Finding a ranking system that suits their franchise’s current position as either a contender or a builder is one of the challenges any owner in a dynasty league has.
Fantasy football players who excel in dynasty leagues have a commitment to building excellence. That requires much more than a simple set of rankings in a “one size fits all” category.
With that in mind, here are our top 15 running backs presented in two distinctly different categories.
Competing Team = Use these if you have a team competing to win a title in the next 2-3 years.
Rebuilding Team = Use these if you have a team rebuilding and not in contention in the near future.
COMPETING TEAM RANKINGS
His ball security issues are well chronicled, but he’s a threat for 2,000 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns every year, regardless of who may be the quarterback. He’s right in the middle of his best fantasy years and nobody would really argue if you valued him as the No. 1 player in all of fantasy. Last year’s totals of 1,383 yards and 18 touchdowns are likely the minimum of expectations from Peterson.
2. Chris Johnson, TEN
Ridiculous is the only word to describe his 2009 breakout season. Nobody could have expected the 2,006 rushing yards, 503 receiving yards and sixteen total touchdowns he produced last year. Johnson is an elite athlete with incredible quickness, speed and instincts. He’s a threat to score from anywhere on the field and has shown to be incredibly durable, despite his size.
Johnson is an easy candidate to be the No. 1 pick in startup dynasty leagues. You could question if he has the ability to produce those kind of numbers again after carrying the ball 358 times last season, but you’re just reaching if you do.
Fact is, he’s one of the most dynamic weapons in the NFL and an absolute rock to build around in dynasty leagues.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX
MJD finished fourth in the NFL with 1,391 rushing yards, and was second in the league with 15 rushing touchdowns. Add 374 receiving yards and you have the definition of an elite fantasy performer.
There were questions about MJD’s ability to hold up through an entire season without Fred Taylor, but he answered the bell with a fury. As a 25 year-old featured back, the sky’s the limit for “Pocket Hercules.”
Most dynasty league owners would take Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson or even Ray Rice ahead of him, but it looks like he’ll be in the discussion for fantasy MVP for several more years.
He’s a pillar to build around.
4. Ray Rice, BAL
Rice had a solid rookie season in 2008 when he produced 454 yards on just 107 carries, giving his dynasty league owners hope for the future. Rice blew all those expectations out of the water by posting 1,339 rushing yards, and seven touchdowns, to go along with an amazing 78 receptions for another 702 yards, and one score.
At just 23 years of age, Ray Rice is a premier commodity in dynasty leagues. He’s an easy selection in the top four of new dynasty drafts and is in the mix with Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, and Maurice Jones-Drew to be the No. 1 pick in those startups, especially those that reward points for receptions.
5. Frank Gore, SF
No matter how you slice it, the 49er offense runs through Gore.
He enjoyed his fourth straight 1,000 yard season as he posted 1,120 rushing yards and ten touchdowns in 2009.
You can pretty much come to expect some dominant performances and some missed games each season with him. He’s played in all 16 games just once in his career to this point. However, he’s right in the middle of his prime years and dynasty owners can expect two or three more great seasons.
6. Steven Jackson, STL
You really have to feel for Jackson.
He’s an absolute workhorse and one of the last remaining featured backs in the league. Unfortunately, he’ll be the focus of the opposing defense every week again this year. It’s actually pretty amazing he was able to produce 1,416 yards and four touchdowns on a team this inept offensively.
Put him on a team like the Patriots or the Colts and you have a player who could easily lead all of fantasy in scoring. It’s simply not going to happen in St. Louis, though.
Considering the fact he’ll be 27 by the beginning of the season, it’s time to consider him a player you only want if you feel you’re competing for a league title now. If you’re not, he’s a sell candidate in dynasty leagues.
7. DeAngelo Williams, CAR
This is likely one of the last few years where Williams is ranked this highly. Normally, the committee approach diminishes the value of RBs. While it certainly has tempered some expectations for Williams, the boost Jonathan Stewart has given the Panthers has likely extended his career.
If he stays in Carolina long-term, I’d expect at least two or three more very productive seasons. Dynasty owners would be thrilled for a repeat performance of 1,117 yards and 7 TDs.
8. Michael Turner, ATL
In our opinion, Turner is going too high in dynasty drafts. While he did have a monster season in 2008, he’s 28 years old and the days of 376 carries in a season are all but over. Many people believe he has a lot left in the tank since he was never relied on to carry a full load, but I see a 28 year old who broke down after being overworked.
Turner’s a great guy to have if you’re a competing team, but not as a No. 1 RB to build around anymore.
9. Jamaal Charles, KC
Charles exploded onto the scene with 1,120 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on just 190 carries in 2009. Couple that with another 300 yards receiving on 40 catches and you have the definition of a breakout season.
There are some questions about his long-term durability, but make no mistake he’s a permanent fixture on the dynasty landscape. The addition of Thomas Jones brings to question the expected workload for Charles, but he’s simply too talented to keep off the field.
Just remember, we were saying the same thing about Chris Johnson and his anticipated number of carries before last season. Charles is a borderline first round pick in dynasty leagues.
10. Chris Wells, ARI
Wells should be the biggest beneficiary of the Warner retirement. Coach Whisenhunt had to adjust his offensive philosophy to cater to Warner’s strengths of late, but he’d prefer to have a team that’s run oriented first. The staff will want to protect Leinart to build his confidence and that means a heavy load for Wells. While his durability is a concern, he’s obviously much more talented than Tim Hightower. Wells should flirt with his first 1,000 yard season and double digit scores.
11. Ryan Mathews, SD
Dynasty league owners rejoiced when the Chargers traded up to select Mathews in the NFL Draft. As one of the few featured backs in the league, he immediately becomes the consensus No. 1 pick in rookie only dynasty drafts and a borderline first rounder in startup dynasty leagues. While that may seem pretty risky for a rookie, his situation and commitment from the coaching staff couldn’t be better. Combine that with an explosive offense that doesn’t allow defenses to stack the box against their runners and you have a star in waiting.
12. Jonathan Stewart, CAR
“The Daily Show” showed what he could do as a featured back when he had 440 yards and 3 TDs in the last three games of 2009. For the season, he led Carolina with 1,133 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs, with a yards per carry average of over five.
The sky’s the limit for him, especially when you consider there will most likely be a time where Williams is no longer in his way. Stewart looks the part of a future No. 1 RB and you can’t help but compare the Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson situation a few years back to this one between Stewart and Williams.
Given the chance, Stewart is ready to explode.
13. Shonn Greene, NYJ
If you don’t know who Greene is, you will very soon.
You may not be impressed with his 540 yards and two touchdowns from the regular season, but you should be with his 304 yard and two touchdown performance from the playoffs.
Greene was good enough for the Jets to let an excellent running back in Thomas Jones go to Kansas City. Don’t let the Tomlinson signing fool you, either. Shonn Greene has a golden opportunity to vault himself into a No. 1 dynasty league running back this season.
He’s an easy high second round pick in startup dynasty league drafts this season and a long-term gem not to trade away.
14. Knowshon Moreno, DEN
Dynasty league owners simply wanted more from last season’s consensus No. 1 pick in rookie drafts. His 947 yards and seven touchdowns were decent, but his 3.8 yards per carry average was pretty disappointing. After displaying explosive ability at Georgia, Moreno’s longest run was only 36 yards and longest reception went for just 27. Dynasty owners expect a much better showing as Moreno should return to shoulder a big load this year.
15. Rashard Mendenhall, PIT
Mendenhall’s rookie season was a total mess. He barely played, and seemingly fumbled every time he touched the ball before being wiped out for the season by Ray Lewis. The 58 yards he produced in 2008 were simply a disaster compared to the lofty expectations the Steelers had for him.
Last year was a completely different story as Mendenhall finally showed the skills that made him a first round pick out of Illinois. He finished a very impressive season with 1,108 yards, and seven rushing touchdowns to go along with another 261 receiving yards, and one more score. Dynasty owners breathed a big sigh of relief as he showed much promise.
There are concerns about the way he seemingly wore down last season, but that was likely a delayed version of the rookie wall since it was his first legitimate complete season as an NFL runner.
Mendenhall has a lot of promise as a No. 2 running back in dynasty leagues, with the talent and situation to vault into a No. 1 option at some point.
REBUILDING TEAM RANKINGS
1. Adrian Peterson, MIN
2. Chris Johnson, TEN
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX
4. Ray Rice, BAL
5. Jamaal Charles, KC
6. Chris Wells, ARI
7. Jonathan Stewart, CAR
8. Shonn Greene, NYJ
9. Knowshon Moreno, DEN
10. Rashard Mendenhall, PIT
11. Ryan Mathews, SD
12. DeAngelo Williams, CAR
13. Frank Gore, SF
14. LeSean McCoy, PHI
With Westbrook officially out of the fold, it’s time for McCoy to rise to fantasy stardom. He needs to improve on his 4.1 yards per carry average, but his 40 receptions show he’s a multi-dimensional weapon for the Eagles. It’s his team now and he has a chance to burst onto the scene in a big way as defenses turn their attention to Maclin and Jackson. McCoy is currently going too low in dynasty drafts, as he’s already a quality No. 2 RB. There aren’t too many players out there who could be drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round of dynasty drafts and become a future top-10 player. I believe McCoy could be one of them, though.
15. Jahvid Best, DET
Best may very well become the new BFF of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The selection of Best should give the offense a much needed home run weapon outside of Johnson. The injury concerns are prominent, but so is his enormous talent. This offense has lacked explosion in the running game since a certain Oklahoma State star was roaming the backfield. While Best is certainly no Barry Sanders, he’s no James Stewart, either.
Best should be taken no later than 3rd in rookie drafts this Summer and could very well end the season in the top twenty in running back scoring.
For further explanation on the difference between the two sets of rankings,click here.