In what has become a continuing series, we're previewing the top fantasy prospects at each position. Today, we're looking at the top 10 running backs.
Running backs are the cornerstone of any great fantasy football team; they usually are at least the first 8 or so picks, and the majority of the first two rounds. Why? Position scarcity. Without further ado...
1. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers
The unquestioned #1. Head and shoulders above everyone else, and deservedly so. Combines dynamic rushing ability with excellent hands, and he's in an offense where he's utilized properly. With the loss of Keenan McCardell, he could acquire even more value in PPR leagues.
Projection: 350 Att, 1700 RuYd, 23 TD, 60 Rec, 500 ReYd, 5 TD. Yahoo! Points: 388
2. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
The second coming of Marshall Faulk? Maybe. The premier pass-catching running back in the league, and the only back who (barring an LDT injury) has the ability to challenge the San Diego juggernaut for the #1 overall value. Of course, he could also fall back into the pack a bit. The first of the second tier.
Projection: 325 Att, 1600 RuYd, 15 TD, 85 Rec, 800 ReYd, 5 TD. Yahoo! Points: 360
3. Larry Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs
First, the warning signs: Johnson's ypc dropped from 5.2 to 4.3 last year; he set a new NFL record for carries in a season; he's threatening to hold out. Now the fun stuff: 1700+ rushing yards each of the last two years; immense talent; and there's no reason to think that he'll run out of steam any time soon, as he's only been starting for a season and a half.
Projection: 400 Att, 1750 RuYd, 18 TD, 40 Rec, 350 ReYd, 5 TD. Yahoo! Points: 348
4. Shaun Alexander, Seattle Seahawks
I very nearly put Alexander at #3; his 2005 perfomance was stellar. Then I remembered that his 2006 just plain wasn't very good - 896 yards and 7 TD are not the numbers you expect from a top-3 selection. Completely recovered from the foot injury that caused him to miss 6 games last year, though, Alexander should rebound nicely.
Projection: 350 Att, 1650 RuYd, 18 TD, 25 Rec, 200 ReYd, 5 TD. Yahoo! Points: 323
5. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
The least experienced of the top 5, Gore began to tap his potential last year in his first year starting. A quality back, he doesn't, so far, seem to be as injury-prone as some feared when he entered the league fresh off two ACL tears. The arrival of Darrell Jackson could leech away a few receptions, but Alex Smith's continued development should help to offset the loss.
Projection: 325 Att, 1700 RuYd, 12 TD, 50 Rec, 400 ReYd, 4 TD. Yahoo! Points: 306
6. Willie Parker, Pittsburgh Steelers
There's a clear dropoff from the top 5 to everyone else, but don't let that fool you. Parker is consistent, he's dependable, and he gets the ball a lot. There's value there.
Projection: 350 Att, 1500 RuYd, 14 TD, 25 Rec, 200 ReYd, 1 TD. Yahoo! Points: 265
7. Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
Workhorse. Takes the ball and runs forward. Does what you ask him to. Not explosive, but he doesn't have to be when he plays on the same offense with Palmer, Housh, and Ocho Cinco.
Projection: 350 Att, 1400 RuYd, 12 TD, 25 Rec, 150 ReYd, 2 TD. Yahoo! Points: 239
8. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts
The kid has skills - over a thousand rushing yards last year, and he didn't start a regular season game. Working with Peyton Manning ensures that he'll be in the right place at the right time; it's just his job to take advantage. Can he? I think so, but the risk factor - Addai has never carried a full load - keeps me from bumping him up above Johnson or Parker.
Projection: 300 Att, 1300 RuYd, 10 TD, 60 Rec, 500 ReYd, 2 TD. Yahoo! Points: 252
9. Travis Henry, Denver Broncos
He's the unquestioned starting running back for Mike Shanahan. Unquestioned starting running backs for Mike Shanahan tend to do pretty doggone well. Not to mention, he's got a solid track record from his time in Buffalo. Plug him into your lineup and smile.
Projection: 320 Att, 1350 RuYd, 10 TD, 20 Rec, 170 ReYd, 1 TD. Yahoo! Points: 228
10. Laurence Maroney, New England Patriots
This kid makes me nervous - something about him just doesn't sit right. But would I draft him at 10? Probably, unless one of the other guys on this list was available. Maroney's stats from last year are underwhelming, until you consider he was sharing time with the now-retired Corey Dillon; then they become, if not stellar, at least okay-ish.
Projection: 300 Att, 1250 RuYd, 9 TD, 35 Rec, 220 ReYd, 2 TD. Yahoo! Points: 223