Football Outsiders: Ranking the RBs 1-16

Discussion in 'NFL General Discussion' started by TDJets72027, Jul 18, 2007.

  1. TDJets72027

    TDJets72027 Rex Ryan baby

    1. Chargers (2)

    You start with the consensus best back in the business, team him with a guy he's worked with before in Norv Turner and then you add a guy in Michael Turner, who, by the way the Chargers value him, could start for of half the teams in the league as a feature back. Did we mention that fullback Lorenzo Neal is among the league's best fullbacks? Of course, we could have said the same thing about Mack Strong and last year's No. 1 RB, Shaun Alexander, and Strong fell off of a cliff and has yet to hit the ground, while the Seahawks don't show up for another thousand words or so. What insulates the Chargers from the same workload concerns that Alexander succumbed to last season is the presence of Turner, whose 46.7 percent DVOA in limited time last season was the best of any running back in football. Furthermore, while Tomlinson is no longer the 100-catch guy he was in 2003, it's not because he's playing worse. Many of Tomlinson's catches in that '03 season were dump-offs on third and long that did nothing to help the team win, which is reflected in his poor DVOA for that year, -34.2 percent. His receiving DVOA has steadily risen as he's become more effective out of the backfield and run slightly deeper routes, leading to a very solid 12.6 percent DVOA whilst receiving in 2006, good for 15th in the league.

    2. Saints (16)

    Deuce McAllister had the best year of his career in 2006, and it was reflected in his team's performance. We have McAllister ranked behind both Falcons running backs in our KUBIAK fantasy football projections, but that's less about McAllister and more about Reggie Bush, who should see more carries this season. Bush was deployed expertly by first-time head coach Sean Payton, and he got a lot more comfortable as the year went along, averaging 2.5 yards per carry in the Saints' first eight games but 4.8 yards per carry in the final eight. Intriguing fourth-round pick Antonio Pittman adds to the depth, and Aaron Stecker is an excellent emergency option and, surprisingly, receiver. One of the tidbits from Pro Football Prospectus 2007, on sale next Monday at all fine, discerning and otherwise willing bookstores nationwide: last year, Stecker lined up as a wide receiver more often than any running back in the NFL other than Bush, Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook.

    Frank Gore has overcome knee injuries to become one of the best running backs in the NFL. ( Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

    3. 49ers (29)

    We knew Frank Gore would be good. When he first came out of college, we pointed out that Priest Holmes had knee injuries in college, too. We didn't know he would be this good. In fact, we may be the only people in the world who are projecting Frank Gore, not LaDainian Tomlinson, as the best player in fantasy football this season. Though LT will score more touchdowns than Gore, he's not going to score 31 again, and Gore figures to gain more yardage. Clearing the way for Gore is physical blocking fullback Moran Norris, a future All-Pro. Gore even has a pair of intriguing backups, shifty Maurice Hicks and trick-play-in-waiting Michael Robinson, the former Penn State quarterback. Intriguing is a good thing, but it's a step below Michael Turner, which is why the 49ers are behind the Chargers.

    4. Jaguars (30)

    The turnaround from 30th to fourth can be summarized in three letters: MJD. Maurice Jones-Drew, he of the 23.6 percent rushing DVOA, 19.1 percent receiving DVOA, and 15 touchdowns in 2006, is far more than any ordinary complementary "third-down back". He's likely to become the primary running back in 2006, but he'll still defer plenty of carries to Fred Taylor, who looked downright revitalized in 2006. There aren't a lot of weaknesses between MJD and Taylor, but the few holes they may have in their skill sets are filled perfectly by Greg Jones, who returns from an ACL injury and should get some end-zone touches as a big Alstott-style fullback/halfback hybrid.

    5. Redskins (3)

    After signing backup Ladell Betts to an affordable 5-year, $11 million dollar deal in December, the Redskins will likely give the returning Clinton Portis breathers more often in 2007. After all, Coach Gibbs has generally been a year behind implementing the league's latest trends. They're likely to be one of the most improved teams in the weak NFC on the surface, and it will be in no small part to a healthy Portis and strong depth behind him. Former Jets RB Derrick Blaylock acquitted himself well enough whilst under Al Saunders in Kansas City, and fullback Mike Sellers is an all-around solid fullback. Depth? Washington? Don't worry, it's not habit-forming.


    6. Vikings (14)

    With three intriguing backs and the return of an impressive offensive line, the Vikings figure to be running the ball plenty this year. Given how bad the Vikings are at the quarterback position, Chester Taylor, Mewelde Moore and Adrian Peterson figure to get their chances if the Vikings are ahead or behind. As often happens, Taylor's production per play dropped when he went from a Baltimore committee to the lead role in Minnesota. Having Peterson, this year's top rookie running back prospect, means Taylor can return to sharing the load, which suits him better. While former Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress has begun to develop a team in the image of his former employer at wideout, Andy Reid never had a running back tandem quite like this.

    7. Eagles (21)

    Speaking of, the Eagles' backs are more chronically underrated than Philly's returning franchise quarterback. Asked to do a lot of pass catching and play second-fiddle to the pass-focused Philadelphia offense, Brian Westbrook has stayed healthy enough to where it's really tough to think of a better back in his division over the last few years. Certainly the Eagles would miss Westbrook as much the Giants miss Tiki Barber, except, well, the Eagles actually have a running back plan that doesn't involve a guy who feigns pregnancy after touchdowns. Correll Buckhalter's return after three years' worth of knee injuries was welcome in 2006, and he was one of the league's most consistent backs when it came to gaining 3-5 yards every carry. At fullback, Thomas Tapeh takes over as the full-time starter, which has been a kiss of death position for Philadelphia in recent years. While no one is prepared to talk about a Curse of Cecil Martin, rule it out at your own peril.

    8. Bengals (4)

    The fact that Rudi Johnson has scored exactly the same number of touchdowns in each successive season means a lot less than the fact that Marvin Lewis has done a good job keeping his franchise back in the lineup. Johnson surely benefits from the dynamic Bengals passing game, but they also depend on his ability to stay on the field. Second-round pick Kenny Irons will compete with 2003 first-round pick and injury-riddled complementary back Chris Perry to serve alongside Johnson; the absence of Chris Henry for the first eight games of 2007 could mean more receptions for both Irons and Perry out of the backfield. Meanwhile, fullback Jeremi Johnson earned the team's confidence to the tune of a five-year, $7.528 million extension. For a fullback. His presence, and the easy ripoff-ability of the Bengals nameplates (see "Cinco, Ocho"), ensures Rudi Johnson's continued visibility to spotters league-wide.

    9. Cowboys (22)

    Feature back Julius Jones lost Bill Parcells' confidence last year, allowing Marion Barber III to emerge as more than just a goal-line option. While Jones -1.9 percent DVOA (28th in the league in 2006) forms a case for him as a competent NFL running back, his resume for stardom seems more and more to consist solely of his breakout Thanksgiving Day performance against the Bears in 2004. While Barber still struggles with the finer points of running back play, his ability to run inside the tackles and pick up consistent significant yardage pushes him ahead of Jones. Regardless, when it comes to tandems that should be productive, the Boys' lead the pack.

    10. Chiefs (5)

    Will Larry Johnson's heavy 2006 workload hurt his production in 2007? (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

    The argument will rage this season over whether Herman Edwards went too far in allowing Larry Johnson to carry 400 times last year. When Johnson comes out of the chute with a couple of typical performances, phrases like "gutty," "Superman," "trust the player," and "Herman Edwards knows best" may be haphazardly thrown around. Whether the next result is Johnson going down with an injury (disastrously leaving the feature back role to Michael Bennett), or just being shut down as he was in the Colts' first round playoff victory, there are some things we do know. When you carry that often (for no reason, we might add), you're going to pay for it. If not this season, then next. If not next season, then for the rest of your life. Herman Edwards does not know best; he does not even know second-best. He knows worst. The loss of Will Shields and the arrival of limited run-blocker Damion McIntosh at left tackle will also make the Chiefs' running backs numbers worse, regardless of who's actually carrying the ball.

    11. Patriots (10)

    Losing Corey Dillon shouldn't mean much, as the Patriots add former Dolphins back Sammy Morris to take his place as a blocker and short-yardage back. Morris should get more than his share of carries behind Laurence Maroney, and he's the perfect back to handcuff Maroney with, as the Pats will likely rest their young star whenever they can; the consensus best team in the NFL figures to be ahead late in plenty of games. As with most positions for New England, the operative word is "depth", which means lots of time on the field for Morris, Kevin Faulk, and Heath Evans, each of whom will be given a specific role to fill. With safeties no longer invited into the box following the arrival of Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth, a healthy Maroney's upside is an MVP-caliber season.

    12. Rams (24)

    Former 26th overall pick Steven Jackson is a tough, durable back, as good a bet for 1,500 yards as players who will be drafted higher. It only helps fantasy owners that the Rams don't have much depth behind Jackson between former Dolphins back Travis Minor and second-round pick Brian Leonard. The Rams expect to use Leonard as a hybrid back that catches and carries the ball while serving as a blocker, or as they used to be called, "full back". While Jackson was able to make it through 436 touches last season, Leonard's selection is a pretty strong indication the Rams realize that number is a little too high.

    13. Colts (26)

    New full-time feature back Joseph Addai figures to have a run of Edgerrin James-type seasons if he can stay on the field. Considering the back-up options, he had better do just that. Two words that strike fear into the hearts of Hoosiers everywhere: DeDe Dorsey. Yes, that's Addai's backup, an undrafted second-year player out of NAIA-level Lindenwood. After that, it's Harvard rookie Clifton Dawson. What committee? The Colts would be in the top 10 if their backfield consisted of more than one trustworthy player.

    14. Seahawks (1)

    Fullback Mack Strong completely came apart last year, as the Seahawks were much better in one-back sets. Backup Maurice Morris was serviceable enough, but it's the possibility that Shaun Alexander has another full season of health in him that gets the Seahawks this high. He's not likely to be an annual MVP candidate, and if does get nicked up, the easy schedule of Mike Holmgren's team should be reason enough to give him a rest. There are no teams with marquee backs below the Seahawks, which means the 2007 group is as good as how full your glass is.

    Shaun Alexander's foot injury and the departure of guard Steve Hutchison were merely the tip of the iceberg last season Maurice Morris failed to approach either his or Alexander's 2005 DVOA, while the finally-appreciated Mack Strong ceased to deserve said appreciation, clearly losing a step as a blocker. While Alexander's likely to improve after his return to health, he's already seen his best days.

    15. Steelers (8)

    Former Jets red-zone "specialist" Kevan Barlow joins the team of Najeh Davenport and Willie Parker. Barlow's closer to being out of football than he is of being a legitimate starting running back, but since he was a starter at the tail end of the hiccup of the 49ers dynasty, his reputation belies his ability. Since nothing too interesting is going on at PNC Park, new head coach Mike Tomlin's every move will make news this summer. It should be interesting to see how this group fares in the post-Cowher era, so perhaps it's fair to put a team with a history of moving the ball well on the ground right in the middle of the pack.

    16. Ravens (6)

    A lot depends on what you think of the Willis McGahee signing; consider, though, that first-round guards are the most consistently successful first-round picks according to our research, and Auburn's Ben Grubbs will be at one of Baltimore's guard slots this upcoming season. McGahee's been a consistently mediocre running back in Buffalo, and will be moving to a line of similar quality in Baltimore. With McGahee's injury history and Baltimore's ability to find running backs on the sly (e.g. Priest Holmes and Chester Taylor), McGahee's acquisition is a strange fit and not one likely to be met with a significant improvement on his previous numbers. With Mike Anderson just about done and P.J. Daniels still inexperienced, there could be serious problems if McGahee's injury issues flare up again.
  2. RedskinsNo.1

    RedskinsNo.1 R.I.P Sean Taylor

    I agree with that, pleased to see us at #5
  3. DawkinsINT

    DawkinsINT Tebow free since 9/5/2015.

    Eagles at #7. I'm glad they didn't underrate them like many do.
  4. Chrisbob

    Chrisbob Fuck Dallas

    He forgot Rock Cartwright too, who has had a 100 yard game in his career.
  5. Dam8610

    Dam8610 Starter

    13 is surprisingly high.
  6. truelife

    truelife 6-0 is our goal

    im just excited to hear them say how good they think frank gore is
  7. BallerXZ

    BallerXZ Undisputed Champ

    #2 is a great because if we were put under the niners, there's no way I would have agreed.