Here's when it gets dicey. Fantasy coaches have long made running backs draft priority #1. It's also a position no one wants to go bust in. One great RB is usually available for most coaches to snatch up unless you're in a very large league. Last year, Tennessee's Chris Johnson tallied 2006 rushing yards including 11 straight north of 100 yds/game. Vikings Adrian Peterson side stepped his way for 16 end zone trips. However, Peterson rarely hit the 100 yard plateau and had fumble problems (6 plus disastrous NFC Championship Game).
Which speedster will rack up the most fantasy points in 2010? Will anyone reach 2000 yards? 20 touchdowns? NFL has many talented backs looking to become the next cover boy for EA Sports. Potential fantasy team hazard warning. Multiple teams featuring dual backs could throw a wrench into draft day strategies. Don't get caught short. KC, Carolina, Miami, Giants, Dallas, Houston and Tampa Bay might decide to go with whoever is hot on any given Sunday.
If you can't land a top 3 back then this is the season to grab a star QB first.
NFL RB Rankings
1 - Chris Johnson (TEN). No surprise here after a stellar 2009 campaign. Repeating 2000 might be a stretch but he finds running lanes even with defenses taking dead aim. 1800+ yards, 17+ TD.
2 - Michael Turner (ATL). Staying healthy is an issue. One year removed from 1,699 & 17. Looking fit and ready to rumble. 1600+, 15+.
3 - Adrian Peterson (MIN). Buyer beware! Electrifying runner can break a game wide open on any snap. Vikes will limit AP's carries if fumbles become an early season concern. Otherwise, he'll be a gem. 1700+, 13+. 2000 is a distinct possibility as Minnesota's WR's are banged up.
4 - Frank Gore (SF). Versatile Gore will get many touches. Running stats should improve if SF can open up lanes via passing attack. Look out, Gore could become 2010's TD maker. 1500+ total yards, 15+ combined TD.
5 - Cedric Benson (CIN). Turned heads in '09. Might pound defenders in '10. Cincy has two big time WR's which will keep defenses flat footed. Benson should find plenty of running lanes of offensive line can get the job done. 1400+, 14+.
6 - Ryan Matthews (SD). Chargers rookie from Fresno State seems ready to make an immediate impact replacing SD legend, LaDanian Tomlinson. This sleeper pick ranks high and could be worth an early gamble. 1300+, 12+.
7 - Ryan Grant (GB). Pass happy Packers need to get Grant more touches. If they do then he'll climb up the list as one of leagues better fantasy stat point earners. Modest projection with big upside potential. 1300+, 12+
8 - Ray Rice (BAL). Is this Rice's breakout season? Ravens may try opening up down field offenses affording Rice plenty of opportunities to run wild. Not a goal line back but can break one at any time. Needs more touches in '10. 1400+, 10+.
9 - Shonn Green (NYJ). Punishing back needs offensive line to provide daylight. It's his time to shine. Will he step up or be a fantasy bust? LaDanian Tomlinson waiting in the wings if things don't jive or will learn to live as a 3rd down back. 1200+, 10+.
10- Steven Jackson (STL). Rams still in trouble as they continue rebuilding and polishing up young players. Jackson will get as many carries as he can handle returning from injury. Has an opportunity to put up catch up points in losing games. Good news for fantasy owners? Or, is it? 1200+, 12+
Keep an eye on the following backs fighting for carries. You never know who will get the ball in dual team backs. The hot hand usually prevails.
- Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX). Still a bit banged up. Might produce. Might not. 1000 should be well within reach. Health a big issue. Top 10 back when sound.
- Ronnie Brown/Rickey Williams (MIA). Teams have a tough time stopping Miami's dominating running attack. Will it be Brown or Williams getting the ball most often?
- DeAngelo Williams/James Stewart (CAR). Dual 1000 yard rushers will keep fantasy coaches wondering who to start.
- Thomas Jones/Jamaal Charles (KC). Most are high on Charles. Jones was NFL's #3 ground gainer in '09.
- Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG). Bruising Jacobs opens as #1. Bradshaw might see plenty of action if Jacobs struggles again.
- Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush (NO). Ample running lanes as defenses pay close attention to spread formation receivers.
- Marian Barber/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice (DAL). Loads of depth here. Plenty could go wrong if usual sideline troubles infect RB's wanting more touches.
Stay tuned. Wide Receivers up next...