2007 Fantasy Running Backs : Ranking Analysis

As your fantasy season approaches, we break down the top ranked 2007 NFL Fantasy Running Backs. The RB Ranking Analysis article continues a week of '07 fantasy ranking breakdowns here on Scout.com.

ELITE

LaDainian Tomlinson - San Diego Chargers
Tomlinson's 2006 was the best regular season for an NFL 
running back...EVER!  LT's touchdown total (33 including his 
2 passing TDs) doubled the total of every RB last season 
(except LJ who managed 19).  Bascially, if you had LaDainian 
on your roster last year...his TD output was more than any RB 
duo your opponent could muster.  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 did 
not 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.  With 
no indication things will be different in San Diego, 
LaDainian Tomlinson will continue as the coveted fantasy 
player for 2007...and will certainly go 1st in every fantasy 
draft.  
  
2006 Stats     Rush yds-1815     Rec yds-508     TDs–31 


Steven Jackson - St. Louis Rams
Jackson's 2334 total yards in 2006 led the league as he 
complimented his rushing touches with 90 (NINETY) receptions 
(and only 3 WRs had more)!  Steven Jackson finished slightly
behind Larry Johnson in TD production (16 to LJ's 19), but 
SJax scored 10 of his 16 TDs in the final 4 games!  Jackson
built a huge head of steam as the season progressed to finish
with 684 yards / 10 TDs in his last 4 games (weeks 14-17).  
If Jackson owners made their fantasy playoffs last year, SJ 
was enough to push them to a fantasy Superbowl victory.  
Steven Jackson is a 231-pound HOSS and will be at the top of 
fantasy draft boards...which has some fantasy owners 
wondering if he may exceed Tomlinson's numbers given his 
dominance on the field at the end of 2006.  Head Coach Scott
Linehan learned to utilize Jackson with conviction in '06, 
and SJax didn't disappoint. 

2006 Stats     Rush yds-1528     Rec yds-806     TDs–16


Larry Johnson - Kansas City Chiefs
LaDainian's freakish '06 numbers have many (most of whom had
LJ as their #1 preseason last year) forgetting the output of 
Larry Johnson.  Although shadowed by LT, Johnson busted out 
and pounded defenses for massive yards and more than his 
share of TDs.  Coach Herman Edwards stated last 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 had nearly exact yardage totals to LT, 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 Johnson owners with solid 
production.  Kansas City will return with a strong offensive 
line and determination to run the football.  The parting of 
QB Trent Green should help the situation in KC and keep the 
durable Johnson on the field for similar stats in 2007.

2006 Stats     Rush yds-1789     Rec yds-410     TDs–19 


Joseph Addai - Indianapolis Colts
Super-sophomore Joseph Addai climbs into the top 5 on our 
board for several reasons.  The fact that the super-bowl 
champion running back rolled over a Bears' top ranked 
defense is just one reason why we believe he'll finish with 
top 5 fantasy numbers in 2007.  Gone is Dominic Rhodes from
the Indy offense...leaving Addai and his versatility to 
handle nearly all of the Colt touches out of the backfield.
Like Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James before him, Joseph 
Addai inherits a powerful Indy offense that features the RB 
heavily in both the running and passing games.  Addai may 
arguably have the skills equal to or better than either of
his predecessors...and he's in a better offense with Peyton 
in his prime.  
 
2006 Stats     Rush yds-1081     Rec yds-325      TDs–9 


Laurence Maroney - New England Patriots
Like Addai above, Maroney is another of the super-sophs (as 
is Bush in New Orleans) in our top 10.  And, like Addai, 
Laurence Maroney is a benefactor of a top 3 NFL offense.  An 
additional similarity is the fact that no longer will Maroney
have to yield carries to a veteran (Corey Dillon) with 
Dillon's exit in the off-season...leaving Maroney to nearly
all of the touches out of the Patriot backfield in 2007.
Laurence Maroney is a beast extremely capable of pounding 
opposing defenses for 4 quarters.  Maroney was used to 200 
yard games at the University of Minnesota when the Gophers 
held any type of lead...and expect more of the same in New 
England this season as the Patriots destroy teams on both 
sides of the ball.  The 21-3 halftime score in Indy at the 
2006 AFC conference championship game is an indication that 
New England will pile on the insurance points this year...
and Maroney will play a major role in the slaughters. 

2006 Stats      Rush yds-745     Rec yds-194      TDs–7 


Shaun Alexander - Seattle Seahawks
Alexander went off with 28 TDs in 2005 only to be followed by
a down season last year.  The injury bug finally caught up 
with "Alex the Great" after becoming the league's best 
rusher over the previous 5 seasons.  And Seattle was not the
same without Alexander's presence for a full year.  Always a 
workhorse, Alexander is expected to bounce back in 2007 
without missing a beat.  Upon a healthy return this Fall, 
he'll continue as the focal point of the Seahawk offense...
and should be good for 15+ TDs and 1500+ yards.

2006 Stats      Rush yds-896     Rec yds-48       TDs–7       



ROCK SOLID


Frank Gore - San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore rushed for 1695 yards (3rd most in the NFL) with 
the San Francisco 49ers...a team previously thought to remain
in the cellar for all of 2006.  Gore was as consistent as he 
was dominant with a total yardage performance of 2180 (4th 
behind SJax, LT, and LJ).  FG's TDs totaled just 9, but 6 of 
his TDs came in the last half of the season.  The whole NFL 
noticed Gore's feats last year and so did the Niners...who 
responded by beefing up their offense this past off-season 
around Gore.  It's true that Gore had a brilliant year in 
'06, but he still comes with some risks.  Aside from the fact 
that Gore isn't yet in a high-powered offense (eg: Indy, Pats, 
SD, etc.), he has a history of 2 blown knees and 2 repaired 
shoulders...just enough to bump him out of ELITE status for 
2007.  

2006 Stats     Rush yds-1695     Rec yds-485      TDs–9 


Brian Westbrook - Philadelphia Eagles
Even with the departure of Donovan McNabb due to injury, "Mr. 
Versatility" continued to put up nice numbers in 2006.  With 
77 receptions (huge for a RB), Westbrook led the Eagles in 
catches and rewarded fantasy owners huge in leagues 
compensating 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.  Westbrook is an all-around RB 
that is as much of a wide receiver as he is a running back.   
2007 will be another year where Westbrook gets the bulk of the 
passes in the Philly offense (73 receptions in '04, 61 in '05, 
and 77 last year!).  Westbrook is Philly's best back and their 
best receiver...he'll again get his numbers and be a quality 
fantasy performer performer for another year.

2006 Stats     Rush yds-1217      Rec yds-699     TDs–11


Reggie Bush - New Orleans Saints
Deuce McAllister kept me from ranking Reggie Bush in the top 
ten last season, but Bush's talent is just too much to keep 
him off of the field this year.  Anyone who watched Reggie 
Bush understands his ability to bust huge plays anytime he 
touches the ball.  Deuce will likely continue to be the 
workhorse in the Saint offense, but keep in mind that Bush
caught 88 (EIGHTY-EIGHT) passes with McAllister as the
featured running back!!!  The versatility in the New Orleans 
offense with the likes of Brees, McAllister, Bush, Colston, 
and 1st round rookie WR Robert Meachem will scare opposing 
defenses and provide Reggie Bush owners an opportunity to 
score fantasy points in every way possible...including 
special teams for leagues who reward performances in the 
return game.

2006 Stats     Rush yds-565      Rec yds-742      TDs–9 


Rudi Johnson - Cincinnati Bengals
Rudi put up 12 TDs in 2006 and was able to spread his scoring 
across the year...which was some nice consistency for his 
fantasy owners.  And coincidentally, Rudi's numbers were 
nearly identical to 2005 totals (12 TDs and 1400+ rushing 
yards).  Many Bengal fans expected huge stats for Rudi in
Cincy's growing experience on offense, but Johnson again 
stayed the course - and he'll probably repeat in 2007.  Until 
the Bengals find a more versatile pass-catching back in the 
backfield, they'll stick to Rudi Johnson's North-South 
running style and his consistent 12 TD / 1400 yard seasons.

2006 Stats     Rush yds-1308     Rec yds-124     TDs–12


Willie Parker - Pittsburgh Steelers
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.  Although 
inconsistent, Parker's 16 total TDs and respectable yardage 
were enough to boost him to 4th overall of NFL fantasy RBs 
for '06.  "Fast Willie Parker" was a phenom who busted out in 
2005 and carried over to '06 as the un-drafted free-agent 
seemingly came out of nowhere to shock nearly everyone with 
his quickness and elusiveness.  Parker is top dog in an 
offense that likes the run, but considering Pittsburgh's woes 
last season, they'll need to change things up a bit to be a 
little more competitive - and Willie isn't much of a pass
receiver out of the backfield.

2006 Stats     Rush yds-1494     Rec yds-222     TDs–16 



SOLID

Cedric Benson - Chicago Bears
The Bears face 2007 as the defending NFC Champions and 
without a controversy at running back.  Thomas Jones left for
the Jets leaving Cedric Benson to carry 90% of the load.  
When on the field last year, Benson was supreme...but not 
enough to upseat Jones.  CB is a huge sleeper candidate as
a versatile/strong RB behind a solid O-line (despite a QB
who makes ill-advised throws when the team should be running
the football).  Benson may not come cheap, but he could end
up being one of the best values in this year's running back 
crop.  At present, I have Benson ranked 12th...but expect him
to make the most of his many touches in the Bear offense to 
easily finish in the top 10 by season's end. 

2006 Stats     Rush yds-647      Rec yds-54      TDs–6


Edgerrin James - Arizona Cardinals
I just have to wonder if Edge ever thought he made a mistake
in moving to Arizona...especially after Indianapolis won the 
Superbowl!?!  James was lucky to make it back to the line of
scrimmage on many of Arizona's plays in 2006 - largely due to
an inexperienced QB and a horrible offensive line.  But Edge
is still one of the top RBs in the NFL, and the Cardinals are
starting to improve their offense.  The addition of RT 
Levi Brown and a year beneath sophomore QB Matt Leinart should 
help the Cardinal offense and Edgerrin James to approach more
respectable numbers in 2007.

2006 Stats     Rush yds-1159     Rec yds-217     TDs–6


Thomas Jones - New York Jets
Thomas Jones has always been an underrated back with mucho
natural ability.  The stint in Chicago allowed Jones to show
his wares, but an unforeseen draft of Cedric Benson forced a
split of carries for the Bear rushers...although Jones 
clearly had his share of touches for the Superbowl runner-up.  
The move to New York solidifies a lock on the starting RB for
TJ, but opens some questions about the ability of the Jets 
and their offensive line to support him.  If Jones is able to 
stay healthy, look for him to put up 1800 total yards with a 
dozen TDs for the Jets and his fantasy owners.

2006 Stats     Rush yds-1210      Rec yds-154    TDs–6 



Clinton Portis - Washington Redskins
Portis' explosion in 2005 placed him in the top 5 on many 
draft boards going into 2006.  But a pre-season shoulder 
injury had Portis moving down the fantasy charts.  "Mum" was 
the word in Washington regarding the injury, but the Skins 
tipped their hand a bit with the trade for T.J. Duckett from 
Atlanta.  As expected, Portis' shoulder injury lingered until
an eventual knee injury sidelined him in week 10...allowing 
Ladell Betts to step up and raise eyebrows by some.  Don't 
expect a RBBC in Washington, but Portis' needs to step up and 
handle the load...and if he regains his former self, Portis 
will be good for some top 10 fantasy numbers to finish the 
season.

2006 Stats     Rush yds-523      Rec yds-170     TDs–7 
___________________________________________________________

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