Top five fantasy running backs for 2009

With the fantasy football season over (unless you signed up for our Playoff Challenge, of course), it’s time to start looking ahead to 2009.

I’ll be working on a complete list of player rankings over the next several weeks, but for now, I’ll offer up the top five players per position over the next few days.

I’ve already run through the quarterbacks, so here are the top running backs:

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota — Peterson led the league with 1,760 rushing yards and found the end zone 10 times, and I still don’t think he has hit his fantasy ceiling. He runs behind a stout offensive line and will remain the centerpiece of the Vikings’ offense.

2. Michael Turner, Atlanta — I’m a little worried about the fact that Turner carried the ball 395 times (regular season and postseason) in 2008, but I don’t see how you can pass on a running back who’s coming off a season with 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns.

3. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina — Williams won’t duplicate the 20 total touchdowns he scored in 2008, but a season with around 1,300 yards and 12 to 14 TDs should be well within reach. He’ll lose a little bit of his luster in leagues that reward points for catches.

4. Matt Forte, Chicago — A preseason sleeper, Forte more than exceeded expectations in his first NFL season. He’s a versatile and talented all-around running back, and the Bears will have a hard time keeping him off the field well into the foreseeable future.

5. Chris Johnson, Tennessee — Johnson’s speed and skills as a runner and receiver out of the backfield make him a serious weapon for the Titans and fantasy owners alike. Imagine his value had he not lost all of those goal-line carries to LenDale White!

On the edge: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville; Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia.

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