Breaking down the bedlam at the RB position is going to be your biggest challenge on draft day. There are a ton of questions about the position. How should you break down the tiers? How much of your budget should you spend on RB's? Is it worth the $50+ it is going to take to sign a Tier A player? Who are the bargains? Which RB's are overrated or underrated? My goal in this piece is to attempt to answer these questions to the best of my ability. This article got very long as I was writing so I will break it into 2 parts. The following is part 1.
Let’s Talk Tiers.
I have my tiers broken down A-F. I tend to pay very little attention to how many players are in each tier. My only goal is to place players of similar value/talent in the same tier.
Tier A consists of: (1-4)
A.P. (71) leads the way for this group of RB’s. He typically commands a minimum of $65 and can go for as much as $80. A.P. is the best RB with the least amount of questions which is why he commands more draft dollars than any other player. If you are an A.P. guy I understand why, but if you are going to draft him you need to have a plan on how to fill out your roster with minimal funds. I have outlined a strategy for this in “Why snake when you can auction”.
Turner (62) had a break-out season last year, but is that enough to gamble $60 of your fantasy dollars?
MJD (57) is finally the “feature” back with Fred Taylor out of the picture.
Forte (55) had an amazing rookie season where he ranked 5th among fantasy RB’s. With the addition of Cutler, Forte should see more open space to run through as opposing teams can no longer stack the box. I don’t think it is out of the question for Forte to be the number 1 fantasy back this year.
Tier B consists of: (5-11)
Jackson (51) has missed 4 games in each of the last 2 seasons. He is great when he is healthy but how often will that be?
C. Johnson (50) is a speedy running back that had a less fantasy stats then most suspect last season. If you thought he was a top 10 back, you were mistaken. He ended the year at #11. Johnson was held back by White who finished the year with 15 TD. From what I am reading White has lost a bunch of weight and is in very good shape. This could spell trouble for fantasy owners who think Johnson will break into the top ten this year. I almost forgot to mention that despite Johnson’s great speed, he failed to break a run of over 25 yards last season.
L.T. (48) was taken in the top 3 of every draft last year. This year he is rated as the #7 running back. Despite his “down year” L.T. managed to finish 6th among RB’s. There is talk out of San Diego about limiting the carries of Sproles, which is a good sign for potential L.T. owners.
D. Williams (46) finished the year as the top rated RB in 2008. The only thing to fear about Williams is another talented RB on his team named Stewart. If Stewart can stay healthy he should take a lot of carries and scores away from Williams.
F. Gore (40) should benefit from being the best RB on a team who is moving to a run first offense.
S. Slaton (39) finished 7th among RB’s last year. He should continue to be a workhorse as he doesn’t have any competition from other RB’s on the roster. For $40 Slaton could provide top 5 production this year.
B. Jacobs (38) finished outside the top 10 RB’s despite scoring 15 TD’s last year. Ward is no longer there to take carries away from Jacobs this year, but that might not be such a good thing since Jacobs does tend to be injury prone. Buyers beware.
Tier C consists of: (12-14)
C. Portis (33) still finished 9th among RB’s despite going 7 weeks in the middle of the season without a TD. His slow finish to last season is what has dropped him to C level.
M. Barber (30) scored 5 of his 7 TD’s in the first 4 games of the season. In the last 4 games Barber only gained 15 yards on 13 attempts. If the Cowboys have a healthy Jones and Choice in the backfield it should keep Barber healthy for goal-line opportunities in which he can thrive.
B. Westbrook (29) was essentially hit or miss last year. He had 5 games where he scored more than 20 points, including three 30 point games. Westbrook also had 9 games where he failed to score 10 fantasy points. Yet he managed to stay in the top 10 of RB’s. Similar to Steven Jackson, Westbrook is great when healthy. But if you want to take a gamble on a high injury risk player you can grab Westbrook for $30 while Jackson will run you $50.
Tier D consists of: (15-23)
K. Smith (23) plays for the Lions and they still stink. However, he did score 15+ points in each of his last three games. But he does play for the Lions.
R. Brown (22) is in a contract season and appears to be healthy. I like it.
T. Jones (20) was a top 5 RB last year. Wait, what did you say? I said T. Jones was a top 5 RB last year. In fact, he was #4. I couldn’t believe it either. The Jets will have to run the ball a lot this year with a rookie QB but I don’t know if Jones can handle the workload. I believe he turns 31 during the season. I don’t mind paying in the high teens to see if Jones can repeat his production but I wouldn’t blame people for passing on him either.
R. Grant (19) annoyed fantasy owners last year by not scoring or eclipsing 100 yards until week 7. He was a little better in the 2nd half but failed to break into the top 20.
M. Lynch (18) is a pretty good RB. He has top 10 potential, BUT he tends to get in some trouble. His worth won’t be determined until we find out how long his suspension will be.
P. Thomas (17) should see more carries with McAllister out of the picture. It would be nice for Thomas if the brittle Bush would get injured again as well. Outlook is promising.
D. McFadden (16) still plays for the Raiders (sigh). Turf toe destroyed his rookie campaign but he has the skills to be a top 10 performer if he can stay healthy. This is a big risk/reward play.
J. Stewart (15) had a very nice rookie year behind Williams. Stewart should get plenty of carries on the goal line. He should put up close to top 20 numbers and would creep up even higher if Williams were to have any kind of setback.
D. Ward (14) will be out of the giant shadow of Brandon Jacobs this year. Ward should get a much larger workload than he is used to. If he can hold up all year he will easily be a top 20 back and has the potential to break out with a top 10 campaign. I like the upside.
Tier E consists of: (24-29)
J. Addai (14) only scored 107 points in an injury riddled season. I am not buying a resurgence.
W. Parker (13) only scored 104 points in an injury riddled season, sound familiar?
L. Johnson (13) could be cut by the Chiefs. Not a good sign for Johnson owners. Anyone notice how many old guys are in tier E?
N. Moreno (12) is not an old guy but he does play in Denver. We all know that Denver is where fantasy backs go to die.
R. Bush (11) would not receive a bid of over $5 from me in a standard league but if we are talking PPR I might go as high as $15.
L. White (11) hasn’t received much love this year. All I have to say is this; he was a top 20 back last year, he is a monster at the goal line, he has reportedly lost a lot of weight, and it may cost you less than $10 to grab him. How about that for some love.
Tier F consists of: (30-37)
A. Bradshaw (7) will split time with Jacobs this year. He only scored 43 points last year, but with Ward gone he should see a lot more carries. What he does with those carries remains to be seen.
J. Lewis (7) is old and I don’t trust him. Prove me wrong.
C. Benson (5) is a guy I love this year and I hate Cedric Benson. In his last 3 games he scored 15, 15, and 18 points. Not too shabby. You could find many worse ways to spend $5.
D. Sproles (5) is a must have If you own L.T. but has value on your roster even if you don’t own L.T. We have seen Sproles be explosive at times last year and owners will hope for more of that in 2009.
F. Jones (4). Please read Sproles but substitute Barber for L.T.
D. Brown (4) is a rookie RB for the Colts. I love this guy, mainly because I don’t like Rhodes or Addai.
F. Taylor (3) is now in New England and seems to me like the perfect player to fit into the Patriots system. I think he has a chance to be a top 20-25 back this year. At $3 that is a great value.