Fantasy Football: The Backs of the Running Variety

As promised in your Fantasy Football Player’s Guide to Guaranteed Victory, here is your running back breakdown for next season.

Positional Depth: D. Gone are the days of your workhorse back who piles up 30 carries a game. Sure, the ghost of Jerome Bettis still haunts a few teams (in that good way). Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson. Maybe one or two other guys along with these four are the undisputed lead backs that are going to get a vast majority of backfield touches. Obviously, you’d like them to fill the RB spots on your roster, but do the math. Perhaps six guys who aren’t in an obvious time share, probably 10-12 teams in your league. Not everybody gets one. It’s going to be more important than ever this season to choose intelligently when it comes to your running backs. This means, don’t end up (or at least don’t reach for) certain guys, overpay for certain others, and hope to get lucky. Good thing you have the FFPGGV.

Guys to Stay Away From: Reggie Bush comes to mind (PPR leagues not withstanding). If Tannehill wins the QB job, defenses are going to stack the line and make him beat them with his arm. Not good news for an upright runner like Reggie. Peyton Hills will be fine as a change of pace back to Jamal Charles in KC, and might vulture a td or two. But that’s it. And then there’s my boy… Steven Jackson. Sure, he has only missed two games (both last year) in the last few seasons, but every single week one, he seems to tweak a quad or a groin and be at half speed for half the season, before barely crossing the 1000 yard threshold at the end. He’s a great back when healthy, but his seeming aversion to stretching make him a huge gamble for how high you would have to take him as an unquestioned bellcow guy.

Breakout Year: Well, I don’t know that you can call it a breakout THIS year, as his last season was pretty great, but I’m of the mindset that Marshawn Lynch’s 2011 was not a fluke. He can play, Seattle’s line is better than it gets credit for, and Matt Flynn, even though I told you stay away from him last article, will provide upgraded non-fantasy quarterback play from Tavaris Jackson. All things that bode well for Lynch’s 2012 fantasy numbers. You may also want to keep an eye on Ronnie Hillman who could turn into a frequent target for Peyton Manning in Denver, and Toby Gerhart. No, I don’t think AP is going to get hurt again, but I do think Gerhart will see more time in an effort to keep AP healthy, and I do think they are going to play a lot more two back sets to take advantage of Gerhart’s criminally undervalued receiving ability out of the backfield.

Tip to Remember: Every position contains with it a strategy to avoid getting completely shafted during bye weeks. Mine, though many disagree with it, is to try to draft as many players with the same bye week as possible. Sure, I punt that week, but the other bye schedule weeks I’m as close to full strength as possible. Either way, with QBs, you’re hoping you hit a hot fluke (Alex Smith against New Orleans in the playoffs, anyone? And yes, I know, not fantasy-relevant, but statistically it’s a valid analogy). With receivers, you can pluck guys off the wire that get 5 for 50 most weeks, and if you luck into a touchdown, you don’t lose too much. With a RB, you NEED a touchdown. You find a starter on the wire, so you’ll need to target a goalline vulture. Think Mike Tolbert from last year in San Diego (he won’t have the same opportunities in Carolina), or Fridge Perry from circa ’85 Chicago. This year, it could be BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He has never fumbled in a professional game so like they did in New England, Cincy will have no problem giving him the ball down low. Did you get that? He. Has. Never. Fumbled. That’s ridiculous…

Don’t Forget About: Charles. JC suffered a brutal injury last year, but he’s kind of like a poor man’s Chris Johnson, except better than the rich guy. Make sense? Didn’t think so… but if he stays healthy, he will win a LOT of people their league. It’s a significant if, but he may be available in the third or fourth round. Also, Rashad Mendenhall… because Isaac Redman is anything but the answer. And Fred Jackson. Folks forget, before his season-ending foot surgery, he was at or close to the top of fantasy RB scoring, depending on your format. And it wasn’t fluky, as he does everything well, including pick up the blitz.

Stay tuned for more fantasy genius on wide receivers. Here’s a spoiler alert for you. Not a single Ram will be recommended for draft, unless you’re doing some kind of weird dynasty format with 35 rounds in your draft and Danny Amendola is available in the 33rd.

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