“Attention Fantasy Football Shoppers…”

By Eddie Mayrose

To most Fantasy Football Owners, the key to a successful season is a stable of capable ball-carriers.  Given the amount of touches they receive, it’s a logical concept to spend early round picks on running backs.  In most Fantasy Football Drafts, they dominate the first round; often taking up the first five slots.  However, there is significant, year-to-year turnover on the list of elite backs, something owners don’t always take into account and the reason bargain hunting could lead to a championship.

Last season, many Fantasy Football Players were all smiles after landing Matt Forte and Marion Barber in the first two rounds.  That was likely the only happiness enjoyed by those owners as both of the supposed studs failed to fire.  Yet, discount rushers like Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles delivered top shelf numbers at a much lower price.

Heading into the season, there are two running backs that, because of the circumstances of their teams, are newcomers to the “Elite List”.  There are two others, in similar situations, who are not as highly regarded but could become productive members of your championship squad at a fraction of the cost.   Just remember to shoot the old Professor a thank you note as you celebrate your title.

Versatility

The darling of the 2010 Fantasy Football Season is Ray Rice, based on his running and receiving ability as well as the fact that he’s now the lead guy in Baltimore.  He’s a Top 5 pick in most Fantasy Mock Drafts and is often the top selection in PPR (Points per Reception) leagues.  However, the presence of Willis McGahee as the Ravens’ goal line back is a concern as it will limit Rice’s scoring opportunities.

Everything that has owners drooling over Rice is what was said about the aforementioned Forte last year.  While the Bears’ youngster crushed the dreams of many, a closer look at his numbers reveals minimal drop-offs in receptions and yards-per-carry.  The death knell came from his plummeting TD total, which fell from 12 to 4.  However, with new Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz bringing his “Greatest Show On Turf” to Chicago, Forte is positioned for a nice bounce-back campaign; returning solid value for the fourth rounder he’ll cost you.

Quarterback Changes

“I love Rashard Mendenhall.  With Roethlisberger suspended for at least the first four games of the season, Mendenhall will get a lot of carries.”  How many times have you heard that this summer?  While it’s true that the Steelers will be without Big Ben to begin the season, his backup, Byron Leftwich, is no Kellen Clemens.  This is a QB that has led his team to the playoffs and is perfectly capable to step in and run the Pittsburgh offense as it is.  Mendenhall will have a solid year but will not see the bump in statistics expected of him by those owners taking him in the first round.

In Arizona, however, Beanie Wells will absolutely benefit from a change as QB as well as his own move up the Cardinals’ depth chart.  With Kurt Warner retired, Matt Leinart gets a second chance to establish himself as an NFL starter.  You can bet he’ll rely heavily on Wells, who took a large part of last season to get his feet under him.  His strong final month gave Fantasy owners every indication that he’s a star in search of opportunity, something he’s guaranteed in 2010 for the small price of as fourth or fifth round pick.

Professor Wagstaff’s Top 25 Running Backs

1       Chris Johnson
2       Adrian Peterson
3       Maurice Jones-Drew
4       Michael Turner
5       Stephen Jackson
6       Ray Rice
7       LeSean McCoy
8       Frank Gore
9       Beanie Wells
10    DeAngelo Williams
11    Ryan Grant
12    Shonn Greene
13    Knowshon Moreno
14    Ryan Matthews
15    Jamaal Charles
16    Rashard Mendenhall
17    Cedric Benson
18    Jonathan Stewart
19    Matt Forte
20    Pierre Thomas
21    Steve Slaton
22    Cadillac Williams
23    C.J. Spiller
24    Ahmad Bradshaw
25    Ronnie Brown

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