This has got to be the most difficult batch of players to choose between based on the my “I want this guy over that guy” criteria.
There are so many potentially awful/great picks in the middle of the RB pack that these picks will make or break many fantasy squads this season.
If I told you my list was perfect, I’d be lying. Don’t take any words written about mid-level running backs as gospel right now. All we can do is take a guess about guys like Jonathan Stewart, Chris Wells and Willie Parker. Read all the opinions and form your own. That’s the best way to filter through this list.
The following list of players includes my ranking and a brief explanation why I’m picking these guys in this way in a non-PPR redraft league.
Don’t forget to check out Running back rankings Nos. 1-20
21. Julius Jones – I really like Julius Jones this year because of his situation. While T.J. Duckett steals some TDs, Jones has no competition as the lead back in what should be a rushing offense in 2009.
22. LenDale White – LenWhale has trimmed down by about 30 pounds this season. This could be good because he might be speedier, it also means he could be less effective around the goal line. I like him for more yards and a few less TDs than less season, but as is apparent by his ranking, he’s going to be a starting fantasy running back.
23. Knowshon Moreno – Facts: Denver has been an RBBC since Clinton Portis left; New coach Josh McDaniels was an RBBC guy in New England; there are a lot of serviceable RBs in Denver; Moreno is their best runner and will show it by midseason.
24. Marshawn Lynch – As much as I’m buying Jones and White, I’m selling Lynch. Yes, he’s only going to miss three games, but he’s being picked at 4.06 and as high as the second round. He’s far too overvalued in 2009. He bumps up a little in dynasty or keeper leagues.
25. Thomas Jones – Remember he was underused early in his career so his legs are more fresh than your average 30-year-old No. 1 RB. Still, the Jets will need all three RBs to stay healthy and run hard with the stacked fronts they’ll be facing.
26. Larry Johnson – The loss of Tony Gonzalez will hurt the running game, but if Cassel to Bowe works as well as a lot of people anticipate, it could open up more lanes for Johnson in 2009. I see him splitting carries with Jamaal Charles by the end of the season.
27. Jonathan Stewart – Speaking of splitting carries. How the Panthers use Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will be one of the most talked about storylines in all of fantasy football. Obviously, I think Stewart will continue to get more carries, and steal some TDs from Williams.
28. Derrick Ward – Feels like he’s rated too high. They’re going to use an RBBC, possibly with three backs. It won’t hurt Ward, but the chances of cranking up from last year’s performance doesn’t seem as good. Ward’s also injury prone.
29. Chris Wells – He’ll be the starter by Week 4, but I still don’t know how effective he’s going to be. It’s been a while since the Cardinals really could run the ball. Their YPC average as a team last year was horrendous. Maybe Wells is the back to change the trend. His value is higher in keeper/dynasty formats.
30. Ray Rice – I’ve seen Rice ranked as high as 10th and as low as the upper 40s. His ADP is Round 7. There’s a lot of training camp hype about him being fast and dominant and having put on weight. It takes more than speculation to turn him into a second-round choice. Sneaky RB3? Yes, please.
31. Felix Jones – As I said in the Marion Barber blurb, Felix becomes the new Julius Jones in Dallas. He’ll put up solid yardage numbers while sharing with Barber. But the Barbarian gets the TDs.
32. Willie Parker – The Steelers were horrendous running the ball last year. A healthy Parker could change that. He won’t be a top-5 back, but he’ll be as good as his sixth-round ADP suggests as long as these preseason back spasms don’t linger.
33. Donald Brown – Remember back a few years when Addai flourished in a two-back system? Brown is back No. 2 in that system.
34. LeRon McClain – He’s a fullback who was thrust into more active duty due to injuries last season. He’s back to being a fullback, but he showed too much to not get him the ball several times a game. More importantly, he’ll get the carries at the goal line.
35. Rashard Mendenhall – Not sure what to do with Mendenhall. I like him as a starter, but think Fast Willie holds him back this season. Parker’s contract is up at the end of this year so he’ll be the Steelers’ starter in 2010.
36. Jamaal Charles – With his great averages in 2008 – 5.3 per carry and 10.1 per catch – he proved he can be a valuable commodity for the Chiefs. Again, a reminder, Larry Johnson was a stud sharing carries several years ago. It’ll keep both of them healthy.
37. LeSean McCoy – An impressive camp has some prognosticators in basements around the country predicting he’ll surpass Brian Westbrook in 2009. That’s craziness. Westbrook is still a stud, and the Eagles are trying to keep him fresh during the preseason. McCoy will steal some carries and impress during Westbrook’s injured weeks.
38. Jamal Lewis – Still the No. 1 running back in Cleveland. I know it sounds awful, but a No. 1 RB is a No. 1 RB. Impressive rookie James Davis could steal carries, and maybe the job, by the end of the year.
39. Tashard Choice – He was too good last year to keep him off the field, and he’ll make the most with the scraps left after Barber and Jones are done feasting. An injury to either back ahead of him makes Choice an instant must-start against anybody.
40. Correll Buckhalter – His yards per carry have always been strong as the No. 2 in Philadelphia. But at age 30 he’ll really have to impress to keep the well-paid Moreno from the top spot.
41. Reggie Bush – Still has a fourth-round ADP. That’s ridiculous. He’s still injured, and he’s overrated, even in PPR leagues. Kevin Faulk was a better rusher and receiver last year and scored as many touchdowns. Kevin Faulk.
42. Fred Jackson – If Fred Jackson performs as I expect him to in the first three weeks of the season, he’ll turn the Buffalo backfield into a 50-50 RBBC. Terrell Owens steals TDs away from the ground game this year., but Jackson’s still worth a pickup.
43. Fred Taylor – Corey Dillon had a renaissance with the Patriots near the end of his career. Taylor’s a little more spent than Dillon was, but he’ll pop out a couple decent games.
44. Laurence Maroney – Yesterday I read one article that said he was not worth owning in any fantasy league. I read another one that said he was a legit sleeper, is in great shape and will be the best RB in New England. Either way, Patriots RBs play second fiddle to the passing game.
45. Cedric Benson – Overrated in 2009. He’s not as good as you remember, stop fooling yourself. He had 171 yards against Cleveland and 111 against Kansas City in the final two meaningless games of the season.
46. Kevin Jones – Has been explosively impressive in camp. Don’t believe he’ll force a true RBBC, but Matt Forte shouldn’t wait until the last round to snag one of the few ownable handcuffs in the NFL. Owners scrapping for sleeper RBs late will target him.
47. Jerrious Norwood – They want to keep Michael Turner fresh and Norwood should be a big part of that. His yards per carry the last three years are impressive, and he scored six TDs when they weren’t worried about Turner’s carries last year.
48. Ricky Williams – Less Ricky, lots of Ronnie in 2009.
49. Earnest Graham – A three-headed RBBC is a dreaded mess of a thing, at least Graham should get the goal line carries.
50. Willis McGahee – If he’s healthy, McGahee could put up 1,000 yards and 6-8 scores. That’s not great, but it’s far more valuable than his Round 10 ADP.
Who missed the cut but shouldn’t have? (Shonn Greene? Darren Sproles?) Who is on the list but doesn’t deserve it? (Norwood? Taylor?) Let us know in the comments.