Thursday, August 26, 2010

Running Backs: Overvalued/Undervalued


Overvalued Running Backs

Steven Jackson – RB St. Louis
Jackson is one of the best running backs in football. Unfortunately, he plays for the worst NFL team. Last year, Jackson was St. Louis’ offense -- tallying 1,738 total yards (51 catches). But he scored only 4 TDs, all against teams with poor run defenses. Jackson appears healthy after undergoing back surgery in the offseason. That injury slowed him down at the end of last year, and forced him to miss one game. Jackson will get his touches (375 carries/catches in 2009), but finding the end zone could remain elusive. Without a passing threat, soft offense line, Jackson will be targeted by defenses. Jackson is listed on many draft boards in the top 5, and certainly the top 10. My advice: There are safer picks in the top 10. If he’s still available after the tenth pick, take a chance. Just make sure to grab a safer pick in the next round.

Jamaal Charles — RB Kansas City
Charles finished off last season better than anyone. In the season’s final four games, Charles scored 4 TDs and a mind-boggling 658 yards. He certainly comes into 2010 with a lot of hype, but I’m not ready to buy it. Kansas City’s offense is still suspect and the addition of Thomas Jones won’t help Charles’ cause. Jones is coming off back-to-back 1,300 yard seasons and will steal carries. Charles will be the main runner for the Chiefs and he stays on the field on third down (40 catches in 2009). My advice: Charles is a solid second RB. Look for him around pick #33 (mid-late third round).

Knowshon Moreno – RB Denver
Moreno was overvalued last year as a rookie, and never showed the flash he displayed at Georgia. He did reach the 1,000 yard mark, but failed to reach 100 yards in a single game. His 8 TDs were solid for a rookie, but nothing compared to the output of Denver RBs of the past. Moreno was also expected to be a pass catcher, but finished with only 269 yards receiving. Moreno has been nursing a hamstring injury this preseason making it difficult to watch his progression. My advice: Moreno should be selected as a second RB. Look for him around pick #31 (mid-late third round), Also, make sure you handcuff with Correll Buckhalter.

LeSean McCoy – RB Philadelphia
If you think McCoy is the second coming of Brian Westbrook, you will be sorely mistaken. McCoy had close to 1,500 total yards (438 receiving yards) in 2009, but failed to crack the 100 yard mark in a single game. McCoy certainly got a long look from the Eagles last year, and managed just 7 TDs (3 receiving TDs). Philadelphia’s pass first offensive philosophy will hurt McCoy, as will the team’s other red zone options. Look for Mike Bell, Leonard Weaver and Michael Vick to get more red zone chances than McCoy. My advice: Avoid McCoy on draft day. However, if you’re desperate for a RB, look for McCoy around pick #58 (mid-late fourth round).

Beanie Wells – RB Arizona
You can add Wells to the list of Cardinals hurt by Kurt Warner’s retirement. Arizona’s threat to move the ball through the air is gone and that will impact their ground game. Wells was the beneficiary of soft defense fronts last year with Warner at QB. Teams were focused on stopping Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. With Warner and Boldin now gone, the focus shifts to Fitzgerald and Wells. Durability has also been a concern with Wells, but don’t buy into those claims, he stayed healthy enough last year to run for over 1,100 yards and 9 TDs. My advice: Wells is a solid #2 RB. Look for him around pick #38 (early-mid third round).

Felix Jones – RB Dallas
It’s hard enough to get carries in an offense with two RBs, in Dallas there are three. Jones will be the main runner in Dallas’ offense, but may miss out on goal carries and third down catches. In 2009, Jones failed to crack the 100-yard mark in a single game and scored only 3 TDs. The Cowboys gave Jones a shot at goal line carries this preseason, but he may have squandered that opportunity when he fumbled inside the 5 yard line. Look for him to get his yards, but lose out on red zone carries to Marion Barber III. My advice: Let someone else draft Felix Jones. If you must draft him, look for him around #63 (mid-late fifth round).

CJ Spiller – RB Buffalo
Spiller joins a crowded backfield in Buffalo -- but by default -- the rookie has emerged as the team’s opening day starter. Spiller beat out both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, partly because the two RBs are battling injuries. I don’t see Spiller keeping that spot for the entire season. Spiller doesn’t strike me as an every down, carry the load RB. Spiller is also hurt by a mediocre QB and shaky OL. My advice: look for Spiller around #71 (early sixth round). Consider drafting Jackson instead of Spiller in the later rounds.

Undervalued RBs

Frank Gore – RB San Francisco
It’s hard to call a top 10 RB undervalued, but Gore fits the bill. He is a strong, punishing runner on a team committed to running the ball. Gore missed three games in 2009 and still finished with more than 1,100 yards and 13 TDs. The thing that moves Gore ahead of Maurice Jones Drew and Ray Rice is the 49ers schedule. Gore will face plenty of soft defenses this season. My advice: look for Gore at #3. All indications are Gore is headed for a huge year.

Ryan Grant – RB Green Bay
Grant is the forgotten man in Green Bay’s high-powered offense. With Aaron Rodgers getting most of the attention this preseason, Grant is a quiet compliment with a strong track record of success. Grant has had back-to-back 1,200 yard seasons, including 11 TDs last year. My advice: Grant is a solid #1 RB. Look for him around #18 (mid second round).

Clinton Portis – RB Washington
Portis is coming off a season in which he missed nine games because of a concussion. This year he’s back looking healthy and he’s reunited with Mike Shanahan. It’s unlikely the two will recreate Portis’ glory days in Denver, but it is possible Portis can return to the form he showed in 2008. Two years ago, Portis scored 9 TDs and ran for nearly 1,500 yards. The arrival of Donovan McNabb should help, but a weak OL will hurt. My advice: Look for Portis around #47 (early fourth round). He is a solid #2 RB.

Marion Barber III – RB Dallas
Barber has been Dallas’ muscle for the last five years. As the main goal line back, Barber has scored 49 TDs since 2005. Last year, Barber’s numbers dropped partly due to an injured ankle and the arrival of Felix Jones. Still, Barber remains the top red zone threat for the Cowboys. My advice: look for Barber around #48 (late fourth round).

Fred Jackson – RB Buffalo
It’s likely Jackson has slid down most draft boards. A hand injury in preseason has kept him off the field and now second on the depth chart behind C.J. Spiller. Jackson had a solid finish to the 2009 season, including a 212 yard outing in week 17. The Bills will not be an offensive juggernaut and Jackson won’t be a superstar, but he’s a guy who could be the main ball carrier in Buffalo. My advice: look for Jackson around #98 (mid-late eighth round). Draft him after your starting line-up is solidified.

Joseph Addai – RB Indianapolis
The demise of Joseph Addai has been greatly exaggerated. Addai has been a solid option since coming into the league, and I don’t see him letting up this year. The Colts offense will look for balance this year and that will include Addai running the ball. Addai has been able to hold off Donald Brown for the starting RB spot and I expect Addai to keep the starting job all season. His yards have decreased each of the past couple of years, but he’s still a double-digit TD RB (13 TDs in 2009). My advice: look for Addai around #32 (late third round). He is a solid #2 RB.

Arian Foster – RB Houston
Foster entered training camp locked in a 3-man battle for Houston’s starting RB position. Foster emerged as the #1 guy after Ben Tate hurt his ankle and Steve Slaton showed once again he’s prone to fumbling. Foster finds himself in a great spot in Houston. The Texans have a prolific passing attack and a pretty good OL. Foster will be asked to take the burden off Matt Schaub as Houston looks to run the ball more. My advice: Foster is a fringe #1 RB and a solid #2. Look for him around #37 (late third round).

Ricky Williams – RB Miami
Williams finds himself behind Ronnie Brown on most draft boards. Brown is the starter, but Williams will get his fair share of carries. With Brown missing most of last season with a foot injury, Williams filled in nicely scoring 13 TDs (2 TDs receiving). This year, Williams won’t get those kinds of numbers with Brown returning, but 8-10 TDs is not out of the question. My advice: look for Williams around #55. Make sure you draft Williams if you draft Brown as well.

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