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Early Season Runningback Talk

We continue our early season discussion, talking about rankings, sleepers, and busts.  To review, I have been in quite a few drafts already, and I also had the opportunity to participate in a video draft guide talking about the current state of things.  In order to expand a bit upon the short sound bites I provided, I thought it’d be a good idea to share and expand upon some of my thoughts here.  Since it is a little early, we’ll only go thru my top five at each position (I know, I know, probably not revealing much!), but I’ll also throw in some players that I think could surprise from lower down on your cheatsheet.  We’ll crank these articles out one at a time by position, then we’ll talk about some sleepers, as well as some players that I’m already seeing being drafted too high.  As always, your thoughts, comments, and reaction is welcome!

LaDainian Tomlinson (SD)

Don’t let the Darth Vader like image of him ending the season in New England scare you away from Tomlinson on draft day.  I’m not sure that you even need me to say it, but he should be the first player selected on draft day.  Not much of a discussion needed here, one if by land, two if by sea, Tomlinson can do it all, and will once again do it all in 2008. 

Brian Westbrook (Phi)

Second on my list is Brian Westbrook.  Especially in point per reception leagues, I think the ranking is justified.  The Eagles offense surged towards the end of last season, and even before then, Westbrook was a dominant fantasy performer.  Look for Philadelphia to keep this momentum going for a very successful 2008 and look for Westbrook to finish as one of the top two fantasy players at his position. 

Adrian Peterson (Min)

What a season from the rookie in 2007.  Despite missing some time, he still finished as one of the top overall fantasy performers.  Sophmore slump?  I don’t think so.  Peterson might even deserve a bump up to #2 in leagues that don’t count receptions, since Chester Taylor will continue to be the likely third down back, but look for Peterson to improve upon the 19 passed caught in 2007.  Regardless, be assured that it is Peterson’s running that will keep him well within the top 5 RBs on draft day regardless of the format. 

Steven Jackson (StL)

Though he was limited in some games last year because of injury, there’s no reason to suggest he won’t be back as one of the best all around RBs in 2008.  The Rams will get him the ball on the ground and in the air as St.Louis looks to rebound from a very disappointing 2007.  Marc Bulger should be back and healthy, Torry Holt should be back and healthy, Steven Jackson should be back and healthy.  Put 2007 behind you and make Jackson the third overall selection in your fantasy draft. 

Joseph Addai (Ind)

Rounding out the top five is Joseph Addai.  Despite a somewhat disappointing second half season in 2007, the Colts best weapon on the ground in 2008 will continue to be Addai.  Look for him to improve on his 2007 totals as he will remain a viable passing option out of the backfield, but more importantly, look for him to increase his ground workload as he proves he is worth the fifth overall pick in your fantasy draft. 

Not able to get any of the top five on draft day?  Unluckily you’re sitting at the bottom of the first round in your draft?  Not to worry, there are plenty of RBs that will be drafted later on that should outperform their draft day ranking…

Edgerrin James (Ari)

Yes, I know, James is in the twighlight of his career.  And yes, he is coming off a down year in 2007, but in the early drafts I’ve been involved in, he’s not getting much respect.  James has topped 1100 yards in each of the past five seasons, and with a better settled situation at QB, his numbers should rise in 2008.  No one on the Cardinals roster will threaten his playing time so James should be good to go for another 1000 yard campaign. 

Ryan Grant (GB)

Last year’s free agent sensation is looking to keep that going in 2008.  As long as he’s signed and in training camp, which seems likely at this point in time, I see no reason he can’t continue to as the #1 RB for the Packers.  As such, that makes him a valuable fantasy runningback, one that should end up 2008 just outside of the top ten at his position. 

Julius Jones (Sea)

Jones will be the starter in Seattle.  Though there will be plenty of competition in the form of TJ Duckett, Leonard Weaver, and Maurice Morris, the Seahawks offense is more suited to Jones’ skill set than was Dallas.  Jones is a very capable reciever out of the backfield and Seattle will be able to use this ability to its fullest.  Early cheatsheets that I’ve seen have Jones way down on the list, bump him up a few places on yours to insure that you get him and enjoy the fruits of his 2008 success. 

Selvin Young (Den)

Mike Shanahan will keep fantasy owners guessing until the very end, but with Travis Henry out of the picture, Young is proclaiming that he can run for 2000 yards in 2008.  I’m not sure that we see that much from the youngster, but he will certainly have the inside track to the Broncos starting position when camp opens.  Perhaps a big if, but if he can stay in Shanahan’s good graces and hold onto the job for the majority of 2008, he should end up just inside the top 20 at his position. 

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