Player ProjectionsFebruary 14, 2009

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Changing of the Guards

By Roberto Baltazar

It’s probably a bit too early to do a fantasy football mock draft, but it’s been tradition for a group of Cafeholics to get together and get rollin’ right after the end of the regular football season. While we await the publication of the complete results of the mock draft, here is an indication of how the running backs might be drafted in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues where 0.5 points are awarded per reception to an offensive player. So without further ado, let’s kick off the list with “All Day” so we can move on and sort out how the next 49 backs were picked!

1. Adrian Peterson – No one is going to smirk at anyone who will pass on LaDainian Tomlinson this year, as there is no doubt that Peterson will be the clear cut # 1 pick in all league formats. While there might still be some concerns about his durability, Peterson yields generous outputs in terms of rushing yards and touchdowns even if he does not get many receptions.

2. Matt Forte – He might be ranked too high here but he deserves recognition. In his rookie season he had 63 receptions, scored a total of 12 TDs, and posted 1,715 total yards (1,238 rushing/477 receiving). There is no certainty he will be given the opportunity to be an every-down back, but he has proven he can be an effective runner and a good pass-catcher.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew – 2009 might finally be the breakout year for MJD, as his fragile backfield partner, Fred Taylor, is expected to retire. Although, if Taylor is given another year to play, MJD should be able to put up some good numbers as he is a proven workhorse in the Jaguars offense.

4. Michael Turner – Turner the “Burner” stepped out of LT’s shadow in 2008. The result: an amazing 1,518 rushing yards and 20 total TDs. He could be the real deal, but his 376 carries are cause for concern.

5. Brian Westbrook – He is still the most versatile among the running backs and is a solid fantasy points producer when healthy and not hampered by injury. I almost tore my face when I benched him in week 13 and he scored four TDs! Good thing I had solid starters to pull off a win against my opponent.

6. Steven Jackson – A talented back, but has performed marginally and has not really done much to help fantasy owners like me. I think am starting to hate him. A real fantasy headache I would say…

7. Clinton Portis – He is the focal point of the Redskins offense and what owners would want from him is to stay healthy, especially during playoffs – I don’t think he will grant us that wish however. I’m going to bump him down on my list if the Redskins draft a running back to complement him.

8. LaDainian Tomlinson – The once-mighty has fallen as he had a very disappointing year. He was saddled with a toe injury and a torn tendon in his groin, so with that he only averaged 3.8 yards/carry. He might not be able to go at full speed anymore, so not a bad spot to land at #8. The writing is on the wall – fragile….so draft with caution.

9. DeAngelo Williams – When the Panthers drafted rookie Jonathan Stewart, a lot of people downplayed his role and a lot of owners dumped him. But come week five, he caught fire and thereafter flourished in all downs and distances, moving the chains effectively in the Panthers’ offense.

10. Chris Johnson – I’m quite amazed to see him taken this high. Johnson has the speed and the talent, but LenDale White might cut down his touches and production. The absence of White would allow Johnson a good opportunity to be the featured back and build on his 2008 stats.

11. Marion Barber – He registered 885 rushing yards, 417 receiving yards (52 receptions), and a total of nine TDs in 2008, so the Barbarion looks to be a solid starter. However, he might be in for a close contest with the other cowboys running backs, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Nevertheless, I think he’ll get the lions share of the work if his pinky toe does not get amputated.

12. Brandon Jacobs – His 1,089 rushing yards and 15 TDs are products of his tough, bruising running style. Maybe this kind of production is more than enough to convince owners that he is a reasonable pick at #12.

13. Frank Gore – He posted 1,036 rushing yards, 43 receptions for 373 yards, and eight total TDs in 2008. He is a good value pick early in the second round, but owners should be concerned with his durability. The chances that he will be the featured back in 2009 also comes into question, as the 49ers are toying with the idea of using a two-back system.

14. Steve Slaton – Here is another player who deserves some attention. He really showed flashes of starter material and amazed us with these statistics: 1,282 rush yards, 50 receptions for 377 yards, and 12 total TDs. These numbers are the basis for a lot of hype, and I think many owners will consider drafting him higher, especially in PPR leagues.

15. Thomas Jones – Not really a tough runner, and given his age, he might not have enough gas left in his tank in 2009. Nevertheless, I think he could still be considered a decent pick early in the second round. For the season, he averaged 4.5 yards per carry, posted 36 receptions, and scored 15 total TDs.

16. Reggie Bush – Here is another very fragile player. Injuries continue to derail him and the emergence of Pierre Thomas has significantly diminished his value. I would have probably taken Marshawn Lynch or Kevin Smith before taking these damaged goods, and I believe many owners would not be excited to pick him this early.

17. Marshawn Lynch – He posted good numbers last year with 1,036 rushing yards, 47 receptions for 300 yards, and nine total TDs, so I think he was a major steal and a great value pick in the second round of this mock draft.

18. Ryan Grant – He was a first rounder last year but failed to live up to the hype due to a lack of TDs and receptions. Probably the change of QBs (from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers) was a factor, but he would do well as a flex player and could help you keep your ship afloat.

19. Joseph Addai – His 2008 statistics of 544 rushing yards, 25 receptions for 206 yards, and seven total TDs didn’t surpass his 2007 statistics (1,072/41/364/15). It isn’t surprising to see him fall this far as he struggled to stay healthy and could not put up big numbers. With that said, he could be a major steal if he returns back to form and if the Colts fix their offensive line issues.

20. Kevin Smith – This guy is another talented back with a lot of upside, as his play per measure is the highest among the rookie backs (0.189 net points per play). His fantasy value should get a big boost in 2009, but there are a lot of challenges ahead of him if the Lions continue to struggle with poor play from their QBs and offensive line.

Rest of the pack:
21. Ronnie Brown
22. Larry Johnson
23. Pierre Thomas
24. Darren McFadden
25. Willie Parker
26. Earnest Graham
27. Jonathan Stewart
28. LenDale White
29. LeRon McClain
30. Tim Hightower
31. Derrick Ward
32. Willis McGahee
33. Julius Jones
34. Jamal Lewis
35. Sammy Morris
36. Cedric Benson
37. Felix Jones
38. Rashard Mendenhall
39. Edgerrin James
40. Laurence Maroney
41. Leon Washington
42. Ray Rice
43. Chester Taylor
44. Darren Sproles
45. Ryan Torain
46. Jerious Norwood
47. Tashard Choice
48. Ricky Williams
49. Michael Bush
50. Selvin Young

So there you have it! The values and rankings of these RBs are derived from an extremely early perspective, and there could always be a drastic change. As the saying goes, let the chips fall where they may…

Roberto is a football enthusiast living in Asia and is one of our fantasy experts and Cafeholics here at the Cafe. He is also a creative photographer and considered a sigs design expert. You can catch up with Roberto in the Cafe Forums where he posts under the strange handle madaslives911.
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