NFL's Best Fantasy RBs (2012 Edition): #5-1
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(As a reminder, this article was first posted on Bleacher Report by numberFire's Zach Warren. It's being posted here as well because, hey, we like our numbers.)
After looking at backs number six through ten last Friday, we're set to move on to the top five of our best fantasy backs list. Even though these guys are in our top five, that doesn't mean they're without concerns - in fact, I'd call #5 and #4 on this list some of the riskiest picks you could possibly make up high in the draft. But if they work out? Welcome to fantasy glory, my friend.
numberFire's Top Ten Fantasy Backs: #5-1
5. Adrian Peterson - Minnesota Vikings
Projected Stats: 1159.4 rushing yards, 9.9 rushing TDs, 316 receiving yards, 1.6 receiving TDs
Projected Points: 212.94
I've been told that I should be as worried about AP's ACL if I take him in the first round as I would be about my (not yet existing) firstborn son. I'm still not quite sure why. I assume that it might have something to do with an ancient Viking curse where the waters of Lake Minnetonka dry up if Toby Gerhart gets more than 25 carries in a game, or something. It can't have to do with fantasy football. With the talent the Vikings have on offense (according to numberFire, the third best Vikings fantasy play is kicker Blair Walsh), they might not have a choice but to play AP from week one and hope for the best. Gerhart was solid yet unspectacular as a starter - he had no 100-yard games and the big zero touchdowns in his four games with at least 15 carries, and his only 100-yard game on the season was helped dramatically by a 67-yard rush. Peterson, meanwhile, was 30 yards short of 1000 last season even while missing the final four games. And he still finished with 189 fantasy points (an average of over 15 per game). Before that, his lowest fantasy total in a season was 239 points... in his rookie year. Even if you're still concerned about the ACL, 75% All-Day is better than 100% most other backs.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew - Jacksonville Jaguars (?)
Projected Stats: 1396.1 rushing yards, 8.9 rushing TDs, 345.6 receiving yards, 1.6 receiving TDs
Projected Points: 231.57
How large and bold can I make an asterisk for this one? * No matter what I did, it wouldn't be large enough. If there's anybody that deserves a giant asterisk this fantasy season, it's MJD.
If Maurice Jones-Drew comes back and plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars, then he's a top five pick in most drafts, as long as quarterbacks don't have some insanely overpowered stat mechanism (here's looking at you, 6 points for passing TD leagues). As of this writing, that Jaguars thing is not a certainty. It's all about how much risk you're willing to take on. One consolation is that if Jones-Drew gets traded, it's likely that it will be to a team in desperate need of RB help, and with his talent, he'll be the clear number one back no matter where he goes. But I would be a bit worried about not being in camp. From Chris Johnson last year (worst year of his four year career) to Larry Johnson in 2007 (559 yards in 8 games after two straight 1700+ yard seasons), the NFL landscape is littered with backs who didn't perform as well after holding out. Watch this one with caution, and if you want to pull the trigger, I'd place him probably right under Chris Johnson in his current day-to-day status.
3. LeSean McCoy - Philadelphia Eagles
Projected Stats: 1179.5 rushing yards, 11.9 rushing TDs, 398.8 receiving yards, 2.0 receiving TDs
Projected Points: 237.43
There are definite tiers to the running backs this season. It's Foster at the top, McCoy and Rice in the second tier, then there's everybody else lagging behind. If you have one of the top three picks, consider yourself lucky. But at the second pick, it's tough to make that decision between Rice and McCoy. Rice has the yardage down, but McCoy's 17 rushing touchdowns last season are very hard to ignore. Ultimately, though, I'm putting McCoy down at number three for three (sense a trend?) main reasons:
1. The Success Factor - 43% of McCoy's rushes last season were considered successful in increasing the Eagles' chances to score. That's an incredibly good number... almost too good if you ask me. In the two seasons prior, McCoy had held steady right around 35% of his rushes being considered successful: good, but not FedEx Ground Player of the Year good. If McCoy reverts back closer to that 35% number, it will hurt most in the redzone. Because if McCoy can't get in, the Eagles have other players who can...
2. Poachers - Michael Vick only had one touchdown last season on the ground despite playing in 13 games, his lowest rushing touchdown total since pre-jail 2003 Atlanta (when he got injured and only played in five games). If (BIG IF) Vick stays healthy, that low touchdown total won't happen again. And every rushing TD Vick gets is one that McCoy doesn't.
3. Receiving Yards - It's a well-known fact that the Eagles' offense relies heavily on passing to the back. That's why you want the back that has almost 2000 receiving yards total over the past three years and two seasons with over 700 yards receiving. And that player is... Ray Rice? Indeed. McCoy's three year total is almost 800 yards less, and he's only had one season receiving above 400 yards.
2. Ray Rice - Baltimore Ravens
Projected Stats: 1330.9 rushing yards, 9.3 rushing TDs, 564 receiving yards, 2.3 receiving TDs
Projected Points: 253.89
I already covered a lot of what makes Ray Rice special in the previous slide, but one other thing to note is the sheer number of touches Rice gets in a game. Not only has he reached at least 250 rushes in each of his three seasons starting, but he's hit at least 60 receptions in every single one of those seasons as well. He has averaged over 20 touches per game each of those past three seasons. That may catch up to him eventually, but not right now. He hasn't shown any past indication of injury in the NFL - he's played in each of Baltimore's 48 regular-season games over the past three years.
1. Arian Foster - Houston Texans
Projected Stats: 1384.7 rushing yards, 11.7 rushing TDs, 647.1 receiving yards, 2.3 receiving TDs
Projected Points: 280.78
And now we're to the man who should be every single fantasy league's overall #1 pick: Arian Foster. Often in fantasy leagues, quarterbacks score significantly more than running backs as a whole, and teams with good running backs gain their points only in comparison to other backs. It's almost unheard of, especially in the current 5000+ yard throwers climate, to have a back keep up. Well, numberFire projects Arian Foster to have 281 fantasy points this year in a standard Yahoo! league. That projection is beat by a few QBs, including Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Cam Newton... and that's it. More than Matthew Stafford, more than Calvin Johnson, more than everybody else. numberFire projects Foster to have about 27 more points than Ray Rice on the back of an incredible 2000+ all-purpose yards. Nobody can touch him when he's firing on all cylinders. The only conceivable reason to hold off would be hamstring concerns, but with Foster's level of production the past two seasons, that's a weak argument. I wouldn't be worried about Ben Tate either; the job's clearly in Foster's hands.