2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs 11-20
These 2011 Fantasy Football Running Backs Rankings will be updated often throughout the summer, so make sure you check back from time to time. Also, be sure to check out my other 2011 Fantasy Football articles, which will include sleepers, busts, tons of 2011 Fantasy Football mock drafts and other material. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears. Bye: 8. AUG. 29 UPDATE: Matt Forte rushed for 74 yards on 17 carries at Tennessee, but that's not why I'm giving him a stock up. Forte, not Marion Barber, received a pair of carries inside the 5-yard line on the second drive of the game, converting one for a touchdown. When the Bears brought in Barber, many assumed he'd get the goal-line work. Apparently, that's not the case.
AUG. 3 UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Marion Barber will be Chicago's goal-line back in 2011. Just what an incredibly thin fantasy running back corps needed - a vulture to steal fantasy points away from a legitimate RB2.
Matt Forte played the Marshall Faulk role in Mike Martz's offense last season. As long as Martz is calling the shots, Forte is going to be a big part of the passing game.
As for his running ability, Forte should improve upon his 1,069 rushing yards. Forte's YPC increased as the 2010 campaign went on, thanks to Mike Tice's work with the offensive line.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,110 rushing yards. 52 catches. 480 receiving yards. 8 total TDs.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Points: 207. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 259.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. Bye: 5. AUG. 27 UPDATE: Steven Jackson broke through for a 25-yard burst to open up the game against the Chiefs, and finished with 72 yards on 15 carries. Jackson ran with great power, but he doesn't have the quickness and elusiveness he once possessed. He really looks like a pass-catching version of Michael Turner. That's not necessarily a bad thing in general, but it is for Jackson, who is no longer an elite running back. Still, the opportunities will be there for him this year. He'll score more touchdowns in an improved offense.
AUG. 23 UPDATE: Steven Jackson rushed for only 10 yards on six carries in the preseason victory over the Titans. Despite those ugly numbers, it's impossible to say whether Jackson has lost it or not. He had absolutely no running room; Tennessee's defensive front pushed back St. Louis' offensive line on almost every play.
After missing four games in both 2007 and 2008, and being labeled as injury-prone, Steven Jackson silenced his critics with back-to-back 320-carry seasons in 2009 and 2010. Jackson still has a year or two left of peak performance, and he'll have way more goal-line opportunities now that he has a reliable veteran quarterback under center.
St. Louis' offense will be explosive this year, given the combination of Sam Bradford and Josh McDaniels. Jackson could score a dozen touchdowns.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Stats: 1,190 rushing yards. 37 catches. 330 receiving yards. 9 total TDs.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Points: 206. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 243.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars. Bye: 9. SEPT. 7 UPDATE: David Garrard's release is a clear indication that the Jaguars are going to have major problems this year. Like the 2010 Panthers, they're going to quit on lame-duck coach Jack Del Rio.
JULY 12 UPDATE: Maurice Jones-Drew himself told the Florida Times Union last week that the Jaguars are "already kind of scared of my knee" and that they plan on giving Rashad Jennings more touches. Jones-Drew is coming off an injured knee and probably should be avoided in the first round of fantasy drafts. His current ADP is 1.10, which is much too high.
Maurice Jones-Drew registered 1,641 total yards in just 14 games despite playing with a bum knee. Will he bounce back? Perhaps. There are two lingering concerns:
1. Jones-Drew had knee surgery and was told not to run until May. This bothers me, although reports have generally been positive.
2. I really think the Jaguars are going to stink this season because they spent their first-round pick on a player (quarterback Blaine Gabbert) who won't contribute anything positive this year. If I'm right, and Jacksonville indeed sucks, Jones-Drew won't get many goal-line opportunities.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Stats: 1,190 rushing yards. 35 catches. 310 receiving yards. 9 total TDs.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Points: 204. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 239.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers. Bye: 8. AUG. 29 UPDATE: LeGarrette Blount struggled to find running room (5-10) against Miami, but he led the Buccaneers in receiving yardage with 62 off three receptions (most of which came on a 52-yard burst). Blount was targeted four times, which is huge. He's not going to be the third-down back or anything, but Josh Freeman appears comfortable using Blount as part of the passing attack. It's a strong possibility that Blount will catch 20 balls in 2011.
AUG. 19 UPDATE: Earnest Graham paced the Buccaneers in targets with three in their preseason loss to the Patriots. This is significant because he was on the field on third downs, limiting LeGarrette Blount's maximum potential. Blount played exclusively on first and second downs, but couldn't do anything against a fierce New England front. He had just one yard on four carries.
AUG. 13 UPDATE: LeGarrette Blount notched 18 yards on five carries in the preseason opener at Kansas City. The notable thing here is that Blount caught the ball out of the backfield for a gain of seven yards. This is a huge development because he had just five receptions last year.
AUG. 11 UPDATE: The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that LeGarrette Blount is getting a lot of third-down work in training camp. Blount obviously won't become a PPR stud or anything, but if he can improve his pass-catching ability, it'll help him stay on the field more and consequently receive more carries.
LeGarrette Blount came out of nowhere to rush for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns last year - and he didn't even see double-digit carries until Week 7! Blount won't give you any receptions, but he should easily hit double-digit touchdowns in Tampa Bay's improving offense.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Stats: 1,240 rushing yards. 17 catches. 120 receiving yards. 11 total TDs.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Points: 202. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 219.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets. Bye: 8. AUG. 30 UPDATE: Shonn Greene didn't play in Week 2, but started against the Giants on Monday night. He rushed for 42 yards on 11 carries, and was even targeted three times. Greene is not going to play on third down anytime soon, but it's nice to see him somewhat involved in the passing game.
AUG. 16 UPDATE: It appears as though Shonn Greene is going to be a fantasy stud this year. Greene was on the field for every single first and second down with New York's first-team offense in the preseason opener at Houston. He even caught a 5-yard pass. Greene looked great, finishing with 32 rushing yards on five carries even though he had an 11-yard gain wiped out by a penalty. LaDainian Tomlinson was nowhere to be seen outside of third-down situations.
Rex Ryan told the media earlier this offseason that Shonn Greene's workload would increase in 2011 at LaDainian Tomlinson's expense. That's great and all, but as long as Tomlinson is on the roster, I won't be fully confident that Green will be getting the goal-line carries. Also, Greene is not any sort of third-down back, so Tomlinson will continue to see a fair amount of snaps.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Stats: 1,210 rushing yards. 21 catches. 150 receiving yards. 9 total TDs.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Points: 190. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 211.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns. Bye: 5. AUG. 26 UPDATE: Peyton Hillis looked really good when he was on the field at Philadelphia. He was bulldozing defenders (6 carries, 18 yards) and catching passes (4 targets). He would have scored a touchdown if it weren't for a great play by Eagles strongside linebacker Jamar Chaney. However, Hillis is getting a stock down because Montario Hardesty played the entire second series and also had a strong showing. Based on the comments Cleveland's front office made this offseason, it's reasonable to expect Hillis and Hardesty to share the load, with the former holding something like a 60-40 or 65-35 advantage.
AUG. 7 UPDATE: Montario Hardesty is having major issues getting on to the practice field, so it looks like the Browns won't be able to orchestrate some sort of a time share between Peyton Hillis and Hardesty, as speculated earlier.
I loved Peyton Hillis as a late-round sleeper last year. Now, I absolutely hate him. He's going to be severely overdrafted in your fantasy league this summer.
Hillis definitely had some great moments in 2010, but he wore down the stretch, averaging 3.2 yards per carry or fewer in four of his final seven games. Also, Montario Hardesty will be back, so he'll take some of the workload away from Hillis. And finally, don't forget about the Madden Curse. It's real, people.
Believe me, I had Hillis in most of my leagues last year. He did nothing at the end of the season. You can go ahead and draft Hillis in the second or third round if you want. I guarantee you'll be searching for a new starting running back in Week 8 or 9 if you do.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Stats: 960 rushing yards. 51 catches. 390 receiving yards. 9 total TDs.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Points: 189. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 240.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants. Bye: 7.
Ahmad Bradshaw is one of a few running back whose free agency status is unclear. Bradshaw could be a free agent depending on the new CBA.
Either way, Bradshaw will probably stay with the Giants. The concern, however, is his health. Bradshaw has endured four foot procedures in the past two years, making him an injury risk.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 1,140 rushing yards. 44 catches. 300 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Points: 186. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 230.
Jahvid Best, RB, Lions. Bye: 9. AUG. 22 UPDATE: Jahvid Best had just three touches in the preseason victory at Cleveland. He left the game after fumbling (great run-stuff by Phil Taylor) and suffering a head injury, and was treated for a concussion. Best didn't incur a concussion, but it's difficult not to think about how brittle Best is. He'll post great numbers when healthy, but he's a poor bet to play 16 games.
AUG. 14 UPDATE: Jahvid Best really flashed in the preseason opener versus Cincinnati. There's no doubt that he has recovered from his turf toe injuries; he showed off his quickness, and he utilized heavily on offense. Best rushed for 12 yards on four carries and also had two receptions for 17 more yards, as he was targeted thrice on Matthew Stafford's seven throws. Best is made out of glass, but he'll be a huge fantasy producer while he's healthy.
AUG. 8 UPDATE:
Mikel Leshoure is out for the year with a torn Achilles, so Jahvid Best's value obviously rises. He won't suddenly become the goal-line back or anything, but he'll definitely receive more touches overall. It's kind of ironic that Leshoure was the guy to go down with an injury, when everyone was scared of Best's fragility.
Jahvid Best generated 232 total yards and three touchdowns in Week 2 against Philadelphia last year. Unfortunately, he barely did anything after that, as he showed no explosion because of a pair of turf toe injuries. Best is finally healthy now and will be a huge part of the offense in 2011. Unfortunately, Mikel Leshoure will command all of the goal-line work.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Stats: 950 rushing yards. 63 catches. 530 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Points: 184. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 247.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. Bye: 8. AUG. 14 UPDATE: I've been down on Michael Turner all offseason, but I'll admit it when I'm wrong. Turner ran more spryly and far quicker than he did last year, taking advantage of some really good run-blocking, totaling 21 yards and a touchdown on four carries against Miami in the exhibition opener. He's still an injury risk because of his high carry totals the past three campaigns, but I'll definitely be moving him up in my 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings.
JULY 20 UPDATE: By now, you know that I hate Michael Turner's fantasy potential. I've been preaching all summer long - he's not going to last the entire season because he's led the NFL in carries two of the past three years. Well, now there's a new reason to hate on Turner. The Falcons apparently bracing for the departures of right tackle Tyson Clabo and right guard Harvey Dahl. Losing two solid offensive linemen can only hurt Turner's YPC when he's actually in the lineup.
Does this mean you should completely avoid Turner in your fantasy drafts? I would. Turner wore down as the 2010 season wore on, failing to average more than four yards per carry in any of his final six games. Turner has shouldered a ton of work the past three years, and I just wouldn't count on him staying healthy. Add in the fact that the Falcons figure to lose some offensive linemen in free agency, and Turner is just someone you want to stay away from.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Stats: 1,060 rushing yards. 6 catches. 40 receiving yards. 12 total TDs.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Points: 182. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 188.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers. Bye: 9. AUG. 15 UPDATE: DeAngelo Williams looked great in the preseason opener against the Giants (aside from his possible gaffe on the Jimmy Clausen pick-six). He clearly played ahead of Jonathan Stewart, seeing all of the action on Carolina's first two drives. Williams will be the primary running back and should be able to post solid numbers with opposing defenses concerned about Newton's rushing ability. That is, until he suffers his annual injury.
DeAngelo Williams will be the starting running back for the Panthers based on the contract he received this offseason. It's highly doubtful, however, that he'll make it through the entire season without getting injured.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 28 catches. 200 receiving yards. 8 total TDs.
Projected 2011 Fantasy Points: 178. Projected 2011 PPR Fantasy Points: 206.
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