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When we left off our top 20 running backs for 2012 Fantasy Football, we were still rounding out the ‘Team’s #1 RB option until proven worthless’ tier and I’ll fully admit my faith in this position was shaken to it’s core.  I really hated ranking Shonne Green ahead of…well anyone but that’s the life of a ranking pro and the life of being a running back drafter in 2012.  I do think there’s still some value we have yet to ring out of this position but it’s like those last few drops in your underwear when you were too embarrassed to skinny dip with everyone else but felt too much peer pressure not to jump in.  Hrm, actually it’s nothing like that but I liked the idea of putting that image in your head.  Now that I’ve lead you astray it’s time to get you back on course on our journey through the 2012 Fantasy Football Rankings.  Here’s the best of what’s left at running back for 2012 fantasy football.

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

21. Michael Turner Ummmm, I don’t know if I agree with myself here but this isn’t the appropriate place to have an argument.  Turner’s final 7 game stats don’t look bad on the surface (445 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 4.5 ypc) but when you toss out the last game of the year against the lowly Buccaneers rushing defense, you get 280 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD and a 3.3 ypc.  Not sounding so awesome now, eh?  I think Turner retains his goal line duties but won’t handle the rock as much as he’s been averaging since moving to Atlanta.  This is why I’m arguing with myself here.  I’ll warn you, this might turn into a slap fight.  2012 Projections: 900/9/10/75/0

22. Roy Helu - This is the start of the next tier and it goes to Best.  This tier is called ‘upside down cake’ as there is plenty of upside and downside to drafting one of these guys.  Though I like all three, I likely won’t find one of these guys on my team as they’re go higher in the draft than I’d like them to.  We all know why he’s here.  Evil, thy name is Mike Shanahan.  The early talk in camp is that Tim Hightower – if healthy – is the starting back in Washington.  When you factor in Evan Royster admirably stepping in when Helu couldn’t go the last two weeks to the tune of 245 yards and on 39 carries, there’s a lot to be fearful of here.  2012 Projections: 600/4/60/540/2

23. Doug Martin - He’s being marked as the #1 running back in Tampa this season despite flashes of usefulness from LeGarrette Blount last year.  Just remember Ryan Matthews was supposed to land in San Diego and hit the ground running.  Then he got to watch Mike Tolbert be the fantasy back to own for 2010.  Not saying they’re the same player, but realize you could have growing pains here and the Bucs do have a reasonable fallback should he falter.  2012 Projections: 750/5/45/360/2

24. Jahvid Best -  Best feels like someone who could be the Darren Sproles of the Lions.  The only rub here is simple: even when Best is at his best, his health history is the worst.  2012 Projections: 600/3/55/500/4

25. Beanie Wells - This is the start of the next tier and goes to Wells and Wells alone.  I call this tier the ‘Is Beanie a baby?’ tier because the jury is still out on how to view his 2011 season.  The naysayers will point out how he yet again couldn’t stay healthy over the course of a season.  The yaysayers will make note of how he played through the pain and still gave an RB2 season.  Overall, he reminds me of a poor man’s Turner but can’t be counted on for a full 16 games.  Man, I really wanna like this guy.  I mean, his name is Beanie and that makes me titter.  2012 Projections: 925/8/10/50/0

26. Jonathan Stewart - This is the start of the next tier and goes to DeAngelo.  This tier is called the ‘Carolina Zen’ tier because they are the yin and yang of the Panther backfield.  Stewart is the running back who catches the passes in this tandem.  I don’t know if that makes him the yin or the yang and I don’t really care.  He’s useful.  2012 Projections: 750/4/45/405/2

27. DeAngelo Williams - He was the goal line back last year when Cam Newton wasn’t running it in and I don’t see a big reason for that to change.  Ok, Tolbert is big but that joke is kind of mean.  Seriously, though, I believe that Tolbert came to Carolina with a reduced role in mind.  He should be the guy blocking for the guys trying to get into the end zone and I think DeAngelo will do that plenty.  2012 Projections: 750/8/15/120/0

28. James Starks - This is the start of the next tier and it goes to Redman.  I call this tier the ‘discount’ tier because neither guy is proven but are in line to be #1 running backs for their respective teams.  In this day and age of the RBBC, that really is something to be thankful for.  Brent already waxed poetic about this guy earlier in the spring and I can’t say I disagree with him.  Let’s hope we’re both right.  2012 Projections: 820/5/40/320/2

29. Isaac Redman – I almost like the Redman as much as Starks but question what his goal line role will be with Rashard Mendenhall out to start the year.  As I covered earlier this off-season, I truly doubt we see Mendenhall at all this year and Redman was useful in the brief time he got to be the team’s starter.  All and all, it will be important how they treat him inside the 20, but as the final guy for my ‘Team’s #1 RB option until proven worthless’ tier, he’s definitely someone I’ll be targeting in drafts.  2012 Projections: 925/7/30/240/1

30. Peyton Hillis - This is the start of the next tier and goes to Bush.  I call this tier the ‘GLB’ tier which is an acronym for ‘Goal Line Back’.  However, I like to think of them as something I’d pronounce as ‘glob’ because that’s what they are to me: a glob of guys who are gonna score touchdowns but I don’t know if they’ll give you much else.  So did the Madden cover curse strike again?  Well that and worrying about getting a big free agent paycheck rather than actually playing hard like you should.  I did think Peyton would come back to Earth a bit in 2011 but I didn’t think he’d try and burrow to the center of it.  He’s playing behind Charles but is also a physical back and should get the goal line carries.  If you own Jamaal, Peyton is pretty much a must have due to the injury history.  2012 Projections: 800/6/30/300/1

31. Michael Bush - If Matt Forte does not sign, Michael would get a decent boost in my rankings.  Until we know more, though, Michael is a ‘GLB’ and that’s alright.  2012 Projections: 700/7/40/350/1

32. Toby Gerhart - This is the start of another tier and it goes to Felix.  I call this tier the ‘kinky’ tier because if you get off on handcuffs, these are good ones to have.  I have Adrian Peterson ranked dangerously high this year, especially with news of going on the PUP list swirling around.  I still believe once he returns to the field, he’s going to be stellar.  So stellar, in fact, that he’ll wipe away those tears you shed when you realized you had drafted someone who wasn’t going to play a full season.  To avoid too much heartache, you could draft Gerhart to go with your AP.  Heck he might even be ‘useful’.  How’s that for exciting!  Yeah, it’s not working for me either but if you’re drafting the Purple Jesus, you should be drafting the Valhalla warrior (<—my terrible Gerhart nickname) too.  2012 Projections: 810/5/30/240/2

33. C.J. Spiller - Spiller is the reason why Fred Jackson wasn’t ranked higher in the top 20 running backs last week.  Now, Freddie gets his revenge because I’d rank Spiller higher if it weren’t for Jackson.  Tune in next week for Buffalo Kill Bills Volume III: The Story of Sidewinder Tashard Choice.  2012 Projections: 625/4/40/320/2

34. Ben Tate - The only thing I can hold against Tate is Arian Foster.  Hrm, that’s a pretty big ‘only thing’.  Still, we know Foster’s health history has been spotty and Tate has been useful when given carries.  The only trick with Tate is knowing when he’s going to get touches while Arian is healthy.  Well, there’s another trick but if I told you that secret I’d have to turn in my magician’s license.  2012 Projections: 750/7/15/105/0

35. Felix Jones - Felix would probably be a starting running back for a lot of other teams.  But of course he doesn’t play for a lot of other teams, just the Cowboys.  Even though he’s not much of a touchdown scorer, he’s almost a must own for DeMarco Murray owners this year on the off chance that 2011 was a mirage.  I tried thinking of a clever comment about mirages but I’ve got nothing.  I’ll try harder next time.  2012 Projections: 675/1/45/315/2

36. Donald Brown - This is the start of the next tier and goes to Willis.  I call this tier the ‘Um, you’re a #1 RB?’ tier as both of these guys are most likely set to start the year as their team’s #1 RB but it’s not getting me excited, even in this age of RBBC.  I’m ranking Brown here for two main reasons.  One, it’s not with 100% certainty he’ll lead his team in carries for the year.  Two, I don’t know if the Colts are going to provide enough offensive juice to make him a viable back to own anyways.  If you need a third reason, go look at how teams finish 2-14.  It usually doesn’t lead to many rushing attempts.  2012 Projections: 840/5/15/105/0

37. Willis McGehee – I feel like Ronnie Hillman will be just enough of a part of the offense to make it annoying to own Willis this year.  Yes, even more annoying than it normally is.  2012 Projections: 750/7/15/60/1

38. Stevan Ridley - This is a new tier and would stretch into the top 60 if we had the gall to do that to you (trust me, we don’t).  This tier is called the ‘kerplop!’ tier as these are guys that could land on your team at one point this year and either drop amazing stats or give you what the urban dictionary definition of kerplop is.  I’m not someone who goes after running backs on pass heavy offenses.  I know some people would rank Ridley higher but we truly don’t even know if he’s the #1 back in New England right now.  If he is, he gets a major bump as The Law Firm scored 24 touchdowns as the lead back in New England over the last two years.  Hrm, where DID that guy go anyway?  2012 Projections: 600/7/10/40/0

39. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Talk about foreshadowing!  I started then stopped a sleeper post about BenJarvus this spring when the Bengals stated their team was going RBBC, giving Bernard Scott a shot to shine.  I still think BJGE wins out but until he does, he’s a pretty mediocre acronym to draft.  2012 Projections: 665/7/20/130/0

40. Mark Ingram – It’s not just the injuries as to why I have him down here, though that doesn’t help.  Simply put, the New Orleans running attack is hard to nail down from week to week, minus Sproles and even he is really a slot receiver disguised as an RB.  Overall, I wasn’t that tempted by him last year in the draft and I’m really not excited about his situation for 2012 either.  2012 Projections: 600/7/15/75/0

And now that we’ve made an end to ranking running backs, I ask that you hold on a little bit longer so I can blather about guys I plan on watching or am intrigued by coming into 2012.

David Wilson - Ok, I’ll admit I just want to talk about this guy and get him on your radar.  Ahmad Bradshaw gets too many dings and dents to not be intrigued by his back up going into the year, especially when they’re talented.  Hint: Wilson is talented.  2012 Projections: 675/5/15/165/0

Chris Ivory - I think Pierre Thomas is the more consistent choice (consistently aggravating or consistently useful, I’m not sure) while Ingram is the sexier, post-hype sleeper choice but I’d like to highlight what Ivory has done when he’s played.  In 216 career carries, Ivory has gained 1,090 yards and scored 6 touchdowns.  If that happened in one season, you’d be drafting him nearer to the top 20 than being talked about way down here.  However, injury coupled with a crowded backfield have hid him from the spotlight.  Well, here’s that spotlight.  Don’t wilt under it, Chris!  2012 Projections: 875/4/10/80/0 (<——- optimism at it’s finest)

Daniel Thomas - The starting job was his to lose in 2011 and he lost it to Reggie Bush.  I just facepalm’ed.  If Bush does play wide receiver as much as the Dolphins talked up in camp, there’s a chance for Thomas to redeem himself and become a useful back this year.  Hey, weirder things have happened.  2012 Projections: 760/4/15/90/0

Kevin Smith - With all the uncertainty surrounding Jahvid’s health, Smith should be a reasonably cheap back up to acquire in the draft this year, which is somewhat surprising when you consider his play last year (roughly 75 all-purpose yards and a touchdown a game over 7 games).  Of course, his own dubious history with ailments plays it’s part too.  Keep your eye on the Lion’s infirmary ward and if you find Best’s name on the list, go grab the Kevin Smith who doesn’t play Silent Bob.  201 Projections: 560/5/30/240/1

Jacquizz Rodgers - Gotta talk about the upside that is the downside of Turner this year.  Due to his size – 5’6″ and 195 lbs – I can’t get too excited about his prospects as a full time running back.  If he’s used correctly, he could give you a Javhid-lite year which is already a Sproles-lite year.  It feels weird not making a ‘light year/lite year’ pun here but I feel you’ve all put up with me enough already so I won’t subject you to it.  You’re welcome.  2012 Projections: 380/0/45/405/4

  1. iMP says:
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    Thanks for providing the rankings.

    I have a question where I could use some advice.

    I play in a PPR league with only a 4 player bench (and only two of those can be an RB). As an Arian Foster owner, would you spend one of the bench spots on Tate or take a comparable value player from another team?

    Obviously, Tate is better in the case Foster gets hurt, but will be an albatross come bye week time or if my other RBs get hurt.

    • Sky

      Sky says:
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      If you’re being forced to only hold 2 running backs on your bench, I’d look at other #1 options over Tate.

  2. David_KOA says:
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    @Sky,
    I think You have a typo when it comes to the Panthers RB duo(Stewart & Williams). You said that Williams was the goal-line back last year. Unless you were being sarcastic? According to the numbers
    Inside the opponents 5 for 2011
    J-Stew had 10 carries
    Williams had 2 carries

    • Sky

      Sky says:
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      Yeah, I was simply pointing out that he was the guy who scored the most TDs on the ground. Bad choice of words on my part. Will be interesting to see how much Tolbert helps them in the running game this year. If he and the team keep with what they said he was here to do which was to block for the other guys and have a reduced role.

  3. Hot Sauce says:
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    I am helplessly and uncontrollably in love with Jahvid Best this year. I think he’s in for a steady #2 RB kind of season and a RB rank of around 15. I can’t help myself.

    On the flip side, I am not sold on Beanie despite his pretty impressive season last year all things considered. Obviously you can’t write essays with these blurbs, but you did not mention Ryan Williams’ presence. How much do you think that is going to factor in? Do you like Williams at all this season?

    • Sky

      Sky says:
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      Williams is hard to judge. Beanie still had 1K yards and 10 touchdowns last year in his 14 games. I do think Williams will be useful in PPR leagues but I question how he’ll be used unless Beanie goes down with an injury. All this to say, I think the demise of Beanie is being labelled a bit prematurely.

      I’d be higher on Best, or Sproles-lite as I prefer to think of him, if it weren’t for the injury history. Concussions are pretty scary.

  4. sos says:
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    In my 12 team salary cap, I’ve been considering offering forte ($24, 1 year) for bradshaw ($10, 2 years) and david wilson ($4, 5 years). I don’t really need the depth but it seems like a good idea to cash in on forte while I have the chance. Thoughts? Salaries increase 10% each year…

    • Sky

      Sky says:
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      Can’t argue with your logic. Given you only have 1 more year with Forte, I’d do it.

  5. sos says:
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    I guess the question is, is the drop off from forte to bradshaw worth the future of wilson? I do plan to contend this year but I’m not convinced that bradshaw will be that much worse than forte. .5 ppr league

    • Sky

      Sky says:
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      Bradshaw will be better for touchdowns than Forte. It could end up a wash in end of season value but better for you long term.

  6. HI says:
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    Who to keep? I get to keep 2. Adrian Peterson, Demarco Murray, Jamaal Charles, Reggie Bush? Or do I keep Wes Welker and one running back? Anyone hear of an injury update on the first 3 that might help me change my mind?

    • Sky

      Sky says:
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      PPR? How many teams? Let me know and I’ll have a better idea how to answer.

  7. David_KOA says:
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    @Sky,
    More then a few names and the place in which they are rank jump off to me. Two that I would like to point out would be Beanie Wells & BJGE.

    When looking at Beanie Wells final nine weeks(excluding week 15). His stat line for his final 8 games 49.5 yards, 3.1 YPC & .37 TD’s Yikes!!!

    I know in the past couple of months I have stated my dislike for one BJGE.
    That being said I don’t see why he can’t see around 230 total touches. With those touches a stat line around 900+ total yards & 6 TD’s seems like good expectations for 2012.

    I would put both in the serviceable RB3 range. When I say serviceable I am not going to be jumping to get either of the two. It just speaks to the darkness that the RB position brings to fantasy football owners this year:(

    What is the difference between Beanie Wells & BJGE in 2012?

    • Sky

      Sky says:
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      A lot of Beanie’s numbers were him playing through an injury. It’s why I gave him his own tier. 50% of the season healthy was actually great.

      BJGE has been declared in a RBBC. If I hear different I could get behind those numbers. The problem is was I saw Cedric Benson numbers with a #1 back. The Bengals offense isn’t enough of a juggernaut for me to count on his touches amounting to Enough points for me to get behind him at this point.

      • David_KOA says:
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        @Sky,
        Those numbers I type up for BJGE is with RBBC in mind. Even with Bernard Scott in the mix(RBBC), I don’t see why we can not expect 13-14 touches a game which over a 16 game season comes out to around 220 touches.

        If you really look at Beanie’s numbers last year he was good for the first four weeks(3 games) Plus week 15(228 yards and 1 TD)
        Weeks 1-4: 107 yards, 5.4 YPC and 1.3 TD’s
        Then from weeks 5-17: He had nine games with a YPC AVG of 3.8 or lower. To make you throw up in your mouth even more he had three games with 2.7 YPC AVG or less!

        To say 50% of the season was great is not really true. It was more like 1/4th of the of 2011 was good for Beanie Wells.

        • Sky

          Sky says:
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          Beanie sprained his knee in week 5 against the Steelers, whom he had 42 yards on 12 carries against in one half. I agree he didn’t give us 50% of a good season but through 6 weeks, he gave us 506 yards and 7 touchdowns. The wheels – or knees – came off week 7 against the Rams and he wasn’t quite right/trustworthy from there on out. He also had a mess at quarterback to contend with in Skelton/Kolb. Teams didn’t feel the need to worry about the passing game vs Arizona last year.

          With BJGE, we’re assuming he gets 50% of the weekly touches (Bengals as a whole rushed it 455 times last year). Since he hasn’t shown himself to be much of a receiving back for his career, I simply couldn’t assume he gets the necessary touches to accumulate goood enough yardage. I had him down for about 180~190 carries with my numbers.

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