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FANTASY FOOTBALL PRE-SEASON FEATURES

2006 Player Rankings: Running Backs
Updated: September 5, 2006
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Tier 1
Larry Johnson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 1
TD Only: 1
Keeper: 1
Auction: 36%
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
2005 KCC 16 2093 21 336 1750 5.2 20 33 343 1
Avg   10 1013 11 159 805 4.8 10 19 208 1
PROJ FA   2250 25   1950   24 34 300 1

Larry Johnson spent the later half of 2005 becoming the definition of the word "whoa". Assuming a starting role for the final eight games of the season, Johnson racked up 261 carries for 1351 yards and 17 touchdowns. Those marks would shatter every record in the NFL if that pace lasted for 16 games. Sadly - there is no way that it can. Even if Johnson could gain the apparent 2700 rushing yards (burying Dickerson's record by about 600 yards), it is unrealistic that he could maintain the pace of 29 carries per game. That would equate to over 520 carries in a season, a mere 110 more than Jamal Anderson's 410 carry record.

But the Chiefs are returning almost all their star linemen this season if only for the last time. And the goal among those bruising blockers is to get Johnson over the 2000 yard mark. Judging by last year, that is actually not that lofty a goal and this season has a slightly easier schedule than 2005. What Johnson did last year was not just a function of an easy schedule either with games that included six road games and defenses like Denver (140 yards), Dallas (143 yards) and NYG (167 yards).

The only reason not to draft Larry Johnson first in every draft this year is that Shaun Alexander has a long track record of excellence and LaDainian Tomlinson has the same level of consistency. But Johnson has a shot at greatness this season and a team that could make it so.

LaDainian Tomlinson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 2
TD Only: 2
Keeper: 2
Auction: 36%
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
2005 SDC 16 1834 20 340 1464 4.3 18 51 370 2
Avg   16 1993 18 331 1481 4.5 16 68 512 2
PROJ FA   1990 21   1550   19 65 440 2

At the age of 27, LaDainian Tomlinson is at his absolute prime and comes off his fifth consecutive season with over 1200 yards and more than ten touchdowns. Despite bruising his ribs in week 13, Tomlinson never missed a game though his yards per carry dipped dramatically for the next month. He still ended with 1464 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns with 370 more yards gained on 51 receptions. That ranked Tomlinson 6th in the NFL for rushing yards and third in rushing touchdowns (18). He also tied for 4th with 51 receptions and 5th in total yardage (1834).

Tomlinson is a warrior who has missed only one game in his career and along with Shaun Alexander has been the most risk free, high-return running back you could draft. A perennial top 3 back, the only question is which spot he assumes each year.

With an average rushing schedule, Tomlinson should be no less valuable this season other than one potential problem - or blessing. Drew Brees has left and Phillip Rivers takes his first starting role after two years waiting around the bench. The Chargers will have every reason to want to run the ball more this year to protect Rivers as he develops but by the same token, that will allow opposing defenses to stack against the run more (as if that is possible). If Rivers proves a step down from Brees, it could impact Tomlinson though he excels as a pass catcher as well. Slight risk here but nothing so alarming that he isn't a no-brainer in the top 3 picks made in every fantasy draft this year.

Shaun Alexander - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 3
TD Only: 3
Keeper: 3
Auction: 36%
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
2005 SEA 16 1958 28 370 1880 5.1 27 15 78 1
Avg   16 1849 21 350 1668 4.8 19 27 181 2
PROJ FA   1850 21   1700   20 14 150 1

Shaun Alexander comes off a career best year which is really saying something with one of the best fantasy backs for the last five seasons. He led the NFL with 1880 rushing yards and set the all-time scoring record with 28 touchdowns last year. Alexander has not scored less than 16 touchdowns since his rookie year when he watched Ricky Watters play. When it comes to running backs, it's hard to argue there are any better ones out there. When it comes to scoring touchdowns - there hasn't been in the history of the NFL.

Alexander was due to become a free agent in the offseason but the Seahawks prevented that from happening by signing him to an eight-year contract worth a mere $62 million dollars - the richest contract by any NFL running back ever. He's also never missed a game due to injury. Where Alexander falls short (and let's be serious - who cares?) is that he is not involved much in the passing game. He's actually had that role decline the last four seasons until bottoming out last year with just 78 yards. Then again - 28 touchdowns.

While Alexander has lost G Steve Hutchinson, the team has picked up Tom Ashworth to replace him and the left side still has Floyd Womack and Walter Jones. Alexander is a lock to be in the top three backs taken this and likely every year in the foreseeable future. He obviously is unlikely to turn in another 28 scores but then again - no one would be completely shocked that much if he did.

Tier 2
Ronnie Brown - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 5
TD Only: 5
Keeper: 4
Auction: 26%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 MIA 15 1139 5 207 907 4.4 4 32 232 1
Avg   15 1139 5 207 907 4.4 4 32 232 1
PROJ FA   1740 12   1500   11 34 240 1

(+Upside) While ex-Auburn teammate Carnell Williams was grabbing all the headlines last year, Ronnie Brown was actually the first back drafted. He just went to a team that happened to have one of the iterations of Ricky Williams and ended up with just 207 carries against the 290 that Williams received. While Cadillac produced a 4.1 yards per carry average, Brown ended with 4.4 to rank 7th best in the NFL last year.

Ricky Williams has once again managed to be suspended and with that leaves Ronnie Brown delightfully alone in the Miami backfield. With Sammie Morris as his back-up, there is little chance that Brown has to worry that someone else will take up the slack of Ricky Williams' 168 carries last season. There will continue to be a chance that Miami acquires another veteran back but this show is Brown's now. At most they will be upgrading his back-up spot. Remember too that Brown and Williams combined for 1650 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last year.

Brown will not come cheap in most drafts and rightfully so. The Dolphins love to run the ball and in his first season, Brown already has shown he has the talent that is limited only by volume of carries. That goes up this year and so does the value of Brown on your team. He already had 907 yards last season in a sharing scenario but this year has all the marks of a big breakout. There has been a change in coaching staff but that will not affect the rushing game - it may make it even better.

Clinton Portis - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 10
TD Only: 11
Keeper: 5
Auction: 22%
Movement:
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
2005 WAS 16 1732 11 352 1516 4.3 11 30 216  
Avg   15 1729 11 328 1474 4.5 10 36 255 1
PROJ FA   1600 10   1350   9 28 250 1

While Portis has not returned to the lofty production from his days in Denver, he's getting very close and there is every reason to believe this is the year that he makes his first two NFL seasons as eventual trivia questions. Portis was dinged in Denver for being too injury prone but in two seasons with the Redskins, he has only missed one game and last year ended with 1516 yards and 13 total touchdowns. That tied him for 5th in the NFL for running back touchdowns and 4th best in rushing.

The Redskins have brought in new OC Al Saunders from the Chiefs to replicate his success and end the committee approach to running the offense. Portis already had 352 carries last year and in Washington, there is no Larry Johnson biding his time waiting for an opportunity.

The Redskins offensive line is in the second year of upgrading under HC Joe Gibbs and Portis already ranked around 4th best in most categories last season. Expect another increase this year as Portis continues to just hang outside the Top 3. If the offensive line reaches their potential and Saunders can import his high-powered offense even only partially, Portis won't just be standing outside the Top 3, he could be knocking on the door.

08-15-06 Update: Portis slips back one spot mainly because his slightly separated shoulder will likely have him out at least until the season starts. With Barber so consistent, no reason to take a risk on the 4th pick. Portis is still likely to turn in just as good a year as before, but with such a high pick, why not play it safe. He has no broken bones and an MRI did not show any additonal damage. His shoulder just needs to heal up and the prognosis is that he'll be okay right at the start of the season.

08-23-06 Update: Portis drops two spots in relation to the signing of T.J. Duckett. There is no change to Portis' health, but the risk exists more now that Duckett could be used for short yardage or goal line carries as he did in Atlanta. It's speculation at this point and he could be just battling LaDell Betts for the back-up spot but the Redskins spent a third round pick to acquire him. That's a bit pricey for someone not used.

Edgerrin James - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 7
TD Only: 7
Keeper: 6
Auction: 22%
2003 IND 13 1549 11 309 1257 4.1 11 51 292  
2004 IND 16 2031 9 334 1548 4.6 9 51 483  
2005 IND 15 1843 14 360 1506 4.2 13 44 337 1
Avg   15 1808 11 334 1437 4.3 11 49 371 0
PROJ FA   1700 11   1350   10 44 350 1

(-Risk) And so starts the grand experiment. Edgerrin James signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals to provide what has never truly existed there before - an actual rushing game. It no doubt helped his negotiating when James came off two consecutive years with over 1500 rushing yards and agreed to come to the worst rushing team of 2005. James scored 14 touchdowns last season as opposed to the mere two scores by all Arizona running backs combined. Oh yes, this is an upgrade.

What remains to be seen is how upgraded the Arizona offensive line will be this year. And how much of the poor running last year was actually more about the runner than the blocking. Recall in 2004, the ancient Emmitt Smith managed to score nine touchdowns and gain 937 rushing yards on a team less talented than the 2005 version. After using a great back in his twilight years and then a hot rookie, the Cardinals finally decided to just cough up the cash and buy one of the best tailbacks in the league who is in his prime.

In a long-term view, the Cardinals taking Leinart could end up duplicating what the Colts did when they built their monster offense. The wide receivers already rank among the best in the league, the offense loves to throw and score and a rushing game with James could follow what happened in Indianapolis - at least that is the plan. Expect that James can exceed what a washed-up Emmitt could do in Arizona and likely much more thanks to a kind schedule and an offense that is getting better in a hurry.

Steven Jackson - ATL YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 6
TD Only: 4
Keeper: 7
Auction: 24%
2003                      
2004 STL 14 841 4 134 673 5.0 4 18 168  
2005 STL 15 1366 10 254 1046 4.1 8 43 320 2
Avg   15 1104 7 194 860 4.6 6 31 244 1
PROJ ATL   1610 13   1360   10 30 250 3

(+Upside) Steven Jackson topped the 1000 yard mark in his second season when he ran for 1046 yards in 2005. He also scored eight times on the ground and added two more scores via receptions. His role in the offense increased with the sharp decline of Marshall Faulk last year and Jackson totaled 43 catches to rank 9th in the NFL for running backs.

Jackson's numbers were even better considering that he only had two games with more than 20 carries during the season. New HC Scott Linehan intends to change that by stating that he recognizes Jackson to be a primary weapon and that he should be getting the ball 20 or more times every week. More carries equates to more yardage, and possibly more than first meets the eye considering Jackson's strength in the passing game as well. Be aware though that Linehan wants to start using tight ends more which should depress some of those halfback receptions.

Jackson should see bigger numbers this year and his only apparent downside will be during the fantasy playoffs weeks when he faces CHI, OAK and WAS. Linehan helped to dramatically boost the Dolphins rushing game last year by using two running backs. In St. Louis, there really is little more than Jackson to work with. Expect a good year here with upside for a big jump.

Carnell Williams - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 8
TD Only: 10
Keeper: 8
Auction: 22%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 TBB 14 1259 6 290 1178 4.1 6 20 81  
Avg   14 1259 6 290 1178 4.1 6 20 81 0
PROJ FA*   1700 10   1450   9 35 250 1

Not a shabby way to deck out his mantle. The rookie Carnell "Cadillac" Williams managed to be the first rookie running back to ever have three consecutive 100 yard games to start his career. He rushed for more yardage in those three games than any other running back ever had. He ran for 434 yards which then naturally was followed by only gaining 13 yards in the next three games (all together probably another record of sorts). He ended the season as the Offensive Rookie of the Year with 1178 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Williams injured his ankle and the arch in his foot in week 4 and that injury kept him out or limited him for five weeks or his numbers would have been even higher. Another positive too was that he started becoming more of a part of the passing game.

Not since LaDainian Tomlinson was drafted in 2001 has a first round rookie running back actually met and exceeded the hype. The Buccaneers will be featuring Williams even more this season and have even brought in blocking fullback Jerald Sowell to help plow open the running lanes this year. The Buccaneers have a very unusual statistical quirk this season since they face one of the toughest schedules for passing and yet have only an average challenge with rushing the ball this year. More reason to fire up the Cadillac.

Tiki Barber - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 4
TD Only: 9
Keeper: 9
Auction: 28%
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
2005 NYG 16 2390 11 357 1860 5.2 9 54 530 2
Avg   16 2054 10 319 1531 4.8 8 58 523 2
PROJ FA   2090 10   1590   8 55 500 2

Tiki Barber failed to get the memo about how he was turning 30 last year and would hit some mythical wall. Then again, he never got the one about how he was too small to play full-time either. Barber comes off a career best season where he tallied 357 carries for 1860 yards - second only to Shaun Alexander by a mere 20 yards. His 54 receptions ranked 3rd and receiving yards fell in 3rd as well. Add those all together and you get a super fantasy back that led the entire league with 2390 yards (almost 200 more than anyone else). The only area he fell from the pinnacle of the position was in touchdowns with 11. Thank Brandon Jacobs for that.

So 2006 greets a 31-year old back who is too small to play full-time. Once again, he will likely be drafted well below his actual value as been the case for literally the last four years. Then again, the kiss of death may be believing in Barber after a career mark just in time to see him take a slide downward. While there is some risk, it is that risk that has made Barber consistently be a great value in drafts. Another consideration as well is that Barber was used far less in his first five seasons and his 1890 career carries trails Edgerrin James by 298 carries while only topping Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson by less than a full season's worth. Barber also takes very few direct hits which further help his durability. Brandon Jacobs is there to take those injury-causing tough short yardage runs.

Barber is a big feature in the passing game and had more than twice as many catches in the second half versus the first half of 2005. That only underscores how the developing Manning likes to throw to him. After the top three backs are off the board this summer, Barber arguably offers the most consistent, low-risk pick you can make. And this year - you'll likely not have the luxury of waiting for him to fall to you.

Rudi Johnson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 9
TD Only: 8
Keeper: 10
Auction: 22%
2003 CIN 13 1113 9 214 967 4.5 9 21 146  
2004 CIN 16 1541 12 362 1457 4.0 12 15 84  
2005 CIN 16 1548 12 337 1458 4.3 12 23 90  
Avg   15 1401 11 304 1294 4.3 11 20 107 0
PROJ FA   1560 11   1460   11 25 100  

After two seasons warming the bench, Rudi Johnson stepped in during 2003 for 13 games and shared carries with Corey Dillon. Johnson turned in nine touchdowns and just missed hitting the 1000 yard mark that year. In the two years since, he has been incredibly consistent - running for 1457 and 1458 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns both seasons. That is scary consistency. Even his total yardage has been 1541 yards in 2004 and 1548 yards in 2005.

That level of production makes Johnson a very solid fantasy back and he increased his yards per carry to 4.3 last year. While he had 11 games with over 80 rushing yards, he only managed to top 100 yards three times. He also falls a bit in the rankings for leagues that reward receptions since he has never had more than 23 catches in a season. But his consistency and production ranks him highly since there is as minimal risk as you can hope for with a running back.

Again - lack of catches push him down a bit in those leagues with reception points but regardless, Johnson is a player who is not particularly flashy and likely gets drafted a bit too low in most leagues. The potential absence of Carson Palmer for the first part of the season could depress the rushing game but by the same token, it could actually make it even more heavily relied on. The initial weeks have KC, CLE and then at PIT, so for at least two weeks not having Palmer would likely be less a factor.

Willis McGahee - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 11
TD Only: 16
Keeper: 11
Auction: 22%
2003                      
2004 BUF 15 1297 13 284 1128 4.0 13 22 169  
2005 BUF 16 1425 5 325 1247 3.8 5 28 178  
Avg   16 1361 9 305 1188 3.9 9 25 174 0
PROJ FA   1720 8   1460   8 30 260  

Willis McGahee's second season as a starter went better than his first, but he did not take the leap up that his 2004 production suggested would happen. Of course much of that could be due to the passing problems that the team suffered through and losing six of their last seven games which prevented him from carrying as often. Through the first half of the season, McGahee had rolled up 907 total yards and four scores while averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

In the final eight games, he had only 457 yards and one score while averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. The question is which McGahee shows up this year? The Bills will enjoy a lighter schedule and Losman will be one more year matured to hopefully do better with the passing game. The Bills have also spent much of the offseason beefing up their anemic defense through free agency and the draft. The true McGahee was the one early in 2004 but he cannot come to life if the defense gives away most the games while forcing the offense to just throw in a desperate attempt to catch-up on the scoreboard.

McGahee is talented undoubtedly and he has remained durable since his return from the catastrophic knee injury in college. While the rebuilding Bills may not be an offensive powerhouse this season, they will likely rely on the rushing game to help out as much as possible. Look for an increase in numbers, limited mainly by field position and game situation.

Lamont Jordan - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 12
TD Only: 12
Keeper: 12
Auction: 20%
2003 NYJ 13 291 4 46 190 4.1 4 11 101  
2004 NYJ 14 591 2 93 479 5.2 2 15 112  
2005 OAK 14 1588 11 272 1025 3.8 9 70 563 2
Avg   14 823 6 137 565 4.4 5 32 259 1
PROJ FA   1580 10   1180   9 38 400 1

After spending four seasons waiting for Curtis Martin to step aside, Lamont Jordan went to the Raiders last year and had a remarkable season, at least in fantasy terms. His rushing production was nothing special with only 1025 yards and a 3.8 yards per carry average but he led all running backs in the NFL with 70 catches even though he only played in 14 games. His 563 receiving yards was second only to Brian Westbrook. In leagues with reception points, he was a delightful surprise.

His inclusion in the passing game was unforeseen and was in part a product of the coverage that Randy Moss received. When Kerry Collins was uncomfortable throwing downfield, he dumped it off to Jordan. He did so almost five times per game. Now that HC Norv Turner has left, Art Shell takes over along with ex-Idaho mayor Tom Walsh. Whether or not they elect to use Jordan in that capacity remains to be seen, but also notable is that Collins has been replaced by Aaron Brooks who never threw a touchdown to a running back while at New Orleans. Throw in Randy Moss as a lock to catch more than 60 passes this year and Jordan's outlook in the passing game is not nearly as bright as last year suggests.

Jordan was not a wildly effective runner in 2005 with half of his games coming in under 60 yards rushing. He boosted his overall production greatly by his receiving but there is a risk of that happening again. No Art Shell team has ever had more than 391 receiving yards from any running back and almost all came in under 200 yards for the season. How Shell will adjust to the 2006 game remains to be seen, but most likely the mobile Brooks will be buying time to find Porter or Moss instead of just dumping a pass to Jordan. With no real competition on the team, Jordan is a safe play here, but numbers like last year are definitely risky to expect.

Brian Westbrook - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 13
TD Only: 6
Keeper: 13
Auction: 20%
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
2005 PHI 12 1233 7 156 617 4.0 3 61 616 4
Avg   13 1230 9 150 677 4.6 4 57 553 5
PROJ FA   1440 12   840   8 60 600 4

Brian Westbrook had spent the last three seasons as a very shrewd draft pick in leagues that reward reception points and though he missed four games last year, he still topped all running backs with 616 receiving yards and his 61 catches were second only to Lamont Jordan. Such is the case every season and he has scored more touchdowns via the pass than by rushing for the last two seasons.

The problem with Westbrook is one of reliability. He has not made it to he last two games of the season for the last two seasons and last year battled through a Lis Franc injury to his foot. In 2004 he missed three games with various minor injuries and in 2003 he had ankle and triceps problems. But Westbrook is clearly the best back on the roster and HC Andy Reid has already claimed he wants to run more this year to balance out the offense.

Westbrook is a top ten back in leagues that reward reception points though his injury history makes him a bigger risk than most. Since he combines rushing and receiving yardage every week, he has consistent fantasy production and has been turning in ten or more touchdowns every year as a starter until 2005. Westbrook spent time with Tiki Barber this offseason to see how Barber cured his own injury problems and should Westbrook glean any useful information about staying healthy from Tiki, then he'll almost certainly be drafted well below his actual value this year. Yet again.

Tier 3
Willie Parker - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 16
TD Only: 26
Keeper: 14
Auction: 14%
Movement:
2003                      
2004 PIT 6 202   32 186 5.8   3 16  
2005 PIT 15 1420 5 255 1202 4.7 4 18 218 1
Avg   11 811 3 144 694 5.3 2 11 117 1
PROJ FA   1490 6   1230   5 25 260 1

Willie Parker was given a shot at starting last season thanks to Duce Staley's torn meniscus and Jerome Bettis having calf problems. Initially it was assumed the Vernon Haynes would start but the speedy Parker looked good enough in training camp to get the nod. He never looked back. Parker gained 209 total yards against the Titans in week one. He followed that up with four more 100 rushing yard efforts to end with 1202 yards on 255 carries to rank sixth in yards per carry (4.7). In week nine, Parker pulled up lame with a sprained ankle that caused him to miss one full game and hampered him for the next two games on the road against top defenses. By week 13, he was back in form and ended the regular season with two 130 rushing yard efforts.

Parker was only marginally effective in the three post-season games but his role is certain this season with the only question being if he will lose carries to the next "Jerome Bettis". While Parker ran well, he only scored four rushing touchdowns compared to Bettis who had nine.

The backfield has not changed other than the retirement of Bettis so Parker is insulated from any competition for the stating role. That doesn't mean he won't continue to lose precious scores to either Staley or Haynes, but the yardage will be almost entirely his. The injury to Roethlisberger could result in either Charlie Batch playing or Big Ben being limited and in either case that should be a benefit to the running game. The versatile Parker should continue to make a decent #2 running back for your fantasy team that can turn in the monster week that wins your games.

Reggie Bush - DET YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 20
TD Only: 17
Keeper: 15
Auction: 12%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ DET   1290 8   800   4 44 490 4

(-Risk) (+Upside) The Saints gladly accepted their gift when the Houston Texans passed on Reggie Bush and signed DE Mario Williams prior to the draft. While New Orleans had just signed Deuce McAllister to an eight-year, $50 million contract in July of 2005, they could not pass up on Bush.

Bush is one of the hottest prospects to come out of college for years and is electrifying in the open field with his 4.35/40 speed and ability to cut sharply at angles and then out run the defenders who cannot adjust. An accomplished pass receiver, Bush brings a very enticing set of skills to the Saints that can be exploited in many ways. His college career proved he is one of those rare "score on any play, from anywhere" types of running backs.

HC Sean Payton has already said he intends on using both Bush and McAllister in tandem much like Bush had at USA with LenDale White. That will reduce the amount of carries and catches for both players which will have an obvious impact on their fantasy outlook. Then again, such a scenario already led Bush to the pinnacle of his position in college against the toughest opponents possible.

Bush will go highly in keeper leagues but in redraft leagues his stock falls a bit knowing that he will share with McAllister and carries the obligatory risk of any rookie player regardless where drafted. In leagues with reception points, Bush ranks higher. He will be the #1 rookie to watch this season and likely many more to come. He requires a leap of faith to draft, but he has never failed to deliver.

Julius Jones - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 17
TD Only: 22
Keeper: 16
Auction: 14%
2003                      
2004 DAL 8 928 7 197 819 4.2 7 17 109  
2005 DAL 13 1211 5 257 993 3.9 5 35 218  
Avg   11 1070 6 227 906 4.1 6 26 164 0
PROJ FA   1420 7   1180   7 25 240  

(-Risk) (+Upside) Julius Jones has stumbled through two seasons with the Cowboys with several peaks and valleys. On one hand, he broke his clavicle as a rookie and missed eight games. He had a high ankle sprain last year and missed three games. He has only averaged 4.0 yards per carry so far in his career with many sub-4.0 YPC games. Then again, he tore up the Panthers for 194 yards and two scores last year. He had games of 186, 130 and 167 yards in 2004. In a handful of games, he has been unstoppable. In most games he has been rather average. In too many games he has been sidelined with an injury.

Marion Barber proved a more than adequate back-up last season and there is reasonable conjecture that he may supplant Jones as the primary back. HC Bill Parcells has openly voiced a concern about Jones durability which is not a positive. Feeling some of the heat has led Jones to work out harder than ever this offseason but the bottom line to his role in the offense is less about his talent than his ability to remain uninjured.

The Cowboys have an excellent schedule for rushing this season and that should help whichever back is toting the rock. When Jones was healthy towards the end of last year, he was being used about twice as much as Barber but even that level of sharing cuts into what fantasy numbers could have happened. Drop Jones back in your rankings due to the risk that both injuries and the footsteps of Marion Barber represent but know that if you get Jones when he gets hot, you have a gem. And if he follows the course of his first two seasons, you most likely have a tantalizing and yet entirely frustrating player on your roster that will make you wonder if he will go off or just go away in any given game.

08-10-06 Update: HC Bill Parcells has not said anything against Jones, but he has made a point of discussing plans to rotate the backs this year and he did in in 2005 as well. Jones is the fastest and best back on the team and he can still turn in big games, but the risk of him sharing carries and losing out on potential production is too great to leave him ranked any higher.

Kevin Jones - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 14
TD Only: 14
Keeper: 17
Auction: 16%
2003                      
2004 DET 15 1313 6 241 1133 4.7 5 28 180 1
2005 DET 13 773 5 186 664 3.6 5 20 109  
Avg   14 1043 6 214 899 4.2 5 24 145 1
PROJ FA   1380 9   1090   7 29 290 2

Kevin Jones came off a good rookie season when he gained 1133 rushing yards with a very healthy 4.7 yard average. The problem inside his 2004 campaign was that he boosted those numbers considerably with big games against the Vikings, Packers and Cardinals. Take away those super-soft match-ups and his numbers in 2004 pretty much matched those in 2005 - just moderate at best. His rushing average fell to only 3.6 yards last year and in fairness, he was hit hard by the general malaise that befell the entire Lion's team.

Jones also three missed games last year with thigh and elbow injuries and was limited in others. Remarkable too was the insistence last year to also play Artose Pinner despite his numbers being even worse. This led to Jones only having two games with more than 21 carries and seven times he only had a dozen carries or less. 2005 is not a realistic measuring stick for Jones since he was never heavily used.

With the new coaching staff and system, Jones has a second chance to start his NFL career. Unfortunately, the Ram-style of offense rarely uses any tailback more than 250 times in a season so Jones upper-limit is lower than many other backs in the league. While Artose Pinner and Shawn Bryson are no threats, the Lions grabbed Brian Calhoun in the draft and he could, at least potentially, get more involved as the first "Marinelli guy". Best chances here are that Jones retains the primary rushing role but will rarely be asked to carry more than 20 times per game while sharing the load with a better pass catcher such as Bryson or Calhoun. That means Jones carries a risk of being "under-used" in the new offense and his injury history is far from stellar. He'll likely be drafted too early by the guy who still remembers the three games back in 2004.

07-30-06 Update: Jones gets a push up slightly in the rankings because he has looked very good during his brief time in camp and more importantly, that has been noticed by the coaching staff installing the new offense.

Cedric Benson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 25
TD Only: 19
Keeper: 18
Auction: 10%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 CHI 9 275   67 272 4.1   1 3  
Avg   9 275 0 67 272 4.1 0 1 3 0
PROJ FA   1160 8   1000   7 18 160 1

(+Upside) After holding out for the entire summer, Cedric Benson signed with the Bears and then tried to make good on his 4th overall draft selection. It did not fare well. With almost no knowledge of the offense, Benson struggled in the initial weeks and was then used for only a couple of carries a game until week nine. Against the Saints, he ran 14 times for 79 yards while Thomas Jones had 11 carries for 40 yards though he was nursing a bruised rib from the previous game. In week 10, Jones was held out the next week and gave Benson his first true start. Early in the second quarter, Benson already had 52 yards on 11 carries when he was blasted from the side and bent his knee in what appeared to be a certain ligament popping tackle.

The injury looked bad with his leg bending inward at the knee and while he missed the next six weeks, he suffered only a sprain. According to Benson, "I'm very flexible". Gumby has nothing on Benson. He returned in time for the last game of the regular season.

Benson has been very dedicated training and attending voluntary workouts this spring and is looking forward to his first training camp. Thomas Jones remains the starter here but has expressed dissatisfaction at being underpaid compared to Benson and was the subject of trade rumors that never occurred. Going into 2006, barring an ill-advised hold-out by Jones or a trade, Benson will again provide relief and back-up for a rather unhappy Jones. If Jones does leave, then Benson's fantasy stock skyrockets in this offense. If not - he'll have another year where fantasy owners will remain as unhappy as Jones already is.

07-28-06 Update: Benson enters training camp as the #1 RB and Thomas Jones pulled his hamstring. While trade rumors of Jones are most likely meaningless, what is important here is that Benson has trained with the team during the entire preseason and is finally in the good graces of the coaching staff while Jones did not and now is hurt. The duo has traded places it appears though Jones will still figure in this year.

08-23-06 Update: Benson was reprimanded by HC Lovie Smith for not attending a post game meeting but what's worse is that his fellow teammates narced on him. It's hard to get a good feeling for Benson when his own teammates seem to be still siding with Thomas Jones who is back in practice now while Benson is kept from contact drills. It's actually an anti-productive situation overall for the Bears but no matter - Benson needs to fall a bit here.

Chester Taylor - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 15
TD Only: 15
Keeper: 19
Auction: 14%
2003 BAL 16 408 2 63 276 4.4 2 20 132  
2004 BAL 16 898 2 160 714 4.5 2 30 184  
2005 BAL 14 779 1 117 487 4.2   41 292 1
Avg   15 695 2 113 492 4.4 1 30 203 0
PROJ FA   1360 9   960   7 38 400 2

(+Upside) Chester Taylor entered the league as a sixth round pick in 2002 right between Brian Allen and Luke Staley. He hung on with the Ravens as a back-up and change of pace running back for Jamal Lewis. After minimal playing time the first two seasons, Taylor was given four starts in 2004 when Jamal Lewis was out of the lineup and ran the ball a total of 78 times for 367 yards for a 4.7 yard average. He also caught 14 passes for 78 yards during those games. He ended 2004 with a career high 160 carries for 714 yards (4.5 YPC).

Last season Taylor played less but was consistently running better than Lewis. He turned in a career best 41 catches for 292 yards. On the very first day of free agency, he signed a $14 million contract with the Vikings that included $5.6 million in guaranteed bonuses. Pretty nice for a one-time sixth round pick. Consider too that the Vikings had the cash to pursue Edgerrin James instead.

Taylor is absolutely a "sleeper" pick this season but he could end up overvalued if the hype gets too hot. New HC Brad Childress brings the
Philly-style offensive scheme and has already stated how well the multiple skills of Taylor will fit into offense. He also mentioned that Taylor would get 20 to 30 touches a game. The Vikings have also upgraded their offensive line and added a blocking fullback. Once Taylor gets past opening games against WAS, CAR and CHI, his schedule becomes much lighter. Any running back with his first true starting job is a risk, but the situation and opportunity that Taylor should have this season will spark him higher on many draft boards and he won't come as cheap as many hope.

Laurence Maroney - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 37
TD Only: 25
Keeper: 20
Auction: 2%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   680 7   520   5 18 160 2

(+Upside) After Reggie Bush was immediately snapped up in the NFL draft, Laurence Maroney was the next ranked back on most boards and obviously so for the Patriots who used their 1.21 to obtain the Minnesota product. At 6'0" and 216 pounds, he is the prototypical size for a starting running back and he makes a very nice fit in New England since he is a very good receiver in addition to being a gifted runner. He has 4.5/40 speed with enough quickness to get to the corner and if he finds someone standing there, he is big enough to plow through. He was roundly considered the best back to fit into a diverse system like New England's. No doubt the Colts had an eye on him as well though of course they claimed victory with Joseph Addai.

Corey Dillon is 32 years old in October and the Patriots were prudent in getting his replacement now before they had no options. Maroney will back-up Dillon this year and undoubtedly receive some playing time but working against him is that he left college as a junior and will be learning one of the most complex offenses in the NFL.

Dillon is hardly a lock to play all 16 games and Maroney is the immediate back-up, but he is mainly a necessary handcuff for the Dillon owner. Rookie backs always attract attention in fantasy drafts but the major value in Maroney lies in keeper leagues for next year. Don't reach to get him but if you own Dillon, don't leave him undrafted for too long.

Mike Bell - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 18
TD Only: 13
Keeper: 21
Auction: 12%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   1230 10   1030   9 18 200 1

(+Upside) The undrafted product out of Arizona has suddenly become all the talk here in the first week of preseason when he received a phone call from the coaches. He said he was concerned that they might be releasing him but instead it ended up that he has been made the starting running back over Ron Dayne and Tatum Bell. Welcome to the Denver experience. At 6'1" and 218 pounds, Bell has the desired size for the job and he was successful at Arizona. He just wasn't viewed in the top 17 running backs by all 32 NFL teams as that is how many were drafted this year. Bell has been impressive in camp. Now instead of arguing Tatum and Ron we can add in Mike as a third candidate. If Mike Bell can show up big in preseason games, then his lock on that top spot may harden but until then, figure this is just more of the same Denver we have come to know.

08-14-06 Update: Bell continues to rise in the rankings despite being nothing special in the first preseason game. Bell ran for just 20 yards on seven carries and he fumbled once. The Denver backfield is never a clear issue and Bell continues to hang on to the top spot... for now. Tatum Bell ran better on Saturday but apparently cannot convince the coaching staff to give him the fulltime gig. Chances look best that RBBC will happen again this year in Denver and for now at least, Mike Bell is a part of that.

08-21-06 Update: Bell has been very impressive in preseason games when he has held on to the ball. There's no reason to expect anything but Mike being the primary back and for Tatum Bell to provide change of pace. He may have been undrafted, but all signs point to him being the man this year. At least as much as anyone in Denver can be.

Jamal Lewis - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 23
TD Only: 27
Keeper: 22
Auction: 10%
2003 BAL 16 2269 14 388 2064 5.3 14 26 205  
2004 BAL 12 1122 7 235 1006 4.3 7 10 116  
2005 BAL 15 1097 4 269 906 3.4 3 32 191 1
Avg   14 1496 8 297 1325 4.3 8 23 171 0
PROJ FA   1350 6   1140   6 22 210  

(-Risk) (+Upside) After briefly flirting with being a free agent, Jamal Lewis was called back to the Ravens only two weeks into the free agency period and signed a three-year deal worth $26 million that included a $5 million signing bonus and a $1 million salary this season. Since either side can terminate the contract after this year, it is effectively a one year contract for $6 million with two years in options. Lewis comes off his worst season in the NFL, gaining only 906 yards on 269 carries despite playing for 15 games. His average gain plummeted to only 3.4 yards and rushing in a mere three touchdowns last year.

After Lewis exploded for his incredible 2066 yard season in 2003, it proved to be more than his next two seasons combined. Since that banner year, Lewis has suffered an NFL suspension for two games, been jailed for four months, had surgery on his ankle and witnessed Chester Taylor outplay him enough to get a starting job in Minnesota this season. The Ravens brought in Mike Anderson during the offseason who - unlike Taylor - is roughly the same size and has the same running style as Lewis.

Lewis has already been named the starter this year (incredible that would be news after rushing for 2066 yards just three seasons ago) but HC Brian Billick has expressed concern over working Lewis too much. The plan is to also use Mike Anderson more than a mere change of pace (which he isn't). Training camp may clear this up a bit more, but there has also been talk of using both backs in the backfield at the same time. This is entirely possible since Anderson has also played fullback. Expect that some committee use of Anderson and Lewis is used, with Lewis receiving the biggest load. The addition of Steve McNair will also help the rushing game by balancing the attack and giving the opposing defenses something more to think about than just Lewis running.

DeAngelo Williams - CAR YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 28
TD Only: 29
Keeper: 23
Auction: 6%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ CAR   990 6   840   5 16 150 1

(+Upside) When the Panthers were forced to start Jamal Robertson in the NFC Championship game, the lot was cast that they would be after more running backs in the NFL draft. While most pundits believed they would grab the burly LenDale White, the Panthers opted for DeAngelo Williams at the 1.28 instead. Standing only 5'8", Williams does not bring an intimidating size to the game but his playing style at Memphis says he didn't need it.

With Stephen Davis gone, the Panthers desperately needed back-up running back help for DeShaun Foster. Williams is not powerback really, but he is very quick and has a tremendous ability to make defenders miss. He's also an accomplished receiver that can play any role needed of him. Given the injury problems of DeShaun Foster, it seems almost certain that Williams will receive playing time and it could be significant.

That all said, Williams was not drafted to be a starter this year, he was added to provide much needed depth. He has only played against Conference USA opponents so the NFL will be even more challenging for him than most other rookies from the larger conferences. But Williams is an intense, driven back who has been successful enough to warrant a first round pick. Don't over reach for him on draft day because Foster will be the starter. Williams playing time this year could be as a part-timer all season if Foster somehow remains healthy. But as a sleeper choice you can pick up after you have secured your starters, Williams has incredible upside in this offense. He'll be a hot commodity for those searching for a sleeper and he'll likely be taken too early. Then again, this is the situation that is ripe for opportunity.

Frank Gore - SFO YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 19
TD Only: 23
Keeper: 24
Auction: 12%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 SFO 14 744 3 128 613 4.8 3 15 131  
Avg   14 744 3 128 613 4.8 3 15 131 0
PROJ SFO   1380 7   1080   6 33 300 1

(+Upside) The 49ers under new HC Mike Nolan selected Frank Gore with their 3.01 pick last year. Gore had been a freshman sensation before tearing his ACL in his second year and then re-injured his knee just five games into the season during his junior year, so his fall in the draft was expected and the 49ers took an educated risk in the hopes that Gore could return to form and remain healthy.

Gore did miss two games with a hip flexor and underwent shoulder surgery early in the offseason to correct a nagging problem but he is expected to be healthy for the start of training camp. Gore ended the season impressively with a two touchdown game against the Rams and then gained 108 yards on 25 carries against the Texans. Both were wins but then again, it was against the Rams and Texans.

Gore has the early lead for starting running back this season and he should keep his hold on the job with Kevan Barlow so underwhelming last year. Gore's 4.8 yard average was top ten in the NFL last year and new OC Norv Turner wants to continue to build on the improving run game seen last year when Gore was the starter. This offense is not going to produce enough touchdown opportunities for Gore to become a fantasy force in 2006, but he can be a great #3 running back for your team under the direction of Turner who rarely uses a committee approach in the backfield. Gore has risk in this offense, but there is still upside to realize with a full-time role from the season opener on through the entire season. Starting the season @ARZ, STL, PHI, @KC and OAK should cement Gore's effectiveness.

08-21-06 Update: Gore bumps up a few spots with the departure of Kevan Barlow to the Jets. Gore was already expected to be the primary back in these rankings but the loss of Barlow can only mean even better things. The 49er schedule is about as kind as it can be, now it depends on what the rest of the offense can do to support Gore.

Thomas Jones - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 30
TD Only: 24
Keeper: 25
Auction: 6%
2003 TBB 15 807 3 137 627 4.6 3 24 180  
2004 CHI 14 1375 7 240 948 4.0 7 56 427  
2005 CHI 15 1478 9 314 1335 4.3 9 26 143  
Avg   15 1220 6 230 970 4.3 6 35 250 0
PROJ FA   900 7   800   7 14 100  

(-Risk) After six seasons in the NFL, Thomas Jones finally turned in a break-out season when he ran for 1335 yards and nine touchdowns last season. His performance was dominating in many games and more than enough to keep Cedric Benson safely on the bench for all but a handful of carries each week. Jones suffered through numerous nicks and dings during the season but missed only one game when he re-aggravated a bruised rib.

Jones is slated to return as the starter again this year but all is not happy in Chicago. While Jones signed a four-year contract worth $10 million in 2004, he is only due around $2 million this season. Cedric Benson signed a five-year deal worth $35 million last year and received almost half of that guaranteed. This has not set well with Jones who fired his agent and hired Drew Rosenhaus in the offseason to either get him traded or get him more money. After some preliminary talks with other teams, the Bears have rejected either scenario to make Jones happy and will hold him to his contract regardless of "inequity".

Jones skipped voluntary workouts in the spring and this little drama has yet to be played out. Once the NFL draft concluded, the talk from the Bears camp has been fairly adamant that they want both Benson and Jones this year, even drawing comparisons to Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson working in tandem. The team needs two quality backs for their run first offense and that analogy works well except for one thing - Holmes was making $5 million a year and had a $10 million signing bonus. This is a situation to keep abreast on this summer.

07-28-06 Update: Jones has pulled a hamstring at the start of training camp and he's failed to make any positive moves in the eyes of the coaches. Jones may be carrying a big chip on his shoulder but he remains #2 on the depth chart and his actions are doing nothing to change that.

Tier 4
Reuben Droughns - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 22
TD Only: 37
Keeper: 26
Auction: 10%
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
2005 CLE 16 1601 2 309 1232 4.0 2 39 369  
Avg   13 1061 4 197 829 3.6 3 27 232 1
PROJ FA   1480 4   1250   4 21 230  

Rueben Droughns left the fertile fields of Denver to become the starting tailback in Cleveland and the results were pretty good, at least in a fantasy sense. He carried the ball 309 times which was close to top ten and he gained a respectable 1232 yards on a team that rarely had the luxury of just running the ball. He also added 369 yards on 39 catches for more value in leagues with reception points. Where Droughns came up dramatically short was in scoring - he only managed two touchdowns all season.

The Browns did not court any free agent running backs this year and drafted Jerome Harrison hoping to make him a third down back. Look for Droughns to once again take the primary rushing role and likely have a bit more success with it this season. The Browns shopped for defense help in the NFL draft but also added OT Isaac Sowells in the 4th round. The Browns also added C LeCharles Bentley and LT Kevin Shaffer on the first day of free agency. After one year of Romeo Crennel, the Browns have only RT Ryan Tucker remaining from the offensive line of 2004.

Droughns should improve on his touchdown tally this year with a better line but his receiving numbers are not certain to rise given that the Browns want to groom rookie Jerome Harrison for that role and when Frye played for five games last year (weeks 13 to 17) Droughns had his receiving numbers plummet. Still, Droughns makes for a great #3 running back and possibly a serviceable #2 back for your fantasy team. Word to the wise - Droughns plays @PIT, @BAL and TB during fantasy playoff weeks.

07-30-06 Update: Droughns falls a little in the rankings with the loss of LeCharles Bentley though nothing dramatic. He continues to have potentially troublesome legal problems looming though most likely that will not be an issue. He just carries a slightly higher risk now with a little less upside.

08-21-06 Update: Droughns has not been particularly impressive so far, he's heading off to a hearing about his legal problem and the Brown's offensive line looks as bad as last year.

Warrick Dunn - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 21
TD Only: 32
Keeper: 27
Auction: 12%
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  
2005 ATL 16 1636 4 280 1416 5.1 3 29 220 1
Avg   14 1348 6 223 1065 4.9 5 32 283 1
PROJ FA*   1430 5   1150   4 29 280 1

Warrick Dunn continues to defy all logic. He is too small to be a full-time back at just 5'9" and 180 pounds. He is too old for heavy use at 31 years of age. And yet, he comes off a career best season with 1416 rushing yards on 280 carries and his 5.1 yards per carry average was fifth best in the NFL last year. He has played the full 16 games in both of the last years so his expected durability issue is yet another anomaly.

Dunn benefits from being on a team that absolutely loves to run the ball but he could be more productive if they would involve him in the passing game more. That just does not happen. For the four seasons in Atlanta, Dunn has declined in receiving yardage every year, ending with just 220 yards on 29 catches last season. What would seem to be one of his biggest strengths is rarely used and all his limitations are ignored to make him just another full-time running back. And a very good one at that.

Regardless of his remarkable characteristics, it is only natural to be concerned about injuries with a small player who will be 32 next January. Then again, Dunn has been similar to Tiki Barber in that both have consistently been a great bargain in drafts every season. Working against Dunn this year though will be a brutal schedule. In addition to the games against CAR and TB, Dunn has to also face BAL, PIT, WAS and DAL which should depress his numbers. Then again, he may never get that memo either.

LenDale White - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 39
TD Only: 31
Keeper: 28
Auction: 2%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   720 6   620   6 12 100  

(+Upside) The Titans were delighted to draft LenDale White with their 2.13 pick in the 2006 NFL draft and the acquisition reunites White with OC Norm Chow running the same USC offense that White played in prior to 2005. White fell in the NFL draft because of a hamstring injury that prevented him from working out for teams and he showed up overweight sparking concerns about his self-discipline. Chow has no doubts about White's character, weight, commitment or even the false report that he had tested positive for drugs at the NFL combine. As far as the Titans are concerned, they grabbed a mid-first round talent for the price of a mid-second round pick.
White has pared down to his normal playing weight of 238 pounds and he already played well in the Rose Bowl when he weighed 250. White's hamstring kept him out until June mini-camps but is not expected to be an ongoing problem. White scored an astounding 52 touchdowns in college thanks to his powerback frame and yet he is considered a good pass receiver and complete back who gained over 3500 yards at USC. His biggest challenge this year may just be running behind a revamped offensive line that will take time to come together.
The Titans already have Chris Brown and Travis Henry, but both are injury prone and a big enough concern that the Titans could not resist taking White. Already familiar with the scheme and Chow, White has an excellent chance to make some big waves this season depending on how much Tennessee uses him. Expect that he will share time with Chris Brown but if Brown has his traditional problems with injuries or White shows early that he is a step up, this could be a very nice fantasy year for the Titan rookie who had, by his own admission, a "31 team chip on his shoulder". With significant upside, he's a definite target for giving you running back depth once you secure your starters.

Joseph Addai - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 38
TD Only: 40
Keeper: 29
Auction: 2%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   850 4   570   3 31 280 1

(+Upside) The Colts made no movement up in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft and gladly accepted Joseph Addai from Louisiana State as their selection. This meant missing out on Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney and DeAngelo Williams. According to the Colts, Addai is the "most complete" back from their board and one that is expected to replace Edgerrin James if only eventually.

Addai has good size at 5'11" and 215 pounds and is a natural athlete that is considered adept at all facets of the game though not particularly spectacular at anything. Some scouts had tagged Addai as more likely a third-down back or even a back-up in the NFL but the Colts are firm in their evaluation of Addai. He has great instincts and quick feet with patience to follow his blockers before his vision tells him where to go. He also has very good hands and is even better in the open field. Most importantly, Addai is a Colt now and there's a world of opportunity and potential playing for the most explosive offense in the world.

Early word has Dominic Rhodes as the starting tailback and Addai mixed in until he shows he can handle a full load. That could be week two or it could be 2007. Until that happens, it will be a committee approach in Indy with Rhodes taking the bigger share. Addai is going to be the first rookie back drafted this year because of his tremendous upside. He makes a decent pick once the "sure thing" backs are gone but Rhodes becomes a necessary book-end with him that could end up as the more productive back.

08-04-06 Update: Addai's projections have been lowered considering his most likely role this year and while the fantasy world may wish to see another Edgerrin James show up in Indianapolis, Addai looks less like he'll be that guy - if in fact anyone can reprise the workhorse role of James.

Corey Dillon - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 26
TD Only: 20
Keeper: 30
Auction: 8%
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
2005 NEP 11 914 13 209 733 3.5 12 22 181 1
Avg   13 1088 9 231 970 4.0 9 16 118 1
PROJ FA   1050 8   900   8 18 150  

(-Risk) Corey Dillon came off a career best season in 2004 where he had 1635 rushing yards and scored 13 touchdowns on the year, so he naturally was a high draft pick last year. Thankfully his touchdowns remained the same level from the previous season but his yardage plummeted to only 733 thanks to a lingering leg injury. He actually dressed out for the week six game against the Broncos but once all starting rosters were in, he never played a down. He returned to play for two more games before missing three more weeks with his mysterious leg injury which the Patriots only admitted existed but never cared to define. His mystery status each week was maddening to all fantasy owners who should have know that was the likelihood when drafting any Patriot player. Dillon was rested in week 17 and played in both postseason games but never ran for more than 57 yards and never scored.

Dillon fell short of 1000 rushing yards for only the second time in his career and he has not managed to play a full 16 game season since 2002. The Patriots also drafted Laurence Maroney in the first round to field an heir apparent to Dillon when the time is right. Dillon will start but his contract runs out at the end of this year and the Patriots did not elect to pick up a three year option on him during the offseason.

At the age of 32, this is likely Dillon's final year and he hasn't managed to last all season for the last three years. When he is hurt, there is no way of telling if he will play and how well as shown by his stunt in Denver last year. But he has been a touchdown machine when he does play and Maroney will take some time to become comfortable with the offense. Figure Dillon as a risky #2 back for your team but he won't likely last long enough to make him your back-up.

Dominic Rhodes - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 24
TD Only: 18
Keeper: 31
Auction: 10%
2003 IND 10 219 1 37 157 4.2   6 62 1
2004 IND 12 278 1 53 254 4.8 1 2 24  
2005 IND 10 206 4 40 118 3.0 4 13 88  
Avg   11 234 2 43 176 4.0 2 7 58 0
PROJ FA   1200 8   1050   8 19 150  

(+Upside) Dominic Rhodes made a name for himself as a rookie in 2001 when Edgerrin James was injured and Rhodes filed in to the tune of 1104 rushing yards and nine touchdowns with only ten starts. He then missed 2002 with a knee injury himself and in the three subsequent years, he has been little more than an occasionally used change of pace for James. His first season had more production than the next four years. That could change this season.

With the departure of James to Arizona, Rhodes becomes the starting running back at least until the team is comfortable with Joseph Addai as the full-time runner. The duo will be sharing duty with Rhodes receiving the larger portion when the season kicks off and that will change only with a good showing by Addai in more limited duty. There is no expectation that Rhodes will hold him off forever and become the permanent starting running back, but it could take a large chunk of this season.

Addai will be attracting all the attention in fantasy drafts this summer and Rhodes will either be a very prudent back-up move by the Addai owner or by someone stealing a shot at big numbers mid-draft. In fantasy football. It is almost always better to go with the player that is certain to have a role initially than someone else who may move into more playing time. Just ask Cedric Benson.

08-04-06 Update: Rhodes gets pushed up as the starter and Addai is slipped downwards because more in depth research has me very worried about the practicality of relying on Addai for anything more than change of pace and relief work. Rhodes will offer the stability that the offense is going to need in the post-James era.

Ahman Green - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 33
TD Only: 46
Keeper: 32
Auction: 4%
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
2005 GBP 5 402   77 255 3.3   19 147  
Avg   12 1363 9 230 1100 4.4 7 36 263 2
PROJ FA   970 3   800   3 20 170  

(-Risk) After spending four seasons as one of the top fantasy running backs, Ahman Green declined in 2004 when he only had 1165 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns. He was often nicked up though he only missed one game. Last year was already looking to be another slide backwards with several notable defections on the offensive line and Green only lasted for four games before straining his quadriceps muscle and missing one game. In his first game back, he actually tore his quadriceps tendon and was lost for the season. He underwent surgery last October.

Green was held out of mini-camps this spring and the goal is to have him in time for training camp but that will likely be optimistic. The injury that Green suffered is not necessarily career ending, but one that many players never fully recover from. And Green turns 30 years of age as well.

The Packers running back situation is a mess to untangle with both Green and Davenport slated to start and yet both are returning from season-ending injuries. Samkon Gado played remarkably well while they were gone though he too was injured and missed the final two weeks. Even when training camp arrives, Green won't be required to work too much just to save his health so the only true view you will get of Green's progress and status won't really come until the season starts. He is a major risk this year and with other options, that risk outweighs whatever small upside he may have. The only bright spot here is that you can likely get Green as a back-up running back (if not your second one) and then wait to see what happens.

Chris Brown - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 27
TD Only: 28
Keeper: 33
Auction: 6%
2003 TEN 11 282   56 221 3.9   8 61  
2004 TEN 11 1214 6 220 1067 4.9 6 20 147  
2005 TEN 15 1178 7 224 851 3.8 5 25 327 2
Avg   12 891 4 167 713 4.2 4 18 178 1
PROJ FA   1020 6   800   5 23 220 1

(-Risk) When the Titans acquired Travis Henry last year, the plan was to use both he and Chris Brown and at times in the same backfield (as so many teams pretend during the summer). The plan was to lessen the load on Brown to keep him fresh. Brown responded by having his busiest season yet (224 carries) with only 851 yards and a career low 3.8 yards per carry average. Brown did manage to play in 15 games for a career best, but he still managed to get a concussion, a neck stinger, sprained ankle, sprained elbow and finally another sprained ankle. He only missed one game but he limped or winced though much of the season.

With Brown failing to record even one 100 rushing game, the Titans used their second pick to grab LenDale White from USC - the same school that OC Norm Chow left before coming to Tennessee. While Brown will likely start the season as the primary back, there is no doubt that he will be losing time to White and eventually could lose his job with another injury or superior play by White.

Because of the risk involved due to White, Brown falls even farther on draft boards than his usual injury problem causes. In keeper leagues, consider him even less valuable. The Titans will likely have problems running behind a revamped line this year anyway and Brown has significant competition from White. Consider Brown only if you can live with reduced production and a possible loss of his starter status.

08-04-06 Update: Brown gets a slight bump up since he is in training camp and his supposed trade request was just a ploy by his agent when the Titans would not renegotiate his contract that was in the final year.

De'shaun Foster - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 29
TD Only: 33
Keeper: 34
Auction: 6%
2003 CAR 14 636 2 113 429 3.8   26 207 2
2004 CAR 4 331 2 59 255 4.3 2 9 76  
2005 CAR 15 1251 3 205 879 4.3 2 34 372 1
Avg   11 739 2 126 521 4.1 1 23 218 1
PROJ FA*   1030 5   820   4 21 210 1

(-Risk) DeShaun Foster enters his fifth season in the NFL but for all his upside and potential, he still only has rushed for a total of four touchdowns in the NFL. He has been injury-plagued his entire career, and though he did manage to miss only one regular season game (sprained knee), he pulled up lame in the playoffs with a fractured ankle and forced the team to rely on Jamal Robertson in the NFC Championship. His production last year was mediocre at best, turning in only two big games which both went against the Falcons and provided his only touchdowns on the season. Without those two games, he only gained 583 yards in 12 games with a 3.6 yard per carry average.

As mediocre as that sounds, the Panthers still coughed up $14.5 million last March to sign him for the next three years and prevent him from becoming a free agent. He will start the season once again. However, the Panthers also used their first round pick to select DeAngelo Williams and that cannot be dismissed.

Foster has been in the NFL for four seasons and has never made it through an entire season without missing games. Even when he is healthy, Foster has never been that impressive save for games against the Falcons. Expect that Foster will start the season and share with Williams to some extent. And expect that Foster will, at some point, become injured and allow Williams to take the full load. The only question here is if Williams will ever give back the job to Foster once he shows what he can do. This is a risky situation and neither is attractive as a starting fantasy back. But the upside sleeper in the mix is not Foster - it's the rookie Williams. Best bet is to take Foster only as bye week depth and then hope he is still healthy that week.

Deuce McAllister - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 34
TD Only: 30
Keeper: 35
Auction: 4%
2003 NOS 16 2157 8 351 1641 4.7 8 69 516  
2004 NOS 14 1302 9 269 1074 4.0 9 34 228  
2005 NOS 5 452 3 93 335 3.6 3 17 117  
Avg   12 1304 7 238 1017 4.1 7 40 287 0
PROJ FA*   780 6   720   6 8 60  

(-Risk) Deuce McAllister signed an eight-year, $50 million contract extension in July of 2005 but the world has changed greatly since then. Hurricane Katrina doled out hardships and challenges to the Saints and then in week five, McAllister suffered a torn ACL that ended his season. The Saints also changed the entire coaching staff headed by Sean Payton and then drafted Reggie Bush with the 1.02 pick in the NFL draft. They also dumped Aaron Brooks to get Drew Brees on board. This team will be dramatically different to the one that was playing in week five of last year.

Perhaps thanks in part to his huge contract last year, McAllister was insulated from any possible trade despite the drafting of Bush. The reality is that Payton wants to feature both McAllister and Bush in the same backfield much like Bush had at USC with LenDale White. While that may seem to be a death sentence to McAllister's fantasy value, recall that White scored 51 touchdowns in college.

McAllister's rehab went well in the offseason and he is expected to be ready in time for training camp though his workload may be lightened of course. While his fantasy stock has fallen well out of the top ten now, he will still have a big role in the new scheme and like White, could start picking up a lot of short touchdowns. He cannot be considered a fantasy starter given his injury and situation, but he makes a very interesting back-up that could easily turn in production that exceeds his draft slot this summer. One brutal reality here - his fantasy playoff weeks are @DAL, WAS and @NYG.

Wali Lundy - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 32
TD Only: 34
Keeper: 36
Auction: 4%
Movement:
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   860 5   700   4 18 160 1

(+Upside) Lundy is added to the rankings because he looked good in the first preseason game - albeit against less than first stringers. But Antowain Smith is getting rather long in tooth and the questions revolving around Domanick Davis makes any of his back-ups more important. Lundy ran for 59 yards and one score on just nine carries against the Chiefs. The rookie out of Virginia has enough size to get the job done at 5-10 and 211 pounds and he showed some burst as well. Lundy was drafted with the 6.01 pick by the Texans.

08-28-06 Update: In the third preseason game where HC Gary Kubiak had said he would "try out the starters", Lundy played the entire first half against the Broncos and gained 44 yards on 10 carries against the Denver first team defense and added three catches for 17 yards. No other back carried the ball. Lundy has to be considered the clear starter in Houston now at least until Domanick Davis returns. If Davis doesn't return or at least play more than a handful of games, Lundy could be a steal at this draft slot.

08-29-06 Update: Now there is news that Domanick Davis may be released or placed on IR this year. Lundy was mentioned as the starting tailback by HC Gary Kubiak but he will share with Vernand Morency in any event. Davis is not gone yet, but the case for Lundy just looks stronger.

Marion Barber - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 35
TD Only: 38
Keeper: 37
Auction: 4%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 DAL 12 653 5 138 538 3.9 5 18 115  
Avg   12 653 5 138 538 3.9 5 18 115 0
PROJ FA   870 4   540   3 38 330 1

(+Upside) Marion Barber ended his rookie season with 538 rushing yards and a decent 3.9 yards per carry average. His rushing was a tale of two Barbers. When he was used sparingly in a game, he usually remained at 3.5 yards per carry or worse. When he was used as a full-time starter, he had very nice games of 95 and 127 yards with a rushing average of 4.3 YPC or better. He ran for 82 yards against the Chiefs in week 14 on only 15 carries. He also became a feature in the passing game later on in the season when he was averaging around two catches per game.

Parcells likes Marion Barber. Julius Jones is another draft pick selection made under Parcells and while Jones remains the starter, his hold on that is less firm than last year. Parcells has already said publicly that he is concerned about the durability of Jones which is a big negative to him, perhaps second only to fumbling. Towards that end, Jones has been working out hard in the offseason knowing that anything short of a stellar and injury free performance this season will almost certainly mean increased playing time for Barber.

Unless there is an obvious change coming out of training camp, expect that Jones remains the primary rusher and that Barber is mixed in for change of pace. But if Jones goes down injured yet again and Barber shines, yet again, then all bets are off on Jones remaining the starting running back. If you take Jones this summer, you must get Barber. And that may be challenging to do given the speculation already starting that Barber will take over the role.

08-10-06 Update: HC Bill Parcells has been rather forthcoming about the plan to rotate backs this year and given the injury history of Julius Jones, chances are too high that Barber gets appreciable playing time. Barber gets the bump up but still remains the secondary back to Jones.

Tatum Bell - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 36
TD Only: 39
Keeper: 38
Auction: 2%
2003                      
2004 DEN 9 476 3 75 396 5.3 3 5 80  
2005 DEN 14 1025 8 173 921 5.3 8 18 104  
Avg   12 751 6 124 659 5.3 6 12 92 0
PROJ FA   860 4   660   4 21 200  

(-Risk) (+Upside) Tatum Bell has been in the NFL for two seasons now and has yet to capitalize on his relatively high draft selection (2.09 - 2004). While Clinton Portis was able to squeeze past all other backs and take a full-time load, Bell has only officially started one game in his career. That was week 17 last year when Mike Anderson was rested for the playoffs and Bell wanted to use that game to prove to the coaches he could handle the load. The result? He only gained 52 yards on 17 carries but scored three touchdowns.

Bell has turned in several nice games in the last two seasons with four 100 yard games to his credit. He had three during a four game span last year, notching huge games against the Redskins, Patriots and Eagles. He scored five of his eight touchdowns in those games. But he suffered a bruised chest and played more sparingly, even missing one game. In 2004 he had a broken finger, pulled hamstring and sprained shoulder which caused him to miss seven games. Durability is not one of his strong suits.

Barring another back being brought in, Denver will be relying on some mixture of Ron Dayne and Bell. The use of Mike Anderson and Bell was effective last season and the Broncos did not draft any tailbacks. Figure on Bell replicating what he did last season. He is a fast, shifty runner but has problems lasting the entire season if used too heavily. This year, it's just Dayne instead of Droughns or Mike Anderson.

07-30-06 Update: Since Ron Dayne remains the #1 tailback going into camp, Bell takes a small tumble here and should be viewed similar to last year when he shared with Mike Anderson.

08-08-06 Update: Bell takes another tumble with the introduction of Mike Bell into the equation. Apparently the musical chairs has not stopped at Tatum yet and it may not. But regardless of who the primary back is, Tatum will have a role.

08-21-06 Update: WIth each bump up with Mike Bell comes a drop for Tatum. He'll still offer change of pace but his chance to be a primary back for Denver just keeps dimming.

Brandon Jacobs - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 41
TD Only: 21
Keeper: 39
Auction: 2%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 NYG 13 99 7 38 99 2.6 7      
Avg   13 99 7 38 99 2.6 7 0 0 0
PROJ FA   330 8   330   8      

The Giants took Brandon Jacobs with their 4.09 selection in the 2005 NFL draft not as a back-up to Tiki Barber but more as a complement to him. Barber ranks as one of the lightest tailbacks in the league and now that Jerome Bettis is gone, Jacobs reigns as the heaviest. His use soon became apparent when he scored in both of his first games.

Jacobs is not going to gain much yardage and his per carry average is rather low because he does all the heavy lifting when the Giants need a short, tough yard to be gained - especially down by the goal line. With Barber chewing up the yardage, Jacobs has much less value in a yardage league than he does in a touchdown only league. Figure Jacobs to be the best sort of back-up to draft if you own Barber. He's there if Barber is injured and even when he is not, he's punching in touchdowns.

Fred Taylor - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 31
TD Only: 45
Keeper: 40
Auction: 4%
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
2005 JAC 11 870 3 194 787 4.1 3 13 83  
Avg   14 1460 4 266 1194 4.5 4 32 266 1
PROJ FA   980 3   860   3 13 120  

(-Risk) Let's run down the last year. Fred Taylor returned last summer after having knee surgery during the offseason and made it almost a full month into the season before suffering a sprained ankle. He tried playing hurt, a skill he should have perfected by now, but his ankle flared up and he missed week six. He returned to notch a season high 165 yards against the Rams but then his ankle once again was an issue the following week and he missed the Ravens game. His ankle was worsening when he played. He returned for six plays against the Titans in week 11 but left after a thigh bruise. These injuries would affect him the rest of the season.

Taylor actually complained to HC Jack Del Rio when he was limited to only ten carries against the Colts even though he had only gained 19 yards. After eight years in the league, Taylor has only played full 16 game seasons twice and at the age of 30, Mr. Non-Durable is highly unlikely to improve his record.

Taylor elected to work out on his own instead of with the team because, as he said, "…it's time for Fred to take care of Fred." There is reasonable speculation that Taylor could be released at the end of training camp if the team feels comfortable with Maurice Drew, Greg Jones and Alvin Pearman. Before taking any Jaguar back, make sure to get the most updated information because this situation may not be certain until the season starts - if even then.

08-15-06 Update: Taylor slips back after a subpar showing in preseason and that only after missing time with yet another injury. He is falling from grace with the caoching staff who are becoming more enamored with Greg Jones. Taylor is in risk of losing his starting spot.

08-29-06 Update: The loss of Greg Jones doesn't really hurt Taylor at all, but to think it is a big help downplays the fragility that is Fred Taylor. More work is not likely to increase his durability though he may do more earlier in the season now.

Jerious Norwood - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 42
TD Only: 35
Keeper: 41
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   480 5   390   4 10 90 1

(+Upside) The Falcons used a fairly high 3.15 pick on this Mississippi State but he comes in not the same fast, shift yet short runner like Warrick Dunn or like the big tackle breaking bruiser like T.J. Duckett. With a bit of luck. He could end up to be a combination of the two. Norwood ran a blistering 4.37/40 at the NFL combine and can break a long run off at any time. He fell in the draft a bit though because he runs very upright and had some knocks against him for not being aggressive enough. Training camp will tell more but the Falcons made the move for Norwood knowing that Warrick Dunn is 31 years old and T.J. Duckett has fallen from favor for all but short yardage and goal line duty.

Unless something changes, Norwood won't likely get much playing time this season unless there is an injury to Dunn or Duckett. But the Falcons have been rumored to be shopping Duckett around having soured on him as a replacement for Warrick Dunn one day soon. The worst case scenario here is that Norwood stays on the bench and everything stays the same in Atlanta. The best case scenario is that Norwood impresses in camp enough for the Falcons to move Duckett in a trade and then Norwood couples with Dunn for the season.

Norwood deserves a watch this summer to see how he develops. Until he either impresses in camp or Duckett is no longer a factor on the team, He's not worthy of a draft pick other than keeper leagues looking to stash a future prospect.

08-23-06 Update: With the departure of Duckett, Norwood is now clearly the primary back-up to the diminutive Warrick Dunn who is getting a bit old as well. Norwood has looked good in practice, enough to make the trade attractive, though he has not torn it up in preseason games. Given the rushing ability of the Falcons, he's now worth stealing from the Dunn guy.

Maurice Jones-Drew - OAK YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 40
TD Only: 48
Keeper: 42
Auction: 2%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ OAK   680 3   450   2 27 230 1

(+Upside) The Jaguars went hunting for a new running back in the NFL draft and after missing out on the first five backs, they opted to spend their 2.28 pick on Maurice Drew out of UCLA. Considering the potential of those five players, waiting on their pick left them with a definite step-down. Maurice Hicks came out after his junior year and he was very productive in college. Not only did he rush for 914 yards in 2004, he led the nation with an average of 28.7 yards on punt returns - a new NCAA record. That was possible because Drew is very quick and agile and can run very well in the open field. He is also an accomplished pass receiver. Problem is that he is only 5'7" (if that). There currently are no NFL running backs that short. The last back of such stature was Joe Morris with the Giants. It's probably not a good sign when the last successful example retired from the NFL 15 years ago.

The likely best case scenario for Drew is to have Fred Taylor leave or be released and then to share time with Greg Jones who will take all the heavy lifting chores. And that will only happen if Drew can beat out last year's fourth round pick of Alvin Pearman who too was considered under-sized and "third down back" capable at the same weight and two inches taller.

The team's backfield is in a flux now with the highly dissatisfied Fred Taylor and no other clear cut choices for the backfield. If Taylor remains, then Drew will likely spend his rookie year returning punts and occasionally getting some playing time. He is a training camp watch to be sure and one that could surprise but even in the best of all scenarios, he'll be picking up yardage so that Jones can take the touchdown.

08-28-06 Update: With the loss of Greg Jones, Drew stands to get more playing time as will LaBrandon Toefield. But since Toefield has already proven to be nothing special and Drew has been impressive at least occasionally, the best fantasy bet is that Drew will be the guy to get if in fact anything good happens to the backs behind Taylor.

Vernand Morency - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 43
TD Only: 49
Keeper: 43
Auction: 1%
Movement:
2003                      
2004                      
2005 HOU 6 271 2 46 184 4.0 2 10 87  
Avg   6 271 2 46 184 4.0 2 10 87 0
PROJ FA   570 3   320   2 26 250 1

Vernand Morency had limited play last year even with Domanick Davis being often injured, but in that minor role he showed some moves and talent to justify his selection in the 2005 NFL draft. Jonathan Wells was not resigned this year which removes one major obstacle for playing time but the Texans did add Antowain Smith and drafted Wali Lundy in the sixth round.

While Smith or even Lundy would be the more likely choice on short yardage plays, Morency will see more playing time this season if and when Davis is hurt. He is a prudent back-up for Davis owners and yet not one that you can be certain will get all the action if that does occur.

08-21-06 Update: Morency ran well, finally, in the presason game against the Rams after not impressing the new new coaching staff until now. That opens him up for more consideration of playing time should Domanick Davis not return. Wali Lundy opened the game and once again looked good, but Morency could make it more competitive with another solid showing.

Tier 5
Chris Perry - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 78
TD Only: 77
Keeper: 44
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004 CIN 2 34   2 1 0.5   3 33  
2005 CIN 14 607 2 61 279 4.6   51 328 2
Avg   8 321 1 32 140 2.6 0 27 181 1
PROJ FA   200 1   150   1 7 50  

(-Risk) The Bengals drafted Chris Perry in the first round of 2004 but a sports hernia limited him to a mere two carries for one yard as a rookie. He was the second running back taken in the NFL draft that year and was a star at Michigan. Last year we finally were able to see what Perry was all about and the results as a back-up and third down back were quite good. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry though limited to only 61 runs for 279 yards and he never scored on the ground - that remains Rudi Johnson's job.

But Perry was a solid receiver coming out of the backfield and his 51 catches tied with Tomlinson as the fourth best in the league last year. He also scored twice. While he only had 607 total yards in 2005, his role as a receiver gave him value in leagues that reward reception points. Basically, putting both he and Rudi Johnson together and you would have a top 5 running back. Separately, Johnson gets the rushing yards and scores while Perry turns in the receiving yardage.

Perry had to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery in late April to clean out some debris that had been bothering him. He is still expected back in time for training camp and reassumes the valuable role of spelling Johnson and playing on third downs. Perry is a reasonable insurance pick for those holding the very durable Rudi Johnson but he really only has value in leagues that reward reception points. He has four or more catches in roughly half his games and could be a decent bye week filler. He is not really worth "stealing" in a draft if there are no reception points though - Johnson is still young and healthy and there is no reason to expect Perry to take over unless Rudi is injured. Make sure Perry shows up for training camp with no lingering issues with his knee.

08-22-06 Update: Perry remains out of action from his knee and ankle surgeries and he has not left the PUP list yet. Figure Perry to not be ready for the start of the season and that Kenny Watson will start the year as the primary back-up.

T.J. Duckett - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 48
TD Only: 42
Keeper: 45
Auction: 1%
2003 ATL 16 873 11 197 779 4.0 11 11 94  
2004 ATL 12 524 8 104 509 4.9 8 3 15  
2005 ATL 14 443 8 121 380 3.1 8 6 63  
Avg   14 613 9 141 556 4.0 9 7 57 0
PROJ FA*   320 4   300   4 3 20  

(-Risk) The Thunder to Warrick Dunn's lightning, Duckett has been a great pick in touchdown only leagues but the yardage has never been there. After four seasons with the Falcons, he has scored 31 touchdowns and yet never had more than 197 carries or 779 yards in a season. That has worsened the last two seasons when he has only had 104 and 121 carries respectively. But then again, he has scored at least eight times in each of the last three seasons. Paired with the diminutive Dunn, Duckett has just fallen into the role of just another short-yardage back.

But it gets even worse than that since Duckett only averaged 3.1 yards per carry in 2005 - the lowest of his career. In the latter half of last year he never gained more than 32 yards in the final five games right when the Falcons needed him most. While his contract extends through the 2007 season, there are reasons to expect a change prior to the end of next year and even possibly by the end of this summer. The Falcons have considered trading Duckett away but had been asking for a first round pick "plus". That never happened.

Unless there is a change, expect that Duckett continues his role as the short-yardage back but with even less action since the rookie Jerious Norwood will likely receive some playing time as well. Duckett could still deliver a respectable number of touchdowns but his yardage will likely decline even further. He is more of a risk than anytime previous in his career.

08-23-06 Update: Duckett was traded for a third round pick as it worked out and now goes to the Redskins where he knows he cannot be the primary back. But - he's going there to compete with LaDell Betts for the back-up spot and he could be used in short yardage and goal line situations. That remains to be seen and could improve his stock but for now, he has left ATL where he was the goal line guy and now has to learn a new offense and compete with Betts.

Musa Smith - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 44
TD Only: 41
Keeper: 46
Auction: 1%
2003 BAL 2 31 2 9 31 3.4 2      
2004 BAL 4 79   12 48 4.0   2 31  
2005 BAL 1 5           3 5  
Avg   2 38 1 7 26 2.5 1 2 12 0
PROJ FA   440 4   360   3 10 80 1

(+Upside) Musa Smith has clearly been more productive than Mike Anderson in training camp though he has not been made the #2 running back - at least not yet. Smith has been impressive in both presason games and there is an excellent chance that he will replace Anderson as the primary back-up to Jamal Lewis.

Verron Haynes - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 51
TD Only: 36
Keeper: 47
Auction: 1%
Movement:
2003 PIT 8 120   20 63 3.2   7 57  
2004 PIT 12 414 2 55 272 4.9   18 142 2
2005 PIT 14 387 3 74 274 3.7 3 11 113  
Avg   11 307 2 50 203 3.9 1 12 104 1
PROJ FA   250 5   230   5 4 20  

(+Upside) Verron Haynes avoided free agency when he signed a two-year deal in March that was worth $1.75 million. Although he has spent four seasons as little more than running back depth, there is a chance that could change this season. The retirement of Jerome Bettis has left a big void that the Steelers have not officially filled. A potential trade to acquire T.J. Duckett fell through, so the speedster Willie Parker will be paired with anther short yardage/goal line back yet to be named. Considering Bettis scored 29 touchdowns in the last three years, this is a potentially lucrative position.
His main competition will be Duce Staley who will enter training camp as the primary back-up on paper but the job is open to be won by Haynes. Staley only played in four games last year and at the age of 31, he won't be any less injury-prone than he has been for the last three injury-shortened seasons.
Worst case here is that Staley gets the job but then shares the role with Haynes who the coaching staff also likes. If Haynes is able to wrest the #2 role away from Staley during training camp, he deserves much fantasy attention, particularly in leagues with touchdown only scoring. Haynes is not the biggest guy at 222 pounds and that comes in at 20 pounds less than Staley but his situation is worth keeping track of this summer. Even if Staley wins the role outright, consider Haynes as your final back since Staley never remains healthy.

Kevan Barlow - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 46
TD Only: 55
Keeper: 48
Auction: 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  
2005 SFO 12 817 3 175 576 3.3 3 31 241  
Avg   14 1061 6 207 807 3.9 5 34 253 0
PROJ FA   480 2   350   2 14 130  

(-Risk) (+Upside) During his first three seasons with the 49ers, Kevan Barlow was forced to share carries with Garrison Hearst and he topped 1000 yards in 2003 when Hearst missed four games due to injury and left Barlow to collect more playing time. With Hearst gone in 2004, the expectation was that Barlow could build upon his production without anyone there to steal carries from him. That proved erroneous. Barlow actually took a step backwards, gaining only 822 yards on a career high 244 carries for a career low 3.4 yards per carry (no wait, it gets worse). The 49ers elected to draft Frank Gore last year in the first season for HC Mike Nolan so Barlow could not even rely on being "the coach's guy".

Barlow had to share with Gore and later had a concussion and then a knee injury that caused him to miss the final three games of the year. In the meantime, Frank Gore was busy taking what was left of his job. What Nolan will remember from last year is that Barlow fell to a paltry 3.3 yards per carry while Frank Gore had a 4.8 yard average which ranked him top ten in the NFL last year. Gore also gained 256 rushing yards and two scores while Barlow was gone.

Barring an injury to Gore, expect Barlow to assume a much more secondary role this year and provide mainly just relief work for Gore. OC Norv Turner does not typically use a committee system when he has one good back and that is not Barlow.

08-21-06 Update: Barlow's upside is helped by moving to a team that has a very unsettled running back situation but since that team is the Jets, it just doesn't change the projections that much.

Mike Anderson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 74
TD Only: 74
Keeper: 49
Auction: 1%
2003 DEN 10 310 5 70 257 3.7 3 12 53 2
2004                      
2005 DEN 15 1226 13 239 1014 4.2 12 18 212 1
Avg   13 768 9 155 636 4.0 8 15 133 2
PROJ FA   280 1   210   1 8 70  

(-Risk) (+Upside) Mike Anderson gained a ridiculous 1487 yards and 15 touchdowns in his rookie season but since that time he had been either a fullback or a part-time player. After missing the 2004 season due to a groin injury, Anderson came back to gain 1014 yards and 12 touchdowns last year with the Broncos. At the age of 33, Anderson was released and picked up by the Baltimore Ravens where he will be paired in some fashion with Jamal Lewis.

Anderson is older - he started in the NFL at the age of 27 - and he has been injury prone in the past. But he signed a four-year deal with Baltimore that was worth $8 million and included a $2 million signing bonus. It is unlikely he will play that contract out. But the Ravens were pleased to get a veteran running back that also had experience as a fullback.
Early word had HC Brian Billick suggesting that Jamal Lewis needs more rest and that Anderson can work in complement with Lewis. To what level that potential committee approach could be remains to be seen, but the most reasonable assumption is that Anderson will primarily be a back-up with several carries a game just to keep Jamal "fresh". There is still the issue of a third down back since Chester Taylor has left and that role may involve the rookie P.J. Daniels which would only serve to water down individual numbers even more. If you end up with Jamal Lewis, Anderson is a needed handcuff but until Lewis is injured or outright flops again, Anderson will carry only marginal fantasy value this season.

Michael Turner - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 81
TD Only: 79
Keeper: 50
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004 SDC 2 112   20 104 5.2   4 8  
2005 SDC 12 335 3 57 335 5.9 3      
Avg   7 224 2 39 220 5.6 2 2 4 0
PROJ FA   170 1   150   1 4 20  

Michael Turner has the disadvantage of playing behind one of the most productive and durable backs in the NFL. In two seasons, he has only totaled 77 carries and last year he finally scored once when Tomlinson needed some help while he played with a bruised rib. Turner responded in fine fashion and the coaching staff is very comfortable with him even if the unthinkable happened and Tomlinson missed some games.

Turner is a mandatory handcuff for Tomlinson owners but he's more like a spare tire for a Porsche. Chances are high that he won't see any appreciable playing time but if called upon, he can keep everything moving downfield. With a very healthy 5.7 yards per carry average, he can save the team that loses Tomlinson but as a steal by another team, he's likely just wishful thinking and a wasted draft pick.

Leon Washington - TEN YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 65
TD Only: 71
Keeper: 51
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ TEN   400 1   190   1 22 210  

While Curtis Martin is getting old and breaking down now, the Jets did not make replacing him a priority in the 2006 draft. They waited until the fourth round to take Leon Washington out of Florida State and likely did nothing more than gain some depth at the position.

Washington is only 5'8" and 202 pounds, and he does not project to being a full-time runner in either ability to get tough yards or likely durability from his size. Washington has 4.4/40 speed and can breakaway when he reaches the open field but likely someone else is going to have to get him there by blocking. That could eventually be the Jets first round pick OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson but for a team that is undergoing a major purge and rebuilding, a smaller sized back like Washington will likely only play a spot role.

The plan for 2006 is to have Martin with reduced carries but Cedric Houston and Derrick Blaylock will be higher on the depth chart than Washington. While Washington gets that benefit of being a rookie (AKA "we don't know anything for sure yet"), the reality is that the Jets offense looks to be struggling this year under the weight of a rebuild and the backfield looks more to be a mess with four backs vying for carries. Stash Washington away on your roster for a dynasty/keeper league but realize you'll likely just be holding an eventual third down back at best. Then again - the same thing was true for a rookie named Brian Westbrook.

Michael Bennett - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 58
TD Only: 50
Keeper: 52
Auction: 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
2005 MIN 16 597 5 126 473 3.8 3 27 124 2
Avg   11 553 3 95 399 4.2 2 20 154 1
PROJ FA   340 3   240   3 12 100  

(+Upside) Michael Bennett initially came to the Saints last March when he agreed to a one-year deal for $3 million with a signing bonus of $1 million to be a back-up to Deuce McAllister. Given that the Saints can not be certain that McAllister will be back to 100% at the start of the season or even during the full year, Bennett's acquisition gave him upside to become a replacement back should McAllister still need time off.

Then the Saints were delightfully surprised to find Reggie Bush available with the 1.02 selection in the NFL draft and could not pass up the chance to select the premier playmaker coming out of college in 2006. That pick not only sent Bennett to #3 on the depth chart, but also mandated that he would be only running back depth regardless of McAllister's status.

The Saints have shopped Bennett around and will likely lose out on the signing bonus. They have been in discussions with both the Houston Texans and the Miami Dolphins who both need a veteran back-up. Until that or some other move happens, Bennett finds himself buried on the depth chart with no real fantasy value this summer.

08-02-06 Update: The Chiefs have acquired Bennett in exchange for a future undisclosed draft pick. Now instead of being the #3 in New Orleans, Bennett will become the #2 in Kansas City behind Larry Johnson. He doesn't look likely to offer much fantasy value in KC unless Johnson is injured, but if that happens - Bennett becomes the much needed handcuff.

Ciatrick Fason - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 63
TD Only: 52
Keeper: 53
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 MIN 9 62 4 32 62 1.9 4      
Avg   9 62 4 32 62 1.9 4 0 0 0
PROJ FA   300 3   210   3 10 90  

Ciatrick Fason's rookie season with the Vikings was not particularly impressive since he only played in the final nine games and totaled a mere 32 carries on the season, but he was used for four short touchdown runs to keep his name in the minds of fantasy fans. The new offense will be shifting to a west coast style this year under new HC Brad Childress and Minnesota added Chester Taylor during the off-season. That should be enough to keep Fason deeper on the depth chart and likely rob him of the opportunities for those short scores he had last season.

The Vikings will be using a two-back approach using both Taylor and Mewelde Moore, so there's no real fantasy significance to grabbing a back-up running back for Chester Taylor. Leave Fason on the board when you draft this year.

Michael Pittman - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 55
TD Only: 59
Keeper: 54
Auction: 1%
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
2005 TBB 16 736 2 70 436 6.2 1 36 300 1
Avg   15 1132 5 159 704 4.8 3 51 427 2
PROJ FA   400 2   210   1 29 190 1

After spending three seasons as the savior running back for the Buccaneers when all others had failed or been injured every year, Michael Pittman has officially been phased out of most of the offense thanks to Carnell Williams. Pittman's 436 rushing yards was his lowest since 1997 and he only was given 70 carries on the year - 28 of those came in the two weeks that Williams missed.

Pittman continues to provide duty as a receiver out of the backfield but that too dipped to only 300 yards last year. It wasn't that Cadillac was taking all his passes as he only had 20 catches for 81 yards last year. It was that Williams ran so well that many of those old third and long plays turned into third and short this year.

Pittman is still a prudent back-up for Carnell Williams and he played reasonably well in both of his starts last year, but until Williams does get hurt, Pittman has little fantasy value. Since Williams made such a big splash last year, Pittman will come cheaper this summer than in past years.

Samkon Gado - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 50
TD Only: 56
Keeper: 55
Auction: 1%
Movement:
2003                      
2004                      
2005 GBP 8 659 7 143 582 4.1 6 10 77 1
Avg   8 659 7 143 582 4.1 6 10 77 1
PROJ FA   430 2   370   2 8 60  

(+Upside) One of the better stories coming out of the latter half of the 2005 season was the emergence of Samkon Gado. By week 9 when he showed up as the last man standing after the Pittsburgh game, he secured the starting role largely since the Packers were out of options. He ran for 103 yards and two scores against Atlanta and added a receiving touchdown as well. After posting two more 100 yard games that included 171 yards against the Lions, Gado sprained his knee and missed the final two games. That locked him as a true Packer running back.

Gado will slide back on the depth chart with Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport vying for a return to the playing field but Tony Fisher left for St. Louis and both Green and Davenport are no locks to be healthy to start the season - or remain healthy for that matter. Consider Gado an interesting late draft pick-up for roster depth. You never know when you will get down that far - ask the Packers from last year.

Mewelde Moore - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 54
TD Only: 57
Keeper: 56
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004 MIN 7 617   65 379 5.8   27 238  
2005 MIN 14 1001 3 155 662 4.3 1 37 339 2
Avg   11 809 2 110 521 5.1 1 32 289 1
PROJ FA   410 2   300   2 14 110  

In his second season with the Vikings, Mewelde Moore once again emerged from the depth charts to take a prominent role and ended with eight starts and a total of 662 rushing yards on 155 yards. He also added 339 yards on 37 carries. Moore had two 100 yard efforts last year when playing against the Saints and Packers but otherwise he typically remained below 60 rushing yards in the other games despite being the primary ball carrier six other times.

While the Vikings let Michael Bennett leave this spring, they also acquired Chester Taylor from the Ravens to best fit into the new offensive scheme being installed by HC Brad Childress. That leaves Moore back to being a secondary running back but he could still have fantasy value. When the west coast offense has all facets optimal, a second back is usually used as a goal line runner. While Moore can get tough yards, he is only 5'11" and 209 pounds so it's not like he is a default fullback. Figure on Moore being used for relief and change of pace this season but he's not worth more than a very deep pick in your draft for depth that may not amount to much.

If you take Taylor, then Moore is a reasonable addition to your team but as a "steal" player, Moore has less value than he did last summer. It is a new offense and there are new coaches. Moore starts from scratch once again.

Ladell Betts - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 61
TD Only: 51
Keeper: 57
Auction: 1%
Movement:
2003 WAS 9 422 2 77 255 3.3 2 15 167  
2004 WAS 13 479 1 90 371 4.1 1 15 108  
2005 WAS 12 416 2 89 338 3.8 1 10 78 1
Avg   11 439 2 85 321 3.7 1 13 118 0
PROJ FA   330 3   270   3 10 60  

Ladell Betts remains the primary back-up for Clinton Portis but his production each season never varies. He hangs around 320 yards and one score every year and rarely tops four yards per carry. Betts is a prudent back-up for the Portis owners but he's not likely to make anyone forget Portis in the case of subbing for him. The Redskins are employing a new offense under OC Al Saunders and while that should spark even better rushing numbers, it won't likely translate into any significant change for Betts.

Grab Betts to back-up Portis but as a player to steal in a draft, Betts holds very little promise of a pay-off in the best case.

08-23-06 Update: Betts falls back with the addition of Duckett but it's not over for him quite yet. There is still speculation that Betts could be traded as well. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and the Skins are exploring re-signing him and possibly trading him now.

Cedric Houston - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 49
TD Only: 66
Keeper: 58
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 NYJ 9 368 2 81 302 3.7 2 8 66  
Avg   9 368 2 81 302 3.7 2 8 66 0
PROJ FA   490 1   440   1 6 50  

(+Upside) The Jets drafted Cedric Houston in the sixth round of the 2005 NFL draft and the expectation was that he would pair with Derrick Blaylock to back-up Curtis Martin - one of the more durable runners but one who had turned 32 years old last year. It ended up to be a prudent move since Martin was broken down and ineffective for much of last season but it also proved why Houston was the 16th running back drafted last year. He just wasn't that good.

Once Blaylock had a broken foot, Houston became the primary back-up and began getting carries after mid-season. His heaviest use came after Martin was lost for the year in week 13 and Houston took his first start against the visiting Raiders and carried the ball 28 times for only 74 yards (2.6 yards per carry) though he did score once. His best game was in Miami when he had 15 runs for 84 yards but by week 15, the 2005 Dolphins were already packing the equipment boxes and calling it a season. Overall, Houston had a 3.7 yard average and was a fumbling concern though he only lost one to the defense.

Houston will get more playing time this year along with Blaylock in what should prove to be a frustrating committee approach. Curtis Martin has restructured his contract and will return to a decreased role in the hopes he can last the full season - almost certainly his last one. Consider Houston as only running back depth for your squad and while he may have some upside as the year progresses and Martin gets even older, there is at least an equal risk that Houston will gain nothing in the one week you need him.

08-08-06 Update: Houston rises as best available with Martin's continuing health problems but realize too that the Jets may still be searching for a veteran to acquire in a trade.

08-21-06 Update: Houston falls with the addition of Kevan Barlow to the Jets. What Barlow's role will be won't be known until he actually owns a uniform and does something (or not) in practice but his presence only increases the risk that Houston will be sharing carries.

Labrandon Toefield - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 47
TD Only: 65
Keeper: 59
Auction: 1%
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
2005 JAC 6 159 4 36 142 3.9 4 3 17  
Avg   12 276 3 47 174 3.7 2 15 102 1
PROJ FA   500 1   400   1 12 100  

No analysis available.

J.J. Arrington - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 60
TD Only: 70
Keeper: 60
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 ARI 15 509 2 112 370 3.3 2 25 139  
Avg   15 509 2 112 370 3.3 2 25 139 0
PROJ FA   450 1   240     26 210 1

J.J. Arrington came into the league with much promise having run for 2018 yards as the tailback for Cal in 2004 but as so often happens - past history does not guarantee future results. Arrington was unable to dislodge Marcel Shipp and topped out at only 59 rushing yards in a game and just two scores on the season. He appeared tentative when he ran which was only worsened by the lackluster blocking of the Cardinals line. By the end of the season he was getting more carries but still rarely exceeded 3.5 yards per run. Considering his supposed potential, Arrington was a flop.

Despite spending a low second round pick on him last year, the Cardinals were wise enough to cut their losses and acquire Edgerrin James in the offseason. This should allow Arrington to do what he really was best suited for from the start - offer some change of pace and back-up duties. Even if James were to go down for a stretch, there still is no guarantee that Arrington would step in and replace him since Marcel Shipp provides a much more similar style of running and size package to James.

Arrington's fantasy value this year is obviously low but he won't disappear. Where he needs to show more is in the passing game since a third down role and the occasional breather will be his best bet for playing time. Until he shows up with any significant role as a change of pace player, he's likely better to leave off your roster.

Derrick Blaylock - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 53
TD Only: 58
Keeper: 61
Auction: 1%
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
2005 NYJ 6 70   17 53 3.1   3 17  
Avg   9 382 4 52 235 4.3 3 14 147 1
PROJ FA   410 2   360   2 6 50  

Derrick Blaylock had a career best year in 2004 when Priest Holmes was injured and the Chiefs were not yet enamored with Larry Johnson. He had 118 carries for 539 yards and a healthy 4.6 yard rushing average along with eight touchdowns scored. Seems it was a bit easier to run behind the behemoth line in Kansas City because playing for the injury-riddled Jets last year only produced a career worst 3.1 yards per carry average. And an injury because he was a team player in a year where all Jets were supposed to go on injured reserve.

Blaylock only had 10 carries by week five when he suffered a broken bone in his right foot that forced him to miss the next nine weeks. Though he returned for the final two games of the year, he never had more than four carries in any week as a Jet.

Curtis Martin returns for a decreased role this year but that doesn't necessarily mean that Blaylock will benefit. Cedric Houston remains higher on the depth chart and the Jets drafted a fast, third-down type back in Leon Washington. Expect Blaylock to get some playing time this season but it will be so limited that he has no fantasy value to consider this year.

Kyle Johnson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 66
TD Only: 44
Keeper: 62
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004 DEN 6 126 2         9 126 2
2005 DEN 15 169 6 4 9 2.3 1 17 160 5
Avg   11 148 4 2 5 1.2 1 13 143 4
PROJ FA   220 4   30     21 190 4

Kyle Johnson is the fullback in Denver and though he rarely has any carries, he still provided some fantasy value last year. He had at least one catch in 13 different games and most importantly, he scored five touchdowns via the pass. That obviously does not equate to a player worth drafting for a fantasy team, but deeper into the regular season when bye weeks and injuries sends you scraping the bottom of the free agent barrel, take a look at Johnson to see if his role has increased any.

Brian Calhoun - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 67
TD Only: 72
Keeper: 63
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ FA   380 1   200   1 22 180  

While the Lions already have a starting running back in Kevin Jones, Brian Calhoun out of Wisconsin still has fantasy interest. Taken with the 3.10 pick after the Lions made two much-needed defensive selections. Calhoun may seem like a curious pick, but consider what he could bring to the team.

Calhoun is 5-foot-10 and 202 pounds, but was a workhorse at Wisconsin. He rushed for 1,636 yards and 22 touchdowns. He caught 53 passes, averaged 10.8 yards a catch and had two touchdowns. He draws comparisons to both Warrick Dunn and Brian Westbrook. Calhoun's history suggests that he is fully capable of being a pass-catching third-down back. If he proves as talented as Westbrook or Dunn, he could be more.

He is definitely worth a watch this summer and should be the requisite back-up pick for Kevin Jones owners. Remember that Mike Martz is installing a new offense so no players have roles merely handed to them and Calhoun has some advantage from speed and catching ability that is matched only by Bryson who rarely rushes the ball in the last few years. While Calhoun is a dark-horse to have fantasy significance this season, there is more of an opening than first-glance may suggest. Lastly, Calhoun is the first back drafted by Marinelli. In a keeper league, Calhoun has more value to stash and see what happens as the new offense unfolds.

Shawn Bryson - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 62
TD Only: 47
Keeper: 64
Auction: 1%
Movement:
2003 DET 16 946 3 158 606 3.8 3 54 340  
2004 DET 16 586   50 264 5.3   44 322  
2005 DET 16 590 1 64 306 4.8 1 37 284  
Avg   16 707 1 91 392 4.6 1 45 315 0
PROJ FA   690 3   470   3 24 220  

Shawn Bryson has spent the last three seasons with the Detroit Lions after four years in Buffalo. He's become a solid third down back for the Lions with an average of 45 catches each season but he's been a complete non-factor in the rushing game. Bryson was the running back you settled for in the tenth week of last season when you found the waiver stripped of almost all talent. He's not likely to be even that good this year.

While Bryson settled down into a niche role in Steve Mariucci's offense, there is no certainty that he will still have the same role with Rod Marinelli and Mike Martz bringing a new scheme to the Motor City. Chances are best he won't since the Lions also spent their 3.10 pick on Brian Calhoun.

Bryson is very fast for his size but he just has never clicked in any offense as a full-time running back. Now even his part-time days are likely numbered.

Tony Fisher - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 52
TD Only: 67
Keeper: 66
Auction: 1%
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
2005 GBP 12 520 2 60 173 2.9 1 48 347 1
Avg   14 476 2 55 199 3.8 1 36 277 2
PROJ FA   490 1   160   1 30 320  

The Rams acquired Tony Fisher in the off-season but it was only a one-year contract. Fisher has spent four seasons in Green Bay where he never had more than 283 rushing yards (his rookie season actually) but he progressively became the third down back despite being 6'1" and 222 pounds and plenty big enough for a full-time role. Fisher had increased his catches in Green Bay every season, ending with a career best 347 yards last year.

Fisher has not proven to be that productive running the ball and while he is a decent pass receiver out of the backfield, he should end up 3rd on the depth chart in St. Louis. Marshall Faulk has stated he will return even though he had two more knee surgeries in the off-season and new HC Scott Linehan welcomes him back. That leaves Fisher as nothing more than running back depth. Unless Steve Jackson is injured, don't expect Tony Fisher to produce many fantasy points this year.

07-21-06 Update: The likely absence of Marshall Faulk this year elevates Fisher into the primary back-up role for now. But Fisher has never been much more than a third down back and the Rams are expected to acquire another running back to take the primary back-up role for Steven Jackson.

Maurice Morris - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 68
TD Only: 61
Keeper: 67
Auction: 1%
2003 SEA 13 271 1 38 239 6.3   4 32 1
2004 SEA 14 179   30 126 4.2   9 53  
2005 SEA 11 336 1 71 288 4.1 1 5 48  
Avg   13 262 1 46 218 4.9 0 6 44 0
PROJ FA   310 2   230   1 11 80 1

The nicest thing about being Maurice Morris is that he can get Shaun Alexander's autograph easily and has a great vantage point to watch him play. Otherwise, Morris plays behind the most productive and durable running back in the league today - not exactly a ticket to opportunity.

Morris is evidently okay with that since he signed a three-year contract worth $4 million last March and will be locked up as an observer through 2008. He is a definite pick-up late in the draft if you own Alexander. If not, he has almost no fantasy value and you are just trying to piss off the Alexander owner.

Jerome Harrison - DET YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 57
TD Only: 68
Keeper: 68
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PROJ DET   460 1   150     28 310 1

(+Upside) The Browns are happy with this under-sized prospect out of Washington State and hope to see him develop into a change of pace, third down type of back. Jerome Harrison is a quick-footed runner with deceptive speed and is a good receiver out of the backfield. Problem is that he is not only smaller than most backs in the NFL, he only played one full seasons as a starter in college so his durability is even more questionable. Another knock on him is that he does not run aggressively enough though that could be a function of his size. He has the vision and instincts to make thing happen when he is in open field.

While most backs taken in the fifth round struggle to gain any role on their team, Harrison may have an easier time. Rueben Droughns is entrenched as the bruising starter, but behind him are only William Green and Lee Suggs. Green has clearly fallen from favor with the new coaching staff last year and Suggs has never been more than a frustrating injury waiting to happen. That leaves a door open for a player like Harrison who steps in to relieve Droughns and play on passing downs once he picks up the blocking duties.

It is not likely that Harrison becomes worthy of being a fantasy starter during his career but he could carve out a nice niche for the Browns, much like Kevin Faulk did for the Patriots. In leagues with reception points, he could make a decent bye-week filler. Keep an eye on this back during the summer and should Suggs be traded or released, then the door is very open for Harrison.

Alvin Pearman - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 77
TD Only: 80
Keeper: 69
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 JAC 15 389 1 39 149 3.8 1 32 240  
Avg   15 389 1 39 149 3.8 1 32 240 0
PROJ FA   320     130     24 190  

Alvin Pearman was drafted in the fourth round last year and while he did rip off one 45 yard run, his playing time was limited to only spot duty, even when Fred Taylor was injured. As expected, he was introduced into the passing equation with some success but the Jaguars drafted Maurice Drew in the second round this spring and it is he who will be given the opportunity to become more integrated into the offense. Consider Pearman as nothing more than running back depth for the Jaguars and of no real value in drafts this summer.

Duce Staley - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 69
TD Only: 73
Keeper: 70
Auction: 1%
Movement:
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  
2005 PIT 4 182 1 38 148 3.9 1 6 34  
Avg   10 635 3 109 478 4.3 2 16 157 1
PROJ FA   370 1   210   1 18 160  

(-Risk) (+Upside) When Staley came to the Steelers in 2003, he brought the full package of rushing, receiving and the ability to get injured in any game. After two seasons, he still has not totaled 1000 rushing yards or even 100 receiving yards but he has managed to miss 17 games. Staley suffered a torn meniscus last summer and missed the first month of the season. By then, Willie Parker had already secured a starting role and Staley was only used in four different games, gaining a mere 148 yards on 38 carries for a 3.9 yard average.

The retirement of Jerome Bettis now has Staley first in line to offer short yardage and goal line duty in tandem with Parker's role between the 20 yard lines. While Staley has the size at 242 pounds, his lack of durability alone would pose a major risk to rely on him. Add in the presence of Vernon Haynes who will also vie for the role and Staley is no less a risk to draft than he ever has been. He's still the injury-prone back who has lasted for all 16 games in a season twice in nine years. To show how much the Steelers believe in Staley, his salary was reduced from $2.5 million to $1.5 million during the offseason with $600,000 in incentives that Shaun Alexander would be challenged to completely reaching.

Training camp will decide if Staley holds onto the role going into the season but be prepared to get something less than a full season from him. He'll likely be drafted too high by team owners who try to connect the dots between Bettis and Staley without taking into consideration his injury history or the chance he won't hold on to the job regardless.

08-29-06 Update: Staley has been subject to speculation tha the may not make the team at the 53 man cutdown and HC Bill Cowher would neither confirm nor deny.

Mike Alstott - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 72
TD Only: 53
Keeper: 71
Auction: 1%
2003 TBB 4 160 2 27 77 2.9 2 10 83  
2004 TBB 14 432 2 67 230 3.4 2 29 202  
2005 TBB 16 302 7 34 80 2.4 6 25 222 1
Avg   11 298 4 43 129 2.9 3 21 169 0
PROJ FA   210 3   60   3 21 150  

Mike Alstott enters his 11th NFL season but it has been three seasons since he had enough fantasy value to consider drafting him. Amazingly, Alstott did last the entire 16 game season but the Buccaneers used him so sparingly that he did not have much chance to get injured.

Alstott signed a one-year deal for about $2 million in March after contemplating retirement. He'll be filling the same role this year unless the Buccaneers opt to use their free agent acquisition of fullback Jerald Sowell. With Sowell there, even the slight glimmer of hope that you could rely on Alstott for a few touchdowns now carries risk.

Justin Griffith - HOU YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 71
TD Only: 63
Keeper: 72
Auction: 1%
2003 ATL 15 290 2 38 168 4.4   21 122 2
2004 ATL 12 259 1 9 39 4.3   22 220 1
2005 ATL 16 175 3 15 64 4.3   21 111 3
Avg   14 241 2 21 90 4.3 0 21 151 2
PROJ HOU   270 2   80     28 190 2

This blocking fullback has not only been integral to the success of the rushing game, he's also provided a nice outlet for Michael Vick in the passing game (such as it is). Griffith is rarely used on a running play and last year had a paltry 15 carries but he has enough action catching the ball to grant him a little marginal fantasy value. Though he only had 111 yards on 21 catches last season, he did score three touchdowns and had a catch - if only one - in 13 different games last year.

He obviously has no significant fantasy value but in a league where free agents are rare, he could be considered as a bye week filler for a league that awards a point per reception. Granted, he'll likely only have that one catch for about five to ten yards but he will snare the occasional touchdown.

Antowain Smith - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 59
TD Only: 69
Keeper: 73
Auction: 1%
2003 NEP 13 734 3 182 642 3.5 3 14 92  
2004 TEN 11 678 4 137 509 3.7 4 22 169  
2005 NOS 16 705 3 166 659 4.0 3 12 46  
Avg   13 706 3 162 603 3.7 3 16 102 0
PROJ FA   460 1   380   1 10 80  

No analysis available.

Travis Henry - FA* YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 75
TD Only: 75
Keeper: 74
Auction: 1%
2003 BUF 15 1511 11 332 1353 4.1 10 28 158 1
2004 BUF 9 371   94 326 3.5   10 45  
2005 TEN 9 452   88 335 3.8   13 117  
Avg   11 778 4 171 671 3.8 3 17 107 0
PROJ FA*   270 1   200   1 8 70  

When the Titans brought Travis Henry on board last year, the expectation was that he would pair with Chris Brown and provide at least some fantasy value. There were some fantasy fans who believed Henry would prove to be the second coming of Eddie George. He ended up closer to being Phyllis George.

Henry immediately had problems with a turf toe which cleared by the start of the season but then he was suspended for four games after violating the league policy on drug abuse and later had a sprained ankle. He ended with only 88 carries for 335 yards for a 3.8 yard average. He also never scored. Henry is now one more violation from being suspended for a full season.

While there may still be a few fantasy team owners who still believe in Travis Henry, let them be the ones to call his name in your draft. Now fallen to #3 on the depth chart and risking a full year suspension at any time, Henry is best left on the draft board this summer.

Kevin Faulk - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 56
TD Only: 60
Keeper: 75
Auction: 1%
2003 NEP 15 1078   178 638 3.6   48 440  
2004 NEP 11 503 3 54 255 4.7 2 26 248 1
2005 NEP 8 404   51 144 2.8   29 260  
Avg   11 662 1 94 346 3.7 1 34 316 0
PROJ FA   400 2   120     24 280 2

Entering his eighth season with the Patriots, Kevin Faulk is remarkably unchanged in his offensive role. While attempts were made to see if he could fare well as a full-time back, they always failed. In his 2003 season, he had a career high 178 carries for 638 yards but only managed a 3.6 yard average per carry. He actually started in eight games that year and yet never crested 100 yards while running less effectively in games that he had the most carries. He is a third down back - nothing more and nothing less.

Like Dillon, Faulk is 32 years old and in the twilight of his career. Like Dillon, he was sidelined with a mysterious leg injury that lasted for eight games. While Faulk has been good for around 200 rushing yards and about 250 by the pass in most seasons, he's likely to see less action this year even if he remains healthy. He's already not productive enough to draft and the drafting of Laurence Maroney could cut into any action he might have had. Forget about this Faulk on draft day and he may ride your waiver wire the entire season anyway.

08-21-06 Update: Faulk jumps up a little with a great preseason game that serves as a reminder of how much he can add in the passing game. This is also prompted by an unsettled receiver situation in New England.

Zack Crockett - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 73
TD Only: 64
Keeper: 76
Auction: 1%
2003 OAK 14 198 7 48 145 3.0 7 7 53  
2004 OAK 12 319 2 49 232 4.7 2 16 87  
2005 OAK 15 319 1 60 208 3.5 1 13 111  
Avg   14 279 3 52 195 3.7 3 12 84 0
PROJ FA   250 2   150   2 12 100  

No analysis available.

Ryan Moats - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 45
TD Only: 54
Keeper: 77
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004                      
2005 PHI 6 285 3 55 278 5.1 3 4 7  
Avg   6 285 3 55 278 5.1 3 4 7 0
PROJ FA   500 2   400   2 13 100  

(+Upside) The Eagles used their 3.13 pick in 2005 to select the junior version of Brian Westbrook. Ryan Moats came out of Louisiana Tech as a near clone of Westbrook in size and running style. He was not used until week 12 and then became the primary back in week 14 when Westbrook was injured. While it was at the end of a horrific season for the Eagles, Moats did turn in two impressive games that were prevented from being bad showings only thanks to a couple of runs - a 40-yard touchdown scamper against the Giants and a 59-yard score against the Rams. Without a break away run, he was decidedly below average as seen in his final two games (9-13 and 7-23).

Being the back-up to Brian Westbrook has always been a good thing considering that he has not started more than 12 games in any of his four seasons. Moats was impressive in the open field but struggled greatly when boxed in. With no other competition on the team, Moats will again be next in line behind Westbrook.

Just because he ranks #2 on the depth chart does not mean that Moats will have any significant playing time without Westbrook being injured. The Eagles have preferred to use another back to help with the tougher yards like Dorsey Levens, Duce Staley or Correll Buckhalter. While Buckhalter is still with the team and could be ready by the opener, it is hard to rely on him after major knee surgeries in each of the last two years. Make Moats be a necessary handcuff for Westbrook this season especially considering that HC Andy Reid is giving lip service to rushing more this year, but as a steal in a draft he's a risk to be worth much.

Sammy Morris - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 82
TD Only: 81
Keeper: 78
Auction: 1%
Movement:
2003 BUF 9 170 1 19 70 3.7 1 14 100  
2004 MIA 12 647 6 132 523 4.0 6 22 124  
2005 MIA 8 112 1 16 58 3.6 1 8 54  
Avg   10 310 3 56 217 3.8 3 15 93 0
PROJ FA   230     120     15 110  

Sammy Morris enters his seventh season in the NFL and he has never been much more than a back-up running back. He had four seasons in Buffalo that produced only a total of 488 rushing yards on 134 carries. His first season in Miami almost doubled that tally thanks to the revolving door at tailback in what would prove to be the Dolphin's season from hell. He actually was a starter for two games but never had more than 83 rushing yards in a game and even that came with only a 3.0 yard average per carry.

Though Ricky Williams has left the team at least temporarily, the movement up the depth chart for Morris does not mean he will get appreciably more carries this season. Ronnie Brown was drafted to be the stud running back and he has already shown signs that he will be exactly that starting this year. Morris is a decent back-up pick for Brown owners but otherwise has no real fantasy value. The Dolphins could possibly pick up another back to help with the positional depth and that alone could send Morris back to the #3 spot.

09-01-06 Update: Morris will be suspended for the first four games of the season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. This could give either Travis Minor or even KayJay Harris some playing time.

Correll Buckhalter - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 64
TD Only: 43
Keeper: 79
Auction: 1%
2003 PHI 15 675 9 126 542 4.3 8 10 133 1
2004                      
2005                      
Avg   15 675 9 126 542 4.3 8 10 133 1
PROJ FA   230 4   200   4 5 30  

Buckhalter looked pretty sharp against the Steelers in the third preseason game, gaining 31 yards on seven carries and adding 16 yards on four catches. He's still carry the baggage of a career filled with season ending injuries and Westbrook is in no jeopardy of losing carries, but Buckhalter has looked good enough to possibly keep the Eagles from acquiring another back.

Maurice Hicks - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 76
TD Only: 76
Keeper: 80
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004 SFO 8 516 2 96 362 3.8 2 16 154  
2005 SFO 7 355 3 59 308 5.2 3 12 47  
Avg   8 436 3 78 335 4.5 3 14 101 0
PROJ FA   270 1   200   1 8 70  

With the departure of Kevan Barlow, Maurice Hicks now steps up into the primary back-up role for Frank Gore. The addition of OC Norv Turner means that any committee work is unlikely here so Hicks value almost entirely hinges on the health of Gore. If the 49ers did not feel comfortable with Gore, they would have never made the trade.

Shaud Williams - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 80
TD Only: 82
Keeper: 81
Auction: 1%
2003                      
2004 BUF 4 186 2 42 167 4.0 2 3 19  
2005 BUF 15 279   45 161 3.6   17 118  
Avg   10 233 1 44 164 3.8 1 10 69 0
PROJ FA   230     150     12 80  

Shaud Williams served as the primary back-up to Willis McGahee last year and will likely start the season in the same role. But his sporadic play last year never suggested that he would rise above a back-up level and the Bills acquired Anthony Thomas to provide competition in training camp. Williams has fantasy value only to the McGahee owner and even then - ensure that you actually are getting the back-up running back. Anthony Thomas is being reunited with head coach Dick Jauron after having spent three seasons with him in Chicago.

Stephen Davis - FA YEAR TM GMS TYD TTD CAR RYD YPC RTD CAT CYD CTD
Performance: 79
TD Only: 78
Keeper: 82
Auction: 1%
2003 CAR 14 1603 8 318 1444 4.5 8 14 159  
2004 CAR 2 124   24 92 3.8   2 32  
2005 CAR 13 594 12 180 549 3.1 12 5 45  
Avg   10 774 7 174 695 3.8 7 7 79 0
PROJ FA   180 1   180   1      

No analysis available.

   
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