By Zack Cimini

Long gone are the perfect systems. Systems in which teams had one main feature back that garnered carry after carry. Those were the reliable studs. Behind them typically use to be the occasional fullback that could get some sleeper fantasy points. The Zach Crocketts, Larry Centers, and backs that went from halfback to fullback such as Tyrone Wheatley. With dual and triple backfields in use now owners have to get creative in how they’re going to get reliable fantasy points. An area that has sort of bridged the gap from the use of fullbacks and halfbacks is the short yardage-dirty work plunging back.

This guy may not get upwards of even ten carries a game. Top tailbacks will have monster days and over 100 yards rushing. Only to be nullified of what should have been a great fantasy day with multiple touchdowns. Reason their stats did not meet you’re expectations surely falls on that pile forward moving back that gobbled a touchdown or two away from you. It is hard to predict when a back is going to produce a string of touchdowns especially when his carries and yardage totals are small. Yet, some of these backs are getting between eight and ten touchdowns a year. Who will they be this season?

LT- Were putting LT atop our plunger backs. His role is yet to be defined as a Jet. For all we know he could outdo Shonne Greene and win outright the starting position. Were going to say that does not happen and LT is their short yardage change of pace back. LT has a knack for getting into the end zone even with his other skills teetering away. Athletes that have had his type of success just do not fade completely away at age 31. He has surely lost some years with the burden of too many carries nine years in San Diego. Whatever he has left in the tank will be brought on the football field each and every Sunday. He’ll get double digit touchdowns once again.

Tim Hightower- What is going to keep Beanie Wells from being a sure lock second back in most drafts is Hightower. Not that Hightower is going to be in a perfect share load like last season. Where the question is at is if Hightower will still be the hog of success in the red zone. If it were not for Hightower’s ability to get in the end zone he’d likely have been cut by now. As the season goes past the halfway mark we’d expect the Cardinals to lean more heavily in Wells direction. Hightower should still get near six to eight touchdowns.

Willis McGahee- McGahee took no the relegated role of reduced carries and job loss better than almost any back over the last ten years. His production while on the field turned the Ravens second half of the season around. With Flacco struggling the Ravens saw they could pound away with McGahee and Rice. Even with defenses gearing to shut down the run. It’s a role the Ravens will milk until something goes awry. If McGahee can handle the lick he took last season than he can keep making fantasy owners happy with his red zone touchdowns. Ray Rice owners just want three to four of those McGahee plunges.

Marion Barber- Felix Jones may be the 2010 starter but if the time share is slightly in Jones favor we still like Barber’s value higher. Jones may be the home run hitter and high yards per carry guy, but Barber will be the man when it comes to touchdowns. He battled hard through injuries last season and was not the same athlete of years past. He’ll be healthy this season and may take his job back outright. Barber is one of our top sleepers going into 2010 fantasy drafts.

Thomas Jones- Based on what we’ve seen from prior thirty plus year old backs Jones should simmer down quite a bit this season. It’s as if the Jets saw what they could squeeze out of Jones and did just that. Heading to Kansas City, Jones will quietly take on a backup role. Jamaal Charles showed all of us enough (Lets hope you picked him up when we told you way before he put on as how last season) that replacing him would only happen because of an injury. We will soon find out if it was the Jets offensive line that made Jones or he truly matured as a professional mentally and physically with the Jets. He went much of his career as a labeled bust only to have back to back seasons of double digit touchdowns (13 in 08’ and 14 in 09’).

Montario Hardesty- Jerome Harrison was buried on the Browns roster for many of reasons, but one in particular. He is a tiny back all around. In height comparable to Maurice Jones-Drew, and in size compared to old Raider back Napolean Kaufman. What he did in the last quarter of the fantasy season gave owners the extra push to win their fantasy titles. Surely, Harrison probably went into the off-season and hit a tough regimen to add extra pounds to his body. Playing at an optimal size for Harrison’s skill level is where he was at last year. We just see him breaking down at some point in the season and losing his starting role to Hardesty. With the way the Browns like to shuffle around backs it may happen before week one. Harrison is a nifty back that deserves to be on the field. In a lot of ways though he is like Darren Sproles a few years ago. Teased a lot of fantasy owners into believing he can do it all, but the NFL is a different beast. You’ve got to be a big powerful back to have a lasting impact for you’re body to hold up an entire season or perform at a high level.

Mike Bell- Bell has close to thirty extra pounds on him then McCoy. McCoy was recruited by Andy Reid to play exactly to the style of Brian Westbrook. When Correll Buckhalter was healthy as an Eagle he someone that had a sporadic fantasy impact. Reason being he was hardly ever healthy. McCoy is not the same type of player as Westbrook as evidenced last season when he struggled. Therefore we think the time share will be better for Bell. Add the short yardage and goal line impact on Bell’s side and he is worth taking a flier as a deep late round pick. Don’t wait for the waiver wire period after week one or two.


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