If there’s one things football fans have been waiting for other than the end of the lockout and the start of the NFL season on Sunday, it’s fantasy football.
Every fall, thousands of football fans across the country huddle in front of their computer screens or get together with buddies to pick from the NFL’s premiere talent to have on their fantasy team.
As reigning champion in my own fantasy league, I couldn’t be more thrilled to defend my title this season. One of the biggest parts of having success in fantasy is by drafting talented players who will produce for your team week in and week out.
And no position is more crucial to your team’s success than your running backs.
When you think of top running backs in the NFL, names like Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson come to mind.
However, last season, a handful of players established themselves as top running backs, most notably Houston Texan Arian Foster, Kansas City Chief Jamaal Charles and Baltimore Raven Ray Rice.
Foster, a sleeper pick at best before the season started, had the most surprising year of all NFL running backs, leading the league in rushing for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns. Those outlandish stats will be hard to replicate but if he’s available when you pick, he would make a strong starting running back for your squad.
Jamaal Charles is yet another premiere running back for the Chiefs, along with Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. However, his lightning quickness sets him apart from those former Pro-Bowlers and his ability to get out in space and score from everywhere on the field.
Charles’ 1,467 yards rushing and 6.4 yards per carry caught the attention of fantasy football fans across the country as he made a breakout year (and led my team to a league championship).
Ray Rice provided the Ravens’ offense with the spark it needed in the backfield, finishing the year third in NFL in total combined yards (1,776) and was the only running back with at least 250 total carries to not fumble once. Rice’s style of play is somewhat reminiscent of a Brian Westbrook-type back who is a dual threat rusher and receiver. Expect Rice to get about 20-25 carries a game and will not turn the ball over much, if ever.
Every year, sleeper running backs go in late rounds or go undrafted. Here are a few names that if available you may want to invest in: San Diego Chargers Mike Tolbert, New Orleans Saints Mark Ingram, and Washington Redskins Roy Helu Jr.
Mike Tolbert, in 132 total carries in 2010, rushed for 735 yards and 11 touchdowns (tied with Peyton Hillis and Chris Johnson). Tolbert was a red zone threat and a third down bruiser primarily and led the Chargers running backs in rushing yards and touchdowns with 26 fewer carries than starter Ryan Matthews. Expect him to continue his scoring ways in 2011 and should see an increase in carries.
Rookies Mark Ingram and Roy Helu Jr. should fit in well with their respective teams in their first years of NFL action.
Ingram, the former Heisman trophy winner and national champion at the Universtiy of Alabama, was workhorse in his three years in Tuscaloosa, rushing for 3,289 yards and 42 touchdowns. Along with his rushing ability, he is a solid receiving back who can come out of the backfield and pick up crucial yardage.
Helu had a successful career at the University of Nebraska as he rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons, amid injuries that held him out for parts of both years.
His stock has risen significantly throughout the preseason as he has rushed for 170 yards, second among all running backs, and has shown signs of being a flashy back that can run vertically and pick up large gains consistently.
Helu will most likely go undrafted in many drafts and is worth taking a shot on, especially with head coach Mike Shanahan’s ability to turn lesser known running backs into stars almost overnight.
So when drafting your fantasy team, make sure to load up on running backs who will get goal line carries and are consistent yard gainers.



  1. Dave Franza says:

    Would you rather have Sparks or Helu on your team as a #4?

  2. Dave Franza says:

    Would you rather have Sparks, or Helu on your fantasy team as a #4? Also, I have Tim Hightower-Do you think hes a good back this year, even if Helu gets looks?

  3. Pat Carroll says:

    I’ve got to think that Helu will get more carries as the season progresses and showed that he can be a threat to break big runs this past weekend against the Cards. With Shanahan’s love for the running game, he seems like a great 4th running back to me. 

  4. Pat Carroll says:

    I see Hightower as being a solid back this season. Don’t expect 100 yard rushing games every time out but he can get you significant carries and should be a premier goal line back as well.