The running back position is the heart of any fantasy football team. You need a back that is going to give you lots of yardage and touchdowns. It’s an added bonus when you grab one who also catches the ball. That double threat is invaluable in fantasy leagues.
I don’t think there is any doubt that LaDainian Tomlinson is the only choice when talking about the league’s top back. What LT has done this early and often in his career is remarkable. And the impressive thing is that he is going to get better since he hasn’t hit his peak yet. Steven Jackson is as close to being a No. 1 back as there could be this season. Jackson has it all but as long as LT is playing, Jackson may have to settle for being the league’s second-best back.
After those two, I think the third through seventh is the next tier of backs, followed by eight through 10. Grabbing a top 10 back is imperative to any type of success you may have in your league.
Take a top back early and a capable second back as well. Don’t forget to handcuff your top back to his NFL backup to guard yourself against injuries.
(Projected yardage and touchdown totals in parentheses)
1. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers (1,850 yards, 26 touchdowns). The league MVP returns for what figures to be another MVP type season. LT eclipsed all expectations last year despite only having one 100-rushing game in the first six games of the season.
2. Steven Jackson, Rams (1,775, 17). Jackson put together a solid 2006 season, filling Marshall Faulk’s cleats admirably. Over 1,500 rushing yards and another 90 receptions for 800-plus receiving yards makes him a dual-purpose threat.
3. Shaun Alexander, Seahawks (1,500, 18). Alexander put together a tremendous 2005 season during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run. Things went downhill in ’06. He’s back and healthy and I’m optimistic he will put up nice numbers.
4. Rudi Johnson, Bengals (1,500, 13). Johnson puts up solid numbers but kind of gets lost in the shuffle. He’s the third star on his own team and gets overlooked, but Johnson is consistent and dependable.
5. Larry Johnson, Chiefs (1,500, 15). Johnson rushed for nearly 1,800 yards and finished with 19 total touchdowns in 2006 and was considered a disappointment. Expectations are tempered with Johnson still not in camp due to a contract dispute.
6. Frank Gore, 49ers (1,475, 12). Gore had a breakout sophomore season last yearm, falling five yards short of 1,700. With the 49ers on the rise, Gore is probably looking at a five- to six-year year run as a top back. Jump on and enjoy the ride.
7. Brian Westbrook, Eagles (1,470, 10). Another multi-purpose back that looks to build on 2006 numbers. Westbrook will continue to be the team’s feature back and receiver. His only knock has been injury issues.
8. Willie Parker, Steelers (1,400, 11). With Jerome Bettis retired, Parker built on his 2005 numbers last season. However, there is something to be said for consistency, with Parker rushing for less than 50 yards in five games.
9. Laurence Maroney, Patriots (1,375, 9). The departure of Corey Dillon means that Maroney becomes the feature back in his second season. He appears to be healthy and should be a solid performer.
10. Joseph Addai, Colts (1,325, 9). Another sophomore looking to build upon his rookie numbers in 2007. Addai had a terrific freshman year, breaking the 1,000-yard mark and getting a Super Bowl ring.
11. Edgerrin James, Cardinals (1,250, 11). James found the desert unappealing last season, finishing with his lowest rushing total since 2002. But, there is reason for optimism, with James breaking the 100-yard barrier in three of his last five games.
12. Reggie Bush, Saints (800 rushing, 800 receiving, 12). Bush is truly a multi-purpose back, sharing the backfield with a true runner in Deuce McAllister. Bush isn’t a first-tier back yet but he’s headed that way.
13. Willis McGahee, Ravens (1,200, 10). McGahee left Buffalo largely considered a disappointment. A change in scenery to running back friendly Baltimore could cure his ills.
14. Thomas Jones, Jets (1,200, 9). Jones should be able to flourish in the Jets’ system. He’s a solid back that puts up good numbers and catches the ball a bit as well. He is working through a hamstring injury but is expected to be ready for the season opener.
15. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins (1,190, 8). The 2006 Dolphins never got on track running or passing. But, a new offensive system from new head coach Cam Cameron is exactly what Brown needs.
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