When you are compiling your draft list and contemplating the very best players, what criteria do you use to rank players? Past statistics? Projections?
For me, a first-rounder has to be a sure thing. I realize potential and upside are hard to ignore, but of all the picks in your draft, your first one needs to count.
A wasted first pick has led me down the road to fantasy disaster before and I’ve had one bad pick sabotage an entire draft, too.
I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you this post is a primer to prepare you for ep’s like-a-ninja running back rankings that will go live tomorrow. They’re not mainstream. In fact, I’m sure they’re going to tick quite a few people off.
People who spent a lot of money or a high draft pick, or who kept certain players (or released them, for that matter) in the offseason, are going to laugh. Some will be angry. Some may never read this site again, but I’m not going to change my opinion to fit their expectations.
Did you see what DeAngelo Williams did last year? LeRon McClain? What about Joseph Addai? Nobody, nobody saw any of those coming. A ninja’s got to figure out who those players are before the season starts, not after.
So, let’s take a look at risk, sure things and that gray area in between:
Adrian Peterson – OK, Peterson’s out of upside. I don’t think he can climb any higher because he’s got unbelievable superhuman ability that showcases itself every time he touches the ball. He’s also proven that, like he was in college, he’s injury prone. Last year, he was healthy, toted the rock 363 times (not quite that dreaded 370, but close enough) and he had 21 catches, too. In this case, you must weigh significant chance for injury risk vs. unbelievable superhero-esque talent. This is a gray area. He’s a no-doubt first-rounder, but should he be at the top of the board?
LaDainian Tomlinson – He was really good last year, but not top-pick good, and that’s where he went in a lot of drafts. He’ll be better than last year, but has he finally crossed into the injury-prone threshold? I’m not ready to give up on him yet, but Darren Sproles and Gartrell Johnson could steal touches if he gets nicked up. Weigh injury/committee risk vs. past consistent greatness. Is LT a first-rounder in 2009?
Steve Slaton – If I had a ranking strictly based on risk Slaton would be among the best running backs in the game. Who’s going to steal carries? One of the NFL’s three best wide receivers spreads the defense outside with help from an underrated No. 2 WR and an underrated tight end. Slaton showed no signs of injury despite being a small rookie back and shouldering the load all year. He amassed 1,282 yards and nine TDs on a keep-him-healthy 268 carries. But he also caught 50 balls for 377 and another score. His only risk is that he was a rookie, so he has no previous seasons for comparison. Of course, that also means we have no idea if that was merely the beginning. I do not have him first… but I’ve almost convinced myself he should be in the conversation.
Chris Johnson – Like Slaton, he was a rookie last year, so we don’t have any previous work to compare last season to. In case you haven’t memorized his numbers: 1,228 yards 9 TDs on just 251 carries and 43 catches for 260 and a TD. Again, some phenomenal numbers out of a rookie back. There is a knock on Johnson. He’s in a committee with LenDale White, who swiped almost 800 yards and 15 TDs from him last season and is one season removed from an 1,100-yard, 7-TD season. There are a lot of yards and TDs to go around in the Titans rushing offense, and the NFL’s perfect committee keeps both backs healthy. More TDs and more yards are a distinct possibility. But am I talking about Johnson or White or both?
I could go on, but I won’t. You get the point – a sure-thing with upside, unbelievable talent and no risk should be a no-brainer No. 1.
Check back for my Top-20 RBs tomorrow and let us know how you decide who to take with your first pick every year in the comments. I’d bet that if you’re reading this site you don’t just go by some list in a months-old magazine.