July 29, 2010 8:45 pm Published by

Welcome to part FOUR, the final installment in a series of Draft Prep articles leading up to training camp (read part ONE -WR, here and PART TWO- QB here and part THREE-TE here) This week the focus is on fantasy RBs.

This is your one-stop source for the latest information on every single running back in the league, their offensive lines, their optimized strength of schedules and where they stand in the depth charts.

We ranked all 32 teams based on several factors called ‘FPA Score™‘. We will break down each team and profile each RB candidate. You will also find helpful information on 2009 Yards Per Carry, 2009 Touches, 2010 Strength of Schedule and 2010 Fantasy Playoff schedules and 2009 Red Zone usage.

Fantasy Points Against data here isn’t being grabbed just from 2009. The engine used here has been hard at work cranking out “defensive ranking against fantasy position” projections all spring and summer. The “FPA Score™” values you see here include 2010 adjustments for the draft additions, free agency additions, coaching changes in the offseason, defensive scheme updates, daily fantasy news updates and up to the day depth charts. In addition, the FPA values are also weighted against their strength of opponents in 2009 and then again against their strength of opponents in 2010.

You will not find this approach anywhere.

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Team Rank: All teams are listed in order of our FPA season rank. This means the #1 ranked SD Ryan Matthews will have the least resistance against their position all season as well as the most opportunities to score (based on RZ possessions and usage). #32 ranked DET RB Jahvid Best will face the toughest opponents against their position.

Tip: Draft all players from the top 10 and ignore all players from the bottom 10 and use the middle to help you make tough decisions in your draft.

YPC: Yard Per Carry. This includes adjustments made for 2010 offensive lines. This is a good measure of the player being involved in long run plays in the teams offense as well as the player’s ability to break tackles.. In TD only leagues this doesn’t matter but in performance scoring leagues this is gold.

Tip: Always take a player with a higher YPC when making draft decisions.

ADP: Average Draft Position in 2010 early drafts. This average is across about 20 of the top Fantasy Football sites and all their mock and expert drafts. (Thanks Fantasy Football Nerd). This is a great indicator of where other owners in your league may draft each player, NOT a ranking for our recommended draft positions. Our Draft Sheet is coming soon! This helps you see where players are most likely going to be available in your drafts.

Tip: Use ADP to determine in what order to draft your players since players with a higher ADP will likely go fast in your draft.

Touches: Number of the team’s carries the player received in 2009. This number will help you get some idea of how extreme an RBBC situation actually is and can help you see which players will most likely get the ball. We suggest paying attention to Red Zone carries as well (below).

Chart: Each chart is an exclusive look at the Fantasy Points Against ranking for each opponent for each week, given a 16 week season. The number reflects the rank of the opposing team factoring in the fantasy points given up to RBs. This is NOT based on 2009, this is fresh 2010 rankings provided our prognostication engine and can only be found here. Every other site or magazine you see is using straight 2009 totals, not the 2010 adjustments. It reflects over 100 hours of adjustments for scheme changes, coaching changes, injury returns, drafted immediate impact starters and weighted by the performance of the team over the last 5 weeks of the 2009 season only.

Tip: The lower the number, the better the start. #1 is the best matchup that week in the NFL, #32 is the toughest. Also note trends in a team’s schedule. BYE weeks are represented as gaps in the chart.

Red Zone Score Percentage: Within each outlook you will see that we use a term we refer to as “Red Zone Score %” (RZS%). This is a percentage we calculated by tabulating all of the teams Red Zone scores in 2009 and gave credit to the RB if he was involved in either a RB Rushing score, RB TD Reception or RB Pass TD. Basically, how often did this RB score points while in the red zone. We also list how often their team’s offense made it to the Red Zone.

Tip: Players who get Red Zone carries can be more valuable that players who get more touches and fewer RZ carries. RBs on teams that actually visit the Red Zone have more value than those that make fewer appearances.

What to Look for: Players with high YPC and trends of low FPA ranks against especially during weeks 14-16 (fantasy playoffs). A good combination of low ADP and a high rank in FPA with a lot of involvement in the offense= value. Also watch for mentions of a high RZS% because this means the RB is involved in lots of Red Zone scoring, especially if their team vists the Red Zone often.

Player Name Legend:

  • PLAYER NAME (“Yards Per Carry” YPC #.#) “Average Draft Position” ADP: ### – ##% “Percentage of TD via Rush or RB Reception in Red Zone in 2009″ of ## “Red Zone TDs in 09” ### Touches “RB Touches in 2009”


1. (FPA score: 101.2)

Key Players:

  • Ryan Mathews (r) ADP: 17 – 50% of 63
  • Darren Sproles (YPC 3.6) ADP: 98 – 50% of 63 – 91 Touches


Rookie RB Ryan Mathews will be a popular sleeper in fantasy football this season, while it’s not usually good fantasy “form” to grab a rookie RB too high and expect big things from him, but in this case there are some pretty interesting factors that make Mathews look like he may be a solid top end RB2 in this summers drafts.

First, he has a very impressive #1 overall SOS ranking in our proprietary database for all RBs. No matter how much you factor in tolerance or speculation on SOS, you cannot ignore the #1 best schedule for all RBs.

We watched this prior to the draft to see who SD would plug into this schedule. They grabbed a perfect fit, pro style RB with 1st round pick and also dealt their 28th and 40th picks to do so. This shows commitment and frankly, no choice but to plug him in immediately.

Chargers coach Norv Turner estimates that Ryan Mathews will have 290 carries and 40 catches this season. Based on Norv Turner’s 290-touch prediction, Mathews will top 1,300 all-purpose yards if he averages a pedestrian 4.0 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per catch. As a team, San Diego scored 17 rushing TDs in 2009 and averaged 3.4 YPC, so even a slight increase can make him gold.

The reception total has been overly optimistic all along with Darren Sproles locked into third downs and Mathews catching only 19 passes the past two years at Fresno State. FB Mike Tolbert needs to see more carries this season, which would help keep Mathews fresh into January. We’d be more comfortable with the rookie as a RB2 as opposed to a low-end RB1.

Conservatively we give him 237/38/10 TDs. We think so because of SDs high powered offense, combined with exceptionally poor run defenses on the slate.

We covered Mathews earlier this offseason and learned a lot about him from one of his former coaches. We have been told he is capable of carrying a full workload and Fresno State played a scheme that was similar to SD so his transition should be easy. His former coach said his “impact will be immediate”.

Mathews did lead the nation in rushing yards as a junior in 2009, leading all of college football in rushing with an average of 150.67 yards per game in 12 games. Mathews also had 28 goal line rush attempts last season (That would equate to the 2nd most in the NFL since 2004). Mathews has burned some of the nation’s best rushing defenses-107 yards on 19 carries and averaged 5.6 yards per carry vs. the Wisconsin Badgers (the nation’s fifth-best rushing defense) and against the Boise State Broncos, (nation’s 28th-ranked rushing defense) Mathews ran for 234 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries, averaging 12.3 yards per carry.

Most importantly, Mathews only missed a couple of days of camp and has signed his 5 year contract and reported to camp.

Mathews will have a tough hill to climb unless the Chargers’ offensive line improves upon a 3.4 yards per carry average (which was the worst in the NFL last season). Pro Bowl guard Kris Dielman and center Nick Hardwick are excellent, but as the contract dispute between left tackle Marcus McNeil and the front office rages on, a holdout appears likely. Chargers GM Smith said Friday that the team has shut down contract negotiations with unsigned restricted free agents Marcus McNeill, Vincent Jackson, and Shawne Merriman. This is certainly something that could take some air out of this balloon.

However as poor as L.T was last season, SD still credited 50% of their Red Zone TDs to their RBs in 63 appearances. If this play calling continues and the offensive line improves just a little bit, then you can expect good things from Mathews. The Chargers had a very good offense last year despite ranking last in the NFL in many rushing categories (32nd in YPC). SD fans know that early injuries to Hardwick and guard Louis Vasquez didn’t help, but those guys are back for 2010, so there is your “little bit”.

By just drafting Mathews, SD shows they obviously does not value Darren Sproles as anything more than a third down back. However as a third down back he is elite: he averaged 11.0 Yards Per Catch and caught 4 TDs in 2009. He also pass blocks well. This will make him a low value RB unless Mathew’s propensity for injury returns.

Mathews has been rising rapidly in ADP ranks, starting at around 40 and now appearing as high as 17 overall in some expert drafts. Do not expect him to be around after the second, especially if McNeil signs before your draft.

The reason we have SD ranked #1 is because they have only one matchup against the toughest 5 defenses against RBs, and although that comes in a critical week 15 game, their killer top 5 weakest matchups in weeks 14 and 16 make up for it. You can also expect an excellent start for the rookie (as long as he gets to camp on time) since 5 out of the first 8 weeks are matchups against the easiest 10 defenses against fantasy RBS! Then, after their BYE (and a nice late Week 10 BYE to help counter the “rookie wall”), they revist 4 of the weakest 10 teams again to finish the season. It really doesn’t get better than this if you value RBs and SOS.

2. (FPA score: 104.0)

Key Players:

  • Frank Gore (YPC 4.9) ADP: 5 – 30% of 50 – 206 Touches
  • Glenn Coffee / Anthony Dixon (r) ADP: 152 -30% of 50


The 49ers’ offensive line is the headline story of their offseason after adding line coach Mike Solari and two solid first-round picks (Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati). While Davis (signed) is slotted to start at right tackle, Iupati (signed) has All-Pro potential as an interior lineman. The rookies figure to be part of the 49ers’ battles for starting spots in training camp at right tackle and left guard, respectively. Davis will be battling Adam Snyder and Iupati will fight it out with David Baas. If the competition is close, the Niners figure to roll with the rookies, but at the same time, they’re built to win now, so if the rooks aren’t ready, the veterans will keep their jobs.

This depth is a huge benefit for Frank Gore. We expect 298/50 this season. Gore runs well in a zone blocking scheme that Solari will bring to SF.

Coach Mike Singletary indicated that he wants to move toward a more “Balanced” offense in 2010, which would be a departure from 2009’s 60/40 pass heavy approach. We heard this last year, more run in SF..but in 2009 they passed heavy. Yet Gore is a huge impact receiver with over 400 yds and 3 TDs through the air in 2009. The strike has been his trouble at the goal line, but in 2009 with SF giving 30% of their Red Zone TDs to RBs in 2009, Gore finally fixed his issues and converted 4 of 8 goal line attempts.

Gore has never played a full 16 game season, but if he does he is elite. For example, in 2009 Gore averaged more fantasy points per game than MJD. He missed 2 games (and a lot of a 3rd) and he still gained 1120 yards and 10 TDs with 587 of those yards and 4 scores coming in the last 4 games (after his return from injury). He has never missed more than 2 games in a season, so it is not an extreme concern. Just expect that you will not have him for 3 games (including the BYE) and if you can live with that, he is a great value.

Beat writer Matt Maiocco believes the 49ers will struggle to incorporate another back into the offense as long as Gore stays healthy. In addition to being the team’s best offensive player, Gore is also the best pass-blocking back and a top-flight receiver out of the backfield. We like Gore as the #4 overall pick this season.

The Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows does not believe rookie Anthony Dixon will unseat Glen Coffee for the primary backup job this summer. “At least not at the start of the season,” said Barrows. Coffee is already adept at blitz pickup, so he’ll have a sizable advantage on the No. 2 job in training camp. Though Gore doesn’t have an ideal handcuff this year, Coffee is a better use of a late-round fantasy pick than Dixon.

Gore will jump out to a great start with his three first games against bottom 10 defenses against fantasy RBs. If you look closer, you will see that he actually faces the projected WORST and SECOND WORST teams against RBS in those three weeks. Then, after a couple tough matchups, things settle down before and after the SF BYE and eventually ease into an amazing fantasy playoff weeks 14 and 16. That week 15 could be tough, but weeks 14 and 16 certainly make up for it.

3. (FPA score: 113.9)

Key Players:

  • Knowshon Moreno (YPC 3.8) ADP: 28 – 76% of 52 – 233 Touches
  • Correll Buckhalter (YPC 5.5) ADP: 144 – 76% of 52 – 114 Touches


Knowshon Moreno totalled 1160 total yards with 9 TDs in 2009, but he had a chance to do a lot more. He only averaged 3.8 Yards Per Carry and also lost 4 fumbles. Keep in mind he missed training camp due to his hold out and suffered an MCL injury in the preseason. He also wore down quite a bit to 2.7 YPC over the last 4 games, which can certainly be attributed to missing camp.

Overall he had less than 250 carries as a rookie, but had 33 broken tackles and was active in the passing game.

*ALERT* Knowshon Moreno was carted off the field on the first weekend of training camp with what The Denver Post and NFL Network both report as a torn hamstring.

This bring the focus to the value of Correll Buckhalter. McDaniels likes using RBBc’s so Buckhalter will still see action anyway. Buckhalter actually made more with his opportunities last year with his 5.5 YPC. Despite this, he got only 3 goal line attempts and Moreno had 14. Keep in mind that DEN gave 76% of its Red Zone TDs to RBs in 2009 so if that continues, Moreno could benefit.

*ALERT* Buckhalter also had an injury on the same day but injury is being described as an “upper-back pull,” and is not thought to be serious. Drop Knowshon and Buckhalter and we will reflect this on our boards. Watch the news for how long Moreno will be out, but his early season injury wrecked his season in 2009. Also look for a free agent pick up here. Buckhalter (back) is expected to resume practicing in roughly a week. The Denver Post reports that Moreno will miss three weeks due to “minor fraying” in his right hamstring.

Don’t forget J.J Arrington either. Sure could use him now. Eagles acquired RB J.J. Arrington and a conditional draft pick in 2012 from the Broncos in exchange for LB Joe Mays.

In the past, DEN could plug anyone in at running back or along the offensive line and still have success because of the zone-blocking scheme. However, DEN added Hamilton, Zane Beadles and J.D Walton to the line in the offseason to move toward a man blocking “power” scheme which should actually be better for Moreno.

The danger carrying over from last year was that the Broncos’ offensive line was a mess. They had worries at every position except right guard, where Chris Kuper is now healthy and recently got a five-year contract extension. All-Pro LT Ryan Clady is recovering from an April knee injury sustained while playing basketball, but he remains hopeful that he’ll be ready for the Sept. 12 opener, although he will begin camp on the active/non-football injury list. At left guard, there is either the no experience-rookie Zane Beadles or second-year man Seth Olsen, who appeared in only three games last year, all on special teams. At center, Russ Hochstein is recovering from major knee surgery and might not be ready for Week 1, but has been cleared for training camp. If not fully recovered, then rookie Walton will have to start. And at right tackle, Ryan Harris is coming off toe surgery that caused him to miss the second half of last season.

Whichever RB is alive with DEN will have a shot to get his legs under him with three top 10 matchups against soft Defenses in the first 4 games. There is a wicked stretch of 3 out of 4 very bad matchups before DEN’s week 9 BYE. But if you are savvy, then let Moreno owners in your league struggle through some poor performances weeks 5-8, then when they are looking for a RB2 replacement for Moreno during their Week 9 BYE, offer them a trade for Moreno and enjoy an incredible bounce back late season schedule where his value may hit a season high going into the playoffs. It might sound crazy, but find an RB with a very easy early schedule that gets tough later. If you can stomach it, make that trade (and package another player) and you will look like a genius.

4. (FPA score: 117.2)

Key Players:

  • Maurice Jones-Drew (YPC 4.4) ADP: 3 – 50% of 47 – 296 Touches
  • Rashad Jennings (YPC 5.4) ADP: 204 / Deji Karim (r) – 50% of 47 – 36 Touches


Maurice Jones-Drew finally got his shot at being a featured back in 2009 and produced a 1391 Rush yard season with 16 TDs. However, as many speculated, he faded a bit down the stretch and averaged only 3.8 over the last half of the season (4.4 YPC for the rest of the season). He also actually dropped to a career low 374 yards receiving.

He is a RB that gets all the touches between the 20’s and the goal line, while still being active in the passing game.

JAX had 50% of their Red Zone TDs go to RBs and that is how MJD got a league-leading 67 Red Zone carries. He could have even had one more TD if he didn’t drop on the 1 Yd line,

which he later appologized to his fantasy owners for costing them the 6 FPTs.

Jones-Drew had a solid set of OTAs and looks like he’ll pick up where he left off last season, per beat writer Vito Stellino. Outside of Lasik surgery, we haven’t heard much from MJD this offseason. After proving he can handle the load as the every-down back last season, Jones-Drew is a very safe top-4 fantasy pick.

All 5 offensive line starters return for Jacksonville in 2010, and the addition of guard Justin Smiley could turn out to be a major sleeper. Smiley’s addition adds solid depth to a unit that has struggled with injuries the past couple of seasons. The Jaguars racked up the 6th best YPC average in the entire league last season (4.5 yards per carry) to go along with 19 touchdowns (6th most in the NFL).

Jaguars agreed to terms with sixth-round RB Deji Karim on a four-year, $1.9 million contract, including a signing bonus of $110,000. The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year threw up a 4.37 forty and a 43-inch vertical at his pro day after rushing for 1,694 yards and 18 TDs at Southern Illinois in 2009. After showing his ability and slick moves in OTAs, he’s expected to battle Rashad Jennings for the primary backup job. Karim is a sleeper to target in Dynasty drafts.

MJD will only face 3 top 10 defenses against fantasy RBs. Those happen just before and just after JAX’s week 9 BYE. Othwerwise, his weeks 6-7 pair will get him on the fantasy radar and then after his BYE he should produce the top 5 fantasy RB points that owners expected when they drafted him in the top 3. If you are a bubble team going into the fantasy playoff push, MJD could be your savior. Consider him another late season blockbuster trade steal from an owner who freaks out about his tough performance the week before MJD’s BYE.

5. (FPA score: 124.2)

Key Players:

  • Chris Wells (YPC 4.6) ADP: 30 – 47% of 54 – 170 Touches
  • Tim Hightower (YPC 4.2) ADP: 97 – 47% of 54 – 137 Touches


Chris “Beanie” Wells had a injury-proned label coming into the league and got people worried by spraining his ankle on his very first practice last year. This caused him to get a late start and ultimately he never started a game and never got more than 15 carries until week 10. However, he turned it on over the last 6 games with 609 YDs and 6TDs over the second half. He also got the majority of the work in the fantasy postseason for ARI. If Ken Whisenhunt gives him more carries, he could be a force.

He did have some fumbling problems and that gave Tim Hightower a chance to stay in the mix as a starter. Hightower also stayed a factor due to his 4.2 YPC and his involvement in the passing game. He didn’t buy to many additional chances by actually fumbling 5 times to Wells’ 4, though.

Hightower should be a backup and may start that way in 2010. However he converted 50% of his goal line attempts. Hightower will be more involved in the passing game, but with the offensive shift to the run, this could mean LESS opportunities in 2010. Hightower will be a 3rd down back.

The Cardinals are expected to make the transition to a run oriented offense with Matt Leinart under center in 2010, and that process will be aided greatly with the addition of controversial guard Alan Faneca. The signing of Faneca adds depth to an already solid corps of offensive linemen. Russ Grimm will employ more of a power running scheme with 2 TEs this year to help move to more running.

There may be some up and down performances early on as ARI gets used to their new QB and their new offensive approach. With 3 out of 5 matchups to begin the season coming against defenses in the bottom 10 against fantasy RBs, you can expect some good things. Hopefully by their week 6 BYE, Wells will shake out as the clear starter. If so, he can benefit from matchups against 4 out of the worst 5 defenses against fantasy RBs out of a 7 game stretch. Their fantasy playoff schedule is moderate but not horrible.

6. (FPA score: 131.1)

Key Players:

  • Joseph Addai (YPC 3.8) ADP: 39 – 46% of 53 – 219 Touches
  • Donald Brown (YPC 3.6) ADP: 101 – 46% of 53 – 74 Touches


IND has had the least amount of rush attempts over the last 2 seasons. They gave up the fewest number of sacks in the entire league last season (13), but their struggles running the ball (3.6 yards per carry) continued for the second straight season. The bad news for the Colts running game is that they’ve failed to upgrade the O-Line despite team president Bill Polian‘s promise to do so. Simply put, this line isn’t going to put up great numbers on the ground, but they remain one of the elite pass protection units in the entire league anchored by Jeff Saturday.

Although Joseph Addai had only 828 YDs rushing, he made up for it with 51 receptions for 336 YDs. His 3.8 YPC was very poor, but his involvement comes from being one of the best pass blocking RBs in the game. He had another 265 total yards with a touchdown in three playoff games. Addai might be the most unsuspecting member of the Top 12 Fantasy rushers from last season, and because he plays in Indianapolis’ powerful offense, he’s not expected to fall out very easily.

Addai only had 2 carries for more than 20 YDs yet kept the goal line carry duties (15 for Addai 6 for all else). The biggest threat to Addai is Donald Brown, who totaled just 89 touches in the regular season thanks to an injury that kept him out of several games down the stretch. Brown could see more work this season, and that could limit Addai’s touches.

Brown had an even worse 3.6 YPC and about 30% of Brown’s carries went for ZERO or less yardage. Coach Jim Caldwell did praise Brown’s improved knowledge of the offense at OTAs. While Brown would need an Addai injury to get feature back carries, the 2009 first-round pick will at least prevent Addai from repeating as a top-ten fantasy back. Brown remains the better all-around talent.

IND credited an RB in 46% of their 53 Red Zone appearances, so although they pass quite a bit, they still have not abandoned the RB in scoring position.

Injuries had been a concern for Addai, but Brown is actually more injury-proned. If Brown stays healthy and Addai doesn’t, then he could have value. Keep in mind that Addai is on a contract year so IND may want to see what they have in Brown.

RB Mike Hart has been injured throughout his career. Colts.com calls him “an option as a short-yardage back,” a position that won’t command many touches because starter Addai is one of the best short-yardage runners in the league. Hart does have some special teams value, which can’t hurt his chances of winning the No. 3 back job behind Addai and Brown.

Addai might sneak into Round 3 or even 4 in some leagues, making him a valuable pick. It’s probably best to treat him as a No. 2 RB, but expectations for quality stats should be high.

IND has an attractive fantasy playoff schedule (5th easiest overall), which ranks them high. You can hope that IND plays until the end this year after the week 17 fiasco of 2009. Their runners will enjoy 3 of the 10 easiest matchups around midseason and in week 14 and if you looks closely, you will see their matchups top out at 5th toughest as their worst matchup. Other than that game they do not face any of the projected top 10 toughest Defenses against fantasy RBs. Although they do have 7 top 15 toughest matchups to content with.

7. (FPA score: 131.4)

Key Players:

  • Jamaal Charles (YPC 5.2) ADP: 26 – 22% of 38 – 165 Touches
  • Thomas Jones (YPC 4.3) ADP: 87 – 22% of 38 – 305 Touches


In 2009, if you followed fantasyomatic, then RB Jamaal Charles saved your season. An excellent projected late season schedule and an offense moving to a more spread offense added up to 1,126 YDs and 8 TDs in the final 8 games, which would have added up to a 2,252 YD / 16 TD season. Amazing what he did with only 161 carries. This resulted in a lead lead-tying 5.9 YPC for Charles and loads of fantasy points at the most important time of the fantasy season.

However, still, many fantasy pundits thought that KC’s addition of Thomas Jones means that they didn’t trust Charles to hold up as a feature back. What about the fact that Charles had an amazing 6.6 YPC during the 4th quarter in his 8 games? Certainly proves he had the stamina. You could also look at this as KC giving Charles some releif so he can have his first 250+ carry season. Would you take 1200+ YDs and 8 TDs in 16 games? Sure. You can probably expect more, even with Jones. Charles is also in a contract year this year so he has every reason to maximize his opportunities, he could seriously get paid if he does 75% of what he did in 2009.

The Kansas City Star suggests that Charles’ placement with the second-team offense at Chiefs camp is coach Todd Haley “using psychology to motivate” Charles.

Coach Todd Haley confirmed Tuesday that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will be the Chiefs’ primary play-caller in 2010. In 8 seasons as an NFL coordinator, Weis’ offenses have averaged an impressive 23.7 points per game. His strong history with quarterbacks and pass-catching tailbacks bodes well for Charles.

Many speculate that the Chiefs will also employ a run-first offense this season. Kansas City does possess impressive backfield talent, but the offensive line is far from a mauling unit and Weis’ background is decidedly of the pass-first variety. Ideally, the Chiefs will utilize a balanced attack. Expect Charles’ receiving skills to be put to plenty of use.

Surprisingly, KC had one of the worst offensive lines in football and still Charles’ running style allowed him to make hay. Branden Albert played through injuries last season and should continue to get better after making the transition from guard to left tackle. Veteran Brian Water anchors the left side of the line, while the acquisition of former Indianapolis guard Ryan Lilja represents a major upgrade for the right side.

Charles is expected to be the centerpiece of the Chiefs’ offense, according to beat writer Kent Babb. Veteran Jones was brought in to complement Charles, not step on his toes. Charles’ offseason shoulder surgery does not appear to be a concern with training camp since he has been medically cleared for training camp.

Although this could certainly be a timeshare, the perspective above appears to give a healthy Charles enough load to be a top 15 back. Chiefs coach Todd Haley indicated that he plans to ride the “hot hand” in the backfield this season:

“I think (touch distribution) will depend on a lot of different factors: who’s hotter, who’s running better, who’s blocking and picking up blitzes better, who’s doing a lot of things better and who’s healthiest.” This is good news for Charles, because he’s superior to Thomas Jones in nearly every aspect. Also, expect Jamaal Charles’ receiving skills to be put to plenty of use.

His schedule gives him even higher upside. He faces only one top 5 defense against fantasy RBs just before his week 4 BYE, but then faces only two top 10 defenses against fantasy RBs from there on out. This gives KC RBs a #7 overall easiest schedule for RBs. The big value comes during the fantasy playoffs where they enjoy a #4 overall easiest playoff schedule and matchups in weeks 15 and 16 are the things that championships blowouts are made of (and a good companion to a Frank Gore or Ryan Mathews who have tough Week 15 matchups).

8. (FPA score: 133.3)

Key Players:

  • Michael Turner (YPC 4.9) ADP: 6 – 45% of 56 – 178 Touches
  • Jason Snelling (YPC 4.0) ADP: 200 – 45% of 56 – 117 Touches
  • Jerious Norwood (YPC 3.4) ADP: 202 – 45% of 56 – 67 Touches


Michael Turner had what appeared to be a season ending injury in week 10 and miraculously returned after missing just one game. Sadly, the injury ruined his season since he ended up missing 5 of his last 7.

Their 2009 offense was a balanced attack compared to their very run heavy 2008. Turner still finished with a 337 carries (4.9 YPC) which was a large drop from his crazy 370+ carries in 2008. There’s something to be learned there from that much workload, eh? The ATL coaches have mentioned they want to lighten Turner’s load in 2010…good idea. However, don’t worry about a timeshare, because ATL doesn’t really have much depth at the position.

According to the Falcons’ “unofficial” training camp depth chart, Jerious Norwood is the No. 2 tailback ahead of Jason Snelling. Snelling would likely receive the bulk of early-down carries if Turner got hurt. Thus, Snelling is a better Turner “handcuff” for fantasy purposes. The Falcons clearly envision Norwood as only a change-of-pace back.

Turner gets no third down work at all, yet 315 carries is still likely in 2010. Even though he gets all the goal line work (18 of 29) and ATL gave 45% of the Red Zone TDs to RBs last year, he still offers little value as a receiver (5/35 in 2009). Although, it is worthy to mention that the Falcons’ coaching staff reportedly wants to involve Turner more in the passing game.

The entire starting unit on the offensive line returns once again in 2010 after Atlanta resigned restricted free agents Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo. Atlanta’s middle of the road rushing totals in 2009 were down from previous seasons, but they should return to elite levels with Turner healthy in 2010.

Turner “basically lived” at the Falcons’ practice facility during the offseason. “Fitness will not be an issue,” according to beat reporter D. Orlando Ledbetter. The Falcons acknowledged that Turner was out of shape early last season, resulting in a low yards-per-carry average to begin the year.

You may have been burned by taking him #1-3 last year, but if he is still around at the bottom of the 1st round (ADP: 6) then he can have some huge value.

You have middle of the pack SOS value for Turner during the regular season as he will have a middle of the pack schedule for fantasy RBs (#13 overall), but the big value come during the fantasy playoffs where he will enjoy the #2 overall fantasy playoff schedule with a beautiful top matchup in the league in week 15 and no tougher than bottom half matchups from week 13 on. He drops on this list to #8 because of his 4 matchups against top 5 toughest defenses against fantasy RBs during the regular season (weeks 1, 4, 10 and 12).

9. (FPA score: 133.5)

Key Players:

  • Ben Tate (r) ADP: 63 -48% of 63
  • Steve Slaton (YPC 3.3) ADP: 111 -48% of 63 – 131 Touches
  • Arian Foster (YPC 4.1) ADP: 139 -48% of 63 – 34 Touches


Steve Slaton could have been the biggest bust of 2009. After 916 YDs in the final 7 games of 2008, he fell back down to earth in 2009. He gained only 437 YDs and fumbled 7 times over the first 8 games and had a miserable 3.3 YPC. Almost 30% of his carries were for ZERO or less yards. However he saved some face by being involved in the passing game in one of the NFL’s most potent passing offenses and gathered 417 Receiving YDs and 3 TDs. Eventually he had a neck injury in week 12 that put him and his owners out of their misery.

The major problem for fantasy owners last season was the HOU running game, or lack thereof. Houston struggled mightily on the ground, averaging a measly 3.5 yards per carry. Expect a turnaround in 2010 from this solid unit that is looking to shed its “finesse” passing label.

Slaton indicated on Twitter that he’s been medically cleared for training camp after offseason neck surgery. “I’m back,” Slaton tweeted. “Thank you lord for watching over me and helping me heal fast and correctly.” Hopefully God can cure fumblitis.

While the Texans haven’t issued an update on Slaton’s medical check, this is a big hurdle for the third-year tailback. Slaton will be an injury risk going forward after surgery, so he’ll be worth keeping a close eye on while facing contact in camp. If healthy, he’ll could even be limited to third-down work behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

Slaton is not expected to have the featured RB role in the Texans’ offense, as Arian Foster seized the reins of the starting running back position in Slaton’s absence last year and again during the offseason. HOU must not have had enough faith in this crew, as rookie Ben Tate has entered the mix and they love him already.

Tate had a 5.2 YPC in his final year at Auburn. Although he isn’t know as a receiver, he is considered to be an NFL ready as a pass blocker. This could take opportunities from Slaton on 3rd downs. He also has the size and speed to fit in well with HOU’s offensive style.

The best case for Slaton would be Tate only 1st or 2nd downs, Slaton on 3rd. It’s expected that Slaton will be the third-down back, and he’ll have opportunities to make an impact in the aerial attack as well. Do not forget Foster. He has “made a believer of coaches that were once skeptical he could help,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

Foster opened training camp with the Texans’ first-team offense. While Slaton picks up renewed steam in a “don’t forget about him” fantasy campaign, Foster continues to fly under the radar. Beat writer John McClain termed the current starter a “229-pound beast as a runner, blocker and receiver.” The Texans finally have multiple options in the backfield, and Foster is the best bet to open the season as the early-down back. Foster is your best value thus far, as a 9th round steal.

If you look at HOU’s schedule, you can see that whichever back gets the nod in week 1 could actually hold that spot because of a lack of tough opposing run defense competition in the early season. Before their week 7 BYE, they have 4 matchups against defenses no better than 10th worst against RBs. This gives them a #9 overall RB schedule. However, the value will be during the fantasy playoffs where they enjoy two good matchups in weeks 15 and 16, but you will need to start someone else in week 14 as they go up against BAL. Since any of these guys will be drafted as a flex RB, you will most likely have a serviceable RB2 to spot start that week anyway (see Mathews, Ryan Grant, Chris Wells for a week 14 start instead).

10. (FPA score: 136.4)

Key Players:

  • Steven Jackson (YPC 4.5) ADP: 8 – 27% of 34 – 305 Touches
  • Chris Ogbonnaya / Keith Totson(r) / Kenneth Darby – 27% of 34 – 27 Touches


Steven Jackson was the lone fantasy hope for STL in 2009. He totaled 1,738 yards last year as both a rusher and receiver, but because STL couldn’t score (their 11 Red Zone TDs were the lowest in the NFL), he only had 4 TDs. It is not all the Rams fault, though. He only converted 23% of his goal line carries.

Offseason back surgery will not help him complete a 16 game season in 2010 (for only the second time in his career). Jackson has been medically cleared for the start of Rams training camp, but watch him because his doctor said there is a 20% chance of recurrence after this particular injury. He is only 27 years old, but may have certainly already peaked. Jackson may be limited, but he’ll be practicing with the team barring a last-minute surprise.

The Rams’ offensive line is a work in progress, and while the total yards and yards per carry numbers were middle of the road, the Rams were last in the league in rushing touchdowns with 4 all season. That number needs to improve, especially with an elite RB like Jackson in the backfield. They added linemen Jason Smith and Jason brown in the offseason to help. Coach Steve Spagnuolo suggested Thursday that Jason Smith’s spot at left tackle isn’t etched in stone this year. Smith and rookie Rodger Safford will work on each side throughout training camp to determine the best fit.

The Rams are optimistic that RB Chris Ogbonnaya can be an effective third-down back. Ogbonnaya is in a battle with undrafted rookie Keith Totson and Kenneth Darby to be Steven Jackson’s backup. If S-Jax is healthy, none of these backs will see the field very often. But with Jackson unable to play a full season since 2006 and now coming off back surgery, this battle is worth monitoring.

Jackson could be too expensive a risk for a 1st round RB. Especially one that has such a bad offensive line. However, he is a 280-300 carry back and those are hard to find. The Rams have displayed the utmost confidence in Jackson as the offensive focal point once again in 2010.

It is worth noting that Coach Steve Spagnuolo remains “hopeful” that free agent Brian Westbrook will sign with the Rams. That could be interesting if it pans out.

Jackson has a great SOS for an RB (#6 overall) with most of the patsies coming weeks 1 through their week 9 BYE. This could give him inflated value for a BYE week trade. You should consider this too since his return from the BYE gives him two very tough matchups and then a really tough week 16 matchup in the fantasy championship week. You cannot rely on a first rounder to win your championship if they face SF in week 16. So ride him hard until his BYE and then trade him for a Jamaal Charles, Moreno, Mathews type who will explode after week 9.

11. (FPA score: 137.0)

Key Players:

  • Daren McFadden (YPC 3.4) ADP: 85 -50% of 29 – 99 Touches
  • Michael Bush (YPC 4.8) ADP: 93 -50% of 29 – 113 Touches


Darren McFadden has been nothing but a disappointment as a runner, but has shown value in the passing game. He had a horrible 3.4 YPC in 2009 and scored only 1 TD and 5xs as many fumbles. He has usually been the guy you want your opponent to be starting against you. He missed 4.5 games with injury and got an average of 12 carries as opposed to 15 before the injury. McFadden has more value in PPR but gets nearly no goal line carries (only 4 career attempts- 3 converted for TDs).

It’s been “an ongoing goal” of Raiders coaches to get Michael Bush to get in touch with his “inner beast” and embrace his role as a power runner. Bush averaged 4.8 YPC and has good hands as a receiver for a guy who is 245 pounds. He got a little more work toward the end of last season and had an amazing 6.0 YPC over the last 7 games of last season.

Bush is more skilled than most big backs, and he knows it. He had relied on his agility while Lane Kiffin and Tom Cable have preferred more of a straight-ahead style. Bush is a better zone scheme runner and McFadden is a better fit in a power run system. New coordinator Hue Jackson plans to mix in more power blocking with Cable’s zone scheme this year, so Bush will be pressured to arrive to camp in better shape and willing to show more physicality. He needs to get his conditioning in line since he has a rep as a guy who has actually asked to get taken out of games.

Bush can dominate goal line touches, but OAK needs to get to the stripe more often. OAK only made it to the Red Zone 29 times in 2009 (New Orleans made it 72 times, for comparison). However when they get there, they score with their RB 50% of the time. This could help a guy like Bush if QB Jason Campbell can get them to the Red Zone a few more times.

According to the SF Chronicle’s Vittorio Tafur, Michael Bush “should have every opportunity to push McFadden into a third-down role.” Fellow beat reporter Jerry McDonald that Bush is the favorite for early-down carries. Bush looks to be the best bet if Oakland is to have a feature back this year.

The struggles of McFadden can be attributed to the poor play of the Raiders’ front five. Oakland ranked in the bottom 12 in all three major rushing statistical categories (rushing yards, yards per carry, and rushing touchdowns). Raiders rookie Jared Veldheer is lining up as the second-team left tackle while Bruce Campbell works as the second-string right guard. Part of the responsibility of the line falls upon the shoulders of whoever wins the starting job at left tackle. As of now, Mario Henderson is penciled in as the starter in that role. The other option is Khalif Barnes, who has been taking snaps at inside positions as well as at right tackle, a position at which Langston Walker is also competing.

OAK RBs faced a lot of 9 man fronts due to the lack of any other offensive threat. McFadden and Bush didn’t do much with those opportunities, but now- jettisoned Justin Fargas did. So its possible.

Whichever back wins this competition could have a very nice start to the 2010 season. No team has a better weeks 1-2 but then there is a tough climb until weeks 8-9. After their week 10 BYE, they have a series of tough matchups until a slight decline into the post. If this competition spawns only one RB, then seriously consider holding on to them for their 4 good weeks, then trading them for a better Flex RB during their week 10 BYE.

12. (FPA score: 138.5)

Key Players:

  • Carnell Williams (YPC 4.1) ADP: 74 -44% of 31 – 190 Touches
  • Derrick Ward (YPC 3.6) ADP: 146 -44% of 31 – 115 Touches


Carnell Williams finished 25th among running backs in standard fantasy scoring last season, and he did this for an awful team that was a mess in terms of offensive leadership and its offensive line. Now Williams is the unquestioned starter, QB Josh Freeman is a year older, the defense is improved (fantasy sleeper DST) and according to the Tampa Tribune, Williams figures to increase his carries to 20 to 25 per game. Last season Williams averaged only 13 rushes per contest.

Williams is still the favorite to start yet has lost a bit from two devastating injuries, but could see some value in 2010. Keep in mind that he missed 22 games over his career due to injuries (yet he played 16 games last year). Derrick Ward is is still in consideration because of the injury possibility to Williams.

Cadillac Williams was just about to make our upcoming “sleepers” article until today when he was sidelined at Bucs camp with an ankle sprain. *ALERT* Williams is considered “day to day,” but this is a reminder that he’s going to remain an injury risk moving forward. Coach Raheem Morris confirmed that Williams’ sprained ankle is not serious.

Derrick Ward saw his YPC drop from 5.6 in 2008 to 3.6 in TB in 2009. His pluses: Ward is getting starter’s money and saw twice as many goal line carries last year and can also be used as a receiver. Ward turned out to be a bust last year, but the Buccaneers want to establish a strong running game; few expected Williams would be the one doing so. Ward made it clear last season that he’s pure backup material. Ward has also rubbed coaches the wrong way by missing several spring practices.

The good news for fantasy owners is that the offensive line was one of only 6 clubs to use two starting combinations or fewer; of those 6, only the Bucs and Steelers missed the playoffs. There is reason to be more optimistic this year. Guard Arron Sears, who struggled with psychological issues, was eventually released after it appeared he might have been close to returning, rendering the Bucs razor thin on quality depth on the line. However, 2009 Carolina starter Keydrick Vincent signed with the Bucs and could push under-performing incumbent Jeremy Zuttah for the starting spot at left guard. Left tackle Donald Penn officially signed his six year contract on Saturday, ending a contract dispute that could have been ugly.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has emphasized the need to continue to pound out the run while switching up the passing game from former offensive coordinator Jags’ vertical scheme to more of a hybrid West Coast system.

Though Williams entered camp as the clear No. 1 back, coach Raheem Morris stated that whichever back develops the “hot hand” will get the bulk of the carries this season.

Expectations should be higher this season, and we may see Williams get more touches, and do more with them. Ward and RB Clifton Smith enter training camp as clear backups, while Earnest Graham is just the fullback.

You could see 1,000 rushing YDs, 6 TDs and enough value to make Williams a No. 3 running back. He’s being chosen as the No. 39 running back in ESPN average live drafts (it is early, though), just outside the top 100 overall. It is always good to note that Caddy is also in a contract year in 2010.

The reason we like Caddy if he gets the firm nod as the starter is because of TB’s schedule this season. He has 5 great matchups out of his first 6 and then after a tough series of matchups he enjoys a nice decline in opponents until a good playoff schedule and the league’s best week 16 matchups. Our recommendation is to grab him as a 3rd of 4th RB and use his early soft matchups to help you as a spot starter during BYE weeks for your RB2 during weeks 5-7. He could also be a waiver darling during the playoffs, injury savior or trade chip.

13. (FPA score: 139.3)

Key Players:

  • Justin Forsett (YPC 5.4) ADP: 66 -37% of 48 – 104 Touches
  • Leon Washington (YPC 4.6) ADP: 156 -37% of 48 – 71 Touches
  • Julius Jones (YPC 3.7) ADP: 186 -37% of 48 – 163 Touches


Justin Forsett was a fantasy spot start darling late last season when he averaged 5.4 YPC and 350 receiving yards. He only had two starts, but gained 219 YDs and 3 TDs in those 2 games. He had a total of 969 YDs and 5 TDs in only 114 rushing attempts, in a poor offense. Julius Jones didn’t do squat with 14 starts besides a 3.7 YPC and only 2 rushing TDs.

When we saw the schedules in April, we here at fantasyomatic loved Forsett as a sleeper starter due to SEA’s schedule alone. However the short lived acquisition of LenDale White and also Leon Washington threw some water on that fire. However, we were very excited about the addition of LT Russel Okung to fill the void of Walter Jones.

White is now gone and Washington is still not cleared to play so it appears that Jones is his only competition to start the season. Last year Jones had 501 snaps and Forsett had 472 and Forsett got 104 touches to Jones’s 163.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times said Forsett has become an “instant Pete Carroll favorite”. Remember that Carroll saw a lot of Forsett in the PAC 10. Carroll also indicated that the team’s top tailback job remains wide open and when Carroll was at USC he loved RBBCs. Carroll continues to indicate that his starting running back race was too close to call heading into training camp. Leon Washington, Julius Jones, and Justin Forsett “are all in it,” Carroll wrote on his Twitter account. This will be one worth watching.

Although Jones and Forsett have both been working with the first team, Forsett (5.4 YPC) was much more explosive than Jones (3.7 YPC) in 2009, has fewer miles on his engine, and his superior receiving ability brings more to the table in PPR leagues. If the Seahawks can improve on last year’s 26th-ranked rushing attack, Forsett could flourish as an intriguing RB3.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll tweeted that he expects Leon Washington (compound leg fracture) to “be practicing in camp. He’s coming back strong,” Carroll said. Carroll and the entire Seahawks organization have been optimistic about Washington’s recovery. Washington (compound leg fracture) participated in the Seahawks’ first practice of training camp, as expected. So far so good. Washington passed all of his tests this offseason and remains on track to be ready for Week 1. We’ll be tracking his progress throughout training camp and preseason action to see if he’s regained his quickness and explosiveness. Be hesitant to expect him to be the Leon Washington of old, but he’s worth a late-round flier in most leagues.

Quinton Ganther is is also in the mix but was arrested in California on suspicion of DUI. If the backup running back was indeed under the legal limit, he should face no repercussions from the Seahawks or the league.

New offensive line coach Alex Gibbs likes zone blocking and Okung makes the offensive line 25% better. Seattle’s line was injury plagued once again in 2009, as they were forced to start 10 different offensive linemen, and lost 9 time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones this past offseason. This unit is in serious trouble, but the pieces are in place to rebuild beginning with 1st round selection Okung. Gibbs line added some veteran know-how on Thursday with the acquisition of guard Chester Pitts. Pitts played under Gibbs in Houston and makes for a fine pickup, if healthy. He figures to have a great chance to start.

The factor that makes any SEA back attractive is their schedule. SEA has the 10th easiest season schedule for all RBs but a wasteland of a fantasy playoff stretch (28th). Their weeks 4-12 could help make them a good BYE week fill in, or even help you use them as trade bait before the playoffs if someone catches fire.

14. (FPA score: 140.1)

Key Players:

  • Deangello Williams (YPC 5.2) ADP: 11 – 60% of 40 – 216 Touches
  • Jonathan Stewart (YPC 4.9) ADP: 37 – 60% of 40 – 205 Touches


Deangello Williams was drafted high in 2009 because of his amazing 2008 campaign. If you compare 2008 to 2009, he would look like a failure, but 1,117 rushing yards and 7 TDs is nothing to ignore, just not worth a top 12 price last year. One increase in that comparison was that he nearly doubled his 2008 receiving totals with 252.

Health is always a concern as Deangello missed 4 games of playing time and was never the same after his week 12 ankle injury, gaining only 163 YDs and no scores after the injury.

Jonathan Stewart (heel) will begin Panthers training camp on the active/PUP list. Multiple reports have said Stewart is 100 percent, so the team is likely exercising extreme caution in his case. He’s used to missing practice. Williams was a full participant toward the end of pre-camp workouts. Stewart hasn’t practiced, but NFL.com reported last week that he’s been medically cleared. As the Panthers planned, Stewart sat out all of OTAs while nursing the heel injury he’s played through for the past two years, not including his final season at Oregon.

The Observer expects the Panthers to “rely on the duo more than ever” while breaking in a new starting quarterback and new No. 2 wide receiver in 2010.

CAR loves to use their RBs in close. In 2009, 60% of their 40 Red Zone apeparances were credited as TDs to RBs.

Stewart will not start unless Williams gets injured again, but it doesnt matter. Stewart had 1272 YDs and 11 TDs in 2009 on just 221 carries. he also had 11 carries for 20+ yards (3rd in NFL). Keep in mind that as a starter, Stewart had 440 YDs and 4 TDs while starting in place of Williams over the final 3 games of 2009. This means he can carry the load if Williams goes down, but would also have had a much less impressive season without those three games with Williams out. However CAR ran the ball 525 times last year (2nd only to NYJ) and Stewart got his looks. If the passing game and Matt Moore can step it up this year, those rush totals may decline.

Carolina became just the fifth team in NFL history to boast a pair of 1,000-yard backs as the club ranked third in the league in rushing yards last season as both Williams and Stewart each surpassed 1,000 yards last season.

Mackenzy Bernadeau and Duke Robinson will battle for the starting job at right guard in training camp, but other than the change at guard the rest of the starting unit returns in 2010. Panthers placed RT Jeff Otah (knee), LB Thomas Davis (ACL surgery), DT Louis Leonard, and OG Duke Robinson (conditioning) on the active/PUP list. Geoff Schwartz is getting first-team work at right tackle. Otah can come off the active/PUP at any time, and he’s not believed to be in danger of missing regular season action.

We like players in a contract year and Deangello is in his last year of his current contract. He will be eager to make the most of his opportunities and really doesn’t need 300 touches to produce anyway.

The 2010 schedule looks much better than it did in 2009. They have an amazing start with 5 games in a row against the leagues bottom half teams against fantasy RBs. This should show immediate dividends for both Williams and Stewart. All of their 4 matchups against the legaues top 10 defenses against the run come after their BYE but they do rank only 29th overall in their fantasy playoff matchups. They could be another excellent trade bait during their week 6 BYE.

15. (FPA score: 145.5)

Key Players:

  • Felix Jones (YPC 5.9) ADP: 50 -38% of 50 – 101 Touches
  • Marion Barber (YPC 4.2) ADP: 64 -38% of 50 – 200 Touches
  • Tashard Choice (YPC 5.5) ADP: 184 -38% of 50 – 64 Touches


Felix Jones was on everyone’s fantasy radar last draft season (including fantasyomatic’s) but he once again battled injuries. You cannot ignore how productive he was when he played, his 5.9 YPC lead the NFL. He simply didn’t get the touches (7.7 a game over the first 10 games). However in the last 6 games, he averaged 13 or more carries. If he can keep that average, he can be a stud RB2.

One good sign is that DAL briefly moved Jones ahead of Marion Barber on the RB depth chart earlier in the preseason. If this means 20 touches a game and he keeps up his 2009 production, he could see 100+ yards a game. Jones just needs to stay healthy. But, of course, Jones has already shown some issues with his knee swelling up before camp *ALERT*

However, there is speculation on who is the lead back. According to Nick Eatman of DallasCowboys.com, Marion Barber is the starting tailback “as of right now, And it doesn’t really look like it’s going to change anytime soon,” Though a more explosive talent, Jones provided another reminder of his durability concerns when his knee swelled up prior to last Tuesday’s practice.

Yet, According to SI’s Peter King, Felix Jones “is projected to start in the backfield” for the Cowboys this season. You make the call. Despite Jones’ offseason hype agains this year, this has the look of a fairly equal timeshare.

You could lean on th efact that Jones saw ZERO goal line carries and Barber will remain the guy up close. Barber had 17 goal line carries in 2009 but converted just 10 of his 17 chances, good for fifth-worst in the league.

Barber also has injury issues and not just one, he had multiple injuries in 2009. Barber could have value off the bench since he has only ever had 13 starts and still scored 37 career TDs. But considering the small sample size and the quad injury Barber dealt with last year, Barber is still the Cowboys’ best option in short yardage because Barber was among the least effective backs in third- and fourth-and-1 situations last year.

They all run well out of single back but the nod goes to Jones to excel there. Good news for all three RBs is that FB Madison Hedgecock will be back after an injury laden 2009.

Let us just state one VERY important thing here… This prediction hinges completely on the DAL offensive line coming together during camp.

LT Alex Barron was a major disappointment in St. Louis, but he will be given an opportunity to battle Doug Free for a starting job at left tackle now that ancient veteran Flozell Adams has been released by the Cowboys. Barron is currently behind Free at left tackle and Marc Colombo at right tackle, but may very well be starting before the end of the season if Free struggles in his new role, or the nine-year veteran Colombo wears out. Boasting the league’s biggest offensive line, Dallas continues to be an overpowering force running the football. In 2009 Dallas averaged 4.8 yards per carry (2nd best in the NFL). Doug Free looked good in the preseason opener, in limited series, while Barron ws sidelined with an ankle sprain.

Marion Barber’s “lean look” this offseason has made him a lot quicker, observes beat reporter Todd Archer. Barber has slimmed down to 214 pounds, a wise move after he looked sluggish for much of last season. He won’t need extra weight now that he’s in a full timeshare with Jones. A quad injury also limited Barber last season, so his explosiveness should be vastly improved.

DAL has the 12th overall schedule for fantasy RBs, and only the 16th overall for the fantasy playoffs. They have a nice stretch from weeks 10-13 that could give you some points. But with this much inconsistency, either back should only be considered a flex or low end RB2 at best.

16. (FPA score: 152.2)

Key Players:

  • Clinton Portis (YPC 4.0) ADP: 91 – 31% of 46 – 124 Touches
  • Larry Johnson (YPC 2.9) ADP: 141 – 31% of 46 – 169 Touches
  • Willie Parker ADP: 244 – 31% of 46 / Ryan Torain


What kind of fantasy pundits would we be if we told you to bank on an RB in a Mike Shanahan system? Especially with three over-the-hill options to choose from. Add the fact that Shanny was way more pass heavy in his last two seasons in DEN than he was in 2003 when he last had ClintonPortis– before Shanny fired him. However Shanny will bring a familiar zone blocking scheme and Portis got an early thumbs up during OTAs. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan continued to heap praise on Portis as the start of Redskins camp.

The problem is that Portis sucks. He is a one man fantasyomatic killer as we overvalued him as an RB2 in 2009 because of his amazing early season schedule. He failed to produce even though facing 6 winless teams in a row to start the season and then got knocked out with a soft melon for 8 games. That concussion kept him out two months before he could see straight so he is a risk waiting to happen.

Portis is the starter going into training camp, and Johnson will provide strong competition. ?Although Portis is expected to enter training camp as the No. 1 tailback, coordinator Kyle Shanahan indicated that the Redskins coaches haven’t even talked about a depth chart. “I just said that because I assume he is,” Shanahan said. “It really doesn’t matter. Whoever is best for that defense that week. There’s no two or three. There’s really no four or five. … So no one really knows until cuts come.” Ugh, Shanahans.

Portis remains the best bet to open the season as the starter, but this could easily become a “hot hand” situation depending on who is healthy and producing (or who WAS faces any given week). Not many experts have any of the Redskins backs projected among the Top-35 at the position.

Rich Tandler of CSN Washington believes that Larry Johnson could actually see significant early-down work this season. Larry Johnson hasn’t topped 875 YDs in a season since 2006. He scored ZERO TDs last year with the same system that let Jamaal Charles score 7 and Johnson had a 2.9 YPC to Charles’ 5.9. Tandler says that since Portis appears in line to be the third-down back, Johnson is going to get his opportunities early. The fact is that it’s very unclear how the Redskins’ backfield will shake out. We’re strongly suggesting letting someone else deal with this headache on draft day.

The offensive line could be blamed to a degree but WAS signed LT Trent Williams to help that out a bit. The former Oklahoma standout is considered a great fit at left tackle in Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme, primarily due to his quick feet and elite athleticism. He was immediately installed as the starter on Donovan McNabb’s blindside. WAS started 9 different offensive linemen and used 5 different starting combinations last season, after injuries ravaged a starting front five that didn’t feature a player under the age of 30. The retirement of Chris Samuels prompted the selection of Oklahoma tackle Williams, who will start immediately. Don’t expect any miracles from a Redskins line that ranked in the bottom five in both yards per carry (3.9) and sacks allowed (46). The Redskins need to completely overhaul their offensive line, period.

WAS is ranked #16 only because of 4 bottom 10 matchups in weeks 3, 6, 8 and 11. Those are certainly attractive but their season is 16th ranked. They are 21st ranked in the fantasy playoffs. But frankly, we may have well just put them #32 because we strongly discourage you from banking on any WAS RB (now we feel better about 2009).

17. (FPA score: 152.7)

Key Players:

  • Chris Johnson (YPC 5.8) ADP: 1 – 36% of 39 – 358 Touches


We will never talk you out of taking Chris Johnson as the #1 overall, but we ranked the TEN running game #17 to set some type of expectation. Although fantasyomatic nailed it in 2009 by recomending you take him #2 overall in non-PPR leagues, that was because of his schedule and the same factors that we are evaluating again here for 2010.

You cannot agrue with 2,509 YDs from scrimmage and 16 TDs. However he also had 358 touches and doesn’t have the frame to support that type of workload in 2010. Expect about 300 or so touches and 50 receptions this year. This estimate comes right from Jeff Fisher who wisely says he wants to limit his carries. However there is some conflicting news from OC Mike Heimerdinger who says the team doesn’t necessarily plan to lighten Johnson’s workload this season. “I don’t know, I don’t have that in my mind, really. … I think the games and what happens in the game will determine how many times he’ll carry.” He could see an up-tick in goal line work now that Lendale White no longer plays football.

The Titans and Chris Johnson reportedly worked out a contract compromise that will get the star tailback to report to training camp on time. NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora confirms that Chris Johnson’s contractual “short-term fix” will not prevent him from asking the Titans for an extension next offseason. The 2011 and 2012 seasons on Johnson’s contract were “untouched,” as the Titans only addressed 2010 by moving forward an escalator that was originally slated for the back end of the deal. Still, for a player at such a high-risk position, it was most important for the team to make sure C.J. won’t hold out this year. The sides can go back to the negotiating table next spring (after CJ returns from a inevitable injury in 2010)

The Titans’ offensive line isn’t the most talented, but they seem to work very well as a unit (and their production is unmatched). The one problem is depth. The good news, however is that Scott and Roos have not missed a start in five years, Stewart has only missed three in four years and Amano one in two years. Overall, this line could see a small drop in production early in the year because of the loss of Pro Bowler Kevin Mawae, but they should be just as good as last year in the second half of 2010. They will be in big trouble if one of their starting linemen goes down with an injury.

So why the low rank? Well C.J faces 4 of the top 10 defensive matchups in the league against fantasy RBs in 2010 and has only 3 matchups against bottom top teams. Relevant? He had 9 bottom 10 matchups in 2009 and only one top 10 matchup. Take him or keep him, but do not worry about not having him on your roster for a stiff #1 overall price tag. Don’t pass on him, just do not feel too bad for not having the #1 pick this year.

18. (FPA score: 153.3)

Key Players:

  • Pierre Thomas (YPC 5.4) ADP: 32 -51% of 71 – 147 Touches
  • Reggie Bush (YPC 5.4) ADP: 71 -51% of 71 – 65 Touches
  • Lynell Hamilton – (YPC 3.1 ) ADP: 220 -51% of 71 – 25 Touches


We loved Pierre Thomas in the 2009 preseason, but his preseason injury ended up only giving him 147 total rushing attempts when he had been projected as a 250+ back. This flattened things out a bit for Saint’s ball cariers. No lead back had more than 19 carries in a game in 2009. Thomas has arrived at Saints training camp and is fully expected to participate.

Think you know the Saints offense? Did you know they were 9th in the NFL in rush ATT in 2009? Mike Bell actually had more touches than Thomas in 2009, but after being traded to PHI, less (cow) Bell means 60% possible carries for Thomas. Bell actually also stole 11 goal line carries form Thomas (11 vs 6) and now only Reggie Bush and Lynell Hamilton are in his way. If he stays healthy he could have a 1000 YD season. New Orleans credited their RBs with 51% of the TDs scored during their league leading 71 Red Zone visits.

The defending Super Bowl Champions’ offensive line was outstanding last season, ranking in the top ten in every statistical category: rushing yards (6th), yards per carry (6th), rushing touchdowns (3rd), and sacks allowed (4th fewest). The key to a successful offense starts up front, and there are few better at their jobs than Jammal Brown and Jahri Evans. The Saints’ elite offensive line tops the offensive line rankings, based on their elite level of production and stability, as all 5 starters are returning in 2010.

What ranks Thomas at #18 if his spotty schedule. He faces 4 top 5 defenses against fantasy RBs and has the 23rd overall fantasy playoff schedule. He is going in the 3rd round in early drafts and and having 4-5 low expectation games give him RB2 value but with too high a price tag. NO will NOT repeat this year and Thomas may get more touches, but we see some tough games outside their week 11-14 stretch and a week 15 meeting with BAL make them unstartable.

19. (FPA score: 155.9)

Key Players:

  • Rashard Mendelhall (YPC 4.6) ADP: 14 -37% of 56 – 222 Touches
  • Mewelde Moore (YPC 3.4) ADP: 265 -37% of 56 – 35 Touches
  • Isaac Redman


Shallow diving fantasy players are loving Rashard Mendenhall this draft season because of the assumption that without Big Ben, PIT will run the ball 30 times a game. This is a large jump since in 2009 PIT only credited the RB 37% of their 56 Red Zone visits (24th overall). Mendenhall also dropped his YPC from 5.7 in the first half of the season to 3.8 in the second half so he has not shown any evidence of longevity in his production.

Do not forget the massive loss on the Offensive line with the preseason injury to Willie Colon. That is a huge loss folks, and running has become much tougher in PIT. Also do not think that its only you that figured out that PIT will run without Big Ben, opposing Defensive Coordinators got the same memo. Plus the PIT brass have not made the run heavy approach official.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians doesn’t necessarily agree with owner Art Rooney II and coach Mike Tomlin that the Steelers need to lean more heavily on the running game in 2010. “We need to run the ball better,” Arians said, “not necessarily more.” Despite sporting the most dynamic offense in Steelers history, Arians has come under fire in Pittsburgh for not emphasizing the run of late. His goal is to fix the short-yardage issues from last year. Arians acknowledged that Mendenhall fared well at the goal-line, but Mendy also struggled in third-and-short situations. Tomlin confirmed that short-yardage duties will be up for grabs in training camp.

Isaac Redman says that his conditioning is vastly improved this year as he tries to carve out a niche as the Steelers’ short-yardage specialist.

The Steelers took steps in the right direction by acquiring offensive linemen Jonathan Scott, and selecting Florida center Maurkice Pouncey in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. The Steelers’ offensive line shows promise, but they have a long way to go before joining the elite offensive lines in the NFL once again. The devastating loss of Colon cannot be overlooked.
Great news for Rashard Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh ground attack: Steelers agreed to terms with OT Flozell Adams on a two-year contract. The Steelers had no realistic in-house option to step in for injured Willie Colon, so the 35-year-old Adams fills a major vacancy up front. It’s not yet been decided if he or Max Starks will play left tackle. Flozell is now at the stage where he’s a liability in pass protection, but he remains a mauling run blocker. It’s a great fit for both sides.

Even WITH Big Ben and Willie Colon (or Flozell), we would still caution you from paying a #14 overall price for Mendenhall. He has the #17 overall season for fantasy RBs and also the #17 overall fantasy playoff schedule. he faces BAL twice, including week 13 and then GB in week 15. You simply cannot afford these down weeks for an RB that will HAVE to be your RB1 due to his draft cost. he should have a great spurt once Ben comes back after the week 6 BYE, with 4 decent matchups, but then its a tough road through the fantasy playoffs from there.

20. (FPA score: 156.9)

Key Players:

  • Ray Rice (YPC 5.3) ADP: 4 – 50% of 57 – 240 Touches
  • Willis McGahee (YPC 4.1) ADP: 116 – 50% of 57 – 93 Touches


Ray Rice was one of fantasyomatic’s top preseason RB sleepers in 2009 and he delivered. We liked his running style and his great schedule even before Rice cut himself out of the RBBC with McGahee. His 702 receiving yards made his a PPR dynamo and led all RBs with receptions. Surprisingly, Rice was only given more than 20 touches 3 times last year and still produced. He will never be a 325 carry player and only saw 7 goal line carries last year (vs 11 for McGahee).

Willis McGahee didnt fall off the map last year due to Rice’s production, he actually had a YPC of 5.0 and 14 TDs (4th most in the NFL). All this means is that in the event of an injury to Rice, McGahee could have another year of fantasy relevance left in him.

The acquisition of Anquan Boldin will slightly shift the offensive approach toward the pass but Rice is a pass catcher. However, Rice cannot be considered an elite RB because of his lack of goal line work.

Ray Rice has been one of the hardest workers on the Ravens this offseason, confirms the team’s official site. Coach John Harbaugh had already singled out Rice for praise back in May. Rice isn’t resting on his Pro Bowl laurels and remains one of the best-conditioned backs around.

Last season, the Baltimore offensive line ranked inside the top 5 in rushing yards (5th), yards per carry (4th), and led the league in rushing touchdowns with 22. Michael Oher (yes, that guy) was excellent as a rookie, playing so well that veteran Jared Gaither (who is recovering from a foot injury) was supposed to shift over to right tackle this season, but was carted off the practice field with a back injury on Friday. The extent of the injury is unknown, but he was spotted icing his lower back afterwards. The Baltimore Sun speculates that Gaither “could miss time.” *ALERT* Ravens coach John Harbaugh revealed that Gaither is having “blood work” done in an effort to discover the cause of his numerous injuries. Gaither then made a surprise return to Ravens practice on Monday.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Ravens C Matt Birk began camp on the active/PUP list due to offseason elbow surgery. This line is solid, and capable of opening up holes against any defensive front.

Rice had a patsy schedule in 2009 but this season he faces PIT twice and NYJ in week 1. He only has 2 matchups against bottom 5 defenses against fantasy RBs and some pretty consistently tough opponents. He is ranked #20 because of this schedule and not lower because of his extensive work in the end zone and his abaility as a pass catcher. But with an APD of 4, he may be too expensive to risk. If he falls to the bottom of the first, grab him, otherwise pass.

21. (FPA score: 160.6)

Key Players:

  • Ronnie Brown (YPC 4.4) ADP: 43 -67% of 54 – 147 Touches
  • Ricky Williams (YPC 4.8) ADP: 65 -67% of 54 – 229 Touches


Ronnie Brown scored 6 TDs in the first 5 games but never topped more than 75 YDs in a game. He also had his season ended early in week 10 with yet another injury.

Ricky Williams then exploded on the scene as the teams #1 back. Before then, Brown averages 16 carries to Williams 11. In 2010 you can probably expect 185 touches for Brown and 195 for Ricky, given everyone is healthy. Brown’s offseason surgery went well and he can be expected to be 100%. Brown has slightly more value because he had 16 goal line carries and can even throw a TD pass if he needs to.

Ricky might be safer because Brown has only had one 16 game season in his career. Ricky’s 4.6 YPC in 2009 was actually the second best of his career, but he is also 33 years old and already talking retirement after the 2010 season. He ranks in the top 15 for RB carries in NFL history (thanks Ditka and Wannstedt) so it is highly likely that he breaks down this season.

MIA credited the RB with a TD in 67% of their 54 Red Zone appearances in 2009 so clearly either back can have value.

The offseason acquisition of Richie Incognito shores up the hole at right guard for Miami, but other than left tackle anchored by Jake Long, the other spots are all up for competition in training camp. Despite several changes up front, this unit should remain one of the best in the league (especially on the ground as the Dolphins led the league with 22 rushing touchdowns in 2009).

What we do not like is the toughest first 4 weeks of the season in the league for RBs. This will all but put either back on the shelf going into their week 4 BYE, then that is followed by 3 out of 4 games against the top 5 projected Defenses against fantasy RBs. Need more discouragement than that? How about a week 14 date against the Jets, just in time to knock you out of the playoffs if you are relying on a MIA RB…which you will not because their fantasy values will have bottomed out by midseason. Trust us on this one.

22. (FPA score: 168.0)

Key Players:

  • Brandon Jacobs (YPC 3.7) ADP: 51 – 48% of 56 – 224 Touches
  • Ahmad Bradshaw (YPC 4.9) ADP: 88 – 48% of 56 – 156 Touches
  • Andre Brown


NYG had one of the best RB schedules and usage scores in the league in 2008, but then tok a sharp drop in 2009 with 5 TDs instead of 15 and a YPC that fell from 5.0 to 3.7. A lot of this can be attributed to Brandon Jacobs and his hidden injury he says ocurred in week 1 and then bothered him all season. This was evidenced by an offseason surgery to repair the problem. Jacobs is still an injury risk. We are also concerned because Jasobs made a comment about the 2010 season where he stated ” I have to learn how NOT to play hurt”. Doesn’t sound like pre-contract- signing bruiser we all came to love a couple seasons back.

Jacobs has big goal line value, he had the 5th most carries in the NFL with 19 in 2009. He only converted 4 of those for TDs. NYG liked using RBs in close since they credited 48% o ftheir 56 red zone appearances to RBs.

ESPN.com’s Matt Mosley believes Ahmad Bradshaw is “capable of being the best running back in the division” if he’s back to 100 percent this summer. Bradshaw got 985 YDs on only 185 carries in 2009. he also had health problems all year. He had that fixed in the offseason. He has value as the goal line back, converting 5 of 8 attempts in 2009. According to the NY Daily News, Bradshaw was “limping much of the spring and limited in minicamp” after undergoing three offseason surgeries — one to each foot and one to his ankle.

On a per-touch basis, Bradshaw rivals Felix Jones for effectiveness. Nobody doubts his talent or his production, but serious questions remain about his ability to handle more than a committee workload. Even with Jacobs returning to full health, we expect Bradshaw to once again be in the neighborhood of 12 touches per game.

However, the Giants still possess one of the premier offensive lines in the entire NFL. Headlined by Pro Bowlers David Diehl, Chris Snee, and Shaun O’Hara (all five starters are returning) and sophomore tackle William Beatty (providing depth as a quality backup). Fantasy owners should have little question about this offensive line because Jacobs’ struggles were a big reason the numbers were down last year.

The value for the NYG backs is hit hard because of their late season schedule. They do not have a matchup against a bottom 10 team against fantasy RBs in the entire second half of the season. Their season is saved by 4 games against bottom 10 teams against fantasy RBs, but then they slide up into the fantasy playoffs where they have an unappealing championship week matchup against GB. NYG has the #30 overall fantasy playoff schedule for RBs.

23. (FPA score: 168.7)

Key Players:

  • LeSean McCoy (YPC 4.1) ADP: 38 – 24% of 52 – 154 Touches
  • Mike Bell (YPC 4.0) ADP:143 – 24% of 52 – 155 Touches


A lot of folks liked LeSeaon McCoy going into 2009 but he only got 4 starts in place of aging Brian Westbrook. He ended up gaining 600+ YDs and 4 TDs and had a decent 4.1 YPC. He has never had more than 20 carries per game going into 2010.

PHI is going to move to the West Coast offense in 2010 and this will require McCoy to play a bigger role in the passing game. He had 40 receptions for over 300 YDs and that can improve with more touches. We see this becoming possibly twice the catches for McCoy.

Just when McCoy has a clear backfield, PHI signs TD vulture Mike Bell. Bell got the majority of the goal line work in New Orleans in 2009, but PHI uses the pass in the Red Zone more than any other team. With only 24% of their 52 Red Zone TDs going to an RB in 2009, Bell may not have as many chances in PHI as he did in the bayou.

*ALERT* Bell was carted off the practice field Sunday with an “apparent” left hamstring injury. The extent of the injury is unknown, but the Eagles have been carting players off commonly in camp even if they’re not badly hurt.

Eagles also acquired RB J.J. Arrington for the Broncos in exchange for LB Joe Mays.

Also consider Michael Vick and his usage in close. He may only account for a few rushing TDs, but that could be a big chunk of potential RB touches.

Philadelphia’s offensive line wasn’t the same after they lost center Jamaal Jackson to an ACL injury last season, but on paper this line should produce at a high level if everyone stays healthy in 2010.

PHI has the #20 overall schedule for fantasy RBs with 5 games against the bottom 10 defenses against RBs. However, matchups against tough defenses like GB, SF, ATL DAL and MIN make this schedule less attractive. They also have the #22 overall fantasy playoff schedule for RBs so this hurts their value a bit. All of this might not be too attractive for a RB that is going in the early 4th round. We say pass on McCoy as an RB2 and wait on him as a RB3 at best. Otherwise, pass.

24. (FPA score: 172.7)

Key Players:

  • Ryan Grant (YPC 4.4) ADP: 22 – 44% of 62 – 271 Touches
  • Brandon Jackson / James Starks – 44% of 62


GB had a lot of offensive line problems in 2009 that made it hard for the running game to become effective. Ryan Grant‘s YPC went up .5 per game after Mark Taucher re-joined the team and Taush will be back in 2010. Green Bay retained starting tackles Tauscher and Chad Clifton and drafted (and signed) Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga in the first round of the NFL Draft. This should help considerably.

The heavy passing attack in GB meant fewer touches than normal for Grant in 2009. Grant’s big value is his durability. He has been reliable for GB who could have the most potent offense in the NFL. Grant also lead the NFL with goal line conversion with 6 TDs from 7 carries. GB got to the Red Zone a lot on 2009 (62 times) and they used the RB 44% of the time.

There are only 7 running backs who have had at least 1,100 total yards from scrimmage for the past three seasons: Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Thomas Jones, Marion Barber, and Ryan Grant. he has quitely become a dependable fantasy RB. (Matthew Berry ESPN)

Grant usually gets more work later in the season. In 2009 he scored 6 of his 11 TDs over the second half when things get cold up on Green Bay. As much as GB passes the ball, Grant hasn’t been much of a pass catcher, but he is a lock for 290+ touches because he has no real competition for touches in the backfield.

Grant’s role on passing downs is not expected to increase this year. That presents a discrepancy between Grant’s value in non-PPR and PPR leagues, and his lack of development in the receiving game and blitz pickup don’t help in the latter.

The Packers reportedly view sixth-round pick James Starks as a possible eventual successor to Grant as a feature back. Starks is already a better receiver than Grant. Grant’s job is safe in 2010 as long as he’s posting 1,200-yard seasons, but Starks is well worth a look in dynasty leagues. He reportedly looked “the more agile and athletic of the two” during the spring. RBs coach Edgar Bennett praised Starks as “explosive,” with “tremendous read, very good change of direction.”

RB Brandon Jackson didn’t allow a single quarterback pressure in blitz protection last season. Though he may get a push from Starks, Jackson is fully expected to keep the third-down job this season. Jackson offers limited talent and upside as a handcuff.

Normally he could be considered a safe pick, but he ranks as the #24 RB situation because GB has the #29 overall schedule for fantasy RBs this year. GB ranks so low because they face MIN twice, SF, DAL, ATL and NYJ this year. He has a season value saving #9 overall fantasy playoff schedule and GB will be giving him the rock late in the season. So you may not want to spend a second round pick on him but instead target him as a late season trade after his owner spends RB1 money on him and gets a poor midseason. You may then be able to steal him for a RB3 value and get RB2 fantasy playoff value for him.

25. (FPA score: 178.7)

Key Players:

  • Matt Forte (YPC 3.4) ADP: 46 -17% of 51- 242 Touches
  • Chester Taylor (YPC 3.7) ADP: 109 -17% of 51 – 86 Touches


CHI had a lot of offensive troubles last year, not the least of which was Matt Forte suffering a pulled hammy during training camp and getting behind all season. It actually ends up he had a sprained MCL all season long.

He has been a huge value as a receiver but those numbers fell in 2009 as well. He has been one of the most targeted RBs in the league, yet really isn’t that good of a receiver. CHI brought in Chester Taylor who is a third down back pass catching RB expert, so expect to see Forte’s targets drop a ton. He is one of the worst short yardage runners in the NFL, converting only 2 TDs out of his 18 attempts (he is 7 for 33 lifetime).

The addition of Mike Martz should be valuable to CHI, but if you look closer, Martz had only 2 teams finish 5th or better in rushing..even when he had running back Marshall Faulk back in the day. But even when he had Faulk and in every subsequent year, his teams have been 22nd or worse in rushing. Four of them were 30th or worse. For Forte, who raked 18th overall in rushing in 2009 (but 5th in fumbles), and an OLine that ranked 22nd in YPC…this might be bad news. Martz likes the run as much as Jay Cutler likes INTs, but this cold weather city may require more late seasons runs “weather” he likes it or not.

The Bears reportedly at least plan to emphasize running the ball, especially late in the season. Although in 2009, CHI only credited TDs to RBs in the Red Zone 17% of their 51 appearances. The weather was bad last year too as they had 3 home games out of their last 4, still not a lot of RB opportunities late.

Taylor will need to take some of the workload off Jay Cutler. Much of the success of the Chicago ground game will depend on whether new line coach Mike Tice improves the run blocking despite little turnover on one of the most experienced offensive lines in the league — averaging 4.3 years of NFL experience -averaged only 4.0 yards per carry (25th overall) and well below average in pass protection as well, allowing 35 sacks (19th overall). Aging veteran Orlando Pace shouldered most of the blame and was released this past offseason. There are very few changes up front for Chicago, so fantasy owners can expect this line to put up very similar results in 2010.

Forte averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 132 rushing attempts out of the I-formation last season, as opposed to 2.7 in one-back sets. These numbers indicate that Forte is more comfortable and productive behind a fullback. Unfortunately, Martz has done away with lead blockers, opting instead for Eddie Williams‘ versatility. This is something to keep in mind for those expecting a rebound from Forte.

Taylor could actually have a chance to win the starting job in CHI, so if you really want to take a chance, go with a less expensive Taylor in the 9th round.

In addition to the value hit that an RBBC and the addition of Taylor, CHI RBs have the 22nd ranked schedule of all RBs. They face GB twice, MIN twice, DAL and a brutal meeting with NYJ in the championship week 16. The biggest value problem is that CHI has the #32 fantasy playoff schedule for RBs in the league. So steer clear at all costs.

26. (FPA score: 181.1)

Key Players:

  • Adrian Petersen (YPC 4.4) ADP: 2 -40% of 69 – 306 Touches
  • Toby Gerhart (r) ADP: 139 -40% of 69


We are not saying Adrian Petersen is the #26 overall RB (he is a top 3), we are saying he has a schedule situation that makes him possibly not worth taking as a #2 RB. Sure, take him if you have the #2 and feel okay about it. Just take a look at his entire situation first.

A.P’s YPC dropped in 2009 to 4.4. MIN was active in the Red Zone with 69 visits and they credited 40% of the TDs to RBs. He led the NFL in goal line carries with 30 and 42 carries inside the 10.

Even though A.P’s YPC was down, he was used a ton more as a receiver. Coach Brad Childress confirmed that Peterson will play a bigger role on third downs this season. He ended up with a career high 43 receptions for 436 YDS. This should continue. He also had a 10.1 YPC which was 2nd in the league.

He is a TD machine, with 18 TDs in 2009 he led the NFL in RB TDs and also set a new career high. However he his 20+ YD plays dropped to 12 (from 20) in 2009. We expect 321/46 from A.P this year.

The previously stable MIN Oline could be aging. As successful as the MIN Rush game has been, its odd because they use a HUGE group in a zone blocking scheme rather than power rush scheme, where size matters.

Amid speculation he wanted a new contract, Adrian Peterson said that he will report to training camp on time.

Now that there is some concern over Brett Favre retiring, many fantasy owners think that A.P will rise in value. We actually drop him a bit because of the slew of very tough Defenses against the run, and now they can stack the box and not worry about Favre hurting them. Sure A.P was a top fantasy producer before Favre, but he also had better schedules in 2008 and 2009. Set realistic expectations as the Favre drama continues.

Fumbling was a very real problem for Petersen. This wasn’t just a problem in 2009, as he has led the NFL in fumbles for TWO seasons in a row. This isn’t worth passing on him, but he will break your heart at least 4 times in 2010.

MIN traded away Chester Taylor and drafted rookie Toby Gerhart (signed). Gerhart may steal a few goal line carries, but MIN doesn’t really need to “fix” that. Coach Brad Childress confirmed that Adrian Peterson will play a bigger role on third downs this season. This has been a subject of speculation since Chester Taylor’s exit, but it’s nice to see confirmation from the head coach.

We are not telling you to pass on Petersen with your #2 or #3 overall pick, we are just saying you might want to just NOT HAVE the #2 or #3 pick this year. Why? A.P faces GB twice, NYJ, DAL and have the #26 overall schedule for RBs (MIN had the #2 overall schedule in 2009) and they have a horrible stretch midseason with a small respite in the fantasy playoff, but AP ranks only #14 for RBs in the fantasy post. he is your guy at #2-#4, but just hope you have a later pick this year.

27. (FPA score: 184)

Key Players:

  • Shonn Greene (YPC 5.0) ADP: 18 -50% of 49 – 96 Touches
  • LaDaian Tomlinson (YPC 3.3) ADP: 96 -50% of 49 – 221 Touches


Shonn Greene didn’t start a single regular season game in 2009 but still became a beast in the playoffs with 304 YDs and a 5.4 YPC over the last 3 games. He had some issues with fumbling early in the season and injuries also hurt his season. He was knocked out of the AFC championship game so he has a history already of being dinged up.

Greene doesn’t have a lot of value in PPR leagues since he had not a single reception in 2009. The addition of LaDanian Tomlinson will prove to help on third downs and in the passing game more than in between the 20s.

The opportunity is still Greene’s though. L.T is not the same anymore. He had the fewest missed tackles in the NFL last season (SD’s offensive line can’t be blamed for that) and he had the fewest yards after contact of any RB in the NFL last year. Yeah, he is done. NYJ may still force 150 or so carries on L.T, leaving Greene with a projected 260/5 and 10 or less TDs. Last season 150 carries would have ranked 32nd in the league. The only “No. 2” running backs on a team to get that many carries were Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants and whichever of the Carolina Panthers running backs you think was the reserve.

It appears that that “scraps” are going to be left for LaDainian Tomlinson. Although Greene isn’t a receiver out of the backfield, he is a beast runner that rarely goes down on first contact. Greene mentioned during OTAs that he plans to stick with his bruising style and will not be running out of bounds this season.

While Greene intends to prove his toughness, the Jets’ organization would prefer to see him play it safe on occasion. The Jets have a realistic chance of going all the way, but for this to happen Greene is going to have to stay on the field. Refusing to run out of bounds may not be conducive to Greene’s health.

Apparently, the Jets are “eager to see” if Shonn Greene’s receiving skills improved this offseason. Greene has 11 career catches dating back to his freshman season at Iowa, so there’s virtually no track record of him contributing in the receiving game. This year, we project him to catch just 10 passes, allowing for Tomlinson and rookie Joe McKnight to handle most of the third-down work.

Fullback Tony Richardson also acknowledged that Greene will be “starting the game” as “the guy” this year. Jets coaches have gone out of their way not to alienate venerable newcomer LaDainian Tomlinson, but it’s telling that the team’s official website concedes that Greene is the starter.

One major factor is that NYJ has the best Oline in the NFL. NYJ rushed a league leading 607 times in 2009 (82 times more than anyone else). The line is back and has started 35 games together in a row. The Jets line had 3 Pro Bowlers in 2009, and ranked in the top 10 in all 3 major statistical categories: rushing yards per carry, rushing touchdowns, and sacks allowed last season.

Shonn Green will be going in the early second round in your fantasy drafts. But, we say pass. he has a lot of value and NYJ rush more then anyone. However, you have to look at who they face this season; BAL, GB, MIN, PIT and have only 2 games against bottom 10 defenses against fantasy RBs. This ranks as the #27 overall schedule for all RBs with a #27 fantasy playoff schedule. Not to say that he isn’t going to be a productive RB in 2010, we are just saying that his top of the second round price tag might not pay RB1 dividends. If you get him as an RB2, you should be okay. We would pass otherwise.

28. (FPA score: 185.5)

Key Players:

  • James Harrison (YPC 4.6) ADP: 67 -41% of 39 – 161 Touches
  • Montario Hardesty (r) ADP: 92 -41% of 39
  • James Davis / Chris Jennings – 54 Touches


Jerome Harrison has no plans to hold out during training camp, according to his agent. Harrison signed his one-year restricted tender and will smartly get into camp on time. He needs to be there impressing coaches every day if he’s going to hold off rookie RB Montario Hardesty.

Luckily for Harrison, Hardesty “twisted his knee” *ALERT* in one of the first training camp practices. Hardesty is only projected to miss “a couple weeks” but now you have to wait until closer to your draft to see if this kid is for real. he NEEDS to be in camp so this could impact things further down the road. With Hardesty (knee) sidelined, Peyton Hillis is running with the second team.

Most reports before the injury, had Hardesty ahead of the veteran already since CLE and also signed Hardesty. The rookie made impressions in the spring while Harrison was mostly AWOL due to a contract dispute, so Hardesty was on his way to landing the starting gig. If he still manages to locks it down, he’ll be coming off draft boards as a low-end RB2. he may drop a bit further because of his injury.

Hardesty is an athletic runner with a 4.49 40 and a 41 inch vertical who had over 1600 YDs and 14 TDs last season at Tennesee. He has had isues with injury on multiple occasions in college. He has plenty of pass blocking experience and that could help him make room between Harrison and himself as camp goes on.

Hardesty and Harrison are locked into two spots, and the Browns will carry fullback Peyton Hills behind Lawrence Vickers. The final position will come down to James Davis and Chris Jennings. Davis is the superior talent, and should be able to beat Jennings out in camp. These backs have a little more fantasy value now because of the injury occurs.

Clear your head of any value you assigned to Harrison after his late season run. This was due to his stellar SOS over the last 5 weeks (as fantasyomatic told you last year). Without those peaches on the schedule, that offensive wouldn’t be able to produce those numbers over an extended period.

The CLE offensive line is better than you think. The final season numbers for the Oline reflect just how well this line played. The Browns generated 2,087 yards rushing (8th best), 4.2 yards per carry (18th best) and 10 rushing touchdowns (20th best). Joe Thomas was selected to the Pro Bowl last season due to his excellent ability to set the edge on the left side of the offensive line. Thomas’ play enabled the Browns to create the second most big plays (rushes for ten plus yards) when running off left tackle.

Outside of the line, CLE was one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2009, with only 39 Red Zone visits, 41% of those Red Zone TDs went to RBs. As much as we told you last year to grab Harrison for his late season run, we told you that because he had the second best late season schedule of all RBs (second only to Jamaal Charles) and he produced against those patsies (and one tough game against CIN).

In 2010, CLE only sees 4 games against bottom 10 defenses against fantasy RBs, but they also have 4 brutal matchups against top THREE defenses against fantasy RBs. Two games against BAL (one in week 16), PIT, NYJ and BUF. This ranks them #24 overall for the season and 26th for the fantasy playoffs. You may want to take a flier on Hardesty in the 7th round as a spot starting flex RB with upside during weeks 2, 4, 7 and 15. Harrison is not worth buying and keep in mind his late season blowup was schedule-related, not talent.

29. (FPA score: 188.0)

Key Players:

  • Cedric Benson (YPC 4.2) ADP: 20 -24% of 50 – 301 Touches
  • Bernard Scott (YPC 4.4) ADP: 181 -24% of 50 – 68 Touches


Cedric Benson was a fantasyomatic “fast starting” RB prediction last year and he delivered. He turned early season soft matchups into good numbers and even performed very well against tough defenses. He amassed over 1200 YDs before getting injured and only had 6TDs while having 301 carries and only one rush of 40+ yards. CIN had 50 Red Zone appearances but only credited 24% of those TDs to an RB, which could have been part of the problem.

CIN actually had a moderate offense in 2009 and the addition of T.O could mean more emphasis on the passing game. CIN also added a pass catching TE (Jermaine Gresham) and has a better schedule for pass catchers than for RBs. So perhaps the touches could go down a bit for Benson in 2010.

For those of you worried, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed Friday that Benson will not be suspended for his alleged role in a June bar brawl.

LT Andre Smith wanted to actually participate in training camp this year but he was not dressed on Thursday, and Coach Marvin Lewis indicated that the right tackle will be out of action for the next 2-3 weeks. Smith now seems unlikely to open the season as a starter. Smith and Andrew Whitworth are solid bookends, who have been key to rebuilding this offensive line and opening up running lanes for Benson. The Bengals ranked 9th in the league in two key categories last season; rushing yards (2,056 total) and allowing only 29 sacks all season. This unit should continue to move up on this list if everyone stays healthy (and Smith comes back early) in 2010.

Backup RB Bernard Scott is healthy again after missing June practices with an ankle injury. “I’m fine,” said Scott. “I’m doing the drills. I’m cutting. I’ve been running for about a month.” The Bengals are counting on Scott to play a bigger role in a change-of-pace capacity. Scott may have more touches in 2010 84/12 to Benson’s 337/11. He’s worth a roster spot in most leagues. Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer believes that second-year Scott is ready for a “breakout” season.

According to beat writer Joe Reedy, the Bengals are still “a running team” and “indications are that while the passing strings will be loosened a little this season, the philosophy of last year will still reign large.”
The Bengals ranked 4th last season in rushing attempts with 505, with Cedric Benson averaging a very healthy 23.1 carries per game. If Carson Palmer‘s arm gets some life back and new acquisitions Antonio Bryant and T.O (Batman?) prove effective, they’ll throw a little more. But look for Benson to be the focal point of the offense once again.

But do not get too excited, CIN has the second WORST schedule for RBs in the NFL in 2010 and a bottom 10 fantasy schedule for RBs. This is impacted by one game against BAL (2nd game is in week 17), PIT, NYJ and ATL. The week 14 matchup against PIT hurts Benson’s value. He is currently going in the top 20, but we would say skip him unless he drops to the early 3rd round.

30. (FPA score: 195.3)

Key Players:

  • C.J Spiller (r) ADP: 77 -50% of 38
  • Fred Jackson (YPC 4.1) ADP: 76 -50% of 38 – 205 Touches
  • Marshawn Lynch (YPC 3.8) ADP 128 -50% of 38 – 119 Touches


C.J Spiller has a lot of hype going into this season and is the top BUF RB being taken in early drafts. He has impressive potential, but BUF really didn’t need a new RB as much as they needed basically everything else. Fred Jackson will still most likely lead the team in carries because of the type of player that Spiller is. Look for a 152 Spiller / 208 Jackson split.

Spiller’s “utility” value is a boost though, coach Chan Gailey confirmed that he plans to play rookie Spiller out wide in addition to using him in the backfield.

“It just creates a lot of matchup problems in our opinion with defenses,” explained Gailey. “Every time you have a guy like that you better know where he is on the field, you better know what his assignment is and what he does from that spot.”

Spiller is also expected to see time in the slot as the Bills try to their best get him a dozen offensive touches per game. This should allow you to consider Spiller as a “hybrid” instead of a feature back. NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reports that unsigned No. 9 overall pick C.J. Spiller’s rookie contract “could take awhile.”
Spiller admitted earlier this month that he’s in no rush to sign, so a holdout shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Marshawn Lynch, however, said “I’m ready to play regardless of whether I’m unhappy or not.” A source tells ESPN that the Bills would have taken nothing less than a second-round pick for Lynch, so he should know he’s not going anywhere. The disgruntled back has changed his tune about being a Bill, and is now saying all the right things. Lynch is going to steal touches from Jackson and Spiller and is well worth a late-round flier in fantasy drafts.

BUF placed 8 offensive linemen on injured reserve last season, used 9 starting combinations (most in the NFL) and used a league high 11 different starters along the offensive line in 2009. Buffalo has two solid sophomore guards in Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, but the Bills are extremely young (24.5 average age) and are the most inexperienced offensive line in the league. Some good news, though, Bills LT Demetrius Bell (knee) has been cleared for the start of camp and RG Eric Wood (broken tibia and fibula) suited up with the first-team offense as camp opened.

Bills coach Chan Gailey has a history of using one back as his workhorse. In Gailey’s 9 seasons as an NFL coach or offensive coordinator, 70.6 of the team’s rushes have gone to one player. “I don’t worry about people’s feelings. I worry about scoring points,” Gailey said. With Spiller set for a hybrid role, the battle for the lead back job will come down to Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.

BUf has a tough schedule for fantasy RBs (25th) and faces GB, BAL, PIT and MIN. They also face KC and DET so they have some hope. However with a bad QB situation, bad Offensive Line and undefined roles going into camp and a much easier schedule against the pass then the run, skip the Spiller hype and all BUF RBs this year.

31. (FPA score: 199.2)

Key Players:

  • Laurence Maroney (YPC 3.9) ADP: 110 -41% of 65 – 194 Touches
  • Fred Taylor (YPC 4.2) ADP:229 -41% of 65 – 56 Touches
  • Sammy Morris (YPC 4.7) ADP:191 -41% of 65 – 66 Touches


The NE running game has been a tough one to gamble on for fantasy football. With no clear cut feature back and a heavy passing offense, it is hard to sink your teeth into.

Laurence Maroney is the best bet to give any fantasy value. His soft late season schedule helped him make a season out of 2009 with 194 carries and 9 TDs in 2009. Those are good carry numbers but he only had a 3.0 YPC and 757 YDs rushing so he didn’t make much of his opportunities. He eventually got benched due to his 4 key fumbles.

But, Maroney is still the top option because NE failed to fix the RB situation in the draft. They did use the RB in the Red Zone with 41% of the TDs going to an RB in 2009. They lost faith in Maroney in the last 4 games of the season and now have to give him another shot. Maroney could see 181/12 touches at best.

This is a great time to remind you how unpredictable the Patriots backfield could be. Fred Taylor might be anywhere from a starting running back to off the team. He doesn’t offer third down or special teams value, so he needs to run hard and stay healthy to keep his spot.

Pro Bowl left guard and restricted free agent Logan Mankins is currently locked in a contract dispute with the Patriots. If the Mankins holdout continues (it’s expected that it could extend into the regular season or even through the season) the New England Patriots need to make adjustments, and one of those possible shifts could include moving tackle Nick Kaczur to Mankins’ spot at left guard. Assuming Mankins returns, the Patriots will once again have one of the NFL’s premier offensive lines. Free agent acquisition Alge Crumpler is an excellent run blocker who is essentially an extra offensive lineman for Bill Belichick.

NE RBs will face NYJ (2xs), BAL, MIN, GB and BUF in 2010 which rank them the WORST schedule for RBs and the SECOND WORST fantasy playoff schedule. Simple advice, pass on all NE RBs.

32. (FPA score: 204.6)

Key Players:

  • Jahvid Best (r) ADP: 47 -18% of 36
  • Kevin Smith (YPC 3.4) ADP: 140 -18% of 36 – 217 Touches


DET had a pretty good draft and grabbed (and signed) Cal RB Jahvid Best as their future back. This means bad things for recovering RB Kevin Smith. Best averaged 7.3 YPC throughout his college career. He has had some injuries over his career, but nothing coming into the season.

Rookie Best is off to a good start at Lions camp, earning praise from coach Jim Schwartz already. Although Smith (ACL surgery) is practicing once a day, make no mistake that Best will be the feature back.

Best will easily steal the feature role from Smith. Potentially 220/44 Best, Smith 99/30. Best should see about 220 touches behind an offensive line that added LG Rob Sims for help.

Coach Jim Schwartz praised rookie Best for his versatility, playmaking ability, and knowledge of the team’s playbook. “He has grasped everything we’ve thrown at him, We haven’t spoon-fed him. We’ve used him as wide receiver, in the slot, at running back. He has been exposed to everything … He’s smart, multidimensional and he can make plays.” Best had veteran teammates raving about his explosiveness after his first practice.

Linehan will employ a more power blocking scheme and less zone to try to improve their 3.9 yards per carry (27th best last season) in 2009.

Lions RB Maurice Morris’ grip on a roster spot in Detroit may hinge on the recovery of Smith.

As if you needed someone to tell you, pass on any DET RB this season. Best is going way to high in the 4th round and Kevin Smith has no value. Their schedule is the 3rd WORST in the NFL but a softer fantasy playoff schedule. Still, with GB (2xs), MIN (second time in week 17), DAL , BUF and NYJ, you will only have about 2 weeks of production. Leave these guys to the Lions fans in your league.

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