1. Steven Jackson
Jackson possesses a tremendous amount of talent and would be a top two or three pick each year if he were able to stay healthy. At 6′2″, 230 plus pounds, he has the speed to take it the distance, the toughness to get extra yards, and the hands to be a viable receiving option out of the backfield.
Even in last year’s injury plagued season, he still managed to hit the thousand yard mark and score seven TDs, although he played for one of the three worst teams in the NFL. In 2009, provided he stays healthy, look for him to close in on 2,000 yards total (1,600 rushing), and score double digit TDs.
2. Frank Gore
Gore’s a bit of an enigma because he had a huge breakout season in 2006 and then reverted to a middle of the pack back in 2007 and 2008. A lot of this has to do with the offensive situation he’s found himself in.
2009 offers a new opportunity; Martz is gone, Singletary is a run oriented coach and the Niners have put some talented pieces in place (Crabtree, Morgan, etc) to open things up. Look for Gore to hit over 1,200 yards and score between eight and ten TDs.
3. Chris “Beanie” Wells
Wells brings an impressive resume to the NFL and should find a nice home in the desert. While he’s not a standout in any one area, he possess the size, toughness and speed to be a solid fantasy back.
And although the Cardinals went away from the run for the better part of 2008, after the 47-7 whipping at the hands of the Patriots in December, they realized that the run was necessary to balancing out the offense and James ended up thriving in the post season.
Look for Wells to be effective right off the bat and hit the 1,000 yard mark with eight to ten TDs.
4. Julius Jones
Ever since his breakout year way back in 2004, Jones has been a disappointment. He peaked as a rookie and has never come close to regaining that form which took the NFL by storm.
With Hasselback fully healthy, Seattle should once again find its offensive form, but we see a running back by committee in the Northwest and we like Jones to get 750 yards and five TDs.
Although Jackson has been injured in the past two seasons, he’s worth the pick if you’re at No. five or six. Gore should be taken at the back of the first round, early second, while Wells could provide nice value between rounds five and seven. Jones will be around between rounds eight through 11 and will be nothing more than a flex option until proven otherwise.