Archive for June, 2005

Tantrum Tandems

Wednesday, 29 June, 2005

Grouping together is a way to always cover someone’s back. Whether you’re on the field in war, or on a field trip with classmates, a unified group keeps a sense of security and reassurance for each other. In football, grouping is related to competition. Ahead or behind you on the depth charts are teammates aiming to leave you in the dust, or clip you from the back. If an athlete doesn’t stay on their feet, suddenly they’re down and out.

Over the last five years or so, a lot of teams have adjusted from the one-dimensional style of running backs. Usually there was one main focal point at running back that would wear down defenses for four quarters. The occasional third down running back would be brought in, but if you were a starter you could expect at least an 80-20 ratio of carries. Nowadays, almost every team has swung in the opposite direction with the obvious occurrence of late season injuries forcing a change.

It started to happen by accident, because once a starter would go down another would fill in and do just as well. A backup running back is like a sixth man spark off the bench in relation to basketball. They provide that extra boost that opposing teams don’t focus on in weekly game planning.

With more and more NFL franchises preserving their star running backs, it begs the questioning of which running backs to trust. For the most part, most teams are going to have a shared percentage of around the 70-30 range. There are still some teams like the Buffalo Bills, that will just let Willis McGahee maul over defenders for four quarters, but that will hurt them in a few years.

The durability of running backs is decreasing every year because of football’s rising brutal style. So what Notjustagame has done is break down all 32 NFL franchises, and decided which teams possess the best duo. It’s an overlooked area in fantasy football, because the majority of running backs don’t last the entirety of sixteen games. Whether it’s one game or a whole season, the backup can fill in just as well as the starter. Just take a look at the four teams that made it to their respective conference championships. New England (Dillon, Faulk), Pittsburgh (Bettis, Staley), Atlanta (Dunn, Duckett), and Philadelphia (Buckhalter, Westbrook). All teams had to play without one back (Buckhalter the entire season) for an extent, and if not for great depth would have had drastic results.

1. Steven Jackson/Marshall Faulk. Likely Percentage: 75/25
By no means should Marshall Faulk be completely ridden off as a fantasy football threat. He still can shift gears with the best of them, and a reduced role could spring an x-factor role. Steven Jackson is going to get the majority of the carries obviously, but he did have a hard time with injuries last year. He is young though, and can battle through that. Another reason that the Rams backfield is ranked the highest is because they don’t always use the conventional fullback-running back backfield. Don’t be surprised to see both in the backfield to confuse defenses.

2. Warrick Dunn/TJ Duckett. Likely Percentage 60/40
Here is probably the most confusing and frustrating split load in the NFL. Both backs possess the skills of being great, but because of the Falcons game plan they stay grounded. Hovering around fantasy greatness is just a known fact for both of these guys. At times Dunn floats above water when the Falcons give him above fifteen carries, but that only happened last year when Duckett was injured. In fact, Dunn had six touchdowns after only five weeks last season, but then faded fast and finished with nine. Duckett on the other hand started to find the end zone, and nearly equaled Dunn’s total. Both need each other and like it or not, both know the plan is correct with light duty. Until one is given grunt work, both of these backs can only be counted as number three running backs. It’s like a crapshoot starting one of these guys, because the uncertainty of touches on a given week is like predicting weather in Florida.

3. DeShaun Foster/Stephen Davis. Likely Percentage: Depends on Davis’s health
Golly, the Panthers thought they had great insurance at running back, and then the injury fairy came and visited Foster and Davis. The shocking situation obviously marked the downfall of the Panthers season. They had to switch to a passing team and fell too far back in the standings before they were able to recover. There is no possible way that both of these backs can be counted as all out work horses. Foster has been through a number of injuries in college, and his stock has never fully rose because of poor timing injuries. Davis has been doing it for a long time. If he wants to continue an NFL career, he’ll have to limit his role to a third down and goal line back. Foster is a big sleeper this year, as he is recovered from his shoulder injury and should get back on track. The gradual carries should turn over to more and more as the season goes on.

4. Brian Westbrook/Correll Buckhalter. Likely Percentage: 60/40
Both of these backs are in contract years, and will be hungry to showcase exclusive tryouts. With the Eagles getting a lot of attention and primetime looks, the spotlight will definitely be on these two. Even though Westbrook was without Buckhalter last season, he still only had three games with over fifteen carries. His damage comes more as a receiver, and that may help Buckhalter steal some carries. Expect Buckhalther to get at least seven to eight carries a game, and nearly equalize Westbrook’s carries.

5. Tatum Bell/Maurice Clarett. Likely Percentage: Only if Clarett steps up.
The continuance of excellence in the Broncos backfield is a recipe that hasn’t been duplicated. No matter who is back there, success is an automatic outcome. It just seems like every year a new fresh group is back there. Reuben Droughns, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Clinton Portis, and etc. have all vacated without disruptions from Broncos fans. Tatum Bell is the new front-runner, but his status hasn’t been declared yet. Coach Mike Shanahan has now patience with backs, and keeps a loaded arsenal just in case. To go along with Tatum Bell is Quentin Griffin, and the power backs happen to be Maurice Clarett and Ron Dayne. There will be a lot of up and down changes, but Bell and Clarett should be the main duo.

6. Curtis Martin/Derrick Blaylock. Likely Percentage: 80/20
Controlling the time clock can only be done with a great running game. The Jets have been one of the best in that department, and often will have a total of thirty-five carries collectively. Martin was used an awful lot last season, and the Jets didn’t start getting Lamont Jordan involved until midseason. Blaylock should be involved right around the ballpark Jordan has been, unless Martin gets hurt.

7. Edgerrin James/Dominic Rhodes. Likely Percentage: 75/25
Dominic Rhodes will get his chance to prove he can be the Colts starter a year from now. More touches will come his way, and James won’t care either way. He knows his days in a Colts uniform are dwindling down, and being in the Colts offense is just a scripted easy ride.

8. Duce Staley/Jerome Bettis. Likely Percentage: 50/50
Owners were wary week after week to take a chance at submitting Staley or Bettis as a starter. Who could blame anyone, both seemed to be too old to do what they did? Still, Bettis was the scoring machine, while Staley’s main value was strictly yardage. The game plan for both of these backs will be exactly the same. If one goes down, lookout for Vernon Hayes who’s speed is something the Steelers may need to get away from the similar styles of Bettis and Staley.

9. Lee Suggs/Reuben Droughns/William Green: Likely Percentage: Toss up all around
Lee Suggs finished last season with three straight one hundred yard games, so the Browns decided to bring in Reuben Droughns and keep William Green. Confidence in the young back is obviously not sold, and the Browns aren’t ready to give up on Green either. Droughns could go back to his former role as a fullback, especially if he can’t find holes without the Broncos line. If William Green has matured yet, than he should easily be able to get his spot back. He is definitely the most talented of the three, and wasn’t a first round pick for nothing.

10. Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams: Likely Percentage: Up to Williams.
This is an awkward yet most interesting situation heading into the 2005 season. Nick Saban has the Dolphins teammates erasing their statements they made about Williams last year, and seemingly ready to accept him back. The ploy and deterrent use of Williams will be the obvious avenue Saban uses. Williams still faces a four game suspension, and when he returns will be almost two years removed from football. Brown on the other hand is a hungry rookie that is the future in Miami.

11. JJ Arrington/Marcel Shipp: Likely Percentage: Up to Coach Green
Dennis Green loves open competition, and that’s what he has planned for Shipp and Arrington. Arrington was the leader in rushing last season in college football, while Shipp missed last year due to injury. Shipp has always had to battle to fit in the NFL, and that drive will have to continue to remain with him. The determination of both may be too hard to decide solely on one back. Green will likely share the carries like what was originally planned last season with Emmitt Smith and Shipp.

12. Priest Holmes/Larry Johnson. Likely Percentage: 85/15
If Holmes is 100 percent than no one besides Holmes will get touches. That’s hard to believe though as Holmes has missed time two of the past three seasons. That hint may force the Chiefs to limit him just a little bit, and give Johnson five to seven carries a game. The Chiefs offense has always been high caliber, and the best at running the football. Last year alone Holmes had fourteen touchdowns rushing, Derrick Blaylock had eight, and Larry Johnson nine.

13. Cedric Benson/Thomas Jones: Likely Percentage: 65/35
A so-called battle is what the Bears have conjured up for training camp. Everyone knows Benson will be given the job, but Jones thinks otherwise. Many people forget Jones was a first round pick, and just has never developed in the NFL. He did a solid job last year especially considering the Bears quarterbacks. If anything Jones should be able to up his value for other teams, while Benson ensures the Bears they made the right decision.

14. Carnell Williams/Michael Pittman/Charlie Garner: Likely Percentage: Up in the air
Michael Pittman could be the most talented running back that has squandered the most opportunities. He has had three quiet seasons in Tampa Bay, and now faces a young buck in Carnell Williams and a veteran running back as obstacles. Lets not forget Mike Alstott who sometimes gets more carries than a Buccaneers running back. This situation is clogged and no owner should plan on corralling in anyone, until actual evidence comes forth.

15. Ahman Green/Najeh Davenport: Likely Percentage: 70/30
Najeh Davenport’s yards per carry are elite and slowly but surely the Packers keep giving him more carries. The drop off hasn’t happened, but the mainstream success won’t ever happen with Ahman Green in the way. This is Davenport’s contract year, and the Packers will have a decision to make. They haven’t tested him enough to warrant giving him a solid contract, and will test his worth.

The Rest

16. Michael Bennett/Mewelde Moore/Ciatrick Fason. Likely Percentage: Scarce Value All Around
17. Deuce McAllister/Aaron Stecker: Likely Percentage: 85/15
18. Kevan Barlow/Frank Gore. Likely Percentage: 80/20
19. Kevin Jones/Shawn Bryson: Likely Percentage: 85/15
20. Corey Dillon/Kevin Faulk: Likely Percentage: 80/20
21. Fred Taylor/LaBrandon Toefield. Likely Percentage: 75/25
22. *Chris Brown/Jarrett Payton. Likely Percentage: 80/20
*Situation is dependant around Brown’s health, and if the Titans seriously pursue Travis Henry.
23. Lamont Jordan/Justin Fargas. Likely Percentage: 75/25
24. Jamal Lewis/Chestor Taylor. Likely Percentage: 85/15
25. Tiki Barber/Mike Cloud. Likely Percentage: 90/10
26. Julius Jones/Anthony Thomas. Likely Percentage: 85/15
27. Shaun Alexander/Maurice Morris. Likely Percentage: 90/10
28. Domanick Davis/Vernand Morency. Likely Percentage: 90/10
29. Rudi Johnson/Chris Perry. Likely Percentage: 95/5
30. Clinton Portis/Ladell Betts. Likely Percentage: 90/10
31. Ladainian Tomlinson/Jesse Chatman. Likely Percentage: 90/10
32. Willis McGahee/Shaud Williams. Likely Percentage: 90/10

Separation By Miles

Saturday, 25 June, 2005

It’s funny to see some athletes host their own camps to teach youngsters in the off-season. Bare in mind they are professional athletes, but if I was a youth and my parents sent me to a Jay Fiedler camp, I’d be disappointed. Envisioning anything besides a lecture in and out one ear would be the only possibility. That’s not to take away from athletes that volunteer their free time to the youth, but a kid wants to look up to an athlete with distinction.

There are only a few great athletes in a sport that can devout “Michael Jackson” attention in whatever venue they play at. It takes some time but the transcending and growth happens every week. Usually that hot streak digresses fast and that’s the end of what was perceived as an untouchable athlete. Defensive coordinators find a glitch to break down a quarterback’s weakness, and that’s that. The virus is exposed for every team to download. The next thing you know that quarterback is a veteran backup castoff, that’s glory days as a starter are existent only when called upon.

Hey SCOTT MITCHELL, how did the word hype ever become associated with your name?

Moving on, there is only one quarterback today that no matter what snap, poses threat to defenses. There are times when defenses can get in that lackadaisical mode, and give up two or three first downs before bearing down. If that occurs with Manning on the field, it’s usually a play or two away from a touchdown. The reason why Manning’s touchdown numbers are so high is because the Colts provide a blitzkrieg of quick bombings to get in and out. Often their drives don’t even consist of more than a couple of first downs, because they penetrate for huge scores.

He is a true field general that adjusts and reads defenses quicker than they can figure out their assignments. The befuddling of the defenses almost always causes a team to waste a timeout in a game. If they don’t burn a timeout, you’ll notice the play by play commentator circling a defender that was totally lost and blew his assignment. Manning’s effectiveness is so much more than touchdowns and wins, as confusion with his mind is the number one key.

If you shut him down for three quarters, he still can manage to erase a big lead with cheetah evaporation quickness. Who can forget what he did to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night football a few seasons ago? The points didn’t even start pinning over until under the five and a half minute mark. Manning’s presence is of the nature of Dan Marino’s already, and arguably higher. The NFL hasn’t seen a quarterback of his caliber in a long time, and more records will be on the way.

The only thing that could change that would be a mechanical breakdown. A quarterback is like a vehicle, once the mileage surpasses a certain point, tune-ups can’t even re-boost its performance. Dan Marino’s mobility was already slim when he ruptured his achilles in 1993. In fact there was speculation that he may not return, but somehow he managed to return for eight more seasons playing on zero legs. Seriously, he was like a life like piñata tagged on the field wherever the center was. Getting hit constantly doesn’t void pain, but Marino’s release soon became even quicker and sharper. There was no other quarterback better than drawing late hits, because defenders were accustomed to quarterbacks taking that extra time to release the ball.

Manning and Marino are eerie in that aspect of limited mobility and how to breakdown defenses instead of being broke down by defenses. Often times it’s because Manning doesn’t have too, but it’s not a secret that running isn’t his best skill. Injuries down the road could force Manning to refine his game overall, and with the way he can read defenses that shouldn’t be a problem.

No one wants to hear the word injury, and the label isn’t a part of Manning’s resume yet. Based on his continual progression, Manning is about to dive in untouched waters. A lot of fantasy football owners don’t like the fact of drafting a quarterback early. The reason why is because of the inconsistency and constant mean of quarterbacks that are inseparable. Manning, Culpepper, and McNabb are the only three that deserve serious attention in round one, but Manning should be classified as “MVP”.

Why, because he is going to throw at least three touchdowns every week to go along with over three to four hundred yards passing. Those numbers last year were average weeks for Manning. You do the math, the additional bonus points that he gives you in yardage leagues are running up the score points.

Having a statistical advantage on your side is what you always want going into a fantasy football week. Don’t you hate when you break down your matchups and see an opposing team with Manning at quarterback? Every fantasy football owner goes up and down the fantasy football starters and figures where they have the advantage. You’ll look at your defense, wide receivers, running backs, and then the undoubtedly lopsided disadvantage presents itself and you’re screwed.

Manning puts his usual numbers up, and your quarterback has an average day and all of the sudden you’re twenty points in the hole. To make things worse, one of your running backs like Thomas Jones has his best game of the year and you still can’t make up for it.

If you’re a fantasy owner with a first round pick after the fifth, don’t be stupid and not listen to Manning call you. He is the easiest first round pick in years. Just look at the picks that are going before and after you. LT, Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander, etc.-is there any big degree of separation between those running backs? The answer is no as they’ll all have great years, but the top dog may end up being a Deuce McAllister, who has teased around greatness.

With Manning though your answer is secure and a sure lock. He’ll be the number one quarterback by miles, and force feed most fantasy football owners into at least the playoffs. It takes so much relief off of an owner to not have to worry about a serious backup quarterback, but you still want to take measures just in case the unthinkable happens.

My pick for backing up Manning, would be the other Manning in Eli. Obviously Peyton has lended down some advice to the youngster, and the Giants have great players built around Eli. Not to mention, Eli is going to be an after thought for serious consideration in fantasy football drafts until the eighth or ninth rounds.

Classic Article: Don't Rush On Kicker

Tuesday, 21 June, 2005

Every year in a fantasy football draft some inexperienced player decides to take a kicker too early in the eleventh or twelfth round. I only can laugh because with that pick I’m adding quality depth at wide receiver or running back. It has always been a rule of mine to pick a kicker with my last pick. The reason why is because kickers are more ove than Ron Dayne was coming out of college. They can be heroes one week, and fantasy goats the next. The bottom line is at the end of the season, most kickers stats are going to be grouped together.

The Raiders have managed to keep Sebastian Janikowski on their team. In all honesty though, Janikowski hasn’t earned one bit of the worthiness of being a first round pick. More than likely he won’t finish as a Raider, and that pick will go down as one of the worst picks in NFL history. A kicker is a safety insurance outlet when you can’t score a touchdown. No NFL team wants their kicker on the field unless they are kicking an extra point. If teams would spend more time scouting kickers they’ll be able to find gems in arena football leagues and colleges.

It just boggles my mind when a fantasy owner over emphasizes the importance of a kicker. It’s a position that is the most unpredictable of any fantasy roster spot. Your quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers are guaranteed to be on the field. A kicker could go an entire game without kicking a field goal, and no fantasy owner is happy with fantasy extra points.

Even if you end up with a proven veteran kicker, there is no telling that he won’t fall into a cold streak. Kickers are streaky just like a baseball pitcher. They can kick twenty field goals in a row, and then miss two or three important kicks. Right now Martin Gramatica is the case of study. He missed three field goals Sunday, and has struggled the majority of the year. We all know he is a solid kicker that is just having a down year.

Next summer, look around the NFL training camps to figure out which teams are having training camp battles. More and more teams are doing it, and usually you can find a gem on picking the winner of the battle. Especially some of the youngsters that come in with a low salary base and a strong mind in beating out a veteran.

What's The Rush?

Tuesday, 14 June, 2005

Early excitement and curiosity are continual with football fans. Whether it be a signing, an early off-season injury, or just a topic in general. A football fan jumps into endeavors quicker than someone can blink. Of course football is America’s main sport, but why be so quick to jump into fantasy football leagues? It’s only June, and people are already doing serious drafts. If you’re looking to destroy that team than that is the route to go. Most experienced people will wait and hold off before they have premature drafts.

The number one thing a true fantasy football fan should be doing is planning. You need to be set on the potential ins and outs of all the NFL teams. Look at trends, schedules, depth charts, etc. all to prepare your mind for a grueling draft. It may sound funny but there are a lot of owners who get stuck and lost suddenly when the initial rounds go by. They get anxious and jumpy and may go after a kicker to early or reach for a rookie. Little mistakes like that can be costly.

Anybody is going to analyze that they had a good first four to five rounds drafting. The key is in the depth area, because those players will be needed. Poor play, injuries, or maybe a player that surpasses expectations are all reasons for a swap or insertion to begin. Heck, there will end up being a solid five to ten players that become regular starters that weren’t even drafted. The waiver wire is a very underrated key for fantasy football success.

It’s just comical the way owners are so hungry to begin drafting. Some owners will do as many leagues possible, but that takes the fun out of the game. Stick with maybe four to five competitive leagues, that way the enjoyment is still there. You don’t want to have every different star player on your wide variety of teams. It’s like going to a gas station and buying 25 scratch offs. One of those tickets is going to be a winner, but if you had bought two or three and won, it would have been more enjoyable.

Than of course if you’re in too many leagues, as soon as you’re unsuccessful your competitive edge is gone. It happens in every league, and takes a way from the game for other fantasy owners. No one that’s involved in a 12 team league wants it to turn out to be nine teams that are still active. Everyone goes through their losing seasons, and I don’t care if I’m 0-14, I’m going to play like a losing NFL team that has no pressure.

Any team that loses a lot always has key missing ingredients. They’re missing serious production from an area, and week by week they’ll try to restrategize. Often times it’s either too late or doesn’t work out, but the strategizing helps the owner in the future. They’ll learn from that area of concern and pursue it better in the next year’s draft. Maybe they were getting too much production from one area and not enough from others. That’s when you can go back and see if you waited to long to draft in a position, or just had a dud of a draft.

It’s just not the right avenue to go with early drafts. There are too many injuries and roster changes to go in draft mode. Not until mid to late August should any serious drafts begin. The only thing owners should be doing now is mock drafts.

Edition One: Wide Receiver Rankings

Saturday, 11 June, 2005

In the majority of fantasy football leagues you have to start three wide receivers or two wide receivers and a tight end. A few years ago the obvious choice was to go with three wide receivers, but now that is a toss up. There are a handful of tight ends out there with the ability to put up wide receiver numbers every week. Plus they are better red zone targets, and third down threats.

We will have the tight end rankings later this week, but for now here is the first edition breakdown of wide receivers.

1. Chad Johnson
The Bengal has been locked in an anemic offense since entering the league, yet has still been a top ten receiver. The contradiction should be slashed out this year as the Bengal’s offense has finally shaped up. Besides Roy Williams, there wasn’t another receiver that made more out of the world catches. Since the Bengal’s aren’t television friendly no one has really seen how unreal Johnson is. After this season, Johnson will finally get the recognition he deserves.

2. Marvin Harrison
Harrison has been doing it the longest of any receiver, and won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Manning and Harrison are going to eventually rewrite NFL history books, and the magic is happening before our eyes every game. He never has too worry about getting decked, and that’s the main reason he has stayed healthy. All of his catches are off Manning’s play action fakes. Manning isn’t going to change, and either is the extra split second for Harrison to stream down sidelines.

3. Randy Moss
The divorce between Moss and the Vikings didn’t end like expected. That’s okay as far as Moss is concerned, and he is ready for new life. The black and silver suits Moss’s characteristics and not much should change in Moss’s game. He deceives people with his comments on how he plays when he wants, but he truly wants to succeed. Kerry Collins has a very accurate deep throw, and Moss will have many opportunities down the field. This experiment could be marvelous now that he has a better group of receivers to accommodate him.

4. Torry Holt
Has never been a question where to rank Holt, and that’s in the top five. He is always working hard on every play, and as soon as a defender plays him wrong it turns into a big play touchdown. Holt is one of the best deep threat receivers, and if there are sixty offensive plays in a game, you can count on Holt making defenses wish that there were only 58.

5. Terrell Owens
Be very wary in selecting Owens highly, as he has two factors going against him. One is that he is in a holdout that looks to be ugly, and two he hasn’t said or shown that he has recovered from his ankle injury. Sure he did play in the Super Bowl but the majority of his ability was done by pain shots and the adrenaline of the Super Bowl. If he has recovered and gets a new deal than Owens is the Cris Carter of catching touchdowns.

6. Andre Johnson
He has one of the best averages yards per catch, and once he gets in the ninety catch range watch out. His size and determination are impossible for defenders to stick. Johnson and Carr have developed a nice feel for each other, and the only thing that Johnson needs is a solid receiver opposite him.

7. Joe Horn
Age hasn’t slowed Horn down, and seems to always get involved. The strange thing about his situation is that the Saints offense has never fully taken off. Imagine how dangerous he could be if the Saints got their act together?

8. Roy Williams
All sorts of obstacles were thrown at Williams last year, and it still didn’t affect his play. There were times when Joey Harrington couldn’t throw for more than 120 yards, and Williams made sure he got a nice percentage of that. Without Charles Rogers and Az Hakim, Williams faced vaunted defensive attacks and still outplayed two or three defenders. He is a special player that will never let down.

9. Reggie Wayne
Wayne finally broke out after being a sleeper in magazine’s for years. His talent is definitely not top notch, as he is more of a product of the system. Wayne is like Toni Kukoc was when he played alongside Michael Jordan. Manning can do so much that he elevates everyone else’s game, and Wayne has no problem with that. Hopefully he doesn’t demand a new contract if he has another great year.

10. Larry Fitzgerald
Start nick naming this guy “Fitz” because he gives defenders serious fits. Josh McCown started to realize how great Fitzgerald is late in the season, and often just threw up jump balls to Fitzgerald. Someone needs to measure Fitzgerald’s vertical leap because there hasn’t been a time where a defender can out jump him. Kurt Warner should be able to open the passing game more, and that easily means more production for Fitzgerald.

11. Jerry Porter
It didn’t make sense that the Raiders re-upped with Porter, and then went after Moss. For less than a week Porter was thinking to himself that he is the guy and the number one target by defenses. Even though he is under Moss’ s wing now, there is no doubt that’ll only make his game better. He has already learned from Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and now Moss. A couple of years from now, this guy could be the best receiver in the league.

12. Ashley Lelie
Here is another guy poised to break out with a few more looks his way. Last season he had 54 catches for almost 1100 yards. Disgusting numbers, as just like Holt he breaks team’s backs with big play catches. His speed was his best asset coming into the NFL, and now he has added confidence. He is quickly inching his way into the top ten. Oh, and jot this down, 2006 is his contract year.

13. Darrell Jackson
Jackson has definitely been the best of his Florida Gator counterparts in Jacquez Green and Travis Taylor. Now that he is riding solo without Koren Robinson, there will be more attention focused on Jackson. Still, Hasselbeck and the Seahawks have always been able to get things clicking offensively.

14. Nate Burelson
Moss is gone, and it’s also a contract year for Burelson. People are worried about how the Vikings will play without Moss, but the Vikings already went through that last season. Burelson did a fine job, and he is a nice fit opposite Marcus Robinson.

15. Michael Clayton
Clayton was another class of 2004 receiver that stepped to the forefront in his first year. His year looked like a five year veteran instead of a rookie. A bright future is definitely ahead for Clayton, and the Buccaneers offense may shock some people this season.

16. Drew Bennett
Bennett went through a three week stretch of wearing a Superman jersey last season, and now critics are out to see if there will be a part two. He played so well that the Titans felt they could let Derrick Mason go. Bennett’s speed and height are unlike any receiver, and if McNair can get the ball downfield than his success will continue.

17. Chris Chambers
Chambers has quietly matured into a steady consistent receiver. Miami’s offense could only be defined as pathetic last season, and Chambers still put up decent numbers. His route running has really improved and he seems to understand defenses better. He is a Pro Bowl type receiver, and maybe the Dolphins will realize that this year.

18. Steve Smith
Nooo, is what fantasy owners were yelling went Smith went down during week one. The third or fourth round pick spent on Smith was thrown out the window, but could play into the hands of 2005 owners. With the departure of Mushin Muhammed, someone needs to be the answer to 2005 monster numbers. Jake Delhomme had a nice chemistry with Smith in 2003 that carried over throughout the playoffs. Smith will get his fair share of looks, and be a dangerous fantasy threat.

19. Javon Walker
Okay, you may not even be the best receiver on your team and you’re willing to demand a new contract? Something is wrong with this picture, and even though Walker is coming off a Pro Bowl year, you’d think he’d be worried about securing a solid relationship with Brett Favre. Instead he is opening the door for Donald Driver (Favre’s main threat for years), and Robert Ferguson who was ahead of Walker on depth charts before going through an injury prone season. Walker is a skilled receiver but needs to get to camp, because he stock is dropping by the day.

20. Hines Ward
Ward is perhaps the best all around receiver in the league. One of few receivers that will make the tough catches over the middle and block down field. He’d be listed a lot higher if we knew that the Steelers would throw the football enough.

21. Santana Moss
The Jets and Moss’s big play ability just didn’t fit together. He was hardly utilized and that lead to Moss becoming a disgruntled athlete. So he got his trade, and now steps into a situation where they love to air the football out. Moss baits defenders in by being deceptive as looking like a small average receiver, and then burns them with the big play. Forget about his struggles last season, and look for a bounce back year.

22. Derrick Mason
Mason is the perfect number two receiver, as his numbers won’t jump out at you but he just gets it done. He is a hard worker, and a possession receiver. The new situation shouldn’t change much, as both the Titans and Ravens run similar offenses.

23. Eric Moulds
The forgotten one is still around, and now has serious competition from Lee Evans. Moulds ability to separate from defenders is becoming more noticeable, and that means he’ll have to adjust his game to a mental phase. If he can add that than he can hang around the league for a good four to five more years.

24. Donald Driver
If someone leaves a key in the ignition and walks away, a thief is going to be chiefly laughing while he jumps in and rides away. That’s exactly what Driver is thinking now that Walker has opened the door wide open for him. Driver had a great year last season, and complemented Walker well. With the way the Packers spread the ball it won’t be a surprise if all three receivers in Driver, Walker, and Ferguson have solid years.

25. Lavernues Coles
Coles is back to the team that gave him a chance, and yardage numbers are always a given. Can he get in the end zone?
The rest

26. Anquan Boldin
27. Deion Branch
28. Mushin Muhammed
29. Rod Smith
30. Brandon Stokely
31. Jimmy Smith
32. Isaac Bruce
33. Joey Galloway
34. Keyshawn Johnson
35. Koren Robinson
36. Keary Colbert
37. Rod Gardner
38. Eric Parker
39. Marcus Robinson
40. Plaxico Burress
41. Mike Williams
42. Donte Stallworth
43. Brandon Lloyd
44. Keenan McCardell
45. Lee Evans
46. Braylon Edwards
47. Justin McCareins
48. Eddie Kennison
49. Charles Rogers
50. Amani Toomer
51. Antonio Bryant
52. Roddy White
53. Robert Ferguson
54. Terry Glenn
55. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
56. David Givens
57. Shaun McDonald
58. Bryant Johnson
59. Joe Jurevicious
60. Bobby Wade

Edition One: Running Back Rankings

Saturday, 11 June, 2005

They endure the rigorous beating by going through the grind it out motions of tackle football. A running back knows they’re going to belted eventually, but they feel they can outrun, twist, angle, and maneuver their way to the end zone on every play. That’s exactly the type of mentality a running back needs, and is what fantasy owner’s love. Sure, those forty, fifty, and sixty yard runs don’t happen like home runs do in baseball, but when they do the adrenaline of that run can be felt throughout a team for the rest of a game. It’s game changing, and that’s what running backs do. They control the pace and strategy of a game. If they are ineffective a coach has to change the team over to a one-dimensional passing attack, and vice versa the game can riot into a free for all pick your poison laugh fest for a team.

With that in mind, lets break down our June rankings.

1. Ladainian Tomlinson
Blistering speed that exemplifies the bolts of lightning on Tomlinson’s helmet and shoulder pads. He possesses unique skills that are similar to Barry Sanders, and who knows he may reach the level of Sanders. Since he entered the league he has been unstoppable, and has catapulted the Chargers into contenders. He does it out of the backfield as well, and that’s always a plus. His overall numbers did drop slightly last year, and part of that had to do with him playing through injuries. This year will be different and expect Tomlinson to have a potential career year.

2. Priest Holmes
The limitations of Holmes shortened season still couldn’t leave fantasy owners totally down. He did a great job in nine games he played, but left owners to dry in the crunch time of their seasons. Injuries are a part of the game, and there is nothing that can be done to stop that. Holmes long strides and glides are what separate him, and all of the people worried about Larry Johnson better wake up. Johnson doesn’t even show up on an imperative scale of equality when compared to Holmes.

3. Jamal Lewis
To describe Lewis you could say he looks like a bulldozer with extreme speed. His stint in prison supposedly enlightened his mind, and his outlook is even stronger about life. That’s a plus, and he spent the majority of time in prison bulking up. Shredding tacklers has never been a problem, and Lewis looks to be headed for a stellar season.

4. Shaun Alexander
Regardless of where Alexander is on opening day, whomever the team is will be pleased. His style and size is similar to a blend of Earl Campbell and Terry Allen. In the past three seasons Alexander’s yards per carry have risen by .4, and his overall rushing numbers have gone up by 200 yards or more.

5. Clinton Portis
Disregard his inaugural season with Washington. The team never functioned offensively, therefore couldn’t regroup when they fell on their feet. Everything stat wise for Portis was down, but that was last year. This is a different chapter, and Portis is too good to only average 3.8 ypc.

6. Willis McGahee
Saddle up fantasy owners, as McGahee is a sure fire work horse. The Bills gave McGahee 25 carries plus several times last season, and will give him a full load this season. He is like Pac-Man for the end zone, as he is going to gnaw his way in. His marquee season was done without the month of September, so he has four more complete games to pad stats on.

7. Ahman Green
Fumbling is the biggest drawback with Green, as the penalty is ill affordable in fantasy leagues. He does it often, and it partly has to do with his style of only running with the football in his left arm. That tendency was exposed often last year, as defenders were able to swipe the ball with ease. It’s an easy target, but first you have to get near Green to even attempt. He is a great gap shooter that turns it uphill and down the sideline with the best. His overall proficiency dropped immensely from 2003 to 2004, but was similar to his 2002 stats. For 2005, I’d expect the mean of last year and the year before to be around the ball park of Green’s season.

8. Deuce McAllister
McAllister’s production slacked a bit last season because of missing the majority of September. He was a catalyst in the Saints fighting attempt to get a bid in the playoffs, but they came just short. Since he has been in the league he has been a consistent top ten back. Until he has a season where he proves otherwise than his nomination will be continuous.

9. Curtis Martin
Martin showed a lot of heart, and shocked a lot of people with his flashback 2004 season. Just because he has aged a bit it was an automatic assumption that he would be pushed out by Lamont Jordan. The Jets drafted Jordan with all hints at him being the future back. It just so happened that Martin never stopped working hard, and the Jets were so impressed that they let Jordan go. One of the main reasons why Martin has been able to stay at his high level is because of his great offensive line. His line has helped him avoid the initial hits that a lot of running backs get at the line of scrimmage. The situation is very similar to what Emmitt Smith had in Dallas, and is going to be why Martin has a prolonged career.

10. Edgerrin James
Being in the Colts prolific offense would make any running back look beyond average. James level has deteriorated just a bit, but he still flourishes every week. This will likely be the last year he remains a top ten back, as his one-year tender agreement with the Colts will likely be his last contract with the Colts. So fantasy owners better gobble up this situation, because his numbers will warrant him a fat contract in the off-season and disappointment fantasy owners in 2006.

11. Kevin Jones
Jones is about to skyrocket up the rankings as he may have the most upside of any back. He is like an early careered Marshall Faulk, and proved his worth with 906 rushing yards in the last eight games of the season. Those were done quietly with a poor passing game. Flip flop that statement because he is going to make big noise, and the Lions will have a quarterback that can play whether it’s Joey Harrington turning it around or by the insertion of Jeff Garcia.

12. Domanick Davis
Has turned nay sayers views two fold, and is now set to enter the elite along with his Houston Texans team. Don’t let Davis’s scatback features mislead you, as he can take punishment between the tackles. This isn’t a Napolean Kaufman who is going to tease for a stint of four to five years and then fade off the map.

13. Corey Dillon
How much longer can Dillon do it? It seems like wearing down is inevitable for Dillon but it hasn’t happened. He continues to carry the load without letting physical abuse get to him. He had a slight injury that affecting him a little bit last year, but for the most part the change over to New England was a big improvement. He was out of the ugly shadow in Cincinnati, and it seemed to fuel a different type of energy in Dillon.

14. Julius Jones
For a minute the Cowboys and Bill Parcells were so pretentious that Julius Jones was going to turn around there season, that they felt they had to believe in Vinny Testaverde. Testaverde really hurt the Cowboys more than he helped, and yet Jones still was unstoppable. Just like the other youngster in Kevin Jones, the upside for Julius is tremendous. For dynasty league rankings he has to rank in the top five.

15. Steven Jackson
It takes a true man to bow down to another, especially when you’ve marked your territory in the NFL for ten years. Faulk saw the raw ability of Jackson last year, and realized he had to make the right conscious decision in letting Jackson get more playing time. Jackson is a monster at eating up yards and is aggressive at the same time. If he can add a little patience to his style, than there is no telling the barrier for this kid.

16. Fred Taylor
A lot of people love to harp on Taylor’s injury problems. In all actuality though he has only missed two games in the last three seasons. Those two games were the last two of last season. There are still lingering questions on if and when he’ll recover from the injury, but there is no reason yet to believe he won’t be ready for the 2005 season. He missed the end zone last season, but is still one of the league’s best in the open field.

17. Rudi Johnson
Hesitant fantasy owners were saying more the word shoot by letting Johnson slip. An obscenity here or there was probably made, but now Johnson’s status is secure. Still, now that he has job security the contract year worries are put aside. Will he continue to produce, or will his numbers start to slide until he is fades into obscurity. The $12 million in guaranteed money just scares me.

18. Tiki Barber
The motto of “Thunder and Lightning” has been long gone with the association of Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber. Barber has remained and kept the lightning alive. For a minute last season Barber soared as the league’s best back. Then the struggles of rookie Eli Manning halted what was going to be a franchise year. He still needs to learn to hold onto the football better, but his skills can’t be questioned.

19. Carnell Williams
The vast changes within the Buccaneers organization has reshaped with the quickness. Carnell Williams will be able to step into an offense that actually has a heart beat. Like most rookies he may struggle early, but the good thing about rookies is they don’t burn out. He’ll take his licks and have a strong second half stretch.

20. Brian Westbrook
Now that he is in the fold, the Eagles can figure out if he is where they want to go with their future. He isn’t the norm for an NFL running back, and that’s a big concern. There is no question he is a threat but an every down back for sixteen games is another.

21. Tatum Bell
He gets to play in the dramatized Bronco system, and if he can’t do it there is a full list behind him. Bell got some playing time last year and looked solid, but he’ll need to be able to do more than that to keep Clarett on the bench.

22. DeShaun Foster
Foster was set to take over last year before going down with his shoulder injury, and is probably the biggest sleeper among running backs. Stephen Davis’s career is dwindling down. Even if he does return he’ll be in the backseat as Foster will be the main driver.

23. Travis Henry
Right now the tag on Travis Henry’s job occupation says Buffalo Bills. That won’t be the case in a few months, and if it is Buffalo is really being stubborn about the situation. Henry wants out, and depending on the team he lands on could shoot up five to seven spots.

24. Lamont Jordan
It’s his show finally, but will it be a quick pilot that gets cancelled or will it be a love affair? Jordan has been able to sit back and watch one of the best running backs ever, and hopefully he soaked some of those skills in.

25. Chris Brown
There are serious questions on Brown’s recovery, so draft him as a questionable second running back. Whomever is Tennessee’s running back is going to face a tough challenge, as the grass is going to be a familiar site and it’s not going to be the end zone.

26. Michael Bennett
Bennett is the consensus starter in Minnesota after Onterrio Smith lost the job by default of stupidity. Bennett is a blazing blur with the ball, and accelerates with a different gear. If he can add the ability to find the end zone to his game than he could position himself in the top twelve.

27. Warrick Dunn
The DVD returns for volume four and hopes that this seasons ratings turn out to be the best yet. Dunn did his part last year before injuries derailed him, and he even found the end zone more than usual. The main concern with Dunn, is that the Falcons equally utilize him and TJ Duckett. Neither will ever be able to make a firm stamp as a consistent back, because they aren’t going to get twenty carries a game.

28. Cedric Benson
Thomas Jones feels that he hasn’t lost his job yet, but that happened when the Bears went to the podium on draft day. Benson can add what Anthony Thomas was supposed to, and should have a average first year.

29. Ronnie Brown
The Ricky Williams talk is probably a good thing for Brown. Once Williams finally comes to Dolphins training camp, all the attention will be on Williams. The Dolphins know full well that they aren’t going to use Williams that much, and he is going to be more of a placebo used against other teams. Brown was phenomenal at Auburn and the future for him is going to surpass the first five years of Ricky.

30. Kevan Barlow
Barlow is a top fifteen back on the worst team in the NFL, and therefore he’ll suffer. The 49ers recently got in trouble for an inappropriate video showed to athletes, and will get booed out of stadiums all season long. Draft Barlow as a third running back to plug in for bye weeks.

31. JJ Arrington
A quest to reach the backfield doesn’t want to be done by a Shipp in JJ Arrington’s case. Dennis Green says it will be an all out battle between Marcel and JJ, and it’s tough to say who will come out on top. Arrington seems to fit the Cardinals system better, but Shipp has also been versatile in his career.

32. Lee Suggs
He gave fantasy football owners a quick bite at the end of last season, but who wants to take one bite in a sandwich? Suggs may have finished the last three games with 100 yard games, but is still in testing waters. When you try a sample at a store, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to buy the product.

33. Duce Staley
Both Staley and Bettis need each other as both have been battered and bruised too much during their careers. It’s amazing both have been able to continue. You never know which back is going to get the carries or who is going to score the touchdowns. The only time you for sure now is when one or the other is out with an injury. The Steelers do like to run the football a lot though, and will rub off on both.

34. TJ Duckett
One game last season summed up Duckett’s fantasy value. He found the end zone four times against the Raiders, and besides that shouldn’t have been posted on anyone’s starting lineup. Of course it’s not his fault, as when you only get 104 carries you aren’t getting a fair opportunity. Eventually the Falcons will render Duckett more looks, but until then an owner has to sit him on their bench.

35. Marcel Shipp
He has always been the under dog. He wasn’t even drafted out of college, and withstood Thomas Jones. If Shipp didn’t go down last season the Cardinals may have had an answer to if they needed a running back. It happened though, and now he once again has to play like an undrafted rookie free agent.

36. Marshall Faulk
A third down back will be Faulk’s new major role, but don’t be shocked if he ends up being in receiver formations. Either that or the Rams use a duo backfield with Faulk and Jackson to confuse the defense. Faulk still has a lot of talent left, and the Rams aren’t going to let him sit dry on the bench.

37. Ricky Williams
He abandoned his team and still wants to come back. You really have to wonder what state William’s mind is in right now. His antics have been childish and he owes an entire franchise an apology. It’ll take hard work to earn trust back, and if Williams is truly set on a come back than he must be determined.

38. Michael Pittman
Pittman has the biggest set of guns in the NFL, and has been a durable back because of his off the field problems. He has lost the faith of a lot of coaches by continually getting into trouble off the field, and they have haunted his football development.

39. Najeh Davenport
Over the last three seasons he has averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and seems to be poised to be a feature back. All it takes is one break, and Davenport just hasn’t got that chance yet. That opportunity may have to wait until the end of this season when he is a free agent.

40. Dominic Rhodes
Filling the void has been an easy process when needed for Rhodes. James has been able to stay in the lineup lately, but Rhodes still gets some looks to showcase his change of pace features. When a back is in this type of prolific offense, you’re just a blink away from being called up. Rhodes could be a starter on many teams, and may be the Colts starter a year from now.

Best of The Rest

41. Larry Johnson
42. Jerome Bettis
43. Stephen Davis
44. Correll Buckhalter
45. Thomas Jones
46. Greg Jones
47. Maurice Clarett
48. Chester Taylor
49. William Green
50. Mewelde Moore