Scouting the Running Backs

Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) (AP)
Posted: August 25, 2011


Cedric Benson, Cincinnati: He celebrated his second consecutive 1,000-yard season with an arrest in July for misdemeanor assault, his fourth pinch as a pro.

Jahvid Best, Detroit: Had five touchdowns in the first two weeks last year and just one the rest of the season. Figures to get plenty of chances as the Lions' best option, and if his turf toe (or any other ailment) comes up, former Eagle Jerome Harrison is backing him up.

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay: Already a decent option as a No. 2 back, Blount's stock will rise if he can handle the third-down duties the Bucs are throwing at him this preseason.

Ahmad Bradshaw, N.Y. Giants: Remained with the Giants for less money (four years, $18 million) than the free-agent market was offering. He still figures to split time with Brandon Jacobs, who ironically restructured his contract so the Giants could accommodate Jacobs. Thanks a lot, Brandon.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City: Was second in the NFL in rushing yards last season despite having fewer carries than teammate Thomas Jones, who just turned 33. KC signed fullback/running back LeRon McClain, who has said his No. 1 priority is to block. This season, he'll be blocking more for Charles than Jones.

Arian Foster, Houston: Coming off a terrific, 1,600-yard, 16-TD season on the ground, and his 66 catches made owners in PPR leagues even happier. Had a minor hamstring injury in camp.

Shonn Greene, N.Y. Jets: LaDainian Tomlinson took a pay cut and is happily the Jets' third-down back. That means more work for Greene, who could be looking at 250-plus carries.

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland: Staggered to the finish line last year with only one 100-yard game and zero rushing touchdowns in his last five games. Be careful not to overvalue.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans: Keep reminding your fellow drafters that Ingram had knee problems last year, is a rookie trying to learn Sean Payton's complex offense, blah, blah, blah. And then pick Ingram in the fourth round as a No. 2 running back.

Chris Johnson, Tennessee: His extended holdout won't help the pounding he's sure to absorb as Tennessee tries to find its way with a new coaching staff and a new quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck). His yards per carry dipped from 5.6 to 4.3 last year as defenses stacked the line of scrimmage.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville: Offseason knee surgery has had the Jags taking a very conservative approach with MJD, who did not play in the first two preseason games. If you take MJD, be sure to grab Rashad Jennings as a late-round handcuff.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle: If the Seahawks' big boys improve under new offensive line coach Tom Cable, Lynch could be a decent midround pick. Massive guard Robert Gallery, who had his best years in Oakland when Cable was the head coach, is the most significant offensive-line addition.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego: Anybody who took a flier on Mathews as a rookie last year (like me) was seething when he staggered for the first 15 games and put up 120 yards and three scores in the finale. San Diego's coaches reportedly weren't thrilled with his lack of conditioning early in camp and are pledging Mike Tolbert again will be part of the rotation.

LeSean McCoy, Eagles: Don't listen to suggestions that Michael Vick's presence will diminish McCoy's value. In the 11 games last year that Vick started or played significant time, McCoy averaged 73.9 yards rushing. In the four games Vick played very little or not at all, McCoy averaged 67.0 yards rushing.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh: As long as he stops fumbling and posting inflammatory messages about Osama bin Laden on Twitter, Mendenhall will be a fine top-five pick.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver: Moreno is another sleeper, given how much new coach John Fox loved to run the ball while he was in Carolina It sure will make Moreno more appealing if Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback and not Tim Tebow.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota: Fumbled just once in 2010 after laying it on the ground 10 times the previous two seasons combined. His contract is up at the end of the year and he is extremely motivated to cash in.

Ray Rice, Baltimore: It is not true that when touchdown-vulture Willis McGahee signed with Denver, Ray Rice owners leant him the pen. Supposedly, the addition of Ricky Williams will not affect Rice's opportunities at the goal-line.

Daniel Thomas, Miami: Pass. The offensive line is too mediocre.

Michael Turner, Atlanta: The last time Turner had a 300-plus carry season (2008), he was miserable the following season. Atlanta gave it to him 334 times last year, which might help explain why it drafted wide receiver Julio Jones in the first round.


On the way up: Shonn Greene, N.Y. Jets

On the way down: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville

Riskiest pick: Ryan Grant, Green Bay

Sleeper: Felix Jones, Dallas

Late-round look: Ryan Williams, Arizona

Please avoid: Ryan Mathews, San Diego

Top rookie: Mark Ingram, New Orleans

THE TOP 50 (With Bye Week)

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, 9

2. Arian Foster, Houston, 11

3. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh, 11

4. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City, 6

5. Chris Johnson, Tennessee, 6

6. LeSean McCoy, Eagles, 7

7. Ray Rice, Baltimore, 5

8. Michael Turner, Atlanta, 8

9. Ryan Grant, Green Bay, 8

10. Shonn Greene, N.Y. Jets, 8

11. Mark Ingram, New Orleans, 11

12. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina, 9

13. Knowshown Moreno, Denver, 6

14. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville, 9

15. Peyton Hillis, Cleveland, 5

16. Darren McFadden, Oakland, 8

17. Steven Jackson, St. Louis, 5

18. Frank Gore, San Francisco, 7

19. LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay, 8

20. Felix Jones, Dallas, 5

21. Ahmad Bradshaw, N.Y. Giants, 7

22. Matt Forte, Chicago, 8

23. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis, 11

24. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle, 6

25. Tim Hightower, Washington, 5

26. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati, 7

27. Beanie Wells, Arizona, 6

28. Fred Jackson, Buffalo, 7

29. Ryan Mathews, San Diego, 6

30. BenJarvis Green-Ellis, New England, 7

31. Jahvid Best, Detroit, 9

32. Ryan Williams, Arizona, 6

33. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina, 9

34. Daniel Thomas, Miami, 5

35. Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville, 9

36. Brandon Jacobs, N.Y. Giants, 7

37. Thomas Jones, Kansas City, 6

38. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans, 11

39. Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh, 11

40. Ronnie Brown, Eagles, 7

41. Mike Tolbert, San Diego, 6

42. Michael Bush, Oakland, 8

43. James Starks, Green Bay, 8

44. Danny Woodhead, New England, 7

45. Derrick Ward, Houston, 11

46. Ricky Williams, Baltimore, 5

47. Reggie Bush, Miami, 5

48. Darren Sproles, New Orleans, 11

49. Toby Gerhart, Minnesota, 9

50. Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta, 8

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