Yesterday was the first glorious Saturday of another great NCAA football season, so hopefully you had the luxury of coming out on top in one (or more) of our college fantasy football contests.
Either way, the coming week brings more chances in the college genre, as well as the kick-off of Daily Joust’s weekly fantasy football games.
In the effort to help get everyone started for the 2011 NFL season, we continue our daily preseason fantasy football advice – this time with our Top-10 2011 running back rankings.
Note: These rankings do not necessarily reflect player values and salaries in Daily Joust’s salary cap leagues.
1. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
Despite a 2010 season from hell that went down in flames, Adrian Peterson still found his way to 1,200+ rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He battled injuries at the end of last season, too, which told you absolutely nothing went right for the Vikings. This year, however, Peterson is healthy and will be the focal point of the offense again. Minnesota is going back to the ground game in 2011, and Peterson also figures to see even more looks in the passing game.
You could make an argument for a few other guys up top, but Peterson has the most concrete role, and has very little question marks (injury, role, offensive changes) going into the new season. He has the same potential as the other top backs, but actually appears to be the safest pick, as well.
2. Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans)
Let’s be honest. The only real issue with drafting/selecting CJ2K in leagues and games this year had everything to do with his holdout. However, anyone who knows anything about Johnson knows that he keeps himself in impeccable shape (Terrell Owens-style), and him being in game shape really shouldn’t be a concern. With that said, he has a competent quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck) to help make his offense more versatile, which should only give his amazing talent more breathing room to put up huge numbers in 2011.
3. Arian Foster (Houston Texans)
I love Foster. His 2010 numbers showed excellent balance and consistency, and projected him for another great season in 2011. Unfortunately, after pegging him as the top overall back for almost the entire off-season, I’m down-grading Foster after two mild hamstring injuries. He’s no lock for Week 1, and hammy injuries ares ones that can easily linger or tear completely and end an entire season. He’s a major talent with an elite role, but the high risk needs to be addressed before you draft him or plug him in your lineup.
4. Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens)
While everyone else is hyping up Jamaal Charles, I’m busting over Rice’s potential in 2011. A lot of people were disappointed in his 2010 numbers after such a great breakout year in 2009, but he still produced elite total yardage and was impressive considering how banged up he was for half the year. This year, Rice is healthy, Willis McGahee is gone, and it looks (at least for the moment) like Rice will be getting the first crack at goal-line duty. If he can add touchdowns to his immense PPR value and total yardage, Rice could be a dream back to roster in fantasy football.
5. Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs)
I can’t ignore Charles’ awesome 1,400+ rushing yard season of 2010. The fact that he did it with so little touches makes it even more impressive. However, Thomas Jonas should continue to steal carries and vulture touchdowns, so anyone rolling with Charles has to be banking on more long runs and more insane yardage off of less than ideal touches. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but with offensive guru Charlie Weis gone, I think the odds are against him. He’s still an elite fantasy option, but he’ll almost certainly see a hit in overall numbers compared to last year.
6. Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders)
McFadden is a bit misleading, as he scored 70% of his 10 total touchdowns in two games in 2010. And both of those said games came against terrible defenses in the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars. Combine that with his injury history and his overall inconsistency, and he comes off as a bit of an elite “tease”. As bad as that sounds, last year was still his first as a full-time starter, and he has the athleticism to be a top-five back, regardless.
7. Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Mendenhall doesn’t carry the flash and insane potential that a lot of these other top-10 backs do, but he’s as safe and reliable as they come. He topped 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season in 2010, and has scored 20 rushing touchdowns over that span (13 last year). Considering how much and how well the Steelers run the ball, he’s locked-in as a top-10 option.
8. LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles)
McCoy cracked 1,000 rushing yards in 2010, but in the name of Brian Westbrook, we all need to admit he’s never going to be a major threat to get much more than 1,300 rushing yards. And even that might be a stretch. His talent suggests he could do that kind of damage, but his offense does not. McCoy may also lose red-zone touches to both Vick (as he did in 2010) and Ronnie Brown, but there’s still more upside here than negatives. McCoy won’t match the top-five backs in rushing yardage or touchdowns, but he could easily surpass them all in receptions and receiving yardage.
9. Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers)
With last year’s hip injury and a seemingly “volatile” contract situation now far behind him, Gore figures to have a prominent role in new head coach Jim Harbaugh’s offense in 2011. Gore is still very much in his prime and brings great explosiveness and versatility to the table. With the 49ers struggling in the passing game, he’ll be depended on more than ever. The only real concern should be whether or not he can shed the nagging injuries that have kept him from realizing his full potential the last few seasons.
10. Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars)
MJD certainly enters 2011 with questions surrounding his knee, but he did finally appear in the Jaguars’ final preseason game, which should ease some minds. We all know what he can do when he’s healthy, and with the loss of top backup Rashad Jennings (torn ACL), there is less worry about MJD losing touches this year. He’ll continue to be a risk until he proves everyone wrong and puts up elite numbers, but his potential just might be worth it.
Come back tomorrow and all next week as we wrap up preseason rankings/advice in preparation for the 2011 NFL season opener on Thursday night!