As Marc mentioned, if you have guys beat up, Houston could salvage something
out of a fantasy roster spot that otherwise might get little to no production.
Not the worst option at RB, but not the best either.
A few weeks ago, it looked like Mike Anderson would be a solid FF contributor
for the rest of the year. But his workload has been substantially reduced over
the last couple weeks, and Tatum Bell had more success than Anderson
against the Ravens last week. Any clue on how the carries will be distributed
from here on out, or should fantasy owners just avoid the Denver
backfield if they can?
Will Grant: I'd be
more inclined to go with 'avoid if you can.' Bell's 3.9 YPC isn't going to win anyone a championship, and
at this point in the season, you really want backs that you can count on. Last
week against KC, Anderson still had the bulk of the carries, but only had 37 yards
rushing. He made up for it with a TD rush and a 66 yard TD reception, but that
was his only catch. Bell has never touched the ball more than 20 times in a game,
and I don't see that changing unless Anderson goes down to injury. I think either
back is a risk at this point, and you should start a more consistent player
unless you're looking for a big risk, big reward type of thing.
Jason Wood: This
has been a frustrating year for tier two RBs. Just when you think Mewelde
Moore's the star back, Michael Bennett gets a heavy dose for two straight
weeks. Willie Parker is back in the Steelers’ starting lineup and then Jerome
Bettis comes out of nowhere with 100 yards and 2 TDs. DeShaun Foster is
proclaimed the starter and fantasy leaguers are thrilled to have kept him on
their bench all this time, and then he goes out this past week and lays an egg.
We've seen this time and again this year and it's been harrowing for fantasy
owners trying to plug and play someone in their RB2 or
The Broncos’ situation is particularly interesting because Shanahan has
historically gone with one lone workhorse. For awhile it seemed as though both Anderson and Bell had a shot at 1,000 yard seasons, but injury and
curiously disappointing performance these last few weeks has hampered that
If you're in your league's playoffs I would bet you aren't beholden to starting
Anderson or Bell. If you are, I
would probably stick with Anderson; he's been the better back this year.
David Yudkin: I am
in a similar position to what Jason outlined. I have Anderson and have limited other options for the playoffs, so I
have to play him. It does appear that Denver has more going on than on the surface, as they have used
Anderson, Bell, and Dayne at different points this season. Anderson would probably be the highest on the pecking order, but
he certainly is not as reliable fantasy-wise as many had hoped.
It does not appear that the Broncos will be picking any single guy to be
"the guy" from here on out, so if you are a fantasy owner be prepared
for a very broad range of scoring from week to week for the usual suspects
Cecil Lammey: I
would avoid the Broncos run game if at all possible. Mike Anderson would be
your best bet to score points if you are really pressed for some starting
punch. Tatum Bell cannot convert on short yardage situations, and Ron Dayne is
not a power back, no matter how hard Shanny will try to prove otherwise. That
being said, Tatum is a great change of pace back and can take any run outside
all the way to the house. The Broncos are still fighting for playoff
positioning so the chances of Anderson getting a rest before the season is over is slim. I
expect Anderson to get back on track, but it's too risky to determine
when or for how long.
Always Start Your Studs? (But Who Are They?)
A popular piece of advice in fantasy football is to always start your studs.
It's not always easy to figure out who the studs are, however. In the first
half of the season, Willis McGahee and Randy Moss were considered studs. Are
they still? Should fantasy owners keep starting them regardless of matchups? On
the flip side, guys like Clinton Portis, Carnell Williams, Chris Chambers, and
Samkon Gado have started to come on strong in the past few weeks -- have they
reached stud status such that owners should "always" start them
throughout the rest of the playoffs? How do you decide which players are studly
enough that you'd always start them regardless of matchups?
Jason Wood: I
think there's a fine line. Playing matchups gets easier as
the season wears on because we have a more statistically accurate picture of a
team and its opposition. You would never sit Rudi Johnson in Week One,
but if in Week 14 he's playing the Bears, you would possibly consider it
knowing now how well the Bears run defense is playing. Ultimately I believe you
have to honestly assess your alternatives. There's no easy answer. On the radio
show I do each week, someone asked about Carson Palmer two weeks ago and he was
considering sitting him vs. Pittsburgh.
I suggested that you shouldn't sit the #1 fantasy QB unless you've got a great alternative.
Will Grant: Jason
is correct: 'Never sit your studs' is a bit easier to go against at this point
in the season. 'Stud' at this point could almost be taken to mean the guys who
have scored the most points for you to this point. Lamont Jordan, Joey Galloway
and Drew Bledsoe were not even in the realm of 'stud' in week one. Now, you're
starting them every week if you have them.
But the rule cuts both ways. Cadillac Williams went up against Carolina, a top 3 defense against the run. He lit them up for 110
yards and 2 TDS. Yet McGahee was shut down against New England
when New England wasn't even a top 10 rushing defense.
As Wood said... you have to honestly assess the alternatives on your roster.
'Never sit your studs' really becomes 'never sit your studs unless you have a
David Yudkin: I
think always start your studs is great advice with the proviso at this time of
the year that defines a stud as someone that was productive all year. I hope
nobody benched Larry Johnson last week against the strong Cowboys’ rush
defense, and I hope nobody benches LaDainian Tomlinson this week against a
strong Colts’ rush defense. Long story short, you don't sit guys like that
unless they had a leg fall off.
Guys like Randy Moss, Willis McGahee, Julius Jones, et al, are horses of
another color. They haven’t been
studs all year long, and if I had better matchup options or great depth at a
position I would seriously consider sitting them.
Cecil Lammey: You
should always start your studs! As stated by the other guys, if they are truly
having a stud year, then keep playing them, even if the matchup dictates that
you shouldn't. Potential "studs" like Willis McGahee should sit the
bench if you have better options at RB.
RB Changes Next Year
Looking ahead to next year, what kind of changes do you see happening around the
league at the running back position? I’ll throw a few potential changes out and
get your comments.
Is there a reasonable chance that Greg Jones will be named
the starter over Fred Taylor?
Jason Wood: Taylor is entering the penultimate year of his current deal and
is owed $2.55 million. I would say it's 50/50 the Jaguars will opt to part ways
with him as the cap hit would be minimal. Whether Greg Jones gets the job next
year is less certain. Between free agency and the draft, anything can happen.
Will Grant: I
agree with Jason that I think Jacksonville is done with Taylor.
If the Jags want to compete with Indy, they're going to need more than a part
time starting RB. As to who takes over, it's going to be wide open. Greg Jones
looks solid now, but with Pearman and Toefield there, it could be anyone's
guess. It would not surprise me at all to see Jacksonville make a free agent play as well. (How scary would Jacksonville be with Shaun Alexander running the ball?)
Cecil Lammey: It
looks as though Greg Jones has played his way into more playing time in 2006. I
believe that he should start over Fred Taylor, if Taylor is even a Jag next summer. At the very least I think the
2 backs will duke it out in training camp for the starting job. Alvin Pearman
should play a larger role if Jones is named the starter. Greg Jones is a good
power back but is a little one dimensional. He should be in on the first 2
downs and short yardage situations with Pearman coming in on obvious passing
situations and 3rd down.
Maurile Tremblay: Might
Samkon Gado will start over Ahman Green?
Jason Wood: Gado is somewhat reminiscent
of Nick Goings in Carolina last year: fourth stringer turned into yardage machine.
Yet Goings has been relegated back to a special teams
role primarily this year. Gado has been impressive as a runner, but he
certainly isn't in Ahman Green's class in terms of overall ability. That said,
Green is a free agent at year end and I can't imagine the Packers, who are clearly
in rebuilding mode, will opt to pay Ahman a big new deal. Best guess is Ahman
signs with another team while Green Bay goes in another direction that does not necessarily
involve Gado as the starter.
Will Grant: Again
I agree with Woodrow that Gado is probably a one-season wonder. He puts the ball on the carpet too much to be a
legitimate consideration for starter next season. When the announcers are
saying 'Son, just hold onto the ball', you know something is up. While the
Packers won't get Reggie Bush, it wouldn't surprise me if they drafted a rookie
runner in 2006.
Cecil Lammey: As
good as Samkon Gado has been doing I feel it's unlikely he'll get the starting
nod over a healthy Ahman Green. He has a problem with ball security, much like
Green used to, and until he can prove he won't cough up the rock I think that
his starting chances over Ahman are slim.
Maurile Tremblay: Will Cedric Benson will start over Thomas Jones?
Jason Wood: The
Bears need more than one running back to win playing their style of smash mouth
football and Jones contract is palatable. With Benson being hurt this year and
rather unimpressive prior to the injury, I can't see the Bears letting Jones
walk. I would imagine it will be an honest, open competition in camp with Jones
emerging as the favorite.
Will Grant: The
Bears believe that they are a playoff team. Come next season, they're going to go with whatever RB
will keep them winning. Benson blew a golden opportunity to be the back of the
future in Chicago, and Thomas Jones has done everything that was asked of
him and then some. This has RBBC written all over it next season, especially if
they get their QB position under control.
Cecil Lammey: Cedric
Benson, for as talented as he is, will not start over Thomas Jones unless Jones
is injured or ineffective. Benson got in the dog house early with his holdout,
and now with his injury is even further in it. He needs to get back in Lovie's
good graces by pounding the rock, holding onto the ball, and proving that he
belongs in the NFL.
How about Frank Gore starting over Kevan Barlow?
Jason Wood: The Frank Gore story is
a nice one, but if the 49ers are going to claw out of the basement it's going
to be with someone else as their lead back. I can't imagine how Reggie Bush
doesn't end up a 49er if they get the 1st pick. Otherwise I would say Gore
remains as the backup while Barlow is sent packing.
Will Grant: Run
AWAY. Run AWAY! San Francisco is going to have another rough year in 2006, and it's
hard to see anyone becoming a solid fantasy RB from that group next season
either. Barlow isn't the answer. Gore has done well in a 'change of pace' role,
but he is not an every down back. They are another good candidate to pick up a
RB in the draft.
Might we see Chester Taylor stay in Baltimore
and start over Jamal Lewis?
Jason Wood: There will be wholesale
changes in that organization this offseason. So without the benefit of knowing who
the new coach will be and what kind of offense he plans to run, it's tough to
say whether Chester has a shot at the starting job. Jamal is almost
certainly done after the deterioration of his play and attitude this year (particularly
after the team stuck by him during his incarceration). Much like the 49ers, I
would bet the Ravens’ leading rusher for 2006 isn't currently on their roster.
Will Grant: Lewis
will be in another uniform in 2006. I
don't see him staying with the Ravens. Taylor could be another Barlow and should be approached with a
bit of caution. The guy has never touched the ball more than 200 times a season
and might not be able to handle a full load. I agree with Jason here that the
coaching changes will dictate who takes over.
Cecil Lammey: Chester Taylor is the future in Baltimore, and Jamal Lewis will be tossed out ASAP.
Could Marion Barber get more carries than Julius Jones?
Jason Wood: Barber, in my view,
looks equipped to be a true bell cow in this league. While I like Jones too, I
can't see why he would automatically get the bulk of the carries heading into
next year. My guess is this remains a committee until someone gets hurt, and
then the other becomes a solid fantasy contributor.
Will Grant: Jones,
Barber and Tyson Thompson will probably share the load three ways. All three have their strengths and weaknesses. Unless
Barber blows off everyone's doors in the pre-season, this will be a fantasy RB
nightmare next year.
What will happen in Houston if the
Texans get the first pick in the draft? Will they take Bush and then trade
Domanick Davis? Or keep Davis as a
Will Grant: Without serious OL help, even Reggie Bush would
struggle in Houston next season. They need help in many other places. Davis signed a big contract before the season, Wells was
retained and is a team player, and Morency was a third round pick
for them this season. I can't see how Reggie Bush gives them the most bang for their buck.
David Yudkin: As a
more general note, I’ll mention that some of the cloudiness at the RB position
next year will involve teams with free agents. From what I can tell, Jamal
Lewis, Chester Taylor, DeShaun Foster, Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Edgerrin
James, Michael Bennett, Moe Williams, Onterrio Smith, Willie Parker, Shaun
Alexander, and Maurice Morris are all in the final year of their contracts.
(Possibly Sam Gado as well; I’d have to look it up.)
The market for free agents should be very interesting, with four bona fide
studs potentially on the market, depending on how teams use their franchise
tags. Even other RBs that aren't free agents could be available (like Ricky Williams),
so it should be a very intriguing offseason.
As for teams and their individual situations, one team that has not been
mentioned yet is the Patriots. I'm not so sure that they are still enamored
with Corey Dillon being in and out of the lineup all year. They also ran into
huge depth problems not having many RBs on the roster. I suspect they will get
someone else to start (and cut Dillon) or get someone else to compete with
As I see it, the teams there are 10-12 teams with significant question marks at
RB next year: MIN, GB, SEA, SF, JAX, ARI, DAL, BAL, DEN, PIT, CAR, and PIT.
There is a chance we see a lot of players in new locales or even rookie
starters (which we really haven't seen in awhile).
The NFL’s Top Offenses
Marc Levin: A few
years ago, fantasy owners wanted to invest in players from the high-powered
offenses of Kansas City, St.
Louis, and Indianapolis. They were pretty much looking to grab almost any player
from those rosters, often calling the WR3 from those teams as good as many
teams' WR1. All three units, however, are starting to show their age.
Do you see the Bengals and the Seahawks as the current offenses on the rise –
the ones that owners should be looking to get a piece of? Are they displacing KC,
St. Louis and Indianapolis? Is there a third team we should be talking about - such
as the New York Giants or Arizona Cardinals?
Conversely, should dynasty owners be looking to “sell high” on their St Louis, Indianapolis, and Kansas City
David Yudkin: As
for the first question, I am not so sure Seattle is one of the teams you have to get a piece of. For
starters, if Alexander does not return, all bets are off as far as I'm
concerned. Hasselbeck is currently the #7 fantasy QB--nothing all that phenomenal
as a QB1. Joe Jurevicius is the highest ranked fantasy WR on the team (23rd),
and who knows how the distribution will be beyond Darrell Jackson>
I still see the Rams as having three WRs, a RB, and a QB option next year that
could all be fairly high ranking. The same goes for the Bengals. The Colts are
always a good team to have players from. Other than that, I don't see any teams
that have several great fantasy options all from the same squad.
As for the second question, I would still want the Chiefs running game, but the
passing game not so much. I don't necessarily think the Rams’ offense is going
to fall apart anytime soon, and even Bruce at 33 should have another year or
two left. I don't think the Rams will be exceedingly competitive, so they will
still get into several shootouts a year. The Colts will decline some
eventually, but I would still feel comfortable having Manning, Harrison, Wayne,
James, Clark on my team next year. Harrison
was supposed to slow down this year and he's currently the #2 WR.
For the most part, dynasty owners should at least look into trading guys in
their 30s for younger players in good situations or with great potential. But I
have always adhered to a "win now" philosophy, so I wouldn't give
away an older player for nothing.
I like the Bengals’ offense quite a bit. Carson Palmer is for real, and he’s
got three talented receivers to throw to. I will definitely be trying to get a
piece of their offense next year. (Chris Henry will probably be a nice late-round
sleeper in redraft leagues.)
I agree with David that I’d want the Chiefs’ running game,
but not their passing game. I’ve never been a huge Trent Green fan. Although I
will always be willing to draft Tony Gonzalez in the early middle rounds and
Eddie Kennison in the middle rounds, I think the Chiefs’ targets get pretty
thin after those two guys.
I also still like the Colts and Rams offenses. Peyton
Manning and Marc Bulger are both plenty young enough to have many good years in
this league, and both have plenty of offensive weapons to work with. It’ll be
interesting to see whether the Colts can hold onto Reggie Wayne next year. If
they can’t, that increases Marvin Harrison’s value. I agree with David that a
“win now” philosophy is generally preferred, so I’ have no qualms about keeping
a WR of Harrison’s age on my dynasty team. I am more
likely to trade for Harrison than to trade him.
As a more general answer, though, I tend to target specific
players rather than teams. I like Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald a lot, but
that doesn’t mean I want any other Cardinal WRs, TEs, or RBs. Similarly, the
Chargers have had one of the more prolific offenses in the league over the last
two years, but it’s been limited largely to Tomlinson and Gates, and to a lesser
extent McCardell. I wouldn’t be targeting any of the supporting players just so
I could get a piece of that offense. A piece does you no good unless it’s the
And with that, it looks like I’ve rambled my way to the end
of our session here. There’s lots of good football to be played this weekend.
Enjoy the games and we’ll see you back here next week.