August 24, 2010
NFL player projections, especially when it comes down to who could make an impact on the football spread as the leading rusher of the league. And be the difference maker in your fantasy football league. However, the running game has changed in recent seasons.
This is because many teams now use the running back by committee approach, which means they swap out first, second, (and sometimes) third string running backs more regularly. The New York Giants (Bradshaw/Jacobs), Carolina Panthers (Williams/Stewart) and Dallas Cowboys (Barber/Jones/Choice) are just a few clear examples of this.
The main thing to look for when making your predictions on rushing potential is opportunity. Try to determine which players will get the majority of the carries for his respective team. Beyond that, injury proneness is another factor to consider as skilled running backs are worth nothing when they are sitting on the injured reserve list.
Here are the top three favorites for most rushing yards in 2010:
1. Chris Johnson: Johnson is coming off an incredible year in which he rushed for over 2,000 yards and averaged an extraordinary 5.6 YPC (yards per carry).
CJ (Chris Johnson) has blazing speed and runs behind one of the best offensive lines in football. The only thing holding him back from another spectacular season is history, as all the running backs that have posted 2,000 yard seasons have seen a major decline in their statistics the following season. Most likely we will see a good, but not great, year out of CJ.
2. Adrian Peterson: Now that the big question in Minnesota has been answered and Brett Favre will return for his 50th season, the team can expect another season of stellar passing, which in turn will benefit the running game.
Peterson will likely improve on his rushing totals from 2009 as his stats slightly declined from two seasons ago. First off, he should receive more carries now that Chester Taylor is out of the mix, which will surely result in more yards. Beyond that, Peterson has rushed for 1,300+ yards in each of his first three seasons and has a solid track record of being a top-tier running back.
3. Frank Gore: If there is any one running back who benefited the most from his team’s offseason moves it was Frank Gore. The 49ers added over 650 pounds of force to their offensive line by selecting Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati with their two first round picks in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Add to that the fact that San Francisco Head Coach Mike Singletary has made himself very clear about establishing a physical, power running football team, which could lead to Gore having a career year. If he can stay healthy, he could definitely compete for most rushing yards this season.
An After Thought...
The Miami Dolphins are another team worthy of noting when it comes to the ground game. The Fins ranked fourth in rushing last season behind the tandem of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, accounting for the most rushing touchdowns in the league (tied with the Baltimore Ravens). While injuries have plagued Brown in the past and Williams is no longer in his prime, there is plenty of potential to consider in Miami's running back core.
The acquisition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall has only improved the passing game, forcing opposing defenses to spread the field. As a result, the running game will have a few more openings as teams will no longer be able to "stack the box" and anticipate Miami's run plays. This could lead to a more productive backfield for the Dolphins, which could catapult them to a top-two rushing offense in the NFL.