While there may not be those one or two superstars that stand out above the rest, the 2010 running back board is chock full of talented backs that bring top-five point producing potential. Among our top ten there are five tailbacks from BCS conferences and five that run for smaller schools. We have grind-it-out bulldozers, small but mighty workhorses, do-everything backs with great hands, and flat out speedsters dotting not only the top ten, but seemingly a long way down the rankings. So there's a running back flavor for the discriminating taste of every fantasy drafter.
Should you focus on running backs early and often on draft day then you'll be just fine. Should you wait until round three or four to build your running back corps you'll have plenty of options as well. Our Top-30 is loaded with great backs, and you'll likely be surprised with the talent to be discussed in our next two lists.
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 7 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 9
Sure he ran it five times for five yards against Alabama. What the hell were you playing Lance Dunbar against Alabama anyway? This is North Texas we're talking about. You play Lance Dunbar against the likes of Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and everybody else in the conference and you're hoisting the trophy. This year don't play Dunbar at Clemson and maybe against Kansas State, and play him against everyone else. You'll end up with about 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns and all will be right with your world.
2009 Stats: 200-1378 RuYd 17 RuTD 28-300 ReYd 2 ReTD 1 Fumb Pts: 281.80
2010 Projs: 239-1538 RuYd 17 RuTD 26-286 ReYd 2 ReTD Pts: 296.40
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 115 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 8
It's very likely that Mr. Rodgers will be the last Beaver to wear the #1 jersey. This is how good he's been in his first two campaigns. He followed up a great freshman season with an even better sophomore year, posting nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scoring 22 times. He's tougher than nails and only Noel Devine and DeMarco Murray rival Rodgers from a pure excitement perspective. But while he's our #1 BCS back, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that he's touched the ball 639 times from scrimmage in two short years; this is a huge total for any back, let alone one that checks in at about 5-7 and 185 lbs. Just saying.
2009 Stats: 273-1440 RuYd 21 RuTD 78-522 ReYd 1 ReTD 1/1 Pass 1 PaYd 522 PaTD Pts: 334.76
2010 Projs: 244-1293 RuYd 17 RuTD 60-437 ReYd 3 ReTD Pts: 293.00
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 2 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 7
Well we didn't see this one coming last year. Buckram turned 75-348-2 in 2008 into 259-1594-18 in 2009, and when you factor in his 453 yards receiving and three more scores, we had one of the nation's top fantasy backs. And this should again be the case in 2010. The senior will benefit from an experienced quarterback and the return of three offensive linemen. And the schedule is extremely favorable, with only a late-season trip to Arkansas looming as a game to avoid.
2009 Stats: 259-1594 RuYd 18 RuTD 30-453 ReYd 3 ReTD 0/1 Pass 3 Fumb Pts: 330.70
2010 Projs: 249-1498 RuYd 14 RuTD 28-356 ReYd 3 ReTD 0/1 Pass Pts: 287.40
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 64 OL Ret: 2 Off Ret: 5
Sure the nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage jump off the page, but so too do the 348 touches. Lewis, like Jacquizz Rodgers, is not a large man, but that didn't stop him from lugging the pigskin 26, 47 and 28 times in the season's final three games. It's this that has us a little concerned that Wannstedt will decide to award Ray Graham a few more carries, thus limiting Lewis' fantasy production in 2010. Still even if 50 carries are taken from Lewis and given to Graham, we look for Lewis to post top back numbers thanks to a greater familiarity with the college game, and body that will be even more prepared for the rigor of a lengthy season.
2009 Stats: 325-1799 RuYd 17 RuTD 23-190 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 306.90
2010 Projs: 271-1416 RuYd 15 RuTD 22-177 ReYd 2 ReTD Pts: 261.30
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 63 OL Ret: 5 Off Ret: 10
Certainly LaMichael James personally benefited from the poor decision making exhibited by LaGarrette Blount early last season, as he was thrust into the starting role after Blount went all Clubber Lang. However it became abundantly clear that James was the best fit for the Oregon offense anyway, and now he'll look to follow up his breakout 230-1546-14 from a season ago. The sophomore will run behind an experienced offensive line, and with the dismissal of Jeremiah Masoli, he won't have to share as many yards on the ground. WARNING: James will have to sit out the season opener for some poor off-field decisions, so you'll want to adjust your draft board accordingly.
2009 Stats: 230-1546 RuYd 14 RuTD 17-168 ReYd 0 ReTD 2 Fumb Pts: 255.40
2010 Projs: 217-1484 RuYd 14 RuTD 18-174 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 255.80
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 106 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 8
Yes, you should be concerned about Trent Richardson and Nick Saban's history of rotating backs. But this is a Heisman Trophy winning back returning for his junior season, and there's no reason to think that Ingram will experience a drop-off big enough to cause too much concern. The man's a beast, workhorse and touchdown machine. Penn State comes down to Tuscaloosa for week two; can't you just imagine Mark Ingram carrying it about 28 times for 120 yards and two scores? Well repeat that about seven times on the season and there you go.
2009 Stats: 271-1658 RuYd 17 RuTD 32-334 ReYd 3 ReTD 0/1 Pass 1 Fumb Pts: 319.20
2010 Projs: 214-1287 RuYd 13 RuTD 27-279 ReYd 2 ReTD 0/1 Pass Pts: 246.60
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 73 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 5
For a guy that had never played running back prior to last season, Daniel Thomas sure made a seamless transition to his new spot. 247 carries for 1265 yards and 11 scores came from nowhere, and now he enters this season as one of the top backs in the country. Thomas will be the focal point of this Bill Snyder offense. The schedule is favorable, and Thomas should again see around 275 touches from scrimmage.
2009 Stats: 247-1265 RuYd 11 RuTD 25-257 ReYd 0 ReTD 3/4 Pass 0 PaYd 257 PaTD 1 PaConv 3 Fumb Pts: 228.20
2010 Projs: 245-1329 RuYd 12 RuTD 27-287 ReYd 2 ReTD 1/2 Pass 2 PaYd Pts: 246.40
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 108 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 8
Temple will run the football, and Bernard Pierce will gain a whole bunch of yards in 2010. He missed three games with a shoulder injury, but all spring reports have that shoulder good to go. He may have to share carries with Matt Brown and Ahkeem Smith, but Pierce will carry the load, and gain a whole bunch of yards in what is becoming a more rough and tumble MAC.
2009 Stats: 236-1361 RuYd 16 RuTD 8-39 ReYd 0 ReTD 1 Fumb Pts: 236.00
2010 Projs: 248-1446 RuYd 15 RuTD 11-60 ReYd 0 ReTD Pts: 240.60
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 33 OL Ret: 1 Off Ret: 4
Kendall Hunter just couldn't kick his foot injury in 2009, and the season concluded with one of the nation's most explosive backs only seeing 89 carries for 382 yards and one score. Look for new OC Dana Holgorsen to take great advantage of his healthy tailback, in fact he's expected to touch the ball "250 times" this season, both on the ground and through the air. Thus we're expecting numbers more like those posted in 2008, when a then-sophomore Hunter gained over 1,750 yards from scrimmage while scoring 17 times. And even better for fantasy owners is the likelihood that Hunter slides down draft boards a little bit, as drafters tend to have short memories.
2009 Stats: 89-382 RuYd 1 RuTD 11-83 ReYd 0 ReTD 2 Fumb Pts: 52.50
2010 Projs: 193-1042 RuYd 12 RuTD 47-394 ReYd 4 ReTD Pts: 239.60
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 91 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 7
Todman is the clear #1 back at UConn, and Storrs has knocked out some top fantasy backs over the past few years. Coming off a 235-1188-14 2009 season we have no doubt that Todman can get it done as the every-down option. We are a bit concerned about some spring practice time missed due to academics, but this shouldn't pose too much of a threat. Todman will get his carries, and he'll get his yards, and he'll get his touchdowns. The offensive line is loaded.
2009 Stats: 235-1188 RuYd 14 RuTD 21-185 ReYd 0 ReTD 0/1 Pass 1 PaConv 1 Fumb Pts: 223.30
2010 Projs: 236-1305 RuYd 14 RuTD 22-189 ReYd 1 ReTD 0/1 Pass Pts: 239.40
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 68 OL Ret: 5 Off Ret: 10
While optimistic, there were some doubts about John Clay heading into last year. Concerns about other talented backs in Madison and Clay's seeming inability to mix in a salad tempered his draft stock. Consider those fears gone. Clay, who seems to combine one part Eddie George and one part Ron Dayne into this bruising recipe, is the prototypical Big Ten back. He can pound it ten times and then bust the big one on the 11th. He's a workhorse who gets stronger as the game goes on, and he's the top back in the Big Ten heading into 2010.
2009 Stats: 287-1517 RuYd 18 RuTD 9-60 ReYd 0 ReTD 2 Fumb Pts: 265.70
2010 Projs: 247-1348 RuYd 16 RuTD 8-55 ReYd 0 ReTD Pts: 236.30
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 27 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 9
A healthy DeMarco Murray is one of the nation's most explosive tailbacks. He's struggled with nagging injuries (though these have been overblown a bit) during his time in Norman, but 2010 may present a true breakout opportunity now that Chris Brown has moved on. Murray's average of 175 carries over the past two years doesn't seem like much, however when one considers that he's averaged about 35 receptions for 450 yards and four scores suddenly Murray is viewed as a little more durable. We expect touches to go up across the board, and with this increase look for more yards, scores and moments that have you sitting up in your chair.
2009 Stats: 171-705 RuYd 7 RuTD 41-522 ReYd 4 ReTD 1 Fumb Pts: 188.70
2010 Projs: 181-1021 RuYd 11 RuTD 34-442 ReYd 4 ReTD Pts: 236.30
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 13 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 9
Vai Taua, with designs on playing some football on Sunday, forgot about going to class, thus he was deemed ineligible for a trip to Hawaii and for the team's bowl game last year. It appears the senior has learned his lesson, and he'll be the workhorse for the Wolfpack in 2010. Luke Lippincott has moved on, and Taua will be ready to make amends. Look for Mike Ball and Lampford Mark to see carries, and of course the galloping gazelle, Colin Kaepernick, will get his fair share of yards on the ground. But after averaging about 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 15 scores over the past two seasons, we expect Taua to do a whole bunch of the heavy lifting.
2009 Stats: 172-1345 RuYd 10 RuTD 12-99 ReYd 2 ReTD 1 RuConv 5 Fumb Pts: 218.40
2010 Projs: 204-1366 RuYd 12 RuTD 17-149 ReYd 2 ReTD Pts: 235.50
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 75 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 7
With the likes Marshawn Lynch, J.J. Arrington, Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best having served as the top Cal back over the years, it's natural that we're optimistic about what Shane Vereen can do this season. Sharing duties with Best and then taking over when the now-Detroit Lion suffered his horrific fall, Vereen was able to post nearly 1,200 yards from scrimmage while totaling 14 scores. Similar, if not better, yards and scores should be expected in 2010.
2009 Stats: 183-952 RuYd 12 RuTD 25-244 ReYd 2 ReTD 0/1 Pass Pts: 203.60
2010 Projs: 214-1134 RuYd 13 RuTD 27-279 ReYd 2 ReTD Pts: 231.30
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 110 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 7
Over 1,830 yards from scrimmage and 22 touchdowns can be classified as a rather nice freshman campaign, eh? And while there's no doubt that Williams will be a better running back in 2010, we're still expecting his stats to fall a bit thanks to the return of fellow stud runner Darren Evans. These two Hokies, along with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, will offer opposing defensive coordinators one of the scariest backfields in recent memory. And this talent will make for a whole bunch of exciting runs from scrimmage, but Williams will need to share a bit too much. He's a great fantasy option, but don't reach too high to nab Ryan Williams.
2009 Stats: 293-1655 RuYd 21 RuTD 16-180 ReYd 1 ReTD 3 Fumb Pts: 315.50
2010 Projs: 226-1289 RuYd 13 RuTD 15-166 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 229.50
Home Games: 5 EOS Off: 38 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 8
Me'co Brown's decision to leave Northern Illinois means that Chad Spann, Touchdown Whore, will have a chance to post even more than his 20 scores from a season ago; of course it won't be easy, as Ricky Crider will push Spann for looks. And even Jasmin Hopkins and Cameron Bell will see touches on a regular basis. Still Spann is the straw that stirs this drink, and he's a proven commodity who'll see a bunch of carries, gain a bunch of yards, and celebrate a whole lot of touchdowns.
2009 Stats: 178-1031 RuYd 19 RuTD 10-122 ReYd 1 ReTD 1 Fumb Pts: 235.30
2010 Projs: 204-1192 RuYd 15 RuTD 11-135 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 228.70
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 19 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 9
Beall was slowed by an undisclosed injury and eventually passed up by Charles Sims on the depth chart. But now Charles Sims has been deemed ineligible, so look for Beall to return to his form from two seasons ago.
2009 Stats: 139-670 RuYd 7 RuTD 32-309 ReYd 3 ReTD 3 Fumb Pts: 157.90
2010 Projs: 183-1022 RuYd 10 RuTD 44-481 ReYd 3 ReTD Pts: 228.30
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 39 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 6
With all due respect, there is no way in hell I thought Noel Devine would spend four years at West Virginia. Now, after three seasons that has seen him carry the ball 520 yards for 3,381 and 23 touchdowns, Devine enters 2010 as the elder statesman of the Mountaineer offense. He's a dynamic speedster that has had that Barry Sanders something since his high school highlight video first blew up back in early 2006. You'll have to deal with inconsistency, but in total point leagues there aren't many better BCS backs.
2009 Stats: 241-1465 RuYd 13 RuTD 22-177 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 248.20
2010 Projs: 213-1260 RuYd 11 RuTD 28-236 ReYd 2 ReTD Pts: 227.60
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 41 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 8
This junior came in along with fellow highly-touted back Josh Haden, and it's Harris that is the one left standing. Posting 21 touchdowns in his first two seasons, Haden is on track to end his career as the greatest back to carry it in Chestnut Hill. Coach Spaz and OC Gary Tranquil will ride their talented back, thus 275-325 carries appear very likely for Harris, and this would mean we're looking at one of the nation's top fantasy backs. Oh, and nearly the entire offensive line from a season ago returns, albeit without stud center Matt Tennant.
2009 Stats: 308-1457 RuYd 14 RuTD 8-69 ReYd 1 ReTD 2 Fumb Pts: 242.60
2010 Projs: 256-1253 RuYd 13 RuTD 12-98 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 219.10
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 30 OL Ret: 2 Off Ret: 7
An end-of-spring surgery for a sports hernia kept Batch on the shelf until mid-June, but this productive senior will be ready to return as one of the nation's top run-pass backs in the country this fall. Now the common belief is that Batch will thrive in a Tommy Tuberville offense that will feature the run more; however the skeptic in me wonders how much of Batch's production was due in large part to the wide-open, pass-first and pass-second offense that provided him with a whole bunch of open space. Still we see good things from this fifth year back, one who accounted for 185 yards from scrimmage and two scores in the Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State.
2009 Stats: 168-884 RuYd 14 RuTD 57-395 ReYd 1 ReTD 1 Fumb Pts: 217.90
2010 Projs: 188-942 RuYd 13 RuTD 29-257 ReYd 3 ReTD Pts: 215.90
Home Games: 4 EOS Off: 6 OL Ret: 1 Off Ret: 6
Morris was very impressive last year as he went over 100 yards in six of his last games on the way to a 263-1382-11 campaign, one with included two scores. However we are a bit concerned about Morris' production this year. Trusty Rusty Smith is gone, the offensive line has a whole bunch of question marks, and it sounds like fellow runner Willie Floyd is back (missed 2009 with torn pec) and ready to help the cause. Buyer beware.
2009 Stats: 263-1382 RuYd 11 RuTD 7-114 ReYd 2 ReTD 1 Fumb Pts: 227.60
2010 Projs: 248-1190 RuYd 11 RuTD 20-181 ReYd 2 ReTD Pts: 215.10
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 103 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 7
Moved to B-back in preparation for the 2010 season, Anthony Allen will take over Jonathan Dwyer's role as the prime ball carrier in this refreshing offense. Look for Allen to pound the ball with the same ferocity of Dwyer, and if this former Louisville Cardinal can match his numbers then we've got a very good fantasy back for 2010. We think Allen is up to the task.
2009 Stats: 64-618 RuYd 6 RuTD 5-112 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 115.00
2010 Projs: 210-1110 RuYd 14 RuTD 7-111 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 212.10
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 16 OL Ret: 5 Off Ret: 8
Hey Robbie...go out there and replace Ryan Mathews, ok? Rouse, who stands at 5'7" and is listed at a generous 185 lbs., will have a difficult time carrying the load. He'll need to fend off Michael Harris and A.J. Ellis, but we see this happening. We're projecting Rouse to see over 200 carries, and if this happens then he's a lock for 1,000 yards. In fact, we like him to push north of 1,300 on the campaign. Go get em Robbie!
2009 Stats: 82-479 RuYd 4 RuTD 0-0 ReYd 0 ReTD Pts: 71.90
2010 Projs: 226-1188 RuYd 12 RuTD 11-121 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 208.90
Home Games: 5 EOS Off: 4 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 6
This senior will again anchor the ULM offense, and he's a great bet for 220-1200-12 in 2010. Look for Goodin to slide down some draft boards as drafters look for flashier options, but backs that run for about 100 and one on a consistent basis can be harder to find than many think.
2009 Stats: 219-1126 RuYd 13 RuTD 18-138 ReYd 0 ReTD Pts: 204.40
2010 Projs: 225-1166 RuYd 11 RuTD 20-180 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 206.60
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 34 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 7
The knee injury suffered by Robert Turbin has thrust veteran tailback Michael Smith into the starting role, and he's fully capable of handling the job. He's coming off a six-score 2009 season, touchdowns that came on only 65 touches from scrimmage. Every team will aim to stop Diondre Borel, and Smith will be the main beneficiary. One major concern exists: the threat of shared RB duties. Remember the name Kerwynn Williams. Trust me on this one.
2009 Stats: 46-290 RuYd 4 RuTD 19-220 ReYd 2 ReTD 1 Fumb Pts: 87.00
2010 Projs: 181-1050 RuYd 11 RuTD 19-220 ReYd 2 ReTD Pts: 205.00
Home Games: 5 EOS Off: 10 OL Ret: 5 Off Ret: 10
I like this guy. He'll be the man in the backfield for Western Kentucky, and he's coming off a seven-score season that saw him gain 939 carries on only 144 carries. Now that the Hilltoppers are moving from a spread to a West Coast offense, expect Rainey to see even more work in 2010. If the offense can put him a position to score more often, he could blow past our projections. Shhhhh...don't tell anyone, just draft him.
2009 Stats: 144-939 RuYd 6 RuTD 13-83 ReYd 1 ReTD 0/1 Pass 1 RuConv 4 Fumb Pts: 146.20
2010 Projs: 222-1210 RuYd 9 RuTD 23-201 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 201.10
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 31 OL Ret: 3 Off Ret: 6
Derrick Washington had a GREAT spring, and he looks poised to return closer to his sophomore form, when he posted an incredible 177-1036-17. Granted, this isn't the same Mizzou offense from 2008, but it's not chopped liver either. Blaine Gabbert and Washington will be one of the conference's top pass-run duos, and there's a very good chance that this senior tailback will be undervalued on draft day. Reach for him.
2009 Stats: 190-865 RuYd 10 RuTD 26-156 ReYd 0 ReTD 1/1 Pass 0 PaYd 1 Fumb Pts: 161.70
2010 Projs: 171-914 RuYd 12 RuTD 27-227 ReYd 2 ReTD Pts: 198.10
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 5 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 9
Charles Clay has scored 31 touchdowns in his career. Drafters often get caught up in carries, but Charles Clay has averaged about 50 catches per season. So Clay, listed as a fullback, is not your typical grind-it-out battering ram. The Golden Hurricane offense will be better in 2010, and we're banking on Clay's scoring ways to continue. He'll slide on draft day, thus we see a huge steal in the later rounds.
2009 Stats: 63-236 RuYd 7 RuTD 39-530 ReYd 5 ReTD 1 Fumb Pts: 148.60
2010 Projs: 96-496 RuYd 9 RuTD 44-572 ReYd 6 ReTD Pts: 196.80
Home Games: 6 EOS Off: 81 OL Ret: 4 Off Ret: 6
There is a bunch of solid depth in the Rocket backfield, but Morgan Williams is the best of this group. This junior is ready to take over the lead role, and because we have relatively high expectations for QB Austin Dantin and WR Eric Page, we naturally feel Williams will have plenty of room to roam in 2010.
2009 Stats: 74-444 RuYd 2 RuTD 12-78 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 70.20
2010 Projs: 174-1044 RuYd 12 RuTD 17-128 ReYd 1 ReTD Pts: 195.20
Home Games: 7 EOS Off: 87 OL Ret: 2 Off Ret: 5
Allen has been a bit of a fantasy tease (that just doesn't sound right, I know) during his time in South Bend. He combines an elusive running style with great hands, but five touchdowns in 2008 is his high mark. Clearly we're looking for a breakout year in 2010. We're expecting Dayne Crist will perform well, and with so much attention paid to the likes of Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph, we look for Allen to find plenty of open field. He stays healthy and double-digit scores are likely.
2009 Stats: 142-697 RuYd 3 RuTD 28-216 ReYd 0 ReTD 1/1 Pass 0 PaYd 216 PaTD 1 RuConv 1 Fumb Pts: 117.50
2010 Projs: 174-897 RuYd 9 RuTD 42-382 ReYd 2 ReTD Pts: 193.90