With Fantasy Football Season rapidly approaching, now is the time to prepare for the draft! I have taken the time to enumerate the top 10 Fantasy Running Backs for the 2008 season. All of these RBs listed below are first or second round draft picks (depending on the size of the Fantasy league you participate in).
A brief disclaimer: a list like this does little to articulate the intricacies of Fantasy drafting. As Fantasy aficionados know, the drafting process can be a scrupulously arduous experience, especially given all the time spent researching picks and analyzing various scenarios, etc. Unfortunately this list does little to mitigate the complexity of the drafting process, so for that I offer a sincere apology. Furthermore, and in the same vein of its shortcomings, it fails to point out the potential impact players of the later rounds. Obviously, this is intentional, as the title suggest- Top 10 Fantasy Running Backs for 2008.
You may ask then: if it doesn’t do this and it doesn’t do that, what is the purpose of this list? Answer: to reinforce one of the basic principles of constructing a successful Fantasy Football franchise- build a firm foundation. And the best way to build a firm foundation is to select running backs with your first and second draft pick (if possible). Among all the metrics, statistics, anecdotes, and tips in Fantasyland, the most important one to remember is: running backs are the most consistent producers in every popular fantasy league (yahoo, ESPN, NFL.com, etc)! A healthy running back is your best friend in Fantasy Football.
So here is the Top 10 Fantasy Running Backs for 2008
1. LaDainian Tomlinson- LT is the paradigm of NFL running backs. He is extremely diligent, extremely focused, and extremely motivated. He is a sound number one pick because he is multi-dimensional as a player- not only did he rush for 1474 yards on 315 carries, not only did he have 475 receiving yards and 60 receptions, not only did he have 18 TDs (15 rushing and 3 receiving), but he had a 17 yard TD pass! LT can do it all and he will again in 2008.
2. Adrian Peterson- The explosive rookie made a huge impact in Fantasyland last season. Everyone expected him to be good, but no one expected him to be great (a great fantasy player at least). Peterson, despite battling a knee injury, missing several games, and splitting time with Chester Taylor, finished the season with 1341 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Look for him to be as explosive in 2008.
3. Brian Westbrook- Westbrook is the heart and soul of the eagles. Well, I guess there is a guy by the name of McNabb or something that helps out every now and then, but mainly it’s the Brian Westbrook show. Last year he had more receptions and receiving yards than any other running back in the NFL (90 receptions and 771 receiving yards). The Westbrook show will continue to rule airwaves in 2008.
4. Joesph Addai- Addai has consistency written all over him. Apart from a minor injury last season, Addai stacked up sizable numbers almost every week. He finished last season with just over a 1000 yards (1072), but had 12 rushing touchdowns. With the Colts dynamic offense returning pretty much intact in 2008, Addai will once again find himself in the red zone poised to punch it in.
5. Marion Barber- Although Barber split time with Julius Jones last season; he surely showed Dallas fans and the rest of the world that he was the predominant back on the squad. Aside from maybe Brandon Jacobs and little Maurice Jones-Drew, Barber steamrolled more NFL linebackers than any other running back in the league. How’d he do fantasy wise? Well, he finished the year with 10 rushing TDs, 975 rushing yards, 44 receptions, 282 receiving yards, and 2 receiving TDs. Not bad, but why is he number five? Answer: with Julius Jones gone Barber will take center stage. He will get more carries, more looks, and more opportunities in 2008 (even with the rookie RB Felix Jones joining the Dallas roster).
6. Marshawn Lynch- Lynch is the fulltime workhorse in Buffalo. Overshadowed by Peterson’s blowout rookie season, Lynch didn’t receive any accolades or hype for his impressively consistent performance. Look for him to emerge as one of the premier running backs in 2008.
7. Clinton Portis- A man who is slightly injury prone (maybe a huge understatement), but when he is on- he is one of the best in the business. Although he performed well last season and was 5th in fantasy points among running backs (1. LT, 2. Westbrook, 3. Addai, 4. Peterson, 5. Portis), I am reluctant to place him any higher than 7 in my ranking. We all know he will get injured this year, but unfortunately we cannot predict how debilitating the injury will be to both our respective fantasy teams and to the longevity of his career.
8. Ryan Grant- No matter what happens at the quarterback position- the aging veteran returns or the inexperienced dynamo gets his shot, look for the Packers to concentrate on running the ball. And Grant has undoubtedly shown he is the man for the job. He saw virtually no playing time for the first 7 weeks of the regular season, and then burst onto the scene solidifying his position as the Pack’s starting running back. He finished the season with almost 1000 yards rushing and 8 TDs.
9. Steven Jackson- Although Jackson was injured for approximately 4 weeks last season, he still managed to put up impressive Fantasy numbers (1002 rushing yards, 38 receptions, 6 TDs). Jackson I believe was the victim of circumstances: the terrible season the team had and the injury. Look for him to rebound in 2008.
10. Frank Gore- If Gore were on a better team I would place him higher on the list. He is a powerful runner and has proven over the past couple years that he can be an elite back in the NFL. Last year he finished 10th in points among Fantasy running backs, but look for him to improve in 2008.
There are several backs that were among the top 10 in Fantasy points last season that did not make my top 10 list this year. Most notably: Jamal Lewis (6th in points among running backs), Willis McGahee (8th in points among running backs), and Edgerrin James (9th in points among running backs). My confidence in these three backs is waning because I believe them to be collectively past their prime. I think all three have a chance to be productive backs in 2008, just not top 10 material.
Here are backs to watch out for and despite various circumstances could potential be a top 10 Fantasy running back: Earnest Graham, definitely on the bubble of the top 10 backs and in fact, nearly made the list; Maurice Jones-Drew, if he didn’t split time he would be a top 10 back, Willie Parker, should be a top 10 running back but his status is precarious due to injury; Darren McFadden, I guess we’ll see how this rookie performs in 2008; Laurence Maroney, if the Pats weren’t a pass first team he would have a shot; Ronnie Brown, if Miami wasn’t so terrible he might make the list.