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Keeper League Top Running backs

This article is the second installment of three about players available to draft after teams have designated who they are keeping for the year in fantasy football keeper leagues. Every season, managers head into their draft thinking one thing … running backs, running backs, running backs! The NFL is making us get away from that strategy by teams going to more committee roles for their backfield. While running backs still tend to get more picks, there tends to be quite a bit of depth to pick from now. As we have seen from the Giants, Titans and Panthers from 2008, teams can have multiple good backs on the same team produce for you week in and week out. This list will help you decide who to draft once all of the top tier running backs have all been designated as keepers …

Most Likely Kept In Most Leagues:
Adrian Peterson
Matt Forte
Michael Turner
DeAngelo Williams
Maurice Jones-Drew
Brian Westbrook
Frank Gore
LaDainian Tomlinson
Steven Jackson
Marion Barber
Clinton Portis
Chris Johnson
Steve Slaton
Brandon Jacobs
Reggie Bush

Running backs Available In Most Leagues:
Ryan Grant
(GB) – Many of you may not know this, but
quietly put together a decent season last year. His touchdowns may have fallen, but he still had more than 1,200 yards. With the absence of
Brett Favre
, teams were able to focus on the run more since
Aaron Rodgers
was a first-year starter. Well, Rodgers now has some playing experience on his side, and this should help open the field for him more. He edges out my next pick just enough to get my top nod.

Marshawn Lynch
(Buf) –
Marshawn Lynch
could very well end up being the steal of many drafts. He is currently scheduled to serve a three-game suspension by the league. Knowing this, managers may shy away from drafting him … hoping only to snag him a round or two later. With
Terrell Owens
on the team, it will open the field a lot more now that

has two great wide receivers to throw to. The team would still really like to focus on the run, and Lynch is one of the few remaining backs that can claim the job as his own … as there is no committee situation in

at this time. If you draft Lynch, make sure you handcuff
Fred Jackson
to him at a later time.

Kevin Smith
(Det) – In 2008, Smith fell just 24 yards short of having a 1,000-yard campaign. He even managed to grab eight touchdowns … all in his rookie season. Do I even need to mention that he did this on the worst team in the league?

now has
Daunte Culpepper
for a full year, and no one knows whether they will play
Matthew Stafford
in his rookie year. Either way, when you have
Calvin Johnson
on your team, you will always find some decent running space regardless of who is at quarterback.

Willie Parker
(Pit) –

is a smash-mouth type of football team. They will keep running on you until you break. The only problem is that their main rusher, the “fast”
, has only made it through one full season. If he can remain healthy, look for him to put up numbers like he did back in 2006. In case you have forgotten, he put together a season of 1,494 yards with 13 touchdowns. Don’t forget to handcuff
Rashard Mendenhall
if you are to draft Parker.

Knowshon Moreno
(Den) –
Denver finally has a clear cut starter in place with
on the roster and coach Mike Shanahan gone.
Denver did not draft

with the 12th overall pick for him to sit the bench. They will use him often, and he should not have any trouble finding room to run with weapons like Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler on the field. Draft this rookie with confidence.

Derrick Ward
(TB) – Tampa Bay is starting to put some things together offensively with the acquisition of
via free agency,
Kellen Winslow
through a trade with the Cleveland Browns, and the draft by drafting
Josh Freeman
can easily be called the best backup from 2008. He managed to get over 1,000 yards even as a backup behind
Brandon Jacobs
. Well, now in

, he has the job all to himself. Expect some decent things to come from Ward in 2009.

Thomas Jones
(NYJ) –
easily benefited from having
Brett Favre

New York
last year. He is now a year older, and he is also without
. The Jets will either have
Kellen Clemens
 or the rookie,
Mark Sanchez
, calling the shots this year, and  this will not help Jones’ value any. Not to mention, he is not happy with his current contract situation. He has shown up for the team’s OTA’s, but may hold out again if things do not get any better. Jones’ value may drop as things develop.

Ronnie Brown
(Mia) –
is now a full year removed from a knee injury that cost him the rest of the 2007 season. Before the knee injury in 2007, he was leading the league in yards, and he was easily on his way to MVP consideration.

is still using the “Wildcat” offense, and
is heavily involved. Look for
to have a big year, if he can stay healthy again.

Joseph Addai
Ind) –
Joseph Addai
may be on his last straw with

. He only managed to muster up 544 yards and a 3.5 yards per run average in an injury filled season. Since then, the Colts have drafted
Donald Brown
in the first round. Now Addai will have to keep Brown at bay until he can show

that he is the guy. If Addai falters or is injured in 2009, look for
to explode onto the scene. If Addai plays a full season, look for mediocre returns from him.

Jonathan Stewart
(Car) –
has a ton of upside heading into 2009. Granted he is behind
DeAngelo Williams
on the depth chart, but that did not stop him from getting 800+ yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. The team will look to insert him into the offense more this year. The only downside is that

will face tougher run defenses this year, but do not let this shy you away from drafting Stewart. His upside is well worth his ADP.

Larry Johnson
(KC) – Look for
to prove his worth to the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite being out for four games in 2008, he put together a decent season. He still had close to 900 yards and attained a 4.5 yards per carry average. The Chiefs offense has improved slightly with the addition of
Matt Cassel
and coach Todd Haley. They have lost
Tony Gonzalez
, but with the team forcing the ball the
Dwayne Bowe
, Johnson should find some room to run. At the very least, look for him to put up decent numbers when he plays the Broncos and Raiders twice each.

Willis McGahee
(Bal) –
enters the season with a trail of question marks behind him. He has missed time, due to injury, each of the past three seasons. The team has since found that they have a good backfield behind McGahee in
Ray Rice
Le’Ron McClain
. If McGahee can stay healthy and productive enough to stay ahead of the competition, then look for him to return to the McGahee of old and back to form.

Felix Jones
(Dal) – Reports from

are that
will enter the 2009 season as the starter. Rumors are that

will use
Marion Barber
as a closer type role to utilize him better and keep his legs fresh. This will allow Jones to use his play making ability more often. Jones only had 30 carries in his rookie season, but managed to make the most of it when he touched the ball. His 8.9 yards per carry will not last with him getting the ball more, but look for great things from this young running back.

LenDale White
(Ten) – The second half of “Smash & Dash,”
, is a touchdown machine. He will get you decent yards while putting up multiple multi-touchdown games for you. Fifteen touchdowns will be hard to match, since
Chris Johnson
is entering his second year and may steal some of those back with longer touchdown runs … but you can still look forward to White ‘putting up six’ for you on a regular basis.

Ahmad Bradshaw
(NYG) – In the offseason, Bradshaw didn’t do a thing and was promoted to the backup behind
Brandon Jacobs
. In 2008, the New York Giants were so effective running the ball, their three running backs acquired the nickname “Earth, Wind, & Fire.” Bradshaw, the “Fire” portion, benefits from the departure of
Derrick Ward
. The team will still look to run the ball more, especially since they have no true No. 1 wide receiver anymore in
Plaxico Burress
. Bradshaw can easily put up
numbers, and be sure to keep an eye out on
status in case of injury.

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