In our top 10 fantasy running backs, you'll find record-setting runners and a couple of little big men. But who's Number 1? Read on to find out...
1. Chris Johnson, Titans
Johnson may not match his 2009 statistics, but who could? In his second NFL season, Johnson set the single-season record for yards from scrimmage (2,509 yards) and became the sixth player to ever rush for 2,000-plus yards in a season.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
Jones-Drew will continue to carry a huge load for the Jags—only Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson had more touches last season. MJD is not only one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL, but also amazing in short yardage. He has a great chance at leading the league in touchdowns.
3. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
The good news is that, if Brett Favre doesn’t come back, the Vikings should go to the ground game even more often. The bad news is that good Peterson is still battling fumbling problems, and Minnesota drafted Toby Gerhart to take some of his workload. Good ‘ol Stinky Pete will still be great, but I’m not sure if he can take the top spot.
4. Ray Rice, Ravens
He’s the best pass-catching back in the NFL, and Rice will continue to break off a ton of big plays. There are two problems though: Because Rice is on the small side (5’ 8”, 205 pounds), the Ravens don’t want to give him the same giant workload of the other top running backs. And they often give goal line carries to Willis McGahee instead of Rice, costing him touchdowns.
5. Frank Gore, 49ers
Gore was banged up a bit last season, but the Niners are set to rely heavily on their star runner anyway. They play a very soft schedule, so Gore could put up huge numbers if he can stay healthy this season.
6. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
Mendenhall lit it up after taking the starting job from Willie Parker last October. During his 13 games as Pittsburgh’s starter, he was sixth in the NFL in scrimmage yards per game. He’ll also get tons of carries while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first part of the season. The big question is whether he gets the goal line carries for the Steelers. If he does, Mendenhall could end up being one of fantasy football’s top five backs.
7. Cedric Benson, Bengals
The Bengals pumped of their receiving corps with Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant. So how does that help Benson? Because now defenses will be back on their heels to stop the Cincy passing game, allowing Benson more room to run. Benson had 1,251 rushing yards last year, eighth most in the NFL, despite missing three games with a knee injury. In fact, only Chris Johnson averaged more rushing yards per game than Benson.
8. Steven Jackson, Rams
Jackson is always among the league leaders in yards from scrimmage, as the Rams use him as a receiver as well as a runner. The problem is that teams will continue to focus on stopping Jackson, especially if rookie Sam Bradford is the St. Louis quarterback. And the Rams often don’t move the ball into scoring position often enough for Jackson to get a lot of touchdowns.
9. Michael Turner, Falcons
Turner was hampered by a serious ankle injury for most of last season, but he’s 100 percent healthy again and ready to run over defenders like he did in 2008 (when he was second in the NFL with 1,699 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns). However, the problem with Turner is that he almost never gets catches, which keeps his total yards a bit lower.
10. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Charles blew up in the second half of last season. The speedster tore through defenses for 1,126 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns over his final eight games, including 259 rushing yards in Denver in the season finale. Charles might end up splitting time with Thomas Jones early in the season, but expect him to eventually take over as K.C.’s No. 1 runner. Considering the Chiefs have the NFL’s easiest schedule as far as opposing run defenses, Charles could end up challenging for the top spot on this list.