Shuffle Up and Run: Shady McCoy grabs the yellow jersey

Scott Pianowski
November 9, 2011

We're in an even-numbered week, so today we wash the running backs. What you'll find below is how I'd attack a fresh draft, rankings from today-forward (the defenses and the kickers tag along; next week we'll go back to the passing game). These are not weekly ranks, they're rest-of-season ranks. Assume a standard scoring format (non-PPR), ignore Week 17 from the conversation, and away we go.

I don't want to turn this week's Shuffle into a never-ending filibuster on the Top 6 running backs. I don't see the utility to that, for one thing, and I also know that fantasy owners tend to be very protective about their best players. You could take the Top 6 names out of a hat in any order and it would make reasonable sense to me. That all said, I'll quickly give some words on each Tier 1 back, since I guess there's a demand for it. Just try not to take it personally; I'm not cutting your child from the varsity squad.

Make the jump and let's do some ranking. I welcome your respectful disagreement, just try to remember the golden roto rule: a player doesn't gain 10-20 percent of bonus value merely because he's on your roster. Keep your feet on the ground, gamer. {ysp:more}

Running Back
1. LeSean McCoy
2. Arian Foster
3. Fred Jackson
4. Adrian Peterson
5. Matt Forte
6. Ray Rice

McCoy earned the No. 1 spot for a few reasons: consistency, versatility, respect for Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg as game-planners, a nod to the Philadelphia offensive line, and a nod to McCoy taking over more red-zone and short-yardage work (also keep in mind Michael Vick doesn't have any rushing scores this year). I see upside to all six of these backs, but McCoy seems to have the least amount of downside. That's always a major selling point to me with big-ticket items; I want a sturdy floor as much as the tantalizing upside.

I wish I had a stake in McCoy, I don't — he's not on a single roster of mine this year, mostly because of how my draft position fell. He's a joy to watch, and maybe the most elusive runner in the league, 1-on-1.

If Foster didn't have to share work in his own backfield, he'd probably be No. 1. His line is sublime, he can catch it and run it, and the playoff schedule is juicy. Jackson's terrific year is underscored by the fact that his 120-yard game last week, justly, was seen as a disappointing day. He's still as bankable as they come. Peterson's career path makes him a very safe pick — he's proven he can produce in almost any environment — but I wish the Vikings would use him more as a receiver. Peterson did catch seven passes in Week 8, so maybe the Minnesota staff will get to work on this key area.

The touchdown problem kicks Forte down to No. 5 — he's only scored three times and there's a goal-line vulture around (Trey Barber). Rice doesn't have a scoring problem — he's spiked six times — but I'd like to see more elusiveness (he's only making four yards per carry). He's up against a ridiculous schedule of opponents the next three weeks, facing Seattle (3.4 YPC allowed), Cincinnati (3.3) and San Francisco (3.5).

7. Frank Gore
8. Steven Jackson
9. Michael Turner
10. Maurice Jones-Drew
11. DeMarco Murray
12. Darren Sproles
13. Beanie Wells
14. Ryan Mathews
15. Darren McFadden
16. Willis McGahee
17. LeGarrette Blount
18. Rashard Mendenhall

Before someone asks, I'll address the obvious Gore question: yes, I would absolutely trade him for anyone in the Top 6. I know he's been unstoppable over his last five games and he's with a team and system that play to his strengths. But I can't ignore that he only has 13 catches, not to mention that long-running injury history (one complete NFL season since he entered the NFL in 2005). Sore ankle, you say? Get me Hunter on the phone, stat. … McGahee might be the only Denver offensive player that actually gains value with Tim Tebow on the field. … Spare me your arrows and tomato throws, McFadden Youth. No one knows with injuries. Two weeks ago I fielded a lot of snippy comments regarding how McFadden would be back in Week 9. I'll repeat: no one knows with injuries. McFadden has an extensive injury history and a goal-line vulture next to him. Honestly, I don't know where he should slot, but there's no way I could put him in the Top 10. … Wells got it done in Baltimore then failed the St. Louis assignment. That's our guy in a nutshell, isn't it? He's also been a zero in the passing game. … I've seen every Murray snap and I couldn't be more impressed; he can run inside or out, he can catch the ball, and he's a decent pass blocker as well. This doesn't mean the Cowboys will ignore Felix Jones when the ankle heals, but I'd like to think three strong Murray games is enough to carve out a solidified role. It's not my club, of course. … Mendenhall's down season is mostly about volume and a touchdown decline. He averaged 3.9 yards a pop last year and he's at that number this year. He's also on pace for 87 less touches.

19. Shonn Greene
20. Cedric Benson
21. Marshawn Lynch
22. Jonathan Stewart
23. Mike Tolbert
24. Roy Helu
25. Jackie Battle
26. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
27. Reggie Bush
28. Chris Johnson
29. Michael Bush
30. Ben Tate
31. Ahmad Bradshaw
32. Brandon Jacobs
33. Pierre Thomas
34. Mark Ingram

Lynch's big game against the Dallas rushing defense absolutely shocked me. He looked like someone uninterested in football the previous week against Cincinnati. More proof of the week-to-week nature of the league, I guess. … Greene and Benson are similar backs, the featured guy on a good-not-great offense, buoyed by a strong defense, safe workloads every week but it's going to come on the ground. Greene has 81 carries for 345 yards (4.26 YPC) since Rex Ryan went back to Ground and Pound, with 19-23 touches in every game. … I'd like to rank Johnson even lower than that, I really would. But we have to consider that CJ had 18 touches last week compared to just five for Ringer, and that came after Johnson's biggest stink-bomb to date. I think the Titans married to Johnson here, even if they sink with him. Opportunity keeps him in my Top 30, not that I'm happy about it.

35. James Starks
36. Maurice Morris
37. Daniel Thomas
38. DeAngelo Williams

39. Donald Brown
40. Javon Ringer
41. Chris Ogbonnaya
42. Kendall Hunter
43. Delone Carter
44. Bernard Scott
45. LaDainian Tomlinson
46. Ricky Williams
47. Jahvid Best
48. Christopher Ivory
49. Ryan Grant
50. Felix Jones
51. Isaac Redman
52. Montario Hardesty
53. Joseph Addai
54. Dexter McCluster

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Relying on Colts is unlikely to get you anywhere. But if I have to own one, give me Brown, at least today that's my stance. … There's no special talent in Ogbonnaya's arsenal (the Silent G doesn't count) but let's see what he can show us against the Rams. … The odd Williams contract in Carolina suggests one thing to me: they're just as surprised at Cam Newton this year as everyone else. I think the original plan was to lean on the two backs and bring Newton along at a snail's pace. Instead, he proved capable of steering the offense right away. … Hardesty would be a lot higher if I knew he was hurt. … Starks has one rushing touchdown this year and Grant has zero. It's been fun chasing that story around, hasn't it? The Packers as a team don't have a rushing touchdown since Week 4.

55. Keiland Williams
56. Deji Karim
57. Tashard Choice
58. Peyton Hillis
59. Ryan Torain
60. Marion Barber
61. Kregg Lumpkin
62. Danny Woodhead
63. Carnell Williams
64. C.J. Spiller
65. Curtis Brinkley
66. Taiwan Jones
67. Alfonso Smith
68. Jacquizz Rodgers
69. LaRod Stephens-Howling
70. Dion Lewis
71. Knowshon Moreno
72. Thomas Jones
73. Ronnie Brown
74. Leon Washington
75. Kevin Faulk
76. Toby Gerhart
77. Jacob Hester
78. Phillip Tanner
79. D.J. Ware
80. Lance Ball
81. Joe McKnight
82. Justin Forsett
83. Stevan Ridley

I still think Detroit's Williams has a chance to be the best Lions back this year. He's versatile enough to play on third down, and thick enough to handle the short-yardage assignments. … Just knowing Choice is on a Shanahan roster has to make everyone nervous. … Spiller is basically a wide receiver at this point; Buffalo has no interest lining him up in the backfield and using him on anything between the tackles. … At this point, Hillis needs to be carried from Ohio in a buzz of bees. Get him out of Cleveland. If CJ shows any jump in the second half, Hillis could easily go down as the bust of the season.

1. Jason Hanson
2. Neil Rackers
3. John Kasay
4. Sebastian Janikowski
5. Mason Crosby
6. Billy Cundiff
7. Dan Bailey
8. Nick Novak
9. David Akers
10. Robbie Gould
11. Stephen Gostkowski
12. Alex Henery
13. Matt Bryant
14. Rob Bironas
15. Nick Folk
16. Shaun Suisham
17. Josh Scobee
18. Mike Nugent
19. Olindo Mare
20. Lawrence Tynes
21. Ryan Succop
22. Jay Feely
23. Dave Rayner
24. Connor Barth
25. Dan Carpenter
26. Graham Gano
27. Ryan Longwell
28. Josh Brown
29. Matt Prater
30. Phil Dawson
31. Steven Hauschka
32. Adam Vinatieri

Kicker and defense are the team-context positions, so I started off by ranking all Indianapolis entities last. … I try not to go overboard with indoor kickers and warm-weather kickers at the top, but it's a good tie-breaker if you're between two options. … If I were certain Janikowski wouldn't have any mishaps in the second half (physical or otherwise), he'd probably be No. 1. But no one can provide that guarantee.

1. Baltimore Ravens
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Chicago Bears
5. Detroit Lions
6. Philadelphia Eagles
7. Houston Texans
8. New York Giants
9. Cincinnati Bengals
10. Dallas Cowboys
11. New York Jets
12. Pittsburgh Steelers
13. Buffalo Bills
14. New Orleans Saints
15. Minnesota Vikings
16. Arizona Cardinals
17. Washington Redskins
18. Atlanta Falcons
19. Kansas City Chiefs
20. Oakland Raiders
21. San Diego Chargers
22. New England Patriots
23. Tennessee Titans
24. St. Louis Rams
25. Seattle Seahawks
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
27. Miami Dolphins
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. Cleveland Browns
30. Carolina Panthers
31. Denver Broncos
32. Indianapolis Colts

It hasn't been Green Bay's best defensive year in real life, but the Pack defense will be consistently playing with a second-half lead, a wonderful thing for fantasy production. … We're about to find out of the Bengals are for real (in all facets): Cincinnati gets four Pittsburgh/Baltimore games over the final two months. … The Jets defense has been more about efficiency than mayhem, which is why that unit isn't higher. And on a much lesser scale, that's the story in Jacksonville: decent group, but they're not giving us the stats we want.


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