These 2012 Fantasy Football Running Back 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 2012 Fantasy Football articles, which will include sleepers, busts, tons of 2012 Fantasy Football mock drafts and other material. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles. Bye: 7.
LeSean McCoy had a monstrous 2011 campaign, generating 1,309 rushing yards, 315 receiving yards and a whopping 20 touchdowns. Andy Reid said he overused McCoy last year, so the fourth-year runner won't get as many touches in 2012. I'd also expect his touchdown total to decrease; he went from nine scores in 2010 to 20 last year, so that clearly was an anomaly. Still, McCoy is one of the top three fantasy players this year.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Stats: 1,290 rushing yards. 54 catches. 410 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Points: 260. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 314.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens. Bye: 8. JULY 18 UPDATE: Ray Rice's holdout is over. He signed a long-term deal with the Ravens, so there will be no monetary distraction.
MAY 24 UPDATE: Well, Ray Rice didn't last long atop my running back rankings. There was a report today that Rice is asking for Adrian Peterson money and is planning on holding out well into training camp until he obtains the financial compensation he's looking for. Running backs who hold out tend to really struggle, so Rice is officially a potential bust.
It's a close call between the three running backs at the top of the draft board, but I'd rather have Ray Rice. The fifth-year back is good for about 1,300 rushing yards, but his specialty is catching the ball out of the backfield; he's averaged 72 receptions over the past three seasons. Rice also scores touchdowns - he had 15 in 2011 - and he's fresh, given that he's never carried the ball more than 308 times in any campaign.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Stats: 1,250 rushing yards. 68 catches. 610 receiving yards. 12 total TDs.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Points: 258. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 326.
Arian Foster, RB, Texans. Bye: 8.
Arian Foster will go first overall in many leagues. While he's certainly worth a high first-round pick, there is one concern I have with him, and that would be Ben Tate. Foster is very talented, but Tate is the better pure runner. If Tate had the opportunity that Foster's been given the past two years, he would have posted better numbers. I don't think Gary Kubiak will be able to keep Tate on the sidelines very much. Tate will steal more touches from Foster this year, though Foster will continue to handle most of the receiving work.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Stats: 1,280 rushing yards. 52 catches. 510 receiving yards. 13 total TDs.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Points: 257. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 309.
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders. Bye: 5. AUG. 26 UPDATE: Darren McFadden received most of the carries in a quarter and a half of action. He showed great burst whenever he had running room and was given all of the carries at the goal line. He was stuffed inside the Detroit 2-yard line twice, but scored on his third try. McFadden, who finished with 27 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, should definitely be considered over Chris Johnson in fantasy drafts. I'd rather have 9-10 weeks of great production over 16 weeks of potential mediocrity.
AUG. 14 UPDATE: Darren McFadden had just three touches in the preseason opener, but he looked great. He had a gain of 18 yards on a screen pass and then followed that up with a 16-yard rush. He can easily lead the league in rushing if he can stay healthy for a change.
Darren McFadden, a sleeper? The notion would have been crazy a year ago when he was a first-round pick in many leagues, but I feel like everyone has been spurned by him, which could cause him to fall. McFadden is highly unlikely to play in all 16 games, but he'll be a great producer for you when he's on the field. You can't ignore that sort of potential at, say, the end of the second round.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Stats: 1,120 rushing yards. 45 catches. 470 receiving yards. 9 total TDs.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Points: 213. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 258.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. Bye: 11. AUG. 24 UPDATE: Chris Johnson ran well last week, but struggled versus Arizona. He tallied only 27 yards on 13 carries, and if you take away a 9-yard burst in which he received good blocking, Johnson's line would be 12-18. He runs too indecisively. He's waiting for holes to open up, and it's just not happening. Even more disconcerting is the fact that he lost third-down reps to Javon Ringer in this contest. That happened a bit last year, but it's still bad news for his PPR potential.
AUG. 18 UPDATE: The good news for the Titans is that Chris Johnson ran extremely well against the Buccaneers. Johnson didn't break any really long gains, but he totaled 46 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. He was way more decisive than he was last week at Seattle, where he just danced around, waiting for something to happen. My confidence is Johnson is restored.
Chris Johnson is a great buy-low candidate. He held out for a large contract this year and reported to training camp out of shape as a result. His blocking was also very pedestrian. Johnson should be able to bounce back to CJ2K form, considering that he's participating in the Titans' offseason conditioning program for the first time ever. Also, the free-agent acquisition of Steve Hutchinson will be a big boost.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Stats: 1,170 rushing yards. 41 catches. 330 receiving yards. 10 total TDs.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Points: 210. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 251.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears. Bye: 6. JULY 19 UPDATE: Matt Forte's holdout is over. He signed a long-term deal with the Bears, so there will be no monetary distraction.
Matt Forte is holding out for a contract after being franchised. That's not good news, considering that running backs have a dubious track record in such a situation. See Johnson, Chris. If Forte receives a new contract before training camp, I'll move him up these rankings. Just keep in mind that the Bears brought in Michael Bush to steal Forte's goal-line carries.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Stats: 990 rushing yards. 52 catches. 490 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
Projected 2010 Fantasy Points: 184. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 236.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs. Bye: 7. AUG. 12 UPDATE: Jamaal Charles looked explosive in the exhibition opener. He seemed to have all of his burst, and he was also able to carry some defenders and move the pile. Charles had just three carries for 12 yards to go along with an 11-yard reception, but Romeo Crennel was probably limiting his workload so he could save him for the regular season.
Jamaal Charles is one of many running backs coming off a torn knee ligament, but unlike Adrian Peterson or Rashard Mendenhall, Jamaal Charles suffered his early in the season, so he'll be ready by September. Still, it's difficult to trust any athlete in the first year after tearing an ACL.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 39 catches. 320 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Points: 184. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 223.
Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. Bye: 8. AUG. 26 UPDATE: Fred Jackson received most of the first-quarter work against the Steelers, including a goal-line carry, which he converted. Finishing with 34 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, Jackson was much more successful than C.J. Spiller, whose 10 yards on four attempts (including two yards of the Wildcat) were overshadowed by a lost fumble in the second quarter. Jackson will be the main back for the Bills, barring another injury.
AUG. 19 UPDATE: Buffalo's starting offense played four drives, and Fred Jackson was the featured running back on the first, third and fourth series. Jackson rushed for 27 yards on five carries and also caught three balls for 14 more yards. He was far more impressive than C.J. Spiller, who took an 8-yard rushing loss because he foolishly ran backward. Spiller had just two carries for minus-3 yards, which is good news for all Jackson fantasy owners. Jackson is still going to receive the majority of the touches in Buffalo's backfield.
JUNE 10 UPDATE: Those who believe C.J. Spiller is a legitimate threat to steal half of Fred Jackson's workload got some validation last week, as Chan Gailey raved about Spiller's improved blocking. Jackson will still be the No. 1 back, but it appears as though Spiller will definitely eat into his touches.
Fred Jackson was having an MVP-caliber season last year (1,376 total yards and a 5.5 YPC in 10 games) prior to fracturing his fibula. He's now completely healthy and ready to go. C.J. Spiller will take some more touches away, but Jackson is the clear-cut favorite to handle most of the workload.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Stats: 1,070 rushing yards. 40 catches. 350 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Points: 184. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 224.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers. Bye: 7. AUG. 10 UPDATE: As I posted on Twitter @walterfootball: "Ryan Mathews with a broken clavicle. Out for six weeks. Shocker. He's made out of glass."
Dating back to his years at Fresno State, Ryan Mathews has yet to prove that he can stay healthy for a whole season. He's likely to miss a few games and cause you grief with constant questionable and game-time-decision listings on the injury report. On a positive note, Mike Tolbert is gone, and Norv Turner told the media that he expects Mathews to have a "breakout, big-time year" this season. He'll do that if he stays healthy. IF, being the key.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Stats: 1,000 rushing yards. 44 catches. 350 receiving yards. 8 total TDs.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Points: 183. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 227.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants. Bye: 11. AUG. 25 UPDATE: I'm giving Ahmad Bradshaw a stock down because David Wilson was outstanding versus the Bears. Wilson will undoubtedly eat into Bradshaw's workload, but it's going to take an injury to the latter for Wilson to break into the starting lineup.
Brandon Jacobs is gone and Ahmad Bradshaw has yet to prove that he can handle the load all by himself, so it's no surprise that the Giants spent a first-round pick on a running back. This, however, could give us an opportunity to buy Bradshaw low. Barring injury, there's no way that David Wilson will take too many touches away from Bradshaw. Also keep in mind that Jacobs is no longer there to steal goal-line carries away from Bradshaw.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Stats: 1,010 rushing yards. 40 catches. 280 receiving yards. 9 total TDs.
Projected 2012 Fantasy Points: 183. Projected 2012 PPR Fantasy Points: 223.