NFL Football is back, but more importantly, Fantasy Football is back! In celebration of our favorite work-week-distraction returning, we are publishing our first annual SB Nation Tampa Bay Fantasy Football Primer. This series will profile each key position with a full ranking the top selections as well as a heavy focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers players available at each position.
Last week we explored Quarterbacks and the face of the Buc’s franchise Josh Freeman’s rise to prominence that has not only turned around the Buccaneers season but has also shot the young signal caller up fantasy draft boards across the county. We also ranked the top 32 quarterbacks in the league with Freeman finding himself inside the top 10.
Today, we will examine the bruisers that tote the rock week in and week out, the running backs.
While quarterbacks may be the premier position amongst NFL general managers, the real belle of the ball for fantasy team owners are feature backs. Running backs generally get drafted first, get scrutinized the most, and generally score the most points for your team. Futhermore, unlike the QBs, you need two of them each week, meaning scoring a dynamic duo on draft day can be the difference between fantasy fame and fantasy feign.
But how does one know who to choose? How do we separate the Steven Jacksons from the Frank Gores. The LeShaun McCoys from the Ray Rices?
Fear not, fantasy friends, SBNation Tampa Bay is here to help.
The Buccaneers remarkable 10-6 breakout season of 2010 was a total team effort, but no one player exemplified the surprise coming out party more than undrafted free-agent rookie running back LeGarrette Blount.
All 32 teams passed on Blount during the 2010 NFL draft, in many ways because of an incident involving the punching of a Boise State football player while Blount was a member of the Oregon Ducks. As training camps opened, Blount found work on the Tennessee Titans roster but was unceremoniously cut during the preseason, before latching on with the Buccaneers when they claimed him off waivers.
While it took a few weeks for Blount to learn the playbook in Tampa Bay, he eventually got his chance in late October and did not squander his opportunity, racking up 120 yards and two touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals. Blount never looked back, punishing and hurdling defenders on his way to a 1,000 yard season with 6 touchdowns and a stunning 5-yards per carry average, much to the delight of opportunistic Fantasy owners that picked the 250-pound bruiser up mid-season.
Don’t expect LeGarrette to go undrafted in your league this year.
With the departure of Cadillac Williams in Tampa Bay, Blount will be the Buc’s go-to back on all downs. Previously, his value was limited due to his inability to stay on the field for third or passing downs, something the Bucs coaching staff has worked hard with Blount to change this training camp. While Blount may split some time with second year man Kregg Lumpkin, there looks to be little threat to his carries on the current Buccaneers roster.
Given a full season to produce, Blount should easily exceed his gaudy rookie numbers in his sophomore season, making him a valuable first to second tier fantasy pick in almost any league.
As for the rest of the rock carriers.
- Arian Foster, HOU - Foster has leap-frogged Adrian Peterson as the best back in all of football. Period.
- Adrian Peterson, MIN - Still has the potential to be the most dominant runner in fantasy, but can he stay healthy? Can the Vikings offense stay on the field long enough behind Donovan McNabb for Peterson to get in the end zone?
- Jamaal Charles, KC - Like Blount, Charles burst onto the scene in a big way in 2010. Kansas City lead the league in rushing last year and expect to see them continue to try and do the same in 2011. Charles is just so explosive with the football that splitting carries with Thomas Jones barely hurts his value.
- Chris Johnson, TEN - Has the talent to be ranked #1 on this list, but the Titans offense combined with his training camp hold out have me worried about this season for CJ.
- LeSean McCoy, PHI - The dream team in Philadelphia only helps McCoy's value. He can run, he can catch, he can do a bit of everything. The Eagles are going to score a ton of points this season and McCoy should be involved in lots of them.
- Ray Rice, BAL - As Flacco matures the Ravens may start to pass the ball more, but Rice is turning into an every down back and the departure of Willis McGahee will increase his touches.
- Frank Gore, SF - If he stays healthy he's one of the most feared backs in football... but it's a big if.
- Rashard Mendenhall, PIT - Should continue to improve in a running first offensive scheme. Great check-down option for Big Ben, also.
- Steven Jackson, STL - The Ram's offense should improve this season, but like Gore, it's a question of if Jackson can stay healthy. If so, he's hard to beat.
- Darren McFadden, OAK - The Raiders offense is better than people may give it credit, and Run DMC is a big reason for that. With no true threat to his carries this season, expect another big year out west.
- Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX
- Michael Turner, ATL
- Peyton Hillis, CLE
- LeGarrette Blount, TB
- Knowshon Moreno, DEN
- Matt Forte, CHI
- Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG
- Shonn Green, NYJ
- Ryan Mathews, SD
- DeAngelo Williams, CAR
- Felix Jones, DAL
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, NE
- Jonathan Stewart, CAR
- Javid Best, DET
- Ryan Grant, GB
- Joseph Addai, IND
- Cedric Benson, CIN
- Marshawn Lynch, SEA
- Fred Jackson, BUF
- Mark Ingram, NO
- Daniel Thomas, MIA
- Pierre Thomas, NO
- Ronnie Brown, PHI
- LaDanian Tomlinson, NYJ
- Brandon Jacobs, NYG
- Beanie Wells, ARI
- Ryan Torain, WAS
- C.J. Spiller, BUF
- Thomas Jones, KC
- Reggie Bush, MIA
- Tim Hightower, WAS
- Michael Bush, OAK