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Situation Room – Running Backs

Runningbacks – Who Will Carry ‘The Rock?’

Here is the current breakdown of the runningback scenario for each team. Some are set in stone, barring injury, while others are clear as mud and will surely change by week one (or maybe not). Players mentioned are in no particular order within each category. Remember to continue to check for updates as the preseason progresses.

Set In Stone


Ray Rice is the man and has all of the tools to be an every down back. Sure Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain will hawk a few touchdowns, but Rice is a stud.


Chris Johnson may or may not repeat last year’s performance, but won’t he be fun to watch? There have been few players since Barry Sanders that individually were worth the price of a ticket.

San Francisco

Frank Gore is a complete back and will continue to be the workhorse for the 49ers.  The recent signing of
Brian Westbrook may mean a few less touches and catches for Gore, but the early word is that Westbrook is going to be an occasional 3rd down back and shouldn’t cut into Gore’s carries significantly.  Remember, Gore is an every down back who, as a receiver, was third in the league last year (for RBs) with 75 targets resulting in 58 receptions and 2 receiving TDs.  Plus, it seems that
Mike Singletary is looking to set up his passing game by establishing the run in order to take some pressure off of
Alex Smith.


Adrian Peterson is a stud that has to get the ball. Toby Gerhart should have much less effect on Peterson’s numbers compared to Chester Taylor’s numbers last year.


Cedric Benson will be the main guy in

. Durability may be a concern after the 300-plus carries last year, but he will be ridden hard again this year. Bernard Scott is a must handcuff and is a very capable backup who could shine if the opportunity affords itself.


Michael Turner suffered through an off year compared to the monster year in 2008. No one is pushing him and he could be this year’s touchdown machine even though he isn’t the receiving back like many of the other backs. Think of Shawn Alexander, circa 2001-05.

St. Louis

Steven Jackson has done a phenomenal job over the past several years with virtually no help. He may not get the glamorous touchdown numbers, but the number of touches per game both rushing and receiving at least give this big back the opportunities to score on any play. Quick, can you name his backup?


Maurice Jones-Drew seems to get written off every year by some writers, but last year he proved them oh-so-wrong. No one was happier to see Fred Taylor shuffle off to
New England than Jones-Drew owners. If I see a writer question his ability due to his size, I immediately stop reading the article and place the author in my “get a clue” folder. Rashad Jennings should get some carries, but mostly just provide a rest for Jones-Drew on a series or two.

Green Bay

Ryan Grant is the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy runningbacks. Last year, I got him in the eighth round in one draft.

Green Bay
’s defense is going to give Grant the opportunities to grind out the clock. Brandon Jackson would be a nice handcuff, but will probably see most action in relief.


Joseph Addai is the main every down back in

and is generally very consistent week in and week out on a passing offense. You can pencil him in for about 10-15 points every week. Donald Brown gives him a breather from time to time, but doesn’t do much harm to his stats.

Dynamic Duos


DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are one of the few examples of two feature backs on the same team that produce. Both put up very good numbers, but if one goes down, the other becomes the Incredible Hulk.


Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are more like the old New York Giants’ thunder and lightning tandem. The running game should get a little more room this year with Brandon Marshall stretching the field. Brown is a stud if (big if) he can stay healthy. Supposedly he is, so let’s see.

New Orleans

Pierre Thomas should benefit greatly as a result of Mike Bell’s exit and become the feature back.  Yes,
Reggie Bush will be the 3rd down back and also benefit from Bell’s departure, especially in the red zone.  The offense will still be a scoring machine and both backs should take a step forward from last year’s totals.  The recent addition of
Ladell Betts should not affect things too much. 

Kansas City

Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones are the final, truly dynamic duo. Boy, did the addition of Jones throw a wrench in the works or what? This situation could turn out like the runningback situation in

or it could mean a monster year for one player if the other falls by the wayside. I’m betting on the former more so than the latter. A good description might be excitingly frustrating.

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