Pre-Preseason CFB Fantasy Ranks: RBs

Expect to see more Knile Davis in 2011.

Expect to see more Knile Davis in 2011.

Although quarterbacks and wide receivers are important to any college fantasy owner, running backs are where leagues are won and lost. With the emergence of more committee approaches at this position, finding the 250 or more carry backs are key to hoisting the league title. Although it’s not impossible, relying on backs in a committee approach to win is a risky route to take.

Despite missing a game due to a suspension, Oregon’s LaMichael James finished as the No. 1 fantasy running back for 2010. James scored over 30 fantasy points five times and was held out of the endzone only once. The Ducks have a couple of players to replace on the offensive line, but James should remain the top fantasy back in all formats.

The Sun Belt duo of Western Kentucky’s Bobby Rainey and North Texas’ Lance Dunbar finished in the top five of fantasy running backs in 2010 and will remain elite options once again in 2011. Rainey led all FBS running backs with 340 carries and has three starters returning on the offensive line next season. Dunbar finished with 1,553 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, but returns only two starters along the offensive line next season. Dunbar and Rainey are the early favorites to go right after James is off the board in preseason drafts.

Mark Ingram is off to the NFL, opening the door for junior Trent Richardson to assume the starting role. Although Alabama will likely get another back involved with the offense, Richardson should be able to approach 250 carries and finish 2011 as one of the top-five fantasy running backs. Joining Richardson from the SEC as elite fantasy options will be South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Arkansas’ Knile Davis. Lattimore’s emergence helped South Carolina reach its first SEC title game and could bump his rushing yards closer to the 1,300-yard mark next season. Although Tyler Wilson has flashed potential in limited action at quarterback, Arkansas will likely build their offense around Davis next season. Expect Davis to easily surpass 200 carries next season.

Finding Replacements 

Kansas State –
Daniel Thomas was the heart and soul of the Kansas State offense the past two seasons, and the Wildcats have no clear replacement on the roster. Tennessee transfer Bryce Brown and Demarcus Robinson figure to get the first shot at replacing Thomas, and don’t be surprised if the winner has significant fantasy value.

Nevada – Not only must the Wolf Pack replace quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but running back Vai Taua is gone. Taua finished 2010 as the No. 3 overall fantasy running back, but the offense should be in good shape with Mike Ball ready to emerge. Ball has two 100-yard games in his career and an impressive average (7.9) on 61 attempts.

Oklahoma – DeMarco Murray managed to stay healthy for the entire 2010 campaign, posting 321.1 fantasy points to finish just behind LaMichael James of Oregon. Murray has expired his eligibility, leaving a handful of backs in Norman to compete for the starting job. Sophomore Roy Finch figures to have the upper hand, after rushing for 398 yards in 2010. However, don’t count out Brennan Clay, Jermie Calhoun, Brandon Williams and Jonathan Miller from earning time next season. This battle is far from over and one to watch when spring practice kicks off.

Oklahoma State – After battling injuries and missing most of the 2009 campaign, Kendall Hunter bounced back to finish among the top-15 fantasy running backs in 2010. Hunter rushed for 1,548 yards and 16 scores, thriving in coordinator Dana Holgorsen’s spread attack. Holgorsen is gone to West Virginia, but the Cowboys return plenty of talent at running back, including Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith. Randle rushed for 452 yards last season, while Smith totaled 262 yards and seven scores. Although Randle had more carries last season, expect both to play a significant role in the offense in 2011.

Oregon State – Jacquizz Rodgers bolted early to the NFL, leaving a large void in the Oregon State backfield next season. Junior Jordan Jenkins, senior Ryan McCants and sophomore Jovan Stevenson will compete for the starting job, but there’s no clear frontrunner entering spring practice. Quarterback Ryan Katz should improve in 2011, but expect a fantasy option to emerge from this trio early next season.

Athlon's Pre-Preseason Top 80 Fantasy Running Backs for 2011

Expect many changes throughout the offseason, but here's an early look at the 2011 big board for running backs.

Rank Player Team Year 2010 Fantasy Points
1 LaMichael James Oregon JR 323.8
2 Lance Dunbar North Texas SR 295.4
3 Bobby Rainey Western Kentucky SR 296.1
4 Marcus Lattimore South Carolina SO 283.2
5 Trent Richardson Alabama JR 162.2
6 Knile Davis Arkansas JR 222.2
7 Ronnie Hillman San Diego State SO 221.1
8 Doug Martin Boise State SR 234.3
9 David Wilson Virginia Tech JR 149.2
10 Marcus Coker Iowa SO 48.6
11 Montee Ball Wisconsin JR 209.5
12 Cyrus Gray Texas A&M SR 222.3
13 Montel Harris Boston College SR 195.4
14 Rodney Stewart Colorado SR 238.1
15 Adonis Thomas Toledo SR 188.8
16 Brandon Bolden Ole Miss SR 250.3
17 Ray Graham Pittsburgh JR 171.6
18 Michael Dyer Auburn SO 125.4
19 Chris Polk Washington JR 196.6
20 James White Wisconsin SO 200.2
21 Edwin Baker Michigan State JR 198.4
22 Mike Ball Nevada JR 74.9
23 Joseph Randle Oklahoma State SO 120.5
24 Stepfan Taylor Stanford JR 235.2
25 Andre Ellington Clemson JR 156.6
26 Lennon Creer Louisiana Tech SR 206.1
27 Roy Finch Oklahoma SO 61.1
28 Orleans Darkwa Tulane SO 193.2
29 Vick Ballard Mississippi State SR 203.7
30 Zach Line SMU JR 217.3
31 Daniel Herron Ohio State SR 223.8
32 Robbie Rouse Fresno State JR 188.5
33 Rex Burkhead Nebraska JR 166.7
34 Darriet Perry FIU SR 174.4
35 Tauren Poole Tennessee SR 195.3
36 Kendrick Hardy Southern Miss SO 131.8
37 Eric Stephens Texas Tech JR 119.5
38 Isaiah Pead Cincinnati SR 174.9
39 Pat Shed UAB SR 194.3
40 Bernard Pierce Temple JR 151.5
41 Sam McGuffie Rice JR 200.9
42 Bryce Beall Houston SR 173.1
43 Robert Turbin Utah State JR 0
44 Jason Ford Illinois SR 93.1
45 Cierre Wood Notre Dame JR 101.8
46 Ed Wesley TCU JR 178.3
47 Johnathan Franklin UCLA JR 168.4
48 Davin Meggett Maryland SR 92.5
49 Washaun Ealey Georgia JR 151.8
50 Keola Antolin Arizona SR 155.5
51 Alfred Morris FAU SR 146.7
52 JJ Di Luigi BYU SR 192.5
53 Silas Redd Penn State SO 57.2
54 Michael Ford LSU SO 51.5
55 James Sims Kansas SO 155.1
56 Antwon Bailey Syracuse SR 122.1
57 Shawne Alston West Virginia JR 24.2
58 Asher Clark Air Force SR 130.9
59 Tevin Drake Western Michigan SO 70.4
60 Lamar Miller Miami, Fla. SO 117.7
61 Marc Tyler USC SR 171.7
62 Malcolm Brown Texas FR 0
63 Jared Hassin Army JR 160.1
64 Latavius Murray UCF JR 126.5
65 Alvester Alexander Wyoming JR 184.8
66 LaDarius Perkins Mississippi State SO 106.9
67 Dillon Baxter USC SO 48.5
68 Cameron Marshall Arizona State JR 171.9
69 Orwin Smith Georgia Tech JR 93.1
70 D.J. Adams Maryland SO 62.5
71 Joe Banyard UTEP SR 127.4
72 Jovan Stevenson Oregon State SO 0
73 Kenjon Barner Oregon JR 119.3
74 Charles Sims Houston JR 0
75 Jeremy Eddington Rice SO 94.9
76 Jasmin Hopkins Northern Illinois SR 52.3
77 Demetris Murray South Florida JR 96.5
78 Jeremy Wright Louisville SO 56.7
79 Ryan Houston North Carolina SR 0
80 Bryce Brown Kansas State SO 0


Scoring system rankings based upon - 

Passing TD = 4 points
Rushing/Receiving/Special Teams TD = 4 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
Reception = 0.5 points
Interceptions = -1 point
Fumbles lost = -1 point
2 point conversions = 2 points

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<p>  </p> <p> It’s never too early to start looking ahead at the 2011 college fantasy season. Athlon takes a look at the returning options at running back and some of the names to watch.</p>

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