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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Out
Joe Levit
September 26, 2007

As if the poor start of super fantasy backs like LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Frank Gore and Larry Johnson was not enough, now the fantasy football running back ranks itself is beginning to thin alarmingly. This is going to have major temporary repercussions for fantasy owners, especially with bye weeks beginning this week.

What has happened? Well, pain. Too many backs are now in street clothes, bearing bruises or nursing nagging injuries. This means you must be seeking backup running backs with ever more aggression and scrutiny. Here are the affected rushers and their current status. Below that lengthy list is the group of guys you should be considering adding to your team or trading for.

Broken

Steven Jackson, Rams – While finally showing some life from a fantasy standpoint, Jackson suffered a partial tear of his left groin muscle and will be out for certain this week, and might miss more time. Sucks to have the overall second or third pick in your draft out so early.

Deuce McAllister, Saints – New Orleans never got its backfield tandem going in the 2007 season, and now thoughts of that combo are just a pipe dream. McAllister tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, ending his season before it really started. A tough blow to fantasy owners who drafted him in an early round expecting him to fulfill the role of strong second fantasy back on their respective teams.

Brandon Jacobs, Giants – Still waiting for the leaning tower of pizza to return from his partially torn medial collateral ligament. To be honest, his replacements have looked better than him.

Chester Taylor, Vikings – Taylor’s replacement has also looked better. His oblique contusion has given Adrian Peterson a chance to shine brightly on a poor offense. Can you imagine what the Vikings would do on offense if Peterson had not fallen to them in the draft? I’m not sure Taylor will make any fantasy owners too happy even when he does return.

Vernand Morency – Morency has been dealing with patellar tendonitis. He has two backs now fighting for his job. Nothing else to mention here. Let’s move on.

Bruised

Julius Jones, Cowboys – With his second bruise to the brain (concussion) in three weeks of action, Jones may be a little off even if he does get cleared to play football this weekend. I said before the season that it was clear Marion Barber should be the full-time back, and this concussion problem could just prove the catalyst for that change. Many fantasy owners thought Jones would be given a new lease on life under a new coaching staff. That isn’t working out so far.

Ahman Green, Texans – Green banged up his knee last weekend. Fluid soon filled the joint, swelling it to an uncomfortable size. He will likely play this weekend, but swelling of that nature can crop up again with another impact, which is quite likely since this is football and players are gunning for runners’ knees.

Carnell Williams, Buccaneers – Williams has been playing with what has been labeled as bruised ribs for a couple of weeks now. The thing is, this last week the team relied on Earnest Graham for a while, and found out he could do some things for them. Williams can probably play through this pain at Carolina this week, but don’t you agree that your lineup might be better served with someone healthy, since Tampa Bay could easily turn to Graham again?

Ailing

Frank Gore, 49ers – Gore has really only been a factor in one of three games this year, and he just got done complaining about some lingering pain in the hand he fractured during training camp. Who knows how or if that will affect his game, but you have to wonder when Gore is going to get hurt again.
Shaun Alexander, Seahawks – Alexander actually DOES have a fractured left wrist. He aggravated it last week but is still going to suit up (love his determination) and play again with his protective cast. Not surprisingly, the cast is affecting the way he holds the ball. Not sure I’d be too happy about my top back being liable to cough up the ball when he is down near the goal line though.

Rudi Johnson, Bengals – Steady Rudi strained his hamstring last week. Johnson has been a tough pill to swallow in leagues that have PPR scoring since he is not so adept, nor so often used, in that capacity in Cincinnati. So, having him hurt like this is not a positive sign of fantasy production. He may indeed start this week, but hamstrings have a way of negatively affecting skill-position players. As a running back, you kind of need that area to be top-notch to make the necessary cuts.

Brian Westbrook, Eagles – Predictably, during his destruction of Detroit last weekend Westbrook suffered an abdominal strain and a sprained knee. He is not being relegated to the sidelines just yet, but the aches are starting to mount up for a man who has never started the full 16 games in a season.

Derrick Ward, Giants – Flashy newcomer Ward sprained his ankle against Green Bay. While he did not get the hook on the field in general, his teammate got the goal line touchdown twice. We’ll have to see if this minor hurt hinders Ward.

Exhausting list, right? It could just get longer in the next few weeks, although some players will be able to rest a bit during the byes. To remedy this situation, here are some backs you should try to pick up off the waiver wire or trade for to ensure proper depth. This type of move is always a smart practice, but now it has become a necessity instead of simply prudence.

Brian Leonard, Rams – Steven Jackson is certainly out for one week. Leonard looked good in some preseason action, so it’s possible he can get some points for your fantasy team this weekend.

Reuben Droughns, Giants – The value of this pick depends mainly on the health of Derrick Ward. It is already clear that New York has no qualms about what Droughns can do near the end zone (two touchdowns last week).

Aaron Stecker, Saints – Maybe the team uses Stecker now to get those tough yards that were previously within the purview of McAllister.

Kenny Watson, Bengals – Rudi Johnson is no doubt tough, but Watson clearly has some talent of his own. If that hamstring flares up, watch Watson help some fantasy owners to a victory.

Earnest Graham, Buccaneers – How long can Cadillac keep driving with a cracked ribcage? Your guess is as good as mine. I know that Graham’s two scores got my attention though. If you have dead weight on your roster make the move to get Graham.

Correll Buckhalter, Eagles – I drafted Buckhalter late because I know that he is a tough player when healthy. If Westbrook can’t go, Buck will surprise some people who have forgotten all about him.

Najeh Davenport, Steelers – I still see Davenport available in a lot of leagues. Now is the time to take him. Willie Parker is doing fine, terrific in fact, but that means the time to act is now, not when Parker is heading for the sidelines. Davenport is getting goal-line looks.

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