During the off-season there is a lot of time to think! What rookies to draft, who to trade for, what new teams to which your free agent players are moving. This is a great time to start a new series Top 10 Dynasty player articles. First up, Running backs of course! I have not included rookies here as there is no telling what situations they will get into at this point and how any of them will react to the rigors of an NFL season, you can find our rookie rankings here.
Note: If you’re a die hard dynasty player, there is no need to read this. If you are not, keep in mind this is dynasty value of current running backs in the NFL. While some of these players may be top producers next year, some will not. Dynasty value lies not only on how a player will produce next year, but how they will produce in coming years, how long they can produce over time, the quality of the team they are on, the opportunity that they currently have or potentially have in the coming few years.
- LeSean McCoy, RB PHI – McCoy had a breakout season in 2011 and finished in the top 3 in most scoring leagues. He’s now as productive as Brian Westbrook was in this offense and HE’S ONLY 23! With Michael Vick coming back to earth last season and the offense revolving around Shady, there is no reason to believe his stats will slow down any time soon. He’s both a rushing and receiving threat and became a goalline back this season. He should be able to maintain this level for as long as Andy Reid is in Philly.
- Ray Rice, RB BAL – Rice IS Baltimore’s offense. He can run, he can receive, he even throws it once in a while. He’s only 25 despite being a starter for 3 seasons now. He was the #1 fantasy back in most scoring types last season and there is absolutely no reason, besides injury, to think he can’t keep up top 5 RB production for 4 or 5 more years.
- Arian Foster, RB HOU – What a great situation Foster finds himself in. Houston’s offensive line used to be the laughingstock of the league, now they are dominating. It doesn’t matter what back you put in there, they will produce behind this line, in this offense. That back will most often be Foster. There is no way Houston lets him go anywhere in free agency, he’s due a big payday and will be a rushing/receiving threat in Houston for another 5 years. At 25 and having not yet started for a full 16 game season, his best days may well still be ahead of him.
- Maurice Jones-Drew, RB JAX - Doesn’t it feel like MJD has been around forever? He’s only 26 and he just finished his best season ever. He’s only been a full-time starter for 3 years after sharing the rock with Fred Taylor for his first few years. He’s coming into his prime and is the ONLY quality player on the Jags offensive side. He’s got another 4 solid years in him and I don’t see him getting caught in a 2 back system any time soon.
- Adrian Peterson, RB MIN - Normally All-Day would be at the top of this list but tragedy stuck at the end of last season. He’s my favorite back in the league today (as he’s on my dynasty squad) with a size/speed/power combination that is unmatched in the NFL today. All that being said, his dynasty value took a big hit this year. If he hurt his knee at the beginning of the year, it might be a bit different, but he was hurt at the end of the season. There is no doubt he will be back next year, but it takes 2 years to return to form from the kind of knee injury he sustained. He’ll be 27 next season and assuming he rounds to form in 2013 when he’s 28, that puts him at the upper band of the RB productivity curve. He won’t have many great seasons left. That pushes him down a notch in my mind, even if down a notch for AP is better than 90% of the RBs in this league.
- Matt Forte, RB CHI - It’s unfortunate for Forte that he was injured last season, he was having a magical year. He’s still only 26 and I’d be shocked if Chicago lets him walk. Whether they do or not, Forte will produce no matter where he goes. He’s got a solid 4 or 5 years left in him and there is no reason he can’t continue to be the rushing/receiving threat that he’s been the last few years. Chicago’s offensive line is improving, Mike Tice will balance the offense better and Forte and Cutler will be the focus.
- Marshawn Lynch, RB SEA - The beast finally found his rhythm in Seattle and the fans adore him after his monster run in the playoffs 2 years ago. He’s another one who feels like he’s been around for a while but he’s only 25. He’s in a great situation with a team rising in Seattle that is happy to give him the rock 25 times a game. He’s not the fastest but he’s a bully and his motor doesn’t quite. He can be productive for another few years.
- Darren Sproles, RB NO - Here’s an interesting case. Sproles is 28 and you’d think he would slow down soon. Don’t bet on it. He doesn’t get a lot of carries but he gets a lot of touches as a receiver out of the backfield. He was the 5th most productive fantasy back last season and while I don’t see him maintaining there, in the Saints offense he can be productive as a top 10 guy for another 3 or 4 years, especially in PPR leagues. It’s an interesting case. A bit player in a juggernaut offense, neither a starter nor a bell-weather back but Sean Payton utilizes him to perfection. Don’t sleep on Darren Sproles.
- Beanie Wells, RB ARI - Beanie Wells is only 23. Let me say that again, Beanie Wells is ONLY 23! Many have written him off due to his poor start. Many wrote him off due to his many injuries. There is no statute of limitations on injuries, he was dealing with them all of last season yet still had a top 20 fantasy performance. Look for him to put it all together next year once he’s fully healthy and look for Ryan Williams to be his change of pace that actually makes him MORE productive as the bellweather back. Did I mention that Beanie Wells is only 23?
- Chris Johnson, RB TEN – I think last year was a fluke. CJ2K held out, didn’t get into a rhythm in an offense that lost it’s best receiver in week 3. He found his groove a bit at the end of the season but it was too little too late. Johnson is only 26, he gets Kenny Britt back this year which should help keep 8 or 9 defenders out of the box and he has a pretty good developing QB in Jake Locker as well as a savvy veteran in Matt Hasslebeck. There is no reason to believe he can’t get 1,300 rushing and 500 receiving yards a season going forward.
Also Considered (could hit the top 10 if the situation is right):
- Jamal Charles – 25 yrs old – Great year in 2010, injury set him back a bit.
- Rashard Mendenhall – 24 yrs old – Very productive but poor O-line makes him risky
- Darren McFadden – 24 yrs old – Injuries, injuries, injuries
- Ahmad Bradshaw – 25 yrs old – Has some years left but in 2 back system
- Reggie Bush – 26 yrs old – Showed some gumption in 2011, can he repeat?
- Ryan Matthews – 24 yrs old – Has never put it all together, can he?
Not considered (only a year or two of top production left):
- Michael Turner – 29 yrs old
- Frank Gore – 29 yrs old
- Michael Bush – 27 yrs old
- Steven Jackson – 28 yrs old
- Fred Jackson – 30 yrs old
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