Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 24 Running Backs by ADP

Many a fantasy football site will give you rankings. Most of the time, that’s enough for you to make your decisions when drafting a fantasy team, but I like to add a little depth to my rankings by incorporating the “players to avoid” tag.

You see, not every player is desirable, even if they are the No. 5-ranked running back on the board. Some bad situations may not compel experts to rank a player lower, and at times, there’s no logical reason behind disliking a player other than that icky feeling you get when he’s the next player in your rankings. Regardless, we still have every right to avoid a guy in the draft.

If I had only listened to that inner “pick or pass” feeling when it came time for me to make my first round selection in 2007, I might have never taken Larry Johnson with a mid-first-round pick … and that would have made all the difference.

For this first addition of “pick or pass,” I gathered the top 24 running backs ranked by average draft position (ADP) over at Fantasy Football Calculator to break down. The rankings were current as of July 15, 2009. If you have any more reservations about players that I don’t touch on here or just find yourself wanting to share your agreement, please tell me about your concerns and tips in the comments.

Pick or Pass: Top 24 Running Backs as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings – ADP: 1.01 – PICK
So what if he is the unanimous No. 1 running back? Some guys still don’t love him first overall. No one says you have to take him — even if you league boos (and they will). Despite my personal distrust of Peterson, I would “pick” Peterson at the No. 1 because of his explosive potential and the huge tradebait he becomes if you want to do a little preseason maneuvering before the first game of the season. You can’t go wrong with the player everyone expects to be the best, right?

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars – ADP: 1.03 – PICK
Everybody loves the bowling-ball receiving back from the Jacksonville Jaguars. While I dislike him here at the No. 2 spot, he’s still a “pick” for me somewhere in the top five. Unless the offensive line pulls another Humpty Dumpty routine, Jones-Drew should have all the chances in the world to put up RB1-worthy stats. Then again, if you’re not a Jacksonville fan … you may hold off on Jones-Drew at the No. 2 because we all know he’ll still share the rock with Greg Jones this season, even if it’s not as much as he shared it with Fred Taylor.

3. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons – ADP: 1.03 – PICK
He’s just barely a “pick” because he’s such a safe choice. Yes, his schedule is tougher. Yes, he ran many, many times last season. Yes, his quarterback’s other weapons are improved this season, but look again at how many chances Michael Turner had near the goal line last year. Turner can only benefit from more movement up and down the field, so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on him anywhere in the top five.

4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears –   ADP: 1.04 – PICK
The little rookie back that could last season, Forte was the definition of consistent. If he didn’t get a touchdown, he got 100+ yards — and he always got 100+ yards. Jay Cutler under center should shake things up, but much like Turner, making the weapons more dangerous only makes me like Forte more. He’s a “pick” anywhere in the top five as well.

5. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams – ADP: 1.06 – PASS
Ah, the first “pass” of the running back class rears its ugly head at No. 5. Steven Jackson is one of the most talented backs in the league, and the Rams plan to make him a workhorse this season. Still, I’m just not feeling his health and the team play in St. Louis. The Rams have very little receiver talent, a banged-up veteran at quarterback in Bulger and not much to make opposing defenses look at anyone but … you guessed it … Jackson. He may get plenty of carries and quite a few yards, but I’ll “pass.”

6. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers – ADP: 1.08 – PASS
Sermons have been written on why LaDainian Tomlinson faded last season and how much you need to believe in him this year, but they’re all blasphemy, my friend. If it looks like the end of his career and it talks like the end of his career, it’s probably a duck … and perhaps I missed something in the argument I was trying to make there. Here’s the point: he’s aging, Darren Sproles is franchise-tagged and looking to impress his way out of San Diego and the Chargers window for a Super Bowl victory is closing faster than Tom Brady can buy new flower boxes. If L.T. stays healthy for the entire season, he’s likely to put up numbers close to his old averages, but this high in the draft, I’d still “pass.”

7. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – ADP: 1.08 – PICK
The reason you’d pass on a guy like Steven Jackson or L.T. is right here at No. 7. Chris Johnson has the speed to burn you, and the team to grind you into the ground. I’m not scared of LenDale White unless I’m covered in donut glaze. Johnson is just the kind of young running back in a run-oriented offense that I would want to lead me into battle each week — fantasy battle, that is. I’d pick him before Jackson, L.T. or DeAngelo Williams.

8. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers – ADP: 1.11 – PASS
“Pass, pass, pass.” I went into more detail about how painful DeAngelo’s second season as a starter could be when I compared him to Michael Turner in Truth or Fiction. Here’s the short version: a better Jonathan Stewart means fewer carries to go around, a tougher schedule means it’ll be more difficult to score touchdowns and a weaker offensive line means less holes to run through. I’ll “pass” on Williams this season because he’s just not worth the risk.

9. Steve Slaton, Houston Texans – ADP: 1.11 – PICK
Slaton had a solid amount of carries close to the red zone just as Michael Turner did last season, but Slaton was basically the only running back left standing in Houston for most of the season. With bigger backs like Chris Brown and the new guy, Jeremiah Johnson, around, he may lose those touches, but he won’t lose that speed that kept him on the field last season. Slaton was one of the best surprises of 2008, and I’d “pick” him again in 2009.

10. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers – ADP: 2.01 – PICK
It’s all a bit of a toss up when it comes to the 49ers. All those words from the coaches about a running-based offense is great, but I want to make sure they’re actually going to put points on the board this season. Gore should tote the rock without too much sharing, and unlike the Rams and Steven Jackson, the 49ers should have enough other weapons to make Gore productive. I’d “pick” him.

11. Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles – ADP: 2.04 – PASS
Westy’s been an injury concern for several seasons, but this year, I might actually count that against him. His offseason surgeries and the addition of LeSean McCoy are just enough to make me want to hold off on him this year. I’d take him as a mid-range RB2, but I’ll “pass” here with bigger fish still left in the sea.

12. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants – ADP: 2.05 – PICK
If the word “pick” could sound more intimidating and bulky, I would use it here. Jacobs is a quality pick for the second round. Without Derrick Ward, he should have more yardage than he did last season. Regardless, we know he scores touchdowns. Without Plaxico Burress, one can only hope that the Giants forget how to do anything but run this season.

13. Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins – ADP: 2.07 – PICK
Portis took his shots last season and still came out on the other side. I’m not exactly sure how he managed to play through all his injuries, but the man is consistent — one of the most consistent at his position over the years. I like him a tad less this season just because of his workload, even though I don’t think that it will slow his productivity. What does concern me is the team around him coming into this season. Jason Campbell is in his “make or break” year in Washington after all the trade talks this offseason, and there’s talk of Colt Brennan getting a shot before season’s end if Campbell can’t prove his worth. That spells a hard year for Portis, and it’s just enough to tempt me to take Barber instead. Portis still deserves a “pick.”

14. Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys – ADP: 2.11 – PICK
The touchdown machine in Dallas runs only for this man. Barber could be in line for more this season if the Cowboys move towards a more run-focused attack. Even if they don’t, the running game has always made Barber productive. Normally a first round back in the parts where I draft (Texas), I see no reason not to make him a “pick.”

15. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins – ADP: 3.04 – PASS
For being the quarterback in the Wildcat and the “starting” running back for Miami, I expected more from Ronnie Brown last season. By the end of 2008, he was practically worthless. Ricky Williams is still around to demand some carries, and now there is talk of letting Patrick Cobbs get more touches. I just don’t feel Brown here in the second/third round. I like my starting two running backs to be dependable. Sorry, Brown, I’ll “pass.”

16. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 3.06 – PICK
I’m surprised to see Thomas trending this high in ADP since most rankings project him as a fourth-round acquisition. He’s a quality running back and deserving of the ranking … but really? No. 16 at running back? With the scoreboard the Saints put together and the struggles of Reggie Bush, I don’t expect Thomas to disappoint. He’ll be worth this “pick.”

17. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers – ADP: 3.09 – PICK
Oh, how low the mighty have fallen. Grant was thought of as a top-10 with upside that could make him a top-five last season. Then injury struck. Grant’s still high on my list, and I’ll give him credit for finishing strong in 2008. I’ll “pick” him here and consider him better than the likes of Ronnie Brown.

18. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions – ADP: 3.11 – PASS
This is it! This is Kevin’s year to carry the rock. Can’t you hear the screams right this moment? If Matthew Stafford gets the nod, the Lions are definitely going to be running the ball this season, but I haven’t become a Smith believer just yet. That doesn’t mean he won’t blow up this year, but it does mean I’m willing to take my chances elsewhere. The move to a new style of running offense, away from what Smith is used to, doesn’t make me feel good about his chances this season. “Pass.”

19. Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills – ADP: 4.05 – PICK
Suspension or not, Lynch is one of the grinding backs in this league. No. 19 is still a little rich for my tastes with those games missed at the beginning of the season, and Fred Jackson has a great deal more upward mobility as the guy who will start those games and contribute all season. But Lynch is the guy in Buffalo, and with an improved offensive attack — even if their O-line has taken a step back — he’s worthy of a “pick.”

20. Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 4.06 – PASS
He’s a better receiver than a running back, so unless you have a sucker who would trade you a real gem in a package for this circus show, I’d “pass” outside of PPR leagues. I am not convinced he can stay healthy enough to fill the role of a running back, and as a gimmick player, his value is limited. But if he falls into a bargain round, I can’t say I would still refuse him.

21. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos – ADP: 4.10 – PASS
I’m not a believer in the new Denver coach, and I’m not a fan of rookie running backs when they are accompanied by a real pack — and I do mean “pack” — of veterans. Even if Moreno wins the starting job, how much of it will he win? I’d rather take the “wait and see” approach with KnowMo. (Does anyone call him “KnowMo” now? Because I really want to now … I won’t pick him “KnowMo.”)

22. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – ADP: 4.12 – PICK
He didn’t get his shot last season with all the injury trouble and that dastardly Justin Fargas, but with a season under his belt, I’d “pick” him to earn his place among the high-performing rookies from last season. No one likes to fall behind, and McFadden has plenty of ground to make up.

23. Derrick Ward, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – ADP: 5.02 – PICK
All alone in Tampa Bay with no “Earth” or “Fire” for his “Wind,” Ward should have plenty of opportunities to show why the Giants used him as much as they did last season. Ward is a “pick,” even if he ends up getting a “change of pace” tag and yields red zone chances to Earnest Graham. He’ll earn his time just like he did with Brandon Jacobs.

24. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts – ADP: 5.03 – PICK
From top-five to No. 24? Even with rookie Donald Brown breathing down his neck, I have no fear in taking Addai in the third round and beyond. The Colts’ offensive line was pretty terrible last season without Jeff Saturday. A healthy Peyton and a healthy Saturday make for a good Sunday for Addai. He’s a “pick” in my book.

Agree with my picks and passes or disagree? The comments are yours.

A Six-pack of Quarterbacks to Remember in 2009 for Dynasty Teams, Keepers and Sleepers

As the NFL draft approaches, we all get a little antsy for football season to start. We start salivating over the latest and greatest rookie talent and their the flashy 40-yard dash times, and we forget about all the players from last year’s draft, the ones we talked up to our buddies every Saturday watching college football, the guys that were going to make our fantasy team as a sleeper pick or a bench-rider on our dynasty squad.

Before you start dropping them on your team to pick up the Chris “Beanie” Wells of the world, maybe you should consider all those good times you still might have…

Now is not the time to forget the players that everyone loved last offseason. They’re still on NFL rosters, and some of them are moving ever closer to an impact role. Even though they may look like last year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover — and hey, that’s not too bad looking — you shouldn’t stop watching them.

Before you clear a spot for Matthew Stafford, consider these quarterbacks who could be impact players in 2009 or 2010.

Chad Henne – Miami Dolphins
While not flashy, Henne has the admiration of the Bill Parcells-led Dolphins, and as soon as Chad Pennington decides to get away from the sticky beach weather in Florida or Parcells decides he needs to take a seat on the bench, Henne is the favorite to be the starting quarterback. Current rumors have him set to go in 2010. One can only hope the Dolphins have developed receivers by then.

Brett Ratliff – New York Jets
Kellen Clemens isn’t scaring anyone in New York except his agent — a 59.3 quarterback rating will do that. The pressure of being an NFL starting quarterback didn’t suit him too well when he got the chance pre-Favre, and the door is standing open for Brett Ratliff to jump into a starting job. Wouldn’t it be fitting for both starting quarterbacks who replace Brett Favre to come from Chico and Butte? [See Rodgers, Aaron]

Matt Moore – Carolina Panthers
One of the most promising backup quarterbacks in the game, Moore showed poise when he took the field in relief of Jake Delhomme and David Carr in 2007. He sits behind Jake Delhomme this season with no Carr in sight. Delhomme could easily lose his job in 2009 if he is as sloppy with the football as he was in his playoff game against the Cardinals, and the Panthers, while supporting him as the starter, haven’t moved to extend his contract yet. All eyes are on Moore to steal the show — as long as the Panthers don’t surprise us in the draft.

Josh Johnson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Johnson has the skills and the intangibles to match. Best of all, the opportunity is there as the Bucs roll into this season with Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich competing for the starting job. Footballguys.com’s The Audible brought Johnson to my attention before the 2008 draft, and those guys know their rookies. Before being drafted, Johnson was named the offensive MVP of the 2008 East-West Shrine Game and excelled at the NFL Combine, where he recorded the best 40-yard dash (4.55), broad jump and vertical jump among quarterbacks. If Leftwich struggles in the starting role in 2009, Johnson could come along quickly.

You don’t have to be young to be worth watching this season — so says the cougar motto — but these potential studs could find new life depending on where they rank after training camps.

Sage Rosenfels – Minnesota Vikings
Rosenfels might be overlooked since he’s no new kid on the block, but he can still play with the best of them as long as a helicopter spin is involved. Rosenfels was considered one of the best backups in the league with the Houston Texans, and his arm gave the team plenty of chances to win. Captain Turnover’s move to the Vikings this offseason will probably allow him to win the starting job over Tarvaris Jackson, and his daring feats with the football might be just what Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice need to be productive.

Vince Young – Tennessee Titans
Kerry Collins may be the Susan Boyle of the NFL, but he can’t last forever. Despite his strong showing in 2008, the Titans are unlikely to get across the hump in the AFC unless they somehow unleash the true talents of Vince Young. Whether he gets his chance with the Titans as a starter or specialty weapon or he moves to another team, VY will be an impact player if he regains the confidence he had at Texas. With the right coaching, Young should be productive when combined with some emerging receivers. While you might take him off your draft board for now, don’t let him stray too far.

And don’t forget…

In the incubator: Dennis Dixon (Pittsburgh Steelers), Kevin Kolb (Philadelphia Eagles), Colt Brennan (Washington Redskins), Matt Leinart (Arizona Cardinals)

[H/T and thanks to @kennethlim and @AboveAverageJoe for suggesting additional QBs]

And the Heisman goes to…

This year’s Heisman chase is coming down to what looks like a two-man race. Most pundits have either Tim Tebow of Florida or Darren McFadden of Arkansas as the eventual winner. In their eyes, these are the only two players worthy of such an award. Making use of a trite and overused saying, especially if you have played NCAA ’02 through ’08, “Not so fast my friend.”

I’m not saying that Tebow or McFadden shouldn’t win the award; I’m merely stating that other candidates should be looked at as well. Here is a list of some of the candidates that are or should be up for the award.

THE SHOE-INS

Tim Tebow: The Cannonball

If there is one thing that you can’t ignore about Tim Tebow, it’s the numbers: 29 passing touchdowns, 22 rushing touchdowns. That will grab anyone’s attention, especially the voters. There is just one number I can’t ignore: 3, as in 3 losses. I know this has been a crazy year and all, but it’s hard for me to say that someone is a Heisman winner when his team is 9-3.

Let’s look at those losses:

  • Auburn: 1 rushing TD, 1 passing TD, 1 INT
  • LSU: 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, 1 INT
  • Georgia: 1 passing TD, 2 rushing TDs (-15 yard rushing)

Tebow did not play exceptionally well in any of those games. I know they were tough games, but that is when the Heisman winner is supposed to shine.

Lets take a look at the rushing touchdowns. I know he is being praised for having 22 rushing touchdowns, but let’s look at the numbers. Eighty percent (16/20) of these rushing TDs were distances of 5 yards or less. If Florida used a fullback, he would be getting most of these carries. Only two of his touchdowns were plays of 15 yards. When I see Tebow, I think of a cannonball that was just shot out of the 1st and 2 from the goal cannon.

Heisman-Tim Tebow
Ready…Aim…Touchdown!

I’m not trying to take away from the fact that he put up amazing TD numbers because he did. I just think that the voters need to recognize that they all weren’t amazingly difficult touchdowns. All in all, Tebow will either be first or second in the voting, and deservedly so, but other candidates should not be brushed aside because of it.

Darren McFadden: The Quarterback?

Next, there is Darren McFadden. The Pro. The Prospect. The Future. These are all things I hear about McFadden. He is being touted as the most NFL-ready running back this year and rightfully so. I believe he can be as productive as Adrian Peterson at the next level.

All that behind us, the Heisman should go to the best college player of the year. McFadden had an outstanding year, but lead his team to an 8-4 record. Usually, the quarterback is the leader of the team, but hell, McFadden played quarterback half of the time, so he should shoulder some of the blame.

During Arkansas’ four losses, McFadden scored 3 times. Two of the losses he was held scoreless. For someone to be considered the best, I believe he should perform on the biggest stage and perform well. Not scoring when it is absolutely crucial is a big no no. I do give props to McFadden for playing some quarterback during the LSU victory. I also give props to McFadden for living in Arkansas for three years–that is worthy of a Heisman in its self. While McFadden was an outstanding back and will be an excellent pro, I do not believe that he was the best college back this year. We’ll talk about that back later.

Heisman-Darren McFadden
Arkansas, home of Heisman hopefuls…and pigs, that’s about it

THE REST OF THE PACK

Now these guys in the rest of the pack won’t be scrutinized as hard seeing as they are not being actively considered as the front runners in the race. These are players that I feel should get some recognition for having good years.

Graham Harrell, Paul Smith, Colt Brennan: The Three Headed Scoring Machine

What do most fans of college football want to see? The answer isn’t a foot race between Mark Mangino and his chins; the answer is touchdowns. Where else are you going to find touchdown than the high-octane offenses featuring Graham Harrell, Colt Brennan and Paul Smith. Let’s take a look at the stats of these guys.

  • Graham Harrell [QB Texas Tech]:
    45 TD (Rank:1), 5,298 yds (Rank:1)
  • Paul Smith [QB Tulsa]:
    42 TD (Rank:2), 4,753 yds (Rank:2), 12 Rushing TDs
  • Colt Brennan [QB Hawaii]:
    38 TD (Rank:3), 4,174 yds (Rank:4)

Heisman-Graham Harrell, Colt Brennan, Paul Smith
And to the right, you will see ZERO Heisman votes

I know you can’t go off of numbers alone, but these numbers are incredible. All of these quarterbacks have also put up similar or better records to the two main contenders. Because of these high-flying offenses, these players are labeled as system quarterback and always will be labeled that way. It’s an easy way for the Heisman voters to dismiss their successful seasons without feeling bad about it. Maybe one of these quarterbacks will just have to go undefeated…Oh wait, sorry Colt.

Chase Daniel: The Mighty Midget

Oh Chase Daniel, how mighty you were two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, you were in the drivers seat for the Heisman, and all you needed was a victory over Oklahoma. How soon everyone forgets about that.

Chase Daniel had a magnificent season throwing for 33 TDs and leading his team to the Big XII championship game, something neither Tebow nor McFadden did. Too bad he had to run into OU and Sam Bradford, who will be in the Heisman discussion soon enough. While Daniel didn’t put up in-your-face numbers, he still led his team to victory week after week while being the best quarterback on the best team (for one week). Daniel did all of this while barely being able to see over the offensive line and standing in at 5 foot 3 inches.

Heisman-Chase Daniels
I can see your ass from here

While he will no doubt get an invite because of the late season hype, he will not come close to sniffing the jocks of the big two. I say to Chase, “maybe next year.” But then again, Tebow may win his second Heisman, so good luck with that.

Kevin Smith: Barry Who?

Now let’s take a look at my choice for the 2007 Heisman award.

  • Most rushing yards in the NCAA, check.
  • Leads nation in scoring and touchdowns scored, check.
  • Led team to 10 wins and conference championship, check.

What else do you want from a Heisman winner? What most people don’t realize is that Kevin Smith has rushed for 2,448 yards. What most people also don’t realize is that 2, 448 yards is the SECOND most all time for yards in a season, behind the elusive one-year-wonder Barry Sanders. In fact, Kevin Smith is 181 yards away from breaking Sander’s single season mark. One big bowl game for Kevin Smith, and he breaks it.

He will not be invited to the ceremony, and that is a shame. The best college football player this year has to wait until next year, but I doubt he will stick around to get snubbed again.

Heisman-Kevin Smith
Hey Barry, if you sell your Heisman like OJ, let me know.