Fantasy Football: Analyzing First-Round Running Backs
The pros and cons of the 10 players that are potential first-round RBs
By: Steven Lassan | 8/21/11, 9:01 AM EDT
Athlon Sports takes a look at the pros and cons of the 10 running backs that will come off of your fantasy football draft boards first during your 2011 drafts.
Arian Foster - Houston Athlon Top 280 Rank: 1
Pros: Foster was the No. 1 fantasy running back last season by a wide margin. Texans own one of the league’s top lines. Great supporting cast. Only running back in NFL last year to average more than 100 yards per game.
Cons: Very limited track record. Ben Tate is healthy and could steal a few carries away. Injuries have been a concern throughout Foster’s career.
Adrian Peterson - Minnesota Athlon Top 280 Rank: 2
Pros: Arguably the most talented running back in the NFL. Four straight 1,000-yard seasons. Seems to have solved fumble issues. Four seasons of at least 1,600 total yards and 10 scores.
Cons: Vikings have Donovan McNabb in his twilight years, could start a rookie quarterback, and offensive line is a question mark. Despite questionable surrounding cast, Peterson remains a solid fantasy pick, but needs help to improve upon last year’s numbers.
Ray Rice - Baltimore Athlon Top 280 Rank: 3
Pros: Back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons. Could see more work around the goal line this year. A top option in PPR leagues.
Cons: Offensive line a question mark. Ravens added more weapons at receiver, which could reduce receptions. May be difficult to top last year’s 307 carries in 2011.
Chris Johnson - Tennessee Athlon Top 280 Rank: 4
Pros: One of the safest picks at running back after three straight 1,000-yard seasons. With uncertainty at quarterback, Johnson should be the focal point of the offense and will see plenty of passes in his direction once again.
Cons: Titans, like the Vikings with McNabb, have Matt Hasselbeck in his later years and could start a rookie quarterback later. Has been holding out due to contract. Yards per carry dropped from 5.6 in 2009 to 4.3 last year. Already has a lot of work on a slight frame.
Jamaal Charles - Kansas City Athlon Top 280 Rank: 5
Pros: Very little wear on the tires. Increased yards per carry by at least a half a yard each of last three seasons. With Thomas Jones in decline, likely in line for more work around the goal line.
Cons: Schedule among the toughest in the NFL. Chiefs could continue to limit his workload to prevent him from breaking down.
LeSean McCoy - Philadelphia Athlon Top 280 Rank: 8
Pros: Led all running backs with 78 receptions. Eagles don’t run the ball a ton, but he doesn’t have any competition for carries at running back. Makes what carries he gets count — had a 5.2-yard average in 2010.
Cons: May not improve much on rushing yardage totals due to Eagles offense. All of the weapons are back in Philadelphia, which means McCoy’s touchdown totals are also unlikely to increase.
Rashard Mendenhall - Pittsburgh Athlon Top 280 Rank: 9
Pros: Entering the prime of his career. Has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and tied for second in the NFL with 13 rushing scores last year. Has very little competition for touches; should top 300 carries once again.
Cons: Although the offensive line is getting better, it remains a concern. Mendenhall won’t be much of a factor in PPR leagues and could lose a few more goal line touches to Isaac Redman.
Maurice Jones-Drew - Jacksonville Athlon Top 280 Rank: 11
Pros: The Jaguars still have a questionable passing attack, which should make Jones-Drew the focal point of the offense. He has back-to-back 1,300-yard seasons and remains a significant contributor in receptions out of the backfield.
Cons: Coming off of knee surgery. Touchdown totals were significantly down from 2009 season. Should be focal point of offense, but lack of consistent passing attack is a concern.
Darren McFadden - Oakland Athlon Top 280 Rank: 12
Pros: Finally lived up to the hype by earning first 1,000-yard season. Raiders should boast an improved passing attack, which will ease pressure on McFadden. A factor in PPR leagues.
Cons: Has never played a full 16-game slate due to injuries. Backfield mates Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones will factor into Oakland’s gameplan each week. Offensive line could be a question mark.
Frank Gore - San Francisco Athlon Top 280 Rank: 13
Pros: Before last season’s injury, was on pace to earn his fifth-straight 1,000-yard season. New head coach Jim Harbaugh was a run-first coach at Stanford and wants the same mentality in San Francisco.
Cons: Injury prone — he has played 16 games only once in six seasons. Yards per carry dropped from 4.9 to 4.2 last year. 49ers passing game will be an issue once again.
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