NFL General

Fantasy Position by Position: Running-Back Breakdown

Anyone can analyze the quarterback position, mostly because youre usually only looking at one guy under a microscope. But take a look at the Oakland Raiders backfield, even for a second, and you have to start to wonder: Who is the starter, the third down back, and will it even matter?

That’s what happens when you have a sure fire talent, a couple of injury riddled busts, and a collection of all around solid talent at the position.

It’s not really about DO you have the talent, it’s what you do with it.

So, in doing my best from digging too deep in the cookie jar and trying to pretend like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ signing of Mewelde Moore will actually shake your fantasy football world up, even a little bit, here is my perspective on each team’s running back issues, by player, as insignificant as they may be.AFC

1. New York Jets: Thomas Jones v.s Leon Washington

Did anyone really expect big things from Jones in his first year in the Big Apple? No. And whether or not Jones finally takes off isn’t the issue. He’s not a touchdown king, and Leon Washington is just too good to not steal some more touches.

Verdict: Mid to late rounds

2. Buffalo Bills: Marshawn Lynch

Already in the top 20 and just entering his second season. The Bills felt so comfortable with him as the full time starter that they were ready to let Anthony Thomas mid-way through last season.

Verdict: second to 4th round

3. New England Patriots: Lawrence Maroney

Unless Corey Dillon unexpectedly comes back, the only other ball carriers you have to worry about are Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans. It’s a pretty safe bet, here. The only problem is Tom Brady is so good that they pass more than they run. Still, Maroney should hit pay dirt enough to warrant an early pick.

Verdict: third/fourth round

4. Miami Dolphins: Ronnie Brown v.s Ricky “Breakin my own bones” Williams

Ronnie Brown, pre-injury, was a force to be reckoned with. post-injury? We don’t know. I have a gut feeling, barring Ronnie Brown coming back and taking the league by storm, that Mary Jane’s biggest fan, Williams, could be a huge steal, even at the dried out bud age of 31.

Verdict: (Injury Risks) No earlier than 4th round/late round steals

5. Pittsburgh Steelers: Willie Parker

I don’t know why everyone jumps off the “Fast Willie” band wagon after one lousy broken leg. The guy can run, and before his low touchdown total last year, he was a fantasy football god. Don’t be scared off by Medwelde Moore or the speedster from Illinois. Parker is roaring back.

Verdict: Steal in 2nd to 3rd round.

6. Cincinnati Bengals: Rudi Johnson v.s Chris Perry v.s Kenny Watson

Looks like Kenny Irons and his bum knee are out. If Rudi Johnson can simply can back to doing what he’s best at, and that’s simply running through people, not around them, then everything will be gravy.

Verdict: 2nd to 3rd round

7. Cleveland Browns: Jamal Lewis

He isn’t facing any real competition, unless you’re counting age. The guy can still run, people, and he occasionally busts out huge fantasy outings. Is he consistent as he used to be? Not even close, but he’s worth drafting in the middle rounds.

Verdict: 3rd-5th round

8. Baltimore Ravens: Willis McGahee

Now that goal-line carry thief Musa Smith is gone, McGahee just might be able to emerge into a dominating role. Unless, of course, the fact that all three quarterbacks on the roster are inept, deters his rise to glory.

Verdict: 1st-3rd round (High risk-moderate reward)

9. Tennessee Titans: Lendale White v.s Chris Johnson v.s Chris Henry

The only reason why I mentioned the two Chris’s is because the Titans keep drafting guys at the position with insane speed, something White is lacking. So, conventional wisdom would see one of the two playing a large role, right? Even so, White is still a slightly elusive pounder who has looked solid lately.

Verdict: mid rounder

10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Fred “Fragile Freddy” Taylor v.s Maurice Jone-Drew

If history tells us anything, it tell us this: Fred Taylor can still run, and he’s no longer quite so fragile. It also tells us that you could start both of these Jags on any given week and benefit immensely.

Verdict: Jones-Drew is 2nd round, Taylor 3rd-5th

11. Indianapolis Colts: Joseph Addai

I just don’t want to hear Chris Berman’s “Live and Let Die” line anymore. Just, someone make it stop.

On a lighter note, Addai is a fantasy owners dream. He gets over 1200 total yards and knows how to score. If he can keep from getting knicked up he’ll be very much like Marshall Faulk.

Verdict: Sure fire 1st rounder

12. Houston Texans: Ahman “It’s my quad or hammy” Green v.s Chris Brown

Ahman Green is clearly slowing down, and that’s not even based on his inability to stay healthy. Chris Brown has the speed, but slightly lacks in every other necessary category to excel as a full time starter. You think these guys being on your roster is bad news for you? Talk to the Texans.

Verdict: Stay Away

13. San Diego Chargers: Ladainian Tomlinson v.s Jacob Hester

LT is still at the top of his game, and regardless of what many say, is the better of the two options when Adrian Peterson enters the conversation. Jacob Hester will assume Michael Turner’s former role, and actually will probably fair better, taking on the form of a goal-line runner with the ability to break outside occasionally.

Verdict: LT could be number one selection, Hester as a hand-cuff in late rounds

14. Denver Broncos: Selvin Young

Young thinks he’s running for 2,000 yards and Mike Shanahan isn’t even convinced fully that Young’s the starter. Releasing the proven veteran Travis Henry, however, convinces me enough that Selvin will become very popular in a few months. To quote Martha Stewart, “It’s a good thing”.

Verdict: 3rd to 5th round.

15. Kansas City Chiefs: Larry Johnson

Don’t even start talking about Kolby Smith. As far as Herman Edwards is concerned, especially with Brodie Croyle being under center, the Chiefs will call Johnson’s number early and often.

Verdict: (High risk-High reward) 1st-2nd round

16. Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden v.s Justin Fargas

With Fargas and Michael Bush and just about everyone else in the mix, McFadden is not a sure fire early round pick. And he is not by any means ready to be compared to Adrian Peterson until he gets the nod for full time action. His prospects, however, are tempting.

Verdict: Mid Rounder on McFadden, hand-cuff on Fargas


1. New York Giants: Brandon Jacobs

Ahmad Bradshaw’s speed and vision will have him collecting over 100 carries, but if Jacobs can stay healthy, he just might run over the entire league. People ask, why did the Giants let go of Ryan Grant if he was that good? It’s simply. They already had him in Jacobs.

Verdict: 3rd-4th round

2. Washington Redskins: Clinton Portis

Ladell Betts, going off of last season, will only become a factor if Portis misses extended time. Portis, all costume antics aside, is a sensational and electric outside runner who was being brutalized in a Joe Gibb’s inside pounding shceme. Coach Jim Zorn, thankfully, is finally coming to rescue his knees and use him properly.

Verdict: 1st-2nd round

3. Dallas Cowboys: Marion Barber

Felix Jones is fast. I get it. But Marion Barber is the star in Dallas. Write that down.

Verdict: 2nd-3rd round

4. Philadelphia Eagles: Brian Westbrook

The guy racks up yardage faster than Fast Eddie does winning pool tables. He can catch and run with the best of them, and even since taking on more carries, has not been slowed by injuries. Forgive and forget his fantasy mess-up last season. The guy is worth it.

Verdict: 1st round

5. Green Bay Packers: Ryan Grant

We don’t know quite fully the repercussions of Favre not being under center, or even if he is now, what it will do to other Packer players’ stocks. What we do know is that Grant was a beast on tape last season. But which guy is he? The one who rebounded from two fumbles and rushed for three scores against the Seahawks, or the guy who didn’t show up against the Giants?

Verdict: 2nd round

6. Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson

Yes, he got hurt last year. But it was a pretty significant injury and he pushed through it, showing he can play hurt. This will be his second run as “the guy”, and something tells me Eric Dickerson should be worried.

Verdict: 1st round

7. Chicago Bears: Matt Forte v.s Kevin Jones

At this point, I’d take KJ over Forte, but time, and pre-season will tell which of the two is the better fantasy option. As sexy as  Chicago Bear rusher can be, I’d pass on both unless available past the middle rounds. My reason? Cedric Benson.

Verdict: 5th-8th round

8. Detroit Lions: Kevin Smith v.s Brian Calhoun v.s Tatum Bell

I am assuming the guy with the experience, Bell, will start, but for how long? Calhoun is under-sizer, but filled with big-play capability, and Smith isn’t a game-breaker, but can flat out run with the ball. This is truly a running back by committee. Hands off.

Verdict: Stay Away/wait and see

9. Atlanta Falcons: Michael Turner v.s Jerious Norwood

Does anyone seriously expect Turner to run off with 300 carries his first year in Georgia? Hopefully, but unlikely. More unlikely since Norwood could take it home any time he touches the ball.

Verdict: Turner between 3rd and 5th, Norwood between 5th-7th

10. New Orleans Saints: Deuce McCallister v.s Reggie Bush

Bush isn’t just a runner, so his 2-D abilities make him a first round talent, especially if he ever reaches the height of his hype. Deuce, on the other hand, is a bruiser that can cause some serious damage if he can just stay on the field.

Verdict: Bush from 2nd-4th, and Deuce from 3rd-5th

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Carnell Williams v.s Earnest Graham

Williams thinks he can do the unthinkable and return from his drastic injuries. Earnest Graham, on the other hand, is looking at his 10 rushing touchdowns from last season and liking his prospects as the starter. On a team that has almost every star being 35 going on 100, I’d say stay away.

Verdict: Graham in middle to late rounds

12. Carolina Panthers: Deangelo Williams v.s Jonathan Stewart

Williams looks to finally crack 800 yards, now that Deshaun Foster is in Cali. And he just might do it, that is, if Stewart doesn’t wow the coaches in the pre-season.

Verdict: Williams in 3rd-4th round, Stewart in 5th-7th round

13. San Fransisco 49ers: Frank Gore v.s Deshaun Foster

The only question, outside of Alex Smith’s erratic development, the new edition of Mike Martz and his insane offense, Mike Nolan’s job status, the already sketchy offensive line even WITH Larry Brown, is how many carries will Foster steal from Gore?

Obviously, there are a lot of questions, and the Niners only have 16 games(I’m predicting)to answer them. Is Gore the next Marshaull Faulk? Possibly so.

Verdict: Gore 1st-2nd round, Foster as hand-cuff

14. Seattle Seahawks: Julius Jones v.s T.J Duckett

Gone are the days of the slow but elusive Shaun Alexander, and here are the days of the fast and vision-less Jones? Something tells me Mike Holmgren likes the slow pounders more than the dancing between the tackles showmen. Duckett just might be the guy.

Verdict: Both players in middle rounds

15. St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson

Jackson, barring another injury-riddled season from hell, just might be the best runner this coming year. A fun thought that will ultimately have nothing to do with his production, is that now fullback Brian Leonard is a sleeper pick with his red-zone touches and amazing catching ability out of the backfield. A starter, however, Leonard is not.

Verdict: Jackson in the 1st, Leonard as hand-cuff

16. Arizona Cardinals: Edgerrin James

The Edge has the edge over all other Arizona runners, and in a pass happy offense, will benefit when the offense stalls inside the 10 (which it will).

Verdict: 2nd-4th round

2 replies on “Fantasy Position by Position: Running-Back Breakdown”

It’s hard… not to second guess yourself when it comes to fantasy. A single injury can change the entire dynamic of your team. So I never try to think of who is the powerhouse, or who is the all-star.  It’s about consistencies for me. Who has played so many games without injury, and even if their numbers aren’t great I’ll still pick him up. But I’m out of my mind, so what I do is probably completely topsy-turvy from what should be done. Well Done!

true oh, I totally agree. there comes a point where analyzing breaks a line and steps into over-analyzing. You have to be careful, because injuries do happen, as well as unplanned suspensions and other things.

the main thing when drafting is to be very aware of balance. you need a deep team. a team with overall decent talent is much better than a team with two or three studs on it. because one of those studs go down, and your team sinks.

for instance, last season I had jason witten and kellen winslow as tight end, so I had two guys who I was able to draft in the middle rounds, yet they both ending up being top 10 at their position. that kind of depth can propel you to a championship, and it did for me, last year.

Thanks for reading.

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