Once upon a time, looking at Fantasy Rookie RB Rankings meant you were looking at several top options injected into the position, possibly even several choices for your RB1 spot. But those days are in the past, just about the opposite of how we’ve seen the Fantasy value of rookie QBs take a sharp incline. And sometimes it’s a good idea to learn something from Fantasy history, just so you’re better prepared for the Fantasy present.
Running Backs Back in the Day…
Just five years ago, Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch rushed for over 1,000 yards each. They were the only two running backs to have more than 200 carries that season, although there were four with at least 100 carries (Whatever happened to Selvin Young?)
The very next year, the rookie running back position was a Fantasy gold mine, with three rookies rushing for more than 1,000 yards. That sounds like an average crop of runners, but take a look at this list of rookie running back from 2008 (in order of rookie season rushing yardage):
- Steve Slaton, HOU
- Matt Forte, CHI
- Chris Johnson, TEN
- Kevin Smith, DET
- Jonathan Stewart, CAR
- Tashard Choice, DAL
- Ray Rice, BAL
- Tim Hightower, WAS
- Jamaal Charles, KC
- Peyton Hillis, DEN
- B. Green-Ellis, NE
- Felix Jones, DAL
- Ryan Torain, DEN
- R. Mendenhall, PIT
- Mike Tolbert, SD
Can you believe that much rushing talent came out of one draft?
Here’s the big kicker – the top running back coming out that year was Arkansas RB Darren McFadden, who went to Oakland as a high draft pick. That’s 16 different running backs that have made a major impact in one way or another ini Fantasy play over the past five years.
I point out McFadden specifically to show you that the most-sought after rookie in 2008 Fantasy Football drafts finished the year seventh among rookie running backs.
This year’s top rookie running back is Cleveland’s Trent Richardson, who has been the most anticipated rookie running back in Fantasy play since – Darren McFadden!
Browns RB buyer beware!
While we all agree that Richardson is an amazing talent, one still has to remember that he’s entering a tough situation in Cleveland, where defenses will be able to stack the box against him. So I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look back to see who the expected top rookie running back was in the draft, and then who the top rookie running back ended up being in Fantasy play.
Highest ADP Rookie RBs vs. Highest Scoring Rookie RBs
2002 Highest ADP: 4.08 William Green, CLE | Best RB: 5.08 Clinton Portis, DEN
2003 Highest ADP: 7.02 Onterrio Smith, MIN | Best RB: Domanick Williams, HOU
2004 Highest ADP: 4.05 Kevin Jones, DET | Best RB: Kevin Jones, DET
2005 Highest ADP: 4.12 Cadillac Williams, TB | Best RB: Cadillac Williams, TB
2006 Highest ADP: 3.01 Reggie Bush, NO | Best RB: Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC
2007 Highest ADP: 4.12 Adrian Peterson, MIN | Best RB: Adrian Peterson, MIN
2008 Highest ADP: 4.04 Darren McFadden, OAK | Best RB: Matt Forte, CHI
2009 Highest ADP: 6.05 Knowshon Moreno, DEN | Best RB: Knowshon Moreno, DEN
2010 Highest ADP: 1.10 Ryan Mathews, SD | Best RB: LeGarrette Blount, TB
2011 Highest ADP: 5.07 Mark Ingram, NO | Best RB: DeMarco Murray, DAL
So over the past decade, the first rookie running back drafted in Fantasy leagues has ended up as the top rookie running back at the end of the season just FOUR times. That means Richardson, the rookie out of Alabama, has a 40-percent chance of being the highest-scoring rookie running back this season. Granted, he could still meet everyone’s expectations/projections, but have another rookie outperform him, which still means he’s successful even though he’s no longer the top rookie running back. So keep that in mind.
2012 Fantasy Rookie RB Preview
Obviously, Richardson is considered a special talent – possibly the best to come out in a few years – but as we mentioned, his situation might not be ideal. Doug Martin, however, is in what seems to be a much more ideal situation with Tampa Bay.
Also, in early August, Richardson had his left knee scoped to remove some floating debris. While the surgery is definitely not serious, the swelling and time away from the field makes his Week 1 debut against Philadelphia a questionable one. I still rank him as the top rookie, though, because of his situation with Cleveland.
The Buccaneers have a veteran offense, with a new head coach who is bent on winning games with the ground game. Head coach Greg Schiano also brought in Eli Manning’s former QB coach with the Giants, Mike Sullivan. It stands to reason the Bucs are going to want to get “Muscle Hamster” active in the passing game, to keep heat off their quarterback and to set up deep passes.
Josh Freeman is coming off his worst year in the pros, and he has lost 20 pounds, with an eye toward redemption in 2012. Disappointing No. 1 WR Mike Williams moves to No. 2, with stud Vincent Jackson joining the Pewter Pirates. Jackson is already the second-greatest wide receiver the Bucs have ever played with. (Tim Brown was much too old.) The Bucs offensive line is a better-than-average group, and they just added one of the top guards in the NFL in Carl Nicks.
Martin is an excellent blocker, can catch balls out of the backfield and has drawn comparisons to Ray Rice. It doesn’t take a lot of gumption to think he could outscore Richardson, much less Blount.
David Wilson will see carries with the Giants now that Brandon Jacobs is in San Francisco. Ahmad Bradshaw isn’t in danger of losing his starting gig, but Wilson could become a decent flex player by midseason.
Isaiah Pead becomes a great handcuff pick with Steven Jackson, who many are thinking is about to drop off severely in production. I’m not sure I’m in that boat yet, but I’ll grab Pead if I take Jackson. Pead is a home-run threat.
And Ronnie Hillman is getting a lot of pub recently in mock drafts. He recently went in Round 8 in a RotoExperts mock draft, ahead of both Pead (12.10) and Wilson (10.09). Personally, I would take any of the three (Hillman, Pead or Wilson) in Round 10 or later.
Robert Turbin is an interesting player to think about for dynasty leagues. He tore his ACL in 2010 and missed the entire season. He came back to rush for 1,500-plus yards and 19 TDs with Utah State. Due to Marshawn Lynch’s possible suspension, Turbin could be a nice pick, considering he’ll now be two seasons away from his knee injury. Bernard Pierce is also a great handcuff to consider, as Rice’s rookie backup in Baltimore.
LaMichael James, Lamar Miller and Chris Rainey are better waiver-wire pickups if something happens to the starters in front of them.
2012 Rookies: Top 30 Overall | QB | RB | WR | TE
2012 Fantasy Rookie RB Rankings
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David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.