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When I put together my early 2011 fantasy football running back rankings Peyton Hillis missed the cut. After 1654 total yards (1177 rushing, 477 receiving) and 13 touchdowns (11 rushing, 2 receiving) there are questions at the validity of my rankings. Well, I’m here to defend my rankings.
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Cleveland GM Tom Heckert admitted that Hillis received too many touches last year. After just 68 carries and 18 catches in his first two seasons, Hillis had 270 carries and 61 catches. His numbers suggest that the heavy workload led to Hillis wearing down. After 11 touchdowns in the first 11 games, he went scoreless in the Browns’ final five games. After averaging 116.6 total yards through the first 13 games, he averaged 46 over the final three games.
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If that decline doesn’t give you pause, you have more intestinal fortitude than I do.
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Let’s not forget that Montario Hardesty missed all of last year with a knee injury. Hardesty was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft with the notion that he would challenge for the starting gig. He injured his knee early and the rest is history.
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Reports suggest that  Hardesty’s knee rehab is on schedule and he shouldn’t miss any training camp when and if the lockout is lifted. If he is even close to 100 percent, he’ll cut into Hillis’ carries, which would jive with Heckert’s plans to lessen Peyton’s workload.
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It’s not that I dislike Hillis, but there are a lot of good backs this year. Arian Foster, AP, CJ2K, Jamaal Charles, Turner, Mendenhall, Run DMC, Rice, McCoy, and MJD. That’s ten backs that I think without question should be ranked ahead of Hillis. Throw in veterans Gore and S-Jax and you have 12. Shonn Green is expected to carry a heavier load. J-Stew could be operating with D-Will, which could make him shoot up the draft board. Matt Forte has a better track record of success.
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Maybe Green or Forte could be bumped for Hillis, but they don’t give me a bad feeling like Hillis does.
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Finally, we have to discuss the elephant in the room. I am generally not a superstitious person, but Hillis is on the Madden cover. While I would not necessarily let that affect my drafting decision, you are tempting fate when you take the bruising running back.
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Where do you rank Peyton Hillis?
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This week’s topic
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What top 15 running back do you feel is poised for a fall?
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My response:
Even before winning the Madden NFL 12 cover contest, I was down on Peyton Hillis. Now that he also has the Madden Curse to deal with, that pretty much sealed his fate for me. The likelihood that he will be available when I am comfortable drafting him is razor thin.
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Browns GM Tom Heckert admitted that the Browns overused Hillis last year. There is little chance he gets as many touches this year. Montario Hardesty should be fully recovered from his ACL surgery, which will put them both smack dab in the middle of a RBBC. Hardesty was supposed to be the featured back before suffering the injury. Obviously Hillis played his way into a healthy workload, but he will have to share.
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As Colt McCoy becomes more comfortable in the offense, I anticipate the Browns attempting more than the 478 passes they did last year, which could also cut into the workload.
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Hillis finished the season averaging 35.7 rushing yards in his last three games and 54.4 in his last five. After scoring 13 touchdowns (11 rushing) in his first 11 games, he failed to score in his final five. Like I said, the writing was on the wall before the Madden cover. Do you really want to test the Madden Curse with an early draft pick?


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Peyton Hillis won the Madden NFL 12 cover vote making the bruising running back  this year’s Madden cover boy. He was an improbable winner, taking down the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Drew Brees, and Adrian Peterson. Hopefully he can avoid the dreaded Madden Curse.


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EA Sports and ESPN are teaming up to let you pick the cover of Madden NFL 12. We’re down to the finals, with voiting open through Sunday. Go to ESPN to vote. You can vote every day until the contest ends.
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The championship pits (pun intended) Peyton Hillis against Michael Vick.  I’m sure dog lovers and Madden Curse believers will pull for Vick. I too am voting for Vick, but not because I want him to get hurt. He was clearly the better player last year. Personally I think it should have been Aaron Rodgers, but since he’s eliminated I’m going with #7.


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Having fun with the SMW Clothing t-shirt contests? Good, because the fine people over there are hooking you up with another chance to add to your wardrobe.
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For this week’s contest, you have to guess, without going over, how many total yards Cleveland running back Peyton Hills will get against Buffalo on Sunday. For the record, he’s averaging 116.5 total yards per game with a high of 220 yards and a low of 61.
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The Bills are one of the worst defenses in the league allowing more rushing yards (170.9 per game) than any other ream in the league.
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So leave a comment with your best guess and be sure to check out SMW Clothing.

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?


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