Fantasy Football Player Analysis: Running back

by Cory J. Bonini on July 23, 2012 @ 02:26:46 PDT

 

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7) Chris Johnson | Tennessee Titans | 5-foot-11, 191 pounds | 5th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
2142541025117579455134238802711

Fantasy analysis: Johnson endured his worst season as a pro in 2011, rushing for 1,047 yards and a measly four touchdowns. He snagged a career-best 57 balls, which was about the only bright spot of his season. Since his 2,000-yard season in 2009, Johnson's yards-per-carry average has dropped two years in a row and so have the number of big runs (20- and 40-plus). The East Carolina star entered a new offense and blocking system last year. In Chris Palmer's scheme, running backs are responsible for making decisive cuts when presented several options, whereas Johnson previously was assigned a hole to run to and would bounce the play outside if nothing was open for him. A full offseason should be quite beneficial for Johnson grasping the blocking system. His contract holdout likely also played into his down season, as did having a rookie quarterback at the helm a few games (average 2.4 YPC in those games). Johnson is being drafted seventh overall, on average.

8) Steven Jackson | St. Louis Rams | 6-foot-2, 236 pounds | 9th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
2653051094124479424832337013812

Fantasy analysis: Injuries are a given when you draft Jackson, since he has played only two full seasons in his entire career. Inflating the risk, he has a lot of mileage on him and is going to be 29 years old before the season begins. The Rams return to a conventional, power-running offense that will keep Jackson on the fantasy map. The offense throws more to the running back position than average, but dynamic change-of-pace rook Isaiah Pead could cut into Jackson's third-down work. He probably has one last strong campaign left in him, though. S-Jax should see a spike in touchdowns with any semblance of a passing attack. He never has been much of a contributor in the TD column, though. Jackson is being selected as the 18th running back in the early third round, on average. His PPR placement is slightly higher. If anything, Jackson may be undervalued this year.

9) Marshawn Lynch | Seattle Seahawks | 5-foot-11, 215 pounds | 6th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
28532513281478911222815619901912

Fantasy analysis: The 2011 season was a career year for Lynch, who set personal bests in total touchdowns (13) and rushing yardage (1,204). For all intents and purposes, Beast Mode was the Seahawks' offense with 326 utilizations. The veteran rusher is expected to face a stiff suspension from the NFL due to yet another off-the-field incident. Stay tuned for their decision, as his fantasy value will be affected. Their offensive line was often an inexperienced, patchwork mess, which makes his performance even more impressive. Toss in the lack of consistency and respectability in Seattle's quarterback play ... you get the point. In 2012, the quarterback situation should be better with Matt Flynn, a second year of Tarvaris Jackson or, possibly, polished rookie Russell Wilson under center. The OL stands a good chance to improve, but the receiving corps remains questionable. Owning Lynch comes with injury concerns, as he never has started a full slate of games, and his role in the passing game is limited in this offense. Expect similar production to last year, but his touchdown figures could regress a tad if the passing game opens up. Fantasy owners have been selecting Lynch as the 11th overall pick, on average.

10) DeMarco Murray | Dallas Cowboys | 6-foot, 224 pounds | 2nd year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
21725796811184638442703120248

Fantasy analysis: Fantasy competitors are high on Murray, judging by his draft placement. The hallmarks for an explosive fantasy season are present, although we admit you have to keep grounded expectations. Murray is a big-play talent with mild injury concern after fracturing an ankle last year, but his long-term injury history is alarming. Understand the risk you are assuming. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2011 and burst onto the fantasy scene with a ridiculous 253-yard performance against the St. Louis Rams in Week 7. Dallas boasts a strong offensive line and a formidable passing attack to take pressure off Murray. He can go the distance on any play and is a capable receiver out of the backfield. The 'Boys will work in Felix Jones at times to keep Murray fresh; fantasy owners shouldn't be terribly concerned over Jones' workload. Murray is an ideal RB2 gamble but comes off the board slightly early as the 10th overall average selection. His value is at its peak in yardage-heavy leagues.

11) Willis McGahee | Denver Broncos | 6-foot, 235 pounds | 10th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
020-75750103000102

Willis McGahee, RB, Denver Broncos

Fantasy analysis: We are quite high on McGahee and recognize the risk in recommending him here in our rankings. He is coming off a strong season, one in which he had little to no support from the quarterback position, a struggling OL, and a fledgling group of wideouts to carry the passing game. The Broncs signed one Peyton Manning this offseason; his effect on the offense is largely the reasoning behind McGahee's high placement in our rankings. The veteran back ran for 1,199 yards and four touchdowns in last year's offense that changed into a spread option system midway through the season. Manning, assuming he is even 75 percent of what he has been in his career, brings instant credibility to the passing game. Defenses have to play with honesty, and McGahee's red zone involvement immediately upgrades. Knowshon Moreno (knee) isn't likely to be a factor. Rookie Ronnie Hillman's role should be limited to specialty and change-of-pace work. McGahee is a great blocker, and Denver won't put No. 18 in harm's way of a rookie that barely knows how to get in the way of a pass rush. Draft McGahee as a strong third back and expect borderline No. 1 value. He should come off the board in the late third round or early fourth.

12) Michael Turner | Atlanta Falcons | 5-foot-10, 244 pounds | 9th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Run Att Run Yds Run TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Tot TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
020-75750103000102

Fantasy analysis: Turner probably will be drafted higher than warranted based on his overall numbers. He finished the year with a bang (172 rushing yards and two scores), yet it was against one of the worst run defenses in the league last season. The five games prior to that, Turner looked to be wearing down. He averaged no better than 3.6 yards per attempt, failed to top 76 rushing yards and scored only once in that span. The Falcons hired Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator; his focus will be to expand the passing attack. An improved passing game could mean more openings for Turner, although his touches may be lower than normal. He will be a fine low-end No. 1 or strong second back if he can exploit defenses by doing more with less. The 30-year-old has taken a pounding in his four seasons with the Falcons and could see that catch up to him. He isn't a threat in the passing game, either. Turner could be in for a major drop in production, but we have given him the benefit of the doubt as somewhat risky. His ADP is 18th overall.

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About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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