s average draft position (pulled from www.mockdraftcentral.com).
Where necessary, analysis will be expanded in upcoming rankings.
ADP: Top 30 running backs (non-PPR)
*ADPs are from 8.7.10
Top 30 | Top 60
1. Chris Johnson (1.17) — He’s still a top-3 pick, but Johnson has more potential warts (too many touches, career year performance/luck, a tougher schedule) than Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones Drew. His home run speed cancels out those warts for a lot of people.
2. Adrian Peterson (1.93) — Doesn’t need Brett Favre to be a superstar running back and now Chester Taylor isn’t around to steal carries. Favre, Taylor or not, AP is still a threat to put the ball on the ground every carry.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew (3.17) — The top running back option in both PPR and non-PPR leagues. Less concerns than Johnson and Peterson.
4. Ray Rice (3.98) — Should score more touchdowns in 2010, but should score less targets in the passing game. Everybody expects him to be better than he was last year. He might have a little less value.
5. Frank Gore (5.31) — The offense has and will continue to run through Frank Gore. Pick him here, but he might never finish another pro season without injury concerns.
6. Michael Turner (6.91) — When Turner played last season he displayed the same kind of dominance he showed when he was healthy in 2008. Still, a bit risky at sixth overall as suggested by his ADP. But if he drops a few spots, Turner is a great risk/reward option who is higher on the reward side.
7. Steven Jackson (8.40) — Like Gore, his health is always a risk because of the amount of touches he gets. He is the No. 1 option in both the passing and running games. If he does better than the four TDs he had in 2009, he’ll outplay this ADP.
8. Rashard Mendenhall (10.57) — There are some concerns, but Mendenhall could easily be this year’s Chris Johnson. Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers could push the run early. If they succeed, Mendenhall will get a lot of work. He could be this season’s Chris Johnson (pick him near the turn and he’ll finish as the top fantasy RB).
9. DeAngelo Williams (13.93) — Williams’ injury put Jonathan Stewart in the driver’s seat to end the season and the power may have started to shift. However, both backs will get plenty of carries and TDs. Williams, however, will get more action in the passing game which could even the playing field.
10. Shonn Greene (14.51) — LaDainian Tomlinson may steal some goal-line and third down touches, but Greene is still a budding star in this league on a team built on defense and the running game.
11. Ryan Mathews (16.94) — The Chargers are a more pass-heavy offense than a lot of fantasy players might believe. LT’s decline was exaggerated by an air attack that saw Philip Rivers throw for more than 4,000 yards and almost 30 TDs in two consecutive seasons. Mathews only had 19 catches in his entire career at Fresno State, so he’ll be pulled in passing situations.
12. Cedric Benson (18.75) — Many people expect him to play a full season and accumulate stats like he did last season over 16 games. However, the arrival of Terrell Owens has me thinking the Bengals will throw the ball a lot more this season. Benson deserves to be ranked here, but don’t reach beyond his ADP to get him because there is some risk.
13. Ryan Grant (21.07) — He had a career year last season and will be a young 28 (only three pro seasons) in December. The only thing that has changed in Green Bay is that the Packers improved their offensive line. Feels like a good value here.
14. Jamaal Charles (23.95) — Still not sure how much Thomas Jones is going to steal from Jamaal Charles. But, having owned Jones in a couple leagues last year, I can say his career is far from over. Jones’ current ADP is 38th. Charles’ is 14th. They should be much closer to a middle point.
15. Chris Wells (23.96) — Probably my favorite running back pick of 2010. Yes, there’s a risk involved, but great reward, too. He’s a much better option than that other back from the 2009 rookie class.
16. Pierre Thomas (28.39) — Owned him in one league last year and the results were disappointing. Mike Bell stole a lot of touchdowns and some yards. Reggie Bush stole the passing downs. So, Bush is still there. Lynell Hamilton will be the goal-line back. Pick Thomas expecting the same thing owners got last season.
17. Jonathan Stewart (31.06) — Looking like the best running back in Carolina, Stewart is easily deserving of this ranking if not a spot or two earlier — I’d pick him before Thomas and Charles.
18. Knowshon Moreno (33.19) — He’s banged up now, but should be ready by the second preseason game. He is a feature back, but I have doubts (based on yards per carry, the offense’s efficiency) that he’ll be much better than the back we saw last year.
19. LeSean McCoy (34.15) — Talked about Mike Bell in the Thomas blurb above, guess where he is now? Yep, Philly. Look for Bell to steal TDs and Leonard Weaver to grab a few passes and score a few carries every game. McCoy could be great, but I think he’ll disappoint owners as the Eagles adjust to life with Kevin Kolb in 2010.
20. Jahvid Best (38.13) — Picked Best ahead of McCoy in our mock draft. He plays for a terrible team, but the offense is better, he’ll be involved in the passing game and is explosive. He’s the last feature back.
21. Felix Jones (42.43) — Will continue split time with Marion Barber and Tashard Choice. More importantly, he cannot stay healthy.
22. Matt Forte (43.33) — Had a decent year last year, but didn’t live up to preseason expectations. Mike Martz’s offense should help Forte. But this season he has to compete with Chester Taylor who has similar skills and stole carries from a much more talented running back in Minnesota.
23. Ronnie Brown (46.71) — A risky pick because of his injury history. Still, Brown and Ricky Williams are a poor man’s DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. I like Brown here, but he’s gone earlier than this in my drafts this year.
24. Joseph Addai (48.33) — When does Donald Brown start stealing carries? A better question might be, will Donald Brown ever steal carries? Not this season. Addai had 13 TDs, 270 touches and 1,150 yards in 2009. … And he missed a game.
25. Brandon Jacobs (51.87) — I’m not picking Jacobs at any ADP this season. He can’t stay healthy, keeping him from developing into a feature back. The Giants have also developed a potent passing attack. Ahmad Bradshaw is the Giants back to own in 2010.
26. Ben Tate (59.98) — Picked Tate in a very early rookie draft for the Gods & Generals league. He’s my choice to end up being the best back of the 2010 class. This season it appears as though he’ll split carries with Arian Foster and Steve Slaton. Not sure I’d pick Tate this high in redraft leagues.
27. C.J. Spiller (60.48) — He’s Reggie Bush, only not as talented and on a less-talented team. I wouldn’t own Reggie Bush in a non-PPR league.
28. Marion Barber (62.91) — The Cowboys are now a pass-oriented team. Barber had 44 catches in 2007 and 52 in 2008. However, Felix Jones is a better option in the pass game and Tashard Choice might be more talented. But there are worse running backs than Barber to take a chance on in the seventh round.
29. Jerome Harrison (63.37) — Montario Hardesty was drafted to replace Harrison, at least that’s what everyone is saying. Harrison only got feature-back carries (16 or more) in five games last season, and rushed for 121 or more yards in all but one of them. He averaged 4.4 per carry. Just because Hardesty is bigger, it doesn’t mean he can be as effective as Harrison at being an NFL running back.
30. Ricky Williams (68.66) — After what Williams did in Ronnie Brown’s absence last year (season-ending injury), I’d expect the backs to share touches equally this season. Williams will probably get more regular touches than Barber or Harrison.