Running Backs - 2007 Fantasy Final

We're continuing the final analysis of fantasy players from the 2007 fantasy season. Reviewing the running back position, we've listed the best of '07 based upon performance.

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RUNNING BACKS

1. LaDainian Tomlinson - Contrary to the all-around boom in QB production for 2007, the top fantasy RBs fell off significantly from last season. Case-in-point, LaDainian Tomlinson led the NFL running backs again in 2007...but finished with barely half of last season's TD totals (19 in 2007 vs. 34 in 2006 counting passing TDs). Still, fantasy owners with LT on their roster could not do much complaining. Tomlinson had the 2nd highest yardage total (1949) in '07 and ran, caught, & passed for 7 more TDs than any other RB. Without a single touch of the football in preseason, LT took a while to get going this past season through the first 5 weeks (averaging just 65 rushing yards per game, 2.7 ypc, and totaled only 2 rushing TDs). But Tomlinson eventually found his form and regained the top spot of fantasy running backs to finish the season strong.

2. Brian Westbrook - "Mr. Versatility" added consistency to his 2007 resume. Brian Westbrook missed game 4, but stayed healthy the rest of the season and put up at least 100 total yards and/or at least one TD in every game through week 16 to finish with a league leading 2104 total yards. With 90 (NINETY) receptions and 5 receiving TDs, Westy was huge in PPR (points per reception) fantasy leagues which reward RBs with strong passing numbers. Westbrook's TD total (12) tied him at 4th overall among running backs, but his combined yardage-TD factor were enough to boost him up to 2nd in fantasy RB value for the year. Brian Westbrook's 2104 total yards, 90 receptions, and 12 total TDs heavily rewarded owners who drafted Westbrook late in the 2nd round and his consistent production helped many stay the course through to their fantasy superbowl.

3. Adrian Peterson - This rookie has many NFLers saying phrases like "Best Ever"...and Adrian Peterson certainly made his case when on the field this season. Although everyone knew Peterson was a special player coming out of college, he was supposed to split carries in 2007 with Chester Taylor and wasn't predicted to become the starting RB in Minnesota until mid-season. But Peterson made the most of his opportunities when called upon and busted out for 224 yards in his 5th game (only his 3rd as a starter). By Minnesota's 8th game, Peterson was clearly the number one RB and answered against San Diego with 296 rushing yards in a stunning 35-17 domination by the Vikes. Peterson moved to the top of NFL running backs at the season's mid-point, but suffered an injury in week 10 that would apparently sideline him for the season (although he did recover to appear in the final 5 games with limited results). Adrian Peterson is certainly the real deal and had fantasy owners salivating early in 2007...and has keeper owners confidently looking toward Peterson's future in the NFL.

4. Joseph Addai - The Indianapolis Colts entered 2007 as the defending Superbowl Champs and with one of the league's top offenses...and Joseph Addai would be the versatile RB capable of big numbers. Addai started off nicely with 5 TDs and averaged 100+ ypg through week 4, but a late injury in game 4 kept Addai sidelined for week 5 and led to conservative utilization of Addai by head coach Tony Dungy for the remainder of the season. Addai did recover from his injury and managed nice numbers through mid-season, but the desire to keep Addai healthy meant less touches and limited his production down the stretch as the Colts chose to play backups like Kenton Keith with big leads (disgruntling to Addai fantasy owners who wished he was playing for Bill Belichick in New England). Addai finished 4th of all fantasy RBs...his 15 touchdowns place him 2nd in total TD production, but only 6 of those came in the 2nd half of the season (with just 527 total yards during those same final 8 games).

5. Clinton Portis - The Washington Redskins weren't thought to have the league's best offense heading toward the '07 season, but Clinton Portis would be the dominant portion when on the field...which is pretty much what happened. Portis started the season with a rushing TD in each of the Skin's first 3 games and finished with 4 TDs in the Skin's final 3 games as Washington made the playoffs (Portis also totaled 381 yards in weeks 15-17...which was HUGE for fantasy owners in their FFL playoffs). Portis spread the rest of his numbers through he season with a couple of 100+ yard games, but weeks 4-14 were fairly modest. Clinton Portis ranks fith with his combo of 1651 total yards (3rd among RBs) and 11 TDs, but his output in the final weeks may have been enough to push many of his playoff bound owners through to a FFL superbowl victory.

6. Jamal Lewis - WHAT? Who out there thought Jamal Lewis had a top six performance left in his tank for 2007 (esp. in Cleveland!)?...I sure didn't. Lewis busted out with 216 rushing yards in week 2, but his best was to come in the 2nd half of his season (after a brief injury sustained in week 5). To the delight of fantasy owners (and Cleveland fans alike), JL put up 100+ total yards in 7 of his final 9 games and had 9 of his 11 TDs during the same timeframe...HUGE for fantasy owners who grabbed Lewis on the cheap in preseason FFL drafts.

7. Marion Barber - Marion Barber was a fantasy "find" in 2006 as he spread 16 TDs evenly across the season for the Dallas Cowboys. In 2007, Barber proved the '06 season was no fluke (he convincingly scored 5 TDs in Dallas' first 3 games) and moved from 9th to 7th in final fantasy RB rankings. Although still splitting carries with Julius Jones, Barber proved to again be the better producer with 12 TDs and 1255 total yards compared to the 2 TDs and 791 total yards for Jones. Most fantasy owners were content with Barber's production in '07, but disappointed with Dallas' seemingly lack of effort in their final 3 regular season games (Barber totaled just 159 yards and 1 TD during the week 15-17 FFL playoff time period)...due primarily to Dallas' early clinching and the untimely injury to Terrell Owens. An added note: Dallas lost all 5 games where Barber didn't score in 2006...in the 3 Cowboy losses in 2007, Barber was also held scoreless.

8. Willis McGahee - What was Willis talkin' 'bout in '07? A: Consistency. Willis McGahee spread his 8 TDs across 8 games and put up 100+ total yards in 9 of his 15 games he appeared. This resulted in 13 games where McGahee scored a TD and/or put up 100+ yards...which were enough to earn him the 8th spot in final fantasy RB rankings. If McGahee had a downside this season, it was his performance at the end of the year (FFL playoffs). WM didn't score in weeks 14-17 and totaled just 64 yards in weeks 14, 15, & 17 combined...a killer for those with McGahee on their fantasy playoff team.

9. Frank Gore - Frank Gore swapped places in the final rankings with Marion Barber (Gore finished 7th and Barber 9th in 2006). Not that dropping 2 spots is a huge issue, but most fantasy analysts had Gore ranked between 3rd and 5th heading into 2007 (I had him at 7th). With no touches in the preseason, Gore was slow out of the gate. His first 100-yard rushing game came in week 12 (and had just one other game with 100+ yards on the ground). Fortunately, Gore was able to combine 436 receiving yards to achieve a respectable yardage total (1538) on the season. Still, Gore's early selection in fantasy drafts warranted much more than a mere 6 TDs...especially for a previously thought to be up and coming NFL stud (and one who managed to start 15 of 16 games in 2007).

10. Earnest Graham - With Cadillac Williams on a torrid pace to start 2007, backup Earnest Graham was a virtual 3rd string unknown in fantasy circles. Fast forward through an injury to Caddy and no-name Graham is the starting Tampa Bay RB in week 6 (this after already surprising for 3 TDs from limited carries in weeks 3/4). The Bucs and head coach Jon Gruden looked for a more permanent back to replace Williams, but took a chance on Graham...and it paid off for Tampa Bay and all fantasy owners who took the same chance (off the league waiver wire). Graham produced almost immediately after taking the starting role and pumped his owners with plenty of yardage / TDs down the stretch before resting (in weeks 16/17) prior to Tampa's NFL playoff game.

11. Edgerrin James - I still wonder whether Edge regrets moving to Arizona for money when he could have had a Superbowl in Indy...regardless, he's playing for the Cardinals and keeps on chugging. Starting every one of 16 games, James' 324 rushes were 2nd most in the NFL...but eclipsed the 100 yard rushing mark just 3 times in '07 (weeks 2, 13, and 17) for 1222 yards on the ground. A spattering of 7 TDs throughout the season made for a decent (not great) fantasy season for James and his owners. Edge was helped by the arrival of coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to the Cardinal offense prior to the 2007 season (although Whisenhunt may still be a year away from getting AZ's offense where he wants it). The problem is that Edge isn't getting any younger - he turns 30 on August 1.

12. Marshawn Lynch - Rookie Marshawn Lynch was the only clear starting rookie heading into the 2007 season...thus slightly higher expectations for Lynch than for Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. So what happened? A: Lynch performed at or better than expected and Peterson absolutely went off. Lynch averaged nearly 100 total yards through week 10 (with 6 TDs) prior to a sidelining injury that kept him on the bench for 3 of Buffalo's last 7 games. Bottom line: Lynch was impressive in 2007 and has the tools to be a top 5 RB within the next couple of years provided he stays healthy. Those who drafted Lynch in 2007 can't be too disappointed with his 12th place final ranking (esp. since he was drafted much lower than 12th in most FFLs).

13. Maurice Jones-Drew - This diminutive rookie was to become one of the super-Sophs of 2007 and had varied expectations heading into the season. Although Jones-Drew finished an amazing 5th in 2006 final fantasy RB rankings, "Fragile Freddy" Taylor was still slotted as the '07 starter for the Jags...resulting in many FFLers not quite knowing where to rank MJD in preseason drafts. Somehow, Jones-Drew's 9 rushing TDs and 1175 total yards ended up par for most MJD predictions (#13 final ranking is about right based upon many expectations), but NOBODY expected Fred Taylor to stay healthy enough to start every game for the Jags (through week 16) and dig into Jones-Drew's totals...to the extent of an accumulated 223 carries for 1202 yards and 5 TDs!?!

14. LenDale White - Tennessee's backfield appeared way too crowded with LenDale White, Chris Brown, and promising rookie Chris Henry to target any of the trio in '07 preseason fantasy drafts. But amazingly, White held his job and started every game for the Titans (albeit some splitting of carries). Regardless, White amassed 304 carries for 1108 rushing yards (including 5-100+ yard performances) and 7 TDs for a fine season...certainly one that paid off for fantasy owners who picked up White in the middle rounds.

15. Willie Parker - "Fast Willie" Parker finished with 16 total TDs in 2006 and was summed up as the 4th best fantasy back to end the season. So what happened in 2007 and what's with the ranking of 15th? A: Parker didn't get into the endzone! Willie's 321 carries and 1480 rushing yards are both top 3 or 4, but a mere 2 (TWO) TDs is horrible for a starting RB with 344 touches (esp. on a division winning team).

16. Ryan Grant - Guaranteed...nobody ever heard "Ryan Grant" at their preseason fantasy draft (and doubt that his name was even mentioned as commishioners read through NFL rosters at most auctions). Green Bay was to start the season with Vernand Morency as a preview to rookie Brandon Jackson...that is, until previously unknown Ryan Grant came out of nowhere for 104 rushing yards in week 8. Grant was then given the starting reigns for the Packers and never looked back. He finished HUGE with 7 TDs in the Pack's final 6 games (and went over 100 rushing yards 5 times beginning on October 29th...the week when Grant made his presence in the GB lineup). Fantasy owners who grabbed Grant off the wire following his breakout against the Broncos were rewarded with some big numbers from Grant through their fantasy superbowl.

Top Fantasy Running Backs 2007

RB

Rush Att

Rush Yards

Rcptns

Rec Yards

Total Yards

TDs Rush

TDs Rec
LaDainian Tomlinson
315
1474
60
475
1949
15
3*
Brian Westbrook
278
1333
90
771
2104
7
5
Adrian Peterson
238
1341
19
268
1609
12
1
Joseph Addai
261
1072
41
364
1436
12
3
Clinton Portis
325
1262
47
389
1651
11
0*
Jamal Lewis
298
1304
30
248
1552
9
2
Marion Barber
203
973
44
282
1255
10
2
Willis McGahee
294
1207
43
231
1440
7
1
Frank Gore
260
1102
53
436
1538
5
1
Earnest Graham
222
898
49
324
1222
10
0
Edgerrin James
324
1232
25
196
1428
7
0
Marshawn Lynch
280
1115
18
184
1299
7
0*
Maurice Jones-Drew
167
768
40
407
1175
9
0
LenDale White
304
1108
20
114
1222
7
0
Willie Parker
321
1316
23
164
1480
2
0
Ryan Grant
188
956
30
147
1103
8
0

* - each had 1 Passing Touchdown

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