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Fantasy Football Review - RB

This year will I become a ten year vet in fantasy football. While I don't claim to be the best, I have had more than my fair share of success and been rather consistant every year. I have to because my local league is treacherous with many of them having played for 15+ years. In part 1 of my fantasy football rankings, I am going to look at Running Backs.

Running Backs

The roots of my fanstasy football experience teaches running backs are the most important position so I tend to rank them higher overall than someone who comes from quarterback oriented leagues . While the other positions have closed the gap or equaled running backs, I still believe that having 2 good running backs is a cornerstone of a championship fanstasy team. Of the 7 leagues I was in last year(which was way too many I need to add), I made the playoffs in 6 and won 4. The four leagues I won, I was very strong at both starting running back positions. And the 3 I didn't win, I struggled because I either had only one strong back or none.(Yes, Lamar Smith killed me) That is a pattern that has haunted me or had me celebrating throughout my ten years of playing fantasy football. I haven't always won when having two great backs, but I was a strong contender and usually lost to someone who also had two stud backs. So as you can see, I am a strong believer in having top notch running backs, though I understand it isn't always necessary. A good wide receiver is just as good or often better, but good receivers are often easier to come by than good backs. Most leagues have two starters, but I'm just going to rank my top 12.

1. Marshall Faulk

Probably the top pick in most leagues and for good reason, he's simply the best running back and possibly the best player in the league. He is the focal point of the high powered Rams offense. Though there is lots of talent for the ball to be spread around too, Faulk will get more than his fair share of opportunities. He's the MVP of the Rams and the league. Without him, the Rams chances of getting back to the Super Bowl greatly diminishes. His health is a concern, but if he stays on the field for at least 13 or 14 games he should be good for 1400 yards and 15 or more touchdowns, and that may be a down year.

2. Shaun Alexander

In his second year, Alexander exploded into the player the Seahawks drafted him to be. Alexander averaged 105 yard per game last year and scored 1 TD's in only 12 starts. He's an explosive runner who can break it from anywhere on the field as well as get the tough yards. One concern is that opposing teams will focus more on him to shut him down therefore hurting his stats, but I believe Mike Holgrem will find a way to keep Alexander very, very productive.

3. Ricky Williams

Williams was productive as a Saint and should be as a Dolphin. Though the Dolphin QB's could take a couple touchdowns away from Ricky, his touchdown productivity should increase dramatically. He will get more opportunities and should be successful. Plus new Dolphin Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner has a long history of having very successful backs in his system. Ricky is also a solid receiever and was toward the top on combined rushing/receiving yards last year amoung backs. Williams has been injury prone some during his career, which is a concern, but he is coming off his first injury free season last year. The Dolphins offensive line is also a concern, but Williams will still get plenty of opportunities and with his talent he should have lots of success.

4. LaDainian Tomlison

Personally, I've had horrible luck drafting second year running backs. Every 2nd year back I've drafted hit the sophomore slump. Remember Reggie Brooks? Bam Morris? Antowain Smith? Luckily Tomlison is way better than all those guys and I drafted all 3 of them in the 2nd round and Tomilson shouldn't survive the first round. Tomlison is coming off a great rookie season and will be the centerpiece of a young and upcoming offense. Sorry Charger fans, IF he does somehow fall to me in the 2nd round he'll be mine.

5. Ahman Green

Green and the Seahawks high hopes for him were crowded out of Seattle by Ricky Watters and Shaun Alexander, well the Seahawks loss was the Packers gain. Green has been a solid performer and a key contributer to the Packers reemergance. He is a solid runner who can break a long run at any time. He has also greatly improved his receiving skills, which is important in the Packers offense and more important this year with Brett Favre breaking in new receivers. If Edgar Bennett and Darcy Levens can be good fantasy backs in this system, then Green should be a superstar. Depending on the league Green will either be a late first round pick or fall somewhere in the 2nd round.

6. Edgerrin James

James could be a steal or he could be a huge bust. The only reason he is ranked this low is because he is coming off a knee injury. James has also been absent from Colts offseason programs, which isn't anything new but with the knee it becomes a greater concern. Players coming back from knee injuries often take 2 years to fully recover, so that too is a knock on James. When healthy though James is simply awesome. The guy who replaced Faulk is just as good as Faulk in my opinion. He shouldn't slip past the 2nd round and is a must pick in the 3rd, but with his concerns he shouldn't be taken too early either like some will. I learned my lesson with I drafted Terrell Davis 2nd after his first knee injury. Hopefully James's career turns out better, but buyer beware. I look for him to hit and miss early on and as the knee gets stronger so will his stats. Like I said, James will either be a steal or a bust.

7. Curtis Martin

Even though he is a despised Jet, I am a Curtis Martin fan. As a football fan I just can't help but like and admire him as a player, though he really gets on my nerves when playing the Dolphins. Martin is a workhorse in every sense of the word and he plays with a lot of heart. He is the key to the Jets offense and seems to get his yards no matter how bad their passing game is. I've had him on my team on a few occasions and he was solid if not spectacular for me. Martin has never been a consistant TD scorer when compared to the top scorers, but he has been a very solid fantasy back. The biggest concern to me is how long can this guy keep going? He is approaching 30, which historically has been the running back wall. Plus he has been the most used back over the last 7 years. It doesn't help that the line that blocks for him has lost some significant players. Martin is a solid mid 2nd round pick.

8. Corey Dillon

Sometimes I wonder how good Dillon would be if he was on a better team. This guy is amazing, he has put up solid numbers throughout his career on perhaps the leagues worst team throughout his career. The problem with Dillon is when when the Bengals play well and compete, he has huge numbers, when they don't his numbers are way down. The good news is the Bengals actually seem to be seriously, I'm not kidding. The quarterback situation is horrible though and could greatly affect Dillon, but that really isn't anything new. Dillon has first round talent but is on the wrong team. Still, if you are looking running back in the 2nd round he's your man.

9. Anthony Thomas

Another 2nd year man and I project him in the 2nd to 3rd round. The "A-Train" had a nice rookie season and looks like the real deal. The Bears offense hasn't been consistant and needs a running game for the team to be successful, which means Thomas will get plenty of carries. Thomas is a good player, but I worry about him falling back more than I do Tomlison. But he is a great talent and will be the centerpiece of the Bears offense. He put up solid numbers last year even with a nagging hamstring injury and getting pulled in goalline situations. He should get those goalline carries this year and should be a double digit scorer.

10. Michael Pittman

Pittman is my sleeper this year. He has been a solid player on a terrible Cardinals team for years, but now he is on a contending team and has offensive guru Jon Gruden calling the plays. Pittman will be the feature back, but there are rumors he may not be in the goaline package, losing some TD's to Mike Allstott. Either way, I am high on this guy and he should be a steal somewhere in rounds 3-5, depending on the leauge and how quickly backs go.  Both players below and a lot of guys who won't make my list will get picked before Pittman, so he could be a player you can slide on and get later.  But that is a risk if you really want him.

11. Eddie George

Eddie has been a solid fantasy back for years, but slumped badly last season, mainly due to injuries. George is another workhorse who will get plenty of carries and yards plus his share of touchdowns. The downsides is he won't break a lot of long runs and will lose some TD's to Steve McNair. Still, if George returns to form he is a very good fantasy back. Coming off the down year, I look for George to fall to the 3rd round.

12. Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis has been a tremendous fantasy back over the last 3 years, gaining more than 1300 yards in all three seasons. Some are concerned that Steve Spurriers pass oriented offense will cut down on Davis's numbers and that is possible. But then again running backs have still put up good numbers under Spurrier. Plus the Redskins quarterbacks and receivers are major question marks and the Skins have a good offensive line. Davis is still a good gamble to run for 100 yards and 10+ TD's but he needs to stay healthy. He is usually good to miss a game of two a year, but when he plays he is solid.

There you have it, my top 12 fantasy running backs.  Things can change quickly in fantasy football, ask me on draft night and this could be slightly different.  There are many times where I break my own rankings on a spur of the moment feeling or hunch.  There's no exact science to it, it's a lot of luck.  But being prepared and knowing what you want to do is very important.