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FANTASY FOOTBALL PRE-SEASON FEATURES

2005 Player Rankings: Running Backs
Updated: September 5, 2005
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Tier 1
LaDainian Tomlinson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 1
TD Only: 1
Keeper: 1
Auction: 35%
2002 SDC 16 2172 15 372 1683 4.5 14 79 489 1
2003 SDC 16 2370 17 313 1645 5.3 13 100 725 4
2004 SDC 15 1776 18 339 1335 3.9 17 53 441 1
Avg   16 2106 17 341 1554 4.6 15 77 552 2
PROJ FA   2060 20   1650   18 51 410 2

For the entire 2004 season, Tomlinson was hampered by a lingering groin strain that reduced some of his effectiveness though he played with the injury. He produced only a 3.9 yard per carry average but still managed to have a career best 17 rushing scores. Tomlinson ended the year 5th in receiving yards (441), 7th in rushing yards (1335), 2nd in total touchdowns (18) and 6th in total yardage (1776). Not bad for missing one game and playing at less than 100%.

In the last three seasons, Tomlinson has never scored less than 16 touchdowns a year nor fallen below 1700 total yards (twice he topped 2000 yards). He is one of the most talented backs in the league and one that has provided consistency and durability (of sorts) every season. Even with a groin strain he does not have a ?down? year compared to the rest of the league.

At the age of 26 and with four solid seasons behind him, Tomlinson is in his absolute prime and now plays in an offense that has a threat of passing to concern the defenses that previously would simply load up every available defender against #21. He comes with a guarantee of top production, almost no risk for injury and, most incredibly, with upside still left to fulfill. He and Shaun Alexander are quite similar in many ways and thanks to their respective levels of production and consistency, both should go as the first two picks in a fantasy draft with order only predicated on personal preference. LaDainian is simply as good as it gets for running backs and should be better this year.

Priest Holmes - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 4
TD Only: 2
Keeper: 15
Auction: 31%
2002 KCC 14 2287 24 313 1615 5.2 21 70 672 3
2003 KCC 16 2110 27 320 1420 4.4 27 74 690  
2004 KCC 8 1079 15 196 892 4.6 14 19 187 1
Avg   13 1825 22 276 1309 4.7 21 54 516 1
PROJ FA   1640 18   1360   17 29 280 1

(-Risk) Holmes ended the season as the third best scoring running back in the NFL. That?s impressive since he only played exactly half a season. Had he merely doubled his totals from the first half (and it was entirely possible with that schedule), he would have ended with 30 touchdowns and 2158 yards. Bit of a record there had it happened.

Of course ? it didn?t. Holmes went down with a partial tear in his MCL and after two weeks he was placed on injured reserve. Holmes has only played seven seasons in the NFL really and only four as a starter. While that?s not much wear and tear, he does turn 32 years of age in October and in the demanding position of tailback, injuries happen and recuperation time never gets shorter as they age.

Holmes has been rehabbing his knee at home and the word is that he will be fine for training camp and that he has permission to remain out of mini-camps and heal up. HC Dick Vermeil has stated repeatedly that he expects Holmes to be ready for camp and will be good to go. The fact that Holmes easily out produces all other running backs means no matter the risk, he has to be drafted early. Where that happens is an individual choice weighing reward against risk.

Consider too that Holmes is not only older and returning from a knee injury, but that the KC schedule is much tougher this season and as of this printing, OT Will Shields is considering retirement. If he plays the whole season, there?s no reason not to expect he won?t remain the best. The whole issue is that word ? ?if?.

Shaun Alexander - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 2
TD Only: 3
Keeper: 2
Auction: 33%
2002 SEA 16 1635 18 295 1175 4.0 16 59 460 2
2003 SEA 16 1730 16 326 1435 4.4 14 42 295 2
2004 SEA 16 1858 20 353 1688 4.8 16 23 170 4
Avg   16 1741 18 325 1433 4.4 15 41 308 3
PROJ FA   1730 17   1550   15 22 180 2

After sitting on the bench for a season and then starting for the last four years, Alexander has become unquestionably one of the elite backs in the NFL with a level of consistency, productivity and durability rivaled only by LaDainian Tomlinson. Over the last four seasons, he has gained at least 14 touchdowns and ran for at least 1175 yards. His 1696 rushing yards of 2004 was a career best and second only to Curtis Martin (nine yards back, a point of sticky contention no doubt).

Alexander is not a huge part of the passing game though he manages to score at least twice a year via the pass. Since Ricky Watters went down to injury back in 2001, it?s been all Alexander, all the time. His 20 total touchdowns last year was tops for any non-quarterback in the NFL for 2004. He?s not just a fantasy goldmine; he is 28 years old and in the middle of his prime.

The only real question to the 2005 fantasy draft is if Tomlinson or Alexander deserves to be the first player selected. Even a down year from Alexander guarantees top ten if not top five numbers on the season. Young, durable and now even more motivated as a franchise player, Alexander?s outlook this season could not be brighter.

Edgerrin James - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 3
TD Only: 4
Keeper: 3
Auction: 32%
2002 IND 14 1342 3 277 989 3.6 2 61 353 1
2003 IND 13 1549 11 309 1257 4.1 11 51 292  
2004 IND 16 2031 9 334 1548 4.6 9 51 483  
Avg   14 1641 8 307 1265 4.1 7 54 376 0
PROJ FA   1960 14   1530   11 54 430 3

As long as James stays healthy, he?s a lock to remain one of the most productive tailbacks in the league. He?s never rushed for less than 1500 yards in any of the three 16 games seasons he played. 2004 was one of those years with 1548 rushing yards added to 483 receiving yards for a total of 9 scores. It seems low in points only on a team like Indianapolis. There were over 20 NFL teams last year that could only dream of that much scoring from a running back.

James is consistent and highly productive. He ranked second only to Tiki Barber in total yards last season (2031) and he ended fourth in rushing yards and fourth in receiving yards. With Manning tossing touchdowns like they were free t-shirts for the crowd, no defense can think about loading up against the run. Many tackles on James end up to be defenders running back to cut him off.

With such a level of consistency, production and relatively no risk other than injury, James is a reasonable and natural selection as one of the first backs off the boards every summer. He?s in a one-year contract as of this printing as the franchise player and still has something to prove for next year.

Tier 2
Willis McGahee - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 7
TD Only: 5
Keeper: 4
Auction: 28%
2002                      
2003                      
2004 BUF 15 1297 13 284 1128 4.0 13 22 169  
Avg   15 1297 13 284 1128 4.0 13 22 169 0
PROJ FA   1660 14   1480   14 23 180  

(+Upside) After sitting out 2003 and playing sparingly in the first five games of last season, McGahee took over the starting role in Buffalo and never looked back. He ended with 1128 yards and considering only the yardage he gained as a full time starter, he would have topped 1500 rushing yards over a full season and been a top five rusher for the year. His 13 touchdowns came in the final ten games and were bettered only by six players who all played a full season (okay ? so not Holmes).

Considering his lengthy layoff and the strength of his schedule, McGahee turned in a very impressive performance, exceeding 100 yards seven times in twelve games as the primary back.

With a stifling defense to yield good field position and a coach already enamored with him, McGahee?s future is quite bright if he can avoid further injuries. He did hyper-extend a knee last year but played through the injury. Playing in the AFC East is no cakewalk for a runner and McGahee still has to prove himself against divisional rivals but even farther away from the knee injury that robbed him of his first year, McGahee is a lock to get a ton of carries and be able to do big things with them. He can carry 30 times a game when needed and more importantly, the first hit he takes is rarely the last one.

08-15-05 Update: McGahee slips just a bit with the poor showing of J.P. Losman in the preseason opener. He's still a fine choice but with the passing game not looking very formidable yet, he carries higher risk.

Domanick Williams - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 5
TD Only: 6
Keeper: 5
Auction: 28%
2002                      
2003 HOU 14 1382 8 238 1031 4.3 8 47 351  
2004 HOU 15 1776 14 301 1180 3.9 13 69 596 1
Avg   15 1579 11 270 1106 4.1 11 58 474 1
PROJ FA   1730 13   1250   10 60 480 3

In only two seasons, Davis has gone from the injured rookie no one saw in training camp to being one of the top fantasy running backs in the NFL. The reason is not hard to figure. Davis is not dramatically gifted at gaining yards he just gets so many opportunities that by sheer volume he ranks highly. He participated in 385 plays last year that were either runs or passes to him which ranked 8th in the NFL for 2004 running backs. Had he not missed a game his average would have seen him challenge for the top spot only 33 plays away (Tomlinson).

Davis is a fantasy goldmine with his role in the passing game. His 596 receiving yards were second only to Brian Westbrook last year and only four other runners managed more than his 14 touchdowns. There were games last season that literally saw Davis take every offensive play in a series.

Davis is prone to getting nicked up ? he had a bruised thigh and sprained ankle last season but managed to only miss one game. While there seems to be a risk that he is being used too much, the reality is that Houston has added no new offensive weapons and there is no reason to expect that Davis will see any different role. For the most of 2004, he was the only consistently productive feature to the offense. He?s a slight injury risk but his reward well outweighed that last year and should be the case again for 2005.

Corey Dillon - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 8
TD Only: 7
Keeper: 17
Auction: 24%
2002 CIN 16 1609 7 314 1311 4.2 7 43 298  
2003 CIN 13 612 2 138 541 3.9 2 11 71  
2004 NEP 15 1738 13 345 1635 4.7 12 15 103 1
Avg   15 1320 7 266 1162 4.3 7 23 157 0
PROJ FA   1680 12   1580   11 16 100 1

After languishing in Cincinnati for seven seasons, Dillon left for the Patriots and in one season had career highs in yards and touchdowns. He also has a new ring to wear. The move ?did him good?.

His 1635 rushing yards were third best in the league last year and only four runners had more touchdowns. This considering that he missed one week with a sprained ankle. He was among the most consistent tailbacks with nine 100 yards games and nine games with touchdowns. It was everything that the Pats and Dillon both could hope for and it resulted in yet another championship.

Dillon was durable last season even with the 4th highest number of carries in the NFL. He turns 31 this season which is a minor concern but as of yet has not been a factor. The Patriots actually have a slightly easier rushing schedule than in 2004 and Dillon is primed to replicate his great performance last season. There?s little doubt that the Patriots will run him hard again this season and incredibly, he may end up even better.

You need to consider Dillon among the premier backs in the league this season because of his big role in the offense and great consistency at turning in above average games. His age may be a slight downside, but there?s upside in the schedule to balance it.

Julius Jones - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 12
TD Only: 8
Keeper: 9
Auction: 22%
2002                      
2003                      
2004 DAL 8 928 7 197 819 4.2 7 17 109  
Avg   8 928 7 197 819 4.2 7 17 109 0
PROJ FA   1530 13   1380   13 19 150  

(+Upside) The Cowboys had the chance to take any running back in the 2004 NFL draft and traded back. This allowed Steven Jackson, Chris Perry, Kevin Jones and Tatum Bell to leave the board until Dallas picked up Jones in the second round. With Eddie George installed as the veteran rusher, Jones would take a slower path to stardom.

Jones suffered a broken clavicle in September and was pushed back into the shadows until week 11. There was speculation that he would be placed on injured reserve initially but he finally made it back for the Ravens game where he carried the ball 30 times for 81 very tough yards. In the matter of seven games to end the season, Jones ran for an astounding 803 yards and scored seven times. Extrapolate that to 16 games and it?s like 1835 yards and 16 scores ? well higher than the NFL leader Martin produced (1697). That production was buoyed by soft match-ups against CHI, SEA and NYG when he ran for 149 yards or more. But he faced tough defenses in WAS, PHI and Bal and still produced relatively well.

There is no way that Jones will continue with the volume of carries he had last season ? his 192 runs in seven weeks would shatter NFL records if the pace would be maintained over a full season. But he has now gained the confidence of the coaches and has more experience in the offense. If he can stay healthy, Jones should have a great 2005 providing the solid running game that Parcells craves and his only downside is if Anthony Thomas proves to be more than occasional relief.

Kevin Jones - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 10
TD Only: 9
Keeper: 8
Auction: 22%
2002                      
2003                      
2004 DET 15 1313 6 241 1133 4.7 5 28 180 1
Avg   15 1313 6 241 1133 4.7 5 28 180 1
PROJ FA   1600 12   1330   10 26 270 2

(+Upside) Not unlike Julius Jones, Kevin Jones looked like a bust pick for the first nine games of the season thanks in part to a high ankle sprain he suffered in the first weeks of the season. Jones only missed one game but played on a limited basis with no game more than a dozen carries. And then in week ten, the Lions started feeding him the ball more and Jones responded with an impressive yards per carry each game. He scored his first NFL touchdown in week 13 when he ran for 196 yards against Arizona and then scored in the next three consecutive games. Over the last seven weeks, Jones turned in six games over 90 yards rushing.

As it worked out, Jones enjoyed a nice stretch of games. His schedule included IND, MIN (twice), GB, CHI and TEN ? hardly the best defenses in the league last season. His production was impressive though and it did coincide with his recovery from the high ankle sprain.

This season Jones starts out healthy and ready to resume his productive ways of 2004 against a schedule that is a dream during the fantasy playoffs in most leagues: @GB, CIN and @NO. Last season those match-ups would have provided a guaranteed three great fantasy games ? all right at the time you need them most.

Ben Tate - CLE YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 14
TD Only: 10
Keeper: 11
Auction: 22%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ CLE                    

No analysis available.

Rudi Johnson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 14
TD Only: 10
Keeper: 11
Auction: 22%
2002 CIN 6 101   17 67 3.9   6 34  
2003 CIN 13 1113 9 214 967 4.5 9 21 146  
2004 CIN 16 1541 12 362 1457 4.0 12 15 84  
Avg   12 918 7 198 830 4.1 7 14 88 0
PROJ FA   1440 12   1350   11 11 90 1

The Bengals were not completely sold on Rudi Johnson last season and only tendered him a one-year deal while also drafting Chris Perry as the fall-back replacement. Perry barely made it on the field the entire season thanks to injury and Johnson was so impressive that the Bengals initially franchised him in February and then signed him to a five-year contract in March.

Johnson?s 362 carries last year was second only to Curtis Martin (371) and his 1457 rushing yards ranked sixth best in the league. Johnson is almost a complete non-factor in the passing game, he only had 15 catches all season but he?s a consistent 20-carry per game runner that scores in most games. He?s also a big enough workhorse to take over a game when the score allows the Bengals to run out the clock.

Johnson is a solid back who likely doesn?t have much more upside than what he did last year but he finished as the 8th best fantasy scorer in his position and makes a consistent, solid pick for those drafting late in the first round. He?s safe in the way you want your running back to be ? consistent and productive.

Tier 3
Steven Jackson - ATL YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 17
TD Only: 11
Keeper: 12
Auction: 15%
2002                      
2003                      
2004 STL 14 841 4 134 673 5.0 4 18 168  
Avg   14 841 4 134 673 5.0 4 18 168 0
PROJ ATL   1370 11   1250   10 16 120 1

(+Upside) After a rookie season of sharing the ball with Marshall Faulk, Jackson takes the primary role this season though with Faulk now being the reliever. Jackson only had two games last year where he was allowed 20 or more carries and he ended with well over 100 yards in each. He averaged an even five yards per carry and appeared to get better as the game wore on.

Jackson is a big back at 233 lbs. and he can move the pile when needed. He also has enough speed to break through the line and set the secondary off chasing him. With Faulk still around, Jackson won?t get the full load like a Tomlinson or Alexander would, but he should receive a big share of the rushing attempts and has a great schedule to go against. He could definitely surprise even with a supposed committee approach this season.

There is some natural downside to having Faulk still on board and it will decrease Jackson?s numbers but he should still provide some consistently good yardage in every game since his style of running is a great mismatch to the defensive formations that the Rams passing attack typically inspire. As often as the Rams like to throw, it will decrease his touchdown totals even when they near the goal line but considering his availability deeper into starting running backs in your draft, he offers great consistency with upside for a surprising year.

Deuce McAllister - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 6
TD Only: 12
Keeper: 6
Auction: 28%
2002 NOS 15 1740 16 325 1388 4.3 13 47 352 3
2003 NOS 16 2157 8 351 1641 4.7 8 69 516  
2004 NOS 14 1302 9 269 1074 4.0 9 34 228  
Avg   15 1733 11 315 1368 4.3 10 50 365 1
PROJ FA*   1840 11   1490   10 42 350 1

McAllister came off a career-best season in 2003 and then promptly suffered a high ankle sprain against the 49ers in week two that robbed him of three games worth of production. He just barely ended with over 1000 rushing yards though his nine touchdowns were the second best of his career.

With five 100+ yard rushing efforts and six games with touchdowns in thirteen weeks played, McAllister was reasonably consistent. Don?t forget that he had nine consecutive games over 100 yards in 2003 and he tied with Priest Holmes for the most games with 100 yards or a touchdown that year (13). He is talented and his production decrease last season was mainly in regard to his injury.
McAllister is a top running back in the league because he consistently takes almost all rushes for his team and scores in at least half his games. His receiving role has decreased over the last couple of years but his volume of carries remains high.

Other than the high ankle sprain last year, he has been durable even with his heavy use ? the sprain came at the first of last year so he is not just wearing down. Expect a solid season from Deuce once again in 2005 that will produce a very good option for your team. Not a great one, not a bad one, just a solid option for your #1 tailback.

Clinton Portis - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 11
TD Only: 13
Keeper: 10
Auction: 22%
2002 DEN 16 1872 17 273 1508 5.5 15 33 364 2
2003 DEN 13 1905 14 290 1591 5.5 14 38 314  
2004 WAS 15 1550 7 343 1315 3.8 5 40 235 2
Avg   15 1776 13 302 1471 4.9 11 37 304 1
PROJ FA   1600 10   1380   9 29 220 1

(+Upside) After two seasons of at least 14 scores, Portis? first year with the Redskins had to be disappointing to fantasy owners. He had five games with less than 60 yards rushing which was not supposed to happen from a runner who was promised to ?run until his tongue hung out? by HC Joe Gibbs in the preseason.

Portis was not without value however, he had eight games with over 100 total yards and seemed to turn in an equal share of down games versus big games. There was just very little middle ground to his performances of 2004. This season is shaping up for a return of Portis to the upper echelon of fantasy backs.

The Redskins? schedule is one of the best in the NFL this year and they enter the second season of the offense. The same players return other than swapping Coles for Moss but that secondary stretching difference could actually help Portis. Look for one of the fastest, most elusive backs to get back on track this year with an upgraded and healthy offensive line and the mandate to keep the defenses chasing Portis ?until their tongues are hanging out?.

08/11/05 Update: Portis drops not from any particular reason per se but just news that the offensive line still does not appear to be upgrading as much from last season as would be desired. That will likely result in the same pattern as last season - several monster games balanced by some very marginal afternoons.

Jamal Lewis - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 9
TD Only: 14
Keeper: 7
Auction: 22%
2002 BAL 16 1769 7 308 1327 4.3 6 47 442 1
2003 BAL 16 2269 14 388 2064 5.3 14 26 205  
2004 BAL 12 1122 7 235 1006 4.3 7 10 116  
Avg   15 1720 9 310 1466 4.6 9 28 254 0
PROJ FA   1650 10   1490   10 18 160  

Lewis missed two games from his NFL suspension and later skipped two others thanks to a sore ankle. His pace was far from his stellar 2003 season when he gained 2064 yards and had 12 games over 100 yards. Last year he only managed the feat four times and he only carried in excess of 25 times three times all year ? he had eight such efforts the previous season.

It was a year of distractions and coming off a record-setting 2003, a down year was not unexpected. Other than his monster season, Lewis has never gained more than 1367 yards nor started a full 16 game slate. He?s a bruising runner that has almost no involvement in the passing game. Even then, he?s always stayed around 6 or 7 TD?s in a year other than 2003.

Figure Lewis to rebound after a challenging year in 2004. The Ravens rushing schedule is actually a bit lighter than normal and there is the prospect that Boller may be able to throw better this year and reduce the intensive focus that Lewis always attracts. He?s rock solid for gaining a decent game and in 2003 showed that he can do much more when the conditions are right. His lack of receiving yards and relatively lower TD totals reduce his fantasy value but he remains a viable #1 fantasy back if your first pick went to another position and a great #2 back if possible.

Lamont Jordan - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 18
TD Only: 15
Keeper: 21
Auction: 14%
2002 NYJ 14 476 3 84 316 3.8 3 17 160  
2003 NYJ 13 291 4 46 190 4.1 4 11 101  
2004 NYJ 14 591 2 93 479 5.2 2 15 112  
Avg   14 453 3 74 328 4.4 3 14 124 0
PROJ FA   1420 10   1220   9 26 200 1

(+Upside) The Raiders added Jordan in the off-season as a means to improve a rushing game that was one of the worst in the NFL last season ? Amos Zereoue was the 2004 leader with only 425 yards. While the Raiders could have pursued one of the top backs in the NFL draft, they elected to swap their 1.07 pick for Randy Moss and use free agency to get their runner. Jordan was the biggest name available in a season with little movement for tailbacks. He signed a five-year agreement with Oakland for $15.8 million with a $7 million signing bonus. That?s enough to ensure all the eggs for the running game are in Jordan?s basket.

Jordan has never had more than 93 carries in any season but that will change in 2005. HC Norv Turner wants a sound running game and the last two drafts have been used to stock up on offensive linemen. What Jordan can do as the primary running back remains to be seen. He played as Curtis Martin?s back-up for the last four seasons after being drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft and while he had an impressive ?yards per carry average?, that is not unusual for a relief back.

With Collins and Porter in their second season and having added Randy Moss, the Raiders should have a passing game to respect if not fear. That will help Jordan avoid excessive attention by the defense and could allow him a nice first season in Oakland. The schedule is a tough one but the pieces are in place to let Jordan finally deliver on his promise after four long years of waiting his turn. Turner?s style is to use the powerback as a workhorse and Jordan has just the right mix of size and running style to complement the attack. Expect Jordan to likely produce better than his draft slot suggests with a great opportunity and situation.

Ahman Green - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 16
TD Only: 17
Keeper: 13
Auction: 15%
2002 GBP 14 1633 9 286 1240 4.3 7 57 393 2
2003 GBP 16 2250 20 355 1883 5.3 15 50 367 5
2004 GBP 15 1438 8 259 1163 4.5 7 40 275 1
Avg   15 1774 12 300 1429 4.7 10 49 345 3
PROJ FA   1500 9   1260   8 34 240 1

(-Risk) While Green?s 2004 performance may have disappointed some, it was because his 2003 career-best season was still fresh on their minds. The 1400 total yards and eight scores were very much like two of the past three seasons. And like those years, Green was nicked up and missed a game.

Green is a very good runner playing in an offense that typically scores well and has a passing game the defense must respect. His 1883 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2003 was an aberration ? not the start of a new era for the seven year player. The offensive scheme is well entrenched in Green Bay and all the principal players are the same. There?s not much reason to expect more than what he did in 2004 ? it was his average season.

Where Green?s fantasy stock goes up is from his consistency. For each of his ten years in Green Bay, he has produced top ten numbers for the position and as shown in 2003, he can put in a great year when the situation and schedule complies. Where his stock goes back down is the loss of both starting guards in the off-season. Expect him to approach his average of 1400 yards and eight scores but recognize his consistency is balanced by less upside this year with the changes to the offensive line.

Tiki Barber - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 13
TD Only: 18
Keeper: 14
Auction: 22%
2002 NYG 16 1984 11 303 1386 4.6 11 69 598  
2003 NYG 16 1676 3 278 1215 4.4 2 69 461 1
2004 NYG 16 2096 15 322 1518 4.7 13 52 578 2
Avg   16 1919 10 301 1373 4.6 9 63 546 1
PROJ FA   1690 8   1240   7 48 450 1

It was the year of the veteran running back in 2004 and along with Curtis Martin, Barber was one of the NFL tailbacks that said ?I?m just getting started? last year. It was predictable that the Giants would rely on the rushing game more with a rookie quarterback to protect. It was not predictable that Barber would end up as a top five back in both rushing and receiving yardage, touchdowns, attempts and yards per carry. Barber ended 2004 with 2096 total yards ? the best in the league.

There were so many bests and firsts associated with Barber?s career year that they aren?t worth detailing. The question is if they are due to be repeated. Probably not. Consider that under Kurt Warner?s direction, Barber averaged 155 total yards and 1.3 scores per game. When Manning played, it fell to 103 yards and only 0.6 touchdowns per game. In fantasy terms, Barber was barely half as effective when Manning took over.

Certainly the Giants will improve on offense this season, but that will likely come at the expense of Barber who had 374 runs or catches last year. He?s one of the smallest starting runners and while he was durable last year, he does hit 30 years old this season as a red flag. Barber is always more valuable than where he is drafted and none so much as last year. That may finally get reversed. Coming off a career and NFL high, he?s bound to return to lower production as the new offense hits second gear.

08-05-05 Update: Barber appears even more likely to lose some carries and scores to the rookie Jacobs who is almost half again as big as Barber. While Dayne was a flop, Jacobs has every bit the look of thunder to Barber's lightning.

Chris Brown - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 24
TD Only: 19
Keeper: 22
Auction: 10%
2002                      
2003 TEN 11 282   56 221 3.9   8 61  
2004 TEN 11 1214 6 220 1067 4.9 6 20 147  
Avg   11 748 3 138 644 4.4 3 14 104 0
PROJ FA   1330 8   1100   7 30 230 1

(-Risk) (+Upside) Brown was a very productive runner last year but could not stay healthy and most of his starts had him less than 100%. He had a sprained ankle to start the year, then a shoulder stinger took him out of the Houston game and later a turf toe condition had him hobbled for almost the entire second half of the season. He only played in 11 games last year but had six 100 yard rushing efforts. Brown even had injury problems as a little used rookie when he had a hamstring strain for much of that year.

With such great production punctuated by so many injuries, Brown is a feast or famine fantasy choice. He?ll be needed more this season with the new offense being installed by OC Norman Chow and the Titans are relying on him to remain healthy. However, they have no choice and you have a fantasy draft full of other options.

The Titan schedule is a bit tougher than most years and the passing game will be going through a transition this year with lesser receivers than ever before. If Brown can hold up all season, he could end up leading the league in rushing yardage. So far, there is nothing to suggest he is capable of lasting that long. Downgrade Brown from a risk of injury but realize he does deliver the yardage when healthy and even when he is not 100%. For a first fantasy tailback, it?s hard to pull the trigger on a player that has not shown much reliability. As your #2 tailback, Brown makes a great choice since he?ll be a ?homerun hitter? in most of the games you get out of him. Just don?t slack off when you pick his back-up.

08-05-05 Update: While the acquisition of Travis Henry was reasonable enough, what is becoming more and more clear is that the Titans intend on using both Brown and Henry in some sharing scenario. Both have worked out equally with the first team in camp and HC Jeff Fisher has reaffirmed that he intends to use both backs during the season.

Curtis Martin - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 15
TD Only: 20
Keeper: 24
Auction: 16%
2002 NYJ 16 1456 7 261 1094 4.2 7 49 362  
2003 NYJ 16 1573 2 321 1311 4.1 2 42 262  
2004 NYJ 16 1942 14 371 1697 4.6 12 41 245 2
Avg   16 1657 8 318 1367 4.3 7 44 290 1
PROJ FA   1580 8   1350   7 26 230 1

(-Risk) After ten seasons in the NFL, Martin comes off a career best year that coincidentally was also an NFL best with 1697 rushing yards. His twelve scores were bettered only by his first two seasons with the Patriots and incredibly, this 32 year old runner has not missed a single game in eight years. After scoring only two times in 2003, Martin exploded in 2004.

One difference was that Martin had historically been held out of training camp duties to keep him fresh for the season. What that had led to was Martin not being up to speed and in synch when the season started. Last year he worked out with the team and trained like he wasn?t a nine year veteran with the most yardage of any active runner in the league.

His age is a natural concern but there has been nothing to suggest that Martin is slowing down. He has a tough rushing schedule but that is no different than any other year. He?s never been good for less than 1400 total yards though his touchdown totals vary wildly each season. He won?t repeat his league leading performance of 2004, but he?s a guaranteed starter for any fantasy team.

Ronnie Brown - HOU YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 23
TD Only: 21
Keeper: 20
Auction: 10%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ HOU   1340 8   1150   7 24 190 1

(+Upside) Brown was the second pick in the draft and first back off the board. He goes to the rushing-starved Dolphins and was the first pick for the Saban regime. Brown is considered a rare bull with speed and moves. Guaranteed he'll get every chance to shine and he has the talent to deliver and there's no Cadillac Williams around to share with anymore like in college.

There is no doubt that Brown will get a heavy volume but in a new offensive scheme that no one has seen, there?s no way to be sure if Saban (or OC Scott Linehan from MIN) will use any specialists. Under Wannstedt, Brown would be a 320 carry a year player and it has to be assumed that he?ll still be the mass majority of the running game in the new offense. Linehan was a part of an offense in MIN that used third down players and mixed and matched runners, but taking the first runner in the draft with the second overall pick is not made for anything but a workhorse.

What goes against Brown this season is obviously being a part of a new offense that the entire team is trying to learn and this is the first year of rebuilding after Wannstedt?s regime. Add in one of the toughest rushing schedules in the league and an offensive line trying to upgrade from being horrible and the outlook for Brown?s freshman effort is not as bright as his long-term career. Ricky Williams continues to be rumored to return, but it?s almost unimaginable that he will and become a significant part of the Miami offense this year.

07-27-05 Update: Brown takes a slight tick down since he is currently holding out and Ricky Williams appears to be likely to take some time from him later in the season.

Montario Hardesty - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 26
TD Only: 21
Keeper: 26
Auction: 10%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA                    

No analysis available.

Tier 4
Warrick Dunn - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 25
TD Only: 22
Keeper: 43
Auction: 10%
2002 ATL 15 1304 9 230 927 4.0 7 50 377 2
2003 ATL 11 1008 5 125 672 5.4 3 37 336 2
2004 ATL 16 1399 9 265 1106 4.2 9 29 293  
Avg   14 1237 8 207 902 4.5 6 39 335 1
PROJ FA*   1330 8   1050   8 29 280  

Dunn comes off one of the best seasons in his eight year career, with highs in carries (265), rushing scores (9) and only 27 yards shy of his best rushing yardage (1106). He remained healthy and productive for the entire year for only the third time since coming to the NFL and finished the year strongly with three 100+ yard efforts in the final four games.

The Falcons acquisition of the ex-Denver offensive line coach Alex Gibbs (since promoted to ?consultant?) paid off huge dividends in the rushing game which led the NFL last year thanks to Vick?s sizable donation. More encouraging than the stellar results for Dunn was the fact that he actually was given more carries and did more with them as the season was concluding. Dunn only scored once in an eight game stretch during the middle of the season but found the endzone in six of the other eight games.

Dunn has now hit the magic 30-years old and he has been dinged up in the past but he managed to cruise behind the great offensive line last year with only an early knee ?tweak? and a case of cramps one week. He no longer is used in the passing game ? his receiving numbers of 2004 were a career low and there is some reason to be concerned that he may become more injury-prone from here on out. The offense runs well with Dunn in the backfield and that won?t change short of injury, so consider Dunn as a solid #2 fantasy back that will turn in the occasional big game and rarely has a down week.

Larry Johnson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 31
TD Only: 23
Keeper: 23
Auction: 4%
2002                      
2003 KCC 5 87 1 20 85 4.3 1 1 2  
2004 KCC 8 859 11 120 581 4.8 9 22 278 2
Avg   7 473 6 70 333 4.6 5 12 140 1
PROJ FA   650 8   500   7 17 150 1

(+Upside) When Priest Holmes went down inured in week eight, the Chiefs turned to Derrick Blaylock to fill in for the first three weeks. Evidently, the first round pick from 2003 was not quite done with his diapers but starting in week 13, he took them off thanks to a suggestion by HC Dick Vermeil and over the final five games he looked an awful lot like Priest Holmes.

Johnson ran for 531 yards in those five weeks and scored ten times. He scored twice in each game. It was like Johnson was performing up to expectations. It was like Johnson was performing like Priest Holmes.

The #1 handcuff pick that must be made in the draft this season is to get Larry Johnson if you have Priest Holmes. No doubt about it and don?t wait until the back-ups start to be taken. Holmes forces the need for a back-up that can match his numbers and boost a fantasy team every week. Having Holmes can get you to the playoffs but if he is hurt and you don?t have Johnson, winning when it matters most will be more difficult. Larry will be the most interesting player this year in terms of where he is drafted. He will be the #1 target of owners looking to steal a player.

Mike Anderson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 27
TD Only: 24
Keeper: 39
Auction: 4%
2002 DEN 15 553 4 84 386 4.6 2 18 167 2
2003 DEN 10 310 5 70 257 3.7 3 12 53 2
2004                      
Avg   13 432 5 77 322 4.2 3 15 110 2
PROJ FA   950 8   850   8 12 100  

(-Risk) (+Upside) Anderson has been given the starting job in Denver over Tatum Bell and all signs point to him keeping the job. Anderson comes off a season ending injury last year where he tore the muscle from the bone in his groin. His rehabilitation has gone well over the past year and as evidenced by his 93 yard run against the Colts, he is healthy once again.

What is not in his favor is that he is 32 years of age and has never started more than 12 games in any of his five seasons in the NFL. His only season of note was back in 2000 when he gained 1487 rushing yards with 15 touchdowns but the next four years were without fantasy relevance. Add in that the Broncos face a tough schedule against the AFC East and NFC East and Anderson may be fortunate to hit his previous high of 12 games in a single season. He has upside as a Denver back and begins the year as the starter but his risk ideally makes him worth no more than a back-up slot. He could be big this year - and he could end up just being a 32 year old player with durability issues playing a very tough schedule.

Cedric Benson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 22
TD Only: 25
Keeper: 16
Auction: 10%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   1340 8   1250   8 12 90  

(+Upside) The Bears snapped up Benson with the 4th overall pick in the draft as the second tailback taken. In short, he?s a perfect fit for the new offense being installed this year by OC Ron Turner which will look for an equal balance of rushing and passing. Thomas Jones was the starter last year and is still around to make people wonder if some sharing scenario will occur. Consider this ? no one uses the fourth overall pick in the draft to select perhaps the perfect stereotypical workhorse runner to use him part-time.

Benson comes to the NFL with a lengthy resume of accomplishments from his four years with Texas where he finished up one of the top ten NCAA rushers of all time. Coming from UT and wearing dreadlocks, there was a natural comparison to Ricky Williams and there is some similarity though Benson is slightly smaller and faster than Williams was. He is a supreme athlete that is likely the least risky of any rookie runner ? and that extends back for the last four years.

There was some concern that he had too much mileage since he was wildly productive in both high school and college. Then again, it?s a whole lot less yardage than Curtis Martin has and he led the league in 2004. The Bears will feature Benson and there?s no reason to expect he will be less than a good back in the NFL and if his history holds up, he?ll be considered a great one before it is all done.

08-15-05 Update: Benson slips a few spots since he has not signed yet and is losing valuable practice time. The loss of Grossman also cannot be viewed as favorable for the offense. Benson is very talented and will be a good runner in the NFL. He has the best rushing schedule of any rookie tailback but his absence likely will have him receive more limited time in the early part of the season. Particularly considering the Bears will need a good blocker from their running backs on passing downs.

08-26-25 Update: Benson, the lone unsigned first round draft choice, appeared in Chicago Thursday, August 25th, with advisor Brian Peters for an unplanned meeting with Bears general manager Jerry Angelo. Benson wanted to speak with Angelo in person and while the meeting seemed pleasant, no negotiations took place because Benson's agent, Eugene Parker, was not present. People in the organization felt it was a positive direction for the missing running back - his first of the summer.

Brian Westbrook - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 19
TD Only: 26
Keeper: 25
Auction: 12%
2002 PHI 15 279   46 193 4.2   9 86  
2003 PHI 15 945 11 116 605 5.2 7 38 340 4
2004 PHI 13 1511 9 178 808 4.5 3 73 703 6
Avg   14 912 7 113 535 4.6 3 40 376 3
PROJ FA   1460 7   760   2 75 700 5

(-Risk) (+Upside) Westbrook ended up as a top ten back in almost all fantasy leagues last year with a career best 1511 yards and nine scores. His 73 receptions were tops in the NFL for his position and he accomplished a career best season in spite of only playing in 13 games. Westbrook scored nine touchdowns but logged seven of them in a three game span mid-season

Westbrooks? value stems primarily from his role in the passing game as he easily was #1 in receiving yardage for running backs with 703 (Domanick Davis was #2 with 589). His risk is higher than most thanks to a lack of durability which showed up in 2004 with a rib fracture that actually held his numbers lower. He was held out of the final two games as a way to ensure he was not hurt again for the playoffs.

Consider Westbrook a great pick while healthy since he gains yards almost equally receiving and rushing. He?s harder to rely on for scores, but provides a solid, consistent measure of yardage. His injury risk drops him in the draft and the addition of Ryan Moats could reduce his carries. Look for Westbrook to deliver the goods again this year.

Kevan Barlow - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 26
TD Only: 27
Keeper: 28
Auction: 8%
2002 SFO 14 811 5 145 675 4.7 4 14 136 1
2003 SFO 16 1331 7 201 1024 5.1 6 35 307 1
2004 SFO 15 1034 7 244 822 3.4 7 35 212  
Avg   15 1059 6 197 840 4.4 6 28 218 1
PROJ FA   1130 7   890   7 27 240  

(-Risk) Barlow entered the 2004 season finally free of the sharing scheme with Garrison Hearst but he actually was more effective when Hearst was there (along with other notable players). Barlow only managed to record two 100 yard games and his seven scores almost all came by mid-season. He was so ineffective that the coaches eventually tried out Maurice Hicks to appear that they were still trying to win.

The offensive line was little help for Barlow who ended with a pathetic 3.4 yards per run which ranked 45th best in the NFL (and behind every other starting running back). Since the new regime under HC Mike Nolan did not use that #1 overall pick on a running back, Barlow enters training camp and the season as the starting back once again.

With a new offense being installed and a new set of coaches to make decisions, there is no certainty that Barlow is any better this year or that he even lasts the whole season as the starter. The 49ers used their 3.01 pick on Frank Gore who had been electrifying before two knee injuries at Miami. Make Barlow the last NFL starter that gets drafted to be safe and realize that Gore might actually make the more intriguing pick.

Carnell Williams - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 20
TD Only: 28
Keeper: 18
Auction: 10%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA*   1470 6   1250   6 26 220  

HC Jon Gruden came to the Buccaneers in 2002 and in the last three seasons, there has been no 1000 yard rusher in Tampa Bay. That possibility left when Warrick Dunn left for Atlanta that first year. The Buccaneers mixed and matched tailbacks constantly for the last three years not unlike how Gruden had done in Oakland. This year that may finally change. The Buccaneers drafted Williams with the 1.05 pick in the draft and were ecstatic to get the last available player from the ?Big 3? premier rookie runners.

Williams is a tremendous runner and has always been the type of player that just needed the ball in whatever way it took to get it in his hands. Truly a threat to score every time he touches the ball, Williams goes to a team that has muddled through various backs since Dunn left. He is slightly smaller than either Benson or Brown, but that translates into speed and moves. Think Charlie Garner ten years younger, faster and with more inside running ability.

Tampa Bay under Gruden has not allowed any runner to have more than 219 carries in any season (somewhat thanks to injuries). It is a small leap of faith to believe that any tailback there will get enough use to become a fantasy star but reason says no one uses the fifth overall pick in the draft to take a situational player. Tampa Bay faces a fairly daunting schedule this season with one of the worst offensive lines in the league. That will work against Williams but opportunity combined with talent makes Cadillac an attractive option for your fantasy team.

J.J. Arrington - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 21
TD Only: 29
Keeper: 19
Auction: 10%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   1460 6   1190   6 31 270  

(+Upside) The fourth back taken in the draft came with the 2.12 pick when the Cardinals were able to snap up Arrington, who may prove as productive as the three initially taken. Arrington is very quick and timed faster than those other three. He played in an offense at California that is similar to the Cardinals ? a scheme that spreads the field with multiple receivers and emphasizes the pass which allows more running room for a speedy back.

Arrington averaged 6.6 yards per carry in 2003 and he scored 15 touchdowns while topping the century mark in yardage in all twelve games. He piled up 2018 rushing yards last season and most of that came against solid defenses. His downside at least to scouts is that he is only 5?8? tall but at 214 pounds carries the same weight ratio of most prototypical backs. He?s just short enough to get lost behind the offensive line and when he hits the secondary, he becomes a major headache trying to catch. His 4.4/40 speed can out run many if not most cornerbacks in the league.

Arrington finds himself in a nice situation with little competition and a style of offense that should be best suited to his talents. Add in a lighter than most rushing schedule and chances are his name will be called too late in fantasy drafts this summer.

08-05-05 Update: Arrington gets a bump up after shining already in training camp and prompting HC Denny Green to already call his second round pick a steal. Arrington does not appear to have to worry much about Shipp or any other ball carrier for the Cardinals - this guy has been electric so far.

De'shaun Foster - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 28
TD Only: 30
Keeper: 27
Auction: 4%
2002                      
2003 CAR 14 636 2 113 429 3.8   26 207 2
2004 CAR 4 331 2 59 255 4.3 2 9 76  
Avg   9 484 2 86 342 4.1 1 18 142 1
PROJ FA*   1060 6   900   6 20 160  

(-Risk) (+Upside) DeShaun Foster has shown glimpses of being a top-flight back but has more often shown that he?s just another injury-prone college star that doesn?t translate well into the NFL. After three seasons, he?s only managed to play in a total of 16 games and although he was the starting back last year, he really only lasted two full games before breaking his clavicle and landing on injured reserve.

Foster will be the starter this season but history is against him playing a full season. He?s turned in a nice yards per carry when he merely offered change of pace for Stephen Davis, but when he was expected to carry a full load he?s actually been only average. The only 100 yard game as a pro was last season against the pathetic KC rush defense. It was also the only game in 2004 that he managed over four yards per carry.

Foster still carries some sense of good potential since the Panthers rushing game has always been good and Foster was a college star. But his history of injury makes him very risky and the addition of rookie Eric Shelton gives the Panthers yet another option in addition to Stephen Davis. Foster is tempting, but he?s most likely a player better to see on someone else?s fantasy team with a history of injury, the specter of Stephen Davis still present and the option of Shelton available.

Michael Bennett - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 29
TD Only: 31
Keeper: 30
Auction: 4%
2002 MIN 16 1647 6 255 1296 5.1 5 37 351 1
2003 MIN 8 579 1 90 447 5.0 1 12 132  
2004 MIN 10 483 2 70 276 3.9 1 21 207 1
Avg   11 903 3 138 673 4.7 2 23 230 1
PROJ FA   880 5   620   3 33 260 2

(-Risk) (+Upside) The ever-fragile Bennett didn?t even make it to the start of the regular season before once again getting injured. He suffered a second degree sprain of his MCL and was unable to play until week eight against the Giants. He was used for only around five carries a game before betting benched for Onterrio Smith in week 12. At that time, HC Mike Tice said that Smith would be the starter for the rest of the year.

That only lasted a few weeks before Bennett was back on the field and eventually the entire running back depth chart for MIN was determined using a game of weekly game of Scrabble. Consider this as the norm in Minnesota. Bennett played 16 games in 2002 and gained 1296 rushing yards. That was the last time the Vikings had one player exceed 1000 yards on the ground. The mixture of Moe Williams, Onterrio Smith, Mewelde Moore and Bennett has been constantly changing the past two seasons.

Going into 2005, Bennett is the starter but his name is written in pencil. Adding to the mess is that the Vikings drafted yet another back in Ciatrick Fason and the picture is even less clear than once before. Consider Bennett merely as ?one of the boys in the backfield?. Training camp will appear to answer the question but don?t get comfortable. For two seasons, it?s a tag team approach and the same players are still there.

Tier 5
T.J. Duckett - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 34
TD Only: 32
Keeper: 32
Auction: 3%
2002 ATL 12 568 4 130 507 3.9 4 9 61  
2003 ATL 16 873 11 197 779 4.0 11 11 94  
2004 ATL 12 524 8 104 509 4.9 8 3 15  
Avg   13 655 8 144 598 4.3 8 8 57 0
PROJ FA*   830 5   720   5 12 110  

(+Upside) Duckett enters his fourth season nothing more or less than he has ever been ? a nice complement for a two man attack but not good enough to be a primary back. He hasn?t hit the 100 yard mark since week 4 of 2003 and his usage has declined since Jim Mora Jr. took over. While Duckett had an impressive eight scores last year, he only actually scored in four different games ? one freak four TD game in week 14 doubled his scores for the season. He never gained more than 65 yards in any game and had four games he was not used. A minor cartilage tear also forced him to miss two games late in the season.

Since Dunn remained healthy last year, Duckett was little more than change of pace and a wasted fantasy pick. In 2003 when Dunn was injured for the final five weeks, Duckett did score once in four of those games and ran for as much as 96 yards. In the Falcon offense which has great run blocking, Duckett would be a viable #2 back in the event that Dunn was injured so long as he is used heavily but his yards per carry always dip down when his carries are increased.

Don?t look at Dunn?s overall numbers and believe you have a goal line scorer ? it just hasn?t happened. Until Dunn is injured, Duckett will produce meager numbers and not enough to rely on, even as bye week filler. If Dunn does go down to injury, Duckett?s stock does rise but only to an average RB level at best.

Brandon Jacobs - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 45
TD Only: 33
Keeper: 33
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   430 5   360   5 6 70  

(+Upside) The Giants acquired Jacobs with the 4.09 pick last April and brings on board a huge running back that is almost the exact opposite of Tiki Barber. At 6'4" and 260 pounds, Jacobs brings a "Jerome Bettis-like" presence to the rushing game that relied very heavily on Barber at the goal line in 2004. Jacobs is six inches taller and about 60 pounds heavier than Barber. He could gain yardage by merely falling forward.

The Giants only have Mike Cloud for competition with Jacobs and that battle should go to the monsterous rookie. The expected plan will see Jacobs offer short-yardage and goal line duty and there's a chance he could be used at the end of games to save wear and tear on Barber while pounding, literally, opposing defenses.

With Barber turning 30 years of age, the future of the backfield may reside in Jacobs. He's a needed handcuff for all Barber owners and a prudent pick in dynasty leagues. While Jacobs role will take form during training camp, he has to be a lock for enough play this season to give him fantasy relevance. While many teams use "change of pace" backs, in this one case it is like substuting a gazelle with a bull.

Lee Suggs - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 36
TD Only: 34
Keeper: 35
Auction: 3%
2002                      
2003 CLE 4 289 2 56 289 5.2 2 2    
2004 CLE 10 922 3 199 744 3.7 2 20 178 1
Avg   7 606 3 128 517 4.5 2 11 89 1
PROJ FA   660 5   580   4 10 80 1

(-Risk) (+Upside) Lee Suggs has been a clone of Domanick Davis, only with even less durability. In two seasons in the NFL, Davis has only been available for 14 games and much of last season had him playing with a bothersome neck stinger that limited him in many games. He later developed a toe injury which robbed him of three more match-ups.

What most people will remember is that he ended the season with three great efforts, rushing for over 105 yards in each. By that time of 2004, it was easy enough for opponents to completely disregard the Browns and still not risk losing the game. It is not the start of something new for Suggs; it?s just a glimpse of what he occasionally is capable of doing.

Suggs will have to contend with both Droughns and his own injury-prone ways this season, the combination of which spells a situation to avoid since Cleveland has a new offense being installed and directed by a 35 year old quarterback most had forgotten still played.

08-25-05 Update: Suggs now has a high ankle sprain which could make his status for the season opener in doubt. He's been a constant injury problem and while he is likely the best back in Cleveland, it doesn't matter when he is wearing ace bandages more than a uniform. Suggs is the best bet of the trio of he, WIlliam Green and Reuben Droughns to be fantasy relevant this year, but that doesn't neccessarily mean any of them will, at least not reliably.

Ryan Moats - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 40
TD Only: 35
Keeper: 31
Auction: 2%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   650 4   520   3 14 130 1

(+Upside) The Eagles selected Moats with the 3.13 pick in the 2004 draft as the 8th back taken. While the assumption may be that the previously injured Correll Buckhalter would need a back-up, that is not what happened. Buckhalter is 6?0? and weighs 225 pounds as a big back. Moats is only 5?8? and 208 pounds which is almost the exact dimensions of Brian Westbrook.

Other than J.J. Arrington, there is probably no other back from the 2004 NFL draft that more closely resembles Westbrook than Moats does. Coming from Louisiana Tech, Moats is considered a disciplined runner with great vision and exceptional moves. He?s also adept at catching passes and with his breakaway speed he is considered a threat on every carry.

His smaller size dropped him to the 3.13 selection and that too is oddly similar to Westbrook who was taken with the 3.26 pick in 2002. There is a concern that after this year Westbrook may price himself out of Philadelphia and he is already getting testy about playing this year without a contract better than the tender offer he was given as a restricted free agent.

Moats has all the markings of a fallback guy. If there are any problems with Westbrook?s contract or if he leaves next year or is injured this season ? they have a Westbrook Jr. to plug in. Moats is a cheap pick in a draft that may not pay much this season but could surprise with the durability issues of Westbrook. In a dynasty league, he?s more valuable with potential in the future.

08-23-05 Update: Moats is looking better every day that Buckhalter is still out. It's not that he will replace Buckhalter so much as it means heavier use of Brian Westbrook and the sooner he gets injured and needs to be subbed by Moats.

08-24-05 Update: The Eagles announced that Correll Buckhalter will be placed on Injured Reserve yet again. The door is open for Moats to not only be ready to replace Westbrook if he is injured, but to offer more production potential as the primary back to spell Westbrook.

Mewelde Moore - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 38
TD Only: 36
Keeper: 26
Auction: 2%
2002                      
2003                      
2004 MIN 7 617   65 379 5.8   27 238  
Avg   7 617 0 65 379 5.8 0 27 238 0
PROJ FA   660 4   540   4 14 120  

(+Upside) The rookie Moore was a delightful surprise last season when he strung together three consecutive games with very strong rushing. Fearing that yet another talented running back was emerging, the Vikings benched Moore as soon as Onterrio Smith was off suspension and Michael Bennett was healthy (a relative term).

Moore enters training camp this year with a chance to compete for a starting job with Michael Bennett and Ciatrick Fason. Moe Williams is the only player with a certain job as the third down player and eventually Moore will likely be his replacement. That?s why he was initially drafted.

While Moore looked good last year in his three game spree, he?ll be in a fight to get a starting nod. Bennett is the starter but is often injured so Moore is really going against Fason for the valuable #2 spot now that Onterrio Smith has been suspended. The Vikes want to run the ball more this season and there?s a great opportunity for Moore, but even in the best case scenario, HC Mike Tice has never had a problem with mixing and matching his backs.

Marshall Faulk - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 33
TD Only: 37
Keeper: 44
Auction: 3%
2002 STL 14 1490 10 212 953 4.5 8 80 537 2
2003 STL 11 1108 11 209 818 3.9 10 45 290 1
2004 STL 14 1084 4 195 774 4.0 3 50 310 1
Avg   13 1227 8 205 848 4.1 7 58 379 1
PROJ FA   760 4   360   2 50 400 2

(-Risk) While Faulk has been declining in numbers for the last three years and hasn?t actually played a full 16 game season since 1999, he returns for his 12th season in the NFL with one big change ? he is no longer the starting running back. HC Mike Martz announced earlier this year that Steven Jackson would become the primary running back for 2005 (and beyond) and that Faulk would become the ?2? in a ?1-2? punch with Jackson.

While that may water down what Jackson could do, it will keep Faulk fresher and less susceptible to injury. He may even play a full season?. Okay, probably not a full one but more games than before.

Without seeing what the ratio will be, the natural and reasonable assumption is that Jackson will take over the bulk of the rushing game while Faulk offers a change of pace and third down pass receiver role. That can still allow Faulk to have fantasy value though not as a starter ?bye week filler and a worst case fill in. Even if Jackson is injured, The 32-year-old Faulk is not going to suddenly get that step back so temper all expectations of what one of the great ones will be likely to do this season.

Reuben Droughns - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 39
TD Only: 38
Keeper: 47
Auction: 2%
2002                      
2003 DEN 8 101 2 6 14 2.3   9 87 2
2004 DEN 16 1481 8 275 1240 4.5 6 32 241 2
Avg   12 791 5 141 627 3.4 3 21 164 2
PROJ FA   650 4   600   4 7 50  

(+Upside) Droughns experienced one of those magic fantasy seasons last year when he went into his fourth season as the fullback that never played and left the season with the 9th best rushing yards in the NFL. While the summer witnessed everyone grabbing Griffin, Bell, Anderson and even Hearst, HC Mike Shanahan pulled yet another productive back out of thin air.

The Broncos were so certain that the performance was ?all Droughns? that they shipped him off for a couple of defenders from Cleveland and allowed them to deal with the impeding contract holdout even though the Browns inherited him with two years left on his current contract.

Obviously what happens with Droughns is critical to determine how the Cleveland rushing game will proceed. Lee Suggs is destined to battle with Droughns in training camp for the top spot but in the new offense, there?s no guarantee that being the primary back will mean heavy carries. HC Romeo Crennel is bringing in a style of offense that emphasizes the team and not the player. Running back by committee is a distinct possibility, particularly with Suggs being injury-prone. Droughns will start burning bridges he never had built if he continues his hold out and in the end, lower your expectations of the Cleveland rushing game regardless of what happens.

Travis Henry - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 44
TD Only: 39
Keeper: 29
Auction: 1%
2002 BUF 16 1747 14 325 1438 4.4 13 43 309 1
2003 BUF 15 1511 11 332 1353 4.1 10 28 158 1
2004 BUF 9 371   94 326 3.5   10 45  
Avg   13 1210 8 250 1039 4.0 8 27 171 1
PROJ FA*   530 4   500   4 5 30  

(+Upside) Henry went from the hard-nosed, tough-running tailback in Buffalo to being a fixture on the bench as the Bills draft ploy from 2003 paid big dividends when Willis McGahee caught fire last season. Both backs were adept at hitting the holes but McGahee had the decided edge on doing something more once he cleared the defensive line.

Henry has been the source of trade speculation since McGahee took over last year but as of the time of this print, he had not been dealt away. He was almost traded during the draft but no team wanted to trade a 3rd round pick for him. He may remain in Buffalo - After all, it is a bit of a luxury to have a back-up tailback that had consecutive 1300+ yard, 10+ TD seasons.

Unless Henry gets traded to a good situation ? and that is more unlikely with each passing day ? he?ll merely provide back-up for McGahee this season and is draftable really only by the McGahee owner looking for some insurance. As was shown in the final six games of 2004, there is no guarantee that even as the back-up he?ll be getting any carries this season. His greatest value lies in him being potentially traded away.

07-16-05 Update: Henry has agreed to be traded to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a third round pick in 2006. His draft value goes up sharply for any team owning Chris Brown, and given the injury-prone nature of Brown so far, he'll be taken in every draft as a back-up to sit on and wait for Brown to go down.

08-05-05 Update: Henry has been working out with the first team in conjunction with Chris Brown and is intended to play much more than a mere relief role for the Titans. While he has not displayed the same game breaking skills as Brown, he is a better inside the tackle runner and could be used at the goal line and to reduce the carries - and wear and tear - on the fragile Brown.

Thomas Jones - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 35
TD Only: 40
Keeper: 45
Auction: 3%
2002 ARI 9 624 2 138 511 3.7 2 20 113  
2003 TBB 15 807 3 137 627 4.6 3 24 180  
2004 CHI 14 1375 7 240 948 4.0 7 56 427  
Avg   13 935 4 172 695 4.1 4 33 240 0
PROJ FA   730 4   480   3 31 250 1

Jones was signed by the Bears last year after turning in several nice games against weak opponents in Tampa Bay in 2003. He seemed a perfect fit ? fairly quick, great resume? (from college at least) and able to catch all those passes that the new offense intended to throw last season. Against the weak GB, DET and MIN defenses, he opened the year with four touchdowns and 229 rushing yards. He only managed to score in two more games the entire season.

Jones was hindered by the lack of any passing game to concern the defense and the absence of any credible blocking doomed him once Grossman went down to injury in week three. He ended the year on a high note with 100 yard efforts against GB and DET once again. It wasn?t enough to warrant a second chance this season.

Jones will act as the back-up to Cedric Benson this season and he could end up with some third down duty since he is adept at catching passes. He?ll need Benson to go out of the game for more than a week to have any real fantasy value that can be relied on.

Consider Jones deeper in the draft if you have Benson already, but if you steal him away from that owner, the greatest value you?ll likely get from him is trying to trade him to the Benson owner. The rookie is durable and should see heavy use ? all pointing to a forgettable year for Thomas Jones.

08-15-05 Update: With Benson sliding, Jones has to go up. It looks like at the least he will be getting more third down time since Benson is not learning how to pass block and with the frustration of the team over the holdout, Jones could be getting more playing time early in the season anyway.

Ricky Williams - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 42
TD Only: 42
Keeper: 41
Auction: 2%
2002 MIA 16 2216 17 383 1853 4.8 16 47 363 1
2003 MIA 16 1723 11 392 1372 3.5 10 50 351 1
2004                      
Avg   16 1970 14 388 1613 4.2 13 49 357 1
PROJ FA   530 4   450   4 10 80  

(-Risk) Until some clarity comes, Williams needs to be considered in ranking players but there are so many huge question marks to answer that any speculation could be far off the eventual truth. Williams is, according to some, slated to return to the Dolphins for training camp once he clears the year away from the league neccessary to avoid suspension from his previous admitted drug use.

Needless to say, Williams will either rise marginally in the rankings if he signs, shows up and shows promise and if he does anything less, he'll be dropped faster than a bong during a police raid.

07-28-05 Update: Williams has shown up for training camp and HC Nick Saban is definitely supporting his return. This is no guarantee that Williams gets playing time or that he is not traded at first opportunity. The only sure thing is that Williams is back, he will miss the first four games due to an NFL suspension and he only weighs 213 pounds when he reported. He rises slightly because he should with his talent. It is a huge unknown what his impact, if any, will be this year but it is a risk worth taking this deep

Nick Goings - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 49
TD Only: 43
Keeper: 38
Auction: 1%
2002 CAR 14 279   50 188 3.8   18 91  
2003 CAR 9 166 1 10 69 6.9   12 97 1
2004 CAR 16 1215 7 217 821 3.8 6 45 394 1
Avg   13 553 3 92 359 4.8 2 25 194 1
PROJ FA   490 3   450   3 6 40  

Goings was a relative no-name before the Panthers ran out of running backs last season and relied on him to carry a full load. He responded well with five 100+ yard efforts in his final seven games as a starter and he scored six times. All that production actually only gives him a chance to remain as running back depth this year.

The Panthers drafted Eric Shelton in the second round this April to add into the mix and he?ll take the primary back-up role this season along with Stephen Davis (if healthy). Goings will remain as depth, but chances are very slim that he gets another opportunity as he did in 2004.

The Panthers have already returned the starting role to Foster and Shelton will be a major competition for Goings. He was a great free agent pick-up mid-season last year, but he still doesn?t make a worthwhile fantasy draft pick in 2005.

Tatum Bell - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 37
TD Only: 44
Keeper: 34
Auction: 3%
2002                      
2003                      
2004 DEN 9 476 3 75 396 5.3 3 5 80  
Avg   9 476 3 75 396 5.3 3 5 80 0
PROJ FA   780 3   620   3 19 160  

(-Risk) (+Upside) Bell was drafted by the Broncos (AKA The Great RB Factory) with the 2.09 pick in 2004 ? the highest used by Denver for a running back in decades. Bell came to the team with almost exactly the same size and characteristics as the departing Clinton Portis so expectations were high. Unfortunately, Bell has been even more brittle than Portis and spent the first part of 2004 with a broken finger, which later was followed by a hamstring injury that later was trumped by a separated shoulder. Bell actually played through the pain during the last weeks of the season and his only game of any note came against the Dolphins when he scored twice and ran for 123 yards against a team that had already lost both their coach and the will to live.

Obviously Rueben Droughns was the main story in Denver but the coaching staff was never convinced that he was more than someone who followed blocking well. They allowed Droughns to leave for Cleveland and Bell now gets the initial starting nod which in Denver means less (ask Quentin Griffin).

The Broncos face an unusually tougher rushing schedule this season with match-ups including @JAX, WAS, NE, PHI, NYJ, BAL and @BUF. That?s almost half the games against good rushing defenses ? nothing like what they faced last year. Expect that Bell starts the year but with Maurice Clarett, Ron Dayne, Mike Anderson and Quentin Griffin around, there?s no guarantee that the injury prone Bell makes it all season. Denver doesn?t use RBBC much, but they do swap out running backs on a whim at any time.

08/11/05 Update: The longer that Bell is not named as the clear #1 tailback for the Broncos, the more likely that he won't be one or at least remain one long enough to be worth a top 20 RB pick. He has definite potential and apparently growing risk.

Anthony Thomas - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 53
TD Only: 45
Keeper: 52
Auction: 1%
2002 CHI 12 884 6 214 721 3.4 6 24 163  
2003 CHI 13 1060 6 244 1024 4.2 6 9 36  
2004 CHI 12 536 2 122 404 3.3 2 17 132  
Avg   12 827 5 193 716 3.6 5 17 110 0
PROJ FA   410 3   390   3 3 20  

The Cowboys finally acquired Anthony Thomas in early May to stock the shelves for the running game like never before. After Julius Jones had good returns on late season performances from 2004, the Cowboys spent their 4.08 pick on Marion Barber III from Minnesota. Not willing to let that be enough, they grabbed Thomas as well to give the team three running backs that are likely all better than what Parcells initially inherited in 2003 in his first season as head coach.

Thomas is a pounder and very much in the mold of what Parcells likes in a runner. Thomas had been rumored to be going to Dallas but that speculation nearly ended with Barber was drafted. Now that Thomas is with the team, his role will be defined through training camp.

Thomas is intriguing on a fantasy team since he can run as well as most backs with the short yardage and goal line duties and he has enough speed to tack on extra yards on some plays. His positive in Dallas is that he?s not a fumbler and he is a veteran ? both qualities that Parcells greatly prefers. With Jones already showing a propensity to get injured, Thomas could end up with starts though they will come in relief of Jones and it is highly unlikely he would ever replace him. He?s a practical insurance pick for Julius owners and a decent gamble late in drafts since he may end up with a few starts this season. If it appears he will get goal line use instead of the smaller Jones, his stock goes even higher.

Fred Taylor - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 30
TD Only: 46
Keeper: 36
Auction: 4%
2002 JAC 16 1722 8 287 1314 4.6 8 49 408  
2003 JAC 16 1942 7 345 1572 4.6 6 48 370 1
2004 JAC 14 1569 3 260 1224 4.7 2 36 345 1
Avg   15 1744 6 297 1370 4.6 5 44 374 1
PROJ FA   960 3   830   3 12 130  

(-Risk) On the plus side, Taylor has now made it three seasons without a significant and early season ending injury. On the downside, he could not play the final two games of last year due to a sprained MCL that required off-season surgery and he is not expected to be recovered until training camp starts ? at least. Oh yes, that and he can only locate the endzone using a stadium map.

While he turned in five 100 yard efforts, Taylor only scored three touchdowns in fourteen games. For his first six games, he never exceeded 81 yards in a game. Taylor turns 30 years old in January and seems due for a major injury or have problems recovering from his knee injury of last December. He carries as much or more risk than any time in his career and particularly disturbing is the absence of touchdowns.

The Jaguars hope to start 2005 with an improved and healthy passing game that will only make Taylor less likely to score. He?s a lock to gain 1000+ yards in a season if he plays at least most of the year but consider Taylor a risk that someone else is better riding out. Taylor?s knee has not recovered from surgery as well as hoped and there are rumors that he will miss time including possibly the entire season. A definite training camp watch and a ?no touch? fantasy player until good news is known.

08-15-05 Update: Taylor finally is given his bump up since reports are that he is running well and shows shiftiness again though he has yet to really practice. Chances are he will play this season, he will get hurt, and he will disappoint the person who drafted him. But his upside makes him worthy of drafting - just not as a starter for your team. And get Toefield. Maybe Pearman too.

Willie Parker - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 41
TD Only: 47
Keeper: 46
Auction: 2%
2002                      
2003                      
2004 PIT 6 202   32 186 5.8   3 16  
Avg   6 202 0 32 186 5.8 0 3 16 0
PROJ FA   710 3   620   3 10 90  

(+Upside) Parker enters his second season in the NFL after being signed as a rookie free agent in April of 2004 by the Steelers. Coming out of North Carolina University, Parker was one of the dozens of runners considered just outside of the 15 running backs drafted that year. He was impressive enough to hang onto his job as a rookie free agent and has now passed Verron Haynes on the depth charts to be the first back-up for Duce Staley. Though he is not considered a burner (ran a 4.5/40 at the combine), Parker has at least average speed coupled with great quickness and the ability to make big plays once he gets into the open field.

08-27-05 Update: Parker reeled off an impressive 51 yard run last night against the Redskins and was promptly removed from the game since the Steelers did not want to risk getting Parker injured since both Staley and Bettis are ailing. The fact that Parker was pulled and Verron Haynes was used speaks volumes about the pecking order. Parker could surprise this year if Staley continues his injury ways, though the speedster would not likely be used near the goal line or in short yardage situations regardless.

Michael Pittman - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 47
TD Only: 48
Keeper: 48
Auction: 1%
2002 TBB 16 1195 1 204 718 3.5 1 59 477  
2003 TBB 16 1342 2 187 751 4.0   75 591 2
2004 TBB 13 1317 10 219 926 4.2 7 41 391 3
Avg   15 1285 4 203 798 3.9 3 58 486 2
PROJ FA   570 3   260   2 32 310 1

Not unlike every other season of his career, Pittman started out last year as the back-up running back and later turned into the starter that had decent fantasy value from mid-season and beyond. He scored ten touchdowns and racked up 1317 total yards in only eleven games. Unfortunately, his five lost fumbles in only eleven weeks also were more than any other running back lost for the entire year. That does not play well in the coaches? office on Monday morning. Not at all.

The Buccaneers used their 1.05 pick in the 2004 NFL draft to grab Carnell Williams from Auburn and with that, Pittman follows the pattern of his life and settles back to being second fiddle until once again called. Williams is considered an every down back and while the Buccaneers under Gruden have never followed that sort of scheme, they have also never had a top back.

Expect that Pittman has minimal fantasy value this season unless Williams is injured. Then like every year run to the waiver wire. There is speculation that Pittman?s fumbling problem of 2004 would allow Charlie Garner to pass him on the depth chart but that doesn?t mean Garner lasts all season either. Pittman should play with a red cross symbol on his helmet because he has made a living stepping into injury situations and saving the day. This year ? he may have to wait for two injuries before getting that chance.

08-23-05 Update: Pittman gets a bump up with Garner out of the picture. He'll remain behind Carnell Williams but if the need arises, he'll be the one to spell or replace Cadillac with no competition from Garner.

Greg Jones - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 65
TD Only: 49
Keeper: 54
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004 JAC 14 175 3 62 162 2.6 3 3 13  
Avg   14 175 3 62 162 2.6 3 3 13 0
PROJ FA   460 3   410   3 6 50  

Jones is a big, bruising type of running back and his acquisition in the second round of the 2004 NFL draft sparked confidence that this was the guy to grab as Taylor?s back-up and this was the guy that would be the primary runner if Taylor went down. That was correct but failed to account for the fact that he wasn?t a very good runner when he did get the chance.

With Taylor sidelined, Jones took the golden opportunity of match-ups against Houston and Oakland to run 25 times for 68 yards ? a 2.7 yards per carry average. Against two of the worst rush defenses in the league. Jones was given token carries in several games up until that point and had done little with those as well. He scored three times on the season which actually led the JAX runners, but DET, GB and OAK were hardly major opponents at the goal line last year.

Jones will start the season as running back depth but after one year and two starts, there has been little to suggest that Jones will do much if he gets opportunity again. The Jaguars acquired Alvin Pearman in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft and he is more worthy of watching this summer since he is the only back-up who has not yet proven that he is less than an average back. Stay away from the Jaguar back-ups until the picture is clearer and a reasonably productive replacement is on the depth chart. Chances are it will be Toefield.

Kevin Faulk - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 56
TD Only: 50
Keeper: 57
Auction: 1%
2002 NEP 15 650 5 52 271 5.2 2 37 379 3
2003 NEP 15 1078   178 638 3.6   48 440  
2004 NEP 11 503 3 54 255 4.7 2 26 248 1
Avg   14 744 3 95 388 4.5 1 37 356 1
PROJ FA   400 3   250   2 19 150 1

Faulk struggled with a knee injury during the initial weeks of the season but returned to provide his standard use as a change of pace, third down back. He scored three times last year but never was in any game long enough to break 100 total yards. In almost every match-up he had more receiving yardage than rushing yardage.

Faulk had a bigger season in 2004 when the Patriots were searching desperately for a runner. With Dillon on board, there is no searching and nor reason to consider the smaller Faulk as anything more than a third down back. He is decent pick for running back depth since he consistently gains some yards every game but he has virtually no upside and will never win a fantasy game for you even on his best day.

Consider him as the last running back you draft, after the upside gambles that may turn into a starting primary back at some point in the season. Faulk won?t do that, but he will be a ?worst case? filler for you if needed.

Dominic Rhodes - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 63
TD Only: 51
Keeper: 62
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 IND 10 219 1 37 157 4.2   6 62 1
2004 IND 12 278 1 53 254 4.8 1 2 24  
Avg   11 249 1 45 206 4.5 1 4 43 1
PROJ FA   270 3   250   2 3 20 1

Rhodes recovered from his previous knee injury of 2003 to provide the primary back-up of Edgerrin James last season. Although the Colts offense was spectacularly effective in 2004, there was little call for Rhodes to spell James and he ended with only 53 carries for 254 yards on the season.

If you draft James, Rhodes is a prudent pick-up very late in your draft. He won?t be used enough to warrant holding for any other reason than in the event of James being injured and last season that spelled a wasted pick the entire season. With his minimal use, he doesn?t make a reasonable steal for a draft pick other than trying to force a trade with the James owner. Best bet is to let Rhodes ride the waiver wire in your league unless you own James because if James does go down to injury, a riot will ensue on Monday as free agent picks are submitted. But chances are best Rhodes is a non-factor again this season.

Stephen Davis - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 46
TD Only: 52
Keeper: 67
Auction: 1%
2002 WAS 12 962 8 207 820 4.0 7 23 142 1
2003 CAR 14 1603 8 318 1444 4.5 8 14 159  
2004 CAR 2 124   24 92 3.8   2 32  
Avg   9 896 5 183 785 4.1 5 13 111 0
PROJ FA   460 3   440   3 3 20  

(-Risk) In his first season with the Panthers, Davis turned in a solid year with 1603 total yards and eight touchdowns in only 14 games. He injured his knee during week one of 2004 and eventually underwent microfracture surgery in November to repair a cartilage tear ? the same procedure that kept DeShaun Foster out for all of 2002.

Davis is already 31 years old and has been slow to heal from an injury that usually means missing the next season ? something that he probably doesn?t have to give. His agent says that he will be back in 2005 but he didn?t participate in mini-camps and the only two people that stand to profit by keeping Davis still in the NFL is that agent and Davis himself.

Training camp will indicate if Davis actually can defy expectations and return for a tenth season, but a betting man wouldn?t back it. Evidently neither would the Panthers since they used their second round pick to select Eric Shelton. He may still make the news and he may even remain on the team, but in no case should he make yours.

08-23-05 Update: Davis is getting closer to playing again and deserves a bump up but he comes with such huge risk, he's likely better allowing someone else to draft. Foster will be the starter for how ever long he remains healthy but it now appears that Davis will likely get a chance to end his career by playing once again and being injured once again.

09-01-05 Update: Davis may get some playing time in the final preseason game but don't expect much this season. He is still coming off microfracture surgery and will be a major injury risk if he even plays in the regular season. Let someone else draft him.

Labrandon Toefield - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 50
TD Only: 53
Keeper: 42
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 JAC 15 349 3 53 212 4.0 2 15 137 1
2004 JAC 14 320 1 51 169 3.3   28 151 1
Avg   15 335 2 52 191 3.7 1 22 144 1
PROJ FA   610 2   500   2 14 110  

(+Upside) Toefield enters his third season and he has shown amazing consistency both years in the league because the Jaguars only view him as a change of pace, third down player. His numbers from 2004 mirrored his pace of his rookie season with the exception that like Fred Taylor, he rarely scores touchdowns anymore.

In the final two weeks when Taylor was out, Toefield only had a total of ten carries which was not unlike he would have done if Taylor was there. He has been strictly change of pace so far. If Fred Taylor is unable to return ? which is possible ? it would thrust Toefield into a starting role though with some help from Greg Jones. There is also the chance that Jacksonville acquires another veteran back to share the load if Taylor ends up out for the season.

Given that, expect Toefield to contribute this season at least as he did his other two years and seemingly much more. He had not proven to be anything nearly as special as a healthy Taylor but may end up with the situation and opportunity he needs to post decent fantasy points.

08-15-05 Update: Fred Taylor looks more like he will play this season though he has not practiced. Toefield is truly only backup quality as a runner and will lose time for however long Taylor is actually healthy.

Frank Gore - SFO YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 51
TD Only: 54
Keeper: 40
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ SFO   460 2   400   2 7 60  

(+Upside) Gore was taken with the 3.01 pick by the 49ers and he was the third of four straight picks that went to upgrading the offense. Incoming HC Mike Nolan does not have the luxury of sweeping out every player from the previous year (not that the results would be much different than last year) and it speaks some importance about Gore that with all those many, many, many needs of the 49ers that they would grab a running back.

As the tailback in Miami, Gore initially made headlines as an eventual Heisman contender as a freshman but he suffered a torn ACL and sat out his sophomore season. In his junior year, he played for five games before injuring the other knee and missing the rest of that season. He finally played a full season as a senior when he had 945 yards and eight touchdowns. There were concerns that he was too heavy and sluggish that robbed him of some of the speed and moves he flashed as a freshman.

Gore will be farther removed from those knee injuries but until he plays healthy in the NFL, it will be hard to rely on him even if he becomes an eventual starter. He is considered to have great natural talent, he just needs to keep his weight down and remain healthy to show it. On a probable bad team as the back-up running back, Gore has little value for 2005 other than ?he hasn?t proven to be bad?. In a dynasty/keeper league, he has far more value to see what 2006 may bring when the team is entering their second season in the new offense.

08-15-05 Update: Gore had dislocated his shoulder and chipped a bone in the process last week. There is still some concern that the injury could last into the season so hoping for an early strike on a sleeper is more unlikely now.

Ryan Neufeld - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 53
TD Only: 54
Keeper: 55
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 BUF 4 55   1 14 14.0   3 41  
2004 BUF 7 61           6 61  
Avg   6 58 0 1 7 7.0 0 5 51 0
PROJ FA   80           7 80  

No analysis available.

Marion Barber - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 57
TD Only: 55
Keeper: 55
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   450 2   180   1 25 270 1

(+Upside) Barber was taken with the 4.08 pick by the Cowboys this year, the first player taken on day two. His later drafting does not neccessarily signal that he's an afterthought though, the ex-Gopher comes in during a rich year for running backs. He left the University of Minnesota with numerous all-time records and had he been in any draft of the last three years, he would not have lasted nearly so long

The initial thought of most fantasy fans is that Anthony Thomas will be the primary back-up for Julius Jones and that Barber has only the marginal value of a #3 running back. That appears to be incorrect. After mini-camps, HC Bill Parcells stated he was pleased with Barber and envisioned him in a role similar to Richie Anderson of the last couple of seasons - third down duty, pass catching and relief work when needed.

While Thomas comes to the Cowboys with much more experience, that alone does not mean he's the only Cowboy back to consider after Jones. If Barber does assume the "Anderson" role that Parcells historically has employed, he'll have definite fantasy value this season, particularly with reception points awarded. Barber is 5'11" and 221 pounds - larger than Jones and more than capable of filling in for the running game as well. Consider Barber as someone to take deep in drafts. Jones has not proven yet to be durable and Anthony Thomas may not be the lock to be #2 that many naturally believe.

Najeh Davenport - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 58
TD Only: 56
Keeper: 59
Auction: 1%
2002 GBP 8 217 1 39 184 4.7 1 5 33  
2003 GBP 14 458 2 77 420 5.5 2 6 38  
2004 GBP 10 392 2 71 359 5.1 2 4 33  
Avg   11 356 2 62 321 5.1 2 5 35 0
PROJ FA   420 2   400   2 3 20  

Davenport has not been a major producer in Green Bay but he holds one very important role. He is the back-up for Ahman Green and in the one week that Green missed in 2004, Davenport rumbled for 178 yards and one score against the Rams. Otherwise, he is only occasionally used as a change of pace back.

There is not much upside to Davenport unless you believe Green is due to be injured because until Davenport gets the start, he has little fantasy relevance. When he does start, it?s a major boon to the fantasy owner who has been sitting on him.

If you own Green, Davenport is a very prudent pick-up but otherwise, consider him only as a very deep backup rusher on your team that you may never have occasion to use.

Marcel Shipp - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 59
TD Only: 57
Keeper: 60
Auction: 1%
2002 ARI 15 1264 9 188 844 4.5 6 39 420 3
2003 ARI 16 1012   227 828 3.6   30 184  
2004                      
Avg   16 1138 5 208 836 4.1 3 35 302 2
PROJ FA   290 2   250   2 5 40  

Marcel Shipp was always a tease when he had the chance to play, turning in a few big games before muddling in mediocrity in 2003. He?s considered more of a bruiser than a pure runner which is not a good fit for the Cardinals new offensive scheme outside of some short yardage and possible goal line duty.

Ship was slated to be the first back-up for Emmitt Smith last year but suffered a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle during an intra-squad scrimmage on August 6th that required surgery to repair. He spent the season on injured reserve in 2004.

Keep an eye on Shipp in training camp to ensure that his broken leg has healed. Denny Green likes Shipp as a change of pace guy and as with any rookie runner, the chance Arrington gets hurt is realistic particularly considering he is smaller than most backs. Shipp ?s recovery from his broken leg has gone well by all accounts and he?s expected to be 100% healthy for training camp.

Derrick Blaylock - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 64
TD Only: 59
Keeper: 64
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 KCC 10 293 3 22 112 5.1 2 15 181 1
2004 KCC 12 783 9 118 539 4.6 8 25 244 1
Avg   11 538 6 70 326 4.9 5 20 213 1
PROJ FA   280 2   200   2 10 80  

With Lamont Jordan gone to the Raiders, Blaylock steps in as the primary back-up to the ageless Curtis Martin and now becomes some perceived handcuff for Martin owner that never is used. Derrick comes from a great offense for running in Kansas City and joins the Jets ? the team that had the #1 rusher for yardage in 2005. Martin did not become #1 in rushing yards (1697) or the #1 in called plays for a running back (418) because the primary back-up was having a good season.

Blaylock is only an average back at best, but once again finds himself a part of an offense that has topped the league for rushing. That means the blocking is good and that Blaylock will once again play well if given the opportunity.

Martin is turning 32 this year and that?s age on top of very heavy use. It has been seven years since Martin has missed a game. Blaylock has no real fantasy value unless Martin gets hurt for the first time in eight years and the Jets also drafted Cedric Houston in the 4th round that could end up being in the mix should the unthinkable occur. Let Blaylock be the new Lamont Jordan that others always grab and never use.

Vernand Morency - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 61
TD Only: 60
Keeper: 50
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   360 2   300   2 7 60  

(+Upside) The Texans drafted Morency with the 3.09 selection in the 2005 NFL draft and bring on board a player that is almost the exact same size (5'9" and 212 pounds) as Domanick Davis. This ex-Cowboy from Oklahoma State took over in 2003 when Tatum Bell was injured and gained 918 yards and eight scores on the year. In 2004, he had 1474 yards and 12 touchdowns for OSU.

Morency is considered a strong off-tackle runner much like Davis and should win the back-up spot during training camp now that Jonathan Wells has moved to fullback. The good news is that any back behind the small-ish Davis is a fantasy consideration. The bad news is that Morency is the same size and could have the same health issues.

Morency makes a good pick-up for the Davis owner and should be available deeply in every draft. It is still too early to tell if Wells will not still contribute if Davis is out injured, but Morency already enters the NFL with more talent than Wells.

Lamar Gordon - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 68
TD Only: 61
Keeper: 65
Auction: 2%
2002 STL 13 506 3 65 228 3.5 1 30 278 2
2003 STL 9 357 1 71 298 4.2 1 8 59  
2004 MIA 3 138   35 64 1.8   13 74  
Avg   8 334 1 57 197 3.2 1 17 137 1
PROJ FA   240 2   220   2 3 20  

Gordon came over in a trade last season during the frantic team moves to create a rushing game in the wake of Ricky Williams? departure (which was merely a precursor for Dave Wannstedt?s departure). He was an optimistic pick at best and a move of desperation in reality. Gordon only played for two games before suffering a dislocated shoulder and missing the rest of the season. Judging by his meager performance in two games and the folly of all tailbacks that followed him, it was probably more merciful than misfortunate he did not play.

Gordon moves back on the depth charts with the drafting of Ronnie Brown from Auburn. In the new offense, it is not yet evident that Gordon can be more than the first back-up for Brown and the Dolphins new scheme has not committed to using a change of pace back with any regularity. Brown should prove a workhorse which only makes Gordon seem even less fantasy relevant.

Until roles and schemes become solidified, don?t consider Gordon as anything more than the guy who replaces Brown in the case of injury. And judging by the results of 2004, don?t expect even that to make much difference for your fantasy team. Only in the deepest league when you already own Brown does Gordon make any sense to acquire.

09-05-05 Update: Gordon was released by the Dolphins.

09-05-05 Update: Gordon was picked up by the Eagles on waivers.

Tony Fisher - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 70
TD Only: 62
Keeper: 70
Auction: 1%
2002 GBP 14 353 2 70 283 4.0 2 18 70  
2003 GBP 13 406 3 40 200 5.0 1 21 206 2
2004 GBP 16 501 2 65 224 3.4   38 277 2
Avg   14 420 2 58 236 4.1 1 26 184 1
PROJ FA   500 2   300   1 25 200 1

Tony Fisher has not been able to gain the confidence of the coaching staff that he is a worthy replacement for Green if the need arises ? Davenport already has locked that role up. But Fisher is the change of pace and third down back of choice for the Packers. He gained almost as many yards and scores receiving as he did rushing last year.

Fisher is bye week filler for a fantasy team because he typically provides a handful of fantasy points each week and there is the odd touchdown that could happen. But he is not likely to see any starting role that would make him anything more than a one week fill-in.

If Green goes down, Fisher?s numbers remain the same while Davenport takes over. He?s usually found on the waiver wire in most leagues, so you?re probably better off with a gamble on some rookie or second tier back that could develop into a starter than spending a draft pick on Fisher. In the worst case, he?s usually there to pick up for a one week use if you get in a bind.

Chris Perry - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 75
TD Only: 64
Keeper: 75
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004 CIN 2 34   2 1 0.5   3 33  
Avg   2 34 0 2 1 0.5 0 3 33 0
PROJ FA   160 2   140   2 3 20  

Typically the second running back taken in an NFL draft is expected to produce more than one rushing yard all season, let alone require two carries to accomplish it. Perry was taken as insurance to replace Rudi Johnson if he faltered or even if Perry merely looked better. The world will need to view old videotape from Michigan to decide if Perry can run better than Johnson. There?s nothing recent to suggest it.

Perry was plagued by a ?sports hernia? that was initially thought to be an abdominal strain and was used only on five plays for the entire season. The jury is not still out on Perry, it has never really had a chance to convene. Perry signed a five-year deal as a rookie so he still has time to wear stripes on his helmet, but the long-term commitment that Cincinnati made to Rudi Johnson spells plenty of bench time for Perry unless an injury gives him unexpected opportunity to gain playing time.

While Rudi Johnson is solid, he is no super-star needing a back-up pick in a fantasy draft. Perry still needs to show that he can run well and that he?ll get any appreciable playing time. Best bet is to leave Perry for the waiver wire for the day that Johnson does get hurt. Before then, Perry may just remain a footnote to the 2004 NFL draft.

Darren Sproles - PHI YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 77
TD Only: 65
Keeper: 77
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ PHI   120 2   110   2 1 10  

No analysis available.

Duce Staley - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 43
TD Only: 66
Keeper: 37
Auction: 2%
2002 PHI 16 1571 8 269 1030 3.8 5 51 541 3
2003 PHI 16 839 7 97 457 4.7 5 36 382 2
2004 PIT 10 885 1 192 830 4.3 1 6 55  
Avg   14 1098 5 186 772 4.3 4 31 326 2
PROJ FA   710 1   670   1 5 40  

(+Upside) Staley came over with big expectations last season but battled varying injuries almost the entire year. He started out with an infected toe, picked up a groin injury and later settled on a lengthy hamstring strain. He only played in nine full games and his pass catching ability was almost entirely ignored.

While healthy, Staley?s first seven games saw all but one with over 90 yards rushing but he only scored once since getting inside the ten yard line always drew Bettis onto the field. Consider Staley to provide the yardage and Bettis the scores for as long as both are healthy. It is notable that Staley has played for eight seasons now and only twice lasted for a full 16 games.

The Pittsburgh rushing game produced more yardage than any other team last year and since it was the best regular season ever by Pittsburgh, there is no reason to tinker with what worked so well. Expect Staley and Bettis to share duties and both have fantasy value as a combined awesome attack. They just water down what one person could do with that much work in that offense. Staley will be the yardage guy and should provide consistent, though all too often scoreless, numbers every week. Staley hits the magic 30 year mark in age, and as already injury prone he must be considered a risk.

08-11-05 Update: Staley had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He is expected to miss the next month recovering from the surgery. That jeopardizes his starting in week one and beyond, given the track record he has for being injured. He's no younger this year and his risk is undeniably even higher.

08-25-05 Update: Cowher said he doesn't want to rush running back Duce Staley, who has missed the entire preseason, back into the lineup. And that could mean Staley won't return until Oct. 10 in San Diego. "With the situation we have at running back, we don't have to rush to get him back," Cowher said. "We need him this season." Staley, was had surgery Aug. 8 to repair a torn meniscus, will probably not play in the season opener against Tennessee or the second game at Houston. With a bye week after the third game against New England, it's conceivable Cowher will not play Staley against the Patriots to give him another two weeks to let the injury heal.

Ciatrick Fason - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 54
TD Only: 67
Keeper: 51
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   470 1   450   1 3 20  

(+Upside) Though Fason was only the 12th running back taken in the 2004 NFL draft, he actually has a shot at becoming the starter in Minnesota. HC Mike Tice intends to use training camp to determine the starter and has named Michael Bennett as the first on the depth chart but only as a starting point. Fason will go against Bennett and Mewelde Moore now that Onterrio Smith has taken himself out of the equation.

Fason is slightly bigger than any other Viking tailback and while not the burner like Bennett, he has at least adequate speed running a 4.5/40 while in college. He?s actually very similar to Mewelde Moore though he was drafted one year and one round later.

Fason?s role will be determined during training camp, but playing behind Michael Bennett has proven to be a great spot for fantasy sleepers. Unless Bennett proves more durable, the real fight in the training camp will be between Moore and Fason for the valuable primary back-up spot. Given the Vikings history, even if Moore wins the back-up slot, Fason could still get some playing time and Minnesota has spent the last two years mixing in backs from week to week. Fason is interesting for this summer and may end up rewarding for the season.

08-23-05 Update: Fason has a high ankle sprain which is just delaying his development for a few weeks but he wasn't wowing anyone anyway. He deserves a drop in the rankings just because he does not appear to be likely for much playing time but with the Vikings, he may get called up by mid-season or later.

Alvin Pearman - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 55
TD Only: 68
Keeper: 53
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   440 1   220   1 26 220  

(+Upside) Pearman was drafted with the 4.26 pick by the Jaguars and he heads to a team that may give the ex-Virginia back more opportunity than many tailbacks drafted ahead of him last April. With Fred Taylor a big question mark going into training camp and potentially the season, the Jaguars will be looking to either LaBrandon Toefield or Pearman to fill in if needed. Toefield has yet to be impressive enough to consider him a lock to step in and deliver all season should Taylor remain out.

Pearman is a bit undersized at 5'10" and 208 pounds but he already turned some heads in training camp. Pearman himself has an injury history with a torn ACL in 2002 but he still ended his college career with 7,491 all-purpose yards. He's considered a selfless player and shifted to playing wide receiver when the Cavaliers were short in that position.

Pearman has obvious receiving skills and he was a productive runner. He lost ground in the NFL draft because he was not considered big enough or to have great speed. His role will be defined during training camp and any player behind Fred Taylor is worth tracking.

Chester Taylor - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 62
TD Only: 69
Keeper: 61
Auction: 1%
2002 BAL 14 251 2 33 122 3.7   14 129 2
2003 BAL 16 408 2 63 276 4.4 2 20 132  
2004 BAL 16 898 2 160 714 4.5 2 30 184  
Avg   15 519 2 85 371 4.2 1 21 148 1
PROJ FA   400 1   330   1 9 70  

Taylor has fought off Musa Smith to remain the clear back-up to Jamal Lewis and in those games when Lewis is out, Taylor has definite fantasy value. He never gained less than 96 total yards in four starts in 2004.

Since Lewis is injury-prone thanks to his bruising style, he?ll always be a risk to miss at least a few games and Taylor makes an almost necessary bookend for any fantasy team with Lewis on board. Consider Taylor a needed pick later in the draft if you have Lewis but he?s not worth ?stealing? any earlier than the latter third of any fantasy draft because chances are he won?t get enough opportunities to make him worthy as a potential starter.

Taylor is the change of pace back in Baltimore so he almost always produces a few fantasy points each week ? worthy of being bye week filler if you waited too long and no one else is available.

Verron Haynes - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 52
TD Only: 70
Keeper: 63
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 PIT 8 120   20 63 3.2   7 57  
2004 PIT 12 414 2 55 272 4.9   18 142 2
Avg   10 267 1 38 168 4.1 0 13 100 1
PROJ FA   410 3   390   3 3 20  

(+Upside) As the back-up to injury prone Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis, Haynes has to be considered deeply in many drafts and the Steelers did sign him to a one-year, $656,000 contract last April to retain him in 2005. Since Bettis has mentioned that he might retire in spite of attending mini-camps, Haynes needs to stay on the fantasy radar.

If Bettis remains, it will require both he and Staley to be out before Haynes becomes a fantasy factor. Even with Staley missing significant time in 2005, Haynes never had more than 61 yards in any game and had no rushing touchdowns on the year.

Leave Haynes on the waiver wire as long as both Staley and Bettis are around but if either are out of the lineup, Haynes makes a reasonable waiver wire pick. He's little more than an average back on a good day but with the rushing ability of the Steelers' line and scheme, getting more opportunities would give him fantasy relevance.

Ladell Betts - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 67
TD Only: 71
Keeper: 68
Auction: 1%
2002 WAS 11 461 1 65 307 4.7 1 12 154  
2003 WAS 9 422 2 77 255 3.3 2 15 167  
2004 WAS 13 479 1 90 371 4.1 1 15 108  
Avg   11 454 1 77 311 4.0 1 14 143 0
PROJ FA   300 1   200   1 13 100  

Betts was the primary back-up for Clinton Portis but he played very little in relief. In week 13, the Redskins were drubbing the Giants and Betts had a rare 11 carries for 64 yards but that was only after Portis had rambled for 148 yards. Portis missed the final game of the season and Betts ran for 118 yards and his only 2005 touchdown. Then again, it was just the Vikings visiting.

Consider Betts for a fantasy team only if you own Portis or believe Portis is likely to be injured. Betts does not get enough carries in a game to be considered even as bye week filler. He?s not a part of the passing game either.

While the fantasy world expected that Portis would likely get injured and thereby make Betts the player to steal, it never really happened until the final week of the season ? when most leagues were already finished. Let Betts pass by in all but the deepest leagues unless you own Portis.

Mike Alstott - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 72
TD Only: 72
Keeper: 72
Auction: 1%
2002 TBB 16 790 7 146 548 3.8 5 35 242 2
2003 TBB 4 160 2 27 77 2.9 2 10 83  
2004 TBB 14 432 2 67 230 3.4 2 29 202  
Avg   11 461 4 80 285 3.4 3 25 176 1
PROJ FA   290 1   160   1 16 130  

Alstott enters his 10th season as the starting fullback but at the age of 31, he?s winding down a career filled with crashing into the defense and coming away with injuries. He hasn?t started for a full season for the last three years. In 2004, he was recovering from surgery the previous season to repair a herniated disc and he suffered a slightly torn ligament in his knee during the season. Alstott ended with only two rushing scores the same as 2003. His 67 carries were less than any other of his career besides the injury-shortened 2003 season.

While he plays in every game when healthy, he doesn?t have much fantasy value anymore. Since Gruden came to Tampa Bay, Alstott?s role has been reduced and he only has nine scores in the last three years while his average gain continues to go downward. On a good week he might gain 40 yards and score once. There are very few good weeks.

Alstott still carries a name for those playing fantasy football with memories more than a year or two old but his health is a constant concern and his role in the Gruden offense has changed. Add in better running backs this year with Carnell Williams and there?s virtually no upside for Alstott who should remain on your league?s waiver wire.

Michael Turner - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 74
TD Only: 73
Keeper: 74
Auction: 1%
2002 SDC 12                  
2003                      
2004 SDC 2 112   20 104 5.2   4 8  
Avg   7 56 0 10 52 2.6 0 2 4 0
PROJ FA   240 1   220   1 3 20  

There's not much to like about the player directly behind LaDainian Tomlinson unless you are the LT owner already. Turner showed good form last year in the two games he was given a chance and he gained 87 yards on 15 carries in week 17 against the Chiefs. But with Tomlinson being durable enough to play even when injured, there is no upside for Turner unless the unthinkable happens.

Justin Fargas - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 78
TD Only: 75
Keeper: 78
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 OAK 9 205   40 203 5.1   2 2  
2004 OAK 10 194 1 35 126 3.6 1 11 68  
Avg   10 200 1 38 165 4.4 1 7 35 0
PROJ FA   180 1   140   1 5 40  

Fargas enters his third season as the primary back-up to Lamont Jordan but that doesn?t mean much. Fargas was a star for two preseason games as a rookie and has failed to do anything since the summer of 2003. He?s been a constant injury problem that rarely plays healthy in the unusual event he is called on during a game and in 2004 when the rushing game was non-existent; he only totaled 126 yards on the season.

How well Jordan will perform in his first starting role after four years in the league is yet to be seen, but even if Jordan falters or becomes injured, it is nearly impossible to rely on Fargas to fill in. He just cannot stay healthy long enough to make any difference regardless of his speed.

Fargas has fantasy value only for the Jordan player and even then, there is no certainty that he?ll be available if needed. Until Fargas can actually string together more than a month or so of healthy play, he?s an unreasonable risk on a fantasy team including a very deep dynasty league. Let him take up room on someone else?s roster.

Aaron Stecker - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 79
TD Only: 76
Keeper: 79
Auction: 1%
2002 TBB 16 243   28 174 6.2   13 69  
2003 TBB 12 173 1 37 125 3.4   9 48 1
2004 NOS 14 418 2 58 244 4.2 2 29 174  
Avg   14 278 1 41 181 4.6 1 17 97 0
PROJ FA   150 1   80   1 9 70  

Stecker came over from the Buccaneers last year to help back-up Deuce McAllister and by week two, it was show time for the journeyman. Stecker took the start in week three and gained 126 total yards while scoring once. While McAllister was still out in week four, Stecker only had eight carries as the primary back though he added 71 yards receiving to end with 94 yards total. Not a bad two game burst. That was it for the rest of the season with McAllister back on the field.

This summer Stecker will contend with Antowain Smith to be the primary back-up but he should win that battle. He?s far quicker than the 33-year old Smith and has already been more successful in New Orleans. If McAllister is injured, Stecker is clearly the player to own and judging by last season, he can fill in with good fantasy points.

Deuce has been durable as a starter and only missed three games in three seasons. He also plays hurt so Stecker has little fantasy value other than as a deeply held back-up by the McAllister owner. He?s not particularly attractive even as a late draft steal. Don?t worry about Stecker in your draft, but if McAllister is injured, then run to the waiver wire.

Ron Dayne - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 80
TD Only: 77
Keeper: 80
Auction: 1%
2002 NYG 16 477 3 125 428 3.4 3 11 49  
2003                      
2004 NYG 11 186 1 52 179 3.4 1 1 7  
Avg   14 332 2 89 304 3.4 2 6 28 0
PROJ FA   140 1   80     8 60 1

Dayne was acquired by the Broncos in the offseason and joins a cast of backs to include Tatum Bell, Mike Anderson, Quentin Grffin and Maurice Clarett. He couldn't fit into the plans of the Giants when there was only the hobbit Tiki Barber around so the chance he'll shine in Denver is almost zero. Mike Shanahan may be a genius with tailbacks, but at some point the miracles have to end. Dayne is that end.

08-05-05 Update: Dayne falls in the rankings since he has not been working out with the first team but by the same token you can find HC Mike Shanahan saying glowing things about him if you look hard enough. While Denver backs deserve to be ranked, that does not mean you have to draft them.

Antowain Smith - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 84
TD Only: 78
Keeper: 84
Auction: 1%
2002 NEP 16 1225 8 252 982 3.9 6 31 243 2
2003 NEP 13 734 3 182 642 3.5 3 14 92  
2004 TEN 11 678 4 137 509 3.7 4 22 169  
Avg   13 879 5 190 711 3.7 4 22 168 1
PROJ FA   80 1   60   1 3 20  

The aging Smith spent one season in Tennessee where his services were much needed for the latter half of the year but at best he proved a barely adequate replacement back. The Titans sent him packing in the off-season in spite of not acquiring any other running back depth in free agency or the NFL draft. That?s an official ?Thanks, but no thanks?.

The Saints picked up Antowain to provide some depth for running back which was tested last year when McAllister went out injured. There is no guarantee that Smith will replace Stecker as the primary back-up for McAllister or that he would do that much if it did happen. On the fast track of the Superdome, the 33-year old player is unlikely to look any better than last year.

His only fantasy value is if McAllister is injured again and Smith ends up with a goal line role. The Saints have never used ?specialists? so the risk that Smith has any worth in your draft is pretty slim. Let him ride the waiver wire but keep an eye out for him if McAllister goes down. He could be worth a bye week filler in that case but he has no upside and plenty of risk.

Cedric Houston - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 66
TD Only: 79
Keeper: 58
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003                      
2004                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   200     160     5 40  

(+Upside) Houston was tabbed with the 6.08 pick in the NFL draft by the Jets and starts out training camp behind Curtis Martin and Derrick Blaylock. He ended his time at Tennessee as the #5 all-time rusher and is considered a clone of Travis Henry, another ex-Vol. His speed is only average though he has quickness for an inside rusher.

Since Derrick Blaylock already has experience in the NFL and has a far smaller learning curve in the new offense. Houston will likely spend the season on the bench though at some point he could be given some time. Blaylock is only an average back at best and enjoyed playing behind the moster line in Kansas City. Houston has long term potential behind the aging Martin, but he'll need to show in training camp that he's more than merely running back depth.

Shawn Bryson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 69
TD Only: 80
Keeper: 69
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 DET 16 946 3 158 606 3.8 3 54 340  
2004 DET 16 586   50 264 5.3   44 322  
Avg   16 766 2 104 435 4.6 2 49 331 0
PROJ FA   360     100     33 260  

Bryson is a great pick for your fantasy team if two or three points per week makes you happy. If you are a bit more demanding than that, he's waiver wire fodder. Bryson adds a receiving element to the Lions offense and even while Kevin Jones was running so well at the end of last year, Bryson did continue to contribute but it is rare for him to total more than 30 or 40 yards per game and he never scored a touchdown in 2004.

Bryson is a waiver wire guy and a nice one if you suddenly find your team missing a running back to start in a given week. You won't get many points from him, but he should reward you with about three - better than nothing but not much.

Justin Griffith - HOU YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 71
TD Only: 81
Keeper: 71
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 ATL 15 290 2 38 168 4.4   21 122 2
2004 ATL 12 259 1 9 39 4.3   22 220 1
Avg   14 275 2 24 104 4.4 0 22 171 2
PROJ HOU   370     40     36 330  

As a fullback, Griffith serves as a devastating lead blocker for Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett but he's no runner. In 2004, he only had a total of nine carries on the year. Where his value rises is as a pass receiver for Michael "dump it off" Vick and he ended last season with 220 yards and one score via the pass.

Griffith injured his ankle in week 14 last year and missed the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. He had surgery on his ankle in the off-season and is expected to be fully recovered in time for training camp. Griffith, like Shawn Bryson or numerous other blocking backs in the league is only worth a couple of points per week that can be relied on. He's a "last option" waiver wire pick when you run out of starters in a particular week.

Maurice Morris - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 81
TD Only: 82
Keeper: 81
Auction: 1%
2002 SEA 11 178   32 153 4.8   3 25  
2003 SEA 13 271 1 38 239 6.3   4 32 1
2004 SEA 14 179   30 126 4.2   9 53  
Avg   13 209 0 33 173 5.1 0 5 37 0
PROJ FA   170     140     4 30  

After three seasons, Morris has entered every training camp looking good and ends each year with the revelation by coaches that ?he needs more playing time?. And then the next year Alexander is so wildly successful that Morris provides only a marginal relief for Alexander. They may not even bother with claiming Morris will see much playing time this year.

While Morris has looked good in very limited duty, he?s just stuck behind perhaps the most durable, productive back possible. He couldn?t have found a worse situation to be drafted into in 2002. He still has two years left on his current contract and his only chance at an NFL career is if Alexander leaves in 2006. He?s just not been worth a fantasy roster spot for the past three years and there is no reason to expect 2005 to be different. If you own Alexander, Morris is a reasonable pick as a final running back for your team, but he is not worth stealing early by another team.

Travis Minor - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 82
TD Only: 83
Keeper: 82
Auction: 1%
2002 MIA 16 180 2 44 180 4.1 2      
2003 MIA 12 206 1 41 193 4.7 1 4 13  
2004 MIA 11 470 3 110 395 3.6 3 13 75  
Avg   13 285 2 65 256 4.1 2 6 29 0
PROJ FA   150     100     6 50  

Minor has been the third down back in Miami for the past four seasons and although he has been given several opportunities to take a primary role, he has never been about to capitalize on them. There is no expectation that it will ever change.

The question is now how Minor will fit into the new offense in Miami that is being led by OC Scott Linehan from Minnesota. Training camp and a few preseason games should give a better clue, but in fantasy terms the best that can be hoped for Minor is that the Dolphins keep him in on obvious passing situations. The factor that may get in the way is that Ronnie Brown was taken with the #2 overall pick in the NFL draft this year and he is the only guaranteed feature of the backfield.

Since the Dolphins are installing a new offense and face a daunting schedule, chances are too great that Minor has minimal production this season and is not worthy of a draft pick this summer. In the best case, he may make a decent bye week filler and you should wait for a waiver wire move predicated by some in-season evidence before bothering with even that.

Tony Richardson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 83
TD Only: 84
Keeper: 83
Auction: 1%
2002 KCC 14 206 3 22 81 3.7 2 18 125 1
2003 KCC 12 135   24 59 2.5   12 76  
2004 KCC 15 174   13 56 4.3   19 118  
Avg   14 172 1 20 65 3.5 1 16 106 0
PROJ FA   150     50     13 100  

He's 34 and hasn't done much since 2001. Leave this one in the pasture.

Artose Pinner - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 85
TD Only: 85
Keeper: 85
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 DET 3 139   39 99 2.5   5 40  
2004 DET 7 246 2 57 174 3.1 2 11 72  
Avg   5 193 1 48 137 2.8 1 8 56 0
PROJ FA   140     120     3 20  

Pinner only had one start last season and in week five he turned 23 carries into only 68 yards (3.0 yards per carry) though he did score once. Pinner provided back-up for Kevin Jones and while Jones was slowed by a high ankle sprain, Pinner was good for around six carries per game. Problem was that he still only managed around those three yards per run average.

More telling was when Jones finally regained full health; he took over the entire rushing load and sent Pinner to the bench for the rest of the season after week nine. With Jones healthy this year, there is no guarantee that Pinner ever touches the ball.

With the reality that Jones turned into an every down, every series running back last season, Pinner has very little value unless Jones is injured once again. And if that happens, Pinner will take the starting role and translate that into the equation (Carries x 3 = yardage). He?s only a deep backup and likely of no value to anyone but the Jones owner that has an extra roster spot to fill.

Kenny Watson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 86
TD Only: 86
Keeper: 86
Auction: 1%
2002 WAS 16 787 2 116 534 4.6 1 32 253 1
2003                      
2004 CIN 15 329 1 25 158 6.3   25 171 1
Avg   16 558 2 71 346 5.5 1 29 212 1
PROJ FA   110     90     3 20  

No analysis available.

Adrian Peterson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 87
TD Only: 87
Keeper: 87
Auction: 1%
2002 CHI 9 119 1 19 101 5.3 1 3 18  
2003 CHI 3 75   22 70 3.2   1 5  
2004 CHI 3 49   6 19 3.2   2 30  
Avg   5 81 0 16 63 3.9 0 2 18 0
PROJ FA   90     60     4 30  

No analysis available.

Musa Smith - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 88
TD Only: 88
Keeper: 88
Auction: 1%
2002                      
2003 BAL 2 31 2 9 31 3.4 2      
2004 BAL 4 79   12 48 4.0   2 31  
Avg   3 55 1 11 40 3.7 1 1 16 0
PROJ FA   80     80          

No analysis available.

   
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