2011 fantasy running back rankings (1-15)

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Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports.

 

Minnesota Vikings

1. Adrian Peterson
(Auction: $36)
The NFL has become far more difficult to predict in recent seasons, so drafting a "sure thing" in the first round is more important than ever. That's why Peterson is the top player on NFL.com. He's the only runner to finish in the top five in fantasy points in each of the last four years, rushing for an average of 1,445 yards with a combined 54 touchdowns. Peterson has also proven to be a more effective option in the passing game over the last two seasons, and his upcoming schedule is one of the most favorable among running backs. Clearly, A.D. is the player to grab with the top spot. (Bye: Week 9)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1742
13
29
354
2
3


 

Tennessee Titans

2. Chris Johnson
(Auction: $35)
One of the most explosive running backs in the league, Johnson totaled 1,609 scrimmage yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010. Some considered that a "down" year, though, based on the beastly totals he recorded the previous season. Still, there aren't many runners with the explosion and playmaking ability that CJ2K possesses. He's a versatile athlete who can score any time he has the football, and a favorable 2011 schedule makes him a candidate to have another huge year. Johnson, who has now signed an extension with the Titans, will be worth a top-five pick in drafts. (Bye: Week 6)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1338
13
37
496
2
2


 

Houston Texans

3. Arian Foster
(Auction: $35)
Foster, a preseason sleeper on NFL.com in 2010, turned in one of the best statistical seasons from a running back. He led all players in fantasy points on the strength of his 66 receptions, 2,220 scrimmage yards and 18 total touchdowns. A perfect fit for the Texans zone-blocking scheme, Foster will continue to see a major role in the offense in 2011. Keep in mind, though, that the return of Ben Tate could put a small dent into Foster's touches. What's more, he's going to be hard pressed (like CJ2K) to duplicate his enormous 2010 totals. Still, Foster will be a top pick in drafts. (Bye: Week 11)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1584
14
30
328
0
18


 

Baltimore Ravens

4. Ray Rice
(Auction: $30)
Despite the fact that he rushed for a career-best 1,339 yards, Rice was still considered a disappointment in fantasy leagues last season. That had more to do with his lack of consistent production than his overall stats, as Rice recorded 13 or more fantasy points six times and produced close to 30 percent of his points in two games. Things should improve for Rice in 2011, though, as the Ravens will focus on improving their ground attack. He should also see more goal-line work even with Ricky Williams in the mix, so Rice is well worth a first-round pick in all fantasy football drafts. (Bye: Week 5)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1345
10
39
572
5
26


 

Kansas City Chiefs

5. Jamaal Charles
(Auction: $28)
Once tabbed a "poor man's Chris Johnson," Charles proved last season that he takes a backseat to no one. An explosive playmaker, he posted career highs in several categories including receptions, scrimmage yards and yards per carry. That came despite losing carries to Thomas Jones, who started 10 games. Though the offense will now be run through coordinator Bill Muir and not Charlie Weis, Charles should be in line for another season with close to 300 total touches. Though he has tough matchups against the Packers, Bears, Jets and Steelers, he's still a first-round selection. (Bye: Week 6)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1674
11
36
477
2
15


 

Philadelphia Eagles

6. LeSean McCoy
(Auction: $25)
In his first full season as the Eagles featured back, McCoy showcased the skills that made him the heir apparent to Brian Westbrook. He finished with career bests in almost every statistical category and led his position in receptions, which made him a top-three runner in PPR formats. McCoy was also consistent, scoring 13 or more fantasy points (standard leagues) in more than 50 percent of his games. While he'll never win a rushing title in coach Andy Reid's system, McCoy is a lock to put up solid reception and yardage totals. He's a strong No. 1 fantasy running back across the board. (Bye: Week 7)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1134
8
41
494
2
25


 

Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Rashard Mendenhall
(Auction: $25)
Mendenhall is coming off the best statistical season of his career, rushing for better than 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. He seemed to run harder and with more purpose, reminding many of the hard-hitting Steelers backs of yesteryear en route to finishing eighth in fantasy points at his position. Now the unquestioned bell cow for coach Mike Tomlin, Mendenhall's value has risen to new heights. While there is a consistent trend of Super Bowl losing backs experiencing decreased statistical success the following year, Mendenhall is still a lock to come off the board in Round 1. (Bye: Week 11)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1343
11
26
390
1
12


 

Oakland Raiders

8. Darren McFadden
(Auction: $24)
Despite missing three games due to injury, McFadden still put up career bests in most statistical categories while averaging 5.2 yards-per-game average in 2010. The Arkansas product is ultra-talented, versatile and can score any time he touches the football, but his problem is that he's spent a lot of time in the trainer's room. In three NFL seasons, he's missed a total of 10 games with a variety of ailments. That is the lone reason McFadden isn't ranked higher among running backs. A risk-reward pick in Round 1, he has the tools to be a top-five point scorer at his position in 2011. (Bye: Week 8)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1141
8
37
515
2
17


 

Jacksonville Jaguars

9. Maurice Jones-Drew
(Auction: $24)
Jones-Drew has proven to be one of the most versatile and productive running backs in the NFL. "Pocket Hercules," who himself plays fantasy football, put up 1,300-plus rushing yards for the second straight year in 2010. That came despite missing two games with a bum knee. Barring a setback in his return from meniscus surgery, Jones-Drew will remain the centerpiece of the Jaguars offense in 2011. The U.C.L.A. product could slide a few spots on draft day, as some owners might be wary of his knee, but he'll be no worse than a mid first-round selection in most drafts. (Bye: Week 9)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1288
12
42
469
3
22


 

San Francisco 49ers

10. Frank Gore
(Auction: $23)
Gore is one of the most productive running backs in the NFL, but he almost always misses time due to injuries. He was sidelined for the final five games of last season with an injured hip, and has now averaged just 13 starts over the last four years. Regardless, the fact that he's a featured back in an offense that will lean on him makes Gore valuable from a fantasy perspective. Furthermore, he has one of the easiest schedules among running backs in 2011. If he plays 14 or more games, which is a pretty big if, Gore can easily be a top-five fantasy running back moving forward. (Bye: Week 7)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1184
9
35
511
1
4


 

Atlanta Falcons

11. Michael Turner
(Auction: $23)
Turner returned to prominence in 2010, rushing for 1,371 yards and 12 touchdowns while finishing 11th in fantasy points among running backs. That's an impressive feat, especially when you consider that he scored a mere 8.9 points as a receiver. Turner, 29, hasn't seen a major career workload and isn't in danger of breaking down in an offense that will continue to lean on him. In fact, he's in a good spot to duplicate his 2010 totals based on what shapes up to be the easiest schedule among backs. He does lose some luster in PPR formats, but Turner is a No. 1 fantasy runner overall. (Bye: Week 8)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1074
12
30
275
1
1


 

Chicago Bears

12. Matt Forte
(Auction: $21)
A major disappointment for owners in 2009, Forte rebounded last season to finish 10th in fantasy points at his position. In fact, he was just 15 points shy of finishing in the top five. Coordinator Mike Martz shed his previous "Greatest Show on Turf" approach and created a more balanced offensive attack, which helped Forte produce even with Chester Taylor in the backfield. He'll continue to be a focal point of the offense, and facing one of the easiest 2011 schedules among runners will help him find success. Consider Forte a borderline No. 1 or 2 back with added value in PPR formats. (Bye: Week 8)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1011
6
32
379
4
5


 

St. Louis Rams

13. Steven Jackson
(Auction: $18)
Jackson has been a nice fantasy option during the last two seasons, averaging 1,328 rushing yards while also shedding his "injury prone" label. Unfortunately, the Rams offense hasn't allowed him many opportunities to score -- he's found the end zone 13 times in his last 37 games. On a positive note, the offense of Josh McDaniels promises to bring a far more exciting and productive system that will open more chances for Jackson to produce -- especially in the passing game. While he is no longer an elite option, Jackson can still be a very solid No. 2 fantasy runner for owners. (Bye: Week 5)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1051
8
36
353
3
21


 

Cleveland Browns

14. Peyton Hillis
(Auction: $17)
Outside of Michael Vick, there wasn't a better waiver-wire pickup than Hillis in 2010. He posted career bests in several categories and finished fourth in fantasy points at his position. Hillis seemed to break down as the year progressed, however, as he failed to score double-digit fantasy points in each of his final five games. A potential backfield committee now looms with Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty in the mix, so Hillis will be hard pressed to duplicate last year's success. Despite his recent numbers, Hillis should been seen as a No. 2 runner and worth a mid-round pick. (Bye: Week 5)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
984
6
16
357
0
28


 

New York Giants

15. Ahmad Bradshaw
(Auction: $17)
A major playmaker, Bradshaw has developed into a legitimate starter in fantasy land. He has seen his reception, scrimmage yard and touchdown totals increase in each of the last three years, culminating in a career season in 2010. While he is coming off ankle surgery for the second consecutive offseason, there's little reason to believe that Bradshaw won't continue to be a major offensive contributor for coach Tom Coughlin. He does lose some luster with Brandon Jacobs stealing goal-line work, but he'll remain a viable third or fourth-round selection in 2011. (Bye: Week 7)

2011 Projections
Rush Yds
Rush TDs
Rec
Rec Yds
Rec TDs
FPA rating
1244
7
35
421
2
16


Running backs 16-30