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2012 Fantasy Football Prep 101: Runnning Backs

A wise man once said “No matter what draft a running back in the 1st round” He also said “There is nothing more delicious than 23 herbs and spices”
~The Colonel

As we continue our preparation for the upcoming 2012 Fantasy Football season we will preview the Running Back position. Typically the good old running back in fantasy gold. Everyone goes out of their way to snap up backs in the first few rounds. Conventional wisdom states that to have a successful team you MUST draft the best running back available in the first two rounds and then fill out the rest of the positions later. In the past that may have been the case, but as the NFL has become a pass first league it has become less and less the case. I remember when passing for 3000 yards in a season was

Grossman: Wait a minute… I threw for just over 3000 yards last year. Does that make me a failure?
McNabb: As someone who knows, yes that makes you a failure

considered good. Now it would be seen as a complete failure of the offense. Still there is some truth to the notion that snapping up a good back in the first round is a good idea. I would just say that sometimes it is better to have the best quarterback rf receiver than the 5th best running back. With that said lets take a look at the running back position.

As with the quarterbacks it is always a good idea to look at the stats for the year before. Below are how the running backs fared in Pabst and Blatz Fantasy Football League scoring system which is 1 point for every 25 yards rushing, 1 point for every 25 yards receiving and 6 points for every touchdown. Of course players can also score by throwing touchdowns and scoring conversions but that happens so rarely it really doesn’t change much.

As it is blatantly obvious, LeSean McCoy was the standout from last year with Ray Rice coming in a close second. McCoy’s 17 rushing touchdowns is what put him over the top. This number of touchdowns I really do not see him repeating mostly because of the touchdown vulture Mick Vick poised to steal rushing TD inside the red zone.

I have a need…a need to run for touchdowns. Screw you LeSean and all your fantasy owners.

Ray Rice had a similar problem with bigger backs stealing his goal-line carries in the past. Still both scored at a level far above the competition. Arian Foster should have been the class of the field but injuries kept him from reaching the top. This year he will be spelled by an established Ben Tate so he will not get the amount of carries he has in the past. The same can be said for Michael Turner  he will be getting many more carries taken away from him. Let’s take a look at projections for the 2012 season. Here are some of my own devising:

There are 5 tiers of running backs as denoted by the colors. Tier 1 backs should be taken in the 1st round. If one of them survives to the 2nd round you have gotten yourself a steal. The tier 2 backs should be taken in the 2nd-4th rounds.  By the end of the 4th round typically any starting running back that is worth anything has been taken. The 3rd tier of backs can be taken later in the mid rounds. They are what is left of the starters, promising backups, and number two backs in running back by committee. The backs in tier 4 are to be taken only if you need depth on the bench or as a flyer/hedge against a more established back getting hurt. The backs in tier 5 should not be drafted at all. You will be able to get these backs off the waiver wire if and when they become relevant. I would advise you select better players at different positions.

The very best as predicted for next year will be Arian Foster. McCoy should come back down to Earth a bit but he will still be a premium back as will Ray Rice.  Peterson, Wells and Charles are all coming off of injuries and Michael Turner will no longer be a 300 carry back. The situation in Washington is a mess but look for Helu to come out as the starter. Detroit’s backfield is equally a mess. At this time all of the backs there may get a decent amount of carries making none of them fantasy relevant. Shonn Greene no longer has anyone sharing the backfield with him but Tebow may steal some of his yards and touchdowns.

As far as the rookies are concerned only Trent Richardson and Doug Martin are set to start right now. This of course may change. I like Richardson but he is in a situation where he is a starting rookie tailback sharing a backfield with a rookie quarterback. He should get plenty of carries but will the Browns be playing from behind to often. Martin has to worry about Blount stealing carries and touchdowns.

Do I look like a guy that would drink and drive?

Handcuffing situations: If you take Arian Foster you MUST, I repeat must take Ben Tate. If for some reason you have James Starks on your roster as a starter I suggest also taking Alex Green. Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith should be locked together. As well as Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. Other handcuffs to considers are Frank Gore and Brandon Jacobs, Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings, Matt Forte and Michael Bush, Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis, and the always popular DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart.

McDonalds Drive Thru: Welcome to McDonlds may I take your order?
Jahvid: I see four fingers coach.
McDonalds Drive Thru: What was that sir?
Jahvid: Put me in coach! I’m ready!
McDonalds Drive Thur: Does that complete your order?

Words of caution: Marshawn Lynch is looking at a suspension from the league due to a little drinking and driving, Jahvid Best is on the PUP list still from concussions from the previous year.  Maurice Jones-Drew is thinking about holding out. Beanie Wells is not 100%. No one knows who is going to start in New England. No one knows who is going to start in Washington. Green Bay’s running game looks awful.

Top 10

#1 LeSean McCoy He is the best back available and should be the first selected. Both runs and catches touchdowns. The only downside is that Mike Vick is looming to steal some of his scores.

#2 Arian FosterWould have been number one but he now has injury concerns and the real possibility of losing carries to Ben Tate. Still is is hard to deny someone that dresses that well. He could be considers 1a to McCoy’s 1.

#3 Ray Rice with other backs stealing his goal-line carries he slips a bit. Still he catches the ball well and is a dynamic threat.

#4 Chris Johnson He got PAID! and how did he reward the Titans? With a subpar year. He is set for a major rebound. He still won’t be worth what the Titans are paying him but he should make his fantasy owners happy.

#5 Darren McFadden No more Michael Bush. McFadden is on his own. This could mean his best season ever OR he will wear out and get injured much earlier than usual. IF he goes 16 games he will be an absolute stud. Prepare for him to go 13 games that way if he goes more you can be pleasantly surprised. Addition of a legitimate quarterback should help him stay health…right?

#6 Ahmad BradshawAhmad Bradshaw you just won the Superbowl what are you going to do now…. Well he should get a large amount of carries. Jacobs is gone. If he gets half of Jacobs’ 7 touchdowns added to his total we are looking at an elite back. His backup at the moment is young and inexperienced so he will not take too many carries for Bradshaw. Could be his best year ever.

#7 Maurice Jones Drew One of the premier fantasy stud running backs for years he now has the dreaded two words HOLD OUT hanging over his head. Typically any back the holds out even for a small amount of time does not have a fantasy year that they are capable of. Use caution here as he also has injury concerns. Still if he is anywhere close to last year you will love having him on your team.

#8 Adrian Peterson Turn to the left, turn to the right, one more straight ahead. If being injured wasn’t bad enough good ol’ All Day went and got himself arrested in the off-season. With the Commish loving to come down hard on players what will happen to Adrian? Probably nothing. The injury his more a concern. If he is healthy by the start of the season he should continue to be a great fantasy back.

#9 Jamaal Charles  Hi, I’m Jamaal Charles. You may remember me from my role in the 2010 fantasy football season. Well….I’m BACK! Whether or not he is ready to go is another question. The Chiefs went and picked up Peyton Hillis for insurance…you may want some insurance too.

#10 Ryan Mathews Hi, I’m Ryan Mathews. I play football for the San Diego Chargers. Anyone out there heard of me? No more Mike Tolbert should mean a better fantasy year for Mathews. Give him half of Tolbert’s eight TDs and he would have been a top 5 back last year.


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