1 – LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego
2007 – 1,474 yards rushing, 15 rushing TD’s, 475 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD’s
LT is the centerpiece of the potent Chargers offense. What helps immensely is that despite his knee injury he suffered during last year’s AFC Championship game, he is good to go for the 2008 season. And the Chargers will more often than not hand the ball to Tomlinson – which is music to whoever owns him. Look for around 1,550 yards rushing with 16 TD’s, along with 580 yards receiving and 4 receiving TD’s. Early-first round (1st overall pick if you’re smart).
2 – Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
2007 – 1,341 yards, 12 rushing TD’s, 268 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Peterson is just a notch below Tomlinson, fantasy-wise. He’s very explosive and although he runs behind an excellent Vikings offensive line, he could do just as well behind just about any NFL team’s O-line. However, there is this minor concern about injury (missed 2 games last year) yet I do not expect this to be an annual thing with Peterson. You also have to think about the possibility of fellow running back Chester Taylor vulturing some TD’s on occasion. Those minor things aside, a great pick early on. I envision 1,360 rushing yards and 8 rushing TD’s. Early first-round (2nd pick overall is recommended).
3 – Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia
2007 – 1,333 rushing yards, 7 rushing TD’s, 771 receiving yards, 5 receiving TD’s
Westbrook is the Eagles’ offense, by and large. Excellent speed and great hands – he can pretty much do it all. This year should be no different, although I would suspect that coach Andy Reid may distribute his carries more judiciously so Westbrook can remain fresh throughout the season. A solid pick overall; Westbrook should be good for 1,200 yards rushing, 6 rushing TD’s, 480 receiving yards with 5 receiving TD’s. Early first-round pick.
4 – Joseph Addai, Indianapolis
2007 – 1,072 yards, 12 rushing TD’s, 364 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD’s
Only 25 years old, Addai is on the fast-track to becoming an elite NFL running back. His numbers last year were surprisingly good despite the weapons the Colts have (Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, et al). Assuming Manning has minimal game rust, Addai should benefit as a pass-receiving RB this season as he has good hands (no fumbles last year) not to mention that he will get lots of chances to score in the red zone. Look for 1,250+ yards rushing, 10 rushing TD’s, 450 receiving yards and 4 receiving TD’s from Addai this season. Early first-round pick.
5 – Steven Jackson, St. Louis
2007 – 1,002 rushing yards, 5 rushing TD’s, 271 receiving yards and 1 TD
Considering what happened to the Rams’ O-line last year, Jackson can only do better. Injuries (4 games missed) dogged Jackson plus the fact that he held out of training camp could have some effect on his numbers early in the season. But Jackson should rebound nicely from a wasted 2007 season. Just beware of the Rams’ early schedule (Philadelphia, New York, Seattle and Washington). Expect around 1,400 rushing yards, 8 rushing TD’s, 440 receiving yards and 5 receiving TD’s from Jackson. Early-to-mid 1st round pick
6 – Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo
2007 – 1,115 rushing yards, 7 rushing TD’s, 184 receiving yards
Lynch has probably the most upside of the young guns in the NFL as the Bills as a collective unit have improved, which will make Lynch even that much more dangerous. He has explosive speed along with great hands, whcih should serve him well, especially in the weak AFC East. If the Bills’ O-line stays healthy, then Lynch could very well be a Top 5 RB, yardage-wise. I see 1,300 rushing yards, 7 rushing TD’s, 350 receiving yards and 3 receiving TD’s for the 2008 campaign from Lynch. Mid-first round.
7 – Marion Barber, Dallas
2007 – 975 rushing yards, 10 rushing TD’s, 282 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD’s
No longer having Julius Jones to share the ball with, Jones came into his own last year. He will be a beneficiary of good fantasy numbers, thanks to a stout Dallas O-line that should open decent running lanes for Jones. What you’ll get from him is consistency; the Cowboys drafted Felix Jones to share the load with Jones, so his numbers won’t be Tomlinson-like whatsoever. Good numbers, but certainly not great. I predict something along the lines of 1,150 rushing yards, 10 rushing TD’s, 300 receiving yards and 3 receiving TD’s. Mid-first round pick.
8 – Frank Gore, San Francisco
2007 – 1,102 rushing yards, 5 rushing TD’s, 436 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
As most people know, the 49ers had the worst offense in the NFL yet despite that, Gore somehow managed to rush for a tick over 1,100 yards on the ground – which speaks volumes about Gore. Has caught 114 balls the past 2 years, so you know that receiving is a part of his overall skill set. What Gore needs is for the 49ers O-line to get better and soon, otherwise, he stands the chance of getting injured. If the 49ers are behind during games (which was often in 2007), then Gore will not see the ball nearly as much. Gore should rack up around 1,300 yards rushing, 7 rushing TD’s, 380 receiving yards and 2 receiving TD’s. Mid-to-late first round.
9 – Ryan Grant, Green Bay
2007 – 956 rushing yards, 8 rushing TD’s, 147 receiving yards
Grant had an amazing season; he played in 15 games (starting in 10). But what’s amazing here is that the vast majority of his rushing numbers came in 10 full games. Now that he has 16 games, his numbers should be better – although a lot of that will depend on how well Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers does in his first full season. There’s weapons in Green Bay, so Grant should realize some decent numbers (except the NFC North). Grant’s season (preferably a full one) should fall along the lines of: 1,270 rushing yards, 6 rushing TD’s, 285 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD’s. Mid-to-late 1st round.
10 – Jamal Lewis, Cleveland
2007 – 1,304 rushing yards, 9 rushing TD’s, 248 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD’s
The key to Lewis’ 2008 season is simple: Will he be in shape for 16 games? 1,304 rushing yards from last year tend to lean towards this happening. He has a decent posse of skill players (Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards and Donte Stallworth), so this should benefit Lewis big time. Those four should make defenses see pass-first, which in effect should open up some running paths for Lewis. But again, if he’s not in shape early on, it may be a long season. A good pick, but no longer in elite territory. Look for around 1,250 rushing yards, 9 rushing TD’s, 300 receiving yards and 2 receiving TD’s. Late-first round.