Whenever you have Eric Mangini as the head coach of an NFL franchise, there are going to be question marks.  He has become well known for giving out as little information as possible, whether it is about injuries or the depth chart.


The unknown drives fantasy owners crazy, requiring us to guess what we think will happen.  When it comes to the “Man-genius”, it’s mind-blowing, because you really never know.  And that’s where we stand for the Browns backfield.


Who will ultimately be the main man?  Who knows, but here’s my take on things:


Jerome Harrison
The injury to Montario Hardesty may have cemented his spot as the top running back entering the season, but will he be able to hold down the job long-term?  He averaged 4.4 yards/carry last season, the first time he’s seen more then 35 carries in a year.


Overall he rushed for 862 yards and 5 TD.  The bulk of that damage came in the seven games he started.  In those games he rushed the ball 168 times for 778 yards and all 5 TD (these all came in the final three games).  That is an average of 4.6 yards/carry.


Those final three games were tremendous, all over 100 yards (including a 34 carry, 286 yard games against the Chiefs).  It was a tremendous show (561 yards), and it certainly gained plenty of attention.


The problem with Harrison is that he spent significant time in Mangini’s doghouse in 2009.  From October 11 – December 10, he barely touched the ball.  While he looks like a good play over the first few weeks, the fear that he could once again fall out of favor looms large.


He has showed what he can do, but drafting him as anything more then a RB3 would be a mistake.  There are just too many question marks, be it from competition or a repeat of 2009.


Montario Hardesty
The second round pick was expected to battle Harrison for starting duties, but an injury has held him out for all of training camp.  While he’s expected to return later this week, the damage is likely already done for the beginning of the season.


That’s not to say he should be written off, however.  If he can stay healthy, it’s likely only a matter of time before he forces his way into shared running duties.


Of course, should Harrison struggle or fall out of favor, he likely would be given the chance to get full-time duties.  The uncertainty makes the youngster worth the gamble, but don’t select him as more then a depth option.  Despite the upside, he has a long ways to go and needs to prove his health before becoming trustworthy.


James Davis
He has a ton of potential, falling in the 2009 draft to the sixth round after losing carries his senior year to C.J. Spiller.  Now, a year after missing most of 2009 due to shoulder surgery, he’s going to need a lot to happen to breakthrough and make a significant impact.


He averaged over five yards per carry his first three years, including a 17 TD performance his sophomore year.  Keep an eye on him, but expect him to break camp fourth on the depth chart.


Chris Jennings
He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in limited duty last season and was arrested in the offseason (though he is not going to be charged with a crime).  Given his place on the depth chart, chances are he doesn’t break camp with the team.


Peyton Hillis
Acquired in the deal that sent Brady Quinn out of Cleveland, he has led the team in carries (14) and rushing yards (54) thus far in the preseason.  Part of that could have to do with Hardesty not yet playing, but it certainly still is worth noting.


Chances are that, if he does spend time at tailback (he could also play fullback), will likely be the third man on the depth chart.  Of course, if injuries or trips to the doghouse derail the two ahead of him, he could be a major sleeper.  Keep tabs on this situation throughout the season, because you never know when/if he’ll take over, but he’s not worth drafting in any format.


What are your thoughts on the Browns’ running back situation?  Who would you draft?  Who do you see as having potential fantasy value?

Here are some Running Backs that have played well in the preseason.  Let’s evaluate them to see if they can translate their preseason production into fantasy worth when the season begins.

Glen Coffee, San Francisco 49ers – Coffee had 34 yards on 8 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and 3 catches for 27 yards in San Francisco’s win over Dallas.  Coffee leads all RBs with 230 yards on 38 carries (6.1 ypc).  He also has five receptions for 35 yards.  He’s not good enough to use as a flex player or bye week replacement in typical leagues, but he should be on fantasy rosters as a Frank Gore handcuff.

James Davis, Cleveland Browns – Davis has been impressive during the preseason with 149 yards on 19 carries (7.8 ypc) with a TD.  He has added 7 receptions for 44 yards.  He had 28 yards on 5 carries (5.6 ypc) and 4 catches for 27 yards in a Win over Tennessee.  He may not open the season as the starter, but if Jamal Lewis struggles, it will be hard to keep Davis off the field.  Do not let him go undrafted. 

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants – Bradshaw had another solid game against the Jets with 8 carries for 47 yards (5.9 ypc) and 2 catches for 5 yards.  In the preseason he has 136 yards on 19 carries (7.2 ypc) with 1 TD and 6 catches for 21 yards.  He is a decent flex option and a excellent handcuff to Brandon Jacobs.

Kory Sheets, San Francisco 49ers - Sheets is tied for the lead with 3 preseason TDs.  He has also ran for 144 yards on 33 carries (4.4 ypc).  He punched two in against Dallas while running for 42 yards on 11 carries (3.8 ypc).  He’s battling for a roster spot, but doesn’t have much fantasy value.

P.J. Hill/Lynell Hamilton, New Orleans Saints - Lynell and P.J. are battling for roster spots.  Lynell has 143 yards on 31 carries (4.6 ypc) with 4 catches for 16 yards.  He had 95 yards on 16 carries (5.9 ypc)  in the win over Oakland.  P.J. is tied for the lead with 3 TDs.  He also has 113 yards on 22 carries (5.1 ypc) with 1 catch for 2 yards.  He had 83 yards on 12 carries (6.9 ypc) with 2 TDs against Oakland.  With Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, and Mike Bell ahead of them on the depth chart neither have much fantasy value.

Leon Washington, New York Jets - Leon has 119 yards on 19 carries (6.3) with 6 catches for 40 yards in the preseason.  In their recent win over the Giants he had 62 yards on 9 carries (6.9 ypc) and 3 catches for 7 yards.  Thomas Jones has just 61 yards on 29 carries (2.1 ypc) with 2 TDs.  If his struggles continue, Leon can work his way into a larger role in the Jets offense.  He’s a good flex option with a ton of upside.

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Here are some Running Backs putting up serious preseason numbers.  Let’s take a look and see if they have a chance to translate some of that preseason production into fantasy worth in regular season play.

Glen Coffee, San Francisco 49ers – Coffee leads all RBs with 196 preseason rushing yards.  He is averaging 6.5  yards per carry (ypc).  He also has two receptions for 8 yard, but has failed to score a TD.  The Rookie out of Alabama is doing all the right things to serve as Frank Gore’s primary backup.  If Gore goes down, Coffee’s value skyrockets.  He is a great late round value as a Gore handcuff or trade bait.

Tyrell Sutton, Green Bay Packers – Sutton has 140 yards on 27 carries (5.2 ypc) with a TD.  It’s could earn him a gig on a practice squad somewhere or the UFL. 

Michael Turner running
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
- The preseason means little, but it’s nice to know the Burner is picking up where he left off with 128 yards on 13 carries (9.8 ypc) with a pair of TDs.  He is clearly a top four pick, with a bump in non-PPR leagues.

James Davis, Cleveland Browns - James has been shooting up fantasy draft boards with an amazing preseason.  He has looked great in practices and showed a glimpse of his big play potential with a 81 yard TD run against the lowly Detroit Lions en route to a 12 carry, 116 yard game.  Through two preseasons games the Clemson Rookie has 121 yards on 14 carries (8.6 ypc) and 3 receptions.  He has plenty of competition in Jamal Lewis and Jerome Harrison, but let’s face it.  The Browns are bad.  They are going to be bad.  It’s only a matter of time before they start planning for the future, and Jamal Lewis isn’t the future.  Harrison is better suited for the change of pace role, meaning Davis could get the bulk of the carries.

Kory Sheets, San Francisco 49ers - Sheets has 102 yards on 22 carries (4.6 ypc), but only has a shot of making the team because of Thomas Clayton’s knee injury.  He has no fantasy value.

Mike Bell, New Orleans Saints - Bell is an interesting option.  I obviously wouldn’t carry him on my roster as long as Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas were healthy, but he could be productive if one of them went down with an injury.  He has 100 yards on 10 carries (10.0 ypc) this preseason with a 46 yard TD.

760 Packers v Buccaneers
Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers
- Again, I know it’s only the preseason, but it’s nice to see Ryan Grant find the end zone.  He has scored twice while running for 71 yards on 16 carries (4.4 ypc).  He has added a couple of receptions.  If he can score more than the 4 TDs he had last year, he’ll be one of the best RB2s.

Ahmad Bradshaw
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants - Bradshaw appears poised to pick up Derrick Ward’s slack with 89 preseason yards on 11 carries (8.1 ypc) with 4 catches for 16 yards.  He has the burst to break one, and the soft hands to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Images courtesy of Icon SMI

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