Carries and red-zone attempts are key to RB success

Success on the field and in fantasy football is based on opportunities. The more times a player touches the football, the better chance he has to rack up statistics and produce for your fantasy team. That's especially important at the running back position, as numerous teams have moved away from the featured back and switched to committees. With that said, here's NFL.com's look at which backs saw the greatest number of their team's carries last season, which runners saw the most opportunities in the red zone, and what fantasy owners can expect from these players in 2011.

Percentage of total team carries

1. Chris Johnson, Titans (77.8 percent): CJ2K proved to be the most featured back in the league last year, seeing nearly 80 percent of all Titans carries. That won't change in 2010, as he'll continue to be the bell cow for coach Mike Munchak. There's no reason Johnson shouldn't be one of the top three picks in drafts.

2. Arian Foster, Texans (77.3 percent): The highest-scoring fantasy player in 2010, Foster was a statistical superstar. Not only did he see a high percentage of carries, but he also finished with 66 receptions. The return of Ben Tate could put a dent in his overall touches this season, but Foster still warrants a top-five pick.

3. Steven Jackson (76.9 percent): Jackson has been the Rams' bell cow for several seasons, and that's not likely to change under new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. In fact, Jackson could see more touches as a receiver out of the backfield. While his workload makes Jackson attractive for owners, the fact that he's averaged just five touchdowns since 2009 makes him more of a high-end No. 2 back.

4. Cedric Benson, Bengals (75 percent): Despite the fact that he saw a large chunk of the Bengals' carries, Benson still finished outside of the top 15 among fantasy running backs. New OC Jay Gruden wants to establish the run, though, and Benson looks likely to remain the top option. So while he doesn't have much upside, Benson is still a No. 2 option.

5. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (68.7 percent):  Mendenhall made a tremendous impact last season, rushing for a career-best 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns. He'll remain the featured option for coach Mike Tomlin, who isn't a fan of backfield committees, so Mendenhall will be worth a first-round choice in the most fantasy drafts.

6. Michael Turner, Falcons (67.2 percent): The Burner lost some playing time to Jason Snelling in passing situations, but he still toted the rock close to 70 percent of the time for the Falcons. He'll continue to see the majority of his team's carries in 2011, and a favorable schedule makes him a viable No. 1 running back in most leagues.

7. Peyton Hillis, Browns (65.3 percent): One of the biggest sleepers of last season, Hillis recorded 270 carries and an impressive 66 receptions as the Browns' bell cow. However, new coach Pat Shurmur has already hinted that a backfield tandem with Hillis and Montario Hardesty is possible, so Hillis's numbers seem destined to fall.

8. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (64.1 percent): No surprise here, as Peterson is one of the few featured runners left in the NFL. He has seen his number of carries decline in each of the last three years, but A.D. has constantly been in the top five in fantasy points at his position. With a favorable schedule ahead, Peterson warrants the top overall pick in drafts.

9. Ray Rice, Ravens (62.7 percent): Rice wasn't nearly as consistent last season compared to his 2009 totals, but he did record a career-high 307 carries and became more of a featured back. Based on his versatile skill set, not to mention the release of Willis McGahee, Rice has a real chance to re-emerge into a top-five runner.

10. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (58.3 percent): "Pocket Hercules" would have seen a greater percentage of carries had he not missed the last two games with a knee ailment, but he was still the main option. Barring a setback in his return from offseason knee surgery, MJD will remain the Jaguars' offensive centerpiece and a first-rounder in drafts.

Running backs 11-20: 11. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (57.5 percent); 12. Matt Forte, Bears (57.2 percent); 13. Fred Jackson, Bills (55.3 percent); 14. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks (52.4 percent); 15. Frank Gore, 49ers (50.6 percent); 16. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots (50.4 percent); 17. LeSean McCoy, Eagles (48.3 percent); 18. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos (45.7 percent); 19. Brandon Jackson, Packers (45.1 percent); 20. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins (44.9 percent).

Total number of red-zone carries

1. Michael Turner, Falcons (68 carries): An impressive 20.3 percent of Turner's total carries came in the red zone, so it's no surprise that he scored double-digit touchdowns for the third straight season. He cashed in on 16.1 percent of his red-zone carries, finding the end zone 11 times.The Burner also finished second with 37 goal-to-go carries.

2. Arian Foster, Texans (66 carries): Much like Turner, Foster's red-zone carries made up more than 20 percent of his total rushing attempts. Overall, he scored a touchdown on 19.6 percent of those touches. Foster also led all running backs in goal-to-go carries with 38.

3. Cedric Benson, Bengals (56 carries): Benson scored a mere seven touchdowns despite being tied for seventh in goal-to-go carries. All of his scores came from the red zone, but he made good on just 12.5 percent of those 56 carries. That's a low rate considering his red-zone carries made up for 17.4 percent of his total attempts.

4. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (51 carries): Mendenhall's 324 carries last season, which was a career high, consisted of 51 attempts inside the red zone. That's not likely to decrease in 2011, making him a surefire No. 1 fantasy back. Of his 2010 red-zone carries, he scored on 21.5 percent of them. Mendenhall was also third in goal-to-go carries.

5. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots (50 carries): The Patriots' leading rusher last season, Green-Ellis saw 21.8 percent of his carries in the red zone. Of those touches, the Law Firm scored 24 percent of the time. Unfortunately, that percentage is likely to decline with the addition of rookie runners Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.

6. Chris Johnson, Titans (49 carries): Johnson, who has averaged 11.3 rushing touchdowns in his three NFL seasons, saw 316 carries in 2010 -- 15.5 percent of which came in the red zone. Of his red-zone attempts, he scored 16.3 percent of the time. He'll be in a good position to score double-digit touchdowns again this year.

7. Steven Jackson, Rams (46 carries): No one can argue that Jackson is the bell cow in St. Louis, but that hasn't equated to touchdowns. He's rushed for just 10 scores in the past two years, and 13.9 percent of his 2010 carries came in the red zone. Of his 46 red-zone carries, he scored just 8.6 percent of the time.

T-8. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (44 carries): Bradshaw saw 15.9 percent of his 2010 carries in the red zone last season. His teammate, Brandon Jacobs, had a higher percentage (17.0) of red-zone rushes, but Bradshaw rushed for just two fewer touchdowns. Overall, Bradshaw scored on 15.9 percent of his carries inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

T-8. Ray Rice, Ravens (44 carries): Rice didn't see a huge percentage (14.3) of red-zone carries last season, but he did see 18 more carries than McGahee. That's a step in the right direction for Rice's fantasy value moving forward. Overall, Rice scored on 11.3 percent of his red-zone rushing attempts. He also saw just 14 goal-to-go carries. 

10. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (42 carries): A touchdown machine over the last two years, Peterson has found the end zone a combined 31 times in that span, including 18 in 2009. Close to 15 percent of his rushing attempts last year came in the red zone, and Peterson cashed in on a solid 23.8 percent of those carries.

Running backs 11-20: 11. Mike Tolbert, Chargers (41 carries); T-12 Thomas Jones, Chiefs (40 carries); T-12. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (40 carries); T-14. Peyton Hillis, Browns (37 carries); T-14. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks (37 carries); 16. Matt Forte, Bears (33 carries); 17. LeSean McCoy, Eagles (32 carries); 18. Michael Bush, Raiders (31 carries); T-19. Fred Jackson, Bills (28 carries); T-19. Darren McFadden, Raiders (28 carries).

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com or tweet it at Michael_Fabiano!

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Gamepass_vert_web_r

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.