Top-10 Fantasy Football Running Backs for 2012


The fantasy football season is drawing closer with each week, and while wives around the world are curbing their enthusiasm, fantasy football junkies could not be happier.  Everyone is building their cheat sheets and drawing up their lists of sleepers, so this is the perfect time to start to looking at player rankings.  Below are my top ten fantasy football running backs for the 2012 season:

1. LeSean McCoy, PHI – “Shady” McCoy left opposing defenders in the dark all year long.  He finished the season with a phenomenal 20 total touchdowns  (17 rushing and 3 receiving), the most by any other running back.  McCoy is deceptively quick between the tackles and can burn anyone in the open field.  McCoy has only missed two professional games in his career, and his durability, combined with his raw skills, makes him the number one guy on my list.

2. Arian Foster, HOU – Foster is by far the best down hill runner in the NFL.  He has scored a dominating 26 rushing touchdowns and 4 receiving touchdowns in his last 29 games.  He may not be the hands down first overall pick this summer, but Aaron Rodgers be dammed, Foster can easily be the number two overall selection.  Grab Foster second overall and take solace in the fact that you have one of the only workhorses left in the game.

3. Ray Rice, BAL – Rice is a do it all fantasy back.  He can run between the tackles, run outside the tackles, and catch the ball.   Rice is the ideal option in Point Per Reception (P.P.R.) leagues, because no back in the league has hands like the former Rutgers star.  In Rice’s last three seasons as the team’s starter, he has amazingly averaged just less than 2,000 yards from scrimmage (1,307 rushing and 654 receiving). Rice has an offense that is completely tailored around him, only increasing his fantasy value. He is the perfect running back to build a fantasy team around and is even falling out of the top-five in some drafts.  Do not let this dual-threat star pass you by, draft him with confidence in any draft format.

4. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC – Jones-Drew remains the one bright spot in an otherwise cloudy Jacksonville offense.  He led the entire NFL with a jaw-dropping 1,606 rushing yards and was all the Jags’ had to lean on down the stretch last year.  Regardless, his timid 8 touchdowns tied him for 12th in the NFL and can easily be attributed to the offense inability to put points on the scoreboard in 2011.  However, the Jaguars’ offense has worked hard this off-season and will be better in 2012, so MJD will get many more scoring opportunities down the stretch.  Fantasy owners should expect Jones-Drew to finish with around 1,500 rushing yards and between 8-11 touchdowns on the ground.

5. Chris Johnson, TEN – Johnson started embarrassingly slow last year, by recording only one 100-yard rushing game in his first eight contests.  However, he turned it around by averaging a respectable 85 yards per game over the rest of the year. “CJ2K” will have a bounce back season in 2012 and will finish back among the top in the league at his position.  He may not replicate the 2,006-yard performance he put up in the 2009 season, but he should easily eclipse 1,300 rushing yards.

6. Matt Forte, CHI – Forte is finally back in pads and ready to lead millions of fantasy teams.  He is a yardage beast for fantasy owners and has racked up 1,300 yards from scrimmage in each of his four NFL seasons.  He may lose some goal-line carries to the newly acquired Michael Bush, but expect Forte to still produce like a top-ten fantasy back.  Forte should still reach 1,300 all-purpose yards in 2012 and score between 8-10 touchdowns, regardless of the new competition in the backfield.

7. Darren McFadden, OAK – McFadden was having a monstrous season before going down with a Lisfranc fracture to his right foot in week 7.  “Run DMC” racked up 614 rushing yards and 154 receiving yards in essentially six and a half games.  He has been labeled as injury prone, but his injuries (ankle, toe, and foot) have mostly just been unlucky.  It is at least promising that it was not a knee injury, because those injuries tend to linger longer into a young, backs career.  McFadden can still be an elite option, but he has to be healthy to do it.  McFadden is falling to the mid-second round and his potential makes him a steal at that point; just make sure to add some extra depth to your running back stable in-case his injury problems return.

8. Michael Turner, ATL – Turner is being severely undervalued in drafts this summer.  He has scored an outstanding 50 touchdowns in his last 59 games and is one of the only backs in the NFL that both occupies the starting tailback position and gets all the goal-line carries. As far as his injury label, Turner has only missed four games in the four years he has been in Atlanta, and that came in a four-week stretch during his 2009 season.  The 30-year old also has fresh legs, as he started his NFL career as LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup in San Diego.   All Turner does it score touchdowns and punish defenses, a perfect fantasy football combination.  Turner is featured in a very high-scoring offense, so expect him to have another 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012.

9. Ryan Mathews, SD – Mathew is drawing a tremendous amount of pre-season hype, as somehow the two-year pro with under 400 carries is becoming considered a top-five fantasy pick this summer.  He is a little too risky to be drafted that early and would be better off being picked in the mid-second round.  Mathews is still an extremely elusive runner and is great at getting to the outside, but fantasy drafts are about getting value out of your picks, just as much as it is about getting stars.  Mathews is still a number one back, just make sure not to reach to far for the unproven back.

10. Adrian Peterson, MIN – Peterson’s latest trip to the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) list has all but killed his first round fantasy value.  Even though he can come off the list at anytime between now and week 6, fantasy owners have been extremely leery about taking the four-time Pro Bowler.  However, Peterson is a fantasy monster in the waiting and the fact that he is completely falling out of the first and second round, could make him a fantasy steal at the end of the year.  Do not draft Peterson in the first round by any means, but do not hesitate to grab him in the middle of the second round.

Make sure to check back next week for my wide receiver rankings.

-Adam McGill