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Running Back Rankings/Discussion

Postby Warpigs » Thu Aug 12, 2004 9:57 am

Just posted at Yahoo via Sporting News, here is their piece on running backs and rankings. Time to fire up the discussion/debate...

RB preview: The heart of your squad

By George Winkler - SportingNews

Conventional wisdom says that in order to be successful in fantasy football you must use your first two draft picks on running backs, no matter what. But last season should force us to rethink the old standard. No, we aren't going to argue against having two high-quality backs on your roster. What we're saying, though, is 2003 proved you could find your No. 2 back somewhere other than the second round.

The waiver wire provided stellar midseason options in Rudi Johnson and Domanick Davis. Also, Kevan Barlow and Brian Westbrook emerged from committee situations to star as No. 2 fantasy backs. Let us not forget goal-line gurus such as T.J. Duckett and Correll Buckhalter, who had moments in the sun, too. Jacksonville's Fred Taylor provided a nice comeback story.

With a little extra planning, some educated gambles that pay off and waiver-wire vigilance, it's possible to win your league without tying yourself to the popular two-backs-first philosophy. And with the freedom to select the best available player with your picks, you can be quickly on your way to building a fantasy powerhouse.

Knowing what's available at running back is the first step to freeing up your options and helping you feel confident in your decisions, whether you wait to grab a No. 2 back.


With a record 27 touchdown runs in 2003, Priest Holmes made a lot of No. 2 fantasy backs look good. Because Holmes can carry a middling roster to greatness, it's essential that he be at the top of your wish list. Coach Dick Vermeil's penchant for riding his marquee backs -- Wilbert Montgomery, Marshall Faulk and now Holmes -- makes Holmes a multifaceted threat without peer.

Unless, of course, the peer is San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson. L.T. can do everything Holmes can, and he is nearly six years younger, something to consider in keeper leagues. In 2003, Tomlinson took his game to new heights, too, by adding a career-high 725 receiving yards to an impressive rushing total. But L.T. tends to get fewer red-zone chances than other top-notch backs because of the Chargers' lack of talent surrounding him.

Green Bay's Ahman Green doesn't have that problem. With Brett Favre in the same backfield, Green owners never have to worry about an imbalanced offense. What's even better about Green is he surpassed Favre in fantasy importance last season. Favre was super, but his receivers weren't, and coach Mike Sherman must have noticed. Green had plenty of chances en route to 2,250 total yards and 20 TDs, and he should be the focal point of the offense this season, too.

Seattle's Shaun Alexander is another back surrounded by a bevy of talent, but his consistency over his first four seasons has been his best asset. You can count on Alexander to get you 1,300-1,400 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. This could be his best season because he still has room to improve and the Seahawks have enough talent to win the NFC West.

New Orleans' Deuce McAllister faded toward the end of last season because of a knee injury, and he didn't score enough touchdowns. But before that, his nine consecutive 100-yard games proved he could succeed despite the fortunes of the Saints, who finished 8-8. McAllister also became an effective receiver, and he is a young player on the rise. Expect him to continue his upward trend.

Clinton Portis and Jamal Lewis both are potentially dominating No. 1s, but there are questions about them, dropping them to this level.

The Redskins will feature Portis in Joe Gibbs' run-first attack, but Washington's line needs time to jell before it can be discussed in the same breath as Denver's. A season-ending injury to right tackle Jon Jansen didn't help. Still, Portis is a no-brainer at No. 6 because he has been an explosive talent in his first two seasons.

A federal indictment on drug charges threatens to interrupt Lewis' season, though his lawyers are asking that the trial be held after the season. If Lewis must miss time -- some reports say the trial could last two weeks -- Musa Smith or Chester Taylor could wind up sharing the load in Baltimore.

It's important to consider a backup plan if you draft Lewis -- and not necessarily Smith or Taylor. Lewis is a special talent who was able to overcome the Ravens' lack of offensive balance. We can't be sure Smith or Taylor can do the same.


It's unnecessary to use your first two picks on running backs, but it is preferable to grab two starters in the first three or four rounds. If you wait beyond that, the pickings get slim, and you'll be left to scour waiver wires and make tough lineup calls.


The following backs are No. 1-worthy, but they lag behind the studs.

Edgerrin James should score plenty in Indianapolis' potent attack, but his injury history is still a concern. His knee was fine last season, but a back injury cost him time.

Jacksonville's Fred Taylor shook the injury label last season, but youngsters LaBrandon Toefield and Greg Jones are nipping at his heels. Jones could take away some goal-line carries.

Marshall Faulk is still valuable in touchdown leagues, but he hasn't topped 1,000 yards since 2001. Also, St. Louis drafted Steven Jackson in the first round for a reason -- Faulk's body is wearing down.

Stephen Davis kept rumbling even without the Redskins, but DeShaun Foster flashed his talent, too. Now the Panthers have the option of resting the 30-year-old Davis when necessary.

Buffalo's Travis Henry showed superior toughness by playing through rib and foot injuries last season, but Willis McGahee should get a chance to show his stuff in a limited role.

Corey Dillon gets a big upgrade moving to New England, but he needs to shake the injury bug and lose the attitude problems to fit in with the team-first Patriots.


Get one of these guys as your No. 2 back, and it won't matter if your No. 1 has a few blemishes.

Domanick Davis is a unique running-receiving threat for the Texans. And with wideout Andre Johnson and QB David Carr coming into their own, Houston could have the "Triplets" of the future.

Provided he can rebound from a triceps injury, the Eagles' Brian Westbrook will be valuable, especially in touchdown leagues. No other back in his class is a threat to score running, receiving and returning kicks.

Kevan Barlow and Rudi Johnson will be counted on heavily this season in San Francisco and Cincinnati, respectively, because their passing games have question marks. An increase in playing time should do wonders for two backs who were successful despite sharing roles with veterans last season.


The best strategy when you're picking from a committee is to draft a pair of players from the same team and see who ends up winning the job.

In Minnesota, Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith and Moe Williams all have the potential to score in a high-powered offense led by Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. Bennett and Williams appear to be the best options, with Bennett being the yardage guy and Williams being the goal-line threat. Smith was effective in Bennett's place last season and has plenty of talent, but he has no defined role.

The rest of the committee situations have a similar look: a power back, who will get some goal-line carries, and a slashing-type back, who will get some yards. Power men include Chicago's Anthony Thomas, Oakland's Tyrone Wheatley, Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis, Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott and Atlanta's T.J. Duckett. Their respective slashers are Thomas Jones, Justin Fargas, Duce Staley, Charlie Garner/Michael Pittman and Warrick Dunn. The best No. 3 fantasy backs from the lists: Jones, Wheatley, Staley, Garner and Duckett.


Much has been made of Tiki Barber's fumbling problems, and he definitely will be under coach Tom Coughlin's watchful eye. But it was the lack of touchdowns last season that hurt Barber owners the most, and he'll struggle to improve his scoring numbers after the Giants dumped QB Kerry Collins in favor of rookie Eli Manning or veteran Kurt Warner. It's also a bit concerning that Coughlin is so eager to give Ron Dayne a second chance.

Meanwhile, Curtis Martin had the same problem scoring last season. He racked up some decent yardage but suffered along with the Jets, who were without Chad Pennington for most of the season. Expect Martin's numbers to rebound with a full season of Pennington, but Martin still isn't much more than a No. 3 back because of the mileage on those 31-year-old legs.


1. Rudi Johnson, Bengals. Cincinnati needs Rudi now more than ever, as it gets ready to educate Carson Palmer.
2. Broncos winner. Among the serious candidates are Quentin Griffin, Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell. The winner is likely to rush for 1,000 yards. Griffin is leading the race.
3. Chris Brown, Titans. He showed in the playoffs that he is ready to assume the role once held by Eddie George.
4. Onterrio Smith, Vikings. He could take carries from Williams and will rumble if Bennett gets hurt. He also could get traded into a feature role.
5. Thomas Jones, Bears. He is just the type of running-receiving threat the new coaching regime prefers in Chicago.


1. Troy Hambrick, Raiders. The only thing he proved last season was that the Cowboys needed to draft Julius Jones, and he needed a ticket out of town.
2. Anthony Thomas, Bears. He lacks the receiving skills the coaching staff prefers in its backs.
3. Michael Pittman, Buccaneers. Jail time won't help him get a head start in the competition with Charlie Garner, and neither will Garner's previous success under coach Jon Gruden.
4. Jerome Bettis, Steelers. It's time to use your Bus pass.
5. Garrison Hearst, Broncos. He appears to be just an insurance policy in case Denver's other options fail.


On the rise: Domanick Davis, Texans
On the decline: Marshall Faulk, Rams
Primed for a comeback: Corey Dillon, Patriots
Biggest risk/reward: Michael Bennett, Vikings
Top goal-line threat: T.J. Duckett, Falcons
Will succeed with new team: Thomas Jones, Bears
Will struggle with new team: Duce Staley, Steelers
Top rookie: Kevin Jones, Lions.
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Postby Franchise Fan » Thu Aug 12, 2004 10:05 am

Good read. However i disagree with the hype(and i see alot of it) about Domanick Davis, I dont think he will live up to expectation and consider him an average number 2 back.
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Postby Wesley Walker » Thu Aug 12, 2004 10:06 am

Perhaps he over-rates Dillon and Westbrook. As for Westbrook "emerging from the committee to become the man in Philly," I don't really remember that.
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Re: Running Back Rankings/Discussion

Postby Warpigs » Thu Aug 12, 2004 10:21 am


The following backs are No. 1-worthy, but they lag behind the studs.

Edgerrin James should score plenty in Indianapolis' potent attack, but his injury history is still a concern. His knee was fine last season, but a back injury cost him time.

Jacksonville's Fred Taylor shook the injury label last season, but youngsters LaBrandon Toefield and Greg Jones are nipping at his heels. Jones could take away some goal-line carries.

Sorry, but these two should be tagged onto the end of the studs listed above due solely to them being the main option in their respective teams' running games. Let's face it, that is a major value boost no matter what other factors surround them. I expect Edge, especially, to shatter everyone's mediocre view on him this year.
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