Forget Them Not: Ten Dynasty Running Backs for Keepers and Sleepers

We covered the quarterbacks and the wide receivers, but the position you really should watch closely heading into this year’s draft is running back. These runners have worked their way into the favor of their current coaching staffs and may stand a much greater chance of seeing the field than that guy that gets taken in the second or third round this year. Are there any Ray Rice hype machine victims in the audience? Moving on…

Jalen Parmele – Baltimore Ravens
Taken by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, Parmele didn’t have a lot of press despite his productive junior and senior seasons. The Ravens plucked him off the Dolphins’ practice squad to support their running attack in the last game of the regular season against Jacksonville, and he remains with the team entering 2009. He’s comparable to Tashard Choice, who tore it up in huge games down the stretch for the Cowboys. If the RB situation in Baltimore changes and Parmele gets pack of backs, you might hear his name again in 2009.

Ryan Moats – Houston Texans
Moats grabbed headlines this offseason for his incident with a certain overly-demanding police officer, but he could be in the spotlight once again if he lands a role with the Texans running game in 2009. Steve Slaton need someone to keep him durable during the regular season, and veteran journeyman Chris Brown is more fragile and injury-prone than Slaton. Moats could see some time if injuries come into play, and he wasn’t too shabby in 2008 when needed.

Mike Hart – Indianapolis Colts
Hart didn’t have much of a debut this season as he was quickly injured once he got his chance to play for the Colts, but he still ranks very high on a lot of dynasty lists. His production at Michigan may lead some to doubt how much he has left in the tank, but his intangibles and heart for the game have led many to stand behind him. With Dominic Rhodes out of the picture, Hart could have a real shot at stepping into a big role with the Colts this season and sharing time with Joseph Addai.

Chris Henry – Tennessee Titans
Though Chris Johnson has largely stolen his thunder–or lightning, as the case may be since LenDale White owns the copyright on “thunder”–Henry still has a chance to play a part for the Titans. If anything were to happen to White, he’s the likely candidate to step into Tennessee’s potent running attack, and he may have more chances this season if the Titans move to more of a three-back system to keep Johnson fresh and injury-free for the playoffs. Without a healthy Johnson, the Titans just didn’t look the same.

Jacob Hester – San Diego Chargers
With LaDainian Tomlinson approaching his golden years, many folks are looking for the Chargers to draft a running back this season to help Darren Sproles. But do they really need someone else? Given the production of fullbacks turned running backs like Peyton Hillis, Hester might be an adequate partner in the running game to support Sproles and Tomlinson as L.T. approaches the end of his career. We’ll see if the Chargers think he is enough come draft day.

Danny Ware – New York Giants
With a stall of running backs that could dominate any team in the league, you’d think that the Giants would be willing to sell off some of their surplus at the position, but surprisingly, the Giants have been very protective of Ware. If the team who was okay letting Ryan Grant walk and Derrick Ward sign elsewhere likes this guy, dynasty owners have to agree. He sits just behind Jacobs on the depth chart, and he might become part of the new Earth, Wind and Fire if Jacobs needs help in the run game.

Lorenzo Booker – Philadelphia Eagles
When he was traded to the Eagles from the Dolphins, Booker was touted as the likely backup to Brian Westbrook, but despite Booker’s comparable skills, he didn’t ever find his way onto the field last season. With Westbrook’s contract extended and Correll Buckhalter going over to the Broncos in free agency, Booker could be the guy we thought he was going to be in 2009. Then again, the Eagles could get greedy and take another running back in the draft to support Westbrook.

Justin Forsett – Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks drafted Forsett in the seventh round of the draft only to waive him early in the 2008 season. After a short stay with the Indianapolis Colts, Forsett was again waived and returned to the Seahawks practice squad to sign as the punt specialist. Considering the lack of depth at running back on Seattle’s current roster, he could play a larger role than expected this season if the injury plague in Seattle moves from the wide receivers to the running backs. Forsett scored 15 touchdowns in his final season at Cal after sitting behind J.J. Arrington and Marshawn Lynch for most of his time there.

Kregg Lumpkin – Green Bay Packers
With a name like that, what else could you be but a running back? Lumpkin started to gain some ground on the Green Bay depth chart just before he injured his hamstring early last season. With Ryan Grant looking more human and less like the hero he was in 2007, it’s possible the Packers give guys like Lumpkin and Brandon Jackson more opportunities in 2009. I don’t expect Grant to lose his job, but if Lumpkin gave it his all, he might jump over Jackson on the depth chart.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis – New England Patriots
The man we so lovingly called “Law Firm” in 2008 is likely to find himself back on the sidelines as we enter the 2009 season, but while he may be gone, he should not be forgotten. Green-Ellis, like many other Patriot backs, was successful when given the opportunity. If Laurence Maroney fails again this season, which is likely, Green-Ellis might even get another chance to work his way into the rotation for Bill Belichick.

T.O. got to go: Cowboys cut controversial receiver

According to ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys just cut Terrell Owens. Not only does this defy some good logic, it also might be the best move for the Cowboys after all.

Jerry Jones obviously spent a lot of time over the offseason speaking to his coaching staff and players about what went wrong in the bust of a season that was 2008. Outside Tony Romo’s injury, the entire team struggled to find an identity on offense, and that confusion allowed the one player that did have one, T.O., to take control.

With that much power, Matt Mosley notes  that T.O. had to go, even with the loss of value.

But in the end, the people he trusts at Valley Ranch may have finally convinced him that T.O. was too divisive a force in the locker room. I talked to a source at Valley Ranch  late Wednesday evening  who said that T.O.’s future was discussed in meetings Wednesday, but that Jones hadn’t made a final decision when most people left the building.

This is a clear admission on Jones’ part that the team couldn’t get to the next level  (winning a playoff game)  with T.O. If you just go on the  receiver’s production (38 TDs in three seasons), it’s hard to believe the Cowboys would move on without him. But T.O. had become the most powerful voice in the locker room and head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett couldn’t compete with him.

By putting Owens on the street, the Cowboys are dropping the passing game — some pun intended — in the hands of Williams and attempting to justify all those picks they spent to get him.

While he hasn’t quite fallen off yet, T.O. would have begun to decline over the next few seasons, and he probably won’t take it very well as he degrades into a No. 2 receiver. Jones is abandoning the money and reputation he sunk into Owens in order to have Williams fill the void early and save the team more grief.

Let’s hope they saw something in Williams this offseason that looked better than he did last season.

Williams’ fantasy value jumps now that he moves to the No. 1 role, but can we trust a guy who had just 19 catches in a Cowboys uniform in 2008? He doesn’t assume T.O.’s spot in my fantasy wide receiver rankings, but floating the gap between the second and third tier, he’s got some big upside when he clicks with Romo.

Opposite Williams, Miles Austin or Patrick Crayton will have to step up in a big way — and perhaps if Austin wins the job, he’ll finally become that explosive receiver we saw flashes of last season.

It’s likely that this move signifies the Cowboys shift towards the run game. Jason Garrett didn’t know what to do with what he had last season, but in 2009, he knows he can feed the ball to Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.

Maybe this move will turn the Cowboys around and get them a playoff win, but we all know Jon Kitna’s going to be the real reason they make it to the postseason … right?

The real tragedy here is for T.O. who just wanted to end his career as a Cowboy.

Owens told the Dallas Morning News in May 2008 he “definitely” wanted to finish his career with the Cowboys.

Now we have another unemployed, aging industry veteran who’s got to find a new job while  re-examining his personal life in his new reality show. Blame the economy.

Week 16 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Championship Edition

At this point, you should be starting your studs. We stopped posting all the week-to-week start posts as a result, but I do have a few thoughts to throw out this week with many of you in championship or at least playoff matches.

In the Cowboy game tonight, I like Tony Romo and the Cowboys wide receivers, and I like Tashard Choice as a desperation play. Marion Barber is questionable since he looked injured and lacked a little power in last week’s game against the Giants.

I wouldn’t bet on Anquan Boldin this week with his injury. The Cardinals have a playoff spot, and I’d worry that they will let Steve Breaston take the start this week to save Boldin for the postseason. Besides, the Cardinals are likely playing in the snow against New England, who is in a must-win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive, and it’s tough to bet against a Belichick who wants to make the playoffs. Even Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner are questionable this week if the weather turns frightful.

If you’ve been riding Matt Cassel through the playoffs, I think it’s safe for you to consider him a lock this week against the Cardinals unless the weather gets really bad. It’s likely you don’t have a better play at quarterback, and if Tarvaris Jackson can tear apart a team through the air, I could probably throw a touchdown against the Cardinals.

Marshawn Lynch looked like a lock to be a must-start this week against the Broncos until he came down with a bad shoulder in practice. I still like him as long as he suits up and starts since coaches have played it up as a minor injury, but if he doesn’t take the field, Fred Jackson becomes a great start as the lone back against the Broncos.

If you need a sneak play at running back, I really like DeShaun Foster as long as Frank Gore sits this week. Watch the injury report, and be prepared to sub him in if you have a questionable guy like Marion Barber this week.

Brett Favre worries me a little this week against the Seahawks. While I’m sure there aren’t many teams that stumbled into the postseason with him at quarterback, Favre’s a dangerous play in your championship game. He’ll have plenty of chances to score against the Seahawks terrible secondary, but with the running game firing on all cylinders, I think the Jets won’t change their game plan.

Shaun Hill is a gem this week. Start him. I almost did this week, but I had Peyton Manning. He did okay for me Thursday night.

I like Matt Ryan, but I question whether he’ll be able to come through on the big stage against the Vikings. If they could handle the Cardinals attack, can the Falcons do it? I wouldn’t want to bet my fantasy season on a rookie in a game like this one.

With Reggie Bush is out, Marques Colston looks like a great start this week against Detroit. He’ll get the targets, and it’s the Lions. The Lions, always in a must-win, might even make it competitive enough to get the Saints firing at full blast.

Don’t stop starting Antonio Bryant.

Brandon Marshall is one heck of a player, but I haven’t seen him getting many opportunities. With no big threat in the running game, the receivers are getting locked up. Teams would rather let Eddie Royal take a few short routes and make plays than let Baby T.O. go off.

That said, I think you still have to start Marshall against a Buffalo team that is almost done, but I like several WR2ish receivers better than Marshall this week when it comes down to who I think generates the points.

I think Torry Holt is the one receiver with a good matchup that I would hope I do not have to start this week in a win-or-go-home game.

Wait, scratch that. It’s probably Lee Evans. Even if Trent Edwards returns, Lee Evans is just not reliable enough in a big week, but you have to start him if you rode him this far. The Denver secondary has been very questionable this season, and they could give up a big play … if the Bills can make one.

I won’t go into tight ends and kickers too much because choosing them on a weekly basis is a risky situation. John Carlson and Jerramy Stevens are two guys I like as reliable options this week, but ride the guy that got you to the playoff unless he’s in a terrible situation.

I hope none of your games come down to a kicker, but if they do, good luck to you.

That’s all I got for this week. Start and sit questions can always be left in the comments or emailed to me through our contact page.

Good luck in the playoffs.

On the Wire: Week 15 Pickups and Waiver Wire Grabs for Playoffs

Congrats, fools. If you’re still following pickups at this point in the season, you made the playoffs. I guess there are some of you out there who may be seeking out ways to beef up your keeper or dynasty team for next year but for the large majority of you, playoffs. Good work. I hope our posts helped you make a call at least once, maybe even twice, during your season.

Now that you’re here in the playoff circle and gloating profusely in front of all the less fortunate owners in your league, you probably don’t want to change much. I’ve been shifting the pickups posts to later in the week in large part because I don’t want people to immediately rush out and grab the “so hot right now” player. More than ever, it’s important that you make really informed choices about who you put on your roster and kick to the free agent pool.

The recs I have for this week are slim because you obviously have a good enough team to weather the playoff storm if you made it here. You don’t want to drop your studs for a fluke of a wide receiver. These guys are options if one of your backups is worthless or injured — or maybe if you lost Peyton Hillis, Joseph Addai or Frank Gore this week. If they’re still available on the waiver wire, they’re some of the only players I could see being able to provide good numbers for you in the playoffs.

Antonio Bryant, WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers — I still haven’t quite decided whether he is the Britney Spears to Jeff Garcia’s Kevin Federline, but Bryant had a huge, two-touchdown performance last Monday night. I’m not pegging him as a superstar because the Bucs like to run the ball all day, but Bryant has as good of matchups as anyone in the next two weeks — Atlanta and San Diego. Unfortunately, you might have to back off of him in Week 17 as he plays the Raiders and is likely to be covered by Nnamdi “Not Going to Catch Anything” Asomugha. Don’t trust him as more than a low-end WR2 or WR3, but Bryant could be worth a plug in the playoffs.

Davone Bess, WR Miami Dolphins — Yes, Bess makes for a strong WR3 start these next few weeks as the Dolphins face the 49ers, Chiefs and Jets. He’s been the top receiver on offense since the departure of Greg Camarillo, and he’s more reliable than Ted Ginn Jr. One can only hope that that reliability translates into his use in the red zone. I’d only trust him as a WR3, but with the juicy matchups, he could surprise up to the level of a quality WR2.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — The little Frenchmen looks to be blowing up much like his predecessor, Aaron Stecker, did on the Saints last season during the fantasy football playoffs. The Saints end the season with the Bears, Lions and Panthers, so there’s plenty of opportunity there for Thomas to succeed. Unfortunately, a sort of returning Reggie Bush and sort of suspended Deuce McAllister make it hard to know what the Saints will do in the running game. If there was one to start and hope for the best though, it’d be Pierre. Oui, oui. Thomas is a low-end RB2 this week against the Bears but should be one hell of a RB2 during Week 16 against the Lions.

DeShaun Foster, RB San Francisco 49ers — You thought Foster was a name you could forget? Well, for the most part, it is, but he’s also the backup to Frank Gore. If Gore sits out after being carted off with that ankle injury in Week 14, Foster would get the most carries at Miami. Now, a slower, veteran running back is not who you want to be starting against a strong run defense like Miami during your playoffs, but you might consider picking up Foster just in case he also gets the call in Week 16, against a St. Louis team is just thankful not to be the Lions. No recommendation for foster this week, but consider stashing him to keep him from the competition and for his potential in Week 16 if you don’t have a solid RB option that week.

Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys — There’s not an easy day in sight with the Giants and the Ravens coming into Big D these next two weeks. Choice would also suffer a drop in value if Marion Barber returned this week or next week, which is very likely. But, regardless of the matchups, if Choice can run that well against the Steelers, he shouldn’t be shut down by the Giants, Ravens or Eagles these next three weeks. Watch the news about Marion Barber before you burn a decent roster spot for him. Of course, if you own Marion Barber, you should already have choice on your roster. If you don’t, slap yourself and pick him up. For everyone else, take a long, hard look at your roster, and if someone on there won’t be starting for you in the playoffs, swap them out for choice. I’d recommend him as a low-end RB2 or flex with a great deal of upside.

Tatum Bell and Selvin Young, RB Denver Broncos — Now that Peyton Hillis is done for the season, Shanahan is down to Tatum Bell and Selvin Young. Young’s never fully returned from the hamstring injury he suffered earlier in the season, and I’d have my doubts about him moving forward. Tatum Bell is still the same ol’ Bell. Neither player jumps off the page, but their playoff schedule does — Carolina, Buffalo and San Diego. Even though the Broncos will continue to pass first, all these upcoming defenses are around the middle of the league and, besides San Diego, show more weakness against the run than the pass. While Young is obviously more talented, it’s hard to recommend him when he can’t seem to stay on the field long enough to score. I’d conservatively recommend picking up Tatum Bell first and plugging him in as a weak RB2 or flex play. Very weak.

Cadillac Williams (a.k.a. Carnell Williams), RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — A touchdown vulture who could see more carries as the season goes on or if Warrick Dunn suffers another injury? That’s potential. Make sure you own Caddy if you have Dunn right now. He may even be worth a start over a full-time stud with games against Atlanta, San Diego and Oakland. A Raiders team with nothing to play for in Week 17 could make for a very lucrative Week 17, but unless his situation changes, Caddy will remain a low RB2 or RB3/flex start. I’d rather have a guy that starts.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — He’s been a solid start since he replaced JTO, and as much as I liked JTO before he became “Mr. Turnover,” I like Shaun Hill more. Hill has one of the best schedules for any quarterback as he faces the Miami, St. Louis and Washington to end the season. Unlike many playoff-bound starters, he probably won’t see a single sit during these last few weeks either. Expect a hard-fought and less-than-explosive game this week against the sack-happy Dolphins to be followed by a huge day at St. Louis in Week 16. If you need him in Week 17, he’s likely to be facing a Washington squad that’s out of the playoffs and done caring about it.

Seneca Wallace, QB Seattle Seahawks — Wallace has the potential to put up some numbers against the Rams, Jets and Cardinals these next three weeks. My gut is telling me that Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t get rushed back into the lineup with the season over and his back pain. As long as Deion Branch, who should also be owned in most leagues by now, is on the field, Wallace has potential as a sneaky play for a couple of touchdowns and 200+ yards. Wallace is a low, low, low-end start simply because he’s as likely to bust as bang, but if you need a quarterback during the playoffs, like slapping yourself to feel alive or have faith that a desperation play will save you, go for it. (As always, if you can’t decide whether to start Wallace over your stud/starter, you can always comment or contact us. There are certain starters that I would rank Wallace above these next three weeks.)

Steve Heiden, TE Cleveland Browns — While he won’t be spectacular, Ken Dorsey is definitely going to need his help if Dorsey survives the next three weeks. As long as he doesn’t spend all his time blocking, I like Heiden’s chances for a solid handful of points. If you made it to the playoffs, I suspect that you already have a decent tight end on your roster unless you are unfortunate enough to be a Kellen Winslow owner like me. Heiden is a low-end starting option against the Eagles, who have issues covering tight ends, and the Bengals, but a terrible option in Week 17 against the Steelers.

Indianapolis Colts D/ST — The Colts defense has Bob Sanders back, which always raises their stock, but they also have one of the easiest playoffs schedules out there as long as you finish in Week 16, not Week 17. In Week 15, they face the Lions. In Week 16, they face a very stick-a-fork-in-them Jaguars squad. In Week 17, the Titans actually pose a challenge, but at least you know that the Colts offense will be fired up for that one. A defense focusing on strong cornerbacks is always a nice thing to have on your fantasy squad, but the Colts should be especially good these next two weeks after coming off two straight 15+ point fantasy weeks. They are a must start defense these next two weeks.

Droppables: Anyone you won’t start in the next three weeks. Purge away unless you’re in a dynasty/keeper league.

On the Wire: Week 14 Pickups and Playoff Late Bloomers from Week 13

Now, don’t go quitting the waiver wire on me because you are in the playoffs. You know that fifth wide receiver of yours has terrible matchups from here on out, and it’d be nice to replace him with a guy who has upside.

Even if you don’t need players, now more than ever, it’s important to pick up a guy that might have a nice game in the next week or two to prevent your opponents from using him against you.

That said, there’s not a whole lot to go around this week, but we’ll worth with what we got. Again, no formal Worth Claiming, Ones to Watch or Ignoring format headers for the guys this week.

J.P. Losman, QB Buffalo Bills – Yes, at long last, the Lee Evans ball return has taken the field. Losman was forced to come in for a gimpy Trent Edwards, and it looks like he may get the call to start for several weeks with no timeline set for Edwards’ hamstring injury. If weather permits, he’s a boost to Lee Evans because you know that he likes to throw that deep ball, but he’s a bang-bust option for fantasy. Luckily, he doesn’t face a really scary secondary the rest of the way — Dolphins, Jets, Broncos and Patriots.

Ken Dorsey, QB Cleveland Browns — Maybe you need a backup. Maybe you hate yourself, but there is really no good reason to pick up Dorsey unless you truly, truly have nothing else at quarterback.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots — He’s back on the field and scoring touchdowns, and that means that the law offices of BenJarvus Green-Ellis are closed for now. Raiders in Week 15 anyone?

Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys – If you own Marion Barber, you should own Choice. He’s probably not worth your time otherwise because his carries will be limited and against tough defenses. I think the Cowboys would be making some more moves at the running back position if they thought Barber might miss a game or two.

Domenik Hixon, WR New York Giants — Hixon is the new Plaxico Burress, minus the stupidity and the bullet in the leg. He’s a strong replacement, but there’s not a lot to love with his remaining matchups. Best of luck to you, Hixon.

Davone Bess, WR Miami Dolphins — Another replacement, Bess seems to be keeping the receiver position alive for the Dolphins in Greg Camarillo’s absence. With the number of easy games coming down the pipe for Miami, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make Bess a permanent fixture on your bench. Pennington trusts him, and you might learn to as well.

Steve Heiden, TE Cleveland Browns — Kellen Winslow is sitting this one out. If you need a tight end this weekend, Heiden is actually not a terrible option. Dorsey, who is a terrible option, should at least be able to toss it to the tight end, and the Titans have allowed tight ends to make plays against them this season.

Garrett Hartley, K New Orleans Saints — If you haven’t noticed that the Saints have a new kicker, you probably aren’t interested in changing out your kicker for the playoffs anyway. Hartley has been perfect thus far, eight of eight on field goals in four games. Unless the Saints start scoring touchdowns left and right, Hartley should get plenty of opportunities. In fact, since taking over the kicker position for the Saints, Hartley has had more opportunities than almost all the kickers in the league.

Indianapolis Colts D/ST – Have you seen their schedule? The Bengals, Lions and Jaguars in Weeks 14-16 sounds like championship to me even if the Colts do have problems stopping the run.

You can drop: Deuce McAllister, Jonathan Stewart, Josh Morgan and, if you haven’t heard, Plaxico Burress. You should consider dropping anyone you don’t honestly see yourself considering for a start during the playoffs.

In addition to my recs, you can check out the video below with more details on pickups this week from a guy named Hatty. His name, roughly translated from the original Latin, means “wears hats.” He blogs and posts his videos at Hatty Waiver Wire Guru. Enjoy.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Hardships from Week 6

As I listened to the end of the Texas-OU game while hunched over in a car on my way to a wedding this weekend, two things occurred to me: 1) people REALLY shouldn’t get married the same weekend as the Texas-OU game and 2) there could be a large amount of rookie quarterbacks coming into the NFL next year.

This season has been brutal to quarterbacks. It’s like they are the running backs this season — drafted highly by fantasy owners but very prone to season-ending injuries because of the abuse they take. Those fantasy footballers who drafted a quarterback high this year more often than not paid the price — yes, I’m looking at you Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Derek Anderson. At least we can all hate the guy that drafted Drew Brees.

On a brighter note, I thought I was going to be very clever in one of my pay leagues this past week in picking up Fred Taylor against a weak Denver run defense. Someone had dropped Taylor because of bye week issues. It was the perfect crime, but we all saw how that turned out.

Fine, waiver wire. You won that one by throwing me a curveball injury, tricky mistress, but there are a few “hardships” to be had this week.

From now until the end of the season, unfortunately, the best waiver wire grabs are starting to stem from surprise injuries, not exceptional or surprising play. It may pain you to pick some of these guys up, but it’s how you play the game. Players put in the same role/situation have equal opportunity to succeed — just look at Correll Buckhalter.

Worth Claiming

Jeff Garcia, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — He’s a valid spot start his week against Seattle and faces a Dallas secondary in Week 8 that should be starting two rookie corners. It’s only Kansas City in Week 9. Even for Garcia, those could be productive days with the exception of Dallas if the Cowboys come to play. If he can produce more than 10 points in those outings, he might be worth holding onto for short while. Hear that, Hasselbeck/Romo owners? If you wait out his bye and the Vikings, his next two decent starts come against the Lions and the Saints.

Brad Johnson, QB Dallas Cowboys — If Romo decides not to go it the Brett Favre way — hoorah — Johnson gets the call to manage the Dallas offense. With the addition of Roy Williams, he has a good chance to be successful as a pocket-passing statue. Sadly, after a warm, cuddly start against St. Louis this week, he faces Tampa Bay and the Giants. Romo owners, pad your roster with Johnson if you can, but you’ll probably want to look elsewhere after this week. Unless he dominates Week 7, there should be better options out there on your waiver wire.

Derek Anderson, QB Cleveland Browns — Was someone silly enough to drop a player like Anderson after his slow, pathetic start to the season? He had a coming out party in Week 6 — and no, Nick, I’m not talking about Brady Quinn. Anderson has five more games on his schedule that look like he could put up the gaudy numbers of last year, and if he can maintain his play against tough opponents with Braylon Edwards, you’re set. For now, you’ll want to bring him into a QB committee so that you don’t have to start him every week.

Sammy Morris, RB New England Patriots — After all the carnage in the backfield in New England, Morris is “the guy” again for the moment. He might be bouncing around the wire with several other Patriot RBs since Belichick went all Shanahan this year, but he’s worth putting on a roster for his game against Denver, St. Louis and Indy these next three weeks. We all know it’s in Belichick’s best interest to run the ball rather than let Cassel attempt to throw — oops, I mean, underthrow. At least he’s not Dan Orlovsky.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts — Rhodes resumed his duty as the Colts RB in Week 6 after Addai injured his hamstring. Hamstrings don’t just go away, so expect Rhodes to get a start or at least get an increased workload in Week 7. The Packers have failed to stop the run lately, so he makes a good play here. If Rhodes can justify holding onto the workload as the season continues, he could be a nice guy to have around come playoffs — Bengals (W14), Lions (W15) and Jags (W16).

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos — If there was ever a time to take him, it’s probably now. Yes, you’re risking it. No, we have no idea if Shanahan will use him. Yes, he did talk a lot about him in the preseason, but no, I don’t trust a man that looks like an outlaw from a Clint Eastwood movie.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears – Hester has proven himself to be a legitimate receiver in the Bears offense. With his potential to get you a returning score as well, there’s a lot of upside to be had in starting him each week. Vikings may limit him before the Bears’ bye, but in Week 9, they get the Lions again.

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles — He didn’t get back on the field this week, but he’s close. With DeSean Jackson there to take some heat of him in the passing game, he could retake his role as the No. 1 option in Philly. Make sure he’s on your roster if no one has him on their bench yet.

Marcedes Lewis, TE Jacksonville Jaguars — He scores touchdowns with Garrard and has one for each of his last two games. If he keeps it up against the Browns, Bengals and Lions, he could be deadly for a stretch here and a stretch in the fantasy playoffs. You could sleep on him a week though considering he is on bye unless someone else in your league will be after him.

Ones to Watch

Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys — Felix Jones injured his hammy, which leaves Choice as the best “choice” to spell Marion Barber — I know that I am cheesy. Choice could get Jones’ carries for now, but don’t expect the big plays Jones has broken this season.

Ahman Green, RB Houston Texans — Steve Slaton is the guy to have in the Texans backfield, but Green is getting a share of the touches as well. He could share in the fantasy points against Detroit this week and/or carry some value in the Texans’ good running matchups in Weeks 10-14, but he’s more of a deep league option or depth if you own Slaton.

Kenny Watson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — Chris Perry can’t hold onto the ball, and Benson hasn’t done much better. Neither back has done anything to justify or hold a starting job. Watson was the guy to own in the Bengals backfield last year and could return to the lineup after he heals up. Unfortunately, I don’t think you really want to own any Bengals this year, but keep an eye on him or add him if you are looking for potential upside in deeper leagues.

Donnie Avery, WR St. Louis Rams – Avery, the first WR taken in this year’s draft, had a big game for the Rams in Week 6 with four catches for 73 yards. If he remains involved in the offense when Drew Bennett returns from his injury, he might be a key element in improving the Rams’ record in the second half of 2008. The Rams end the season with some nice passing matchups — Seattle in Week 15 and San Fran in Week 16. Still, he’s not worth jumping on except in deeper leagues unless he can keep a hold on the starting job.

Vernon Davis, TE San Francisco 49ers — Six catches for 75 yards? A 57-yard bomb? Is this the Vernon Davis that every preseason analyst talks about? It’s unfortunate that it’s probably all a trick. Davis is a huge, athletic talent, but the 49ers just aren’t using him consistently enough to warrant a starting spot on any roster. All that could change if the other tight end in San Fran who had been showing Davis up in several games, Delanie Walker, has to move to fullback to replace the injured Zak Keasey, but unless Davis posts numbers against the Giants this week, I’m not buying.

Miami Dolphins D/ST — The Dolphins defense has quietly been showing signs of life since being thrashed by the Cardinals in Week 2. They are decent against the run, and Joey Porter has had a resurgence of sorts getting to the QB. They have a hard time against big, playmaking wide receivers (like Andre Johnson), but otherwise, they can put up some fantasy points for you. They have sleeper status going into this week against Baltimore, who just got destroyed by the Colts, and a nice playoff schedule with St. Louis and Kansas City in Weeks 15-16.

New Orleans Saints D/ST — The Saints streak of double-digit fantasy performances continue. As long as Brees keeps putting the ball in the air, he forces the opposing teams to take risks that give this defense opportunities to make big plays. They were even able to shut down the run against Adrian Peterson. Keep watching them as they go into a potential rough patch before their bye facing Carolina and San Diego. Their playoff schedule ain’t too shabby — Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit. All those offenses would have to take big risks to compete.

Ignoring

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Just a note here for all of you jumping on Dunn expecting him to be the dominant runner for the Bucs: The reason Dunn had so many yards was because Earnest Graham volunteered to fill in for the injured fullback, thus earning the praise of both Dunn and Jon Gruden. Barring Graham filling in for the fullback on a permanent basis, he’s still going to get half of the carries in Tampa Bay and a lot more praise. Don’t go after Dunn like he’s taking over, okay?

Patrick Cobbs, RB Miami Dolphins — What do you know, another wrinkle in the ‘Wildcat’ offense. I’m not completely blowing off his Week 6 performance, but Cobbs has done absolutely nothing up until now. He might be a worthy gamble play one of these days, but there’s no promise that this ever happens again.

Shaun Alexander, RB Washington Redskins — Woohoo! Alexander’s back, baby! Well, he’s also sitting behind one of the best backs in fantasy right now, Clinton Portis, and he only got a job because Ladell Betts sprained his knee. If it took Alexander this long to get signed by a team, I’m guessing he’s nothing more than a temporary handcuff to Portis. Do what you will, Portis owners.

You should have already picked up:

Michael Pittman, RB Denver Broncos — He had a pretty nice week as the main guy in Denver. Who knows how long that will last with Ryan Torain on the horizon, but at least he gets goal line carries regardless.

Droppables

Laurence Maroney, RB New England Patriots — I’m sorry if you drafted this guy. Even Belichick may have forgotten who he is. Not sure his potential productivity with that many RBs in the mix makes him worth waiting on at this point.

Sage Rosenfels, QB Houston Texans – Schaub’s got this under control, okay? Thanks.

Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders — Bush almost got traded before the deadline, which means the Raiders don’t consider him a big part of their offense. As long as Fargas and Darren McFadden stay healthy enough to play, Bush shouldn’t see much action. The Raiders might not even have that much action in the running game if they try to pass the ball more often like they did in Week 6.

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 Winners of 2008 NFL Draft

I guess if I am going to berate the fantasy losers of the NFL draft, I might as well commend the winners. These guys saw their fantasy value get a boost with the 2008 rookie class.

Jay Cutler. Denver Broncos.
New blocker in Ryan Clady and a new receiver in Eddie Royal. If you count that Cutler will also be in better health after learning he has type 1 diabetes and getting informed on how to manage it during the season, Cutler should improve in 2008 with Clady protecting him. Royal could be a factor later in the season, but the receivers are already strong as long as Brandon Marshall recovers well from his TV punching.

Jason Campbell. Washington Redskins.
Even though his two starting receivers may now be in danger of losing their fantasy value, it’s only because Campbell got a whole new tribe of offensive weapons. With Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis coming in, Jim Zorn, a former QB coach, taking the helm, the powerhouse of Chris Cooley and the addition of Brandon Albert for protection, Campbell will be able to spread the ball more effectively and could be a fantasy sleeper at QB for 2008.

Marion Barber. Dallas Cowboys.
Barber’s a winner because he got a great running mate in Felix Jones. As he is currently working out a long-term deal, Rashard Mendenhall might have been seen as a sign the Cowboys could do without Barber. With Felix Jones and Tashard Choice added to the mix, Barber can feel secure in his role as the starting RB while also getting some relief. The good for fantasy owners is that these rookies will still make an impact and make a threatening backfield in Dallas. Choice will eventually push and spell Barber while Jones is a perfect compliment who will compete for time. Barber can’t rest easy just yet, but these are the picks that he would want to run with if he had the choice.

Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh Steelers.
There’s no way to know how the Steelers will choose to put the ball in the end zone this season. Big Ben got his big, tall end zone target in Limas Sweed and now has a powerful runner in Rashard Mendenhall. Needless to say, the offense will be firing on all cylinders this year, and Big Ben won’t hesitate to throw TDs with Sweed and Heath Miller making some big targets.

Lee Evans. Buffalo Bills.
In James Hardy, Evans might finally find the perfect partner to create a dangerous dual threat in Buffalo. While Lee Evans is a deep threat, Hardy can develop into a big, possession receiver that will pull coverage from Evans. If Trent Edwards learns to get Evans the ball this season, Evans could return to form as an elite fantasy WR.

Rex Grossman. Chicago Bears.
He gets better protection with Chris Williams, a receiver in Earl Bennett and new talent at RB with Matt Forte. The offense is restocked enough that Grossman might have a legitimate shot to redeem himself in 2008.

Ronnie Brown (and Ricky Williams). Miami Dolphins.
Jake Long will move some people around in front of Brown this year, and he didn’t need the help last year to put up big numbers. With Bill Parcells revamping the offense and surrounding Brown with improved talent, Brown should bounce back from his injury better than expected. Ricky Williams could also be big depending upon how much size he can get back before the season starts and whether or not he keeps “grounded” — if you catch my drift.