Edition One: Running Back Rankings

They endure the rigorous beating by going through the grind it out motions of tackle football. A running back knows they’re going to belted eventually, but they feel they can outrun, twist, angle, and maneuver their way to the end zone on every play. That’s exactly the type of mentality a running back needs, and is what fantasy owner’s love. Sure, those forty, fifty, and sixty yard runs don’t happen like home runs do in baseball, but when they do the adrenaline of that run can be felt throughout a team for the rest of a game. It’s game changing, and that’s what running backs do. They control the pace and strategy of a game. If they are ineffective a coach has to change the team over to a one-dimensional passing attack, and vice versa the game can riot into a free for all pick your poison laugh fest for a team.

With that in mind, lets break down our June rankings.

1. Ladainian Tomlinson
Blistering speed that exemplifies the bolts of lightning on Tomlinson’s helmet and shoulder pads. He possesses unique skills that are similar to Barry Sanders, and who knows he may reach the level of Sanders. Since he entered the league he has been unstoppable, and has catapulted the Chargers into contenders. He does it out of the backfield as well, and that’s always a plus. His overall numbers did drop slightly last year, and part of that had to do with him playing through injuries. This year will be different and expect Tomlinson to have a potential career year.

2. Priest Holmes
The limitations of Holmes shortened season still couldn’t leave fantasy owners totally down. He did a great job in nine games he played, but left owners to dry in the crunch time of their seasons. Injuries are a part of the game, and there is nothing that can be done to stop that. Holmes long strides and glides are what separate him, and all of the people worried about Larry Johnson better wake up. Johnson doesn’t even show up on an imperative scale of equality when compared to Holmes.

3. Jamal Lewis
To describe Lewis you could say he looks like a bulldozer with extreme speed. His stint in prison supposedly enlightened his mind, and his outlook is even stronger about life. That’s a plus, and he spent the majority of time in prison bulking up. Shredding tacklers has never been a problem, and Lewis looks to be headed for a stellar season.

4. Shaun Alexander
Regardless of where Alexander is on opening day, whomever the team is will be pleased. His style and size is similar to a blend of Earl Campbell and Terry Allen. In the past three seasons Alexander’s yards per carry have risen by .4, and his overall rushing numbers have gone up by 200 yards or more.

5. Clinton Portis
Disregard his inaugural season with Washington. The team never functioned offensively, therefore couldn’t regroup when they fell on their feet. Everything stat wise for Portis was down, but that was last year. This is a different chapter, and Portis is too good to only average 3.8 ypc.

6. Willis McGahee
Saddle up fantasy owners, as McGahee is a sure fire work horse. The Bills gave McGahee 25 carries plus several times last season, and will give him a full load this season. He is like Pac-Man for the end zone, as he is going to gnaw his way in. His marquee season was done without the month of September, so he has four more complete games to pad stats on.

7. Ahman Green
Fumbling is the biggest drawback with Green, as the penalty is ill affordable in fantasy leagues. He does it often, and it partly has to do with his style of only running with the football in his left arm. That tendency was exposed often last year, as defenders were able to swipe the ball with ease. It’s an easy target, but first you have to get near Green to even attempt. He is a great gap shooter that turns it uphill and down the sideline with the best. His overall proficiency dropped immensely from 2003 to 2004, but was similar to his 2002 stats. For 2005, I’d expect the mean of last year and the year before to be around the ball park of Green’s season.

8. Deuce McAllister
McAllister’s production slacked a bit last season because of missing the majority of September. He was a catalyst in the Saints fighting attempt to get a bid in the playoffs, but they came just short. Since he has been in the league he has been a consistent top ten back. Until he has a season where he proves otherwise than his nomination will be continuous.

9. Curtis Martin
Martin showed a lot of heart, and shocked a lot of people with his flashback 2004 season. Just because he has aged a bit it was an automatic assumption that he would be pushed out by Lamont Jordan. The Jets drafted Jordan with all hints at him being the future back. It just so happened that Martin never stopped working hard, and the Jets were so impressed that they let Jordan go. One of the main reasons why Martin has been able to stay at his high level is because of his great offensive line. His line has helped him avoid the initial hits that a lot of running backs get at the line of scrimmage. The situation is very similar to what Emmitt Smith had in Dallas, and is going to be why Martin has a prolonged career.

10. Edgerrin James
Being in the Colts prolific offense would make any running back look beyond average. James level has deteriorated just a bit, but he still flourishes every week. This will likely be the last year he remains a top ten back, as his one-year tender agreement with the Colts will likely be his last contract with the Colts. So fantasy owners better gobble up this situation, because his numbers will warrant him a fat contract in the off-season and disappointment fantasy owners in 2006.

11. Kevin Jones
Jones is about to skyrocket up the rankings as he may have the most upside of any back. He is like an early careered Marshall Faulk, and proved his worth with 906 rushing yards in the last eight games of the season. Those were done quietly with a poor passing game. Flip flop that statement because he is going to make big noise, and the Lions will have a quarterback that can play whether it’s Joey Harrington turning it around or by the insertion of Jeff Garcia.

12. Domanick Davis
Has turned nay sayers views two fold, and is now set to enter the elite along with his Houston Texans team. Don’t let Davis’s scatback features mislead you, as he can take punishment between the tackles. This isn’t a Napolean Kaufman who is going to tease for a stint of four to five years and then fade off the map.

13. Corey Dillon
How much longer can Dillon do it? It seems like wearing down is inevitable for Dillon but it hasn’t happened. He continues to carry the load without letting physical abuse get to him. He had a slight injury that affecting him a little bit last year, but for the most part the change over to New England was a big improvement. He was out of the ugly shadow in Cincinnati, and it seemed to fuel a different type of energy in Dillon.

14. Julius Jones
For a minute the Cowboys and Bill Parcells were so pretentious that Julius Jones was going to turn around there season, that they felt they had to believe in Vinny Testaverde. Testaverde really hurt the Cowboys more than he helped, and yet Jones still was unstoppable. Just like the other youngster in Kevin Jones, the upside for Julius is tremendous. For dynasty league rankings he has to rank in the top five.

15. Steven Jackson
It takes a true man to bow down to another, especially when you’ve marked your territory in the NFL for ten years. Faulk saw the raw ability of Jackson last year, and realized he had to make the right conscious decision in letting Jackson get more playing time. Jackson is a monster at eating up yards and is aggressive at the same time. If he can add a little patience to his style, than there is no telling the barrier for this kid.

16. Fred Taylor
A lot of people love to harp on Taylor’s injury problems. In all actuality though he has only missed two games in the last three seasons. Those two games were the last two of last season. There are still lingering questions on if and when he’ll recover from the injury, but there is no reason yet to believe he won’t be ready for the 2005 season. He missed the end zone last season, but is still one of the league’s best in the open field.

17. Rudi Johnson
Hesitant fantasy owners were saying more the word shoot by letting Johnson slip. An obscenity here or there was probably made, but now Johnson’s status is secure. Still, now that he has job security the contract year worries are put aside. Will he continue to produce, or will his numbers start to slide until he is fades into obscurity. The $12 million in guaranteed money just scares me.

18. Tiki Barber
The motto of “Thunder and Lightning” has been long gone with the association of Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber. Barber has remained and kept the lightning alive. For a minute last season Barber soared as the league’s best back. Then the struggles of rookie Eli Manning halted what was going to be a franchise year. He still needs to learn to hold onto the football better, but his skills can’t be questioned.

19. Carnell Williams
The vast changes within the Buccaneers organization has reshaped with the quickness. Carnell Williams will be able to step into an offense that actually has a heart beat. Like most rookies he may struggle early, but the good thing about rookies is they don’t burn out. He’ll take his licks and have a strong second half stretch.

20. Brian Westbrook
Now that he is in the fold, the Eagles can figure out if he is where they want to go with their future. He isn’t the norm for an NFL running back, and that’s a big concern. There is no question he is a threat but an every down back for sixteen games is another.

21. Tatum Bell
He gets to play in the dramatized Bronco system, and if he can’t do it there is a full list behind him. Bell got some playing time last year and looked solid, but he’ll need to be able to do more than that to keep Clarett on the bench.

22. DeShaun Foster
Foster was set to take over last year before going down with his shoulder injury, and is probably the biggest sleeper among running backs. Stephen Davis’s career is dwindling down. Even if he does return he’ll be in the backseat as Foster will be the main driver.

23. Travis Henry
Right now the tag on Travis Henry’s job occupation says Buffalo Bills. That won’t be the case in a few months, and if it is Buffalo is really being stubborn about the situation. Henry wants out, and depending on the team he lands on could shoot up five to seven spots.

24. Lamont Jordan
It’s his show finally, but will it be a quick pilot that gets cancelled or will it be a love affair? Jordan has been able to sit back and watch one of the best running backs ever, and hopefully he soaked some of those skills in.

25. Chris Brown
There are serious questions on Brown’s recovery, so draft him as a questionable second running back. Whomever is Tennessee’s running back is going to face a tough challenge, as the grass is going to be a familiar site and it’s not going to be the end zone.

26. Michael Bennett
Bennett is the consensus starter in Minnesota after Onterrio Smith lost the job by default of stupidity. Bennett is a blazing blur with the ball, and accelerates with a different gear. If he can add the ability to find the end zone to his game than he could position himself in the top twelve.

27. Warrick Dunn
The DVD returns for volume four and hopes that this seasons ratings turn out to be the best yet. Dunn did his part last year before injuries derailed him, and he even found the end zone more than usual. The main concern with Dunn, is that the Falcons equally utilize him and TJ Duckett. Neither will ever be able to make a firm stamp as a consistent back, because they aren’t going to get twenty carries a game.

28. Cedric Benson
Thomas Jones feels that he hasn’t lost his job yet, but that happened when the Bears went to the podium on draft day. Benson can add what Anthony Thomas was supposed to, and should have a average first year.

29. Ronnie Brown
The Ricky Williams talk is probably a good thing for Brown. Once Williams finally comes to Dolphins training camp, all the attention will be on Williams. The Dolphins know full well that they aren’t going to use Williams that much, and he is going to be more of a placebo used against other teams. Brown was phenomenal at Auburn and the future for him is going to surpass the first five years of Ricky.

30. Kevan Barlow
Barlow is a top fifteen back on the worst team in the NFL, and therefore he’ll suffer. The 49ers recently got in trouble for an inappropriate video showed to athletes, and will get booed out of stadiums all season long. Draft Barlow as a third running back to plug in for bye weeks.

31. JJ Arrington
A quest to reach the backfield doesn’t want to be done by a Shipp in JJ Arrington’s case. Dennis Green says it will be an all out battle between Marcel and JJ, and it’s tough to say who will come out on top. Arrington seems to fit the Cardinals system better, but Shipp has also been versatile in his career.

32. Lee Suggs
He gave fantasy football owners a quick bite at the end of last season, but who wants to take one bite in a sandwich? Suggs may have finished the last three games with 100 yard games, but is still in testing waters. When you try a sample at a store, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to buy the product.

33. Duce Staley
Both Staley and Bettis need each other as both have been battered and bruised too much during their careers. It’s amazing both have been able to continue. You never know which back is going to get the carries or who is going to score the touchdowns. The only time you for sure now is when one or the other is out with an injury. The Steelers do like to run the football a lot though, and will rub off on both.

34. TJ Duckett
One game last season summed up Duckett’s fantasy value. He found the end zone four times against the Raiders, and besides that shouldn’t have been posted on anyone’s starting lineup. Of course it’s not his fault, as when you only get 104 carries you aren’t getting a fair opportunity. Eventually the Falcons will render Duckett more looks, but until then an owner has to sit him on their bench.

35. Marcel Shipp
He has always been the under dog. He wasn’t even drafted out of college, and withstood Thomas Jones. If Shipp didn’t go down last season the Cardinals may have had an answer to if they needed a running back. It happened though, and now he once again has to play like an undrafted rookie free agent.

36. Marshall Faulk
A third down back will be Faulk’s new major role, but don’t be shocked if he ends up being in receiver formations. Either that or the Rams use a duo backfield with Faulk and Jackson to confuse the defense. Faulk still has a lot of talent left, and the Rams aren’t going to let him sit dry on the bench.

37. Ricky Williams
He abandoned his team and still wants to come back. You really have to wonder what state William’s mind is in right now. His antics have been childish and he owes an entire franchise an apology. It’ll take hard work to earn trust back, and if Williams is truly set on a come back than he must be determined.

38. Michael Pittman
Pittman has the biggest set of guns in the NFL, and has been a durable back because of his off the field problems. He has lost the faith of a lot of coaches by continually getting into trouble off the field, and they have haunted his football development.

39. Najeh Davenport
Over the last three seasons he has averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and seems to be poised to be a feature back. All it takes is one break, and Davenport just hasn’t got that chance yet. That opportunity may have to wait until the end of this season when he is a free agent.

40. Dominic Rhodes
Filling the void has been an easy process when needed for Rhodes. James has been able to stay in the lineup lately, but Rhodes still gets some looks to showcase his change of pace features. When a back is in this type of prolific offense, you’re just a blink away from being called up. Rhodes could be a starter on many teams, and may be the Colts starter a year from now.

Best of The Rest

41. Larry Johnson
42. Jerome Bettis
43. Stephen Davis
44. Correll Buckhalter
45. Thomas Jones
46. Greg Jones
47. Maurice Clarett
48. Chester Taylor
49. William Green
50. Mewelde Moore


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