More position rankings, more disagreement among members of the college fantasy football brain trust. And at no position will there be more dissension than at the running back spot, where there may not be a clear cut #1 guy like there is at the QB spot with Case Keenum, but there is an amazing amount of depth.
Last season Alabama's Trent Richardson backed up Heisman winner Mark Ingram and gained 751 yards and scored eight times. And he's our 91st-rated running back. Before you call us bat crazy take a look at some of the other backs ranked 10-15 spots above him.
The running back spot is loaded.
He's ranked too low. There's no way I'm taking Vai Taua, DeMarco Murray or Daniel Thomas ahead of this Wisconsin locomotive. He averaged 5.3 ypc on his way to 1517 yards and 18 scores in 2009. His offense returns 10 starters, his non-conference schedule is loaded with cupcakes, and the Badgers don't face Penn State in 2010. Additionally, there aren't the same split carry concerns that existed heading into 2009.
Feast or Famine
I don't see much middle ground with regards to Kendall Hunter. Either he bounces back in a huge way, or the offensive losses are just too much and he never gets rolling in 2010. I recently took Hunter very, very high in one of my leagues. However I also loaded up on a bunch of other backs because I'm just not completely convinced.
Later Round Steal
New coach + a bunch of returning offensive starters often presents a nice bounceback opportunity for skill position talent. This year Louisville's Victor Anderson jumps off my page as one such player. Anderson missed a good chunk of 2009 with injuries, and he, along with the rest of the Cardinals, will be looking at 2010 with renewed optimism.
Charlie Strong has a quarterback decision to make, one that could linger well past his self-imposed August deadline. But in Anderson the former Florida defensive coordinator has a sure thing, a junior who has averaged over 5.5 ypc and scored 14 touchdowns in about 1 1/2 years of action.
Four from Page 2...
The second page of our running back rankings includes some very impressive running back talents, and if you find yourself looking for a depth runner who could see regular carries in your fantasy lineup, then here are a few that have shown they can get it done.
Da'Rel Scott, Maryland: A proven commodity (1133-8 in 2008) who'll be playing for an NFL look in 11.
Mikel LeShoure, Illinois: Three of his final six outings in 2009 saw him post more than 122 yards on the ground, including 206 yards from scrimmage and three scores in season finale against Fresno.
Phillip Tanner, MTSU: 16 touchdowns in 2008, 18 carries before a season-ending injury in 2009. Offensive coordinator/spread guru Tony Franklin has left for Louisiana Tech after one year at Middle Tennessee. Do the Blue Raiders lean on the run game a bit more in 2010?
Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati: He's averaged about 6.6 ypc during his short time at Cincy, and last year he displayed impressive talent as a pass catcher. Still doubt this kid's talent? Check out some of his highlights from the West Virginia game last year.
I've already told you my feelings on...
Bobby Rainey and Mario Fannin. So I'll just stop talking about each.
Should Quizz be #1?
I would have a tough time not drafting Jacquizz Rodgers as the first running back. His 22 touchdowns from 2009 are going to be tough to duplicate and others may end up putting up better stats at the end of the year. Still despite the constant fear of him wearing down, he's been a warrior and no back can match his consistency over the last two years.
Top Heavy Class: Once again there is no consensus number one runner. You could make a strong case for at least a dozen backs. In fact this is a strong-looking class through the first 20+ backs. After that though, it starts to get dicey. You got guys like Derrick Locke, who's running on blown-out knees. Michael Smith, whom you pray will take over for Turbin. Tauren Poole whose claim to fame so far is having a strong spring against a rebuilding Vols defense.
Don't forget about Darren Evans: Handcuffs played a major role in 2009, he's worth a late round pick.
It'll be the LMJ show in Eugene:
Despite the one-game suspension, I'm very high on LaMichael James. During the Boise State game last year, they kept running LeGarrette Blount on the stretch play, and I kept thinking to myself "what the (insert expeletive) are they doing?" One punch later and LMJ became the feature back. A perfect back for the stretch run play. With uncertainty at quarterback, but still a veteran group returning, LMJ will exceed last year's 1546 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns...book it.
What about the Freshie RBs?
The top freshman running backs have been busts in recent years. Much is expected from Auburn's Michael Dyer and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore from both fans and fantasy owners. But neither has taken a hit in practice yet. USC's Dillon Baxter appears to be the real deal, but I'm still leery of him being an every down back -- that will be Allen Bradford's job this year. So far there hasn't been a Dion Lewis clone. Lewis went from relative unknown to our #3 running back prospect (yes...behind Jarvis Giles) after a solid spring.
Darius Willis has size and speed. He could post 1000 yards rushing and double-digit touchdowns if he can stay healthy. Indiana's first three games are also fantasy friendly with Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron.
I get the feeling Sam McGuffie will be drafted in the early-to-mid rounds by some. I'm all for taking a stab at him late in the draft, but not as one of your top two or three backs. He could turn out to be a fantasy gem, but he's too much risk.
Back in the spring, I wrote about the Top Ten Fantasy Football Surprises , and that article was heavy on the running back position. I want to wait until fall practice is in full swing before I re-visit these calls. Running backs that get a mention are Baron Batch, Ray Graham, Martin Ward, Josh Quezada and Princeton McCarty.
It's a deep running back group, but...
Keep in mind that the running back spot is still going to be the most sought after position in your draft. If you want one of the "sure things", then you'll have to pay with a high draft pick. This is especially true in BCS leagues.
If the world was fair :
Iowa State's Alexander Robinson would be poised for a huge senior season this year. But with the Cyclones facing the toughest schedule (opposing defenses faced) in college football, I'm downgrading Robinson's value this year.
Toben Opurum and Al-Terek McBurse are a couple of mid-rated backs that could be full-time starters if things go their way. These two are far from sure things, but I think represent good value, especially in BCS leagues.
I might be the only one interested, but I'll be watching to see if DuJuan Harris enjoys some fantasy success this year. He'll need to see consistent carries (no games with 20 carries last season) and also keep the ball away from vulture Shawn Southward to make it happen.