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Position Rankings: 2010 Running Back Rankings

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Chip Kelly, James Harrison and David Bowie.

1. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
Itís easy to assume a player as small as Rodgers (5-7, 190) is little more than a speed back, but he brings significant power and toughness along with his explosiveness. He's been nothing less than incredible since arriving at Oregon State, scoring 36 touchdowns in his first two years. Last year was certainly the better of the two, as he totaled 23 touchdowns and added 1,962 yards from scrimmage. Above all else, the best perk to owning Rodgers is his remarkable consistency. He scored at least once and totaled at least 80 yards from scrimmage in every game last year, and that kind of reliable production means Rodgers will make your team competitive every week.

2. Jordan Todman, Connecticut
Todman isnít exactly under the radar after totaling 1,373 yards from scrimmage, running for 14 touchdowns and scoring on a kick return in 2009, but he could be in line for a bigger season than most are expecting. He put up those numbers despite splitting carries with Andre Dixon, who totaled 1,205 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns as a senior last year. With Dixon gone, itís entirely possible that Todman could put up Donald Brown-like numbers this year. You might remember, Brown put up 2,208 total yards and 18 touchdowns in 2008. The pieces are all in place for Todman.

3. Donald Buckram, UTEP
Buckram finally stayed healthy in 2009 and showed he is capable of performing at an extremely high level. He totaled 2,047 yards and 21 touchdowns in 12 games, and he was too good to be true when he played against other Conference-USA teams. He posted more than 200 yards on the ground against Houston, SMU and Tulane last year, and the 2010 schedule is remarkably easy for UTEP. Arkansas is the only concern among the list because UTEP will probably fall too far behind to run much, but everything else could result in monstrous numbers for Buckram. He's not ranked higher because he has a history of injury trouble.

4. Lance Dunbar, North Texas
Dunbar was unreal as a sophomore last year, proving to be a major big-play threat as both a runner and receiver in totaling 1,678 yards from scrimmage along with 19 touchdowns in 12 games. What's most impressive is that he did most of this in the last nine games, with only 97 of his 1,378 rushing yards coming in the first three weeks. Now that North Texas knows exactly what it has in Dunbar, expect his workload to be heavy starting on the first North Texas drive. Expect Dunbar to start the year slow, as Clemson is the opening opponent for the Mean Green, but heíll leave the next 11 North Texas opponents in a great deal of dust.

5. Michael Smith, Utah State
This spot in the rankings would have been held by Robert Turbin, but he suffered an ACL tear in the winter and is expected to miss all of the 2010 season. Turbin totaled 1,714 yards from scrimmage last year and scored 18 times in 12 games, so Smith should be in line for some huge numbers this year. Smith was a very good big-play threat as a role player last year, averaging 6.3 yards per carry while running for 290 yards and four touchdowns. He also was an excellent pass-catcher, taking 19 receptions for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Smith is a good player in a perfect situation, so he should be one of the top fantasy backs in 2010.

6. LaMichael James, Oregon
James would be in serious contention for the No. 1 spot if it werenít for the fact that heís suspended for Oregonís first game. Heís going to put up really, really big numbers this year. He showed almost right away last year that heís better than Oregonís recent running back greats like Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. Although he didn't play in a featured role until Week 3, James ran for 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged 6.72 yards per carry on the year, and the only defense that came remotely close to slowing him down was Ohio State, and James still averaged 4.67 yards per carry in that game. You canít go wrong with picking him in the top-five.

7. Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky
If you arenít familiar with Rainey by now, youíre in for a surprise this year. He might not go off too much against Nebraska in Week 1, but heís poised to torch the rest of the Western Kentucky schedule. Although his opportunities were limited in the Hilltoppersí spread offense last year, he was still the teamís best player as he averaged 6.52 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns. New coach Willie Taggart is bringing in a pro-style offense this year, and Rainey will be the foundation of the offense. With his bigger workload, look for Rainey to be the Lance Dunbar of 2010. Heís not a burner, but he has excellent vision, is very elusive and is tough to pull down.

8. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
Donít expect Murray to hit 1,500 yards on the ground like heís hoping to, but definitely look for a bounce-back if not breakout performance from him. The Oklahoma running game fell on its face last year, and Murray averaged just 4.15 yards per carry despite going for 680 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. His brilliant pass-catching ability remained on display, at least, as he caught 41 passes for 522 yards and four touchdowns. With Chris Brown gone this year, look for a major rebound from Murray. Expect him to at least match his total of 12 touchdowns, and look for him to gain around 1,800 yards from scrimmage.

9. John Clay, Wisconsin
Clay is the obvious top option in the Big Ten, and itís not even close. For that reason, his value is abnormally high in Big Ten-only leagues. He also has a lot of value in all other formats, though. He ran for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns last year and, though he offers nothing as a pass-catcher, heís all but a lock to surpass 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns on the ground. Heíd be ranked higher, but he has injury worries and he really needs to stop bulking up, because his balance and explosiveness have been compromised by his size. Also, donít expect Clay to produce against Iowa and Ohio State.

10. Bryce Beall, Houston
Beall wouldnít have been nearly this high a couple months ago, but the 2010 ineligibility of fellow running back Charles Sims means Beall should have the bulk of the Houston running game to himself. The last time that happened, when Beall was a freshman in 2008, he totaled 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. Needless to say, big things should be expected from Beall this year. Houston will definitely be the Case Keenum show, but Beall could be the second-most valuable Cougar player in the fantasy realm.

11. Baron Batch, Texas Tech
Batch very quietly scored 15 times last year while posting 1,279 yards from scrimmage. With the Mike Leach regime headed out of town and the Tommy Tuberville band coming in, Texas Tech should probably run a bit more this year. Based on the history of Tubervilleís Auburn offenses, the lead Texas Tech back should get around 200 carries in 2010, despite the coachís claim that the offense will remain in the high-flying mold that Leach left it in. Batch should easily hit the 1,000-yard mark on the ground in that case, and heíll continue to be a major receiving threat.

12. Noel Devine, West Virginia
Devine finally started finding his way to the end zone in 2009, and the results for his fantasy owners were fantastic. He averaged more than six yards per carry while going for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 22 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown. What made Devine especially useful was his consistency. He scored or ran for more than 80 yards in all but three games, and he had eight games with more than 100 total yards and a touchdown. Durability is a concern for a player his size, but heís held up almost perfectly so far, which is encouraging for this year. West Virginia has what should be a very good defense, so Devine could be getting a bigger workload this year as the Mountaineers find themselves with clock to burn.

13. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
Thomas ran for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns last year and added 257 yards through the air. He even completed three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. He should be a pretty high pick in most formats and deserves consideration as the top Big 12 back not named DeMarco Murray. At 6-2 and built around the 230-pound range, Thomas is more of a bruiser than most players on this list.

14. Bernard Pierce, Temple
Pierce set the MAC on fire as a true freshman in 2009, tearing the league apart for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 5.77 yards per carry. All this occurred despite the Owls having almost no passing game to speak of to help Pierce out. If he can produce like that against the stacked defenses he saw, you know he'll be top-notch again in 2010. The one issue with Pierce is injury concerns, as he sustained a shoulder injury at the end of the year, but he generally shows the ability to carry the workload. Fellow runner Matt Brown should give Pierce some help in the running game this year, but that's a good thing if it keeps Pierce healthy.

15. Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech
Jonathan Dwyer decided to turn pro, a fortuitous decision for Allen, who displayed ridiculous homerun potential in 2009 while receiving just 64 carries. He averaged a robust 9.7 yards per carry in Tech's option offense, while finding paydirt six times. Now thrust into the starting tailback role, Allen should get most of the touches in the offense aside from quarterback Josh Nesbitt. He holds significant value in all formats.

16. Derrick Washington, Missouri
Washington had an underachieving 2009 season after putting up 1,036 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in 2008. His yardage dipped to 865, and he only found the end zone 10 times in 2009. Heading into his senior season we can expect Washington's numbers to be closer to his 2008 stats. The shifty running back averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2008, but he saw that number drop to 4.6 in 2009. In 2010, expect his average to jump to over 5.0 YPC and his touchdown numbers to be well over ten. Washington isn't used much in the passing game, as he averaged two receptions per game last season, so expect his damage to be done on the ground.

17. Montel Harris, Boston College
Harris has been as reliable as any running back the past two years, totaling 2,357 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground since 2008. He did all that despite receiving little to no help from Boston College's passing game. Expect him to be the workhorse for the Boston College offense, as well as a top fantasy back, again in 2010.

18. Mark Ingram, Alabama
You probably don't need anymore convincing on Ingram, but it's still worth saying it: 1,992 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. Ingram will be excellent this year, just don't expect those numbers again. Trent Richardson will get more of the workload this year and it's just not reasonable to expect Ingram to produce a season that memorable again. But make him the first running back pick in SEC-only leagues, and take him high in other formats, too.

19. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
Along with players like Sam Bradford, Robert Griffin, Jermaine Gresham and Rob Gronkowski, Hunter was one of 2009's most bitter injury disappointments. He ran for just 382 yards and a touchdown after running for 1,555 and 16 touchdowns the year before. But his ankle is presumably healthy at this point, and you just have to hope his injury troubles of last year were a fluke. He should put up big numbers in the new offense, coordinated by former Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. His numbers as a pass-catcher especially will go way up (see: Bryce Beall, Charles Sims).

20. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati
Butch Jones doesn't historically have a feature back in his offense, but Pead fits the ideal for his template so well that Jones might not have any interest in giving Cincinnati's backups much playing time. Pead is the ideal big-play threat to complement Zach Collaros as the main runner, and he has the excellent receiving ability necessary to stay on the field for all three downs. Pead only needed 121 carries last year to go for 806 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 20 catches for 201 yards and two more touchdowns. Jones likely will use Pead more than he did his running backs at Central Michigan. For one, Collaros is about 30 pounds lighter than Chippewas quarterback Dan LeFevour, meaning heís not fit to run as often for Jones as LeFevour did. Pead will need to pick up that slack. Expect both his rushing and receiving yardage to increase and look for him to easily hit double-digit rushing touchdowns. Pead should turn out to be a solid RB1 in Big East-only leagues and could be valuable outside of them, too.

21. Frank Goodin, UL-Monroe
Goodin was excellent in 2009, running for 1,127 yards and 13 touchdowns while adding 138 yards through the air. With uncertainty at quarterback this year, UL-Monroe should lean heavily on Goodin's skills and he should once again be a top fantasy back nationwide. You can be especially confident in Goodin because he's extremely consistent and doesn't just produce against bad defenses. He averaged over four yards per carry against two extremely tough defenses on the road against Texas and Arizona State in 2009.

22. Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh
Lewis was unreal as a true freshman in 2009, taking 325 carries for 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also added 25 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown. Don't expect Lewis to approach anything close to those numbers in 2010. First off, the 25 carries he received per game last year is a difficult workload to maintain two years in a row. Second, Ray Graham was actually a higher recruit than Lewis and is too good to receive just 61 carries again in 2010. Graham is more of a big-play threat than Lewis, and getting him more involved will not only make the most of his talents, but would also keep Lewis fresher. Donít be surprised if Lewis receives something closer to 225 carries than 325.

23. Alfred Morris, Florida Atlantic
Morris was one of the best running backs in the country as a sophomore in 2009, and he'll be the same in 2010. He ran for 1,382 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding 114 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions. After Lance Dunbar, Morris is arguably the pick to make in Sun Belt-only leagues, and he's valuable in all other formats, too.

24. Shane Vereen, California
Vereen could be poised for a huge season in 2010. While some observers have him ranked right below Jacquizz and LaMichael James, weíre not quite as high on him. He shows good vision and balance as a runner and is fairly tough to bring down, but heís not as elusive as past California running backs like Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best, so weíre skeptical that he has as much upside as those two. Plus, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson and Isi Sofele are good runners for California who could steal carries from Vereen. Still, Vereen should hit double-digit touchdowns this year, and you canít go wrong with him.

25. Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska
Although he had his durability issues last year, Helu Jr. was pretty superb when he was all full strength. He destroyed a tough Virginia Tech defense for 169 yards on 28 carries in his third game and ran for 138 yards on 20 carries against Oklahoma, but he had consistency issues. It's a tough situation for Nebraska, because it's obvious that Helu Jr. would be in better shape if they lightened his workload, but he's too good to not use him when he's available. In any case, he should be a high pick in Big 12-only leagues after posting 1,147 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground last year, but try to find more dependable players if you can.

26. Vai Taua, Nevada
Taua averaged a ridiculous 7.82 yards per carry in 2009, taking his 172 carries for 1,345 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding 99 yards and two more touchdowns on 12 catches. Tauau is likely to lose a bunch of carries to Lampford Mark, Mike Ball and maybe others, but his superb big-play ability makes him a top running back option in all formats. It would be nice if he cut down on his fumbles, though.

27. Alexander Robinson, Iowa State
Robinson is one of the country's best all-around running backs, and it wouldn't be surprising if he outdid his 2009 total of 1,456 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns. Although Iowa State has a tough schedule as a Big 12 team, Robinson is someone who produces even against the tough defenses, as evidenced by his 19-carry, 100-yard performance against Iowa last year.

28. Damien Berry, Miami (FL)
Berry came out of nowhere last year to become Miami's best running back, even though Graig Cooper and Javarris James topped the depth chart at the start of the season. His 616 yards and eight touchdowns came in just nine games, and he averaged 6.62 yards per carry on the year. Miami would be foolish not to give Berry a huge workload in 2010.

29. Derrick Locke, Kentucky
Locke was one of the most underrated players in the country last year as he ran for 908 yards and six touchdowns, caught 31 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns, completed a 41-yard pass and returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the second year in a row. Durability is a concern with Locke, but Kentucky would be crazy not to use him as much as possible this year. Look for another excellent performance in 2010 from Locke, who produced against even the best defenses last year.

30. Mikel LeShoure, Illinois
There are definite concerns over whether LeShoure can hold off Jason Ford from taking much of the workload, but we think LeShoure is too good not to put up bigger numbers this year. Although his value is mainly limited to Big Ten-only leagues, he could have relatively high value in those leagues. LeShoure isn't a burner, but he's an excellent all-around runner with a rare combination of power and shiftiness, and heís also a very good pass-catcher. After averaging 6.8 yards per carry last year while scoring seven times and posting 911 yards from scrimmage, look for LeShoure to at least get close to the 1,000-yard mark on the ground in 2010.

31. Evan Royster, Penn State
Royster had a nice season in 2009, but he has the potential to put up an even better performance in 2010 if he can avoid some of the nagging injuries that have plagued him in the past. Royster has good speed and quickness and will be counted on to carry the load on offense without Daryll Clark still in Happy Valley. Royster will get the ball a lot this season and is a top fantasy option among all backs, especially if new quarterback Kevin Newsome can take some pressure off the running game with a competent passing attack.

32. Brandon Bolden, Mississippi
Bolden is a good bet to breakout as an all-around running back for Mississippi this year, as he managed to make an impact on the team even when Dexter McCluster was around in 2009. With McCluster gone, a huge opportunity awaits Bolden. He isn't the exceptional player McCluster is, but he's a dependable one who should make the most out of an offense that will lean on him for consistent production. He ran for 614 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore last year while adding 20 catches for 209 yards and a touchdown through the air. He should be a very strong RB2 option in SEC-only leagues and maybe even a decent RB1 option. He's worth watching in all formats, really.

33. Martin Ward, Marshall
You might not know about him now, but look for Ward to pick up right where Darius Marshall left off and be one of the most productive runners in CUSA. For some reason he chose to play at Marshall rather than Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and others. He should be a good RB2 in CUSA-only leagues after running for 390 yards and three touchdowns at 4.81 yards per carry last year as a freshman. Keep an eye on him in other formats, too.

34. Eugene Jarvis, Kent State
Jarvis dealt with injuries last year, but he's a legendary player for Kent State and he'll be the favorite of the offense after being granted a fifth year with the team. He took 37 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown last year, but he'll be given the chance to do something like he did three years ago, when he ran for 1,669 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding 306 yards and three touchdowns through the air. You shouldn't have expectations that high for Jarvis in 2010, however. You should expect him to lose a significant amount of carries to Jacquise Terry and Dri Archer, in fact. But Jarvis still has the potential to return to glory in the MAC. He's worth a very high pick in MAC-only leagues and he's worth monitoring in other formats.

35. Chad Spann, Northern Illinois
Spann was superb as a junior last year, running for 1,031 yards and 19 touchdowns on just 178 carries. He also added 122 yards and a touchdown through the air. While it's not likely that he'll reach the 20-touchdown mark again in 2010, he should be one of the nation's best fantasy backs. Spann will probably lose a good amount of carries to Cameron Bell, but he did plenty of damage last year while giving up a lot of carries to Me'co Brown. Spann should be a top pick in MAC-only leagues and merits selection in other formats, too.

36. Princeton McCarty, Idaho
With DeMaundray Woolridge gone, McCarty is in line to become the new No. 1 Idaho back. He averaged 5.91 yards per carry while running for 680 yards and three touchdowns last year, so he should be quite good in the role. He's also a good receiver, as he caught 11 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns last year. He's worth a look in all formats and will at least be decent RB2 or superb RB3 in WAC-only leagues.

37. Jamie Harper, Clemson
Harper figures to be the workhorse in Clemson's backfield for the 2010 season, even though he'll split plenty of carries with Andre Ellington. Harper weighs 230 pounds and plays just as you would expect a man of his size to, but is trying to become a more complete back. He is the thunder to Andre Ellington's lightning, and a good bet to lead the Tigers in both carries and touchdowns. He's a good RB2 option in ACC-only leagues and someone to make note of in other formats.

38. Warren Norman, Vanderbilt
Norman was nothing less than fantastic as a freshman, totaling 783 yards and three touchdowns on the ground (5.4 yards per carry) while returning three kickoffs for touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 108 yards and one touchdown. Norman isn't built like a workhorse back, but his productivity might compel Vanderbilt to treat him as such. If he can stay healthy and protect the ball in 2010, Norman should remain one of the country's most dangerous runners. If the Vanderbilt passing game can get on track (not likely), his production would explode.

39. Sam McGuffie, Rice
McGuffie would be a logical choice to utterly destroy CUSA in most years, but he enters 2010 with another talented running back to share the backfield with, Charles Ross. McGuffie is the superior talent, though, and he should be the star of the Rice team. Look for big numbers here, because McGuffie could be playing at Florida, USC or Notre Dame right now if he had had perfect foresight coming out of high school. He's worth a very high pick in CUSA-only leagues, and he's worth a mid-to-late pick in all other formats. The upside here is very high, just beware of Ross, who ran for 11 touchdowns while averaging over five yards per carry as a freshman last year for Rice.

40. Edward Wesley, TCU
Wesley's game-to-game upside is very high, but he'll probably be a bit hit-or-miss. He looks to be TCU's top playmaker, especially in the backfield, but fellow running back Matthew Tucker is better suited to a feature-back role. Still, Wesley will be a regular in the TCU offense.

41. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
Williams was incredible as a freshman, running for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns while averaging 5.65 yards per carry. Unfortunately, those numbers need to come down in 2010. Darren Evans is back and David Wilson is an excellent prospect who deserves to be on the field, too. Plus, it isn't good for Williams to carry the ball 293 times per season. Lightening his workload is only fair because he's a player who should play in the NFL someday, and wearing him out before he has the chance would be cruel. Expect Williams to once again be extremely efficient as a runner and get the bulk of Virginia Tech's rushing touchdowns, but don't look for him to match last year's amazing production.

42. Trent Richardson, Alabama
Mark Ingram is obviously the top Alabama back, but Richardson is too good to not get more carries in 2010. The big-time recruit took 144 carries for 749 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman last year while adding 126 yards on 16 receptions. He's already built like an NFL runner and should be a good RB2, if not RB1, in SEC-only leagues this year. Keep an eye on him in other formats, particularly when Alabama takes on weaker competition.

43. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M
Gray won't take the majority of carries away from Christine Michael anytime soon, but he's a very valuable player to A&M regardless. He ran for 757 yards and five touchdowns while adding 226 yards and two touchdowns through the air. In both of his college football years he also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He has a good value in Big 12-only leagues and is worth keeping an eye on in other formats, too.

44. Morgan Williams, Toledo
Although he played behind DaJuane Collins last year, Williams put up big numbers as a freshman in 2008. In that season, he ran for 1,010 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 5.98 yards per carry. In 2009 he took 74 carries for 444 yards and two touchdowns while adding a touchdown as a receiver and kick returner, so itís not like he lost his effectiveness. He just fell behind another good player on the depth chart. With Collins gone, look for Williams to at least match his freshman year numbers, with the more likely scenario being that he easily outdoes them.

45. Toben Opurum, Kansas
Opurum is a big back who ran strong last year but eventually had injury trouble. He totaled 554 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground and should do much more than that if he can stay healthy. He's a strong RB3 in Big 12-only leagues.

46. Willie Geter, Bowling Green

Geter is a very good running back option in MAC-only leagues after running for 705 yards and nine touchdowns while adding 42 catches for 407 yards and a touchdown. He's probably not worth consideration outside of MAC-only leagues, however.

47. Al-Terek McBurse, Purdue
With Ralph Bolden seemingly done for the year, McBurse is an excellent breakout candidate in the Big Ten. He didn't accumulate any rushing yards last year, but he showed big-play ability as a kick returner and was recruited by schools like Nebraska, North Carolina and Georgia Tech, so there's reason to believe McBurse can run it. Try to nab him as an RB2 in Big Ten-only leagues, but he could turn out to be an RB1 in those leagues. Keep an eye on him in other formats.

48. Allen Bradford, USC
Bradford is a bit unproven, but he certainly looked impressive in a limited role in 2009, averaging 5.81 yards per carry while running for 668 yards and eight touchdowns. Bradfordís a bruiser in the 230-pound range and was moved to running back by USC after being a five-star linebacker recruit in 2006. He doesnít offer anything as a receiver, but heís surprisingly explosive and fast and should put up big numbers on the ground. He could be in for a huge year if Lane Kiffin runs Bradford as much as he did Montario Hardesty at Tennessee last year.

49. Robbie Rouse, Fresno State
Rouse is no Ryan Mathews, but he's still the next big-time Fresno State running back. He ran for 479 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman last year, and he won't face serious competition for the feature back role this year. He'll lose some carries as Fresno always has good runners waiting to get to work, but Rouse should be a decent RB2 option at the least in WAC-only leagues, and he warrants serious consideration in other formats, too.

50. J.J. Di Luigi, BYU
Di Luigi is the favorite to pick up where Harvey Unga left off in 2010. He ran for 248 yards and three touchdowns on just 45 carries and added 270 yards and four touchdowns on just 22 catches in 2009. He should be a very effective player for BYU and should be an early pick in MWC-only leagues, and deserves consideration in other formats, as well.

51. Michael Ford, LSU
Ford is expected to be the No. 2 LSU back going into the season, but he has the blend of speed and power to revive a running game that struggled last season. Richard Murphy should be very worried about his starting spot with this hard-charging future starter behind him. The former five-star recruit ought to make a serious push for the feature-back role at LSU in 2010 and is probably the LSU back to target.

52. Nic Grigsby, Arizona
Grigsby, Jacquizz Rodgers and LaMichael James are pretty much clones. Grigsbyís listed at 5-10, but he looks more like 5-8 and, like the other two, runs surprisingly strong despite having a tiny build. He ran for 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008, but injuries got in the way of his attempt to match those numbers in 2009. Still, he saw the field briefly and put up huge numbers, running for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games. Despite the injuries that followed, he finished the year with an extremely impressive 7.18 yards per carry average, running for 567 yards and five touchdowns. If Grigsby were less of an injury worry and didnít need to split some carries with Keola Antolin, weíd have him ranked much higher

53. Averin Collier/Delone Carter, Syracuse
Carter was suspended from the team for an assault incident earlier this year, but he might be allowed back onto the team before the season starts. If Carter is reinstated by the team before this season, then he's easily the top Syracuse back and a probable top-five back in the Big East. Keep an eye on his situation. If Carter is out, then look for Averin Collier and Antwon Bailey to be the Syracuse runners this year. If Carter is in, he's worth considering in all formats after rushing for over 1,000 yards last year and hitting double-digit touchdowns.

54. Ike Nduka, Buffalo
Nduka was excellent in limited time last year, taking 96 carries for 598 yards and six touchdowns in eight games. Durability is an issue with him, but he's worth a high pick in MAC-only leagues as an RB2 option. Keep an eye on him in other formats, too.

55. Andre Ellington, Clemson
Ellington is not of the same caliber as departed first-round pick C.J. Spiller, but he does possess excellent speed and big-play potential. Ellington made the most of his limited opportunities last year, rushing for 491 yards and four touchdowns on only 68 carries (7.2 ypc). He won't make Clemson fans forget about Spiller, but Ellington is a more than adequate replacement and should provide plenty of big plays. He needs to fumble less this year, but he's looking like a decent RB2 in ACC-only leagues and someone to watch in all other formats, too.

56. Charles Clay, Tulsa
Clay is one of the nation's most intriguing athletes and he should be a top fantasy back this year, especially in CUSA-only leagues, even though he doesn't actually play running back. His main talent is as a receiver, where he produced 530 yards and five touchdowns last year, in addition to 236 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Expect Clay to put up bigger numbers this year, however, more similar to what he did as a freshman (1,328 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns). The Tulsa passing game should pick up in a big way this year, and it's possible that Clay's numbers will benefit more than anyone else's. Don't take him ahead of backs that you know will have feature roles as runners, but Clay is a high-upside alternative to the more mediocre feature backs.

57. Mario Fannin, Auburn
Fannin had a lot of trouble with ball security in the past, but he nonetheless seems poised to take over as Auburnís leading rusher this year. Heíll definitely lose carries to the blazing Onterrio McCalebb and five-star recruit Michael Dyer is also a threat to take the ball from time to time, but look for Fannin to emerge as Auburnís main goal-line runner. Heís a lot like Ben Tate in that heís got a lot of straight-line speed and explosiveness to go with a great deal of brute strength. He doesnít have much grace or balance, but being able to run as fast and as powerfully as he does will make him productive this year. As a former wideout, heís also a brilliant pass-catcher for a running back.

58. Chris Polk, Washington
As low as he is in the Pac-10 running back list, thereís still a good deal to be said about Polkís fantasy value. He ranked fourth in the conference with 1,113 yards on the ground last year, though he averaged a modest 4.92 yards per carry and scored just five times. Furthermore, he could lose a few carries in 2010 to four-star running back recruit Deontae Cooper. But thereís reason for optimism with Polk because he ended the 2009 season on a strong note, running for 576 yards and three touchdowns on just 99 carries in the last five games. If he keeps running at the 5.82 YPC average he posted in that five-game stretch, he could be huge in 2010.

59. Derek Lawson, Arkansas State
Lawson doesn't have much competition ahead of him for the top running back spot at Arkansas State, and he's been pretty productive in his career. He only ran for 244 yards and two touchdowns last year, but with a larger role as a freshman in 2008 he took 97 carries for 695 yards and four touchdowns, averaging a superb 7.16 yards per carry. He'll be a good depth pick in Sun Belt-only leagues, otherwise just keep an eye on him.

60. Jermaine Thomas, Florida State
Thomas was the Seminoles' primary ball-carrier last season, but is not assured of the same role entering 2010. Thomas rushed for 832 yards and nine touchdowns on 163 carries last season, and has the kind of speed that could make FSU coaches look foolish for trying to reduce his carries. He may be a bit of a headcase, but there's little doubt that Thomas is FSU's most talented runner. Take him for a depth pick in ACC-only leagues in an ideal scenario, otherwise just keep an eye on his progress after the season starts.

61. Shawn Southward, Troy
Southward will have to split the rushing load with DuJuan Harris, but he holds more upside between the two. Harris is the favorite to start this year, but Southward ran for 19 more yards last year despite getting 41 fewer carries. That sort of production differential will outweigh any loyalty the program feels to Harris, the upperclassman. Still, Harris is too good to not get about half of the carries, so Southward won't reach his full potential this year. After running for 602 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman last year, it became obvious that Southward will do damage once he gets the ball. He's a good RB2 option in Sun Belt-only leagues, and he certainly has utility in other formats, as well.

62. Malcolm Jones, UCLA
Jones isnít guaranteed to suit up in 2010, but the Bruins need help at running back and Jones has the look of a potential star. Heís a consensus top-20 running back from the 2010 class and should play as a workhorse right away. Jones has the build to take 20 carries per game, but heís shifty and explosive enough to be a big-play threat, too. If itís confirmed that Jones wonít redshirt this year, look for him to be UCLAís top runner.

63. Jeremy Avery, Boise State
Avery can go the distance every time he touches the ball, and is also a major contributor in the prolific Bronco passing attack. He ran for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns last season, adding 23 receptions for 257 yards to put him over the 1,400 total yardage mark. Avery loses goal-line carries to Doug Martin, but can do just about everything else. He's worth a significant pick in MWC-only leagues, but he deserves consideration in other formats, too.

64. Robert Elliott, Mississippi State
Elliott hasn't done much the past two years, but the former top-ten running back recruit has the power game that makes him a natural fit for Anthony Dixon's former spot in the offense. Look for Elliott to make the most of his opportunity, though he'll have to hold off his talented understudy in Vick Ballard. Elliott could turn out to be a good value pick in all formats, and should be a good RB2 in SEC-only leagues.

65. Lennon Creer, Louisiana Tech
Creer is a Tennessee transfer and former top recruit who reportedly had offers from schools such as Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and many others. Placing him in the WAC should result in big numbers this year for Louisiana Tech. It's not as if Creer wasn't productive at Tennessee, as he averaged more than five yards per carry and scored five times in very limited work in his first two years. Look for the Louisiana Tech offense to go off this year, and Creerís running ability should be one of the reasons why.

66. Jared Tew, Air Force
Tew is an elite running back option in MWC-only leagues and is worth consideration in other formats, too. He ran for 970 yards and nine touchdowns on 238 carries last year, and he seems to be set as the team's main goal-line and short-yardage option. Asher Clark has more upside, but go with Tew for the safer pick. He has decent RB1 and very strong RB2 value in MWC-only leagues.

67. Christine Michael, Texas A&M
Michael led the team as a freshman by running for 844 yards and ten touchdowns while averaging 5.08 yards per carry. The former five-star recruit was everything the team hoped for in 2009, and he'd be a top fantasy back nationwide if it weren't for the presence of Cyrus Gray, a big-time recruit himself. Michael also needs to cut down on his fumbles if he wants to stay on the field. He should be a top running back option in Big 12-only leagues and is worth a pick in all other formats, too.

68. Channing Trotter, UNLV
Trotter is an undersized but very athletic runner who's almost definitely UNLV's best option at running back. He apparently got into the doghouse a bit this off-season, but his rushing production from last year (4.75 yards per carry and nine touchdowns) can't be outdone by anyone else that UNLV has. He has a good amount of value in MWC-only leagues and is someone to keep an eye on in other formats, potentially.

69. Victor Anderson, Louisville
Anderson is a significant durability worry after missing basically the last five games of 2009 with shoulder troubles, but heís still very valuable in Big East-only leagues due to the productivity he provides when heís on the field. He went for 473 yards and five touchdowns on just 89 carries last year, and as a freshman in 2008 he ran for 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns on just 183 carries. Stated more briefly, he's one of the best runners in the conference when he's actually running. For what it's worth, he didn't seem to have much trouble in his 2008 freshman season, so if you're an optimist, Anderson is in line for a major rebound in 2010.

70. D.J. Harper, Boise State
Harper saw his promising 2009 season cut short by a knee injury in Boise State's third game, but has the talent to rebound once he is fully recovered. He did not lose a year of eligibility, and runs with enough power to succeed even if he loses a step. Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin thrived while Harper was out, and while he will not regain the role as primary ball-carrier, there should be plenty of touches to go around in an offense that nobody can get off of the field. He's worth a high pick in MWC-only leagues and is worth consideration in other formats, too.

71.Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
Taylor is not Toby Gerhart, but he should still be a highly productive fantasy option this year for Stanford if he wins the starting job. He's still competing with Tyler Gaffney and a few others for the spot, but we think he'll win the job eventually, in which case we'll probably move into our top-30 or so. Taylor was a four-star recruit in 2009 and reportedly chose Stanford over schools like TCU, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Wisconsin. He made the most of his limited workload in his true freshman season, averaging 5.46 yards per carry while taking off for 306 yards and two touchdowns. This including a combined effort of 14 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown against two of the Pac-10's tougher defenses in Arizona State and USC. Thereís no way you should consider taking Taylor ahead of Rodgers or James, but expect Taylor to put up big numbers for Stanford this year.
72. Joe Martinek, Rutgers
Martinek owners have to worry a little bit about the presence of sophomore De'Antwan Williams, who ran for 235 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries in seven games last year, but Martinek seems relatively safe as Rutgersí top running back for 2010. He ran for 967 yards and nine touchdowns on 206 carries last year as the darkhorse victor in the team's running back competition, and thereís no doubt heís a solid player. The question is whether he offers much upside, and whether he can have big games against tough defenses. He ran for just 100 yards in the games against Pittsburgh, Connecticut and West Virginia combined, and he averaged more than four yards per carry in just seven games last year. Furthermore, the loss of offensive tackles Anthony Davis and Kevin Haslam won't do him any good heading into 2010. Still, after guys like Todman, Devine, Lewis, Pead and Anderson go off the board, youíre not going to do much better than Martinek in Big East-only leagues. His value is limited in other formats, however.

73. DuJuan Harris, Troy
Harris is a favorite of many to be a top running back nationwide this year, but that's an optimistic projection for a player who averaged 3.86 yards per carry as a junior last year and was far outperformed by his freshman understudy, Shawn Southward. Still, Harris is a better player than last year's numbers show, and he should bounce back in terms of efficiency. Regardless, Southward has arrived and the damage has been done to Harris' fantasy potential. He should still be a top running back option in Sun Belt-only leagues and deserves major consideration in all other formats, but don't go expecting Harris to be an elite producer nationwide.

74. Eddie Wide, Utah
Wide is truthfully the best runner on the Utah roster, but he might have to share a lot of carries if the program shows loyalty to senior Matt Asiata, the player who started at running back last year before getting injured. Wide proved to be better, but Asiata will keep a prominent place in the offense. Wide deserves consideration in most formats after running for 1,070 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.

75. MiQuale Lewis, Ball State

Lewis had a monstrous season two years ago, running for 1,736 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he struggled to do nearly as much last year. He still ran for 871 yards and five touchdowns, but his backups in Cory Sykes and Eric Williams were probably more effective. He's worth a relatively high pick in MAC-only leagues, but probably worth a pick in other formats.

76. Rodney Stewart, Colorado
Stewart is all but unchallenged as the top Colorado runner after going for 804 yards and nine touchdowns on 198 yards last year. The junior doesn't have much help on his offense, but he's still a decent RB2 and strong RB3 in Big 12-only leagues.

77. Darius Willis, Indiana
Willis showed a lot of potential in his freshman campaign last season, rushing for 607 yards and six touchdowns. At 6-0, 225 pounds he combines speed and power with big-play ability. He was inconsistent at times, putting up three strong 100-yard rushing efforts and disappearing in other games. As long as he gets a consistent workload this season, he should live up to his potential.

78. Carl Volny, Central Michigan
Volny should get more carries than in past years with Dan LeFevour gone, and it should make him a useful running back option in MAC-only leagues. Volny gained 390 yards and three touchdowns on 82 carries in 2009.

79. Matthew Tucker, TCU
Splitting carries with Ed Wesley and Waymon James means Tucker's workload will be relatively limited, but he might prove to be the best fantasy option of the three. He was very productive as a freshman, totaling 676 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, averaging a mammoth 6.44 yards per carry all the while. Look for Tucker to be highly productive this year.

80. Ray Graham, Pittsburgh
You wouldn't have known it from last year, but Graham was actually a more prized recruit for Pittsburgh than Dion Lewis was. Of course, Lewis turned out to be the far better player in 2009, but Graham's potential isn't deniable. He averaged 5.72 yards per carry while running for 349 yards and four touchdowns as a change of pace runner, and he's too good to not see a far greater number of touches in 2010. He should turn out to be a decent RB2 in Big East-only leagues, and he should be picked up immediately in all formats if Dion Lewis gets hurt.

81. Vince Murray, Navy
Murray is the top Navy running back to target, and it's conceivable that he'll have some value in a good number of formats. He took 182 carries for 971 yards and six touchdowns in 2009, and the top runner who stole carries from him last year, Marcus Curry, is no longer on the team. Few runners outdid Murray from Navy's seventh game onward, when he accumulated 764 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

82. Doug Martin, Boise State
Martin provides the thunder to Jeremy Avery's lightning, and brings more to the table than most power backs. He scored 15 touchdowns last year, but in averaging 6.0 yards per carry proved himself to be far more than just a goal-line vulture. There should be another big season ahead for Martin, who was slated to play defense in 2009 before injuries struck the Boise State backfield. Make him a high pick in MWC-only leagues and give him a look in other formats, too.

83. DaíRel Scott, Maryland
Scott had his junior season derailed by a broken wrist, but has the speed and skill to be an All-ACC performer. Scott's injury limited him to 85 carries for 425 yards last season, but he ran for 1133 yards on 209 attempts as a sophomore. He is the unquestioned starter for Maryland and should easily get to 1,000 yards on the ground if he remains healthy. Consider him a valuable running back possibility in ACC-only leagues.

84. Charles Ross, Rice
Ross did an excellent job as a freshman in 2009, emerging as a surprise playmaker and perhaps the lone bright spot of the 2009 Rice season. Despite being the team's goal-line specialist, he averaged over five yards per carry and scored 11 times on just 97 carries. He also showed good ability as a pass-catcher. Unfortunately, Michigan transfer Sam McGuffie will likely start for Rice, so he won't breakout this year like he otherwise could have. Still, he was far too good last year to not be rewarded a role as a frequent change of pace and perhaps goal-line runner in 2010. Ross is worth an upper-mid round pick in CUSA-only leagues, but he's only worth keeping an eye on otherwise.

85. Kendrick Hardy, Southern Mississippi
Hardy is one of the best Southern Mississippi recruits in recent years, as he chose the Golden Eagles over Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Oregon and plenty of others. He's more of a bruiser than the team's other options, and he should emerge as a feature back for the team at some point. His workload could be sporadic, however, because Desmond Johnson and Tracey Lampley are also very good running back talents. He's a high-risk/high-reward pick in CUSA-only leagues, and he's definitely worth monitoring in others.

86. Mike Ball, Nevada
Ball was incredibly productive in his limited time on the field as a freshman last year, taking 23 carries for an incomprehensible 220 yards and five touchdowns. He'll battle with Lampford Mark for the second running back role this year, but they're both too good for the other to win outright. They're likely to split the workload in some capacity, and they'll both make the most of it. Give Ball a bit of an edge given his ridiculous 2010 numbers. He's worth a depth pick in WAC-only leagues and is worth monitoring in other formats.

87. Asher Clark, Air Force
Jared Tew will probably get more of the goal-line carries, but Clark could become the better fantasy option as a whole in 2010. He ran for 865 yards and seven touchdowns on just 151 carries, so he has the potential to outproduce Tew in yardage to compensate for the touchdown difference. Go with Tew between the two, but they both have RB1 potential in MWC-only leagues and are worth consideration in other formats, too.

88. Washaun Ealey, Georgia
Ealey was very encouraging as a freshman last year, running for 717 yards and three touchdowns on just 125 carries. He did this all in nine games, including a late season blow-up running for 183 yards against Georgia Tech. His career is definitely on the upswing, so he's the Georgia back to target rather than Caleb King. But beware of a running back committee--Ealey's value is limited by his workload.

89. Lamon Muldrow, San Jose State
Muldrow will hopefully be a bright spot for a San Jose State team that mostly has none. He averaged 4.52 yards per carry while running for 592 yards and three touchdowns last year, and he has talent that exceeds the typical SJSU player. He'll only have value in WAC-only leagues, more likely than not.

90. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore is the consensus top running back recruit from the 2010 class, so it's hard to imagine South Carolina redshirting him. Jarvis Giles and Kenny Miles are good runners for South Carolina, but they combined for just two rushing touchdowns last year and are better suited to situational roles. Lattimore, on the other hand, has the skill to be a workhorse immediately.

91. Seth Smith, New Mexico State
Smith is one of the very few bright spots for New Mexico State after running for 1,016 yards and one touchdown last year. Unfortunately, his upside isn't much higher than that. He's a good RB3 option in WAC-only leagues.

92. Zach Line, SMU
Shawnbrey McNeal was awesome for SMU, but he unexpectedly took off for the NFL, leaving Line as the next guy for the job. He only ran for 3.86 yards per carry last year, but his seven touchdowns show his average may have been skewed by his role as a short-yardage runner. He won't match McNeal in any aspect, but he should be just enough in an offense that's all about Kyle Padron.

93. Onterio McCalebb, Auburn
McCalebb is Auburn's top returning rusher, but he might be a change of pace runner again in 2010. He should definitely see more than 105 carries after running for 565 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games as a freshman last year, but Mario Fannin is better built for the feature back role previously held by Ben Tate, as McCalebb is very light for a running back. He's worth a depth pick in SEC-only leagues, but otherwise just keep an eye on him.

94. Payten Jason, Tulane
Look for Jason to take over as the top Tulane runner in 2010. He played in only five games as a freshman last year, but he took his 19 carries for 85 yards and is almost definitely the most talented runner on the roster. Keep your expectations modest, because this offense could struggle in 2010, but Jason is an ideal backup option in CUSA-only leagues and could actually emerge as a legitimate starter.

95. Roddy Jones, Georgia Tech
Jones provides the explosiveness that Georgia Tech needs from the A-back position and is poised for a big year. He has a career average of 7.7 yards per carry, but is coming off of a disappointing season that has largely been attributed to a wrist injury. Anthony Allen and Josh Nesbitt will get most of the carries for Tech, but Jones has the talent to put up big numbers even if his touches are limited. He's an excellent insurance pick in ACC-only leagues.

96. Jeremiah Harden, Florida International
Harden is a Syracuse transfer who also was recruited by Wisconsin. He's a good bet to be Florida International's top runner this year, though his value could be limited. He's worth a depth pick in Sun Belt-only leagues.

97. Raymond Carter, Colorado State
Carter won't completely shake free from John Mosure and Leonard Mason, but the UCLA transfer and former four-star recruit will probably make his fellow running backs look marginal at best when compared to him. He should take the lead running back role this year, which makes him worth at least a depth pick in MWC-only leagues. He's someone worth keeping an eye on in other formats, too.

98. Jermie Calhoun, Oklahoma
Calhoun won't challenge DeMarco Murray for his spot as the top Oklahoma back, but he should play a role at least pretty close to what Chris Brown did in recent years. The former five-star recruit averaged 4.89 yards per carry while running for 220 yards last year, and Murray typically needs to split the workload to stay healthy. He's an almost mandatory insurance pick for Murray owners, and he otherwise is a good upside pick in Big 12-only leagues. Besides that, just keep an eye on him.


99. Demond Dennis, New Mexico
Dennis was a very nice recruit for New Mexico, as he could be playing at Georgia Tech or East Carolina right now instead. He didn't disappoint as a freshman, running for 427 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries. He also showed good receiving ability, catching 18 passes for 133 yards in 10 games. Unfortunatley, New Mexico chooses to air it out despite its entire lack of competent passers, so Dennis is unlikely to see as many opportunities as he should in 2010. He's worth a gamble pick in MWC-only leagues.

100. Edwin Baker, Michigan State
Baker was one of the top recruits for Michigan State last year, and he figures to have a bigger role in 2010. Baker reportedly chose Michigan State over schools like Florida, Texas, Iowa and Georgia, so they'll want to get him on the field often. Fellow big-time recruit Larry Caper will steal some carries, but Baker was far more effective last year, and he'll be the lead back before long.


Kevin O'Brien, Jordan Ozer, Mike Wendt and Jerry Donabedian contributed to this article.
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