With preseason games now underway, time for part two of our 2012 Fantasy Football Preview. Last week, James Morris examined the quarterbacks. Now he profiles the running backs:
1) Arian Foster: We start with the #1 player that should be taken in any fantasy draft format. He isn’t without risk as the Texans lost veteran RT Eric Winston and RG Mike Brisiel in free agency, but the zone-blocking scheme should guarantee continued success. I would take him #1 overall and not look back.
2) Chris Johnson: CJ2K burned fantasy owners last year and he is going to drop in drafts because of it. But not in my draft because I saw that the Titans brought in perennial Pro Bowl LG Steve Hutchinson from Minnesota to beef up the O-Line. I look for a big bounce-back year from Johnson this season.
3) LeSean McCoy: As with Vick, the O-Line is one of the best in the league, and McCoy got a new contract to boost his ego. The coaching staff has said that he was overworked last year (321 touches in 15 games), but I don’t see any way he gets fewer than 15 touches a game and 15-17 total TDs this year.
4) Ryan Mathews: Mike Tolbert left via FA, and Ronnie Brown (familiar face to Dolphins fans) comes in. We all know Brown and he is well past his prime, which means Mathews is going to see as many carries as his body will allow. Coach Norv Turner plans to give Mathews “everything he can handle” this season and I foresee 1,300 yards and 12 TDs in his future.
5) Ray Rice: Rice did miss some off-season practice time as he waited to sign his franchise tag, but the guy is as consistent as they come with touches. He plays all three downs and handles the goal-line carries, so I have no problems taking him as my RB1 this season.
6) Darren McFadden: The good news for Run DMC owners is that TD vulture Michael Bush left town. The bad news is that Hue Jackson’s creative play-calling is now a thing of the past. RBs get injured all the time, but McFadden has been slow to heal thus far in his career. That being said, he is still a difference maker on the field and this season I could see 1,300 yards and 10 TDs for those brave enough to take him.
7) Matt Forte: Matt Forte is one of the most underrated backs in the NFL in my opinion, but Michael Bush is going to do to his value what McFadden owners are all too familiar with. Those in PPR leagues will want to bump Forte up a spot or two, but standard scoring formats need to keep him right here since his TDs are going to be inconsistent this season.
8) Jamaal Charles: Charles is the only back in NFL history with a career per-carry average of 6.0+ on at least 150 carries. The problem there is that he tore his ACL, which means the speed and cuts he was used to making may never reappear. The addition of Peyton Hillis will help take the heat off him more than Thomas Jones did, but coming back from an ACL is never easy and there is plenty of risk there with Hillis around.
9) DeMarco Murray: The only two things that worry me about Murray are his injury history and Felix Jones still hanging around. Owner Jerry Jones has said that Murray is the starter, and given the Cowboys offensive upside, he has enormous fantasy upside. I have him as a low-end RB1, but I could see him leapfrogging Charles before the season is over.
10) Adrian Peterson: Now, let’s be honest and say that AP is the quintessential boom-or-bust pick this season. The knee is a major concern for me, but people around him and Vikings players are saying all the right things about him hitting the field in Week 1. There is a real risk here, and I don’t see him truly helping teams out until the second half of the season.
*Dolphins Fantasy RB Situation: Reggie Bush– The new coaching staff has visions of returning him to his “hybrid” receiver-runner role this season. And, the addition of the explosive Lamar Miller to go with a healthy Daniel Thomas, make Bush a borderline RB2/top tier flex option.
Honorable Mentions: Maurice Jones-Drew is still holding out, and the Jaguars brass is talking about how old he is and how he has lost some explosiveness. Rashad Jennings is an interesting flex option should MJD hold out into the season; Steven Jackson is going to be picked higher than he should, and I would let someone else take on the headache. The Rams are going to have a run-heavy, “smash mouth” style of football this season, so if you get Jackson, make sure you handcuff him with Isaiah Pead.
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