Dude… Matt Forte

Another leaving us speechless “Dude” award has to go out to Matt Forte this week.

The rookie RB laid down a breakout performance in his first NFL start and had a long run against the Colts defense. Highlights in the video.

Something tells me that the smart jackasses people who grabbed Matt Forte late in their drafts may have more than just a bye week fill on their hands. Full disclosure: I own Matt Forte in one league.

Frankly, I am completely and utterly satisfied with sitting Ryan Grant this week for Matt Forte. Good work, buddy. Good work.

This game wasn’t quite the spectacular opening to the new stadium that the Colts had envisioned, but of course, I’m just guessing.

Oh, and the “Dude” award is for the 50-yard TD run — as if you didn’t know. Not quite as bruising as Brandon Jacobs, but the shake-and-bake is dirty in its own way.

Q&A QB: Which Rookie Running Backs Are Worth Drafting?

Q&A QB is a head-smacking, hard-hitting, name-taking question and answer series where Jacob assists readers and his Twitter followers in perfecting their draft strategy and winning their league. If you’d like to be featured in a future Q&A QB post, send Jacob an email or tweet him (whatever that means).

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on some of the rookie running backs in the later rounds?

I have a feeling someone in my league will jump on the McFadden bandwagon and take him second or third round. I’m not sold on him that high, but what about Matt Forte in the later rounds (sixth or seventh)? Maybe Jonathan Stewart and Rashard Mendenhall? A sleeper pick I am looking at for the tenth or eleventh round is Ray Rice. What are your thoughts on him?

To answer this question, let’s just break down all the rookie RBs worth drafting. Rankings are at the bottom for those of you who like to cheat.

Darren McFadden RB Oakland Raiders

Darren McFadden is going earlier than I think he deserves. He’s not going to put up Adrian Peterson numbers this year. I think fourth round is really the best round to snag him in for value. Any sooner than that is expecting more than you are going to get.

I am not a fan of the crowded backfield in Oakland. He will eventually be the starting running back there, but the Raider offense is still very weak and unproven in the passing game. They will lean heavily on their running game and get McFadden decent numbers with a few exceptional performances. He won’t be breaking any rookie records.

In the second round, let someone else spend a high pick on him. Solid running backs that will out produce him for 2008 are still available there. You can find a better RB2. Make McFadden a FLEX or RB3.

Matt Forte RB Chicago Bears

Matt Forte is a reliable pick. He won’t put up any crazy stat weeks, but he should be good for some consistent yardage and a few scores.

He’s a nice pick because he is actually going at his value.

There is a slight scare now that Kevin Jones has returned from his injury that he will take Forte’s job away, but I think the Bears still want to put the ball in Forte’s hands as their back of the future. Even if they share time, I think I like the chances for Forte to be successful.

You can get Forte in the later rounds, and if he does end up producing more than consistent yardage and the occasional score, he’s has great value there.

Jonathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers

I really Jonathan Stewart this year, but no one is sure whether he will get the start in Carolina.

Last season, Carolina screwed everyone by starting DeShaun Foster after consensus opinion was that DeAngelo Williams would have won the role. It could happen again with Stewart and Williams.

Depending upon who you ask, Carolina has one of the easiest rushing schedules in 2008. If you can get Stewart in the fifth round and DeAngelo Williams in the sixth or seventh, the pair creates a strong RB2 for any fantasy team.

If you draft Stewart in the fifth round or so, just make sure you get Williams or another solid start in case Stewart doesn’t win the starting job right away.

Rashard Mendenhall RB Pittsburgh Steelers

Rashard Mendenhall’s value isn’t really clear at this point.

He’s likely to steal short yardage looks for Willie Parker, but I don’t see him taking command of this offense this year as much as Jonathan Stewart could. He might be a bye week fill late in the season if he sees an increased role, but for now, he is merely a good backup to roster late for Willie Parker owners.

Some people are going to be really high on him like I am on Stewart, but I don’t buy him being a big fantasy producer in the Steelers’ offense this year. Take Mendenhall later in your draft if you get Willie Parker, but he should go off the boards only after all the RBs with the chance to start are gone.

Ray Rice RB Baltimore Ravens

Ray Rice is a smart pick to close out your draft — especially with McGahee returning slowly from his recent surgery. Rice could end up playing a larger role in this offense than we originally thought for 2008 if McGahee falters.

Cam Cameron knows how to make phenomenal RBs. If Rice has the job given to him, he will benefit, but I still think McGahee is the guy in 2008. He’ll get past his injury before the season gets going.

Steve Slaton RB Houston Texans

Steve Slaton is a better flier late in your draft than Ray Rice. He has a good chance to start by the end of this season.

Houston has Ahman Green in the starting role, but he is on his way out. They brought Chris Brown to play a stopgap role in case Green is injured again this season and to hold them over until Slaton can start, but Brown has injury troubles again as well.

Slaton is the future of the franchise at RB — unless Chris Taylor lives up to all that “coach speak” love from offseason last year. Luckily for fantasy owners, Taylor is being transitioned into a fullback. If Slaton shines enough, he could have the starting job.

If the Texans RBs are plagued with injury, Slaton will start and produce well. He could work his way into a role worth of a RB2 spot on your fantasy team. If you are willing to wait on him — and he’s a better one to wait on than Ray Rice or Mendenhall — he’s more likely than other rookies to have a significant role by the middle of the season.

Chris Johnson RB Tennessee Titans

The wild card rookie this year is Chris Johnson. He set the NFL Combine ablaze when he posted the fastest 40 time. That speed got him drafted in the first round by the Titans.

He’s sharing a backfield with LenDale White, but he also has explosive, big play potential. The Titans could use him like Reggie Bush was utilized in the Saints’ offense during his rookie season.

Johnson is already gunning for offensive rookie of the year and talking it up. With a crowded backfield for McFadden in Oakland and the absence of receiving playmakers in the Tennessee offense, it just might happen.

The only drawback of drafting Johnson is that he is skyrocketing up draft boards. He’s going ahead of LenDale in some drafts now. If he falls to the sixth or seventh in your draft, he is a steal there. Taking him as a RB2 is not advised, but a FLEX or RB3 is a perfect place to put him. Don’t pay too much for a guy you can’t be sure about.

Kevin Smith RB Detroit Lions

When Tatum Bell returned to the Lions, he thought he would be the starting Detroit RB. Too bad…

Kevin Smith almost broke the record for total yardage in a season while in college. He can handle a big workload. Plus, he ran in the Detroit Lions same system while in college. The Lions won’t be great this year, but as long as he has another strong showing in the Week 4 preseason game, the Lions are likely to declare him the starter over Bell. That means he’ll be worth something in fantasy.

He’s barely worth a RB3 spot right now, but taking him as a backup RB could end up being a smart move when Detroit faces weak run defenses.

Ryan Torain RB Denver Broncos

It’s no secret that Mike Shanahan is in love with Ryan Torain. He likes his physical size and abilities and compares him to Terrell Davis.

Torain could have overtaken Selvin Young before he injured his elbow in the preseason. Now, he should miss the first part of the season and return in a backup role, but don’t be surprised to see him get on the field.

Selvin Young, for all his talk this offseason, is not a feature back. While Young can carry the load early this season, he could easily struggle or suffer an injury. It’ll be hard for him to keep a guy like Torain on the bench as long as Mike Shanahan likes the new rookie RB.

He’s not worth drafting, but he’s a player to watch as the season progresses. Just like every other guy on Shanahan’s list, Torain could put up some fantasy points when he’s back on Denver’s RB depth chart.

Felix Jones RB Dallas Cowboys

To use the incredibly over-killed phrase, Felix Jones is the lightning to Marion Barber’s thunder. (I already feel cheaper for having said that.)

Unlike the fading Julius Jones, Felix Jones brings some impact speed to the Cowboys running game. He’ll likely play more snaps than Julius Jones did late last season and compliment Barber with some big yardage breaks and a few big touchdowns.

He doesn’t have the same super speed as Chris Johnson, but he is worth putting on your roster before you start going after some of the iffy starting RBs. Dallas’ offense is powerful, and Jones will put up points by just being in that machine. You could take him in the seventh or eighth round for a potent FLEX player or backup RB.

More rookie RBs that just aren’t worth drafting yet:

  • Tim Hightower, Arizona Cardinals (He won’t steal Edge’s job just yet)
  • Mike Hart, Indianapolis Colts (Addai and Rhodes in front of him)
  • Tashard Choice, Dallas Cowboys (He’ll give Barber breathers but not much else)
  • Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (Not impressive enough to steal much time from LJ or Kolby Smith)

Which rookie RBs are worth drafting and where?

Rankings go by who I would want on my team the most, not necessarily where you’ll have to draft them to get them on your team. Round recommendations are the earliest I would suggest drafting the rookie RB based on a 12-team, non-PPR league. Average draft position stats from Footballguys.com.

1 Darren McFadden ADP: 40 4th Rd
2 Jonathan Stewart ADP: 64 5th Rd
3 Chris Johnson ADP: 96 6th Rd to 8th Rd
4 Matt Forte ADP: 66 6th Rd
5 Felix Jones ADP: 98 7th Rd to 8th Rd
6 Kevin Smith ADP: 67 6th Rd
7 Steve Slaton ADP:153 12th Rd
8 Rashard Mendenhall ADP: 87 9th Rd to 10th Rd
9 Ray Rice ADP:114 12th Rd (Late Flier)
10 Ryan Torain ADP:198 Undrafted (Late Flier)

Fantasy Losers of the 2008 NFL Draft

My apartment management decided that I was so excited about the NFL draft this weekend that they needed to shut off the hot water this morning to calm me down. That’s okay though. I’m not bitter. I’ll just take those lemons and…

…and who am I kidding? I’m going to throw them at the door of the office in protest tomorrow.

In retrospect, there’s nothing like a cold shower to make you think about who really got the shaft in this year’s draft. For these players, the 2008 draft cooled off their fantasy value:

Willie Parker. Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers didn’t desperately need a running back, but when Rashard Mendenhall fell to them, they had to take him. Parker immediately enters into the twilight of his career. Returning from injury and with a much less Steeler-smash style of play, Parker will probably shift towards a supporting role to Mendenhall’s “I break ‘em, I bought ‘em” running. Something tells me Parker will not get a lot of chances for TDs now — he only sealed the deal twice last season — and begins his decline out of fantasy popularity.

Tatum Bell. Detroit Lions.
“You are what we thought you were,” Tatum. Just when it seemed like Tatum Bell was going to get his shot, Detroit grabbed Kevin Smith. Now Bell will end up being the compliment back in another RBBC alongside the yardage monster in Detroit. Considering the number of yards Smith ran up last season, he warrants being a big part of this offense next year and looks to be the better fantasy play.

Vince Young. Tennessee Titans.
The Titans have a great need at wide receiver. While Chris Johnson might be able to split out occasionally and be a playmaker, the Titans weren’t concerned with bringing in any new weapons. While it’s possible they were hoping that Limas Sweed, Young’s big target at Texas, would fall to them in the second round before the Steelers snagged him one pick too soon, no drastic moves were made to get that receiver help. Young will have to work with what the Titans grabbed in the fourth round in Lavelle Hawkins. He’s got talent but will likely be another project just like the mix of young WRs and older veterans that VY has now. It’s not looking very good again for Young in 2008.

Cedric Benson. Chicago Bears.
Coming off injury and a very weak showing in 2007, Benson’s likely to share carries with Matt Forte in 2008 and could even lose his starting role. The weak fantasy projections for Benson in 2008 just got weaker.

DeAngelo Williams. Carolina Panthers.
This year was supposed to be Williams’ time to shine with DeShaun Foster finally booted. When Carolina drafted Jonathan Stewart in the first, that all got thrown into doubt. Stewart is a big, power runner with a bruising style. Williams may start the season, but he is likely to lose carries to Stewart — especially in short yardage situations. That means less TDs for Williams and a knock to his fantasy value for 2008. Both RBs could have some fantasy impact this season, but Williams big chance is no more.

Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. Washington Redskins.
Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly are now breathing down the necks of the two current WRs in Washington. Moss had a bad 2008, and Randle El wouldn’t be too upset to move to a slot role. The WR pool is not going to be friendly to a Moss bounce back in 2008 if one of these rookies breaks out. Pre-season will show how these rookies take to the game, but Moss might be one to avoid.

Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay Packers.
Oh yeah, Aaron, you just have to fill the shoes of this guy named Brett Favre. He didn’t break any big records or get much media attention with his retirement. Hey, he never even made the cover of Madden. Go ahead and take over his job in front of thousands of Favre-missing fans, Rodgers. If that shadow’s not big enough for you to overcome, we’ll put this guy Brian Brohm — possibly the most NFL-ready QB in this draft — behind you. That cool? Great. Oh, and this Matt Flynn kid from LSU is just hanging out here for a bit. He’ll keep your seat warm while your trying to win some games. Just don’t let those first-year jitters get to you. I don’t think Rodgers fantasy value is over and done, but it’s definitely on thin ice heading into his first season under center. The pressure is on, and pressure might not be what this young QB needs to get you fantasy points.

Amani Toomer. New York Giants.
With Mario Manningham under his wings and last year’s rookie WR Steve Smith already biting at his heels, Toomer’s days at the two spot in New York are numbered. Chances are he sees this one coming though, and I think he’s probably okay spending less time on the field. He’ll still start in 2008, but he won’t have much fantasy value once these guys get going and take his catches.

Dominic Rhodes. Oakland Raiders (until Monday).
It was hard not to see this one coming, but with Darren McFadden going to Oakland, someone had to get out of that backfield. The Raiders cut Rhodes Monday after he did a whole lot of nothing last year. They still have LaMont Jordan who seemed more likely to get bumped after the draft, but he might still be in danger of losing his job considering the Raiders now have McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. Rhodes gets to go stand in line with Shaun Alexander and wait to be picked up by a team lacking in the veteran RB department.

Josh McCown and John Beck. Miami Dolphins.
Not that he thought he was a long-term solution in Miami — no one else did — but McCown became even more short-term with Bill Parcells snagging Chad Henne. Parcells obviously can’t trust his current developing QB John Beck. The starting job is likely to go to Henne before too long. McCown is just going to be a stand in until one of the younger guys is ready to go, and that’s never a good feeling. McCown and the loser will be left to battle for the backup role. Let the QB struggle begin.

Tarvaris Jackson. Minnesota Vikings.
You got some Booty behind you, Tarvaris. John David Booty has the potential to really threaten Jackson for the starting job if Jackson doesn’t show significant improvement this season. There’s no security in his fantasy value.

Chris Simms. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With no spleen and no playing time last year, Simms is now on the cut list with Josh Johnson drafted into the pack of QBs already in Tampa Bay. Johnson is no sure thing — especially if you ask Jon Gruden — but he has some good stats even if it was just at San Diego. He’ll make the team, and at least one of Tampa Bay’s current QB collection will have to find a new place.