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Five-minute guide to running backs

For those who don't have time to consume every word of the expansive Fantasy Football Preview, we'd like to present the SI.com 5-Minute Guide to Fantasy Football, in five parts. Think of it as a Reader's Digest approach to fantasy domination. And should you have any questions or comments, be sure to follow me on Twitter. Herewith, a quick look at running backs.

Ray Rice, Ravens

Oh sure, Chris Johnson is getting all the love for standard-scoring and Points-Per-Reception drafts right now, but Rice could be the (non-QB) king of PPRs in 2010 -- provided he catches 70-plus balls, rushes for 1,300 yards and amasses 120 total yards at least 10 times -- three attainable goals for R-squared, especially with Baltimore's doable schedule.

Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

Speaking of Johnson, Charles could someday rush for 2,000 yards in a season. But until that magical year occurs -- think 2012 -- fantasy owners will merely have to settle for a PPR dynamo who's a lock for 1,800 total yards in 2010. Heed this advice: Don't pass on Charles in Round 2 for any other running back.

Shonn Greene, Jets

Welcome to New York, home of oversized fantasy expectations for young tailbacks with only one 100-yard rushing effort on their regular season résumés. And yet, we're quite comfortable with Greene's Round 1 potential and Round 2 draft-day price this season, despite the high-profile presence of LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield and star-studded corps of Jets pass-catchers (Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller).

Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers

Trumpeting the fantasy virtues of Caddy has nothing to do with my mild Auburn bias -- the wife's a hot-headed alum (especially against Alabama) -- and everything to do with landing a potential beast for the draft-day equivalent of a fourth receiver or QB2. And stop me if you've heard this one before: Mr. Williams, he of 28 years but only 843 pro carries, is 100 percent healthy for perhaps the first time since his raucous rookie campaign of 2005.

Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants

Call me crazy, but Bradshaw will have a monster run in the fantasy-playoff periods of Weeks 14, 15 and 16. How good is monster, you ask? Mark him down for 175 total yards in Week 15 against Philly. It goes without saying here: Don't let Bradshaw slip through your Round 6 fingers -- especially in keeper leagues.

Brandon Jacobs, Giants

In 2008, Jacobs was a borderline Round 1 pick. In '09, a surefire second-rounder. Now, he has been unceremoniously demoted to the Round 5 stable of aging and/or oft-injured backs -- Marion Barber, Clinton Portis, Joseph Addai, Ricky Williams -- whose fantasy primes have seemingly vanquished before our eyes. You ever see the 1970s TV show, Logan's Run? Perhaps Jacobs, Portis, Addai and Ricky should audition for the NBC remake next fall.

Steven Jackson, Rams

From Oct. 25 to Dec. 6 last year -- a span of six games -- S-Jax rushed for 112 yards or more in five contests (while collecting four TDs); and yet, the fantasy community only chooses to focus on his off-season back surgery and overall badness of the Rams franchise. Bottom line: If Jackson should fall after the 7th pick of Round 1 (standard or PPR leagues), don't fall asleep on the NFC's only weekly lock for 110 total yards.

Cedric Benson, Bengals

Benson's recent tumble from the elite strata of fantasy backs is somewhat understandable -- now that the Bengals employ 12 receivers on their active roster (give or take a few). But it remains to be seen how any of the new additions -- Terrell Owens, Matt Jones or Jordan Shipley -- has erased Cedric from Cincy's red-zone dynamic.

Matt Forte, Bears

It's funny how one unreported knee injury can really rock a guy's fantasy world. Forte rushed for 2,127 yards in 2007 (at Tulane) and registered 1,715 total yards and 12 touchdowns in '08 with Chicago and yet he's getting the fantasy road kill treatment in standard-scoring drafts, thanks to a remarkable-but-unremarkable campaign of 1,400 total yards from last year (on a bum knee). If/when he falls to Round 5, please throw him a lifeline.

Jerome Harrison, Browns

Harrison, a free agent non-draftee in all fantasy leagues last year (including the Harrison family league), should technically be a "riser" in this countdown. But his fantasy stock from May to August has noticeably declined for two reasons: 1) The Browns are enamored with rookie RB Montario Hardesty. 2) Fantasy owners are quick to attach one-hit wonder status to Harrison (561 rushing yards, 5 TDs for Weeks 15-17). Seems fair enough, right? Not really.

Justin Forsett, Seahawks

Forsett (969 total yards, 5 TDs, 41 catches in '09) trumps Julius Jones in pass-catching and red-zone proficiency and has the upper hand on Leon Washington with traditional down-and-distance settings. In other words, the Jones-Washington arrangement is just a clever cover for Forsett's new role as a workhorse back. Of course, should the Seahawks go 4-12 or 5-11 team in 2010, which could easily lessen Forsett's impact late in games.

Michael Bush, Raiders

With Justin Fargas no longer crowding the picture, Bush is a cinch to increase the 123 carries he tallied last year. And with a competent QB now on the field, we'd expect Bush to become more than a token target, or at least someone who grabs more than the 17 passes he corralled in 2009.

Darren McFadden, Raiders

The AFC West's fastest tailback is hanging by a thread here, now that Oakland has a respectable quarterback-in-house (Jason Campbell) and RB Michael Bush (589 rushing yards, 3 TDs in '09) has evolved into a semi-reliable rusher for fantasy owners. But there's still reason to believe McFadden is the Raiders' true franchise back. Still, I've seen D-Mac in action the last two years, so you already know Harry Houdini has nothing on McFadden's patented disappearing acts. Seriously, how can someone that big and that fast and that athletic be this invisible?

Brian Westbrook, Niners Javon Ringer, Titans Correll Buckhalter, Broncos Jason Snelling, Falcons Lynell Hamilton, Saints Anthony Dixon, 49ers Arian Foster, Texans

• The first tailback to tally four TDs in one game -- in the biz, it's known as Pulling An Al Bundy -- will be ... Ray Rice vs. Buffalo (Week 7).

• Kansas City's Jamaal Charles will be the first back to throw a touchdown pass in 2010.

Maurice Jones-Drew will be the best sell-high RB option before standard trade deadlines (Week 12).

Jahvid Best and Ahmad Bradshaw will be two excellent buy-low RB options before the trade deadline.

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