1. Arian Foster – When healthy in 2011, Foster proved to be the best back in the league. Effective in both the running and receiving game; Foster is a deceptively quick and a smooth runner inside the tackles and at times has the speed to turn the corner. Foster is the unquestioned back. PPR - 71 targets in 13 games and his 11.6 receiving yard avg is highest in this Top 10.
2. Ray Rice – The only running back to go over 2,000 combined yards rushing and receiving in 2011. He’s still young enough to be an elite back. Combined with the best fullback in the league (Leach), a huge offensive line and a defense that keeps scores close and the running game alive, Rice is the safest back to draft. He's also the Ravens goal line back! 104 passing targets!! 76 receptions! In PPR take note that Rice had more receptions than McCoy targets. 15 rushing and receiving TD's plus one passing creates his TD a game average in 2011.
3. LeSean McCoy – Another young dual threat back. Unlike Rice, he’s in a more explosive offense so one could argue him ahead of Rice, but the fact that Rice gets most all goal line carries and Vick takes some away from McCoy, Rice has the edge. I think McCoy is more elusive and has the ability to miss tackles in that wide open offense. In PPR McCoy had lowest receiving yard avg of this Top 10 at 6.6. But still had 17 rushing TD's combined with 3 receiving for 20 total. The highest total of this Top 10. Next highest is Rice with 15.
4. Ryan Mathews – With the departure of Mike Tolbert in free agency, look for Mathews to excel in 2012 in the big play San Diego attack. With the departure of Mike Tolbert and Vincent Jackson in free agency there may be an even bigger load on Mathews, but that’s just what you want from your top running back; touches and opportunity. Lets just hope he can stay healthy and make it through the season with the additional work load. The departure of Tolbert also presents solid value in PPR leagues, though this is probably the same spot for him in those leagues as well.
5. Chris Johnson – 2011 was an unfortunate year for CJ2k. Hopefully a full offseason and conditioning will return this former top pick in some leagues back to form. If he slides to you later in the first round, find yourself fortunate. I think some people forget and or don't realize he only has 4 seasons under his belt and has only missed 1 game and that was his first year. PPR fans, he has averaged 48.5 receptions a year. If Locker ever makes starts this year, that number will go up because of safe dump offs and screens!
6. Darren McFadden – If I could guarantee to you that McFadden would miss no more than 1 game all year, you'd take him in the top 5 and maybe ahead of Mathews. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. But when healthy and active there is not a combined faster and stronger runner in the game. McFadden has the speed and truck stick to be an elite running back in this league averaging over 5 YPC and over 100 total yards per game the last 2 years. No Michael Bush plus Carson Palmer's second year in Oakland, could be the combination to use a back half first round pick on. Second highest yard per carry in this Top 10 at 5.4 with 8.1 receiving.
7. Maurice Jones-Drew – Thought to have slid a few spots in 2011 drafts because of fear of his knee and a rookie quarterback; MJD still provided production for his owners. He was the league leading rusher in yards and attempts. There is a new coaching staff in Jax, but MJD will still be the work horse for owners drafting in the back half of the first round. Still a tough runner and receiver out of the back field, but his home run play ability is greatly diminished. A PPR drafter may consider MJD as early as the 5th or 6th RB off the board.
8. Marshawn Lynch – I’m a little weary that he exploded in a contract year, but Lynch is still young and has low mileage. Beast mode is solid value in standard leagues. 5 years in the league but he had only 120 carries in 2009 and only 202 in 2010. 13 total TD's last year in 15 games. I don't like that he has the 49er's in week 16.
9. DeMarco Murray – If not for Felix Jones, I’d put Murray in the 5-7 range. Murray thrived in this high powered offense when given the chance. His yards per carry average suffered when former FB Tony Fiammetta was out of the game. But expected to be healthy and starting going in to the 2012 season, the second year for this young back should pay big dividends. Highest yard per carry in this top 10 at 5.5.
10. Matt Forte – Solid runner, solid receiver. The departure of Martz and the promotion of Tice to offensive coordinator should only help the Bears get back to their ground and pound roots. Hate having him this low, but the franchise tag presents the risk of a hold out and the addition of Michael Bush scares me and doesn't help Forte's leverage. It’s a situation to monitor. But Forte is an elite talent and a top 5-7 RB in PPR. He's been PPR gold averaging 56 catches with a 9 yard per avg over his 4 years.
Why isn't Trent Richardson in my Top 10?
I can't deny the projections of his touches and or opportuties, which I historically look for when ranking and or drafting. But here, situation trumps that. It scares me to think of rookie QB Weeden and the rest of that Browns offense that faces the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens defenses twice a year. All three of those were Top 10 against the run in the regular season last year. Ravens 2nd, Steelers 8th and Bengals 10th. If that wasn't enough, the Browns matchup with the NFC East this year and they all have tough front 7's.
What to do about AP?
Football fans have long since known that Adrian Peterson is a freak and we all know and have heard about how seriously he is taking his rehab with the bound and determined attitude to be ready for week 1. ESPN recently covered his rehab and his straight line speed is close to being back and his leg strength is is allowing him to reach his peak vertical again. But what does this mean for Fantasy Football owners and the 2012 season?
You are going to have a tough time on when to pull the trigger on AP, especially if there is no evidence of him beginning the year on the PUP (dependent upon when you have your draft of course). But the key here is where does his upside fall too; considering the ACL? One thing all owners fear is facing AP later in the year and you'd much rather have him on your team than someone elses. I can't advise him being your RB1 selection and it's tough to pass on other value at WR and QB for someone that might not even play the first six weeks of the season. Thankfully the QB pool is deep this year and I would say once the Top 10 RB's are gone and the Top 5 wideouts have been selected, prepare for someone in your league to select AP. Will it be you?
PPR guys for 2012
Darren Sproles - 111 targets! 86 receptions! 8.3 avg 7 receiving TD's
Jamaal Charles - No Todd Haley to hold him back this year. Tough decision when evaluating his upside and
where to take him coming off ACL. Monster talent.
Roy Helu - Had 14 receptions week 14. RGIII rolling out, tons of opportunities for Helu.
Reggie Bush - Averaged 5 yards per carry with 43 receptions in 2011
CJ Spiller - Averaged 5.2 yards per carry with 53 targets. 9 receptions week 14.