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Chris Johnson an easy choice

Chris Johnson put up one of the best fantasy seasons of all-time.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Looking back on the past NFL season to evaluate what went right and what went wrong is always a valuable tool. So today we take a look at the running back position, and check performance with expected value which in this case is measured by Average Draft Position (ADP).

Unlike the quarterback position where you usually know what you are going to get at the position from year-to-year, the deviation from the norm is enormous at running back. Of course, injuries play a larger role at running back than quarterback where they get hit on almost every play. Injuries brought down three of the top-10 picks; Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams and Brian Westbrook. But it doesn't explain the drastic reduction in performance of Matt Forte or LaDainian Tomlinson

Bargain - Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Ricky Williams, Fred Jackson, Jerome Harrison, Rashard Mendenhall, Tim Hightower, Justin Forsett, Cadillac Williams

Ray Rice had a great year and under normal circumstances would have won both the TSN Best Bargain Award and Top Fantasy Running Back Award for his top-five production with an ADP of 103.4, but 2009 wasn't an ordinary year.

Tennessee's Chris Johnson put up one of the best fantasy seasons of all-time. He rushed for 2,006 yards from scrimmage and added 503 yards receiving to total an amazing 429 fantasy points. That was 117 more than the runner up Maurice Jones-Drew, 103 more than the leading quarterback Aaron Rodgers and 94 than last year's leading scorer Drew Brees. More than likely nine or 10 fantasy owners passed at selecting him on Draft Day and nearly every one of them are now questioning their talent evaluation skills.

Rice will at least have the comfort of knowing he still won the "Best Bargain" trophy after posting 281 fantasy points.

The remaining eight "bargain" running backs started the season in backup roles and either played their way into the starting jobs or took advantage of injuries to the starter. In the second half of the season, both Charles and Harrison were top-five performers.

Fair Market Value - Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, Thomas Jones, Ryan Grant, Steven Jackson, Joseph Addai, Cedric Benson, Pierre Thomas, Knowshon Moreno, Willis McGahee, Laurence Maroney, Ahmad Bradshaw, LeSean McCoy, Felix Jones

Benson would probably have made the bargain list except injuries slowed him down in the second half of the season as well as the Bengals clinching the division so early they could rest him for the playoffs.

Overpaid - DeAngelo Williams, Marion Barber, Kevin Smith, Chris Wells, Julius Jones, Ronnie Brown, Donald Brown, Jamal Lewis

Ronnie Brown actually started of the season with three 20+ point weeks in the first five games, but injuries put him on the injured reserve list by Week 10. On the other hand,

Barber simply didn't run as well as he had in the past and Felix Jones became the No.1 starter. It didn't hurt that in November his owner declared that he should be getting more touches. Expect Jones to be the starter going into next year.

Wells (eight points in the first six weeks) was stifled by Hightower's excellent first half production, but finished solidly.

Like Wells, Donald Brown made the list not because he ran poorly, but because Addai played better than expected and kept him on the bench more than fantasy owners thought he would on Draft Day.

Bust - Matt Forte, Michael Turner, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brandon Jacobs, Steve Slaton, Reggie Bush, Marshawn Lynch, Derrick Ward, Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook, Darren McFadden, Willie Parker, LenDale White, Earnest Graham

Perhaps the "Rule of 370" is real. For those who don't know or have forgotten, the "Rule of 370" generally states that a running back who touches the ball 370 times-or-more is likely to see a huge drop in rushing yards in the following season (35% according to Football Outsiders). Of the four running backs who got 370-or-more touches in 2008 (Turner, Peterson, Forte, Portis), three of them were 2009 "busts."

Isn't it time we all realize that Tomlinson (ADP 8.0) isn't the same running back that he once was? "LT" only had one game this year when he ran for more than 75 yards and he didn't have the numerous health issues that plagued him in 2008. He's just worn down from 3,410 touches over the past nine years.

Slaton (ADP 13.5) fumbled the ball so much that Head Coach Gary Kubiak sat him on the bench behind not one, but three running backs; Ryan Moats, Chris Brown and Arian Foster.

2009 Running Back Statistics
PlayerTeamADPPTS
Chris JohnsonTEN10.7429
Maurice Jones-DrewJAC3.2312
Adrian PetersonMIN1.3285
Ray RiceBAL103.4281
Frank GoreSF10.2270
Jamaal CharlesKC114.8254
Thomas JonesNYJ27.3252
Ricky WilliamsMIA121.4223
Ryan GrantGB33.4222
Steven JacksonSTL5.2213
Fred JacksonBUF108.9210
Jonathan StewartCAR50.8206
Joseph AddaiIND27.2200
Darren SprolesSD67.2189
DeAngelo WilliamsCAR6.8189
Cedric BensonCIN54.9181
Rashard MendenhallPIT78.3177
Matt ForteCHI4.2174
Jerome HarrisonCLE204.2169
Pierre ThomasNO35.9163
Michael TurnerATL3.2161
Tim HightowerARI77.9157
Knowshon MorenoDEN43.6149
Willis McGaheeBAL69.9147
Marion BarberDAL18.1147
LaDainian TomlinsonSD8.0146
Justin ForcettSEA241.0143
Kevin SmithDET36.4140
Cadillac WilliamsTB248.4138
Laurence MaroneyNE129.3138
Ahmad BradshawNYG113.0134
Brandon JacobsNYG14.4130
Chris WellsARI52.5124
Julius JonesSEA77.0123
Ronnie BrownMIA24.8123
Steve SlatonHOU13.5122
LeSean McCoyPHI100.6117
Reggie BushNO25.6115
Felix JonesDAL97.3113
Jason SnellingATL237.0106
Marshawn LynchBUF33.869
Derrick WardTB42.163
Clinton PortisWAS14.161
Donald BrownIND66.357
Jamal LewisCLE62.956
Larry JohnsonKC/CIN47.955
Brian WestbrookPHI7.654
Darren McFaddenOAK40.553
Willie ParkerPIT46.641
LenDale WhiteTEN63.027
Earnest GrahamTB89.411


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.