The Den continues its series going thru all the offensive selections in this year’s NFL Rookie Draft. This week, we tackle a favorite position of mine, Running Back!! Once again, I appreciate and read all the email, even though I can’t keep up and respond to all the messages. There have been some good, there have been some bad, and there have been some ugly one’s. That’s ok, everyone has an opinion.
As for this article, let me start off by quoting a great man and a famous quote of his: “The first round of a dynasty draft should be used for QB and RB and nothing else.” Certainly those are good words to live by. We’ve said it time and again, but it is even more difficult in a dynasty league, finding a viable running back for your starting lineup is the toughest position to fill. Most dynasty leagues require that you start two, this makes the problem of finding one even worse than it already is.
Let’s get right into it. You’ll notice that three players crack into the coveted “Great White Shark” category. If you are in a position to take one of these guys, then do so. If you can scam another owner into trading you a selection to get one of these guys and you only have to give up a quantity of low round picks, then do so. Once you get outside the top five, there are a couple of guys in the Hammerhead Shark category, and from there it gets even thinner. You might also notice a slight change to the category names after the initial release of the QB article. The categories will be this:
Great White – Guys that have value in both the short (redraft) and long (dynasty) term
Hammerhead – Guys that may have short term value, but do have long term value
Blue – Guys that have an outside chance at helping in the short term, could have long term value
Leopard – Virtually no short term value, slight chance of having some long term value
Sand – No short term value, little to no long term value
As always, don’t get left out in telling me I’m a fool: firstname.lastname@example.org
Great White Sharks
Cream of this year’s crop. These guys are sure to go at the top of your draft, and rightly so since they can step in and will likely perform right out of the gate.
Julius Jones, Dallas (round 2, overall 43, Notre Dame)
The Cowboys have cleared the deck for Julius Jones to be the starter so to say the opportunity is there for him to excel this year would be an understatement. Jones closed out his college career by rushing for over 150 yards in three of his last four contests so his ability to rack up big yardage is not a question. Of more importance, Bill Parcells had a third round pick a number of years ago in New England that turned out to be pretty good – Curtis Martin. So he has no qualms about giving the ball to a rookie early and often. Expect Jones to excel as the starter and end up as a top 15 RB in 2004.
Kevin Jones, Detroit (1, 30, Virginia Tech)
What a draft the Lions had. Early in the first round they took what many considered to be the top WR in Roy Williams and late in the draft, they get what many considered to be the top RB in Kevin Jones. He averaged 170 total yards in his last four college games so he is no stranger to carrying the load. Possesses great speed which the Lions have not had in a RB in a long time. With only Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner standing in his way, Jones should be able to quickly establish himself as RB1 in Detroit.
Steven Jackson, St.Louis (1, 24, Oregon State)
I had a hard time on settling on a category for this guy, but when you are the first RB taken overall, that really forces you to be ranked among the elite. Steven Jackson is the full package, he can do it all…run with the ball, catch the ball, block when needed, a solid all around player. If he’d have been selected by anyone else but St.Louis, he’d be by far the top RB for you to take in your dynasty draft. However, given that the Rams have a guy named Marshall Faulk, I don’t expect Jackson to explode on the scene like the Jonses that I’ve already discussed. Many will talk about Faulk’s injuries and how that will open the door for him, but I don’t see it. I also hear talk about Jackson sharing the backfield with Marshall, but so far I’ve only heard that from Jackson himself. He may get in there to spell Faulk from time to time, and his size dictates that he might get a decent amount of goal line looks, but I don’t expect Jackson to be a viable starter for your fantasy team this year. I do believe that Jackson is the top player in this draft, so maybe if you’ve already got a couple of good RBs and you can afford to wait a year or two, then Jackson is your man. Then again, if you have the top pick in the draft, I doubt that you don’t have a need at RB.
These guys are just a notch below the Great Whites. They may not be top fantasy producers this year, but surely they will in the near future.
Chris Perry, Cincinnati (1, 26, Michigan)
If you can’t get your hands on any of the top three RBs, don’t worry. I like Chris Perry and I think he’s in a good situation in Cincinnati (when is the last time anyone said that about the Bengals!!). Many will point to Rudi Johnson as being the top dog, and he is, for now. I just don’t see Rudi being the long term answer. He had a very nice season last year, surprising many. He did so well that he allowed the Bengals to finally part ways with Corey Dillon. I’m just not sure that Johnson will be able to produce like he did last year being the #1 guy. Perry will be waiting in the wings and will be a viable option for them from the get go. Perry probably won’t be worthy of a starting RB slot in 2004, but beyond that there is certainly the hope that he will.
Tatum Bell, Denver (2, 41, Oklahoma State)
I know right away that ranking Bell at #5 here will bring out the boo birds. Everyone will point out that Denver is a factory for rookie RBs, Clinton Portis is out of the picture, Shanahan is a genius, etc, etc, etc. Bell did rack up 33 TDs and over 3400 worth of yardage, but I would temper my expectations for Denver’s rookie RB this time around. Quentin Griffin is still in the picture, and the Broncos didn’t bring in Garrison Hearst to sit the bench. At the moment, either of these three guys could be RB1 in Denver, and you have to think that the veteran has the inside job from at least the start. That’s not to say that Bell won’t excel, I just don’t see it happening this year. Many think he’s the fastest RB in the draft this year and who am I to disagree. Bell is another guy like Jackson, if you can wait a year or two, then the payout will come.
Starting to get into guys that may or may not ever be capable fantasy players but guys worth taking a chance on and holding on to see what happens.
Greg Jones, Jacksonville (2, 55, Florida State)
A tough call here, but this Jones slips into the Blue Shark ranking on my sheet. That’s not to say he doesn’t have the potential, you have to like a guy that carries the nickname, the Tank. He slips a little in the NFL Draft because of some knee surgury, but this will be his second full season after that so any injury concerns should be put to rest. What I like about this guy is that he will probably be a goal line option right away. Fred Taylor will carry the load, but as is the case every season, someone else always comes in for the short yardage score and I see Jones being that guy this year. Let’s not forget too that Taylor is always an injury risk, so Jones might get some time that way as well. More likely, he scores a bunch of TDs this year and his role increases a little bit more every year.
Cedric Cobbs, New England (4, 128, Arkansas)
When the New England Patriots traded for Corey Dillon before the draft, that freed them from having to spend a high draft pick on another RB. While many expected they might grab a guy late, Cedric Cobbs does not really fit the mold of that team. Some injuries and off the field problems lowered his stock, and usually those are the type of guys Bill Belichick likes to avoid. In any case, he’s a Patriot, and perhaps they have been assured that his issues are behind him. Of more importance to us fantasy leaguers, are the people in front of him on the depth chart. Obviously, Dillon will get the bulk of the work, and beyond that there are guys like Kevin Faulk and Mike Cloud in the mix. In other words, Cobbs has his work cut out for him if he wants to see any action on the playing field this year. There are no assurances that Cobbs will ever be a RB1, but in a dynasty league, sometimes you have to take that chance.
Adimchinobe Echemandu, Cleveland (7, 208, California)
First of all, there’s no chance that I want to type in that first name again so let me just call this guy Joe. Joe Ech had an up and down college career, some great games, some not so great, some injuries. I rank Ech here mostly due to the potential opportunity. Being a seventh round pick, he will have to work hard to even make the team, but when you look at the other Brown RBs (Lee Suggs, William Green, James Jackson), none of those guys really jump out at you as studs. While I don’t see it happening in 2004, there is an outside chance that Joe Ech could be the man in Cleveland in a couple of years. He has good size, but he’s a raw talent. Don’t be afraid to keep him on your roster to see what develops in a couple of years.
Mewelde Moore, Minnesota (4, 119, Tulane)
Moore just makes it into the Blue Shark division, barely. A good all around player that caught many a ball out of the Green Wave backfield in his college days. Just as Joe Ech got bumped up because of opportunity, Mewelde Moore gets knocked down here because of it. While no one can really tell if Michael Bennett, Moe Williams, and/or Ontario Smith will be RB1 I do know that all of those guys are capable of being that person (well, maybe not Moe). Moore has a long road ahead of him.
Getting down and dirty here with the players at RB, but you can’t ignore these guys. After all, which one of these guys is this year’s Domanick Davis??
Michael Turner, San Diego (5, 24, Northern Illinois)
Turner probably jumps right in as the RB2 in San Diego, which probably isn’t worth a lot. No need to go into the RB1 that they have and his production, but guys get hurt and you never know, right? Earned the starting job as a junior and had an incredible two year stint as the starter. If you own Tomlinson, you would be wise to see if you can grab this guy to cover yourself.
Quincy Wilson, Atlanta (7, 219, West Virginia)
An athletic type that will have his work cut out for him if he wants to make the team. Extremely unlikely to see much, if any action this year, a long term prospect at best.
Derrick Ward, New York (7, 235, Ottawa Kansas)
Ward recorded 28 TDs and over 2000 yards worth of production, but he too has many roadblocks to any potential fantasy production. Another long term prospect at best.
Bruce Perry, Philadelphia (7, 242, Maryland)
Another guy that had a decent college career but on a team that has no real need for his production this year or even in the short term future.
Brandon Miree, Denver (7, 247, Pittsburgh)
More likely a fullback so barely makes the cut as a Leopard Shark. Denver usually goes into training camp with 10+ guys, here’s yet another.
Jammal Lord, Houston (6, 175, Nebraska)
Lord is being transitioned into playing defensive back. That pretty much nils out any fantasy value. Too bad since it’s always a good idea to try and get a Lord on your side, even in the fantasy world.
Let me just say this about the remaining three guys, they are fullbacks. I cannot forsee any scnenario where you would draft any of these guys. Nothing against them, but they aren’t going to be generating any fantasy points….ever. No sense even trying to sugar coat it.
Troy Fleming, Tennessee (6, 191, Tennessee)
Mike Karney, New Orleans (5, 156, Arizona State)
Thomas Tapeh, Philadelphia (5, 162, Minnesota)
Sean McHugh, Tennessee (7, 241, Penn State)