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Running Backs Movin' Up - Week 13
Tim Van Prooyen
December 1, 2009
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Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Movin’ Up

Breakdown:  The bye weeks are now beyond us.  The regular season of fantasy football is almost two thirds done in many leagues.  With these things in mind we realize that, minus the opportunity that may arise due to injury, the players with something to bring to the table this fantasy season are pretty much well known to all.  Therefore our perspective must change a bit, leading us to look beyond just this season but to next season as well.  Whether for keeper league purposes, trade purposes, or whatever other purposes may be pertinent, we’ll be taking a weekly look at players and situations that fantasy owners should be aware of in order to be on top of their game moving forward.

Lex Hilliard (MIA) – Hilliard has made slight ripples in fantasy circles since the injury to Ronnie Brown a couple of weeks ago, but has only had a few touches since.  The interest here is not short term, but primarily looking ahead to next season.  The facts that must be considered include the fact that Ricky Williams is already 32 years old.  While he missed a few years so is ‘playing younger’, he’s still not likely to get any better and likely will begin to decline soon, especially now that he’s carrying a much bigger share of carries.   Williams still has one more year on his contract, so it is safe to assume that the team will keep him on through that year at least, but still with the intention of him being a part timer.  Ronnie Brown becomes a free agent at the end of this season and will command one big contract either in Miami or somewhere else that will likely finish off his career.  If the Dolphins end up resigning Brown, Hilliard becomes of no consequence long term, of course, but with the drought of good running backs in the league, there is an even chance that Brown could sign somewhere else.

Hilliard is a bruising, straight ahead runner for the most part, and in the little bit of action he’s seen he’s averaging well over five yards a carry.  He seems to be sure handed, and appears tough to bring down, not surprising considering his 240 pounds.  For owners looking for a bit of a gem to stash away on a keeper league roster, Hilliard offers enough upside and situational possibilities to make him well worth a look.  There is an outside chance, as well, that he could end up with steadily increasing numbers this year, especially if Ricky Williams goes down with an injury of any seriousness or just begins to wear down because of too much work.  Regardless of how you look at it, Hilliard warrants being on the fantasy radar for most leagues.

Chris Brown (HOU) – The Texans grabbed Brown a couple of years ago with a primary purpose in mind, to use him as a goal-line threat similar to what LenDale White was last year in Tennessee.  Two years and a few injuries later he is finally beginning to look like he still could fill that role in Houston.  He is a free agent after this season, but if he continues to play as he has the past couple of weeks the team is likely to let Ryan Moats go and keep a Slaton/Brown combo going for at least a couple of years.  Houston is a team that is getting better and next year should be a playoff caliber team, and their offense is potent, always a good thing when talking fantasy football.  Steve Slaton isn’t built to be a lone workhorse, so someone is going to get the tandem job.  Brown is the leading favorite to be that someone at the moment.

The knock on Brown is well known.  He has been brittle his entire career for the most part, but he’s also been quite effective when healthy.  It’s been a few years, but it bears remembering that he was a thousand yard rusher in 2004 – in just eleven games.  At somewhere around 235 pounds, Brown brings a load, and it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that he could end up in a role very similar to that of Jerome Bettis a few years ago, only getting a couple hundred yards on the season, but racking up double digits in touchdowns.  It would especially make sense for fantasy owners in touchdown based scoring systems to pay attention to Brown as this season winds down.  If he continues to play as he has been and stays healthy, he becomes a very good option to stash away or move on to your sleeper list for draft day.

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