- Arian Foster, Texans
In 13 games last season Foster ran for 1,224 yards, caught for 617 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Foster has always been a big part of Houston‚Äôs passing game and he will continue his dominance in 2012. If he can stay on the field for all 16 games he should have no problem getting over 2,000 total yards. Foster will be the first RB taken in all fantasy drafts and deservingly so.
- LeSean¬†McCoy, Eagles
McCoy had over 1,600 total yards in 2011 with 20 total touchdowns. McCoy is capable of putting up big weekly numbers and doing it on a consistent basis. It will be tough for him to match his 20 TDs from last year, but he can definitely have more total yards and receptions.
- Ray Rice, Ravens
Rice went for over 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011. He also caught 76 passes out of the Raven backfield. Rice is the focal point of Baltimore‚Äôs offense and they will continue to get him as many touches as possible, either in the running game or passing game. Rice should be able to put up similar numbers this season and worthy of one of the top 3 runningbacks selected in fantasy drafts.
- Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews will enter the 2012 season not having to split time with departed Mike Tolbert (Panthers), and should be the Chargers every down back. Mathews averaged 4.9 yards while rushing for over 1,000 yards and caught 50 passes splitting time with Tolbert. If Mathews can stay healthy, and with his increase of touches he will get, Mathews can rush for 1,300 yards, have 60 plus receptions and score double digit touchdowns.
Update: Mathews could likely miss the first game or two of the regular season due to a broken Clavicle. He will likely drop into the second round now and could be a steal. The Chargers still believe that Mathews can carry the load for them and with the lack of a serious backup he will get that chance when he returns.
- Darren McFadden, Raiders
McFadden only played in 7 games in 2011 due to a Lisfranc injury. He seems to be fully healthy coming in to this season and he will be the Raiders‚Äô #1 offensive threat. With Michael Bush now in Chicago and if McFadden can stay healthy for a full season, he can put up huge fantasy numbers in 2012. McFadden has big play capability and good hands out of the backfield, which makes him another RB candidate who has a shot for 2,000 total yards and 10+ touchdowns.
- Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
Jones-Drew has been as solid a fantasy running back than just about anyone. He is by far the main threat in Jacksonville‚Äôs offense and should continue to be so. It may be a tough task for him to equal last season‚Äôs totals of 343 carries and 1,606 rushing yards, but between his rushing and receiving and likely chance to score at least 10 TDs, he will still be an elite fantasy RB.
- Trent Richardson, Browns
Richardson has all the tools to become an excellent NFL runningback as well as a big time fantasy RB. He will be the player in Cleveland that their team will be built around. Richardson should see a good amount of carries and be involved in the Brown‚Äôs passing game too. He should also be able to score between 7-10 touchdowns as a rookie.
Update: Richardson is questionable for the start of the regular season after having arthroscopic surgery to remove a tiny piece of cartilage in his knee. He is progressing well in his rehab and if he is not ready for the Browns opener he will drop a few spots in the draft.
- MarShawn¬†Lynch, Seahawks
Lynch had a breakout 2011 season, rushing for over 1,200 yards and scoring 13 total TDs. Lynch should be able to build off last season‚Äôs success and have another big fantasy year. Expect Lynch to also get involved more in the Seahawks‚Äô¬†passing game and improving on last season‚Äôs reception total of 28. Lynch is a rock solid RB1 coming into 2012.
- Matt Forte, Bears
In 12 games last year Forte had 997 rushing yards and 490 receiving yards on 52 catches. Forte may hold out in training camp, but he will be ready to go at the start of the season. The addition of Michael Bush will take away some of Forte‚Äôs touches and possibly touchdowns, but Forte will get enough chances in the running and passing game to put up great fantasy numbers on a weekly basis.
- Chris Johnson, Titans
Johnson had a down year in 2012 rushing for only 1,047 yards and 4 TDs. He also only averaged 4.0 yards per rush attempt, which was his lowest in his brief career. Johnson did have a nice season in the Titans‚Äô¬† passing game though, grabbing 57 passes for 418 yards. He can be back to being a fantasy stud in 2012 once again if he can get back to his big play capability. Expect Johnson to come up with a 1,300 yard rush season and score double digit touchdowns to go along with 50+ receptions.
11.¬† DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
Murray was a star in the making before his ankle injury ended his 2011 season. Murray had 885 rushing yards and averaged 5.5 yds per carry before he got hurt. He is also a very good pass catcher and the Cowboys will look to get him the ball through the air too. If Murray can come back strong and avoid injury he will put up numbers to warrant him a top 10 fantasy RB.
- Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Bradshaw will get the bulk of the carries this season with Brandon Jacobs moving on to San Francisco. With the playmakers the Giants have in the passing game, Bradshaw should find many holes in the running game. Look for Bradshaw to rush for 1,200+ yards and 10+ TDs this year. He is also a pretty good receiving RB, so Bradshaw could post more than the 34 receptions he had a year ago.
- Fred Jackson, Bills
In 10 games last year Jackson had 1,376 total yards and caught 39 passes. Jackson will be fully healed from his broken leg and should pick up right where he left off in 2011. Jackson may lose some touches to C.J. Spiller this year, as the Bills look to get him more involved in the offense, but Jackson will get plenty of touches to make him a solid RB2 in all fantasy formats.
- Steven Jackson, Rams
Jackson has always been a back to take a beating and keep pounding away, but it has to eventually catch up to him. Look for St. Louis to possibly lessen his workload this season, although he should still manage 20+ touches with his rushing and the role he plays in the Rams‚Äô passing game. Don‚Äôt expect Jackson‚Äôs TD total to get much higher since the Rams‚Äô red zone offense has been very poor. Count on Jackson as no better than a decent RB2 option.
- Darren¬†Sproles, Saints
Sproles had over 1,300 total yards, nine touchdowns and 86 receptions as a part time player in 2011. Playing in the Saints‚Äô offense and with their willingness to get him the ball makes it hard not to have Sproles in starting fantasy lineups especially in PPR leagues. Look for him to have similar numbers this season as a strong RB2.
- Michael Turner, Falcons
Michael Turner has always been a consistent fantasy starter. Turner can give you 300 carries, 1,300 rush yards and double digit touchdowns. Though he has given basically nothing in the passing game and that will continue. Turner could also be looking at a decrease in his usual production if the Falcons start going to the pass a little more this season and it‚Äôs possible with a maturing Matt Ryan and emerging star Julio Jones alongside Roddy White. Plus Atlanta will look to get RB Jacquizz Rodgers more touches in the offense. Maybe the time has come to pass on Turner in drafts and look for a RB who may have a bigger upside.
- Adrian Peterson, Vikings
Never thought we would see this fantasy stud so low in the rankings, but Peterson is coming off surgery after tearing ligaments in his knee after having a solid 12 games last year. Even if Peterson is ready to go there‚Äôs a good chance his normal workload will decrease. Peterson could be a risky draft pick and reaching Adrian Peterson like fantasy numbers won‚Äôt happen in 2012.
Update: Peterson is back practicing for the Vikings, but will not play in any preseason games. He is sure to be eased in the Vikings offense early in the season, but should once again be seeing the bulk of the work after a few weeks. Peterson could move up the draft ranks if he doesn’t have any setback before the season begins.
- Shonn¬†Greene, Jets
With the Jets figuring to give Greene the ball more often this season he should be able to hit the 1,200 rush yard mark. Greene had 30 catches last season and is also a good receiving option for Mark Sanchez out of the backfield. Greene may be a nice fantasy RB2 in 2012 with some good upside.
- Reggie Bush, Dolphins
Bush is coming off his first 1,000 yard rushing season of his NFL career. The Dolphins may not lean on Bush as much this year and try to get Daniel Thomas some more opportunities, but Bush will prove to be Miami‚Äôs best option with his big play ability and his sure hands catching passes. With the amount of touches he will get he can once again be worthy of being in fantasy lineups on a weekly basis as a RB2.
- Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Charles seems fully healed from his torn ACL injury. He can be one of the most dynamic players in the NFL if he can regain his previous form. You can count on Charles to make big plays for Kansas City and be active in their pass game. What hurts his value besides the injury question is the Chiefs addition of Peyton Hillis to the backfield. Hillis is guaranteed to take away some of Charles touches as well as goal line carries. Still Charles has good value and a high upside coming into the season.
- Roy¬†Helu, Redskins
Helu had a solid rookie season gaining over 1,000 total yards and grabbing 49 passes. He did most of his damage in the second half of the season when he took over as the starter. Helu will share touches in the Redskin backfield, but should still have enough opportunities weekly for him to make it into fantasy starting lineups.
Update: Helu is dealing with soreness in both Achilles’ tendons and with the depth in the Redskins’ backfield it’s beginning to look like Helu’s role could become less than originally expected. He is looking more like a RB3 than a RB2, so drop him down a bit in your rankings.
- BenJarvis¬†Green-Ellis, Bengals
Green-Ellis should be the primary ball carrier for the Bengals this year. He is a tough inside runner with a knack of getting into the end zone. He should be to be a 1,000 yard back with a chance to get 10 TDs for an improving Bengal offense.
- Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Wells is coming off knee surgery this off-season, but the Cardinals expect him to be ready. Wells rushed for 1,047 yard and 10 TDs in 2011, which is pretty much what you can expect from his this year. Just don‚Äôt expect much, if anything from Wells in the passing game.
- Frank Gore, 49ers
Gore comes off a 2011 season where he rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored eight touchdowns. The surprising thing was he only had 17 receptions when he had averaged 51 catches over the past 5 seasons. Gore now gets Brandon Jacobs to join him in the 49ers‚Äô¬†backfield along with Kendall Hunter, so Gore‚Äôs touches in 2012 looks like they will be reduced and he won‚Äôt be the guy the Niners would count on to carry the team. Gore will have a tough time putting up the fantasy numbers he has in the past which might make him a borderline RB2 this year.
- Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Martin may be the favorite to be the Bucs starter when the season begins, but even if he‚Äôs not he should definitely play an active role in Tampa Bay‚Äôs offense. Martin will be a solid RB3 with good upside as the season progresses.
- Peyton¬†Hillis, Chiefs
Now with the Chiefs, Peyton Hillis finds himself in a backfield that includes speedy Jamaal Charles. Hillis and Charles will make a great combo for the Chiefs as long as they can stay healthy. Hillis is a punishing runner and has good hands to go along with his power. He will get a good amount of touches sharing with Charles and will be Kansas City‚Äôs goal line back. Hillis is also a must handcuff if you‚Äôre a Jamaal Charles owner.
- Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Stewart had over 700 yards rushing, 400 yards receiving and a career high 47 receptions in 2011. Stewart put up these numbers while splitting time with DeAngelo Williams. He will not be a big touchdown producer with Cam Newton being the Panthers #1 option at the goal line and the addition of FB Mike Tolbert. Stewart won‚Äôt put up numbers better than he did last year so consider him as a RB3 or bye week replacement for 2012.
- Isaac Redman, Steelers
Redman will be the Steelers #1 runningback heading into 2012 with Rashard Mendenhall recovering from his torn ACL injury. Redman will get a good amount of touches and goal line chances to make him worthy of RB3 fantasy status.
- James Starks, Packers
Starks has the tools to be a¬† nice fantasy runningback, but playing in the Packers‚Äô offense doesn‚Äôt help his chances of putting up major fantasy numbers. Though Starks could do well with his 12-15 carries and a couple of catches each week, he probably won‚Äôt hit pay dirt often. Starks will put up average numbers each week for Green Bay, but probably not good enough for him to be in fantasy lineups on a consistent basis.
Update: Starks has been sidelined with Turf Toe. With the injury and the addition of Cedric Benson, Starks’ fantasy value has really taken a hit. The Packers seem pleased with what they will get from Benson and he may very well be the Green Bay RB with the most fantasy value. Move Starks down in the Rankings and consider him a risk on draft day.
- Donald Brown, Colts
Donald Brown could be a candidate for a good fantasy sleeper this year. With a rookie quarterback the Colts may look to their running game more in 2012. Brown rushed for over 600 yards with 5 TDs in limited play last season. He figures to get more a lot more touches this year and has the ability to become a good fantasy option. He is easily worthy of a RB3 rating with the upside of becoming a fantasy starter.
- Stevan¬†Ridley, Patriots
Ridley seems to be the #1 RB option in a great Patriots‚Äô¬†offense. Ridley will share some carries but should get the majority of the touches and should also be the Patriots‚Äô¬†goal line back. Consider Ridley a solid fantasy backup.
- DeAngelo¬†Williams, Panthers
Williams is an explosive back, he averaged 5.4 yards per carry last season while gaining 836 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. The problem is he will be in basically a 50/50 split with Jonathan Stewart and goal line chances will go to Stewart, Cam Newton and newly acquired Mike Tolbert. Williams will not make it into fantasy starting lineups, but should be on fantasy rosters as a RB3.
- Willis¬†McGahee, Broncos
McGahee rushed for just under 1,200 yards and had four rushing TDs in 2011. With Tim Tebow now in New York, McGahee has a chance to better his touchdown total. Though the Broncos will be a more balanced team now that Peyton Manning is the starting QB, expect McGahee to be a solid RB3 with a chance of cranking into fantasy starting lineups.
- C.J. Spiller, Bills
When Fred Jackson went down last year it gave Spiller a chance to show what he could do. He finished the season strong and finished with over 800 total yards and six TDs. The Bills will get Spiller more involved in the offense even with Jackson‚Äôs return and with his big play capability he could be a sleeper to keep an eye on this year.
- Michael Bush, Bears
Bush got the opportunity to start last year in Oakland when Darren McFadden got hurt. He showed he could be a starting NFL RB and a starting fantasy back too. Bush signed with the Bears this year and will be the backup once again with Matt Forte the Bears starter. He will get a handful of touches each week, but not enough to use as a fantasy RB. He is a must handcuff if you have Forte.
- Pierre Thomas, Saints
- Toby¬†Gerhart, Vikings
- Mikel¬†LeShoure, Lions
- LeGarrette¬†Blount, Buccaneers
- Mark Ingram, Saints
- Felix Jones, Cowboys
- Ben Tate, Texans
- Jahvid¬†Best, Lions
- Ryan Williams, Cardinals
- Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
- Tim Hightower, Redskins
- Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
- David Wilson, Giants
- Shane¬†Vereen, Patriots
- Rashard¬†Mendenhall, Steelers
- Bernard Scott, Bengals
- Montario¬†Hardesty, Browns
- Isaiah¬†Pead, Rams
- Brandon Jacobs, 49ers
- Evan¬†Royster, Redskins
- Kevin Smith, Lions
- Mike Tolbert, Panthers
- Jacquizz¬†Rodgers, Falcons
- Rashad¬†Jennings, Jaguars
- Cedric Benson, FA
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