Arian Foster (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Running Back, probably more so then any other position in the NFL, routinely defies conventional wisdom. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to think of the “ideal” NFL running back. What traits would you pick out? Size? Probably pretty tough to pin down since top fantasy backs range from Matt Forte (6-2, 220) to Maurice Jones-Drew (5-6, 208) to Steven Jackson (6-2, 240). What about speed? Well, that’s tough too since you have Michael Turner and Mark Ingram (4.51 and 4.62 40 yard dash) on one hand and Chris Johnson (4.24) on the other.
If we try the same exercise for quarterbacks and wide receivers, the answers are much clearer right? For both positions we want someone who is tall, muscular and smart. Anyone without these three characteristics who succeeds is more than likely an outlier. (The top QBs, in no particular order, are Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Stafford, Newton and Manning x2.) Of this group, only Brees is under 6-2 and 220 pounds. The same goes for receivers. Looking at the best of the best (Megatron, Fitzgerald, White, Andre Johnson, Welker, Jennings and A.J. Green), only Welker and Jennings are under six feet tall, and only Welker is under 200 pounds.
So, while evaluating WRs and QBs is fairly granular, it is nearly impossible to rank Running Backs without stumbling into legitimate arguments against your picks every step of the way. But let’s give it a shot (because somebody has to).
LeSean McCoy (Photo Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
321 total touches, 1,624 yards from scrimmage and 20 total TDs (17 rushing, 3 receiving)
2. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
331 total touches, 1,841 yards from scrimmage and 12 total TDs (10 rushing, 2 receiving)
3. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
319 total touches, 1,465 yards from scrimmage and 4 total TDs (4 rushing)
4. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
367 total touches, 2,068 yards from scrimmage and 15 total TDs (12 rushing, 3 receiving)
These four guys are the only “elite” fantasy backs given how much of their team’s offense they’re responsible for. All touched the ball over 300 times and were largely considered the focal point of their respective offenses. Of this group, McCoy ranks the highest from a fantasy perspective because of both the incredible amount of skill around him (Vick, Maclin, DeSean Jackson, etc.) as well as his young age (24). Foster is the best runner, but the decline of Andre Johnson as well as his odd off-season decision to go vegan knock him down slightly. Johnson is coming off a lengthy holdout and a season in which he woefully underperformed; he was far and away the top fantasy RB in 2010. If he gets back on track, he’ll likely challenge McCoy for the top spot. Ray Rice is the forgotten man. Everyone recognizes his productivity, but no one trusts anyone around him (including his quarterback, Joe Flacco). His supporting cast is the weakest of the top four backs and pushes him down the rankings slightly.