Fantasy Football: Tiered Running Back Rankings

Here are my *TOP 35 Running Back Rankings. I’ve tiered them out for you, and yes, this list could look a little different from the ones you’ve been reading. However, I am a fantasy genius so follow wisely. I’ve written a little about each tier so enjoy the commentary and good luck this year!


  1. LaDainian Tomlinson
  2. Marion Barber
  3. Steven Jackson
  4. Adrian Peterson
  5. Brian Westbrook

This group will be stellar in 2008. I put Brian Westbrook as the last player in Tier 1 because his talent level gets him into the Top 3, but his injury history and that fact that he was relatively injury free last season makes me worried. When he plays he’s great but every once in a while he’ll be listed as probable then not play – that kills fantasy teams.

LT is the best running back in the league and he plays 6 games a year against Oakland, Kansas City, and Denver – what more could a running back ask for?

Steven Jackson gets my #3 nod over Adrian Peterson because he’s more durable. Sure, he had a down year in 2007 but I’m willing to bet he meets expectations this time around. He’s a beast and as athletic as big backs get. He catches the ball with ease. Look for him to stay healthy and impress. AP runs very hard and is one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL. However, he plays against tough defenses and will lose plenty of carries to Chester Taylor. I like him a lot, but he can’t get into the Top 3 in my rankings.

This leaves my surprise pick in 2008 – Marion Barber at #2. I’m not just doing this to be “different” but truly believe he’s going to dominate for Dallas this season. Some are scared because Felix Jones was a 1st round pick, but I wouldn’t worry much about that. Barber touched the ball less than 250 times in 2007 but still managed just under 1200 all purpose yards and 12 touchdowns. He’ll get 300+ looks this season, and that will mean great things for the hardest runner in the league.


  1. Frank Gore
  2. Joseph Addai
  3. Ryan Grant
  4. Clinton Portis
  5. Larry Johnson
  6. Marshawn Lynch

Call me optimistic, but I think Frank Gore will be a lot more like Marshall Faulk than Kevin Jones and Tatum Bell. First of all, he’s just a better athlete and instinctive runner than either of the latter, and he’s the best player on the team – just like Faulk was in St. Louis. Mike Martz is no dumby – well he’s kind of an idiot – but he knows to get his best players the ball. In St. Louis that was Faulk, Holt, and Bruce. In Detroit that was Roy Williams, and Calvin Johnson. In San Francisco that’s Gore – so yeah, I like his chances.

Addai is lower in my rankings than most other “experts” and that’s because of the way he finished the year and all the weapons in Indy. Over his final 8 games (half the season) Addai didn’t rush for more than 77 yards once. He did score 5 TDs, but still, that worries me. With Marvin coming back, Wayne, Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark in the fold, and a great 3rd down receiving back in Dominic Rhodes, I just don’t see Addai getting enough touches to be a top tier back.

Ryan Grant is a beast and if it weren’t for all the craziness in Green Bay and the Packers brass talking about Brandon Jackson getting more carries, he might find himself in the top tier. I know he’s a one year guy, but you all saw him run, the guy is a beast – ask Seattle.

Clinton Portis is probably getting undervalued here at 9, but I just don’t like the Skins offense all that much. Apparently they’ll be better this year under the 1st year head coach Jim Zorn, but I’m not sure that means more carries for Clinton. Either way, he’ll still be a nice #1 back in ’08.

Larry Johnson is one of the toughest runners in the NFL and if his quarterback wasn’t Brodie Croyle I’d be a little more excited about his chances. The way it is, he’s a #1 back, but somewhere toward the back of the pack, and he’s a little more high risk than most. He’s still a great runner though, and if the Chiefs offensive line can figure life out a little bit, LJ will be back in the Top 5.

I like Lynch a lot, and think he’ll be a nice back in 2008, but the Bills offense is still a little too limited for me to rank Marshawn much higher. Fred Jackson ran very well late last year in Buffalo, so he might share some carries with Lynch. Marshawn has lots of room to grow though, and he could make the jump sooner than later.


  1. Maurice Jones-Drew
  2. Earnest Graham
  3. Willis McGahee
  4. Michael Turner
  5. Reggie Bush
  6. Jamal Lewis
  7. Ronnie Brown

I love Jones-Drew, probably my favorite player in the league, but there are still time-share worries with Fantastic Fred so his hype has lost some pull with me, but I still have him as a low #1 starter in 12 team leagues. Earnest Graham played out of his mind last year, and I see more of the same in 2008. His offensive line is good and monstrous. Willis McGahee is an idiot but a talented runner. Still, Ray Rice will steal some touches and I’m not yet sold on Baltimore’s offense. Michael Turner could be the best on this list. He’s being vastly underrated in fantasy circles and should be a solid #2 in all formats. Reggie Bush has fallen off a little on the hype train, but he’s going to be better than the last two seasons. He’s not a full time runner, but he’s definitely a full time #2 starter for fantasy teams – especially in PPR leagues. Jamal Lewis can’t have as good of a run this year, can he? Many had him pegged as finished before he killed it last season. I don’t expect as good of numbers, but he’ll be a nice #2 again – that offensive line is solid in Cleveland. Ronnie Brown is my last Tier 3 runner, but only because he shouldn’t be fully healthy until week 6 or so and Bill Parcells seemingly loves Ricky Williams. Never saw that coming. Anyway, Brown is ultra talented and proved his worth as the only good Dolphins fantasy player last season. Expect a solid year from him.


  1. Laurence Maroney
  2. Darren McFadden
  3. Thomas Jones
  4. Willie Parker
  5. Brandon Jacobs
  6. Edgerrin James
  7. Matt Forte

I think Laurence Maroney is more talented than Reggie Bush and Joseph Addai, but this high flying offense in New England doesn’t have room for a stellar fantasy output at running back. Still, he’ll have better numbers than he did in 2007, and who knows, NE could go ground crazy? McFadden isn’t a top tier running back this season, but he’s not a bottom of the barrel guy either. Many have him out of the Top 30, but I like his upside and see him as a #2 back. Thomas Jones will be back in 2008. Adding Faneca to a maturing offensive line will mean good things for Jones, and those who take a chance on him will reap the rewards. Willie Parker will lose regular and goal-line carries to rookie Rashard Mendenhall. However, if he doesn’t he’s going to be an incredible steal. It’s a crap shoot, but 22 is a safe ranking for him. Brandon Jacobs probably got hurt while I was writing this article – but when he plays he’s a 100 yard TD guy for a solid offense. My problem is that I think Ahmad Bradshaw is the best back in New York. Edge is old, sure, but he had a nice season in 2007 and I’m sure he’ll produce well for a solid offense in Arizona. Another offseason with the Cards new coaching staff should help that offensive line, too. Matt Forte has a great chance to succeed in Chicago. He does all the things that Adrian Peterson (Bear not Viking) does, but he does them better. I love watching Forte play, he runs hard, and will become a fan favorite in Chicago.


  1. Jonathan Stewart
  2. LenDale White
  3. Rudi Johnson
  4. Kevin Smith
  5. Selvin Young

Jonathan Stewart is, in my opinion, the best back drafted in 2008. However, he is also a running back playing for a coach that hates to play rookies, and a rushing attack that is slow with tiny holes to run through. Oh, and DeAngelo Williams isn’t a nobody. Still, J-Stew’s upside is too high to let slide. LenDale might lose carries to Chris Johnson. If that happens, I’m not so sure White’s confidence will stay in tact. He’s a nice TD threat, but it could be a tough year for the former Trojan TD killer. Rudi could be one hell of a steal this late, if last year was a fluke. But if he comes out running like Shaunna Alexander (like he did last year) hurry and trade him as fast as you can. Worth the mid-round risk? You bet, but it’s a dark shot. Kevin Smith and Selvin Young – I love both of these guys as possible starting options drafted very low. Usually, with backups, I like big upside and both of these guys have it. Smith, though, runs with the Lions – and that hasn’t been a blessing to anyone since James Stewart. Exactly. Selvin spends his time in Denver, and while that is a blessing of sorts, it also means he’s on thin ice and Shanny Splinter could have Ryan Torain running with the starting unit in no time. Still, everyone in tier 5 has risk with high reward.


  1. Julius Jones
  2. Fred Taylor
  3. Rashard Mendenhall
  4. Chris Johnson
  5. Ahman Green

Fred Taylor, Ahman Green, and Julius Jones don’t have the high upside, but at least two of these vets are a sure thing for carries and decent numbers. Usually players like that fall late in drafts but more often than not they are fantasy worth all season long. That means they are good picks. I’m not sure Green is a great pick, but you can get him late and if he finds the fountain of youth, or just health, he’s going to be worthy. Jones won’t be a 25 carry 1400 yard 15 TD guy like Shaun was back in his hayday, but I like him to finish with more than a grand of rushing yardage and 6-8 touchdowns. That’s a solid year for a #3 back. Taylor won’t have as many scores, because he has a stud behind him that flourishes in the red-zone, but ask anyone who knows the game and they’ll tell you that Fred can still get it done. He’ll get 1000 yards or so, and be a stop gap player all season long – unless he gets hurt. That leaves me with two rookies in my final tier and both have a grand upside. Still, both have 1000+ yard backs with ability in front of them, and at least in Pittsburgh, that will matter early on. Willie Parker is a good back, but Mendenhall should get a fair share of carries on a pretty solid team. He’ll be a nice sleeper pick late and a handcuff for Willie that you’ll need. Chris Johnson could be dynamite in Tennessee. They have a pretty solid offensive line and he can make a lot of plays in the open field. As a late pick he could be a similar version of Reggie Bush in Reggie’s rookie year – but probably not as many catches seeing as though Tennessee doesn’t take as many chances as New Orleans does on offense.