Fantasy Football Preview: Run Baby Run


If you want to compete in your league, in almost any league type, you have to run baby.  That means you need to draft RB’s often and early.  Once the top backs are gone, your drafting backups.  I see more often than not, FF’ers going WR and QB early then struggling later to find a starting RB.  Yes, they do go that quickly.  If your in a league that offers more points to WR’s and QB’s, then by all means go for them, but even then there is a premium on a solid RB corp.

Most FF rosters employ 2 starting RB’s.  Regardless of whether you start 2 or more, your round 1 target should be RB.

The top RB’s are simple.  Ladanian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson.  After that, the question marks enter the equation.  Is Brian Westbrook going to stay healthy?  Has KC done enough for their Oline to get Larry Johnson the yardage?  Is Marion Barber going to take over completely in Dallas or will Rookie Felix Jones steal his touches?  It’s all relevant the second you realize your not drafting 1 or 2.  I could sit here and give you my thoughts on each of the RB’s, but instead, I asked for the opinions of a few others who cover their respective teams.  So let’s see what they have to say about a few of the FF RB’s.

Vince VitaleRamblinFanSteven Jackson

"This is a no brainer. Steven is considered a top 10 draft pick in all fantasy leagues. In 2007 while only playing 12 games behind an awful offensive line Jackson still managed 1273 total yards. Projected through 16 games that is 1697 total yards. Orlando Pace, who only played one half of football last year, should be healthy for the start of training camp. In addition the Rams grabbed Jacob Bell as their top pick up and they now have Al Saunders as their offensive coordinator. Saunders is the man who has been the offensive coordinator behind the career years of Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. Look for Jackson to catch a ton more balls than the 38 he was able to grab in 07. Jackson is in the last year of his contract and is going to go out and have a huge year. I see Jackson putting up 2000 total yards with at least 10 total touchdowns."

While I personally do not believe that Jackson will put up 2000 total yards this season, I can’t argue with his production.  The problem with Jackson is he is not a glamour pick.

LTBD (likely to be drafted) – Round 1 top 5

JeanneBlackandTealMaurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor

"If you’re looking for a running back, pick up Maurice Jones-Drew. He doesn’t necessarily get more touches than Freddy T but he does get more touchdowns. That’s because of the types of running backs they are. Fred will get you yardage but he can’t sneak through defensive lines like Mojo can. The only times Fred gets touchdowns is when they give him the ball on the 30 yard line and he just passes every defensive player."

Obviously these are not first round RB’s.  One or the other should have a spot on your roster.  Drew is a very capable RB who can put up very good numbers.  As Taylor ages, his production and carries will slip into Drew’s lap.  While I would not nescessarily say that Taylor would be a good back-up on your roster, he would be a good back-up if you have Drew.

LTBD – Drew – Round 3/4  Taylor – after round 8

John WhiteCatCraveDeangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart

"DeAngelo Williams was all set to be the feature back.  Not sofast.  With the team drafting Jonathan Stewart, that all changed.  The season may begin with Williams lined up as the starter.  Don’t expect that to last.  This has the feeling of a running back by committee. But the smart money is on Stewart taking over the starting role by midseason.  However coach Fox lines them up, there is a solid potential for both runners to end the season with 800 yards or better.  I’m predicting Stewart with the greater number of TD’s though."

Jonathan Stewart to me has the most upside of the two.  I would likely rate him higher as I think by years end, when fantasy football starts to really count, Stewart will be the go to guy.  That does not mean that Williams has no value.  He does, in deeper leagues.  If your stuck later in the draft with needing a back and Williams is there, it will be a good selection.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Williams will fall that far.

LTBD – DeAngelo Williams – round 7 or later  Jonathan Stewart – Round 5

Dave WagnerRiggosRagClinton Portis

"Of course, the whole offense is powered by Clinton Portis.  He was a top ten fantasy back (even though he is occasionally dinged) in the conservative Joe Gibbs offense.  Coach Zorn has expressed on multiple occasions that he expects to use Portis much more aggressively, especially in the passing game.  He has stated that he expects Portis to break 2500 combined yards.  That seems optimistic even for a Redskins fan like me, but expect his value to be boosted, especially in leagues that give points for receptions. Look for 1200 yards rushing and 500-700 yards receiving."

To me the problem with Portis is his availability.  He still has an injury stigma about him and that to me creates a problem.  Rarely will I draft Portis for my team.  In fact, if given the choice between Portis or a top 2 QB, I might lean toward the QB.

LTBD – Round 1 Top 10

Adam Best ArrowheadAddict Larry Johnson, Kolby Smith, Jamal Charles

"RB Jamal Charles is the handcuff you want for Larry Johnson, not utility back Kolby Smith. If L.J. goes down again (please, God, no), then Charles could put up some really decent numbers."

Although brief in content, the reality is that is good information to have.  LJ is a first round draft pick but is coming off an injury filled season and there are some question marks with the Oline mainly due to youth.  The Oline should be improved and that should keep LJ open in the lanes…if he stays healthy.

LTBD – Larry Johson – Round 1 Top 12, Jamal Charles and Kolby Smith – late rounds (unless you draft Johson then get at least one when you can)

IanInsidetheIgglesBrian Westbrook

"In 2007 Brian Westbrook had a tremendous season. He once again proved his doubters wrong by carrying a huge load, and being a complete every down back that many said he was not capable of doing. Westbrook racked up 2,104 total yards, and reached the endzone 12 times. Brian may have killed some of you in the playoffs when he took one for the team, and fell down at the one yard line against Dallas. That shouldn’t stop you from confidently drafting Westbrook in 2008. At 28 years old he is entering the prime of his career, and will once again be the focal point of the Eagles offense. Westbrook has reached elite status, and should never leave your starting lineup unless it is the bye week."

Westbrook is a no brainer.  He is a production monster and in terms of fantasy football, he is one of the few backs who consistently gets the ball through the air, adding to his value in reception leagues.

LTBD – Round 1 top 4

DJLombardiAveRyan Grant

The retirement of Favre also causes the Packers to shift more to a run
team.  The emergence of Ryan Grant has shot him up draftboards.  I
have even seen him as a top ten pick.  He would be quite the risk, as
no one knows what they are going to get from him.  If he performs,
you’ll look like a genius.  If he doesn’t perform, then I’m sorry.
Another thing to watch is that head coach Mike McCarthy has said that
he favors the running back by committee approach.  With the offseason
improvement of Brandon Jackson and the potential of DeShawn Wynn,
Grant’s carries will go down a little bit.  Watch out for Jackson
especially.  He could be a great late-round pickup for your team.

I tend to agree here.  Grant proved he can be a very good RB in this league, the question is can he step up without Brett Favre leading the offense?  More a reflection on the ability of Rodgers than anything else.  While the back-ups may take a few carries away from Grant, most teams in the NFL use a 2 back system these days and the primary RB gets his numbers.  If you get Grant, grab one of the back-ups for insurance to injury.  Brandon Jackson is the smart bet.

LTBD – Round 2

BobBearGogglesonMatt Forte

The big decision on draft day will be handling Matt Forte.  It’s no
longer a secret that he will be the Bears starting running back.  He
can run and he can catch so he has the opportunity to rack up yards
and fantasy points without much competition at his position.  It’s
never a good idea to draft a rookie too early, but it’s also hard to
ignore a potential fantasy stud that will get at least 20 touches a
game on a team with an inconsistent passing game.  He’ll likely be the
player that no one mentions in the draft room but everyone has queued
on their draft board.  The question is how long can you play chicken
before you grab him.

As Bob said, how long can you play chicken?  There is no secret with Forte only what will he do at the NFL level?  He is the starting RB without question and as such holds value.  The question of course is will he be that Adrian Peterson type stud or another RB bust?  Either way he is worth the risk, but I should tell you, he should not be your primary RB.  Drafting him as your number 2 or 3 would be perfect.

LTBD – Hard to say but no sooner than round 3


First Round Backs:  Joseph Addai, Marion Barber, Frank Gore

Second Round Backs:  Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch, Jamal Lewis,

Third Round Backs:  Ronnie Brown, Brandon Jacobs, Michael Turner

Injury watchWillie Parker – Pittsburgh:  Parker suffered a late season knee injury and although some reports say he will be healthy, drafting rookie Rashard Mendenhall would be prudent to back up your investment

My RB Sleeper Pick – Ryan Torain – Denver  Round 12 – end of draft. 

Torain is a very good prospect in the Denver system.  With the release of Travis Henry, the Denver starter Selvin Young will be looking over his shoulder.  If Young falters, Torain will step in as Shannahan doesn’t play around with his running game.  If you can get him, take him late and let his sit and see what shakes out early in the season.  That late you can afford to drop him if nescessary.