Fantasy Football Profile: #3 Running Backs
Now that we went through the majority of the #1 & #2 Running Backs, it’s time to look at RB3s. These Backs are ones you would use in a flex position (if you have one in your league format), as bye week replacements, or spot starters based on matchups. If you load up elsewhere early, they could serve as RB2.
Derrick Ward, Tampa Bay - Ward ran for 1025 yards and 2 TDs on 182 carries for an amazing 5.6 yards per carry. He added 41 receptions for 384 yards. Not bad for a RB that didn’t even start for his team. He left the incredible Offensive Line that the Giants provide him, but he should get more touches. Don’t expect him to get too many carries though as Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams will likely be in the mix as well. I can see Graham handing the red zone chances. Ward’s best matchups appear to be against New Orleans in Weeks 11 & 16. The rest of his schedule is pretty tough. I expect Ward to produce 1200 total yards and 5 TDs.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens – Rice had decent production last year despite a limited role. He had 454 yards on 107 carries (4.2 ypc) and added 273 yards on 33 receptions. With Le’Ron McClain sliding over to Fullback, and McGahee moving to the backup role, Rice should get a much heavier workload in 2009. Though McClain will get the ball at the strip and McGahee will get his touches, Rice should be a solid RB3, and even a nice RB2 in PPR leagues. The Ravens have a some great matchups against Kansas City in Week 1, Cleveland in Weeks 3 & 10, Cincinnati in Weeks 5 & 9, Denver in Week 8. Unfortunately they play the Raiders in Week 17. Their fantasy playoff schedule starts off sweet with a game against Detroit. Then they face the Bears and the Steelers. If McGahee stays healthy, he’ll cut into Rice’s production, but I think he should be good for 1100 total yards, 4 TDs, and 55 receptions.
Larry Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs – Larry Johnson reported to training camp lighter, hoping improved conditioning will lead to a more successful 2009 season. Even more than his weight, though, has been his attitude. He has stayed out of the headlines. He’s not going to return to his old form, but he should be able to build upon the 847 yards on an impressive 4.5 ypc last year. He only scored 5 TDs, but with Tony Gonzalez gone, that number could easily doubt next year. Jamaal Charles will push him for time, especially on third downs, but that could help to keep LJ fresh. LJ is a back who could put up first round numbers, which is sweet considering you can get him in the third or fourth round. He loses a cushy matchup with Denver in Week 17, but still faces Oakland in Weeks 2 & 10 and Denver in Week 13. He does have some tough matchups early against Baltimore in Week 1, Philly in Week 3, NYG in Week 4, Washington in Week 6, and Pittsburgh in Week 11. He’s a good Buy Low candidate if he gets off to a slow start because his fantasy playoff matchups against Buffalo, Cleveland, and Cincinnati are sweet. There is a huge variance in the numbers LJ could produce. I think he has 1100 total yards and 8 TDs.
LenDale White – Tennessee Titans – LenDale retired the LenWhale moniker (at least temporarily) by putting down the tequila. Even though he’s in better shape, I don’t see LenDale having anything close to the year he had last year. Let’s face it, 15 TD seasons don’t come along very often. With Albert Haynesworth residing in Washington, will Tennessee’s Defense be good enough to suffocate teams and allow LenDale to slowly wear them down in the fourth quarter? That could be a big reason why LenDale gets much fewer than the 2000 carries he had last year. The Titans don’t really have any cakewalks on their schedule until Week 14 against the Rams. It’s hard to use a guy in the fantasy playoffs when you’re not sure how many touches he’s going to get in the game. LenDale is nice to own, but he’ll be tough to use unless Chris Johnson goes down. I’m guessing LenDale has about 600 total yards with 10 TDs.
Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders - Run DMC had a pretty forgettable Rookie season thanks to a toe injury. He had one monster week (164 yards. 1 TD vs. KC in Week 2) and one great week (10 carries for 38 yards, 2 TDs vs. Denver in Week 12). He actually had more 50+ yard receiving games (3) than rushing (1). Still, I believe he has too much talent to not have a much better Sophomore season. He’ll be even more of an asset in PPR leagues, and I could see him throwing a couple passes this year to keep Defenses on their toes. He has some good matchups this year against Kansas City in Weeks 2 & 10, Denver in Week 3 & 15, and Cincinnati in Week 11. If you can get by the opening round of the fantasy playoffs against Washington, you’ll get the benefit of facing Denver and Cleveland in Weeks 15 & 16. I’m predicting 1200 total yards and 8 TDs for McFadden.
Willie Parker – Pittsburgh Steelers – Willie Parker will be pushed by Rashard Mendenhall this year, but I think he’ll hold him off for the most part, assuming he stays healthy. I just wouldn’t count on him for anything more than a bye week alternative or spot matchup Back. Those matchups are Weeks 3 & 10 against Cincinnati, Weeks 6 & 14 vs. Cleveland, Week 5 against Detroit, Week 9 against Denver, Week 11 against KC, and Week 13 against Oakland. I’m guessing Fast Willie has 1000 total yards and 6 TDs.
Jamal Lewis – Cleveland Browns – Jamal Lewis turns 30 this month and though he managed another 1000 yard season, he appears to be on the decline. He is going to be challenged for carries by Jerome Harrison and possibly Rookie James Davis. They both can provide a burst that Jamal just can’t muster. Mangini will try to limit the workload early as Jamal recovers from ankle surgery, which would be unfortunate because they have three games against soft run D’s in the first four weeks. Minnesota (assuming Pat & Kevin Williams are suspended) in Week 1, Denver in Week 2, and Cincinnati in Week 4. Later they face Detroit and Cincy in Weeks 11 & 12. The Bengals actually have a pretty sweet fantasy playoff schedule with tilts against KC and Oakland in Weeks 15 & 16, though the Browns could be playing for the future by then. I expect 700 yards and 6 TDs from Jamal in 2009.
Cedric Benson – Cincinnati Bengals – Cedric Benson was a fantasy hero last year with two 150+ total yard games in Weeks 15 & 16. He managed just 3.5 ypc for the year though and his plodding style may not work as well considering they face Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice. They do have some pretty nice matchups though against Denver in Week 1, Cleveland in Weeks 4 & 12, Oakland in Week 11, and Detroit in Week 13. His fantasy playoffs heroics will be hard to repeat against Minnesota and San Diego, but he could have a big finish in Week 16 against KC. I’m predicting 900 total yards and 6 TDs for Benson.