The NFL Rank ‘Em Up: #40-33 RBs

July 15, 2011 at 5:17 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Any fantasy football player worth his salt knows that a running back by committee system murders any running backs value about 95% of the time.  Sometimes, it works, but they only legitimately work when every running back perfectly compliment each other or Bill Belichick is involved.

My 40th RB on this list is Ronnie Brown.  Ronnie’s glory days are over.  Miami chose not to resign him, and once the league restarts, Brown (along with his teammate Ricky Williams) will probably be on the free agent market.  If he does sign with another team, he’ll be at least a PPR threat.  But, he doesn’t have his elusiveness anymore, so don’t waste a pick on him unless your league is particularly deep.

Everybody seems to be high on Washington rookie Roy Helu, but I’m not buying it.  Yeah, there aren’t a ton of people ahead of him on the depth chart, but do you really trust any running back in a Mike Shanahan system?   This is a man who loves to play around and swap out his backs.  Remember, back in ’08, seven different Broncos led the team in rushing yards in different games.  And in Washington, Helu will have to compete with Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams, Evan Royster, Mike Sellers, and James Davis.  And you can bet that all five of them will steal carries, yards, and touchdowns from Helu.  He’ll still probably lead the Skins in rushing yards, but people who are saying that Helu will win ROY are a little bit optimistic.

Mike Tolbert is only two inches taller than me, but double my weight. Yep, he's a round fellow.

Mike Tolbert was a pleasant surprise last season.  I’ve heard the comparison to Natrone Means a lot, but he actually reminds me of an early Jerome Bettis.  If he can sure up his hands, he can be a bowling ball of a back, able to break multiple tackles, and score touchdowns in bunches.  The only problem (other than the fumbles) is a big one though, Ryan Mathews.  When Mathews is healthy, he’s demonstrated some excellent balance and burst, but he’s also been known to be fumbly and injury-prone.  So if anything, Tolbert is probably the most dependable handcuff in the NFL.  At the very least, he’ll be San Diego’s red zone threat, so a second straight double-digit touchdown season isn’t crazy talk.

James Starks was last season’s playoff MVP, at #37.  He didn’t play a down in the pros until Week 13, but he came to life in the playoffs where he demonstrated an uncanny ability to keep his legs moving and almost never lose yards.  He still has to pass Ryan Grant on the depth chart and it’s more than likely that Green Bay will probably have about a 45-35-15-5 split in carries between Grant, Starks, third-round rookie out of Hawaii, Alex Green, and fullback John Kuhn.  He has some serious potential, but he’ll have to prove that he can work with another running back.

The NFL finally decided to let Pierre Thomas, but only if he promised to stop flying.

Next up at #36, we have Pierre Thomas.  Thomas would be a lot more attractive right now, with Reggie Bush heading out and Chris Ivory coming off foot surgery.  But, there’s also the drafting of Mark Ingram.  Now, Thomas can still work, especially since he’s in the “give-everyone-their-chance” offense in New Orleans.  Plus, Ingram hasn’t exactly proven himself as the sturdiest pipe wrench in the tool shed.  So, Thomas will have opportunities, but he missed ten games last season, so durability is a problem with Thomas as well, like most backs in this range.

You’d think that Michael Bush would be higher on the REU than 35th, since he was part of last season’s best running game, but Bush only rushed for 3.8 yards per carry last season, so he’s been drummed up a lot.  The only reason he’s in my top 35 at all is because I’m not sold on Darren McFadden yet.  If Run DMC was a proven runner, Bush’s value would take a nose dive on this list.  But, if McFadden can’t back up last season’s breakout, Bush could reap the benefits.  And, since Bush will probably go undrafted in most drafts, you can keep an eye on him from a distance.

Ryan Grant seems a lot better than 34th, and he’ll probably be gone in the first 100 picks, way before people ahead of him on this list like Ryan Williams, Marshawn Lynch, and maybe even DeAngelo Williams.  But, he’s a huge risk, and he doesn’t even have a huge reward tacked onto him.  His ankle will be a big question mark this season, and even if he does clock in a full season, James Starks and Alex Green have shown up since the last time Grant played a down; both of whom are sure to swipe carries from Grant.  His back-to-back 1,200 yard seasons seem like they happened so long ago.

The aforementioned Ryan Williams clocks in at the 33rd position.  After just two full seasons at VA Tech, Williams made the jump to the pros, and he’ll probably be at least the goal line threat in Arizona.  I think I’ve figured out the Cards running system for this season.  Williams will be the primary rusher and goal-line threat.  Beanie Wells will be the change-of-pace and project back.  And Tim Hightower will be the receiver/emergency back.  If that’s the case, Williams will be the Arizona back with the most upside, and plus he’s fairly obscure, so depending on whether or not Arizona can seal the deal on the Kevin Kolb acquisition, Williams could be the lead runner in a powerful offense that you can nab in the ninth round.  How’s that for upside?

In the next part, we’ll go into a few sleepers and a few busts.

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