2011 Fantasy Football Top 30 By Position (Running Backs)


Fantasy Football drafts
are looming right around the corner and there’s plenty of research to be done. Luckily for you, The Sports Bank has you covered with updated rankings for the 2011 season.

This week, we take a look at arguably the most important fantasy position, the running back. Whether you’re in a super-competitive league or one of those leagues that doesn’t really matter, here’s all you need to know about the top 30 workhorses in the game of fantasy.

Fantasy Elites
– These are the guys that should be gone in the first round of almost any league. In my opinion, these guys should go before any other players in the fantasy draft. (BW = Bye Week)

1.) Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings – BW: 9) – Peterson epitomizes fantasy consistency while ranking in the top five in fantasy points among running backs in each of the last four seasons. Another nice thing about AP is that you know he will be the workhorse and goal-line option for the Vikings until he can’t run no more. Unless you hate the Vikings (like I do as a Packers fan), he really should be the number one overall pick.

2.) Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans – BW: 6) – Alright, 1,364 yards in 2010 probably didn’t warrant him being selected first overall last season. Regardless, Johnson remains one of the most dangerous runners in the open-field and the Titans really don’t have any other options. Thus, I think Johnson will return to his 2009 form and put up BIG numbers in 2011.

3.) Arian Foster (Houston Texans – BW: 11) – Last season’s Fantasy MVP definitely did enough to make his self elite in 2011. Foster was a beast while leading all rushers in yards, touchdowns and receiving yards. However, he won’t be a bargain this season as you will need to spend a high pick on the Texan. Buyers beware of a dip in production similar to Chris Johnson’s slump in 2010. Nonetheless, Foster should be a solid option in the running back slot and safe to end ranked in the top ten come the end of the season.

4.) Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs – BW: 6) – Charles is my sleeper to become 2011’s new popular fantasy flavor. He showed all of his beautiful potential in 2010, but was unfortunately handcuffed by veteran Thomas Jones. His most amazing stat last season was an insane 6.4 yards per carry in a season where he rushed for 1,467. The only question mark I have for the small and speedy Charles is how much Head Coach Todd Haley wants to use the guy. Haley may prefer to keep his talent fresh as he showed in 2010.

5.) Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens – BW: 5) – Rice rounds out my elite half-backs because he’s a dynamic runner who can also catch the ball. Yes, he may have underachieved in 2010, but remember that the Ravens’ offensive line was far from healthy and Rice didn’t become the goal-line back until late in the season. With Willis McGahee most likely out of the picture, expect to see little Rice in the end-zone at a higher clip in 2011.

Fantasy Second Tier

– These guys are on the brink of becoming elite and may be a season or two from getting there or just recently leaving their elite status. Fantasy-wise, these guys can get you through the year and quite possibly bring you greatness at the position.

6.) Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars – BW: 9) – MJD wasn’t great in 2010 and it had a lot to do with injuries. It’s hard to call him elite in 2011 because there’s too many issues surrounding the guy right now. Not only is he fresh off a surgery of his meniscus, his handcuff Rashad Jennings is a fairly talented running back his self. Even if Jones-Drew is healthy, expect a dual-threat game plan in Jacksonville.

7.) Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams – BW: 5) – Possibly the most underrated rusher of the last five years, Jackson has been a beast in the NFL. Unfortunately, Jackson has been part of a struggling Rams team who has used him a lot. It was evident last season, when he failed to reach the end-zone more than six times. He’s not as flashy as he used to be, but still a legitimate option to put up some decent fantasy numbers.

8.) Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh Steelers – BW: 8) – Mendenhall makes the second tier of running backs for two reasons. Firstly, he plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Secondly, the guy has a knack for finding the end-zone. There’s nothing exciting about the way he plays, but the fact that he’s the alpha-dog on an annual Super Bowl contender makes him worth having in your fantasy line-up.

9.) LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles – BW: 7) – Funny how the torch has been passed in Philadelphia; it was once Brian Westbrook who was the all-purpose back who could do it all, now it’s McCoy. McCoy could be the best of all these backs at catching the ball, he just needs to prove that he can also accumulate points on the ground.

10.) Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons – BW: 8) – Michael “The Burner” Turner is a lot to take down in the open field. The only issue with Turner is whether or not he will be slowed down by the immense workload he has taken on the last few years. Additionally, teammate Jason Snelling will be eager to take short yardage situations over. However, I still like Turner because the Falcons have a lot of weapons on the offensive end and Turner will surely get his touches.

11.) Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders – BW: 8) – If McFadden can shake off the injuries and somehow limit the amount of carries from teammate Michael Bush, Run DMC could be elite. He definitely has the talent while leading all rushers with 14 carries of 20 yards or more in 2010. The Raiders should be improved in 2011 and I expect a healthy McFadden to be a big reason why.

12.) Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers – BW: 7) – Gore is a player who can sympathize with the MJD and McFadden of 2010 because injuries held him back from having a great year. When the guy is on the field, he is simply an elite running back. Nonetheless, it cannot be ignored that Gore hasn’t played a full season since 2006. He really should go higher than this, but the high risk keeps him buckled in at this position.

Fantasy Third Tier
– These guys aren’t your first choice, but great for the second RB spot or excellent flex plays.

13.) Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos – BW: 6) – When he’s running right, he’s one of the most talented backs in the game.

14.) Matt Forte (Chicago Bears – BW: 8) – Forte has RB1 kind of talent, but it’s the Bears’ offensive line holding him back to RB2 status.

15.) Peyton Hillis (Cleveland Browns – BW: 5) – Hillis saw a lot of work last season and don’t forget about the Madden Curse.

Fantasy Fourth Tier
– These backs are definite RB2 and flex options and shouldn’t be your first running back selected in your fantasy draft.

16.) DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers – BW: 9)
17.) Ahmad Bradshaw (New York Giants – BW: 7)

18.) Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers – BW: 6)
19.) Ryan Grant (Green Bay Packers – BW: 8)
20.) Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks – BW: 6)
21.) Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers – BW: 9)
22.) LeGarrette Blount (Tampa Bay Bucs – BW: 8)
23.) Fred Jackson (Buffalo Bills – BW: 7)
24.) Felix Jones (Dallas Cowboys – BW: 5)
25.) BenJarvus Green-Ellis (New England Patriots – BW: 7)
26.) Cedric Benson (Cincinnati Bengals – BW: 7)
27.) Jahvid Best (Detroit Lions – BW: 9)
28.) Shonn Greene (New York Jets – BW: 8)
29.) Pierre Thomas (New Orleans Saints – BW: 11)
30.) Daniel Thomas (Miami Dolphins – BW: 5)

Did I miss someone or do you disagree with any of my rankings? Let me know by commenting below!

Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.

Fantasy Research Archive:

2011 Fantasy Football Top 30 By Position (Quarterbacks)
2011 Fantasy Football Top 30 By Position (Wide Receivers)
2011 Fantasy Football Top 30 By Position (Tight Ends)
2011 Fantasy Football Top 30 By Position (Defense/Special Teams)
2011 Fantasy Football Top 30 By Position (Kickers)


  1. How can I take you seriously when you call call Brian Westbrook Michael Westbrook?

  2. Nick Grays says

    Yousef – It was an honest mistake, let me know when you’re doing fantasy rankings, so I can see that you don’t mess up any names after dealing with so many at once.

  3. Ive noticed Jamaal Charles is really high on everyones RB list but he should be lower IMO because Charlie Weis left the chiefs. Also Charles is going to have stiff competition from Dexter Mccluster and Thomas Jones. What do u think?

  4. Nick Grays says

    Michael, I really like Charles because of the amount of work he did with few carries in 2010, look at the top three rushers as an example:

    Arian Foster – 327 attempts for 1,616 yards (4.7 average)
    Jamaal Charles – 230 attempts for 1,467 yards (6.4 average)
    Michael Turner – 334 attempts for 1,371 yards (4.1 average)

    Thomas Jones is aging and his amount of carries will most likely decrease. As for Dexter McCluster, he’s more of a Reggie Bush like player and expect to see him in exclusively in special packages opposed to getting significant amounts of carries. Even without Weis, Haley is well aware of how special Charles was last season and he would be stupid not to give the young man the primary workload this season.

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