Running Back

Is Jones-Drew Headed For a Rough 2010?

Friday, 18 December, 2009

By Zack Cimini

As evidenced from the last three to four years fantasy football running back rankings have scattered all over the place. Players just are not as predictable in that position as between the years of 96 and 2003. Teams have retooled and better prepared to have depth to keep their star running backs fresh and durable. Supplanting some of these prior studs with double digit touchdowns has become the norm. Coaches were forced to necessitate less of a load on their number one running back and divide that load up with the second string back. It has made it a nightmare from year to year of what to expect from a back that teetered on solid success the season before.

When the Jaguars parted ways with veteran back Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew shot up the charts for the 2009 season. Rightfully so, as he has been a beast since entering the NFL in the 2006 season. At his size the Jaguars questioned if he could handle a full time starring role. At 5’7 and a little over 200 pounds he is a back of rare combination and comprises the tools to be a threat for years to come. Based upon how he has done thus far in 2009 he seems to be secure for years to come as a fantasy Tomlinson. Meaning he could be destined to rack up double digit touchdowns and dual threat receiving and rushing yardage.

Here at Notjustagame though we have extreme cause for concern and caution for Jones-Drew’s future to hold up.

For Jones-Drew’s size and what he does on the field who does he compare to of the last five to six years in his position? We would compare him to a Brian Westbrook type. Westbrook has a few more inches on Jones-Drew but they are almost identical weight. So we would say that’s a fair assessment. Similar to Jones-Drew, Westbrook had a veteran back to break up duties most of his career in Duce Staley and then Correll Buckhalter. Westbrooks injury woes have been throughout his career but they didn’t start to climb until recently. See Westbrook was always hurt but he usually only missed a few games while battling through and playing hurt on the field. That ends up catching up with you.

In MJD’s season long segmented show on the NFL Network he has detailed how rough and hard it is for his body to recover. That’s just the life of an NFL running back, but he knows his body and is ready to go every Sunday. A body can only take so much and Drew will be exiting his fourth complete season as an NFL back. The wear and tear is definitely there and the Jaguars have failed to protect their future investment.

Jones-Drew is second in the league in carries at 278. His previous three seasons he only averaged 176 carries, with last year being his highest total at 197. With two games left he will easily break the 300 mark and be somewhere around 310. This does not disclude the fact that Jones-Drew also has 49 catches on the year. That ranks him fifth for running backs in catches and he is 44th in the league for that statistic. Saying that the Jaguars may be overworking and possibly burning out their star back is an understatement.

There isn’t a team in the league besides maybe a St. Louis that doesn’t break up the load a bit with their star back. Can you name the Jaguars primary backup running back? Think, think…is it on the tip of your tongue? We don’t think so. The seldom used running backs name is Rashard Jennings. He is averaging a whopping two carries a game.

Ask Atlanta how overworking their star back in 2008 and not using a backup running back worked out for them a year later. We just do not see it as a wise move to increase a backs carries by nearly 50 percent. It may not be next year the Jones-Drew starts to break down but it will happen sooner than later if the Jaguars do not make it a point to lessen his work load.

9/28 Running Back Rankings Updated

Monday, 28 September, 2009

By Zack Cimini

An irregular start to the season means big shakeups in running back rankings. Those of you who waited on running backs and landed McGahee and Benson late are smiling very well. After three weeks here is the big shake up in current fantasy running back rankings. We expect another complete overhaul in three weeks as things settle down.

1. Adrian Peterson- He’ll hold this spot for years
2. Maurice Jones-Drew- Finally had a MJD type game
3. Chris Johnson- His speed is so lethal
4. Ronnie Brown- Getting a lot of carries early on, can he sustain this?
5. Frank Gore-Down for hopefully only a couple of games. Grab your handcuff back in Glen Coffee.
6. Willis McGahee-Finding the endzone every week will make any fantasy owner happy.
7. DeAngelo Williams-Once the Panthers stop playing from behind Williams could propel a few spots.
8. Pierre Thomas- Making up for missed time in quick fashion.
9. Brandon Jacobs- Struggled out of the gate
10. Marion Barber- The workhorse back will be sidelined for a game or two.
11. Matt Forte- Not exactly what anyone would hope for. He is getting plenty of carries though and will breakout sooner or later.
12. Michael Turner- Yards per carry is significantly down. Can he get it back in gear?
13. Steven Jackson- Still the dual threat we love but needs to find the endzone.
14. Cedric Benson- Just shows what a never give up attitude can do.
15. LT- How often will he need to miss time this season?
16. Marshawn Lynch- Hurt himself dearly for a time share factor, now that the Bills have seen what Jackson can do.
17. Julius Jones- Has been quite a surprise
18. Kevin Smith- Going to have a great year.
19. Thomas Jones- The wily veteran just gets it done.
20. Darren Sproles- Just isn’t an every down back. More of the Reggie Bush type that can be a difference maker.
21. Ray Rice- Just need to get some of the touchdowns away from McGahee
22. Jonathan Stewart- The best backfield combo in the league.
23. Ryan Grant- You know what you’re getting from Grant.
24. Correll Buckhalter- The effective time share to keep the ball out of Orton’s hands is working.
25. Fred Taylor- Patriots gave him twenty carries and like what they saw.
26. Larry Johnson- How long ago was 2005 and 2006?
27. Ricky Williams- Carries should spike up a bit more with Pennington expected to be out.
28. Steve Slaton- Generous spot but he has to be headed for better weeks.
29. Knowshon Moreno- Should sneak into the top twelve to fifteen by seasons end.
30. Lendale White- Will run off a streak of touchdowns McGahee style
31. Willie Parker- Caught a glimpse of his old self this past week against the Bengals.
32. Brian Westbrook-Missed a game due to poor weather and field conditions. This is not a good sign.
33. Clinton Portis- On the downside of his career, and banged up.
34. Reggie Bush- Seemingly falling out of the backfield rotation like a point guard in basketball. Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell seem to be the dual combo the Saints are going to go with, and Bush will be more of a decoy and pass catching back.
35. Donald Brown- The second half back for the Colts is making things happen with limited touches. Should start getting more plays and action from Joseph Addai.
36. Fred Jackson- Did the best the Bills could of hoped for while waiting for Marshawn Lynch
37. Darren McFadden
38. Jamal Lewis
39. Cadillac Williams
40. Jerious Norwood
41. LeSean McCoy-The rookie’s impact all rides on the health of Westbrook.
42. Felix Jones
43. Rashard Mendenhall
44. Ahmad Bradshaw
45. Leon Washington
46. Tim Hightower
47. Derrick Ward
48. Beanie Wells
49. Glen Coffee
50. Jerome Harrison
51. Chester taylor
52. Tashard Choice
53. Laurence Maroney

Turner's Fantasy Value Misleading

Wednesday, 19 August, 2009

By Zack Cimini

Last year saw a free agent running back get his pay day and a starting spot for an NFL team. No one knew where to project him as a fantasy running back, and figured the team would struggle due to numerous variables. Yet this team stormed to a revival and became an overnight success story. There is no question this back should now be a first round fantasy selection, but buyer beware……beware.

Michael Turner had an incredible year that allowed Matt Ryan to be a rookie, and make plays only when needed. Carrying the ball at nearly 400 times gave Turner the output you’d expect from that amount of carries, with 17 touchdowns and nearly 1700 yards. He also led the league in yards after initial contact. At his size he has a rare combination of adding on yards when there is nothing.

At 27, Turner feels he can keep going at last year’s pace without worrying about his body breaking down. Reason for that is he was a primary backup for years in San Diego, so actually feels like he has only played one season. A good season at that, but will the Falcons actually keep Turner’s pace of carries that high?

We think they’ll lessen the load for a few reasons. One, Matt Ryan will be more comfortable with the teams system. It’s not that Ryan didn’t throw a lot last season, as he had many games where he threw in the high twenties for attempts. The x-factor where they’d pull Ryan back a bit came within the red-zone. For a quarterback that threw as much as he did, Ryan only had 16 touchdown passes. Another peculiar stat on Ryan’s touchdown throws is that most of them came on big plays.

That’ll change in a hurry now that the Falcons brought in tight end, Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez has been one of the best red zone targets for over a decade now, and doesn’t seem to have lost anything physically. Double check the amount of touchdowns Ryan threw to a tight end last season. Still looking? That’s right……zero. If Gonzalez hovers around his average for touchdowns a season (7), how many touchdowns will this take away from Turner? It could be a bigger impact than fantasy owners think drafting Turner as a top three fantasy back.

For being fourth in the league in points, the Atlanta Falcons red zone efficiency was amazing. Can they sustain that success within the red zone?

Ready for the third clincher on why Turner’s season a year ago will come down from fantasy craziness? Jerious Norwood. Norwood is a back that has averaged over 5 yards a carry the last three seasons with minimal touches. He makes a big play on a high rate average usually a long burner. Sooner or later the Falcons are going to have to figure a way to make more plays for him. He can’t continue to get 100 carries a season, as he is too productive.

They have figured a way to get him more involved out of the backfield as his catches per year have went up to a career high 36 last season. Last year he had 131 complete touches and scored six touchdowns. More than anything you’d have to expect the Falcons to protect their premier back in Turner by not overworking him. This team is talented and will need to have him energized for a second burst come playoff time. If not a season low average and yards per carry could happen once again in the first round of the playoffs (2.3 ypc for 42 yards against the Cardinals).

Duel Backfields

Friday, 24 July, 2009

By Zack Cimini

Progressively teams have learned to lessen the burden on their feature backs by utilizing their second and third string backs more. Some teams are distributing the ball in the backfield at a higher rate because of the potent combination of skills of their backs. Years ago fantasy owners were scared of this trend. How would they fare having a feature back they weren’t sure of getting the same carries every week? Well, it has actually proven to be a good system. Your back stays healthier more and in the end your statistics add up just where you would want them to be.

You don’t necessarily have to handcuff these guys either. Here is a breakdown of who we think are the top duel backfields in the NFL for 2009.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart
After last seasons second half finish there is no doubt these two are the best backfield in the league. When Jake Delhomme couldn’t complete a pass the Panthers changed their offensive philosophy to the Jay Fiedler mode. Hand it off and hand it off some more, and it worked to perfection. These two are fun to watch and will continue to make fantasy owners extremely happy.

Ladainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles
San Diego has quietly been able to have success at the quarterback and running back position based on depth. Two years ago it was with Michael Turner and last year Darren Sproles stepped right in. LT says he is back but if not Sproles showcased that he can get the job done. We’d expect Sproles to be involved with at least 15 touches a game. Expect them to find ways to mix up plays with both of them on the field.

Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams
The Wildcat opened it for the Dolphins last year, with Brown leading the way. Neither Williams or Brown gained over 1,000 yards but were steady enough to be in the thick of things for fantasy purposes. Both were coming off injury prone years and should be able to build upon a year of being healthy.

Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood
Tuner was by far the biggest bang for the buck for fantasy owners last season. How will he respond to the huge amount of carries he had last season? The answer to that is he may not have to worry as the Falcons will give Norwood more than the 95 he had last year. He averaged a nice 5.1 yards per carry and is a great contrast runner to Turner.

Adrian Peterson and Chestor Taylor
Peterson as we all know is the beast that can’t be contained. During Peterson’s rookie campaign Taylor actually held a good share of the carries. As Peterson has proven himself though, Taylor’s involvement has dwindled by the year. Taylor is a true handcuff back to Peterson, but is still a great number two back.

Right There

Marion Barber and Felix Jones
Willis McGahee and Ray Rice
Joseph Addai and Donald Brown
Chris Wells and Tim Hightower

Top 20 Fantasy Running Backs

Wednesday, 22 July, 2009

Raymond Ayala’s Top 20 Running Backs

1) Adrian Peterson (MIN) – The running back quality is starting to dwindle, but Adrian Peterson is my choice as a top pick in any draft, as well as being the top Running Back. Peterson offers it all, and he has yet to even hit his stride. I look for Adrian Peterson to improve his receiving touchdowns and increase his touchdowns by at least five this year.
2) Michael Turner (ATL) – Turner fell victim to a rookie quarterbacks fantastic season last year, but anyone who snagged him early was rewarded with arguably the best running back in 2008. Now Turner is an elite running back, which defenses will be gunning for. I see a little slip in Turner’s touchdowns, but not by much. Expect more of the same from the kid who went to the school of LaDainian Tomlinson.
3) Matt Forte (CHI) – What Forte did last year did not go unnoticed by fantasy owners. In his rookie campaign, Forte not only put up eight rushing touchdowns, he also added four receiving touchdowns. Forte is a double threat, whose running game will only, improve with Jay Cutler in the backfield. Look for Forte to finish with 20 total touchdowns this year.
4) DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – Williams was put in charge of the Carolina running game last season and he showed that size does not matter. The 5’9 running back scampered around the field scoring an NFL leading 18 rushing touchdowns. Last year was no fluke and expect Williams to have a similar performance, with a small decrease in yardage.
5) Clinton Portis (WAS) – Portis has a solid skill set, but he is injury prone. Last season, he showed his old Denver form with a fantastic season for the Redskins. Look for the Redskins to rely on him this season, and Campell improving only helps his stock. He is a lock for double-digit touchdowns this season.
6) Stephen Jackson (STL) – An injury hurt Jackson and his owners last season, but I predict a season of full health, and at least 10-15 touchdowns from him.
7) Brandon Jacobs (NYG) – Jacobs proved last season that he can handle a starters load, and now he will look to breakout this season by improving on his yardage.
8) LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) – While the Chargers have decided to use Darren Sproles more, many people think this will affect LT negatively. I think LT is looking to prove he is still an elite running back and will bounce back this season.
9) Tim Hightower (AZ) – After a breakout rookie season last year that saw double-digit touchdowns, I expect a breakout season for Hightower, due to the passing game being the main focus of opposing defenses.
10) Thomas Jones (NYJ) – Jones showed up in a big way last year, but his numbers will not be nearly as fantastic. With a rookie QB in the backfield, it is going to be tough for Jones to find holes, but double-digit touchdowns should be expected.
11) Frank Gore (SF) – If healthy, Gore is one of the deadliest Running backs in the game. With a smart quarterback behind him, Gore is a lock for at least 10 touchdowns this season.
12) Brian Westbrook (PHI) – Westbrook has been the cornerstone of the Eagles offense for the past three seasons. Injuries are starting to catch up to him, but he should improve on his stats from last year.
13) Steve Slaton (HOU) – Slaton left West Virginia for the NFL, and it was a wise decision. Slaton had a fantastic rookie campaign and is my pick to be this years Michael Turner-like steal.
14) Chris Johnson (TEN) – He would be higher on this list if he were not splitting duties with LenDale White. Johnson will improve on his yardage, but his TD’s will probably stay the same as last season.
15) Ryan Grant (GB) – Grant will need to improve his TD total to be valuable in Fantasy this season, but I see him doing it and becoming a great 2nd running back.
16) Marshawn Lynch (BUF) – Lynch could easily have been in the top 10, had he not been suspended for the first three weeks. Including the bye week that is four missed games this season for Lynch. Still he is a top tier RB.
17) Marion Barber (DAL) – Barber was somewhat of a disappointment last season, and Felix Jones threatens to take some of his carries. There is no question that Barber will get the goal line runs, which equal easy touchdowns.
18) Ronnie Brown (MIA) – Brown will take the load of the carries this season, and he will be relied upon to finish his season strong this year. Double-digit touchdowns will be attainable this season by Brown.
19) LenDale White (TEN) – White finally lived up to the expectations set at USC. He is a beast at the goal line and will continue to rack up TD’s so long as he stays in shape.
20) Reggie Bush (NO) – Bush knows how important this season is for the Saints, and a break out season is to be expected. By seasons end Bush will lead the league in receiving TD’s by a running back, and is a threat for 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards one day.

Fantasy Running Backs Under the Radar

Tuesday, 26 August, 2008

As many fantasy football players know, the running backs are the key players to bringing in the most points of any players. They can acquire points through their rushing yards, receiving yards, frequent touchdowns, and sometimes even from special teams. That is why most people do almost anything to get their hands on players like LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Joseph Addai, and Brian Westbrook. Having a good secondary running back, as well as a backup, is just as important. For that reason, I have composed a list of three under-the-radar RB’s that you may want to consider getting your hands on.

Ricky Williams – The man who led the league in rushing back in 2002 with 1,853 rushing yards and 16 TD’s is back for more, and looking healthier than ever. He has already played in the Dolphins first two preseason games and is ready to begin the new season. This guy definitely has the potential for a huge LaDainian-type season if all goes well, especially since the Dolphins are still struggling with the throwing part of their game.

Willis McGahee – Averaging over 4 yards per carry last year and 1,200 yards, the veteran running back is looking only to improve these numbers. Now that he has a year under his belt with his new team (the Ravens), McGahee has good chemistry with the team and will most likely be their new go-to guy, especially with Kyle Boller struggling from inside the pocket. The Ravens will have to rely heavily on McGahee if they have any hopes of catching the playoffs this year.

Marshawn Lynch – Perhaps not so much under the radar, the rookie who filled McGahee’s shoes for the Buffalo Bills has been off to a great start, averaging 4 yards per carry and over 1,100 rushing yards last season. Now that Lynch is comfortable and used to the NFL, he is expected to be even better than last year. Buffalo has been on the verge of making the playoffs for the past couple of years and many Bills analysts feel that he may be the key to getting that done.

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