A little of this and a little of that. A brief overview of the backfields in the AFC South. Rating the running backs that you need to know about.
1 Star – Look elsewhere
2 Star – Desperation/Handcuff pick
3 Star – Serviceable starter
4 Star – Solid Starter you can count on every week
5 Star – Stud, Top 10 RB
Houston Texans – Arian Foster/Ben Tate
First off, let me start by saying there must be something to this Vegan diet that Foster has taken up because not only did he lead the league in rushing attempts (351), he started every single game last year. For those lucky enough to grab him last year, I’ll wager he took your team to at least the playoffs (much like he did for the Texans). I fully expect Foster to be used just as much this year and I see no reason why he shouldn’t put on another exciting show for us each and every Sunday. He’s arguably the best all-purpose back in the league and he won’t last beyond pick No. 2 or 3 in 99 percent of drafts.
As a side note, if you get him, don’t forget to grab Tate in the later rounds as a precaution. Unfortunately, leading the league in rushing attempts isn’t exactly good for your health no matter what your diet consists of. Tate is a fully capable back and could probably start on several teams around the league. He had some health issues last year but he’s still a necessary handcuff for a Foster owner.
5 star; Tate –
Indianapolis Colts – Vick Ballard/Donald Brown/Ahmad Bradshaw
Headache alert right here. My first words of advice are this: Do not get involved in this scenario unless absolutely necessary. None of the above three should really be considered too much in the first place. Brown and Ballard alone were enough of a problem for most owners last year. Brown began the season as the starter and slowly began losing playing time due to poor play and then injury hit. Ballard came in and put up a decent showing looking ho-hum at most times and showing an occasional flash of excellence (anyone else remember the overtime touchdown in Tennessee? Helmet to pylon?) That play alone gives me the marginalized lead I have with him over Brown.
I will go ahead and wager that Ballard enters this season as the starter. However, we’re not done yet … enter Bradshaw, another top 20 running back even with his penchant for injury problems. The signing of Bradshaw is a glaring sign to me that the organization isn’t fully trusting in the other two guys, which brings me back to my first comment, “Headache alert right here.” My final prediction is that in this throw first, pass-heavy offense, none of these three will wind up in the top 20 running backs next year, anyway. Look elsewhere first; there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.
2.25 stars; Bradshaw –
1.75 stars; Brown –
Jacksonville Jaguars – Maurice Jones-Drew/Justin Forsett
There’s a lot of talk about Forsett in some circles out there because of the new zone blocking rushing attack in Jacksonville and his familiarity with the scheme, but were talking about him filling the shoes of Jones-Drew here. This is the guy who has been the leader of this offense, posting 1,300-plus yards rushing from 2009-11. He was injured early on last year but was well on his way to another 1,300-plus yard season when he went down. I don’t want to hear about how he won’t be ready, either. I would be more worried about his extracurricular altercations with law enforcement more than any “he’s out of shape” or “he won’t be ready” rumors. This is the same guy who held out to the bitter end last year and still started in Week 1. Unless he’s sitting in jail or sidelined from injury, he’s the heart and soul of this offense. Draft early and start with confidence, no matter who the quarterback is.
Maurice Jones-Drew –
4.75 stars; Forsett –
Tennessee Titans – Chris Johnson/Shonn Greene
I’m pretty certain when I say this, it is true: No other running back in the NFL destroyed and frustrated more fantasy teams last year than Johnson. After Week 3, I remember seeing his unbelievable total rushing yardage of 45 yards. Facepalm. While he did bounce back with the yardage on-again and off-again, he did little to make himself worthy of the first-round pick that was used to select him.
That being said, would I draft him in the first round again? Absolutely, albeit late first round. He fooled me once, and that shame is on him. This time it’s all on me, but this is the last chance. We all saw that his speed was still there and that he was most certainly capable of being the home run hitter that he can and was known to be. The only difference this year is the signing of Greene, who I’m sure was ecstatic to get out of New York. Greene will have a strong showing in goal line situations as he carries about 30 pounds more than Johnson does, he excels at moving a pile and getting tough short yards. That’s about it. I fully anticipate him to vulture around 6-7 touchdowns from Johnson this year.
4 stars; Greene –