NPC’s 2011Fantasy Draft Guide: Running Backs

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6. Rashard Mendenhall
There is nothing more important in fantasy football than finding players who score touchdowns. Touchdowns are where all the points come from, and last season, only Arian Foster scored more than Mendenhall. Mendenhall looks poised to have a breakout year, which could thrust him into the elite running back category. The Steelers offense looks as though it will be running on all cylinders this year, and Mendenhall is a huge part of that. Through the first two preseason games, Mendenhall has shown an improvement on catching the ball out of the backfield, which could make him a top tier fantasy back at the season’s end.
Prediction: 1,500 rushing yards, 40 receptions, 12 touchdowns

7. LeSean McCoy
The Philadelphia Eagles have never been a running team under head coach Andy Reid, and I don’t expect that to change this season. McCoy is rated so high on this list simply because of his pass catching ability. McCoy is a dynamic back, and with Michael Vick running such a fast paced offense, McCoy is the perfect back for their system. McCoy could literally haul in 70-75 receptions this season, which would justify taking him so high in your draft. McCoy is ready to have a breakout season, but he will only go as far as Vick will allow that Eagle’s offense to go.
Prediction: 1,100 rushing yards, 75 receptions, 7 touchdowns

8. Michael Turner
If you looked up the definition of workhorse in the dictionary you would find Michael “the burner” Turner. The Falcons high flying offense makes Turner a nice fantasy pick up because he brings touchdowns to the table. Last season Turner scored the ball 12 times, which was good for 4th best in the league. He averaged a decent 3.6 yards per carry last season, but saw his production drop of drastically late in the season as the Falcons became more one dimensional in the passing game.
The addition of rookie Julio Jones to the already stacked Falcons receiving core may mean even less work for Turner, but if your can take Tuner late in the first round he would be a nice pick up.
Prediction: 1,300 rushing yards, 25 receptions, 10 touchdowns

9. Maurice Jones-Drew
It is a little shocking to me that Maurice Jones-Drew has fallen to No. 9 in my fantasy back rankings. MJD is also a workhorse for the Jaguars, yet his struggles to stay healthy last season are a great cause for concern. MJD has carried the ball over 300 times many seasons in his career, and the worry that he has put too much strain on his body is a very real concern. Beginning in week 8 last season, MJD rushed for 100 yards in six straight games showing he is still a huge threat to the league. But I would be cautious drafting MJD too high, because injuries can ravage teams.
Prediction: 1,400 rushing yards, 30 receptions, 10 touchdowns

10. Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson has always been one of my favorite backs. He is a workhorse with solid breakaway speed and punishing hitting ability. You may ask then why would I have Jackson at No. 10 on my list….well I think Jackson is on the decline. Jackson has had the most carries in the NFL over the past five seasons, and he is currently 28 years old. In 2006, Jackson caught 90 passes, and looked as though he would become the premiere overall back in the league. Since then, he has averaged just 44 catches per season…which is nothing to thumb your nose at….but it’s just not elite status. With Sam Bradford clearly on track to become an elite quarterback in the league, the Rams may choose to throw the ball a lot more frequently, which will also cause Jacksons numbers to slip. I still like Jackson as an early second round pick, but I would not take him any higher than that this season.
Prediction: 1,250 rushing yards, 45 receptions, 8 touchdowns