Now the Backfield Is In Trouble

Over the last ten years the most consistent and best running backs are harder to name than you would think after being asked that question. Out of all the backs in the league there are only a couple left going on their tenth season plus as being an elite back. Curtis Martin just exited and was probably the best of them all. Quietly though at his small size, Warrick Dunn, has been right there to go along with Corey Dillon and Fred Taylor. Waiting for a downward season from Dunn hasn’t happened yet, but is it happening before it even starts heading into his eleventh season?

Just a little bit over a year ago the tandem in Atlanta for years was DVD. TJ Duckett was the bull rush compliment to Warrick Dunn, and Vick was doing what we’ve seen him do since college. The Falcons then parted ways with TJ Duckett. In what was thought to be a questionable move was erased quickly after Jerious Norwood filled in better than Duckett ever had. Now the allegations on Michael Vick are troubling enough to think that Vick’s days may be over not only with the Falcons but maybe in the NFL.

A day after Arthur Blank called a press conference on the issue, running back Warrick Dunn is now declared out three to four weeks after having back surgery.

Wala, all of the sudden the Falcons went from being a team that was going to have a hard enough time competing in the tough NFC South, to being a team without an identity. A back injury has to always be taken cautiously and at Dunn’s age maybe stretched out even further. The opening day for the Falcons is looking like a Joey Harrington, Jerious Norwood, and Joe Horn debut.

Bobby Petrino has to be ecstatic on how well this is shaping up after leaving Louisville to head into this mess of stress.

The impact of Dunn’s injury means that Norwood will be tested even more during preseason. The Falcons were planning on Norwood being more involved then last season, and now they’ll be able to see if he can be that guy. It’s almost an eerie situation to compare Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. Faulk went from an All-Pro veteran to fading away to a limited role from injuries in a matter of a years time. The team was suddenly Jackson’s and Faulk decided to retire ultimately.

The good thing about this is that Dunn didn’t put off the discomfort in his back and ignore it entirely until a severe or lingering injury happened in the preseason or regular season. Now, Dunn may be able to come back at the estimated time table of three to four weeks. If so, he’ll be able to get in a game or two of preseason action.

Both backs have a shaky value in terms of fantasy, but more upside than you‘d think. Dunn had a great season last year but only had five touchdowns and a low yardage total of receiving yards. Norwood had a crazy average per carry and showed his incredible size, quickness, and open field speed. With Vick likely out of the lineup, 1,000 rushing yards or thirty to thirty five attempts from the quarterback position must happen.

Expect Petrino and his staff to decide to run the ball even more, and hope that will lead to big plays for the passing game. With Vick out of the lineup, Norwood should easily eclipse 1,000 yards and score between eight and ten touchdowns. As for Dunn draft him as a deep thought as a fourth running back. His value has always been steady and you‘ll be getting strong value with him. Plus, players that are hurt going to fantasy drafts usually slide more than they should. Grabbing him as your fourth running back will give you great depth and insurance if needed.