Written by Eric Stashin of www.rotoprofessor.com


Image courtesy of Icon SMI


The Washington Redskins have three established, veteran running backs on their roster, not too mention youngsters Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams.  Let’s take a look at the battle for playing time and try to determine who may have fantasy value for the upcoming season:


Clinton Portis
The odds on favorite to emerge as the Redskins starter, when healthy he has proven to be among the best running backs in the league.  In the six seasons where he has played at least 13 games, his worst season is 1,262 yards and only once has he had less then nine rushing TDs.


He’s also a receiving threat out of the backfield, routinely topping 30 receptions.  The addition of Donovan McNabb, who knows how to integrate the RB into the passing game from his time with Brian Westbrook, certainly makes this seem like a perfect marriage.


He’ll turn 29-years old on September 1, so there certainly is a chance that he’ll start slowing down, but he’s not over-the-hill by any stretch.  He’s also coming off a year where he played just eight games due to concussion problems, the more worrisome proposition.


Of course, let’s not forget that Portis thrived under Mike Shanahan’s system when both were in Denver.  He’s the running back I’d draft, if I were going to go with the muddled Redskins backfield, as long as I get him as my RB3.  There’s too much of a risk to draft him as more then that.
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The Redskins made a big splash by adding Donovan McNabb in the offseason. After a couple years of actually having some weapons in the passing game, McNabb takes a major step back with Washington’s offering. He always seems to find a way to make it work, so expect the Skins’ offense to improve.


Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Moderate
They open up the fantasy playoffs against Tampa Bay at home in Week 14. They then go on the road to face Dallas and Jacksonville.


Five Star Fantasy Options


Four Star Fantasy Options
Donovan McNabb – Normally I would give him a five star rating, but he does have an injury history, and he has the aforementioned drop-off in talent at WR. Perhaps his best options are TEs Chris Cooley and Fred Davis.


Three Star Fantasy Options
Clinton Portis – The Redskins brought in competition in the form of Larry Johnson and Willie Parker. McNabb’s presence should open things up for the ground game. If he can stay healthy, Portis brings the most to the table.


Santana Moss – Moss isn’t the player he once was, but he hasn’t had a QB the caliber of McNabb, perhaps ever. He is notoriously inconsistent, but he should have some big games still left in him. Brian Orakpo should pile up the sacks.


Chris Cooley – The Skins have a good problem having two talented TEs. Mike Shanahan is gifted enough to figure out a way to get both Cooley and Davis involved in the passing game.


Redskins Defense/Special Teams – The Redskins will need Albert Haynesworth to make nice with the team to remain a decent fantasy defense. Highlights include the Rams (Week 3), Lions (Week 8), and the Bucs (Week 14).


Two Star Fantasy Options
Larry Johnson – If Portis were to go down or finally hits the wall from the extensive use in his career, LJ would be the one to step in and carry the load. I think he still has some football left in him. It’s just a matter of how many  opportunities he’ll get.


Devin Thomas – He hasn’t lived up to his expectations yet, but McNabb should help. He is not afraid to rely on young receivers. Thomas has good size (6’2″, 215) and speed. He just has to put it all together.


Fred Davis – Davis stepped in when Cooley went down and ran with his opportunity. He had 41 catches for 464 yards and 6 TDs in the Skins last ten games. The Skins can’t ignore that kind of production, especially with a sub par receiving corps.


One Star Fantasy Options
Willie Parker – If he can stay healthy, he should be able to produce in spots for the Skins. That won’t help your fantasy team go. Unless he can earn the #2 RB gig, he’s not a viable fantasy option.


Malcom Kelly – Kelly is a 6’4″ receiver that has failed to score a TD in 21 games. That should change with McNabb, but don’t expect him to transform into a stud.


Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

Larry Johnson signed a three-year deal with the Washington Redskins. He basically serves as Clinton Portis insurance. Honestely, with their aging line and age (LJ) and mileage (Portis) working against them, I don’t see either back being all that productive in 2010.

LJ’s character issues remain while his burst and ability have dried up. The signing truly makes no sense. That’s Washington for ya. You may want to take a flier on LJ at the end of your fantasy drafts. I’d probably just pass on him though.

In other news, Ben Watson signed with the Browns. Though a more low-profile signing, it has significantly more fantasy relevance. Watson is a gifted tight end that often got lost in the Patriots’ arsenal. In Cleveland there are fewer mouths to feed. Don’t be surprised if Watson becomes a top ten fantasy tight end for the Browns.

Kansas City cut WR Amani Toomer, paving the way for Mark Bradley to start opposite of Dwayne Bowe.  With Matt Cassel hurting, this offense has a chance to be pretty dreadful this year.  Devard Darling is out for the year with a knee injury, and Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey got the boot.  This is a work in progress, but lower your expectations of Bowe, Cassel, and Larry Johnson.

Rookie holdouts seldom have a happy ending.  The contract typically isn’t much better than what originally offered.  The player falls way behind in learning the system, and often injures himself as he tries to rush to get up to speed.  That’s what happened with Cincinnati Tackle Andre Smith.  The first-rounder fractured his foot before the ink even dried on his contract.  He will miss a couple of weeks and could have a hard time getting on the field this season.  The Bengals did get some good news, though, when Carson Palmer returned to practice.

Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Larry Johnson run
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

There was a time when Larry Johnson was one of the premier running backs in the game.  In 2005, despite starting just 9 games, Johnson rushed for 1,750 yards and 20 TD.  The full-time back in 2006, he followed that up with a mediocre 1,789 yards and 17 TD.

The scary thing is that those numbers don’t even factor in his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, picking up 343 and 410 yards, respectively.  He was electric, dominating the game from the moment he stepped onto the field. 

Unfortunately, since then he has been plagued by injuries and suspensions.  In 2007 he played in just eight games before a foot injury prematurely ended his season.  He was healthy for much of the 2008 season, but was suspended by the team and benched thanks to violating team rules.  Later on in the season, he was suspended for a game by the league.  All in all he played in just 12 games, rushing for 874 yards and 5 TD.

Clearly, even when he was healthy, he was just a shell of his former self.  Well, is that actually true?

Johnson did average 4.5 yards per carry last season, the same number as Michael Turner and Thomas Jones.  It was better then Clinton Portis (4.3), Maurice Jones-Drew (4.2) and Brian Westbrook (4.0), just to name a few.

He had 7 rushes of at least 20 yards, placing him in a tie for 13th.  That was more than Ryan Grant (who had 119 more carries), LaDanian Tomlinson (who had 99 more carries) and Thomas Jones (who had 97 more carries).

The fact of the matter is if he had been given the opportunity to carry the ball more often, he would have been a very productive back on the ground.  With Jamal Charles as his back up, he is likely not going to see 300+ carries again this year, but if healthy should see more than the 193 he was given last season.

Time will tell on how exactly the offense is run with a new head coach taking over.  Herm Edwards is out, replaced by Todd Haley, the former offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals.  That offense certainly is not known for its ground attack, though it was built around two of the best wide receivers in the game.  In Kansas City they are not going to have that benefit, so seeing a greater focus on the ground in order to open up the attack for Mat Cassell and company should not come as a surprise.

Cassell’s presence is an important thing to note, as he replaces Tyler Thigpen at the helm of the offense.  While we will quickly find out if Cassell is as good as he played last season or just a produce of the Patriots system, he is certainly an upgrade and should take the pressure off the ground game.  A below average offensive line is not going to help, but defenses are going to need to defend against an aerial attack and not simply stack the line.

So, when we put this all together, exactly what should we expect out of Johnson in 2009:

Rushing – 254 carries, 1,094 yards, 9 TD
Receiving – 24 catches, 210 yards. 1 TD

Basically, there is still hope left for a player that many others have already written off.  He showed last season that the talent was still there, all he needs is the opportunity.  With a current ADP of 51.08, your getting a potential #2 RB in the fifth round.  That’s value that you just can’t beat.

I’m all for drafting him this season, depending on how the rest of your roster has shook out.  Yes, he’s a risk, but so are all the other RB going at that point in the draft.  Why not take the risk on a player who still shows life and has already performed as an elite back?

What are your thoughts on Johnson?  Is he someone you think could reemerge as a must use back?

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By Marc Mancuso

Either because they are coming off down years, inuries, or are simply overlooked on their own teams, these are players which can be had at a bargain this year and could produce excellent returns for the GM willing to take on some risk. Championships are won in the middle and late rounds of drafts so be sure not to overlook these guys.

All-Undervalued Team
QB: Matt Hasselbeck, SEA — A healthy back, and some WR’s this year (TJ Housmanzadeh, and the return of Nate Burleson) combined with a suspect running game means Hass will be putting the ball up a lot this year. In 2007, he was 4th in pass attempts with 562 with fewer weapons than he has now. Hasselbeck has been going very late in drafts (round 12 and beyond) but he has the potential to put up low end QB1 stats.

RB: Larry Johnson, KC – Yes he’s a knucklehead and has a lot of wear on his tires. But at 28 and looking very good in camp thus far, Johnson has plenty left in the tank to put in solid numbers in a contract year.

RB: Ryan Grant, GB — Grant was a first round pick in 2008 in most FFL drafts. After a holdout, minor injuries and a slow start, Grant came on in the second half of 08, still producting 1200+ yards on the ground. Despite this, many owners were scared off by his totals, and he is slipping to round 4 or 5 in many drafts now. Grant is healthy, in camp, and will rebound and should produce numbers which will equal low end #1 level stats.

WR: Chad Ochocinco, CIN — Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer a Bengal. Carson Palmer is 100% healed from elbow problems. TJ Housyoumomma is in Seattle. To think that #85 will not rebound after an awful 2008 would be a mistake. He’s only 31 years old and capable of turning in monster games. Ochocinco has slipped as far as the 6th round in many drafts, and can be a sweet value pick as your #2 WR.

WR: Eddie Royal, DEN – I’m still seeing Eddie Royal going in round 7 of drafts. In an offense like Josh McDaniel’s which is dynamic and a QB (Kyle Orton) who is not a downfield passer, Royal seems like a lock to produce stats similar to Wes Welker. Coming off 91 receptions in his rookie year, Royal made a very quick transition to the pro game, and runs fantastic routes. He could easily emerge as a low end #1, Top End #2 just like Welker has been the past 2 seasons. Consistency is what wins championships.

WR: Torry Holt, JAX — Last year was dreadful if you owned Holt. This season, he gets a chance to revive his career with Jacksonville. I’m seeing Holt go as late as the 12th round in some drafts. This is a guy who before last year was a lock to produce 1200 yards and 8 TD’s every year. David Garrard has never had a viable WR (sorry Matt Jones) and this seems like an excellent value and 1000+ Yards + 6 TD’s seems very possible.

TE: Jeremy Shockey, NO — With another year of working in Sean Payton’s high powered offense, Shockey has the potential for a nice rebound year. He was becoming a regular target for Drew Brees in 2008 but injuries hampered his development. Fantasy owners have plenty of reasons to pass on Shockey, but in a deep crop of TE’s he represents high upside at a very low price (I have been in drafts where he wasn’t even drafted). If Brees can make Lance Moore, and Billy Miller valuable, imagine what he can do with a talent like Shockey? His biggest competition may be between his ears, but Shockey reportedly has looked great in camp thus far, so the potential to return to 800 yards and 6-7 TD’s makes him a nice late value pick.

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.

The Chiefs are a nightmare.  They are sort of a Wildcard with Scott Pioli as their GM.  To say he plays his cards close to his vest is an understatement.  They also brought in a new Coach in Todd Haley, who was very successful as Offensive Coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals.  Tyler Thigpen looked decent at times, but it’s hard to say if he’ll keep his hold on that starting QB position.  He showed great ability with his feet, but that may not fit into Haley’s style.  The big elephant in the room in Kansas City is Larry Johnson.  They’ll likely try to trade him, but his contract will prohibit that.  If he cries loud enough he’ll likely get cut.  A first-time Coach doesn’t need that distraction.  Jamaal Charles will get a crack at the starting tailback position if LJ is cut.  Kolby Smith could also challenge for the spot.  If LJ is cut, they’ll obviously have to address the hole at RB via the draft or free agency.  The Chiefs will likely add some talent at WR, though Mark Bradley looked solid at times.  Dwayne Bowe had a solid Sophomore year, and will be a guy I’ll target based on the track record of Haley WRs.  Tony Gonzalez will  most likely return to the Chiefs.  I don’t see them letting the Hall of Famer go. 

LB Pat Thomas and Safeties Jarrad Page and Jon McGraw are their key Free Agents on Defense.  The Chiefs will have to bring in somebody to generate a pass rush. They had an NFL worst 10 Sacks last year.  How did that Jared Allen (14.5 Sacks) trade work out for them?  It’s not all bad news for the K.C. D though as they created 29 turnovers last year.   

KFFL Free Agent Tracker:

Pos Player Name FA Status Previous Team Current Team
WR Rod Gardner UFA Kansas City Chiefs Free Agent
WR Maurice Price RFA Kansas City Chiefs Free Agent
WR Jeff Webb RFA Kansas City Chiefs Free Agent
OT Adrian Jones UFA Kansas City Chiefs Free Agent
LB Pat Thomas UFA Kansas City Chiefs Free Agent
CB Tyron Brackenridge RFA Kansas City Chiefs Free Agent
SS Jon McGraw UFA Kansas City Chiefs Free Agent
FS Jarrad Page RFA Kansas City Chiefs Free Agent

Kansas City Chiefs Preview

3 September 2008

For the Chiefs to even remotely have a chance, Larry Johnson is going to have to return to form.  It’s that simple.  He is easily the best player on the Offensive side of the ball for the Chiefs when he is healthy.  Unfortunately his foot gave him fits last year.  He appears to be strong, and I don’t see as heavy a workload this year.  I expect Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles to get into the mix as well.  Aside from LJ, the Chiefs have an emerging star wideout in Dwayne Bowe and the best offensive Tight End in the history of the game in Tony Gonzalez.  Brodie Croyle will lead the charge, but if the season gets away from them, don’t be surprised if they turn to Tyler Thigpen.  Devard Darling left Baltimore, and is in line to start opposite Bowe.  He and Gonzo will draw a lot of attention so Darling and company should be able to operate quite freely.  The Chiefs drafted Offensive Lineman Branden Albert, who should hold down the Left Tackle spot.

Defensively the Chiefs will have to make due without Jared Allen.  They have weapons in Tamba Hali (7.5 Sacks) and rookie Glenn Dorsey.  They have some excellence at Linebacker in Derrick Johnson (94 Tackles, 4 Sacks, 2 INTs), Napoleon Harris (116 Tackles) and Donnie Edwards (104 Tackles).  Bernard Pollard (90 Tackles) and Jarrad Page (59 Tackles, 3 INTs) provide strength in the Safey positions.  Patrick Surtain and Rookie Brandon Flowers will hold down the Cornerback spots.

This is going to be another tough road for Kansas City.  The playoffs are out of the question.  7 Wins is not though.  That’s where I put them.

Fantasy-wise the Chiefs have three options.  Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, and Dwayne Bowe.  I don’t even want to hear about other Chiefs getting picked up.

Fantasy Football Out on a Limb , where I scour NFL rosters to select a player who I feel will outperform a higher profile player in that given week, is back. The last preseason game is garbage so I’ll just report on how I did in my preseason tune-up.

6 points for rushing or receiving TD
4 points for a passing TD
0.1 points per yard for rushing or receiving
0.05 points per passing yard. 

Brett Favre
over Aaron Rodgers +6
Aaron Rodgers 20.15 (14.15 actual plus six spotted points)
Brett Favre 5.5

Brett Favre let me down.  Now I know what it’s like to be a Packers fan these days.

Running Back
Larry Johnson
over Brian Westbrook
Brian Westbrook 5.8 (3.9 rushing, 1.9 receiving)
Larry Johnson 3.8 (3.6 rushing, 0.2 receiving)

LJ let me down.  It feels like 2007 all over again.

Wide Receiver
Brandon Marshall
over Randy Moss
Brandon Marshall 13.1 (7.1 receiving plus TD)
Randy Moss 0.1 (0.6 receiving, -0.5 rushing)
I was right on the money with this pick.  Marshall got loose on a 49 yard TD grab.  Moss basically did nothing.


Good thing it’s the preseason.  Again, the last preseason game is worthless so I won’t head out on a limb until Week 1.

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