Fantasy Football 2011: Week 9 Running Back Rankings

It seems like Frank Gore has seen the light at the end of the tunnel and is back to being an elite option.

"Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them."

Albert Einstein wasn't talking about running back issues in fantasy football, but it certainly applies. In every competitive league there are a handful of teams that were dealt multiple blows and now they're scrapping the waiver wire for some help. Worse yet, there's not a week that goes by in any of my competitive leagues where an owner starts the thread "I need a back" in the message board. If a deal usually gets worked out between that team and another party, it's usually the team that needed the back more gives up the more valuable assets. This certainly coincides with the way life works; people that have a need are much more vulnerable in negotiations (i.e. NBPA getting their nuts put in a vise stuck between a rock and a hard place by the NBA's owners).

The moral of the story is that fantasy owners need to prevent being in such an actionable position during the draft or even being proactive on the wire. At least half of your bench should consist of running backs in most formats. Personally, my draft strategy will be grab one elite back, fill up my other starting spots while grabbing value at running back, then go on a back bonanza in end of my draft (defense, kicker and IDP go in the last rounds). It's never fun to put a target on your back as a needy trade partner and owners that live for fantasy will usually take you to the cleaners.

Thursday afternoon updates after the jump:

News and Notes From Monday to Wednesday

Montario Hardesty and Peyton Hillis- Hardesty is expected to miss the next two weeks with a calf injury. Hardesty had a heavy workload in his game two weeks ago against the Seahawks with 33 carries before going down early in Sunday's game against the Niners. The former Volunteer hasn't been all that great either with just a 3.3 YPC and a pathetic five drops on 18 targets. His backfield mate, Peyton Hillis, was expected to practice Wednesday, but that didn't happen as the Browns held him out. There is enough evidence that Hillis is going to be doubtful for Sunday's game against the Texans. First and foremost, Hillis missed Week 4 due to strep throat. While under most circumstances, this would be a valid excuse, it doesn't quite hold water since Hillis was diagnosed almost a full week before the Sunday game. The symptoms of strep usually last four days when provided with antibiotics and he's only contagious after the first day on the antibiotic. Einstein quotes and pathophysiology in running back rankings? You bet. Moving on, Hillis has missed the past two games with this current hamstring issue.Usually when a player misses multiple weeks due to a hamstring, he is ruled out during the week and not as a game-time decision (like Hillis was).

The H duo's issues bode well for the value of Chris Ogbonnaya and he should probably be owned by anyone that is having issues at running back this week.

Ryan Mathews- The Fresno State product is now looking less likely to suit up for Sunday's contest with a groin injury. Mike Tolbert, who missed Monday's game with KC due to hammy and hand ailments, is locked and loaded to get a full complement of carries this Sunday against the Packers. Green Bay has been struggling a bit in stopping the run lately (largely due to AD); they were ranked first in yards allowed on the ground per game in early October, but now they're ranked 10th. Tolbert is an absolute must-start option this week.

Curtis Brinkley- Brinkley is dealing with a concussion and is out of the mix despite scoring a TD on Monday.

Darren McFadden- There's not much reason for the Raiders to play Run DMC this Sunday against the Broncos. Especially when one considers the proximity of Thursday's game against co-leading Chargers. Michael Bush is going to get all of the early-down work, touches at the goal line and might even get some work on passing downs. He's a strong RB2 in any format and Taiwan Jones enters the neighborhood for very deep leagues.

Tashard Choice- Choice signed with the Redskins on Monday and he has since been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Niners.The way Mike Shanahan messes with our heads with his fickle back rotations, it's certainly worth stashing Choice in most formats.The Skins abandoned the running back against the Bills on Sunday as Ryan Torain got all eight carries for the backs. Roy Helu did lead the team in snaps at running back. Both should be riding the bench given the uncertainty in conjunction with the horrendous matchup. If you're in a bind, Helu is the prefered option because the Skins should be very inept in running the rock on the stingy San Fran D.

Ahmad Bradshaw- Bradshaw is dealing with a foot injury and he is currently listed as questionable for Sunday's game vs. the Patriots. His foot is still sore and he didn't practice on Wednesday. Stay tuned. Brandon Jacobs would become the lead back and D.J. Ware would be mixed in sparingly should the Marshall product sit this one out. However, considering the magnitude of this game the Eagles gaining steam, Bradshaw will probably give it a go. I've been wrong before, so be sure to have a contingency plan.

Jahvid Best- Coach Jim Schwartz didn't give a straight answer on whether or not Best will be able to play following their bye this week. As you probably know, concussions are one of the trickiest injuries to predict as far as prognosis goes. Best is a decent buy-low target for teams that can handle the risk of him sitting out for a while. Maurice Morris got 13 carries compared to Keiland Williams 11 and Morris also got the goal-line touches in Week 8. The upside isn't all that high for Morris, so shallow-league owners could let him go under certain circumstances.

Willis McGahee- Willis said he expects to play on Sunday against the Raiders. This comes as a mild surprise after he'll miss just one week with a broken hand. Willis broke his fourth metacarpal (basically the back part of your palm leading to the ring finger), so returning from this injury is no small feat. Can McGahee have enough strength in his hand without pain to carry the ball effectively? That's the question. I think he'll give it a go and he should be a solid start against the Raiders' 16th-ranked run D. Although owners shouldn't cut bait on Knowshon Moreno until something more concrete develops.

LaGarrette Blount- He is going to play against the Saints and is a very strong start for the rest of the season. Blount Force Trauma was splitting carries with Earnest Graham and now will be the featured back for as long as he can stay healthy. He's got enormous upside and is a borderline top-12 back for the rest of the season. Keep in mind that Blount had 14 yards receiving last year, so Kregg Lumpkin will get some work on passing downs. He's ranked accordingly.

Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray- Jason Garrett insinuated that there will be a Jones-Murray tandem once Felix is able to full strength. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise given the stellar play of Murray and Jones' ineptitude in running between the tackles his entire career. Jones will be eased back into the game plan, so this week isn't necessarily the last week to sell high on Murray.

Daniel Thomas- Thomas (hamstring) returned to practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday. While this is nice and all, Thomas was limited in practice twice last week before being ruled out on Saturday. Thomas' price tag is at a bargain-basement price and all owners should shoot over a low-ball offer. If Thomas can't give it a go, expect Reggie Bush carry the torch against the Chiefs.

Mark Ingram- Ingram is questionable with a bruised heel. It is going to be very tough to count on any Saints back not named Darren Sproles this week against the Bucs. Chris Ivory returned to the field and got six carries, so he is likely to get a bigger load on Sunday. Ingram and Thomas are also on the chopping block in shallow leagues.

Beanie Wells- Wells was expected to miss multiple weeks with a knee injury, but he suited up and even scored against Baltimore this past Sunday. He's questionable for Sunday against the Rams in a dream matchup at home. He didn't practice on Wednesday, so make sure there's a late-starting back on your bench as a backup.

Joseph Addai-Addai practiced on Wednesday. Hooray! Honestly, this is one ugly running back rotation and all three backs (Brown and Carter as well) should not even be owned in shallow leagues.If I had to own one, it'd be Delone Carter.

Joe McKnight- The Jets said that they would be incorporating Joe McKnight more into their offensive scheme. McKnight actually shot it down and said that he only got a couple plays added to his playbook. This is a game of smoke and mirrors in the NFL, so for all we know McKnight gets 10 touches. He's obviously just a lottery ticket in deeper leagues at this point.

Chris Johnson- Johnson has been the ire of the fantasy world with his lackluster performances. He hasn't been headlining at all and the only time he makes the paper is in the funnies. The ECU product could probably be had for dimes on the dollar, so if you think you can pry CJ2.8 from his owner for a combination of bench-type players, then give it a shot.

 

Thursday Updates

Ahmad Bradshaw- Bradshaw is out indefinitely with a cracked bone in his foot. Bradshaw has a cracked fifth metatarsal (part of the bone that connects to his pinkie toe), so it's not a large bone in his foot and I would expect him to possibly return for the fantasy playoffs. Don't cut him in most formats just yet. Brandon Jacobs is a MUST-own back now and D.J. Ware enters 12-team ownership territory. Ware's pass protection hasn't been up to snuff, but I'd expect the Giants to use him in the passing game much more than Jacobs. I expect the Patriots to put on an offensive show against the Giants, which could open the door a bit for Ware. He has upside, so I have him ranked fairly high at 29 for the allure. Da'Rel Scott might also get a shot to show what he can do. He's ranked at 68 right now. Plan accordingly.

Willis McGahee- John Fox said that Willis will not be able to play in the event his right (injured) hand can't carry the football. He carried the ball with his left hand in practice on Wednesday, so this news shouldn't come as much of a surprise. McGahee has a broken fourth metacarpal and that part of the isn't as important as putting pressure on the ball compared to the first and fifth metacarpals. I have Willis (and Moreno) ranked as if he will play.

LeSean McCoy- Shady is dealing with a stomach bug and will miss some practice time. He's not Peyton Hillis and should be an elite start this week. He's ranked as our second back.

 

Follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher for updates throughout the week and instant analysis on Sunday. If you're in a PPR league, you can ask me things like, "should I start Sproles or Shonn Greene in a PPR?"

 

UPDATED AT 1:13 EDT

 

Rank Running Back                                                       Team Opp.
1 Arian Foster HOU CLE
2 LeSean McCoy PHI CHI
3 Matt Forte CHI PHI
4 Frank Gore SF WAS
5 Ray Rice BAL PIT
6 Michael Turner ATL IND
7 Fred Jackson BUF NYJ
8 Steven Jackson STL ARI
9 Beanie Wells ARI
STL
10 Shonn Greene NYJ
BUF
11 LaGarrette Blount TB
NO
12 Michael Bush OAK
DEN
13 Mike Tolbert SD
GB
14 DeMarco Murray DAL
SEA
15 Rashard Mendenhall PIT
BAL
16 Chris Johnson TEN
CIN
17 Darren Sproles NO
TB
18 Brandon Jacobs NYG NE
19 Cedric Benson CIN TEN
20 Jackie Battle KC MIA
21 Willis McGahee DEN OAK
22 Chris Ogbonnaya (if Hillis plays, move down 20) CLE HOU
23 Daniel Thomas MIA KC
24 James Starks GB SD
25 Marshawn Lynch SEA DAL
26 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE NYG
27 Pierre Thomas NO
TB
28 Ben Tate HOU
CLE
29 D.J. Ware
NYG
NE
30 Reggie Bush MIA KC
31 Delone Carter IND ATL
32 Ryan Grant GB SD
33 LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ BUF
34 Roy Helu WAS SF
35 Joseph Addai IND ATL
36 Javon Ringer TEN CIN
37 Ryan Torain WAS SF
38 Knowshon Moreno DEN OAK
39 Kregg Lumpkin TB NO
40 Taiwan Jones OAK DEN
41 Donald Brown IND ATL
42 Chris Ivory NO TB
43 Marion Barber CHI PHI
44 Dexter McCluster KC MIA
45 Kevin Faulk NE NYG
46 Joe McKnight NYJ BUF
47 Isaac Redman PIT BAL
48 Bernard Scott CIN TEN
49 Jacob Hester SD GB
50 Ricky Williams BAL PIT
51 Phillip Tanner DAL SEA
52 Kendall Hunter SF WAS
53 Danny Woodhead NE NYG
54 Lance Ball DEN OAK
55 Mark Ingram NO TB
56 Leon Washington SEA DAL
57 Peyton Hillis (if he plays, move up 30) CLE HOU
58 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL IND
59 Brian Leonard CIN TEN
60 Mewelde Moore PIT BAL
61 Thomas Clayton CLE HOU
62 Jed Collins NO TB
63 Steve Slaton MIA KC
64 Justin Forsett SEA DAL
65 Le'Ron McClain KC MIA
66 Vonta Leach BAL PIT
67 Thomas Jones KC MIA
68 Da'Rel Scott NYG
NE
69 LaRod Stephens-Howling ARI STL
70 Cadillac Williams STL ARI

Thanks for reading and feel free to post your comments.

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