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I wrote and re-wrote this post twice and neither time was particularly happy.
About halfway through the second time, I realized the issue — it was something I didn’t even want to read. My points were buried under countless words of no value, rambling on about my fantasy team. You don’t care about my fantasy team, you want to make your team better, or draft a great team. Period.
So, this is the lite (‘g’ and ‘h’ removed for even more liteness!) version of that post I promised last week regarding my fantasy keepers.
One thing I realized while scouring opposing lists to pick my keepers was how ridiculously deep the middling running backs are. You still have a couple absolute studs, and there are a couple duds, but there are gobs and gobs of Leon Washingtons and Correll Buckhalters out there.
You could even argue that the list starts inside the top 10. Virtually anyone who is sharing time is susceptible to vultured TDs or capable of vulturing TDs from another runner in this new era of the NFL.
In my 10-keeper dynasty league, I held Washington only because my two other backs have Injury-Prone tattooed across their shoulders like a name on a jersey.
Washington’s not great — I don’t expect him to finish as my No. 3 RB — and I probably would have been able to get him in the draft, but the security blanket felt necessary. He’ll get a handful of catches and carries if I need to play him.
So who are some of the players in this mountain of middling RBs I’m talking about? Let’s take a look:
For now, I’m going to skip past the lower-upper tier guys (I think I just disoriented myself) like Larry Johnson, Reggie Bush and Jonathan Stewart, (that’s better). Let’s focus on some of the less saucy — or more saucy if you’re one of those sleeper picker-uppers — picks.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers
Actually, this listing could include Mewelde Moore, who did excellent in spots for the Steelers last year. But Mendenhall, a promising goal-line/Willie-Parker-change-of-pace back who got hurt in his rookie year, should be on everyone’s list of intriguing RB picks.
Fred Taylor, RB, Patriots
I realize that New England is stacked with backs in the realm of middling (Maroney, Green-Ellis, Morris, Faulk, in that order), but maybe, just maybe, Taylor is the only really good back out of the bunch. You won’t have to pay much for — or waste a high pick on — him to find out either.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars (R)
It’s unfortunate for Maurice Jones-Drew owners — or is it? — but I see Jennings stealing carries. Jones-Drew was most effective for the Jaguars when Fred Taylor was equally effective. The Jaguars went searching for Taylor’s replacement, and found him in Jennings, one of the more underrated players in this year’s NFL Draft.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals
Make no mistake, rookie Chris Wells is going to swipe Hightower’s spot on the depth chart, but the second-year back isn’t going to disappear either. RBBC, everybody’s doing it. It got Arizona to the Super Bowl last year, and that was with an aging Edgerrin James.
Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks
Just like anybody on this list, you don’t want to be stuck with Julius Jones as your No. 1, but his situation — along with cohort T.J. Duckett’s (Maurice Morris is gone to Detroit) — could stand to improve. Jones had almost 700 yards rushing last year, including 127-yard and 140-yard games before Matt Hasselbeck went AWOL. If Hasselbeck is back and T.J. Houshmandzadeh finally gives the former Super Bowl QB his first legitimate No. 1 threat since ever, the ripple affect would benefit every Seattle player. Some of you are going to shy away from Jones after his horrible finish — he missed two of the Seahawks last four games and only had six carries in the two he played — but I’d run him out there as my No. 2 if he was running out there in a RBBC of my own, with a stud No. 1 and two top-flight WRs.
This is by no means a comprehensive or final list of middle-of-the-road running backs, just an appetite tease for the upcoming deluge of fantasy football information we’ll be unloading in the coming months here at Chinstrap Ninjas. Think rankings, sleepers, busts, analysis, everything you could possible expect from jzak, myself and our rag-tag band of fantasy Ninjas.
Part two of this series, the one about the wide receivers, will be ready in the next day or two, so check back soon.
Time for you to tell us what you think. Is it a good call on Jennings? Have I lost it with the Jones prediction? Let us know in the comments or go start a conversation in our forums.