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As we look back on my projections for the top 20 running backs for 2012 fantasy football, I would like to say I feel I nailed it.  Unfortch, unlike that one famous carpenter that was around prior to AD, I’m not good with a hammer and injuries always seem to rattle this position to it’s core when you go to review.  There were plenty of surprises, some pleasant and some not so, but the people who drafted players like Maurice Jones-Drew or Ryan Mathews may never play this wonderful and wacky game again.  In the end, the top 20 at this position were most likely the least injured players more so than they were the best players at times during the year which is to say, it wasn’t always sexy to own some of these backs.  For the meat and potatoes of this conversation, since we don’t have a player rater yet, we’re going to rely on yahoo PPR rankings for our review.  So with the groundwork set, let’s take a look back at the top 20 running backs for 2012 fantasy football…

Stats based on rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns

1. Adrian Peterson – Truly ‘the story’ this year outside of Peyton Manning, Adrian got off to a slow start but went completely bonkers from week 7 on to solidify the top running back slot while challenging Eric Dickerson’s record going into week 17.  I really did think we wouldn’t see Peterson on the field before week 5, let alone performing better than he ever has in his career.  Considering the numbers he put up, I give Adrian the crown for best RB value on the year.  Preseason Rank #14, 2012 Projections: 950/10/20/200/1 (12 games), Final Numbers: 2097/12/40/217/1

2. Doug Martin – The Muscle Hamster doesn’t like being called the Muscle Hamster but until he comes up with a better nickname, I don’t care.  What I do care about is how he finished as the second best back despite starting the year as barely an RB2.  We can all look back on the Thursday Night massacre of the Vikings as the start of something beautiful.  Definitely a top 5 back that sticks for 2013.  Preseason Rank #23, 2012 Projections: 750/5/45/360/2, Final Numbers: 1454/11/49/472/2

3. Arian Foster – You bought top shelf, you got top shelf.  Well, not week 16 but hey you just can’t plan for week 16 when you draft can ya?  The worst game of Foster’s year came at the worst time but his first 15 weeks were more consistent than what Peterson gave you so it’s hard to hate on him and if you’re really angry at him, send him some foster farms chicken in the mail.  Preseason Ranks #2, 2012 Projections: 1500/10/55/500/6, Final Numbers: 1424/15/40/217/2

4. Marshawn Lynch – Consistency is king and Lynch only had two games where he failed to score at least 8 points and had 9 games where he rushed for over 100 yards.  What’s scary is what he can do next year with Russell Wilson at full speed for the entire 16 games.  As a Seahawks fan, I’m not gonna lie; I’m giddy.  Preseason Rank #11, Projections: 1250/9/25/175/0, Final Numbers: 1590/11/23/196/1

5. Alfred Morris – I didn’t trust it.  I didn’t trust that Shanahan would stay true to his word.  I didn’t trust that a rookie would step in at RB and not be out of the starting role before too long.  I showed no faith in The Butler and was taken to task for it.  Forgive me, Alfred…and say hi to Bruce for me.  Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers: 1613/13/11/77/0

6. Ray Rice – I want to see Bernard Pierce more involved in the offense.  That’s me quote-paraphrasing John Harbaugh in early December.  That’s me also paraphrasing why Rice didn’t finish higher.  The Ravens offense is simply a hot mess where the players you’d think would have the stats never seem to.  To put things in perspective, Rice had 7 games with under 20 touches on the season.  The fact he’s this high is more a testament to his skill than it is to how he was used.  Preseason Rank #1, 2012 Projections: 1450/13/65/600/2, Final Numbers: 1143/9/61/478/1

7. C.J. Spiller – So here’s how his season goes.  Fred Jackson goes down with an injury second quarter of week 1 and Spiller goes off.  Then Spiller got hurt week 3 and wasn’t quite right for a time during which F-Jax returned.  By the time both were fully right, Buffalo became a RBBC and everyone hated Chan Gailey for it because their love for C.J. Spillereth over.  And somehwere in all this mess, Spiller rushes for over 1000 yards for the first time in his career and finishes an RB1.  I think we can draw the line here with the guys you really counted on on a weekly basis at RB.  Preseason Rank #33, 2012 Projections: 625/4/40/320/2, Final Numbers: 1244/6/43/459/2

8. Jamaal Charles – Obviously it wasn’t the year that AP had but it’s still pretty amazing how well Charles bounced back from injury.  The fact he did it all on a team with a QB carousel of Stanzi, Cassel and Quinn makes it all the more ridiculous.  All praise to JC superstar.  Preseason Rank #12, 2012 Projections: 1100/4/40/450/4, Final Numbers: 1509/5/35/236/1

9. Trent Richardson – Despite a paltry ypc – 3.6 – and him hitting the rookie wall – take away the touchdowns from weeks 12 through 15 and you’ve got a pretty pedestrian RB line – T-Rich made his owners richer for owning him this year.  Considering he played with broken ribs for a long stretch of the season, his finish in the top 10 is truly impressive.  Along with Martin and Morris, Trent reaffirmed that not all rookie running back seasons are like Mark Ingram.  Preseason Rank #8, 2012 Projections: 1200/8/40/300/3, Final Numbers: 950/11/51/367/1

10. Frank Gore – I totally looked over Frank and was seeing who played behind him at the start of the season.  I thought he was washed up in terms of being a reliable starting running back and given where he went in drafts, I wasn’t the only one.  Kudos to Gore and the San Fran staff for keeping him healthy and to the people who drafted him.  Preseason Rank #19, 2012 Projections: 1150/6/25/150/0, Final Numbers: 1214/8/28/234/1

11. Stevan Ridley – The only scarier coach than Shanahan when it comes to drafting a running back is hoodie Bill and yet here we are, reviewing another RB1.  He was a little shaky for his owners come playoff time but came at such an extreme value, I highly doubt any owner could gripe about it.  Well they can but I really won’t listen to them because I drafted MJD.  Preseason Rank #38, 2012 Projections: 600/7/10/40/0, Final Numbers: 1263/12/6/51/0

12. Matt Forte – Readership help me remember an awesome game from this man.  It’s ok if you can’t remember one, I can’t either but for good reason.  He only had three 100 yard rushing games on the year – with the last one coming in game 17 – and a measly 6 touchdowns.  Boring but useful but I blame the Bears offense for that more than I do Forte.  Now the injury issues on the other hand… Preseason Rank #10, 2012 Projections: 1200/4/50/500/2, Final Numbers: 1094/5/44/340/1

13. Chris Johnson – Hurt you to start the year, helped you in the middle of the year, killed you in week 16.  But in the end, you have to admit it: You thought I was crazy when I told you to buy him.  Yet here we are, a guy you could’ve gotten for Pierre Thomas finishes just outside RB1 territory for the year.  I’d say that was quite the steal.  Now let’s just pretend that Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t the lead person in that article and I sound like a flippin’ genius.  Preseason Rank #6, Projections 2012: 1200/8/50/400/1/1, Final Numbers: 1243/6/36/232/0

14. Reggie Bush – Well, he  didn’t rush for 1000+ yards in the last game of the year so it looks like his hopes for winning a rushing title won’t come to pass in 2012.  What did come to pass was a very strong season that got derailed by a knee injury that really slowed him for a 4 game stretch or we might’ve been talking about him higher.  I said he was a value play in the off-season and if you could stomach that mid-season hiccup, he definitely helped his owners during the playoffs.  Preseason Ranks #16, 2012 projections: 1100/6/40/280/2, Final Numbers: 960/6/33/269/2

15. Shonn Greene – You hate seeing his name here, I hate seeing his name here and I really hated putting him in my original top 20 for running backs but facts are facts: what else were the Jets gonna do, let Dirty Sanchez throw the ball?  Greene stayed healthy.  That’s the best thing I can say about him and all it sometimes takes to be an RB2.  Preseason Rank #20, 2012 Projections: 1100/6/25/175/1, Final Numbers: 1063/8/19/151/0

16. Steven Jackson – His career was supposed to be over.  The experts were giving the reigns to Isiah Pead.  Then Daryl Richardson started working into a timeshare and that was supposed to be curtains for S-Jax.  Of course here he is, the RB2 that no one wanted.  Preseason Rank #13, 2012 Projections: 1200/6/40/300/1, Final Numbers: 1042/4/38/321/0

17. Michael Turner – I’m not gonna lie, I hate Turner.  Not as a person, mind you.  Well, I don’t like people who drink and drive but that’s not why I hate him.  I hate him because he really shouldn’t be ranked this high.  No one with rushing games of 15, 17 and 14 should finish the year as the 18th best back.  He’s an RB2 that really played like a flex that you could never predict would perform well.  He’ll go for 102 and a touchdown vs the Cowboys then turn around and have 15 yards on 13 carries against the Saints.  Here’s to hoping Jacquizz gets a bit more of the playing time next year so I don’t have to worry about hating this man any longer.  Preseason Rank #21, 2012 Projections: 900/9/10/75/0, Final Numbers: 800/10/19/128/1

18. Ahmad Bradshaw – At one point this year, Bradshaw was a top 10 RB.  Then he got hurt and Andre Brown ran wild and took over the goal line role.  Then Andre got hurt and Ahmad got back into the fold.  Then he got hurt again.  Then everyone talked about David Wilson and forgot about Bradshaw.  For all the headache that Bradshaw brought to the table, where you drafted him should ease the pain.  You still got good value from Ahmad.  Preseason Rank #15, 2012 Projections: 1150/8/35/250/0, Final Numbers: 1015/6/23/245/0

19. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – True story, I was in the middle of a sleeper post for The Law Firm when it was announced he’d split carries on the year with Bernard Scott.  So I junked it and moved him down my preseason ranks.  And that’s the truth, your honor.  Preseason Rank #39, 2012 Projections: 665/7/20/130/0, Final Numbers: 1094/6/22/104/0

20. Mikel LeShoure – Yet another guy that makes me say ‘meh’.  He’s Turner-lite.  Yes that was a fat joke, Michael is a pretty big guy.  All this to say, the touchdowns saved Mikel just as they did Turner and no matter how many times you wanna make me think it, 50 yards and a touchdown are not what I want to draft as my RB2.  Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers: 798/9/34/214/0

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