LaDainian Tomlinson – San Diego Chargers
LT2 is the complete package. His decline in total yards from 2300 yds in 2003 to 1800 yds last year can hardly be considered a fall off. Not only is LaDainian loaded with talent, he is also extremely durable. Aside from sitting out the final game last season, he has never missed a game in college or the pros. Tomlinson has averaged over 400 touches per season for the past four years with no signs of slowing down. He should be the number one fantasy choice in all league formats.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1335 Rec yds–441 TDs–18
Priest Holmes – Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City has the best offensive line in football. Priest Holmes has been perhaps the best back in football over the past few years. While playing in only eight games last season prior to a season ending knee injury, Holmes amassed a whopping 15 TDs and nearly 900 yards. Although Priest is approaching his 32nd birthday this fall, he has shown few signs of wear. We expect Larry Johnson to play a small role this season, but he doesn't figure to dent Holmes' stellar numbers barring a major injury. Holmes' knee should be fine, but it isn't a bad idea to pick up Johnson. Kansas City's line and running back friendly scheme will lead the Chiefs to top the NFL in rushing yards this season, with Holmes as the league's leading rusher.
2004 Stats Rush yds–892 Rec yds–187 TDs-15
Shaun Alexander – Seattle Seahawks
After a lengthy contract dispute this off-season, Shaun Alexander is back with the Seahawks for at least one more year. This means great things for Alexander owners. "Alex the Great" has put up superior numbers since his second year in the league (2001) and can be expected to again be the workhorse for the Seahawks in 2005, leading in both yards and touchdowns. Mike Holmgren and Alexander haven't always seen eye to eye, but it should have little to no effect on the field. Alexander will continue to be Seattle's ‘go to' guy and lead the Seahawks to the playoffs. Seattle has a very favorable schedule weeks 14-16 with SF, Tenn, and Indy. Keep this in mind when drafting Alexander and other Seahawk players for your fantasy playoffs.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1696 Rec yds–170 TDs–20
Edgerrin James – Indianapolis Colts
The only thing keeping Edge from elite status is Manning and his plethora of offensive weapons. James certainly has the skills to be in the top three of our fantasy rankings, but he will continue to share some of the wealth in Indy. Similar to Alexander, Edgerrin wanted a long term contract. But, like Alexander, he's back with his team in 2005 and will produce like a top back. Edge had nearly 400 touches last season and may have set the NFL season rushing mark if not for sitting out of a meaningless week 17. Last year's surprisingly low touchdown numbers are attributed to James' lack of success in goal-line situations and Manning's ability to pass to a number of solid receivers. As opponents emphasize a strong pass defense against the Colts, expect James to duplicate his yardage numbers from last season with an increase in TD output.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1548 Rec yds–483 TDs–9
Domanick Davis – Houston Texans
Dom Capers loves to run. Domanick Davis is a great finisher. Few backs in the NFL have the hybrid to be excellent in goal-line situations and be great receivers. Davis is both. Domanick caught 68 passes last year while rushing for nearly 1200 yards. With another year under the belt of David Carr and Andre Johnson, look for Davis to post numbers slightly better than last season. Davis may fall in some fantasy drafts as many underestimate his receiving ability.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1188 Rec yds–588 TDs–14
Kevin Jones – Detroit Lions
The Lions may have found a gem. Jones is very quick and has the ability to be a big time playmaker. Kevin Jones averaged just under five yards per carry last season, but was well over five for the second half of 2004. The Lions now have the best talent in the league at the wide receiver position in Rogers, Williams, and Williams. With Jones' explosiveness, expect him to break off some huge gains from mid-field while defenses key on the WR trio. Additionally, Steve Mariucci's new weapons at WR could actually take the load off of Jones inside the five and lead to more short yardage touchdowns.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1133 Rec yds–180 TDs–6
Deuce McAllister – New Orleans Saints
Most fantasy owners underestimate McAllister on their draft boards due to a poor year last season. Of all running backs in our ROCK SOLID tier, McAllister has perhaps the best chance of moving up significantly. Jim Haslett is making major offensive changes in New Orleans. The Saints switched to a more conservative running approach over the last four games of 2004 and won every game. Haslett and the Saints realized that they have both the offensive line and the RB in McAllister to be effective and win ballgames. Many fantasy owners forget McAllister's 2157 yard output in 2003. We're not calling 2005 a breakout year for McAllister due to his previous performance in the league, but the new offensive scheme in New Orleans means a huge jump in stats over his ‘04 totals.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1074 Rec yds–228 TDs–9
Rudi Johnson – Cincinnati Bengals
Since the fallout of Corey Dillon in 2003, Rudi Johnson has been more than adequate. Johnson is a big power back that rushed for over 1400 yards and 12 TDs last season. Receiving yards, however, are nonexistent. Johnson is almost solely used to pound the ball, which adds a small question mark to his value. There is some speculation that the Bengals will spell Johnson a bit more this year in 3rd down passing situations with Kenny Watson or Chris Perry (1st round draft pick in '04), but not enough to knock his value considerably. The Bengals are on the rise and Rudi should come close to last year's totals, but don't expect him to put up much more.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1454 Rec yds–84 TDs-12
Jamal Lewis – Baltimore Ravens
If Lewis somehow was clear of off-field issues, he would be ranked in the top five. But, his out-of-uniform antics justifiably cause concern for the Ravens and Lewis fantasy owners. When it comes to football, Jamal is a superior runner. In 2003, he rushed for 2066 yards and came close to setting the NFL all-time rushing record. In 2004, however, injuries and off-field issues forced him to miss much of the season. Fantasy owners need to understand that there could be a carryover into this season. Lewis may end up being a value pick with his huge up side, but he does come with a significant risk.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1006 Rec yds–116 TDs-7
Ahman Green – Green Bay Packers
With Green Bay's loss of both starting guards and Ahman Green's subpar season in 2004, fantasy owners may let him slide significantly in this year's drafts. Similar to Jones, McAllister, and Lewis, Green had an off year in ‘04. Fantasy owners tend to think "What have you done for me lately?". They forget about Ahman's performance in 2003 of 2250 total yards and 20 TDs, but they shouldn't. Green has a few good years left (he's only 28) and is extremely talented. The decline in TDs last year was primarily due to Green Bay's use of 3rd down backs. Green may not reach the lofty numbers set in ‘03, but expect him to increase his stats considerably (esp. rushing yards) from last season.
2004 Stats Rush yds-1163 Rec yds–275 TDs-8
Curtis Martin – New York Jets
Curtis Martin must feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of NFL running backs. In 2003, he put up almost 1600 yards from scrimmage. In 2004, he put up nearly 2000 total yards. But, he continues to get little respect. Martin rarely ranks in the top fifteen on most RB grids. Now he is 32 and in the twilight of his career. Seldom do NFL running backs keep their pace once they reach 30. But we said the same thing last year. Check out Martin's stats for ‘04. If he comes any where near them in 2005, he's worth a starting roster spot on any fantasy team.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1697 Rec yds–245 TDs–14
Willis McGahee – Buffalo Bills
After watching Miami's all-American tear his anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate, and medial collateral ligaments against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, many thought that Willis McGahee would never again play football. But the Bills GM Tom Donahue believed and drafted him 23rd overall. Reconstructive knee surgery forced 2003 to be a washout, but in 2004 Travis Henry saw McGahee's capability first hand as McGahee beat out Henry for the starting spot. McGahee has his best years in the NFL ahead of him, but needs to work a bit with youngster J.P. Losman at QB. Expect him to improve at RB, but have similar numbers to last season.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1128 Rec yds–169 TDs-13
Corey Dillon – New England Patriots
Corey Dillon has found a home in New England. Last season fit like a glove for Corey. He quietly amassed over 1600 yards rushing with 13 touchdowns in a Superbowl offense. As long as Dillon overcomes some of the nagging injuries that plagued him when he was with Cincinnati, he will be a great fantasy back again in 2005. Dillon won't get many receiving yards, but his rushing yards will more than make up for his lack of receptions. Dillon still has his elusiveness at almost 31. If Dillon can keep his health, he will post similar numbers to 2004 behind the Patriots strong offensive line.
2004 Stats Rush yds–1635 Rec yds–103 TDs-13