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In-depth Discussion, RBs.

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In-depth Discussion, RBs.

Postby Warpigs » Thu Jul 15, 2004 11:56 am

I figured I'd take a minute to do a deep discussion on a certain position and try to get feedback. It's easy to throw out a list, but to fully explain yourself in the rankings is a great way to help other posters who check out the thread.

When it comes to running backs, many know that Priest, LT2, AGreen, Portis, DMcAllister and S.Alexander are the top six backs. I can flip them around several different ways and still have a good ranking. However, after the top six, there are some major questions concerning each back. Looking at each and explaining my pros, concerns and rankings:

7. E. James To me, Edge is the next selection. I want my first-rounder to have as few questions as possible, and to have a great upside. Edge is playing in a great offense that can run up the score and then use the running game for clock control. Edge is elusive, can break tackles and is a good receiving threat out of the backfield. The Colts have a fairly easy passing schedule this year and Edge is playing in a contract season where there are rumors that Indy will allow him to leave town. He's playing for pride, money and to show everyone that he's past knee surgery two years ago. He had a VERY productive ending to the 2003 season.

8. Ricky Williams One of the most disappointing players last year for fantasy owners was Williams. We need to look at why he disappointed, though. It's a matter of Ricky getting overused. The Miami QB situation and shoddy O-line left Williams with little protection, and he was given the ball a gaudy number of times. This year, the QB situation is about the same, but could improve if Feely is all that's promoted. The O-line isn't much better. However, David Boston will be an important cog in Williams' rise back into the upper echelon of backs. Boston's potential and presence combined with Chris Chamber's ability will force defenses to be honest, giving Ricky more room to maneuver. The Dolphins, under new management, will pace Ricky's attack better so it will be a matter of better quality thanks to lesser quantity. He should have a rebound season.

9. J. Lewis There's just too much uncertainty concerning Lewis's legal matters to take him higher. He had a career year last year, and it will be interesting to see how he responds this year. The Ravens still have little support around Lewis, and he very well could be this year's Ricky Williams if he does avoid the legal mess surrounding him. He could be a great bargain in the draft if he can rise to the occasion similarly to last year, but there are too many question marks surrounding him for me to comfortably draft in the early to mid first round.

10. F. Taylor Taylor played a full season without injury, which some may consider a small miracle. Obviously, his biggest concern is still the threat of another injury. However, the Jags are improving in leaps and bounds. Even with Toefield sniping a bunch of Taylor's TDs, Fragile Freddy could have a big season. Word out of Jacksonville is that Fred will see more receiving opps out of the backfield this year, which is always a plus. Again, however, you always have to wonder if/when he'll wind up on the IL.

Things really get dicey from here on

11. D. Davis Last year's push into the spotlight wasn't a coincidence. Davis played hard and provided some very good statistical games throughout the second half of the season. What I like about DD this year, despite the critics, is that the Texans are primed to break from the pack in the NFL. They were built in a methodical way, and have made great improvements each year. The offense is firing fairly well, while Carr comes into his own -- and the defense is also vastly improved this year. What has me drooling is Davis' first four games against vastly inferior defenses. I think he'll start the season with a big bang that will keep Hollings in the background. If I land Davis on my teams, I will look to possibly trade him after week four for an Edge/SAlexander/DMcAllister type if any of these guys struggle some while Davis is reaping huge numbers against the weak part of Houston's early schedule.

12. Corey Dillon Corey finally gets to play on a contender, and knows that his days of whining about playing on an inferior team are over. It's time to put up or shut up, as the saying goes, and Dillon will put everything he has into each run. The concerns that have me wondering if he can pull off a Stephen Davis-type reformation all surround Bellichek and the Patriots' poor rushing track record. Of course they haven't had the quality of back that Dillon is since the hey-day of Antowain Smith, but they're a passing-centered team, and the Super Bowl champion isn't going to make major changes to recenter their offense to a run-first attack after its success last year. Still, he could be a nice selection.

13. M. Faulk Until I officially see Faulk has retired, as some rumor will happen this preseason, I can't totally forget about him. In spite of the injury concerns, the possible shared playing time with rookie Steven Jackson may actually help keep Faulk healthy all season for the first time since the 90's. He's a TD machine when healthy and on the field, and is playing for pride before he walks away from the game. I'll bump him up to 11th in this list right after Fred Taylor if he hasn't retired or there isn't any majorly concerning news about him before the season officially kicks off.

14. T. Henry Henry was a trooper last year, playing through some hideous injuries to stave off McGahee. I'd like to think that Henry keeps his starting job all through 2004 without McGahee cutting into his total, but I can't convince myself that will happen. Henry plays for pride and will do everything possible to make his mark once again for the franchise. I'm concerned that Bledsoe will continue to be mediocre and considering how strong the AFC-East is, I think the Bills may be playing from behind more often than not, which will hinder Henry's playing time further. Still, he's a player with high upside who's competing for his job, pride and cash. Just keep an eye on McGahee.

15. R. Johnson Another guy I'd rank higher if I felt more confident in him. However, while the Bengals showed faith in him early in the offseason by letting Dillon go, they turned around and drafted a good rookie running back to push Rudi for the job. Will Rudi be able to be the premier back for a full season? Will he be able to play through a very tough defensive schedule? How will rookie Carson Palmer's play affect the offense? Too many questions for me to draft higher.

16. S. Davis As I expected, he did finally break down last year, but not before carrying many fantasy teams into playoff contention. We all know that DeShaun Foster is a VERY talented young running back who is the Panthers' future. Davis' role will be cut back considerably due to Foster's emergence, however, Davis will still get enough attention in the offense to be a great third back for a fantasy team, and an OK second back. Another high reward-risk player.

17. M. Bennett Bennett could be a great back this year. Finally fully healthy and with amazing speed, Bennett has the tools to be a fantasy stalworth. What's even better is that in many drafts he is falling into the third round due to the concerns people have with O. Smith and M. Williams pilfering his carries and TDs. Bennett will once again become a key contributor in this high-powered offense, and even though his TD total may be lower than what you'd like from a second back, his yardage total will make him a nice complement for a team who has Priest Holmes or LT2.

18. K. Barlow Barlow will finally have the job solely to himself, which makes him a potential sleeper noting all the RBBC situations we talked about with other RBs on this list. However, I don't think you can fully downplay just how much the poor team around Barlow will affect his stats. The Niners will be playing from behind almost every game, and Barlow will see limited opportunities as games wear on. What's also concerning is that when he does run the ball, defenses will key on him. Physically, how much can he take, especially considering that this will be his first season of being expected to carry the load as a premier back. I don't have as high of expectations for Barlow as others here do.

19. D. Staley Teams last year knew that the Pittsburgh offense had become pass-oriented, so they keyed on that part of the Steeler game. This year, Cowher and company imported Staley to revitalize the ground attack. The squad knows that to be effective offensively, the ground game needs to be defined, so Staley will be given a major portion of the carries from the start of the game. Many are concerned about Bettis stealing carries and TDs, but each of the last several years, we've heard how Bettis is going to rise again to glory, and every year he fails to live up to the hype. This year, I fully expect Staley to be the premier back all season, with Bettis providing some relief at times. Again, I don't see Bettis as being much of a threat to Staley.

20. B. Westbrook No one can discount what Westbrook did last year for the Eagles, and with the threat of Staley stealing carries out of the picture, Westbrook could have even a bigger year. Buckhalter will definitely get carries, and the periodic RBBC between the two will be concerning, however, Westbrook proved last year that he can be relied on for the bulk of the action. The arrival of TO will help keep defenses off the line, and Westbrook could have a big season. Buckhalter's presence is what keeps Westbrook from bumping up several pegs in this list.

21. T. Barber Love him or hate him, Barber is still the official starter of the Giants. Yes, Ron Dayne may come back into the picture, but what are the chances that Dayne will stay there? Barber NEEDS to get past his fumbling problems if he wants to once again be considered a top back. His receptions from the backfield are key, and if you're in a receptions league, he should be moved up this list considerably. However, until he proves he can shoulder the load (and remember that the Giants were a pretty lousy team last year and play in an increasingly stronger division), I wouldn't want Barber as anything higher than a third RB.

22. C. Garner Garner's reunion with Gruden is an interesting story within the Bucs ranks, however, Garner isn't getting younger. He could have that big year everyone was hoping for last season, however expect a healthy Alstott (don't believe the retirement hype around him and his neck stinger) to rack up most of the TDs. Pittman's legal problems will keep him out of action for the start of the season, but once he returns, I expect him to steal some of Garner's carries, too. Garner is in the downswing of his career.
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Lewis is the man

Postby Rodge » Thu Jul 15, 2004 12:24 pm

I am astonished that you have Jamal Lewis ranked as the #9 running back. Did we forget already that Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards last season - THE SECOND MOST IN NFL HISTORY. Come on. Yes, he has this legal matter surrounding him, but every player has question marks heading into the season.

With the Ravens, Boller has one year under his belt and he should be improved. It is a little worrisome that Kevin Johnson was their big signing at WR, but what were they supposed to do after the TO thing fell through? They are a run oriented offense anyways, plus T. Heap is a great TE. And the defense is always tough.

There doesn't look like there is a lot of evidence to convict Lewis in this legal matter. He will use the legal issue as fuel for the fire. Lewis will be huge in '04.
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Postby Warpigs » Thu Jul 15, 2004 12:34 pm

Hey, I agree that Jamal had a great year last year, but I have some serious concerns about him repeating that again this year. We all remember Ricky Williams heading into last season. He was considered by most to be the best fantasy property out there. He was being drafted first in most every draft. No one wanted to listen that Miami's situation would lead Ricky to being used to death. Even the best of players can only take so much pounding.

I have concerns that LT2 will see a slump in numbers due to a very poor supporting cast, and even though the Ravens have a better team than the Chargers, I have similar concerns for Jamal.

Overall, I'd like to believe that he'll score an encore, but until I hear a little more about his court situation especially, I'm leary to take him ahead of especially the top six. Considering that I feel Edge and Ricky will have big seasons, I think Jamal could be argued at nine. He also could be a huge value pick there.
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Postby KingGhidra » Thu Jul 15, 2004 1:15 pm

Warpigs wrote:Hey, I agree that Jamal had a great year last year, but I have some serious concerns about him repeating that again this year. We all remember Ricky Williams heading into last season. He was considered by most to be the best fantasy property out there. He was being drafted first in most every draft. No one wanted to listen that Miami's situation would lead Ricky to being used to death. Even the best of players can only take so much pounding.


With Ricky, I don't think it was so much the load but his o-line. He appeared to have zero confidence in them and was always dancing after a handoff. Baltimore has lost nothing on their o-line as far as I know. Their defense is still intact and Jamal Lewis is still one of the best power running backs the last ten seasons.

Jamal is 5th or 6th on my board depending on the day and my mood assuming the court thing goes away.
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Postby Rodge » Thu Jul 15, 2004 1:16 pm

I respect your opinion, but Jamal Lewis is no Ricky Williams. I am not a huge fan of R. Williams, and was not last year. Yes, I agree that Lewis does not have a superb supporting cast, but it is no worse than last year. I guess my point is, you can have Lewis ranked at #9, but if you do, chances are almost certain that you will not get him in your draft - he will be long gone. And that would mean to deny yourself the opportunity to pick one of the top backs in the league who, if his court situation works out (which I believe it will), will likely finish in the top 1-5 running backs.
Last edited by Rodge on Thu Jul 15, 2004 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Warpigs » Thu Jul 15, 2004 1:20 pm

I personally will be targeting Ahman Green on draft day. You can read why in another current post I have bouncing around.

However, I agree with you that Jamal Lewis could be the value steal of the draft if he falls far enough due to his legal situation. He is more of gamble in leagues that draft really early -- those that wait until closer to the season can re-assess the situation then.

What do you all have to say about the other spots?
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Postby TwoTallBeers » Thu Jul 15, 2004 1:51 pm

Any thoughts on Fred Taylor losing TDs to Byron when the jags are in goaline sets?
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Postby KingGhidra » Thu Jul 15, 2004 1:53 pm

TwoTallBeers wrote:Any thoughts on Fred Taylor losing TDs to Byron when the jags are in goaline sets?


What TDs? He has none to steal right now. He has nothing but upside as far as TDs are concerned. Why would he lose them to Byron anyway? Leftwich is slow as molasses.
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Postby Rodge » Thu Jul 15, 2004 2:07 pm

Without going into what I think regarding each back, I will tell you that #'s 11-22 are all pretty risky. I don't know what to think about D. Davis. The one person that I really like in #'s 11-22 is Rudi Johnson. Yes, he did only start 5 games last year, but the job is now his. Nevermind that the Bengals drafted Chris Perry. The Bengals simply needed a decent backup, which is why I believe they took Perry. With Dillon's injury problems, the need for a good backup was exemplified last year. Johnson rushed for over 150 yards in a game three times last year. I think that his future is bright. Palmer may have some growing pains, but he had a season to sit and watch. I think that that does wonders for a young quarterback, as opposed to throwing them to the wolves as a rookie. And can Carson Palmer really be a step down from Jon Kitna? Albeit Kitna did have a very successful season last year.

I know that one thing is for sure, I am going to do everything I can to get two of the top ten RB's in the draft this year.
Last edited by Rodge on Sun Aug 15, 2004 1:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Flux » Thu Jul 15, 2004 2:13 pm

Nice post Warpigs.

I like the rankings, they are pretty close to what i have, but like i have said many times before, any of them can really go anywhere.

Im curious as to where you have the rookies at this point. Im very back and forth on JJ and KJ right now, but I think I would definitely risk a pick on them before say Garner or Barber. I wouldnt feel safe though unless I had a very decent #3
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