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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fantasy football rankings: Running backs

Before we get to the rankings for the most important position in fantasy, let me be master of the obvious: It's good to have the No. 1 overall pick in your league.

This year, it's almost as crucial as it was during the LaDainian Tomlinson glory years.

And the reason has nothing to do with the expectation that Adrian Peterson will outscore every other running back this season. In point-per-reception leagues, he almost certainly won't.

It instead has everything to do with the fact that there's no clear-cut No. 2 pick behind him. I'd give the slightest of edges to Matt Forte over Maurice Jones-Drew, but owners in non-PPR leagues certainly have to target Michael Turner.

There are questions regarding every back on this list. Will Forte and Slaton experience a sophomore slump? Will Turner and DeAngelo Williams be nearly as great as they were in 2008? Will the slimmed-down LenDale White cut further into Chris Johnson's scoring? Will Steven Jackson stay healthy? Will L.T. continue to decline?

There are no such concerns with Peterson, who is the football version of Albert Pujols. Take him first, and don't even consider anyone else.

In PPR leagues, Peterson was outscored by the likes of Williams, Forte, Jones-Drew, Turner, Tomlinson, Slaton, Brian Westbrook and even Thomas Jones last season. That was because of two factors: His less-than-average receiving totals (21 catches for 125 yards) and his decrease in touchdowns (from 13 as a rookie in 2007 to 10 last season).

Regardless, Peterson rushed for 1,760 yards in his second season, averaging 4.8 yards per carry, and with a decent -- albeit aging and waffling -- quarterback, the addition of Percy Harvin and a good offensive line in Minnesota, you should have every reason to believe he will average more than 100 yards and one TD per game.

Will that be enough to vault him to the top of the scoring leaders in PPR leagues? Probably not. But you don't want to miss with the top overall pick, and Peterson shouldn't disappoint you in any format.

Rank, player, team GP-Yds-TD-Rec-Yds-TD
1. Adrian Peterson, Min 16-1,760-10-21-125-0
2. Matt Forte, Chi 16-1,238-8-63-477-4
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac 16-824-12-62-565-2
4. Michael Turner, Atl 16-1,699-17-6-41-0
5. Steve Slaton, Hou 16-1,282-9-50-377-1
6. Chris Johnson, Ten 15-1,228-9-43-260-1
7. DeAngelo Williams, Car 16-1,515-18-22-121-2
8. Steven Jackson, StL 12-1,042-7-40-379-1
9. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD 16-1,110-11-52-426-1
10. Frank Gore, SF 14-1,036-6-43-373-2
11. Brian Westbrook, Phi 14-936-9-54-402-5
12. Brandon Jacobs, NYG 13-1,089-15-6-36-0
13. Clinton Portis, Was 16-1,487-9-28-218-0
14. Marion Barber, Dal 15-885-7-52-417-2
15. Kevin Smith, Det 16-976-8-39-286-0
16. Ryan Grant, GB 16-1,203-4-18-116-1
17. Ronnie Brown, Mia 16-916-10-33-254-0
18. Thomas Jones, NYJ 16-1,312-13-36-207-2
19. Pierre Thomas, NO 15-625-9-31-284-3
20. Joseph Addai, Ind 12-544-5-25-206-2
21. Marshawn Lynch, Buf 15-1,036-8-47-300-1
22. Darren McFadden, Oak 13-499-4-29-285-0
23. Derrick Ward, TB 16-1,025-2-41-384-0
24. Knowshon Moreno, Den ROOKIE
25. Jonathan Stewart, Car 16-836-10-8-47-0
26. Larry Johnson, KC 12-874-5-12-74-0
27. Willie Parker, Pit 11-791-5-3-13-0
28. Jamal Lewis, Cle 16-1,002-4-23-178-0
29. Reggie Bush, NO 10-404-2-52-440-4
30. LenDale White, Ten 16-773-15-5-16-0
31. Ray Rice, Bal 13-454-0-33-273-0
32. Cedric Benson, Cin 12-797-2-20-185-0
33. Beanie Wells, Ari ROOKIE
34. Julius Jones, Sea 15-698-2-14-66-0
35. Willis McGahee, Bal 13-671-7-24-173-0
36. Earnest Graham, TB 10-563-4-23-174-0
37. Donald Brown, Ind ROOKIE
38. Fred Jackson, Buf 16-571-3-37-317-0
39. Felix Jones, Dal 6-266-3-2-10-0
40. Sammy Morris, NE 13-727-7-17-161-0
41. Leon Washington, NYJ 16-448-6-47-355-2
42. Fred Taylor, NE 13-556-1-16-98-0
43. Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG 15-355-1-5-42-1
44. Darren Sproles, SD 16-330-1-29-342-5
45. Rashard Mendenhall, Pit 4-58-0-2-17-0
46. Tim Hightower, Ari 16-399-10-34-237-0
47. LeSean McCoy, Phi ROOKIE
48. Chester Taylor, Min 16-399-4-45-399-2
49. Ricky Williams, Mia 16-659-4-29-219-1
50. Jerious Norwood, Atl 16-489-4-36-338-2
51. Laurence Maroney, NE 3-93-0-0-0-0
52. LeRon McClain, Bal 16-902-10-19-123-1
53. Correll Buckhalter, Den 14-369-2-26-324-2
54. Justin Fargas, Oak 14-853-1-10-52-0
55. Jamaal Charles, KC 16-357-0-27-272-1
56. T.J. Duckett, Sea 16-172-8-0-0-0
57. Tashard Choice, Dal 16-472-2-21-185-0
58. Maurice Morris, Det 13-574-0-19-136-2
59. Ladell Betts, Was 13-206-1-22-200-0
60. Brandon Jackson, GB 13-248-1-30-185-0

Turner, who has 17 catches in 75 career games, is even less of a help in the receiving department than Peterson. ... With Fred Taylor in New England, Jones-Drew's touches per game should increase from its absurdly low 2008 total (16.2) to at least the low 20s. ... The Rams' Jackson always produces, but he's also frequently hurt (12 games played in each of the last two seasons). ... Gore has a combined 157 catches the last three years. ... The Cowboys' Barber averaged 14 TDs per season in 2006 and '07. ... The Jets' Jones scored only two TDs in 2007. ... In 20 games played the last two seasons, the Chiefs' Johnson has nine touchdowns. ... The Browns' Lewis (1,552 total yards and 11 TDs in 2007) could provide value as a third running back, but not if he repeats his 2008 production. ... The Bengals' Benson has 12 touchdowns in 47 career games. ... A possible sleeper: Buffalo's Fred Jackson, who should be the featured back with Marshawn Lynch suspended for the first three weeks. Jackson is more of an asset in PPR leagues.

Next: Wide receivers

Linked in: For a complete list of our fantasy football rankings, click here. ... To read our fantasy football previews, click here for Mark Podolski's 25 bold predictions, here for my column on the most muddled backfields and here for the best crutches, key storylines and injuries.

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