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Sleeper Running Backs - 2009
David Dorey
August 27, 2009
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Using the average draft results as of 8/24/2009 at MyFantasyLeague.com, below are the running backs that are being drafted from #37 to #77. This is not my ranking or yours, it is the combined results of hundreds of drafts so it is about as close to what you can expect in your league as you can reasonably find .

Here is my brief take on those 40 running backs with the players I am "hot" on in yellow and the ones I am "cool" on in blue. The yellow can be considered sleepers of sorts though the farther down you go, the less likely they are to become a starter for your team. Fantasy football drafting is not just about statistics and projections. It is an art and I, like each of you, simply have gut feelings and risk assessments outside the numbers that matter a great deal when I draft.

Rank Player Team Comments
37 Jones,Julius SEA Not sure if this is supposed to make me feel dirty or just dumb but I like Jones this year considering how late you can reach him (6th to 8th round depending). I am at a loss to explain why but the Seahawks did not acquire any rookie RB to take over nor did they sign a free agent until Edgerrin James recently. There will be a committee here with Jones, James and Forsett. But Jones should have at least a handful of decent games with matchups against ARZ, STL and SF twice.
38 Mendenhall,Rashard PIT The heir apparent to the starting job just hasn't claimed it yet. Willie Parker remains the primary back by default and I haven't seen anything from Mendenhall that suggests I should burn an earlier pick on him.
39 McCoy,LeSean PHI These "just like Westbrook" backs always spawn optimism up until we realize that they are not Westbrook who apparently has his own category since Tiki Barber quit. But McCoy looks much more talented than Ryan Moats et al and Westbrook has never looked more fragile than now. If you want McCoy, and you should, you have to burn too early a pick for him in my opinion.
40 Washington,Leon NYJ How much is a third down back worth in your league? Washington was thoroughly impressive last week against the Ravens first team and has to be getting more playing time. Reality says that Thomas Jones and Shonn Green is going to be involved but in a PPR league, you have to like Washington more this year. I feel like a convert. Heck, if I can desire Julius Jones this year, it is no small stretch to like Washington.
41 Hightower,Tim ARI This could be a prudent draft pick should Beanie Wells continue to have durability problems (and there is nothing suggesting he won't so far). It still just bothers me how Hightower was not a good runner (2.8 YPC) last year but he was a decent scorer (10 TD). If Wells is healthy, then Hightower needs to block. If not, then Hightower once again has value mostly in TD-only leagues. I own Wells in a few leagues but never Hightower.
42 Bradshaw,Ahmad NYG This is Leon Washington for the other NY team but I am less high on him because Brandon Jacobs is going to take a commanding chunk of the workload and Danny Ware will figure in. Bradshaw only had 355 rushing yards and two TDs last year. And he only had five catches. I want to see Bradshaw catch more passes and play more but I am finding it hard to convince myself this is any different than 2008 or 2007.
43 Jackson,Fred BUF Jackson gets to be the man for three weeks to start the season thanks to poor decision making by Marshawn Lynch but he's just going too high in drafts for my taste and he's always going to be second to Lynch. He does add something as a receiver but not enough to warrant the optimism that some people have about him.
44 McGahee,Willis BAL That McGahee has slipped to #2 in Baltimore is not what bothers me so much. It is that he seems okay with it happening.
45 Taylor,Chester MIN This guy is going to be a goldmine if Peterson ever makes good on his supposed durability problems. But ADP is healthy and hardly anyone but the ADP owner cares about Taylor who has slipped below fantasy significance as the #2 in Minnesota. In a really deep league, I'd love to have Chester just in case but he's taken by someone more speculative than I.
46 Graham,Earnest TBB I do not like the feeling from the Bucs backfield this year. They are intending on being a run-heavy attack which is good. But they intend to do that using Graham and 29-year old Derrick Ward and maybe even Carnell Williams who is still on the team despite rumors. It will be a committee and a new offense and either Byron Leftwich, Luke McCown or the rookie at quarterback. I have sworn off all Buccaneer players this year. I mean I would take them if they hit the right spot, but there will always be someone else who wants them more than I.
47 Norwood,Jerious ATL The notion is that Norwood is going to get more work this year because Michael Turner was over-used last year. Welcome to Jerious Norwood's life! Warrick Dunn, Michael Turner - it doesn't matter. Every year is when they are going to use Norwood more and every year he manages to remain just below the threshold for fantasy significance. He has marginal value in a PPR league but mostly he should just belong to the Turner owner.
48 Greene,Shonn NYJ I have Greene on a few teams but I honestly cannot say I am that high on him because Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are going to suck almost all the fantasy value out of the backfield unless one or both are inured. Still, if you like owning a rookie RB because it makes you feel optimistic, you can still get Greene pretty cheaply.
49 McClain,Le'Ron BAL Yeah, he was a monster surprise last year but I am confident that Rice and McGahee are enough and that McClain will mostly block. What I hate most is that whenever I read his name, I can hear the german guy in Die Hard saying "Officer McClain". Yippee-yi- kayay, umm... dude.
50 Taylor,Fred NEP I have a personal one-year ban on taking Buccaneers. But I have a lifetime ban on using any Patriot running back. Yeah, Fred Taylor looks sharp in practice. He'll probably run for 1200 yards and score 15 times. Or he'll have 200 yards, no score and nurse nagging injuries this season. And you, mi amigo, will be the one on a Fred-Watch, not I.
51 Charles,Jamaal KCC I think the biggest advantage of Charles is that he isn't Larry Johnson. But Charles is the #2 in KC for now. He's a better fit for the new NE-imported offense though and I think he'll get enough work that I may get to use him on a bye week.
52 Maroney,Laurence NEP I may be a sucker for Robert Meachem but Maroney was a "once and done" draft pick of mine a few years ago. I can still remember how good Maroney looked in the first game or two when he was a rookie. You know - FOUR YEARS AGO. I always smile when someone else drafts him.
53 Bush,Michael OAK Seems more interesting in a TD-only league but this deep you could do worse. The Raiders want to wean themselves from Huggie-Bear's son but McFadden gets the best assignments regardless. I might take Bush but it would be really late in a draft.
54 Williams,Ricky MIA He's fallen off kind of quietly though he is still a factor. But the pendulum swings toward Ronnie Brown now and Williams really is 32 years old. No interest from me.
55 Choice,Tashard DAL Had to love Choice last year as a rookie who came in with a great attitude and worked hard. When he took his time as a starter at the end of the season, he was completely impressive against tough defenses no less. He might get some playing time regardless but owners will just want to see Barber miss time again and know they have a gem in Choice. Hopefully he ends up where he can get more playing time because he seemed like the real deal last season.
56 Faulk,Kevin NEP Patriot.
57 Buckhalter,Correll DEN Other than Moreno, I would not want a Denver back. McDaniels is importing the NE-style backfield complete with secrecy and deception. I want no part of it other than a chance on Moreno.
58 Morris,Sammy NEP Patriot.
59 Jackson,Brandon GBP I like Grant to have a bounce back year. That means Jackson's 433 yards and one TD last year was probably his ceiling.
60 Harrison,Jerome CLE Harrison holds some interest in a PPR league but not that much. Jamal Lewis hangs on one more year at least and the rookie James Davis may have some role as well. Last year when they could use a spark, Harrison only had 34 carries and 12 catches. Hard to get excited even if he does has a 7.2 YPC in 2008. Deep roster fodder is all
61 Betts,Ladell WAS I know that the Skins said they would use Betts more this year. Far as I am concerned, they say that every year. Even when Portis was banged up and tired last year they did not use Betts. I'll let someone else grab him.
62 Davis,James CLE Owning the starting RB in Cleveland itself doesn't ensure fantasy significance so the #3 guy holds even less. But Davis has been impressive this summer and Lewis is 30 years old. It is a situation that could develop into something for Davis and he comes so cheaply in drafts that I am happy to sit on him at least for a while to see what happens.
63 Coffee,Glen SFO I sometimes think the worse thing you can do is to watch college football and form an opinion on a player before he ever plays a down in the NFL or even know what team he will be on. I liked Coffee when he was at Alabama but now he goes to the 49ers behind Frank Gore. But he has looked sharp this summer and Gore is not unusually durable so Coffee is someone I might take a late round flyer on.
64 Duckett,T.J. FA No interest from the Seahawks, none from me either.
65 Scott,Bernard CIN There are some people who are high on Scott who has admittedly been impressive so far. And I did pick up Benson as my RB3 in a couple of leagues but Scott only once. I still think Benson gets his chance to be a full-time back and his schedule improves enough that he could actually be average. I wouldn't reach for Scott but I am not unaware of his progress this summer either.
66 Fargas,Justin OAK Chances are that Fargas will rear his head again this year but the Raiders hope he remains the #3 back and that McFadden and Bush can carry the load. I just do not see me wanting to gamble on anything with the Raiders this year.
67 Jennings,Rashad JAC This is a hyped guy which should be a red flag. But the Jaguars are going to run a lot this year (450 to 500 carries) and Maurice Jones-Drew can only realistically handle maybe 300 or 325. Greg Jones is there and could reprise his role from a few years back but even he has said he is not the back he once was. And Jennings has been good in camp. I like the risk/reward on this one.
68 Jones,Kevin CHI I suspect Jones is going to have a bigger role than many realize and certainly more than every Matt Forte owner wants to believe. But it still won't be of much significance since the Bears want to focus Forte on the run and Jay Cutler has never thrown to RBs much.
69 Hillis,Peyton DEN Bronco.
70 Brown,Chris HOU What would a draft be without someone taking Chris Brown? It would be a draft with 12 people all like me.
71 Moore,Mewelde PIT Marginally interesting as a deeper back but Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall will make Moore irrelevant.
72 Rhodes,Dominic BUF Yeah, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Say goodnight. Dominic...
73 Forsett,Justin SEA This guy is pretty interesting and fun to watch but is too small for heavy duty on a team with at least Jones and James in front of him. In a best ball league, he's kinda fun to have but you'd never use him in a head-to-head league.
74 James,Edgerrin SEA Too soon to know for sure but letting him sit at home for months and then calling him in at the end of training camp is not exactly shouting aloud that James will have a major role. WIth Jones having an injury history, Forsett being small and Duckett being gone, have to think James will have a role but not attractive enough for me to worry about it. I keep thinking about Shaun Alexander last year.
75 Morris,Maurice DET This is probably a better pick than we all think but Kevin Jones doesn't really share much and there's no reason to buy into Morris being a factor in Detroit.
76 Ware,Danny NYG You have to like him at least a little since the rookie Andre Brown went down for the season. Jacobs can only do so much and Bradshaw has never done that much more. Ward had 1409 total yards last year. Ware may get a slice of that pie.
77 Jordan,Lamont DEN Bronco. One time NFL leader in running back receptions. Never, ever on my teams.

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