Top-ranked running back likely to change

Posted Aug. 03, 2011 @ 3:09 p.m.
Posted By Eli Kaberon

Texans RB Arian Foster is the top-ranked player in fantasy football this year, according to Pro Football Weekly and multiple other publications. The ranking is well deserved. Last season, Foster rushed for more than 1,600 yards and scored 18 total touchdowns, which accounted for 20.5 points per week in standard fantasy scoring. Foster, who turns 25 on Aug. 24, is just entering his prime, and assuming he stays healthy, there's no reason to doubt his statistics will not be jaw-dropping once again in 2011.

However, recent history shows that despite no matter how well Foster plays this season, it's unlikely that he's going to end the season as the top-ranked fantasy player. Those who select Foster with the top pick in their draft might wind up getting a runner who puts up big stats on a regular basis, but in all likelihood, will be passed by somebody as the campaign wears on.

Over the past seven seasons, there have been six different players listed as the No. 1-ranked running back in the PFW fantasy football preview magazines; only once did that player finish the year as the top-scoring back at season's end. While our top choice in August has generally fared well over the course of the season, the past three seasons, a surprise runner from the middle of the pack has come up and risen to the peak of the points standings.

Here's a breakdown of the previous six fantasy seasons, comparing the preseason No. 1 running back to the end-of-season top scorer at the position.


Preseason No. 1 RB (Final points ranking among RBs)

Final RB points leader (Preseason RB ranking)


Priest Holmes (t-31st)

Shaun Alexander (3rd)


Larry Johnson (2nd)

LaDainian Tomlinson (3rd)


LaDainian Tomlinson (1st)

LaDainian Tomlinson (1st)


LaDainian Tomlinson (t-6th)

DeAngelo Williams (33rd)


Adrian Peterson (2nd)

Chris Johnson (11th)


Chris Johnson (5th)

Arian Foster (65th)

Outside of Holmes in 2005, who was injured in mid-October that season with a devastating spine injury and replaced by the ultra-productive Larry Johnson, most of our preseason top choices have fared very well. Even last season, although Chris Johnson wasn't able to duplicate his 2,000-yard season from ’09, he still posted strong statistics and was far from a disappointment to fantasy owners. That's a sign of optimism for those who select Foster first in their draft.

Just know when you do that, however, that another back likely will pass him up over the next five months. In 365 days, when we're previewing the 2012 fantasy season, odds are a different running back will be atop the rankings. Foster might be in the conversation, but history shows someone else will be No. 1.

If only it was just a bit easier figuring out who that No. 1 runner will be …

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