While the quarterback is probably the most important player on the field in the National Football League, it’s the running back that win the most titles in fantasy football. With more teams employing a platoon in their backfield, heavily featured running backs are getting tougher and tougher to come by, making the top ones that much more valuable. The top fantasy running backs are usually the guys who sell the most NFL tickets on Sunday. Here are the 10 running backs that I think will have the best fantasy seasons in 2009, in order.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson is the best running back in the National Football League and he deserves to be the first pick in fantasy drafts. He’s got power, agility and breakaway speed and is one of the most impressive physical specimens in the league. The Vikings are a run-oriented team, which helps his carry totals, but he often faces eight in the box from defenses. It doesn’t seem to matter to Peterson, though, as he routinely gashes defenses regardless. He’s the number one pick.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons: After years of showing flashes as a backup in San Diego, Turner finally got his chance to start in Atlanta last season. Boy did he make it count, to the tune of 1500-plus yards and 14 touchdowns. The Falcons’ offense relies heavily on Turner to set things up for their young quarterback, Matt Ryan. He gets a ton of carries near the goal line as well, and should have another really good campaign in 2009 filled with a ton of touches.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jones-Drew has had to share the backfield with Fred Taylor since coming into the league, that is, until now. MoJo will be getting the full workload in 2009 and should have a great season. He’s a great bet for double-digit touchdowns and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will really help his value in all formats, but especially ones that give points for receptions.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: Forte had a really strong rookie season in 2008 and should build on it in 2009. The passing game will be better thanks to the arrival of Jay Cutler, which should help open things up for Forte on the ground. He’s a good receiver as well, which gives him additional value. Plus, there isn’t really anyone nipping at his heels for carries.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Gore played last season in Mike Martz’s pass-heavy offense and was still able to put together a good statistical season. He’s going to be featured in the Niners’ new run-oriented offense this season and will also be a threat catching the ball out of the backfield.
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers: I think LT has at least one more really good fantasy season him, but it’s the uncertainty that makes me rank him so low. Darren Sproles is going to vulture some carries, but that should keep Tomlinson fresh throughout the season.
Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins: Portis is as consistent as they come and you know he’s going to give it his all on the field. His per-carry numbers aren’t going to wow you, but the yards and touchdowns will come.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: Jackson seems to get hurt every season, but if he can stay healthy he’ll be a beast for whoever drafts him.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: The speedy Titan was amazing in his rookie season and he’s sure to be just as electric in 2009. LenDale White will vulture some TDs, but there will be plenty to go around.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants: If he can stay healthy, he’ll be one of the best fantasy backs in the league. With Derrick Ward out of town, Jacobs could be in line to get even more carries per game.