Now that the QBs, WRs and TEs are ranked, the hard work begins.
Take a look at the top running backs from last year's ESPN rankings.
Hillis ahead of Forte? DeAngelo ahead of Matthews? Moreno ahead of anyone? What's McFadden doing back at 12, and how is Lynch back at 30? Look at some of the useless names in the 30s and 40s ... Joseph Addai, Tim Hightower, Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, Jerome Harrison ... all of them ranked ahead of eventual studs Darren Sproles, DeMarco Murray, and Ben Tate. What an embarrassment.
Then factor in major injuries to the players ranked at 1, 3, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 26 ... and the useless season by #2 (Chris Johnson) ... and you've got a holy unspectacular batch of fantasy running backs.
So, it stands to reason that when looking at this year's rankings, half of the RBs in the top 25 will either get hurt or completely suck. Kind of a defeating feeling. But it's also useful because it allows me to rank the RBs however I want and ignore everyone else who claims to be an expert. Because, based on previous years, the experts obviously don't know what they're doing. Here are my RB rankings ...
1. Ray Rice, Ravens
Big contract and downgraded offensive line, but I've got Rice ranked #1 among RBs because I feel he's the safest starting RB with the lowest likelihood of a major injury. He may not be as explosive as others, but he's a lock for about 50 receiving yards per game, and he gets all the goal-line carries. Doesn't have any competition for carries.
2. Arian Foster, Texans
Same story as Rice - big contract and a weakened O-line. Plus he's got to share carries with super backup Ben Tate. I don't think Foster finishes the year as a top 5 RB in terms of yards and TDs, but as far as being a safe pick, I would take him above the next few guys.
3. Chris Johnson, Titans
I'm becoming more and more convinced that CJ will have a huge bounce back season. I contemplated putting him above Foster, and maybe even #1. But then I looked at his 2011 game log again. 13 yards against Atlanta? 18 yards against Houston? 21 yards against Denver? What the heck? He could be the ultimate steal this year, or he could prove to be a complete bum.
4. Ryan Matthews, Chargers
In the past few weeks, I've had a change of heart with Matthews. Everything I've read says Matthews is completely healthy, and Norv Turner wants to make him a "workhorse" back. Last time Norv did something like that, LT was the best fantasy football player in the world. Gotta like the precedent.
5. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
He's ranked too low (9th by ESPN) simply because he's still under-the-radar. No way he should be ranked behind Marshawn Lynch.
6. Matt Forte, Bears
After years of trying to earn a big contract, Forte finally got one. 17 million guaranteed. Now, will his ambition be gone? Will Brandon Marshall's arrival eat into Forte's production? Also, will Michael Bush vulture the goal-line carries? Legitimate concerns, but you gotta like his consistency, easy schedule and 50 catches per season.
7. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jags
Everybody is so sure that MJD will "break down" this year. I don't necessarily think he'll get hurt. I just think he plays alongside one of the worst starting QBs ever, and won't get many chances to score. Let's be honest, he only won the rushing title last year because of about 6 injuries. Oh, I almost forgot to mention ... of the 4 RBs looking for big contracts, MJD was the only one who got nothing. Holdouts are super risky.
8. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
New big contract, star O-lineman hurt for the year, and just really seems due for an injury. I'm not sure exactly why, but I don't trust him at all.
9. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Love him as an RB2. Hate him as a RB1. Quite a bit of risk with his health. But with the revamped O-line and newly acquired blocking tight ends, he could easily run for 1,800 yards if his explosion is what it was in 2010. Not many TDs though.
10. Darren McFadden, Raiders
Same as Charles. I wouldn't take him as a RB1 because of the risk ... but as an RB2, he's great. Has the potential to be the most productive running back of anybody. Just needs to stay healthy.
11. Trent Richardson, Browns
Forget about the fact that he's a rookie on a terrible team. He has the potential to make them a good team.
12. Fred Jackson, Bills
As with all the guys returning from injury ... RB2 yes, RB1, no.
13. Frank Gore, 49ers
The word is they want to platoon him with Jacobs/Hunter/James, so he's more of a safe RB2 but without a ton of upside.
14. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Will put up lots of solid 70-80 yard games and should be the goal-line back now that Jacobs is gone. Nothing spectacular, but he continues to be drafted in the 4th/5th round which makes no sense.
15. Steven Jackson, Rams
16. Ben Tate, Texans
17. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
18. Michael Turner, Falcons
19. Jahvid Best, Lions
20. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
21. Darren Sproles, Saints
22. Isaac Redman, Steelers
23. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
24. Toby Gerhart, Vikings
25. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
26. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
27. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
28. Doug Martin, Bucs
29. Shonn Greene, Jets
30. Mark Ingram, Saints
31. James Starks, Packers
32. Donald Brown, Colts
33. Reggie Bush, Dolphins
34. Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
35. CJ Spiller, Bills
... And so on with all the sleepers and handcuffs ...