Fantasy Football Player Analysis: Running back

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

 

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KFFL's player analysis will be updated and expanded on regularly through the offseason. Be sure to sound off in the comments section below!

1) Arian Foster | Houston Texans | 6-foot-1, 225 pounds | 4th 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
24628610161166810546035639613913

Fantasy analysis: The consensus No. 1 overall pick, Foster is coming off another magnificent year. He averaged 4.4 per carry and topped 1,200 rushing yards in just 13 games. The versatile back chipped in 53 receptions for 617 yards and finished with 12 total scores. Much of his production came with nothing to speak of at quarterback after Matt Schaub (foot) was lost for the season with six games to play. Houston's offensive line is built for a strong running game, as their zone-blocking scheme fits Foster's style like a glove. Ben Tate stepped up last year and could scarf some work from Foster, but that isn't all bad if the star rusher stays healthy late into the fantasy playoffs. Simply put, Foster is the safest bet for a huge season in 2012 and fits atop the food chain in any scoring system.

2) LeSean McCoy | Philadelphia Eagles | 5-foot-11, 208 pounds | 4th 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
2783181355150510124652419473241216

LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Fantasy analysis: Shady McCoy is coming off a season for the ages. He scored 20 total touchdowns and racked up 1,624 yards of total offense. That kind of offensive explosion will be tough to replicate, but McCoy's style of play makes it possible. He is slippery, elusive and rarely takes a big hit. His role in the passing game should spike if Michael Vick can remain healthy. The Eagles' offense is about as lethal as they come when clicking on all cylinders, and McCoy is always a threat to take it to the distance with so many weapons to focus on. He is drafted, on average, as the second back off the board. Fantasy owners have realized there is less risk of him falling to injury than with Ray Rice, and McCoy's nose for the end zone makes him so appealing in all scoring formats.

3) Ray Rice | Baltimore Ravens | 5-foot-8, 212 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
22326389710472448543023400226

Fantasy analysis: Rice exploded in 2011 in an offense that revolves around him. He hauled in 76 passes, marking the third straight year in which he caught at least 63. His '11 season was defined by the strides Rice made on the ground, rushing for 1,364 yards (4.7 per carry) and 12 scores. He complemented his ground production with three aerial trips to paydirt, as well. The do-all back is the driving force behind Baltimore's offense that lacks playmakers, so you can expect a healthy amount of touches for the pint-sized star. Rice, however, comes with durability concerns based on the sheer volume of touches he has received in the past three seasons. While he hasn't missed a game since his rookie year, the veteran back comes with at least mild concern in this area. Draft him as the No. 2 running back if you aren't worried about injuries creeping up, or in PPR scoring, but he is more safely selected as the third back.

4) Darren McFadden | Oakland Raiders | 6-foot-2, 210 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
1782187969464636423203740248

Fantasy analysis: McFadden was the top point-earner in fantasy football until a Lisfranc foot injury derailed his season. The explosive back was held out of nine contests but is 100 percent recovered from an ailment that has a relatively low chance of re-injury. Durability has been a huge problem for DMC during his four pro seasons, as he has yet to finish a 16-game slate. The Raiders' new offense - a modified West Coast system - will cater to taking advantage of his ability in the open field. A zone-blocking scheme will also enable McFadden's natural talents to show through. Competency at quarterback is a bonus, and the AFC West isn't exactly a defensive-minded division. DMC is super risky, but the juice will be worth the squeeze if he remains on the field. His average draft position is 14th overall, and we feel that is too low given his unbelievable upside.

5) Ryan Mathews | San Diego Chargers | 6-foot, 218 pounds | 3rd 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
256296119513456825311952420169

Fantasy analysis: A fantasy darling as a rookie in 2010, Mathews failed to live up to expectations. He blew people away with his versatility in 2011 after catching 50 balls for 455 yards on the year. Mathews rushed 222 times for 1,091 yards and found the end zone six times. Throughout his entire football-playing life, he has struggled with injuries. Last year was no exception. Fantasy footballers will reap the benefits of drafting Mathews, should he remain on the field for 16 games. If you can stomach the injury possibility (inevitability?), No. 24 is a top-five fantasy back in all scoring formats. He has other risks to be aware of, though, such as confidence issues, ball security problems and a head coach whose love for the vertical pass often consumes the offensive play-calling. A toned down aerial game, at least on paper, points to the Chargers relying heavily on Mathews. His upside is tantalizing, but conservative drafters may want to look elsewhere.

6) Maurice Jones-Drew | Jacksonville Jaguars | 5-foot-7, 208 pounds | 7th 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
1712116708204646523053451359

Fantasy analysis: MJD lead the NFL in rushing yards (1,606) last season, which is remarkable since the Jags had absolutely nothing else to work with on offense. To be that good is a blessing and a curse, in some sense, as defenses target you on every play. It is impressive that he was able to pile up that kind of yardage with eight- and even nine-man boxes, but he took a pounding. Injuries could catch up to Jones-Drew in 2012. In all likelihood, last season was the high point of his NFL career. How much of a drop-off is in store is tough to assess; being underestimated has powered his career. MJD is a versatile back with similar value in all scoring formats. An improved offense should keep him among the top backs, assuming he remains on the field. Cautiously draft him as a midrange No. 1 back and look to build a deeper stable than normal if you do.

Most of the top backs are consensus choices among fantasy owners, but the next tier of backs is where it starts to get interesting.

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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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