Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/18/12
The 2011 NFL Season came to an end with many big name superstars heading to free agency or getting franchise tenders from the clubs they have played for.

 Four of these superstars shared something in common. They all are franchise running backs who play important roles in their teams' playbook. Now that the signing period came to end, to get franchised players signed long term, all four have another thing in common.

They all have big contracts to pay them like the superstars they are.

You had Matt Forte and Ray Rice landing deals before the deadline after the other two, Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy, both signed earlier in free agency. As you look at these four players, they are all the same type of backs who can put up big rushing numbers but also can be a weapon in the passing game. I'll look at these in order of who is the most important to the team they play with and I will also break down the fantasy outlook for 2012 season.

1) Ray Rice - Baltimore Ravens: Rice is the most important part of the Ravens offense, both running the ball and coming out of the back field to catch passes from Joe Flacco. Rice rushed for 1364 yards while catching 76 passes for 704 yards giving him over 2000 all purpose yards. With the departure of Ricky Williams and inexperienced backups, the Ravens made sure they made their star happy.

Fantasy outlook for 2012: 1255 rushing yards with 15 touchdowns to go along with 640 yards receiving and 6 touchdown receptions. 

2) LeSean McCoy - Philadelphia Eagles: McCoy showed everyone he can score touchdowns and be the feature back the Eagles needed him to be. McCoy does most of his damage on the ground but can also catch a pass when needed. McCoy rushed for 1309 yards with 17 rushing touchdowns also adding 315 yards and 3 touchdown receptions.

Fantasy outlook for 2012: 1390 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns to go along with 505 yards receiving and 5 touchdown receptions. 

3) Matt Forte - Chicago Bears: Forte will look to bounce back after a injury-shortened season where he put up 997 yards rushing while also adding 490 yards through the air. Forte put these numbers up while only playing in 12 games but lacked finding the endzone only scoring 4 times total. Forte will look for the bulk of carries but the Bears added an insurance plan by signing Michael Bush.

Fantasy outlook for 2012: 1150 rushing yards with 8 touchdowns with another 700 yards receiving and 9 touchdown receptions. 

4) Arian Foster - Houston Texans: Foster like Forte only played in 13 games for the Texans but still put up big numbers including finding the endzone 10 times on the ground. The downfall for Foster is Ben Tate also shined in his role as backup/starting running back when Foster was out. Look for the Texans to work the ball with both backs to keep Foster healthy which could hurt Foster's fantasy numbers.

Fantasy outlook for 2012: 1200 rushing with 7 touchdowns with 550 yars receiving and 8 touchdown receptions. 

These running backs won't stay on the board long in most fantasy drafts, with all four of them being gone within the first 40 picks based on the type of league you play in. 

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