The Fantasy Fool's Top 50 Running Backs
Rankings are based on each player's projected position by the end of the 2012 season. This is a value ranking, NOT a recommended draft order.
Players may be drafted significantly higher or lower based upon their perceived value to other owners. Stats are from 2011. Visit the Fantasy Fools blog
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Categories >> Elite Solid Marginal Updated: 8/28/12
RUSH RUSH REC REC
RANK PLAYER TM '11 REC COMMENT
YDS TDS YDS TDS
All he has to do is stay healthy, and the multi-talented
1 Arian Foster HOU 4 1,224 10 53 617 2 tailback will vie for Fantasy MVP status. When he's on,
there's nobody like him.
Just as deadly as a receiver as he is a runner, Shady is the
most important cog in Philly's offense. With Vick vowing to
2 LeSean McCoy PHI 2 1,309 17 48 315 3
take fewer chances this year to spare his body, McCoy
should get even more red zone looks.
It's easy to overlook the role he plays in the Ravens'
3 Ray Rice BAL 1 1,364 12 76 704 3 passing attack because Rice is such a strong rusher. You
could make a case for any of the top 3 RBs to be No. 1.
The only knock on RunDMC is his injury history, so I
understand why some will avoid him. Though I would never
4 Darren McFadden OAK 34 614 4 19 154 1 draft him with the 4th overall pick, I fully expect McFadden
to crack the Top 5 ranks this season. He offers huge
upside as a 2nd-rounder.
Nearly a year removed from ACL surgery, Charles appears
5 Jamaal Charles KC 98 83 0 5 9 1 to be in fine form and has already survived a hard hit on his
knee in preseason. Look for a return to his explosive ways.
Last year's Bust of the Year shouldn't get off to a slow start
as he did in 2011 following his lengthy holdout. Still, many
6 Chris Johnson TEN 16 1,047 4 57 418 0
of us harbor trust issues with the back once known as
CJ2K. He's looked as sharp as ever this preseason.
With Brandon Marshall in the fold, Forte's running lanes
7 Matt Forte CHI 15 997 3 52 490 1 should be a bit wider. He's one of the few remaining
workhorses in the league, and merits a late-first round pick.
It now appears that Beast Mode will avoid
prosecution/suspension during the season for his June DUI
8 Marshawn Lynch SEA 5 1,204 12 28 212 1
arrest. That means he should pick up where he left off as
the Alpha back of the soft NFC West.
Before breaking his ankle, Murray was on track to earn
ROY honors. The Cowboys expect him to return to the
9 DeMarco Murray DAL 31 895 2 26 183 0
form that made him a threat to take it to the house on every
Nearly a year removed from ACL surgery, Charles appears
to be in fine form and has already survived a hard hit on his
10 Jamaal Charles KC 98 83 0 5 9 1
knee in preseason. But his offense looks moribund. How
much time will they spend in the red zone?
I fully expected the diminutive back to wear down last year,
then he went out and claimed the NFL rushing title. Can
11 Maurice Jones-Drew JAX 3 1,606 8 43 374 3 his body really keep taking that much pounding? And when
will he report? He could actually miss a game or two if he
doesn't come back soon. This year's Chris Johnson?
He can still break the big runs and he'll remain a goal-line
powerhouse. He doesn't figure into the receiving game,
12 Michael Turner ATL 6 1,340 11 17 168 0 and Jacquizz Rogers is expected to play a bigger role this
season. But Turner will remain a fantasy force in Atlanta's
So long, Brandon Jacobs. It's the Bradshaw show in NY
this season. If he can stay healthy -- and a preseason
13 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG 20 659 9 34 267 2 hand injury does not appear to be serious -- the Giants'
lead back could put together similar stats to Tiki Barber in
his heyday. Unfortunately, history has shown he is a
He was trading at ridiculous levels in mock drafts before
breaking his clavicle in the first preseason game. This was
14 Ryan Mathews SD 7 1,091 6 50 455 0 merely the latest reminder that Mathews is as brittle as they
get. All the talent in the world does you no good when
you're standing on the sidelines. Caveat draftor.
Still on the right side of 30, it's not clear to me which Gore
is suddenly so under-valued in preseason mock drafts --
15 Frank Gore SF 12 1,211 8 17 114 0 after years of being over-valued. I never liked him as a first-
round pick, but I love him at his current 4th or 5th round
If anyone can return this quickly from blowing out his knee,
it's AP. But can anyone really do it? He's been activated off
16 Adrian Peterson MIN 8 973 12 18 139 1 PUP and is gearing up to start Week 1, but he could be on
a pitch count and the possibility of a set-back will loom all
After his surprising rise in Miami last season, Bush says
he's gunning for the 2012 rushing title. I don't see that
17 Reggie Bush MIA 13 1,086 6 43 296 1 happening, but with the Dolphins' dearth of talent in the
passing game, the multi-talented back should be a very
busy/productive man on Sundays.
The powerful rookie runner is also an accomplished
receiver. He has supplanted LeGarrette Blount as the
18 Doug Martin TB * * * * * * Bucs' Week 1 starter and shouldn't relinquish the job,
barring injury. He will be a contender for ROY simply
because his offense has potential.
After undergoing a "minor" arthroscopic procedure on his
left knee (the same one that was operated on in January),
Richardson is scheduled to return for Week 1. But he'll
19 Trent Richardson CLE * * * * * *
miss all his preseason reps and step into the lead RB role
for one of the NFL's sorriest offenses. Temper your
Still just 29 years old, Jackson's body has taken a pounding
in the Rams' low-voltage offense for too long. He simply
20 Steven Jackson STL 11 1,145 5 42 333 1 can't be relied upon to suit up every week. And if Bradford
can't get his act together, it's going to be another very long
season in St. Louis.
Perennially underutilized in New England, the Law Firm will
get his chance to shine as the lead prosecutor of the
21 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE 24 667 11 9 159 0 Bengals' ground game. His downside risk is very low, but
he also comes with huge upside. BJGE could be a very
pleasant surprise in Cinci this season.
Few expected Sproles to become such a potent weapon in
the Saints' offense after moving over from San Diego.
22 Darren Sproles NO 10 603 2 86 710 7 While Sproles will surely remain an important cog in '12,
Mark Ingram will steal more of his workload this season.
Don't count on another Top 10 finish this year.
One of the most dominant fantasy backs in the league last
year prior to a season-ending knee injury, Jackson now
23 Fred Jackson BUF 14 934 6 39 442 0
must contend with a possible committee backfield with CJ
Spiller, who performed well in his absence.
He was all the rage as the top rookie prize of 2011. Now
he's like the forgotten man. The Saints haven't forgotten
24 Mark Ingram NO 46 474 5 11 46 0 him, and you shouldn't either. He will likely take over the
goal-line duties and should cut significantly into Sproles'
One of these days, fantasy owners will learn that Greene
will never be the force the Jets project him to be. If you can
25 Shonn Greene NYJ 18 1,054 6 30 211 0
grab him in the middle rounds, you may get some
occassional value; just don't count on weekly greatness.
Jahvid Best (concussion) is already on the PUP list, leaving
the backfield in the hands of Smith and Mikel Leshoure, a
pair of backs with their own injury issues. Smith is a
26 Kevin Smith DET 39 356 4 22 179 3
gamble, but one that could pay off big. Major caveat on
Smith, especially since he incurred an ankle injury in
preseason Week 3.
A man without a team until recently, Benson now finds
himself with a great opportunity to bring rushing stability to
the Packers offense. He won't turn the team from its pass-
27 Cedric Benson GB 23 1,067 6 15 82 0
happy ways, but he seems to already have staked his claim
to the lead backfield role; possibly even making James
If Belichick would settle on one lead back, Ridley could be a
fantasy star. He appears to have seized the starting role
28 Stevan Ridley NE 65 441 1 3 13 0 formerly held by BJGE, but his role could vary week to
week. Consistency is not an adjective often used to
describe Patriots RBs.
Few RBs have a more tenuous hold on their starting job
than McGahee. He'll be pushed by rookie Ronnie Hillman --
29 Willis McGahee DEN 21 1,199 4 12 51 1
a Darren Sproles-like RB -- who seems like a better fit for a
Peyton Manning-led offense.
He got his money, but will he get his carries? Not only
must he share the load with J-Stew, but Cam Newton is a
30 DeAngelo Williams CAR 26 836 7 16 135 0
TD vulture himself. Set your expectations low and you
won't be too disappointed.
Redman gets the first crack at the injured Rashard
Mendenhall's workhorse role, but doubts remain about his
ability to carry the full load, especially after his preseason
31 Isaac Redman PIT 49 479 3 18 78 0
groin/hip injury. He has significant upside, but Jonathan
Dwyer will also get his carries and Mendenhall could return
as early as Week 5 or 6 to disrupt Redman's progress.
We've seen the Beanie Wells show before, and it always
ends the same way. Though Williams missed his rookie
32 Ryan Williams ARI -- -- -- -- -- --
season with a torn patella tendon, he will get every chance
to steal the reins from the unreliable Wells.
Will get his chance to shoulder the rushing load in
33 Evan Royster WAS 70 328 0 10 76 0 Washington; but again, Shanahanigans is running the
show. You really don't want to get mixed up in this rotation.
Perhaps the least tantalizing starting back in the NFL,
34 Donald Brown IND 35 645 5 16 86 0 Brown alternates from dazzling to dismal. Let's just say he
won't be on any team I assemble.
The talented, versatile rookie will start off the season as a
35 Ronnie Hillman DEN * * * * * * change-of-pace back, but could supplant McGahee as the
starter at any time. Love his upside with Peyton at QB.
He earned a spot in the backfield rotation, but seems
36 C.J. Spiller BUF 32 561 4 39 269 2 destined to play a supporting role to Fred Jackson. If his
backfield mate suffers a set-back, Spiller's value will soar.
See Williams, Ryan, above. A brittle back in a poor rushing
37 Chris Wells ARI 17 1,047 10 10 52 0
offense is nothing but a prescription for frustration.
Like Williams, he must contend with an equally strong
backfield mate and a TD-poaching QB. Predicting when
38 Jonathan Stewart CAR 25 761 4 47 413 1 he'll excel vs. disappear will be a weekly challenge. A
preseason ankle injury (possibly of the "high" variety) could
get his year off to a bad start.
The Madden Curse struck, and now Hillis is backing up
Jamaal Charles. He'll take over the role Thomas Jones
39 Peyton Hillis KC 41 587 3 22 130 0
previously handled, which means he should see some
occasional work, including some goal-line duties.
If you worry, like I do, about MJD's durability, Jennings is
40 Rashad Jennings JAX -- -- -- -- -- -- your late-round flier. He may even open the season as the
starter, if MJD doesn't report soon.
The Giants have high hopes for this rookie, but he is no
threat to a healthy Bradshaw's workload. Instead, he's
41 David Wilson NYG * * * * * *
purely a handcuff for the starter, who has dealt with
nagging foot/leg injuries for some time.
42 Ben Tate HOU 28 942 4 13 98 0 If Foster would just get out of the way, Tate could be a star.
Achilles tendinitis is the latest injury issue to plague Helu,
who otherwise would likely be the Redskins' lead back.
43 Roy Helu WAS 30 640 2 49 379 1 This opens the door to Evan Royster and Tim Hightower,
who will each get their chance to drive us batty thanks to
Mike Shanahanigans' revolving door approach to RBs.
Could play an important role while Redman is dinged up
and Mendenhall is unavailable. He's a talented back who
44 Jonathan Dwyer PIT 105 123 0 1 6 0
just might earn more playing time even when the guys
above him return to full health.
He should carry more of the load early on while Peterson
gets back in the groove, and he will be called upon again
45 Toby Gerhart MIN 38 531 1 23 190 3 should AP suffer a setback in his return from knee surgery.
Still a handcuff, but an indispensable one for those who
invest in AP.
Falcons coaches say they have big plans for Rodgers this
year, so Turner owners would be wise to take notice. The
46 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL 67 205 1 21 188 1
second-year back is a much better receiver than the
starter, so that alone will get him on the field more.
Perhaps the best fantasy backup in the biz, he's strictly a
47 Michael Bush CHI 9 977 7 37 418 1
handcuff to Forte now.
Drafted in 2011 to be Miami's primary back, injuries and
48 Daniel Thomas MIA 49 581 0 12 72 1 Bush's emergence held him back. He needs to step it up
Highly likely to yield his starting duties to rookie Martin, the
underachieving Blount is now relegated to backup/handcuff
49 LeGarrette Blount TB 29 781 5 15 148 0
status. A preseason groin injury further diminishes his
Surprisingly taken off PUP last week, Mendenhall is now
projected to be ready for action as early as Week 4 or 5. If
50 Rashard Mendenhall PIT 19 928 9 18 154 0
Redman hasn't solidified the job by then, Mendy could step
right back into his old starting role.