Put Your Season in the Right Hands

by Eddie Mayrose

They are the foundation of most Fantasy Football rosters.  The stud running backs of the NFL, posting 100 yard games and lugging the pigskin over the goal line enough to make their owners kings of their Fantasy leagues.  The problem is, with so much invested, your season is doomed if your prime ball carrier disappoints.

Such was the case last year with Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville’s star back who had registered 27 TD’s over the previous two campaigns. In 2011, however, despite the fact that his rushing total was, essentially, flat, his TD total plummeted to a measly 5.  Given the fact that he was likely selected in the top five of most drafts, it’s hard to believe that Jones-Drew was a member of too many Fantasy champs.

In addition to securing a marquee back, sleepers become equally important as they allow a Fantasy owner the luxury of filling other holes with better players. Owners that passed on Ray Rice last year in favor of a WR like Calvin Johnson or Roddy White were rewarded well by Ahmad Bradshaw, whose numbers compared very well to Rice.

Let’s take a look at the studs you need to have, the sleepers that will help and the busts you need to avoid.

Stars- The emergence of Sam Bradford as the Rams’ signal caller has us clicking our heels over Steven Jackson.  Always a top pick, he’s posted great numbers in the past as the only weapon in St. Louis.  Now, however, with talented receivers to compliment the young QB, Jackson is set for a career year.  Much the same can be said for Michael Turner in Atlanta, as rookie sensation Julio Jones becomes the final piece to one of the league’s most potent attacks.

Stiffs- Don’t buy into the hype surrounding the chances that Miami’s Daniel Thomas will emerge as a reliable sleeper. The Dolphins are going to be really bad, Reggie Bush is the starter and Thomas’ pre-season struggles will certainly continue into the regular season. Indy’s Joseph Addai hasn’t played a full season in five years. Donald Brown is having a great camp and Peyton Manning’s health is still in doubt. If Manning’s performance suffers, Addai’s will go into the tank.

Sleepers- Given his track record with unknown ball carriers in Denver, gotta love Mike Shanahan’s ability to elevate a running back.  That’s why we’re so high on Roy Helu.  The rookie from Nebraska has had quite a camp, even topping ther century mark in the ‘Skins second pre-season game. Grab him late and just wait for him to be given the job.  When Ronnie Brown signed with the Eagles, there wasn’t much hoopla.  However, we think that, in Andy Reid’s offense, he’ll have a very productive season in the red zone.

Slippers- As crazy as it seems, we’ve got to put Houston’s Arian Foster and the Titans’ Chris Johnson on this list.  While both are likely to turn in stellar seasons, their individual situations are cause for immense concern. In Foster’s case, a hamstring issue could linger throughout the entire season. With Johnson, it could be a double whammy.  Despite his holdout, he’ll still cost you a top pick. Then, when he returns, he’ll be a significant injury risk; having missed all of training camp.  These guys could both turn out to be steals at the bottom of the first round, but are too uncertain at the top of the draft.

Professor Wagstaff’s Top 20 Running Backs

1  Adrian Peterson
2  Michael Turner
3  Steven Jackson
4  Jamaal Charles
5  Arian Foster
6  Rashard Mendenhall
7  Ray Rice
8  Knowshon Moreno
9  Chris Johnson
10 Maurice Jones-Drew
11 LeSean McCoy
12 LeGarrette Blount
13 Matt Forte
14 Ahmad Bradshaw
15 Ryan Grant
16 Frank Gore
17 DeAngelo Williams
18 Peyton Hillis
19 Ryan Mathews
20 Darren McFadden

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