No one needs to read up on why they should draft Arian Foster, Ray Rice or LeSean McCoy in Fantasy, but as you move down the draft there might be some players to consider earlier than expected and some to avoid to high up in the draft.
I don't expect Maurice Jones-Drew to put up the numbers he did last year but he's still a Top 10 pick in a Fantasy draft, assuming he actually starts the season with the Jags.
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Running backs with upside in 2012
Trent Richardson, Browns: The Browns have a solid offensive line and offensive coordinator Brad Childress likes the running game. Richardson will get his 20 touches a game and has much better hands than advertised. Quarterback Brandon Weeden is going to get the Browns into the right play at the line of scrimmage and Richardson should be the beneficiary of the solid play calling. I would not be surprised to see Richardson crack the 1,000-yard mark on the ground and another 250 yards in receptions. He already fits the bill as a solid No. 2 Fantasy rusher on any roster.
Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals: He was brought to Cincinnati to replace Ced Benson and that means BenJarvus will get 100 more rushing plays than he ever did in the Patriot offense. The 'Law Firm' had 11 rushing touchdowns last year and may not reach that number again, but he should be a 1,000-yard rusher with 7-9 scores. The new Bengal running back will be a steal in the fourth round if you are lucky enough to see him on the board.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys: Felix Jones came into camp out of shape and Murray is turning into the 'bell cow' back in Dallas. He can stay on the field in all situations and is a threat as a receiver as well as a runner. Murray only had 164 carries last year but averaged 5.5 per run. Look for him to touch the ball 250 times as a runner and another 50 times as a receiver. He is an emerging star on a team that has improved its offensive line. If you want him get ready to take him earlier than you considered, potentially in Round 1. People around the NFL are expecting a big season from him.
Isaac Redman, Steelers: Todd Haley is going to emphasize the run game in Pittsburgh. Rashard Mendenhall is not healthy and I look for Redman to take full advantage of his opportunity to start. He could easily jump up from the 110 carries he had last year to closer to 200. He averaged 4.4 per last year and the Steeler offensive line is much improved this year. Redman as a second or third running back on your team should be good for 800 total yards and a bargain in Round 7 or so.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots: Ridley is taking over the role BenJarvus Green Ellis played in New England. That means touchdown opportunities down inside the 10-yard line. Green-Ellis had 11 rushing touchdowns last year. Tom Brady told me the Patriots want to be more balanced on offense this year and improve their four-minute package. Ridley looked in excellent form on my camp tour visit. After watching practice I can confirm he has better hands than advertised and will be part of the first down passing attack.
Running backs with question marks in 2012
Willis McGahee, Broncos: McGahee had a great season replacing Knowshon Moreno in 2011. He capitalized on the Tebow spread offense and found big holes to run through. In the last three regular season games with Tebow under center, Willis had 279 yards rushing. With Peyton Manning at quarterback the running game isn't going away, but it will not dominate the package. I also believe there will be more than one back in the mix with rookie Ronnie Hillman getting some percentage of the plays.
Michael Turner, Falcons: The Falcons intend to reduce Turner's workload this season, which probably means going from 301 carries to 230-240. Turner is not much of a receiver and will not get significant 'other' touches in the passing game. The good news is Turner will still be the goal line red zone runner and that means touchdowns. He might be a bargain late in the second round, but he's not the first-rounder he used to be.
LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers: I could see Blount's role being diminished with the drafting of Doug Martin, which could spell trouble. He may not be Greg Schiano's type of guy and any lack of discipline by Blount could lead to him being shown the door. He only had 17 carries for 44 yards in his last three games last year and Schiano has looked at those game tapes. It helps his case that he's in better shape this summer, but it could be too little too late.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks: Lynch had a solid season last year and got a new contract and the Seahawks still drafted Robert Turbin. Lynch always seems to be on the edge of discipline with the league and is a risky pick with a suspension possible following a July arrest. Turbin is a physical runner much like Lynch and is going to get some of the workload. Coach Carroll always had a two-back system at USC and it looks like he's building it once again. Lynch will get close to 1,000 yards but just don't take him too high in the draft. Round 2 or 3 will reduce your risk.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins: Reggie was productive last year with 216 carries and 1,086 yards along with 43 receptions for 296 yards, making him look tempting once again. Daniel Thomas is going to get more work this season and it will take away from Reggie's rushing attempts. Thomas is a fit for the new Dolphin offense and should be more involved in the power run game than Bush. Rookie Lamar Miller could get in the mix too. Reggie is still a good fit as a mid-round pick, but I would be cautious if you need him to be your second back.