The top of the running back rankings have been pretty easy to forecast the past several years with very similar rankings for the top 8 – 10 players ranked. 2012 should be much different because of uncertainties to many of the running backs after the top 5. Arien Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew, & Matt Forte should be the first 5 off the board. Forte is coming off of an injury because of a sprained MCL, but he was able to play in the Pro Bowl after his recovery. Listed below are several candidates to consider when selecting the next running backs after those top 5. All have questions in one way or the other, so buyer beware on all of them!!
Marshawn Lynch – The 2010 playoffs caused a big upset when the Seattle Seahawks had a losing record and still qualify for the playoffs and upset the New Orleans Saints. Marshawn Lynch transformed back into "Beast Mode" and ran all over them. The start of the 2011 season saw him transfer back to mediocre at best and struggling. He was dropped in one of my leagues. Then "Beast Mode" reappeared. He went on an absolute tear in which he scored in 11 straight games and rushed for 1204 yards. Because of his aggressive style of running, he is always a concern for injury. Can he continue to play at that high level?? Does he revert back to the style that had him cut from the Buffalo Bills and from several Fantasy teams last year??
Jamaal Charles – Entering the 2011 campaign, Jamaal was considered a top 5 pick after he led the NFL in Yards Per Carry in 2010. Charles tore his ACL early in the 2nd game and was done for the season. The combination of Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle, & Dexter McCluster left a lot to be desired last season and the Chiefs failed miserably after winning the AFC West in 2010. While sharing time in 2010 with Jones, Charles ran for 1467 yards and always had 468 receiving yards. The thought of him starting and controlling most of the playing time at Running Back had many dreaming of Fantasy titles last season. Can he come back from the injury?? It did happen early enough that he should be fully recovered in time for Training Camp.
Darren McFadden – Many Fantasy owners were very happy with the way Darren started the year. He was performing at a top for level with 614 rushing yards, 154 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in 6 games. Then injury struck McFadden and he was not to play again. Oakland loves running the ball and Michael Bush had a very nice season in place of Darren. Bush is a Free Agent this year and could sign elsewhere. That would leave McFadden as the primary back for the #7 rushing team in the NFL. The question that has always been asked about Darren will be asked again at draft time "Can he finally stay healthy for a full season and show us what he can do"?
Adrian Peterson – Always at or near the top of all rankings, "All Day" was having another very solid season with 970 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. An injury to his ACL & MCL caused "Purple Jesus" to miss several games at the end of the season. He is saying that he is ahead of schedule from his injury, but it is very early to tell. The Vikings are the #4 rushing team and A.P. has improved his receiving skills in recent years. There is no question that they need him to help new Quarterback Christian Ponder. Does he indeed make it back ahead of schedule and start the season?? Most experts have stated that his is the best Running Back in football, but he needs to be healthy first.
Ryan Mathews – The San Diego Chargers needed to find a replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson and chose Mathews in the NFL Draft. Mathews has shown promise in his 2 years and last season finished with 1091 rushing yards and had 50 receptions for 455 yards for the #6 offense. He may be losing his backfield mate in Mike Tolbert to Free Agency, so his workload could increase drastically. The injury bug has bothered Mathews in both of his first 2 seasons. Can he shake off the injury tag and handle the lion's share of the carries?? If he can, he could very easily finish in top 5 rankings.
Chris Johnson – After a contract holdout to begin the season, Chris Johnson had a disappointing year for the Tennessee Titans. He still managed to have 1465 total yards and 57 receptions. That is a far cry from what owners were hoping for after the new contract. Did Johnson perform poorly because he did not attend Training Camp and arrive in poor shape?? Johnson had 2 fantastic seasons the previous years and his speed will always make him a threat. Can he bounce back from last season's disappointment? If so, he will be near the top again in Fantasy scoring.