Are you ready for some fantasy football? Whether you are an agent, financial planner, or even an NFL player yourself, you are most likely going to be fielding a team this year. Our resident football analyst, Brandon Thorn, will be churning out posts to help you make your picks leading up to the start of the 2009 NFL season. Every post will include his top 10 at a specific position along with his sleepers, who you should consider picking up in the late rounds. Thorn begins with the RBs below.
1. RB Adrian Peterson ~ Minnesota Vikings = Entering his 3rd season, Peterson is the best tailback in football and if he can improve his blocking he will be on the field even more. One of 5 players ever to rush for 3,000+ yards in his first two seasons, expect his first 1800+ yard season this year, he’s only 24 and still has room to improve.
2. RB Maurice Jones-Drew ~ Jacksonville Jaguars = Jones-Drew had down year last season rushing the football but posted career bests in receptions (62) and yards (565) while posting 14 total touchdowns, all with a depleted offensive line. With the selections of OT Eugene Monroe & OT Eben Britton, the signing of LT Tra Thomas, and RB Fred Taylor leaving town now is Jones-Drew’s time to shine. Expect 1,300+ yards on the ground with another 13-15 total touchdowns.
3. RB Matt Forte ~ Chicago Bears = Expect a lot more of the same from one of the most versatile backs in the league. As a rookie last season Forte posted 1,700+ total yards and 12 total touchdowns. With QB Jay Cutler coming in town there will be less attention on him and by all accounts these numbers will improve significantly.
4. RB DeAngelo Williams ~ Carolina Panthers = Williams hit his 3 year mark in the league last year and showed why he was one of the most decorated college football players in NCAA history while at Memphis. He averaged an amazing 5.5 yards a carry which was Barry Sanders like. He also had 18 rushing touchdowns alone, 20 total. Don’t expect the same touchdown numbers, but something very similar from this explosive, dynamic tailback.
5. RB Michael Turner ~ Atlanta Falcons = Atlanta’s offense and QB Matt Ryan’s success largely was credited to Turner’s consistency running the football. Matt Ryan will have more freedom in the offense this year which could take some touches away from Turner. Nonetheless, Turner had 1,600+ yards on the ground with a 4.5 average, which was very good. He isn’t a threat in the passing game what so ever (only 6 receptions last season) but will get you plenty of yardage and goal line carries.
6. RB Marion Barber ~ Dallas Cowboys = Marion the Barbarian would be the most intimidating back in football if it weren’t for RB Brandon Jacobs in N.Y. He battled through injuries last season and if healthy this year, which he should be, could be a guy who gets 15+ touchdowns on the ground alone. His pass catching ability is very underrated as well. He needs to limit his fumbles, but I think being healthy will quell a lot of his doubters.
7. RB Chris Johnson ~ Tennessee Titans = Johnson is blazing fast and a threat to score every time he touches the football. With his lack of size and the drafting of RB Javon Ringer, don’t expect more than 250 carries, but his average will be stellar like last year (4.9) and his touchdowns (9) should go up a couple as well.
8. RB Clinton Portis ~ Washington Redskins = “Pops” is still one of the best all-around backs in the NFL. Last season he had 1,700+ total yards and 9 touchdowns. The TD numbers should improve significantly. He will be 28 on September 1st, so he still has young enough legs to get another couple 1,500+ yard seasons on the ground and 10 plus touchdowns. I expect him to be the force that drives the Redskins team this season.
9. RB LaDainian Tomlinson ~ San Diego Chargers = LT had a down year last season yet still gained 1,500+ total yards and scored 12 touchdowns. This guy hardly ever fumbles, and I’m not buying he’s fallen off. His work ethic will take him into the hall of fame one day, as well as a 1,400+ year on the ground and at least 15 touchdowns.
10. RB Steve Slaton ~ Houston Texans = Slaton was a guy who never should’ve slipped in the 2008 NFL Draft. He was an incredible college player who is 5’9″ 203 with some of the best vision there is. He ran for 1,282 yards, caught 50 balls for 377 yards, and 10 total touchdowns in his rookie season. Expect all these numbers to go up this coming season.
1. RB Rashard Mendenhall ~ Pittsburgh Steelers = This guy seems to be an afterthought for the casual fan after LB Ray Lewis broke his leg early in the year last season with an absolute kill shot. This guy was a horse in college who will get the goal line carries in Pittsburgh, as well as half the carries. At 5’10 225, “Delicious” will have every opportunity to show why he was a first round draft pick in 2008 and I expect him to come through tenfold.
2. RB Knowshon Moreno ~ Denver Broncos = Under new Head Coach Josh McDaniels running backs will have a major role in the offense. Moreno is going to be used in every way imaginable, and with his versatility, explosiveness, hands, blocking ability, and agility he is not only my pick for OROY, but a 1,300+ total yards and 10+ touchdowns is well within reach for the rookie out of Georgia.
3. RB Larry Johnson ~ Kansas City Chiefs = Johnson is not much of a sleeper by many accounts, I am putting him on this list just as a reminder not to forget how great of a player he is, especially when happy. He has been quiet lately in his requests for a trade, and with a new QB, Head Coach, GM, and offense, the tailback will be counted on for yards as much as anybody. The new regime in KC could ignite this former back to back 1,700 yard rusher.
4. RB Michael Bush ~ Oakland Raiders = Bush is 6’1″ 245, and will be the primary goal line back in Oakland’s offense as well as the counterpart to RB Darren McFadden. Bush last season in spot duty had a 4.4 yard average on only 95 carries including a 27 carry 177 yd. 2 TD performance in week 17. His talent could go a long way in the NFL, and Oakland has one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in football, watch out for him and/or McFadden to burst onto the scene next season with a 1,000+ yards on the ground.