Darren McFadden and Jonathan Stewart were the slam dunk rookies to pick this year, right? Not so far.
If you had a crystal ball, you would have picked Matt Forte and Chris Johnson in your keeper leagues up to this point in the season. Both of them are in the top 10 in standard (performance+scoring) fantasy leagues.
McFadden and Stewart are no slouches, they’re both in the top 25 — jzak went into detail about Stewart’s situation with the Panthers last week — but even fellow rookie Steve Slaton and the Ravens surprise Le’Ron McClain rank higher.
Points Per Reception leagues can drastically change running back scoring, but Forte, Johnson and Slaton are all strong plays in that format as well.
Since PPR changes things a little, one top 10 like we did with the quarterbacks yesterday is not enough. Let’s take a look at the top 10 running backs so far this year in each format.
First let’s take a look at performance+scoring, no PPR leagues:
|1.||Michael Turner||Falcons||422 rush yards, 5 TDs|
|2.||Frank Gore||49ers||525 Tot. yards, 3 TDs|
|3.||Marion Barber||Cowboys||409 Tot. yards, 5 TDs|
|4.||Adrian Peterson||Vikings||470 Tot. yards, 3 TDs|
|5.||Reggie Bush||Saints||183 Rush, 257 rec. yards|
|6.||Larry Johnson||Chiefs||415 rush yards, 3 TDs|
|7.||Matt Forte||Bears||494 Tot. yards, 2 TDs|
|8.||Ladainian Tomlinson||Chargers||354 Tot. yards, 4 TDs|
|9.||Clinton Portis||Redskins||405 Tot. yards, 3 TDs|
|10.||Chris Johnson||Titans||402 Tot. yards, 3 TDs|
Michael Turner at the top is surprising, as is Frank Gore. There were some significant if questions regarding those two. Turner’s first year starting, Gore coming off a less than stellar season and into a Mike Martz system. But the real surprise, again is the inclusion of Forte and Johnson. The Titans appeared set to go with LenDale White, why draft Johnson? Well, the numbers speak for themselves. And how can Forte, a rookie almost nobody heard of going into the draft, thrive where guys like Cedric Benson could not?
How do things change when we add a point per reception to the scoring equation? There is some dramatic shifting, but not a lot of new faces:
|1.||Reggie Bush||Saints||31 catches|
|2.||Frank Gore||49ers||15 catches|
|3.||Michael Turner||Falcons||3 catches|
|4.||Marion Barber||Cowboys||12 catches|
|5.||Matt Forte||Bears||18 catches|
|6.||Adrian Peterson||Vikings||9 catches|
|7.||Larry Johnson||Chiefs||6 catches|
|8.||Steven Jackson||Rams||20 catches|
|9.||Marshawn Lynch||Bills||12 catches|
|10.||Ladainian Tomlinson||Chargers||10 catches|
Where did Chris Johnson go? He’s 11th with 10 catches, only one point behind LT, and five points ahead of Clinton Portis.
So, what’s my take on all of this information?
- As impressed as I am with Johnson and Forte, rookies have typically had a hard time keeping up the pace through the second half of the season, regardless of how good they are. If you are in a keeper/dynasty league, then you should not dream of trading these guys unless you will receive excellent value in return. In draft over leagues, I’d let these guys carry your team a little while longer, but entertain offers and make some over the top ones. Forte for Marshawn Lynch, Steven Jackson or LT? Done.
- Getting a superstar for a rookie a week before he hits the feared wall is ideal, but good luck guessing when that might be. Conversely, if you have one of the established stars, on this list, stand pat unless you get a deal you can’t pass up. LJ won’t be a stud all year, but he’ll probably be worth more than you could get for him in a trade.
- My last bit of advice before last weekend’s games was to downgrade all your Rams. I didn’t expect Steven Jackson to finally show his All-Pro ability. Then again, I don’t think anyone knew the team was going to be told Linehan was on the outs. That meant Bulger was going to be back, the clouds were clearing, and Jackson responded the only way he should have.
- In the past, I have denounced Reggie Bush’s chances of being a top notch NFL running back. But he’s fitting in as a pass-receiving scat-back in an offense that throws the ball a bazillion times per game. Until he gets hurt, he is an absolute must-play against anybody.
Like I said yesterday, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and defenses yet to come this week. To read about the top 10 quarterbacks, go here.