Shaun Alexander set a new NFL record in 2005 with 28 TDs. But regardless of a seemingly unbreakable record, most experts believed it was Larry Johnson that had the offensive line and the skills to be the #1 fantasy RB in 2006. And irrespective of the order, virtually every fantasy mag and ranking sheet listed Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, and LaDainian Tomlinson in their top 3.
Johnson was my number one RB heading into the '06 season, but not by much with the talented trio at the top. Although the final total yardage stats of Johnson and Tomlinson were similar, it was LT who busted up the record books with his 31 total TDs (plus 2 passing TDs) and a whopping 5.7 yards per touch! Owners who drafted Shaun Alexander as their number 1 (esp. after his record setting 2005 season) couldn't be criticized for the move, but were quickly disappointed with "Alex the Great's" lingering injury...keeping his performance way down. After the big 3, my big pick was Steven Jackson at #4...which was several slots above most all other experts who had him between 8th and 12th. SJax ran over defenses and finished with 2334 total yards to lead the NFL and finish at a solid 3rd in the final rankings. Most experts had Tiki Barber, Rudi Johnson, Edgerrin James, Ronnie Brown, and Cadillac Williams (in similar order) rounding out their top 8 in preseason. Given the consensus picks of most and final subsequent results, I felt pretty good with Jackson and Rudi Johnson (while bumping Tiki much lower than most).
But the RB story in 2006 for everyone wasn't that LT finished ahead of LJ (and Shaun Alexander nowhere in sight). It was, however, the fact that Maurice Jones-Drew (3rd string rookie), Frank Gore (really bad team), and Marion Barber (2nd string behind Julius Jones) all came out of nowhere to finish in the top 10! Sure, looking back one can maybe make a case for how things happened...but remember, nobody thought during the '06 preseason that these guys would be anywhere on the radar to finish the season. And if those three surprises weren't enough, it was veterans Corey Dillon (New England) and Deuce McAllister (New Orleans) who fought off super-stud rookies Laurence Maroney and Reggie Bush. Few, if any, had either Dillon or McAllister near the top of their draft boards with the newcomer rookies thought to dominate in short order.
2006 was a tough year to predict running backs for anyone. Compared to the majority of FFL experts, I did well with my '06 RB picks. But when compared to how my RB picks finished the season, I'd have to grade my preseason '06 rankings with a C+ (picking just 6 of the final top 12). But considering that I found few other experts who picked more than 5 of the final top 12, I couldn't find any other preseason '06 rankings I'd grade higher than a C.
*reprinted 2006 final Top Fantasy RB article below
1. LaDainian Tomlinson - Tomlinson just finished putting up the best regular season for an NFL running back...EVER! LT2's touchdown total (31...and it's 33 if you include his 2 passing TDs) doubles the total (16) of the #3 ranked fantasy RB on the board! So bascially, LaDainian by himself outperformed the TD output of any opponent duo fantasy RB combo (if LJ is taken from the mix). If scoring weren't enough for fantasy owners, Tomlinson led the league in rushing yards (1815) and was just 11 yards behind in total yardage (2323). If there was a knock on Tomlinson for 2006, it was that he and his team were possibly too good...LT didn't score in weeks 16 or 17 (most fantasy superbowls). But if you were lucky enough to have Tomlinson on your roster, he single-handedly gave you a chance to win your league.
2. Larry Johnson - Take LaDainian out of the mix and Larry Johnson was the man this season. As predicted, Johnson busted out and pounded defenses for massive yards and more than his share of TDs. Coach Herman Edwards stated in preseason that the Chiefs would run the ball 550 times in '06 and he proved to be a prophet as Johnson got 416 of them (most in the league). LJ has nearly exact yardage totals to LaDainian throughout the season, but his TD totals and yards per carry paled in comparison. Regardless, his 2199 total yards and 19 TDs were more than respectable and rewarded owners who drafted Johnson with solid production. The only down numbers from Johnson were in weeks 1-2 and 13-15 where LJ wasn't able to find the endzone, but he still scored in every other week and put up consistent yardage all season.
3. Steven Jackson - Jackson is a Hoss! His 2334 total yards led the league as he complimented his rushing touches with 90 (NINETY) receptions (and only 3 WRs had more)! The primary difference between SJax and the top two RBs on our board is in Jackson's TD production (16). But to the thrill of his fantasy owners, Jackson scored 10 of his 16 TDs in the final 4 games!...which was absolutely huge to his owners who made their fantasy playoffs. If Jackson owners made their playoffs, Jackson's production in weeks 14-17 (684 yards and 10 TDs) should have been enough to give them a Superbowl victory. Steven Jackson is the real deal and should be toward the top of draft lists in 2007.
4. Willie Parker - Fast Willie was "up and down Willie" throughout the season. Parker had 7 games of 125+ yards and scored multiple TDs in most of those games, but he also had 4 games where he put up 47 yards or less (and didn't have a score in any of those 4 games). While getting a considerable number of touches, Parker's yards per touch are fairly low. But although inconsistent, Parker's 16 total TDs and respectable yardage were enough to boost him to 4th overall of NFL fantasy RBs for '06.
5. Maurice Jones-Drew - This phenominal diminutive rookie was huge down the stretch for fantasy owners who noticed him early. Jones-Drew scored in every one of his last 8 games (10 of his 15 total TDs) and went for over 100 total yards in half of them. Yardage totals or touches on the season may not have been among the leaders, but J-D made the most of his opportunities and his final stats boosted him to the #5 fantasy RB in just his rookie season.
6. Brian Westbrook - Mr. Versatility is stayed true to form and continued to put up nice numbers in 2006. With 77 receptions (huge for a RB), Westbrook led his team and was huge in fantasy leagues that rewarded RBs with receptions. Westbrook's TD total (11) tied him at 9th overall among running backs, but his combined yardage-TD factor were enough to boost him up to 6th in fantasy RB value for the year. BW's final 8 games yielded him only 4 TDs, but he did manage to go for over 100 total yards in evey game except week 17 (due to lack of playing time with a lock on the playoffs).
7. Frank Gore - In a previous thought to be suspect offense, Frank Gore rushed for 1695 yards (3rd most in the NFL) with the San Francisco 49ers. Gore was consistent in his weekly total yardage performances (4th behind SJax, LT, and LJ with 2180) and rewarded owners who started him each week. Frank Gore's TDs totaled just 9, but 6 of his TDs came in the last half of the season.
8. Rudi Johnson - Rudi put up 12 TDs on the season and was able to spread his scoring across the year...which was some nice consistency for his fantasy owners. Ironically, Rudi's numbers are almost identical to last year's totals (12 TDs and 1400+ rushing yards). As with Rudi Johnson's scoring, yardage totals were okay and also spread across the entire season. But with Cincy's growing experience on offense, many Bengal fans and fantasy owners expected much more from Rudi and the Orange & Black.
9. Marion Barber - Marion Barber might be one of the best fantasy "finds" of the season. Barber was listed as a backup to Julius Jones, and all Barber did was to score the touchdowns...and he finished tied at 3rd in the NFL with 16 total TDs. For his fantasy owners that started believing in him early, Barber spread his 16 TDs evenly across the season and scored in 11 of Dallas' 16 games. And to show how important Barber was to the Cowboys, they lost all 5 of the games in which Barber didn't score.
10. Corey Dillon - Rookie Laurence Maroney was the big story in the New England Patriot offense and led to fantasy owners shying away from veteran Corey Dillon. But down the stretch, it was Dillon who had the numbers. Dillon's 13 rushing TDs (T-4th) were enough to help the Pats get the divisional crown and help his fantasy owners with a top ten running back.
11. Deuce McAllister - Similar to Corey Dillon, some thought that newcomer Reggie Bush would upseat McAllister and ruin any chance of a fantasy showing. But it was McAllister that quietly put up over 1000 rushing yards and 11 TDs on his way to a very successful season.
12. Tiki Barber - As predicted, Tiki Barber went off in the yardage department. His 1662 rushing yards were 4th (behind LT, LJ, and Gore) and his combined total yardage of 2127 was 5th overall. But Barber had a tough time getting himself into the endzone. He didn't score until week 9 and found himself with only 2 TDs going into the final week of the season before Tiki scored 3 TDs against the Redskins (too late for many fantasy leagues).
* - plus 2 Passing Touchdowns
Send your fantasy questions to email@example.com
Analyzing the RBs...Looking Back at 2006
Scout NFL Network Top Stories
Watch: Landon Collins Insane Pick SixCollins looked more like a RB than a safety on that INT.
Pats-Steelers, A To ZA history lesson, tape review, prediction, complete breakdown and much more in this Patriots-Steelers game day preview.
Steel City InsiderYesterday at 2:50 PM
Week 7: Fantasy Football CentralA hub for all of Week 7's articles and videos by your favorite Fantasy Football experts!
Scout FantasyYesterday at 11:35 AM
Rams looking to curb Giants' big-play abilityLos Angeles is hoping to corral New York's offense that has prospered on their receivers ability to create big plays.
LA Rams ReportYesterday at 10:45 AM
Giants drop the ball in Josh Brown situationBig Blue has lost organizational control and the Josh Brown fiasco has gone on long enough.
The Giants BeatYesterday at 7:39 AM