Chris Johnson’s holdout threatens to kill his status as a top-three back, which is where he falls in the Cafe rankings. He’ll be a boom-or-bust player in 2011, either killing a fantasy team with an extended holdout during the season or providing value on his eventual average draft position (ADP), which could sink anywhere from three to ten spots depending on the length of his holdout. I err on the side of caution with first-round picks, so I’m likely to let him pass by me if I have a top-five selection, at least until he’s the owner of a new contract.
More thoughts after the rankings.
Update: The rankings have been updated as of 8/30/11. All updates are mine and mine alone, so I have left the original average rank of each player intact.
There a definitive line in the sand after the top 13 options, with Peyton Hillis at 14 likely to get less run this year as the Browns try to keep him fresh. With the injury to Mikel Leshoure, Jahvid Best looks to be a great value at the third/fourth turn. I’d label him as the most likely guy outside the top 15 to finish as a top-ten back by season’s end. We went a little low on LeGarrette Blount, but if he does work his way onto the field in passing situations he’ll be a steal at his current rank. I’ll also buy Knowshon Moreno and especially Ryan Grant as quality RB2s available later than they should be. I’d caution against selecting Ryan Mathews as a RB2, as it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Mike Tolbert (an excellent value RB3) finish with more touches.
Moving to potential flex/bench running backs, Jonathan Stewart seems a little too high as a clear backup to the now-paid DeAngelo Williams. Ryan Torain, James Starks, Pierre Thomas, Ronnie Brown and Roy Helu all figure to be true backups, so don’t reach too high for them expecting steady production. A key player ranked much too low is Tim Hightower, who is leading the charge to be the Redskins’ feature back. We have him as the third WAS RB on the board, but at this point you should feel comfortable flipping him and Torain in your draft rankings.
Deeper players with a good shot at returning positive value include Reggie Bush (if he gets double-digit touches per game in MIA), Darren Sproles (perfect for NO and could outplay Bush this year), Shane Vereen (or Stevan Ridley, or any non-descript NE running back), Jerome Harrison (as a potential Leshoure replacement) and Brandon Jackson (could work into a timeshare with Hillis eventually).
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and Razzball and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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