Fantasy Football Preview – Running Backs
These are the guys that everybody wants to own. At times, they can almost single-handedly carry you to a victory. They go for the most in auctions and take up the majority of the first round in snake drafts. A word of caution, there is usually a bust or two among these. Last year Larry Johnson and Frank Gore didn’t meet expectations. Before that it was Shaun Alexander.
LaDainian Tomlinson – What can you say about LT that hasn’t already been said. He’s quite possibly the best fantasy football player that’s ever existed.
Adrian Peterson – All Day is right up there with LT when it comes to projected fantasy numbers following his amazing rookie campaign. He cracked the 200 yard mark twice last year, including breaking the single-game mark. He’ll need to score more TDs (as if 13 isn’t enough) to be considered the Alpha Dog.
Brian Westbrook – Westy was a major force last year going for 2100 total yards and 12 TDs. He’s such a dual threat, with over 1200 yards rushing and 700 yards receiving the past two years. The knock on him is his health, but he only missed two games over the past two years. He did kill some fantasy owners by taking a knee on a sure TD last year.
Steven Jackson – He had somewhat of a down year because of injuries, but he still topped the 1000 mark rushing and added nearly 300 receiving. His TD production took a major hit, but St. Louis’ offense as a whole was down. Steven Jackson can be had with the third to fifth pick. Talk about a great value.
Joseph Addai – Addai was a force as well last year with over 1400 total yards and 15 TDs despite missing a game. He’s had virtually the same amount of rushing and receiving yards both years to show his consistency. With Peyton Manning keeping defenses in check, Addai should be able to have his way once again. Like Westbrook and Steven Jackson, Addai will be the 3rd-5th player taken, which makes the 5th pick in the draft the most attractive slot to me.
Second Tier RBs
These are guys that will go in the first couple of rounds. They aren’t quite of the Big Dog ilk, but if you’re in the back end of a snake draft you can pick up a pair of these 2TRBs.
Marion Barber III - So MB3 can’t the chance to shine on his own. Well, not exactly. The Cowboys replaced Julius Jones with rookie Felix Jones. Marion the Barbarian will still be your TD man, but the other Jones will cut into his yardage.
Clinton Portis – Portis will still only be 27 when the season kicks off. He seems so much older than that. I guess that’s what success will do to you. Will he be like Emmitt Smith and just keep turning it out? I think so. I don’t see 1500 yards in him, but 1200 & 10 is attainable.
Frank Gore – Here’s a guy I love. Everyone was HUGE on him last year and he failed miserably by his draft postion standards. However, he still had over 1500 total yards. If that’s a “down year”, I’d be glad to grab him and see what he can do in a good year.
Larry Johnson – Maybe because I own him I am wishful thinking, but I see a rebound for LJ. He’s still a beast. He hasn’t reached the 30 mark. He doesn’t have a lot of mileage considering his age. He is a year removed from back-to-back 1700 yard 17+ TD seasons. I know Shaun Alexander dropped like a elevator with the cable cut, but I see a different story for LJ. As long as he has some burst and he gets a decent showing from the passing game, LJ will be solid. I don’t see another monster year, but if he can turn out 1400 yards and 12 TDs, I’d be stoked.
Marshawn Lynch – Here’s another guy I own. I was huge on him before his little hit-and-run drama. I hope that was a one-time slip-up and not a sign of things to come. He was the Bills’ offense last year. He wasn’t a contender for the ROY last year as All Day was unbelievable, but for a while he was at least a part of the conversation.
Willis McGahee – Here’s another guy who was his team’s offense last year. Willis has over 1400 yards and 8 TDs in his first year in Baltimore. All of that despite only having five carries the past two weeks. He should be fully recovered from his rib injury that finished his season a little early last year.
Third Tier RBs
These are likely your #2 backs unless you opted to go QB or WR early (which isn’t a bad idea).
Willie Parker – Fast Willie piled on the yards last year (1316 to be exact), but didn’t make many trips (2) to the endzone. I don’t see Big Ben tossing as many TD passes next year so that number should go up. The problem I have with Willie is the drafting of Rashard Mendenhall. He scares me if I’m a Willie Parker owner.
Jamal Lewis – Jamal had a terrific season (1552 total yards, 11 TDs) last year with Cleveland, but I just don’t trust him to be my #1 RB. I expect their passing attack to take a step back next year, which will make it harder to run.
Ryan Grant – Ryan Grant came in and answered Green Bay’s prayers for some balance. Lost in the whole QB debate is whether or not Grant will be a fluke. If Rodgers struggles at QB, things could get difficult for Grant. I’d hate to pin my hopes on him.
Maurice Jones-Drew/Fred Taylor – MJD gets the TDs. Fred Taylor gets the yards. Will the recipe be the same in Jacksonville next year? Most likely. They compliment each other so well. Unfortunately for fantasy owners it makes it difficult to rely on either one. Obviously I give MJD the edge because of his age and his ability to reach paydirt.
Laurence Maroney – Did you see Maroney run in the playoffs? I’m sure the Patriot Coaches did. Heck, they probably even have video on it. Bad jokes aside, I see the Patriots running a more balanced attack next year. With the holes the passing game should open, Maroney should run wild.
Ronnie Brown – Until he got hurt, Ronnie Brown was having one of the best years by any RB. Unfortunately he blew out his knee following an Interception (thanks Cleo Lemon) and will likely take a year or so to get back to form.
Brandon Jacobs – Brandon Jacobs is a beast. He should have plenty of opportunity to score TDs. He needs to prove he can stay healthy. He’ll likely have to share carries with some capable running mates.
Edgerrin James – Edge had over 1400 total yards last year, but will turn the dreaded 30 next month. That usually doesn’t go over very well for a Running Back. The Cards have two extraordinary WRs to keep defenses honest, but I’d be shocked if Edge replicates his 2007 campaign.
Darren McFadden – This one is based on potential, but Run DMC sure seems to be this year’s version of Adrian Peterson. I don’t see him running for as many yards, or breaking any records, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he finished in top ten for RB fantasy scoring.
Fourth Tier RBs
We’re getting into #2 RBs if you have stacked your team elsewhere and/or your bench RBs.
LenDale White - LenDale silenced his critics last year by running for 1110 yards and 7 TDs. He had either a TD or 100 yards in six games during a seven-game stretch last year. Then he ran for 81 yards combined the next three weeks before four straight weeks of 95+ yards or a TD. That middle stretch is what keeps him out of the third tier.
Reggie Bush- I think the best thing that can happen for Reggie Bush and New Orleans is for Deuce McAllister to return healthy. The 1-2 punch was ideal for Bush and the Saints. Bush doesn’t have to pound it between the tackles so frequently. He is free to be able to get to the outside as well as become a bigger factor in the passing game.
Thomas Jones – The Jets made some nice moves in the offseason, mainly to improve their Offensive Line. The acquisitions of Alan Faneca and Damien Woody (along with FB Tony Richardson) should open the running lanes for Jones. He had a decent amount of yards last year (1119 rushing, 1336 total), but needs to score more than 2 TDs.
Michael Turner – I hesitate to put him in a higher bracket because he doesn’t have a track record to prove he can hold up to a full load. He’s also going to a team that will likely be behind in most games, and may have to abandon the run. It’s also unclear if he was a product of the system (San Diego) or if he can bring his explosiveness to Atlanta. Oh, and he was mainly used after LT wore the defenses down. How is he going to do against a fresh defensive unit? These are the questions I have, and the reason he lands in the 4th tier. That said, he is worth taking a chance on as your 3rd RB.
Earnest Graham – Tampa’s Earnest Graham falls into the category of RBs I don’t quite trust. He was a great story last year running for 898 yards (1222 total) and 10 TDs. I’m just afraid the fluke factor is high for him. Not to mention the acquisition of Warrick Dunn could cut into his digits. If Cadillac Williams makes a successful return, Tampa’s backfield is further muddied.
Julius Jones – The Seahawks parted ways with Shaun Alexander and have tabbed JJ as their replacement. He has the ability, but hasn’t really been a force since his shortened rookie season in 2004. Since then he hasn’t been much of a TD threat. We’ll see how he’s used in Seattle, who also has Maurice Morris and T.J. Duckett.
We’re getting your bench RBs and Bye Week plays. You can use these guys for trades or simply use them as insurance policies in case of injury.
Selvin Young – Usually a Denver RB is as good as gold. I just can’t quite trust any of them this year. Selvin had 960 total yards last year, but only 1 TD. Michael Pittman and Ryan Torain could steal touches from Young.
Rudi Johnson/Kenny Watson – Early indications are that Rudi is back. He’s in terrific shape and is hitting the holes hard. Problem is Kenny Watson easily outplayed him last year. I think this is going to be a true RBBC with them splittiing carries fairly equally (barring injury). Kenny Watson had over 1000 total yards and 7 TDs. Rudi had 600 and 4. You would think Rudi would be the short yardage back, but Watson will probably get plenty of work in the redzone because of his pass-catching ability.
Jonathan Stewart – Since DeAngelo Williams hasn’t lived up to the hype, I see the Oregon rookie stealing the show down in Carolina. He’s a bruiser at 5′11″, 230 Lbs with good speed. He ran for 1722 yards for the Ducks last year, and should have a solid rookie showing.
Matt Forté - Things looked real good for the Tulane rookie before Kevin Jones inked a deal with Da Bears. That said, I’m not sure KJ is healthy enough (or will remain healthy) to keep Forte from being a decent fantasy play. He ran for 2127 yards and 23 TDs in his Senior season. He’s also capable of catching the ball out of the backfield.
Kevin Smith – Another rookie that could make waves this year is Detroit’s Kevin Smith. He doesn’t have great speed, but he tore it up for UCF last year racking up 2567 yards and 29 TDs. If the Pro game isn’t too fast for him, he could be a steady contributor.
Scrap Pile RBs
These are RBs that you’ll only use for bye weeks or in case of injury.
Ahman Green – He’s on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off an injury-plagued season. However, he is still a starting RB (for the time being) so he’s worthy of a roster spot. If he can stay healthy and Houston’s passing attack is on, there could be some decent weeks for Ahman.
DeAngelo Williams – He had close to 900 total yards last year while finishing strong (242 yards & 3 TDs in his last three games). He also had 121 yards in Week 6 and 82 in Week 13 so he displayed some signs of life. However, the Panthers brought in Jonathan Stewart for a reason. DeAngelo may hold the starting job out of the gate, but he could easily be lapped.
Chester Taylor – If Adrian Peterson misses some time, Chester Taylor will vault into the Top Ten the weeks All Day is out. As is, he’ll spell All Day and pick up some decent 40-60 yard games. He’s probably the #1 handcuff out there.
Felix Jones – This dude is fast. He’s from the University of Arkansas like Jerry Jones. MB3 is the goods, but Felix will be taking carries for sure. He’s also one of the best handcuffs given Dallas’ potent offense.
Deuce McAllister – He’ll turn 30 this year and is coming off an injury. He also has to share the load with Reggie Bush in a pass-happy offense. Things are stacked against him. He will be the short-yardage guy though so he should score some TDs. That said, I don’t see much more than 500 yards out of him.
Justin Fargas – You’ve got to feel a little bad for Fargas. He ran for over 1000 yards last year for the sorry Raiders. His reward? The drafting of Run DMC. He still should get some play though. He clearly has big-game ability as evidenced by his three games of 139+ yards. He averaged 106 yards and 0.6 TDs in Weeks 9-13.
Rashard Mendenhall – Mendenhall is interesting as the Steelers already have Willie Parker. He’s got great speed with a great build. He had a great Junior year for Illinois rushing for 1681 yards and 17 TDs. He added 34 receptions. Given his size over Fast Willie, he could get the goal line touches.
Ahmad Bradshaw/Derrick Ward - Ahmad didn’t do much in the regular season (190 yards), but looked pretty solid in the playoffs (208 yards in 4 games). Ward looked good early, but didn’t didn’t do anything after Week 6 except for a big 154 yard effort in Week 13. It’s likely that all three Giant RBs (Brandon Jacobs included) will get some touches. If Jacobs goes down Bradshaw and Ward will have bigger roles.
Chris Brown – He was one of my Sleeper picks last year for Tennesse, and he did decent at times. Now he’s on to Houston. He seems older than the 27 he turned in April so there is still tread on the tires. If (and most likely when) Ahman Green goes down, he’ll likely be thrust into the starter role. Never much of a TD threat, he scored 4 in the last 5 weeks of the 2007 season.
Chris Johnson – Replacing Chris Brown in Tennessee will be rookie Chris Johnson out of East Carolina. He’s listed behind 2007 rookie Chris Henry, but the Titans must not have been thrilled with him given their 1st round selection of Johnson. He’s not a big back, but could be a nice change-of-pace to LenDale White. He’s lighting quick (4.24). He had 1423 yards and 17 TDs rushing and another 528 yards and 6 TDs receiving. He’ll have to prove he can stay healhty, but he’s a Home Run waiting to happen.
Jerious Norwood – His reign in Atlanta was short-lived as Michael Turner has stolen his starting gig. He is lighting-quick though and should be a nice change-of-pace to Turner. If Turner proves he can’t stay healthy or is not up to the task of being the Lead Dog, Norwood’s value will increase.
Warrick Dunn – Until he hangs up his cleats, I will not overlook Mr. Dunn. He has quietly surpassed the 10,000 yard mark for his career. How many people would have expected that. Even in a down year he had close to 1000 total yards. If Cadillac Williams isn’t up for the task, Dunn will still have some fantasy relevance.
Tatum Bell – If Kevin Smith doesn’t make the adjustments needed to be an NFL back suddenly Tatum Bell becomes interesting. That said, the ceiling is rather low for Bell, and I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were him.
Ladell Betts – He proved he’s more than capable if CP goes down. However, Portis has been very durable in his career. Betts will take touches away to keep CP fresh, but don’t look for major numbers out of Betts barring an unforseen injury.
Ryan Torain – He plays for Denver so never count him out. The rookie out of Arizona State probably has the highest high-low differential in the league.
DeShaun Foster – He’s backing up Frank Gore now so there’s not much hope for Foster. However, if Gore goes down, Foster is an adequate replacement.
Jamaal Charles/Kolby Smith – If Larry Johnson suffers a setback, the load will likely be shared between Kolby, who ran decent down the stretch, and rookie Jamaal Charles out of Texas.