Aug 29,2009

Running backs… You Elusive, Stiff-Arming, ACL and Ankle Injuring Bastards

My first FF draft of the season is coming on up on Sunday, the 30th. Naturally, I’ve been doing some research and trying to strategize my top picks. I’ve noticed that EVERY SINGLE site has Adrian Peterson as the number 1 get. Really?

I mean, ok, I understand. He’s safe. But safe doesn’t win championships.

Here are my top 5 Running Backs and why:

#1) Michael Turner

Last year The Burner had a break out season – scoring 17 times and rushing for 1,699 yards. He stayed healthy and avoided a major leg injury that so many backs succumb to. More importantly, he played like he had something to prove – that he was a starter and not just some star’s back-up.

Yeah, we all know all that. So why rank him above AP?
Two words: Tony Gonzalez.

Last year the Falcon’s franchise was in a place. They were beginning the season on the heels of the Michael Vick controversy and they had a rookie quarterback that had cost them a HUGE bundle of cash. This was a team in need of a miracle. And they got it. But what they didn’t have was an elder statesman – someone who could lead and mentor at the same time. I have to believe that this lack of experience and leadership is what allowed the Cardinals to edge them out in the first round of the playoffs.

Enter Tony Gonzalez. If the Falcons managed to find a rhythm last year then they’ll be making beautiful music this year. In 2008 the Falcons had a deep threat with Roddy White on the outside. The addition of Gonzalez in the middle this year distracts from the run game and forces the opposition to spread themselves out even more. Some critics say that this will take away from the number of touches Turner gets, but I say it makes those touches worth more. Moreover, Gonzalez is a super charming and charismatic dude (remember Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Kansas City Chiefs?). He’s the embattled vet with a few good seasons left in him – and I bet he’s going to be the glue that gets this team to stick.

#2) Maurice Jones-Drew

I became aware of MJD three years ago in my first ever fantasy draft and his rookie year. Back then I was able to pick him up in the 7th or 8th round as a back-up RB. What a gift! I simply figured Fred Taylor was getting old and only an up-start from Oakland could shimmy past him. It was a gamble that would pay off.

This season, Fred Taylor is gone and Jacksonville is one of the few teams not employing the Running Back By Committee rule. That translates into more touches for MJD. Additionally, he’s a phenomenal passing target. In fact, last season he completed 62 receptions and earned 525 passing yards.

To top it off, MJD plays in two fantasy leagues and always drafts himself in at least one of them. Here’s a player who understands that a Fantasy Championship can earn you as much respect (and sometimes cash) as a real one.

#3) Matt Forte
Mattt Forte

Yes, I’m a Bears fan. And, yes, I’m admittedly biased. BUT, I think this kid has the potential to dominate the fantasy scene and I won’t shut up about it.

Last season Forte proved that he could run and catch with a total of 1,200 yards rushing and 63 receptions. True, he could have had more TD’s, but with Cutler in at QB I think that’s going to change.

Some critics are worried that Cutler’s arm is suddenly going to make the Bears a passing team and thus take away from Forte’s touches. FALSE. The Bears No. 1 receiver is Devin Hester. Frankly, Hester doesn’t have the hands (though he’s got the speed and grit) to be a starting WR. Furthermore, Cutler and Hester don’t get along. Unfortunately, the rapport (there’s that word again) necessary to build a consistent and successful passing rhythm between these two just doesn’t exist. Plus the game in Chicago is different than it was in Denver. The Bears don’t have Brandon Marshall in the backfield, but they do have a back that can catch. My prediction – more dump passes to Forte, a decreased fantasy value for Cutler, and some very conflicted Hester fans. Bear down.

#4) DeAngelo Williams

I love this guy’s smile! I also love that he had ZERO fumbles last season and led the league in fantasy totals with a whopping 285 points.

Doubters will point to Carolina’s history of sharing carries, but that didn’t stop him last year. Plus their no. 2 is Jonathan Stewart who’s had a tough time staying healthy and is currently recovering from an achilles injury.

Williams is, aside from Steve Smith, Carolina’s number one offensive weapon. He’s young and even when he’s not healthy he still produces great numbers. I don’t know why you wouldn’t try to snatch him up.

#5) Adrian Peterson

Ok, ok, so he made my Top 5 after all. And, no, I didn’t rank him last just because he’s a Viking.

Purple Jesus or not, I just don’t feel it with this kid. And that was after having him on one of my fantasy teams last year. I will admit that his rookie season was staggering. The look on LT’s face after the Chargers loss in Minnesota back in 2007 said it all. Surely, AP was going to be the next superstar of the NFL.

But he wasn’t…

In 2008, DeAngelo Williams outscored him by 45 points. Want more? All Day barely outscored Thomas Jones by a margin of less than one point. Seriously? Seriously! Those stats are really good, but they’re not incredible.

Because this is AP’s much talked about “third year,” I’m confident he’ll light it up. But I think the addition of Brett Favre is going to detract rather than add to his fantasy total. Defenders will most certainly have to “stretch the field,” but Favre’s ego and propensity to throw errant deep balls isn’t about to disappear. Not to mention his admitted inability to win over his new team. I’ve got a feeling that tensions are running high in the locker room and that’s going to translate onto the field.

Bottom line, Peterson is a great pick, but he’s not the best pick.