Always the staple of the first round and of your fantasy team, finding the right blend of running backs and having enough depth to maintain a staple force in your fantasy backfield will almost always be the difference between being a possible champ and struggling week to week.
We'll take a look at some "great values", which are guys that should be available past the first four rounds, and some "sleepers", which are guys that likely will fall until the middle to late rounds, but who could be the keys to fantasy success for you this year.
Top Player - Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Peterson is poised for another great season, regardless of whether Favre returns or not. His offensive line is built for the run, and he has enough playmakers on the outside to make teams need to resist putting eight in the box.
Great Value - Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
Stewart is a more powerful, aggresive, and durable back than Williams, and what he lacks in deep speed compared to Williams, he makes up for it in tackle breaking ability. He might get a few more red-zone carries than Williams, so that adds to his value, plus if Williams goes down, that run blocking offensive line will be Stewarts to enjoy all by himself.
Great Value - Jahvid Best, Detriot Lions
Best nearly fell out of the first round of the draft because of his concussion history and the need for him to likely change his running style a little bit. But for a back his size, he has devestating speed and cutting ability, and he will likely end the season getting 70-80 percent of the Lions' carries.
Great Value - LaDanion Tomlinson, New York Jets
He won't be the feature back in New York, as Shonn Greene is slated to be their top back and he should have an outstanding season. But Tomlinson will provide the spell back carries, at least 5-10 a game, as well as many 3rd down plays because of his pass catching ability. I wouldn't put him in as a starter, but Tomlinson looks hungry to prove doubters wrong, and his no-nonsense approach this off-season could mean his poised to re-breakout in 2010.
Sleeper - Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
A small school back that the Bills should be most proud of when it comes to scouting, Jackson has done a very solid job being the backup running back and even starting a few games over the past few years. He's not a burner or a load to bring down. He makes good cuts, picks up enough yards, and is consistent. And in fantasy, especially late in drafts, Jackson could be a good move.
Sleeper - Ben Tate, Houston Texans
Tate is a great fit for the one-cut system Gary Kubiak runs, and is the most complete of the three backs. It's hard to bet again Steve Slaton too much based on his rookie season stats, and Arian Foster will likely be their goal line guy. But it looks like by mid-season, Tate could be the starter and get 60-70 percent of the snaps.
Sleeper - Glen Coffee, San Francisco 49ers
Singletary and 49ers brass really like Coffee as the spell back to Gore, and with Gore's injury history, I wouldn't doubt Coffee is a regular contributor to the run offense. He may have some competition with this year's mid rounder Anthony Dixon from Mississippi State, but Coffee should still be a 5-10 carries a game guy, and could be very valuable if Gore goes down.
NFLHouse.com Running Back Rankings