My rating system is no complicated formula factoring in age, projections and offensive scheme.
It used to be. In fact it used to be based on projections from some other fantasy football Web site. And despite paying all that money every year, I never followed the list from pick 1 to pick 20. I jumped down a few players every now and again to get somebody that I felt they had unfairly rated.
So, this season, I started from scratch with updated depth charts and attempted to pick simply based on wanting one player over another. A position-by-position draft of sorts. It’s not easy to split hairs between players this way, even those in my top 20. As much as I’d like to think I’d pick No. 18 on my list (Ryan Grant) over No. 19 (Joseph Addai) even now I’m not sure.
The key is all of the previous picks. If pick No. 1 was a stud running back, and then a stud WR or two happened, the 18-19 scenario above would play very differently than if someone went WR-WR in the first two rounds.
Obviously, Grant feels like a safer pick. Brandon Jackson is his most impressive competition, and it’s not much of a competition. Joseph Addai is still only pulling one-a-day practices as he recvoers and has an RB waiting to take his spot on the back burner.
So, with that caveat in mind, these rankings are how I would pick backs in a world where every previous pick was a perfect one in a redraft league. There is some weighting toward PPR because I play in a lot of PPR leagues, but I did not make any decisions based on PPR numbers, so consider this a general overall ranking:
1. Maurice Jones-Drew – While I think he could lose a carry or two to Rashad Jennings, Greg Jones and Chauncey Washington every game, Jones-Drew will still put up phenomenal numbers. He scored total 14 TDs last year and almost 1,400 yards in total offense despite only “starting” three games. He will be the man in Jacksonville this year and that means he could surpass 2,000 total yards.
2. Matt Forte – Last season he amassed 1,700 total yards and 12 total TDs. This year, the points the Jay Cutler-led passing attack will take away will be offset by gaping running lanes for Forte. Think about it, how many really open running lanes could Forte have had with that vaunted passing offense last year (20 TDs/14 INTs, less than 200 YPG).
3. Adrian Peterson – You take the chance he could miss five games due to injury because he could win the other 11 games for you almost single-handedly. But, what if those five games start the season? What if he misses those five games in the playoffs?
4. Michael Turner – Like Peterson, he carried a heavy workload last year. Maybe he’ll survive the running back-killing 370-carry curse and not take a hit. But the team is talking about running the “Bulldog,” a Wildcat-like backfield that doesn’t include Turner, and taking some of the load off Turner. He’ll still be good, but he won’t be 2008 good.
5. Steven Jackson – There is not another single player in the NFL I’d rather see stay healthy for the 2009 season. If he could stay healthy, there would be few backs who could keep him out of the top spot in all formats. Let’s reminisce for a moment – In 2006, he had 2,300 total yards, 90 catches, 6 100-yard games and 16 TDs.
6. LaDainian Tomlinson – Tomlinson had 12 TDs and 1,500 total yards in 2008. Those are No. 1 RB numbers. Unfortunately, most owners had to pick him No. 1 or No. 2 overall, and those aren’t top pick numbers. If he gets nicked up we could have a repeat season, with him losing some carries to Darren Sproles and Gartrell Johnson, the heir apparent to the starting spot. Then again, if he can stay healthy at age 30, he could produce No. 1 or 2 numbers again.
7. Brian Westbrook – He has a more value in PPR leagues, but Westbrook is one of the rare RBs who can score a 4-TD game without blinking because he is the Eagles offense. He scores and is capable of 100-yard games on the ground and through the air. If not for his significant injury risk and his age, he’d have been a top-3 running back his entire career.
8. Chris Johnson – Hard for me to rank Chris Johnson this low. Seriously, His numbers are Madden-esque. 4.9 YPC, 1,228 yards, 4 100-yard games, 9 TDs and 43 catches for 260 yards and another score. I think the slimmer, less-Tequila’d LenDale White changes the complexion of the Titans attack some this year, but I think Johnson steals a couple of his 15 TDs, too.
9. DeAngelo Williams – While I don’t think Williams can repeat last year’s performance, his numbers are too good to argue with. He scored 20 TDs and rushed for 1,515 yards on just 273 carries. The Panthers are built for the run. The only question, like for the Titans duo, is how the team splits the carries between Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
10. Steve Slaton – Like I said yesterday, Steve Slaton should rightfully be in the conversation as a top-tier back. He has nobody to steal carries, catches the ball out of the backfield and racked up rushing and receiving yards like the next Westbrook.
11. Clinton Portis – Since that 2006 season when he played in just 8 games, I’ve really been down on Portis, waiting for him to flop. He’s only been awesome since then. He’s had a lot of work in his career for a 28-year-old, but it’s hard to argue against one of the most durable and consistent backs in fantasy football.
12. Frank Gore – See Jackson, Steven (above). Let’s reminisce back to 2006 – like Jackson, that was Gore’s last full season – the 49ers RB that could be awesome had 2,100 total yards, 9 total TDs and 9 100-yard games for an awful San Francisco team.
13. Ronnie Brown – I’ve read about Brown on several sites online, everything is good, and with good reason. Last year, in his first year back from a major knee injury, he rushed for 916 yards and 10 TDs. This year, in his second full season back from the injury he’s going to far exceed most experts’ expectations. Read more about Brown at Razzball’s football blog.
14. Kevin Smith – Smith hoisted one of my teams on his back and carried it from a bubble playoff team to the No. 8 seed to the league runner up. His overall numbers as a rookie were good, but from Week 10 through week 17 he rushed for 671 of his 976 yards. He also had a six-catch game and a 7-catch game last year. Obviously, his team is a detriment, but he is also one of the only true feature backs left in the NFL.
15. Darren McFadden – Preseason reports are gushing about McFadden lining up wide and being explosive. I moved him up a couple spots before posting this today because while he may share some carries with Justin Fargus and Michael Bush, it appears he’s going to be the focal point of the offense.
16. Brandon Jacobs – If he could stay healthy and avoid those 14 carries for 35 yard games, I’d rank him higher. A supremely talented back. It’ll be interesting to see how the Giants backfield adjusts to not having Derrick Ward’s capable legs keeping everyone fresh while tiring out the opposing defenses.
17. Marion Barber – Another guy who I think could far exceed his ranking. Remember, he was better when Julius Jones was the starter and Barber was part II of the RBBC. The Cowboys are really talking up Felix Jones this year. Don’t be surprised if Felix is the new Jones in town and Barber returns to Barbarian status.
18. Ryan Grant – Brandon Jackson is no competition for Grant. The Packers starting RB was better than he got credit for, rushing for 1,203 yards. he didn’t score as proficiently as drafters hoped after his surprising 2007 season. I expect him to put the two seasons together – decent yards and TDs – and be a very good No. 2 RB this season.
19. Joseph Addai – A healthy Addai is going to bounce back. A player can’t go from his second 1,400 total yard season and 15 TDs to that abomination in 2008 with something seriously wrong. Maybe he’s not really a Top-3 running back, but I’d bet serious bank he’s not nearly as bad as he was last year.
20. Pierre Thomas – The latest member of the No. 20 carousel. I have no idea who to put in this slot. Julius Jones? LenDale White? Thomas Jones? Larry Johnson? I chose Thomas because he’s only 24, his biggest competition is a bunch of brittle toothpicks held together with loosely tied dental floss named Reggie Bush. I think he outscores Bush easily this year in all formats and scores double digit TDs.
Just off the top 20 players who could easily find themselves in the top 20 when I update it: Julius Jones, LenDale White, Knowshon Moreno, Marshawn Lynch, Thomas Jones, Larry Johnson, Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones and Willie Parker.
Now, about the next 20 players. That’s going to be tough. I expect to post them tomorrow, and regret the rankings as soon as I post them.
What do you think about these rankings? How has your top-10 shaped up? Let us know in the comments.