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Let’s Get Ready To Rumble With RB’s…

Training camps open in only a few weeks and there are
already several key running back battles yet to be decided.

  These competitions in training camp have
fantasy implications that are vital to understand before you commit to these
players in your drafts.

  

So with that said, let’s analyze the main open competitions,
and see who is ready to rumble their way into contributing to your fantasy
team….

Carolina

Panthers Starting RB:

  DeShaun Foster vs. Deangelo Williams

Entering training camp, DeShaun Foster is listed as the
starting running back for the Panthers; however, there are rumblings that
Deangelo Williams will significantly benefit from the new zone blocking schemes
implemented into the Panthers offense.

 
Williams had great success in college at

Memphis with a similar zone blocking scheme,
and the combination of his explosiveness and receiving skills fit the new
scheme perfectly.

 

Foster should also benefit from the new Panther’s schemes;
however, he lacks the explosion of Deangelo.

 
According to a recent ESPN.com Len Pasquarelli report, DeShaun Foster
remains the unquestioned starter going into camp, and unless Deangelo Williams
significantly outshines Foster in camp, Foster should start the season with a
majority of the carries.

So far in fantasy mock drafts, Deangelo Williams is being
taken several rounds ahead of Foster.

 
This trend will likely continue through training camp as many fantasy
owners are excited about Deangelo Williams’ prospects following a good close to
the 2006 season; however, if Foster has a good camp and retains the starting
job, he could present significant value to fantasy owners

Projected Season
Outlook:

  Foster will most likely
start the season as the starting running back receiving probably 60% of the
carries.

  Williams should also get plenty
of reps with about 40% of the workload; however, as the season progresses
Deangelo Williams’ workload will steadily increase due to his fit in the
offense with a combination of explosiveness, receiving ability and field
vision.

  In 2008’s offseason, DeShaun
Foster should be looking for a new job.

Green Bay

Packers Starting RB: Vernand Morency vs.
Brandon Jackson

With Ahman Green leaving for the Houston Texans this
offseason,

Green Bay
is left with a lack of experience at the RB position with two main contenders:
Vernand Morency and rookie Brandon Jackson.

Brandon Jackson was drafted in the 2nd round by

Green Bay in this year’s
NFL Rookie Draft, and comes to the Packers with quite a bit of fantasy
hype.

  Brandon Jackson was never a
workhorse in college with only his Junior year at

Nebraska to base his prospects on.

 

Jackson
carried the ball at

Nebraska
188 times for 989 yards and 8 TDs last year.

 
Despite

Jackson’s
quickness and burst, he only accounted for roughly 38% of the Corn Huskers’
carries and 40% of the team’s rushing yards.

 
These college numbers are hardly anything to base a lot of confidence on

Jackson’s NFL
prospects as he never carried the whole load in college.

  Despite the lack of experience, the Packers
committed a second round pick to the

Jackson,
and are willing to give him a chance to win the starting job.

  Many believe Brandon Jackson is a natural fit
for the Packers system.

  He is currently
behind Morency on the depth chart heading into camp due to the rookie having to
miss OTA practices due to a sponsorship event.

V

ernand Morency was acquired from the Houston Texans at the
beginning of the 2006.

Morency was given
a chance at the starting position in

Houston

  Despite this
opportunity, Morency never could grasp the zone blocking schemes and lost the
positional battle to a 6th round rookie Wali Lundy and perennial
Heisman disappointment Ron Dayne.

 
Morency has a tendency to be hesitant behind the line of scrimmage, and
likes to dance in the backfield instead of bursting through the hole in the
line when it opens.

  Morency possesses
decent speed and receiving ability out of the backfield.

 


before his departure after the Texans lost Domanick Davis (Williams) to a knee
injury early in camp.

In 2006 with the Packers, Morency split backup duties with
Noah Herron to Ahman Green and accounted for 91 carries for 421 yards and 16
catches for 112 yards.

  Early reports out
of OTA’s indicate that Morrency has gained 10 lbs. to his frame to prepare his
body for additional carries during the season.

 

Early mock drafts have Brandon Jackson going a couple rounds
earlier than Morency despite Morency being slated in as the early favorite to
start.

Projected Season
Outlook:

  Vernand Morency will likely
start the year by receiving the majority of the carries; however, as Brandon
Jackson becomes more familiar with the offense, the Packers will give him an
increasing amount of carries through the season.

  Neither player has proven they can carry the
load as a NFL running back, and this situation reeks of a running back by
committee system.

  Both players should
present fantasy owners with some value as an injury fill-in, but they should be
perceived as RB4’s at best.

Dallas

Cowboys Starting RB: Marion Barber III vs.
Julius Jones

In 2006, Marion Barber III and Julius Jones combined for a
total of 1,738 rushing yards, 338 receiving yards, and 20 TD’s under Bill
Parcells’ run-first offensive approach.

 
Parcells’ offense last year featured Julius Jones on most 1st
and 2nd down plays with Barber getting most of the work in third
down passing situations and on the goal line.

As Wade Phillips takes over the Cowboys reigns this
offseason, there remain many question marks heading into training camp on how
the Cowboys will utilize both running backs in their offensive system.

  Both players are expected to be free agents
in 2008 (Jones—unrestricted; Barber—restricted), and have a lot to play for in
the 2007 season.

 

Early comments out of the Cowboys coaching staff indicate
that they are happy with Julius Jones as their starter, and want to get Jones
more involved in passing downs.

  Jones
skipped OTA’s to workout in

Arizona, and
reports from

Arizona
indicate Jones looks thicker and with improved agility.

   Julius Jones is looking forward to 2007 with
the new offensive system as the new coaching staff is encouraging Jones to run
with his instincts during plays, unlike in 2006 where Jones felt trapped and
unable to improvise due to Parcells’ system.

 
Jones has really worked on his receiving skills this offseason.

Marion Barber III is a much more physical back whose style
brings into question whether he can survive the rigors of the full-time load at
RB over a full NFL season.

  He has
carried the full-load since his high school days.

  Barber’s combination of quick feet and power
make him perfect for goal line and short yardage situations.

  It is likely that Barber will retain this
role from last year under the new coaching staff.

In early fantasy mock drafts, Marion Barber is being taken a
couple rounds earlier than Julius Jones despite Jones opening training camp as
the primary back.

  This trend will likely
change as the role of each player becomes clearer in training camp.

Projected Season
Outlook: Julius Jones will start the year as the Dallas Cowboys back
receiving a bulk of the carries.

  Marion
Barber III will be used to keep Julius Jones fresh and used in short
yardage/goal line situations.

  I fully
expect Julius Jones to get more looks than last year inside the red zone, thus
his TD totals should increase with similar rushing yardage to last year and
increased receiving yardage.

  Julius
Jones could be an excellent value as a RB3 with RB2 upside if his situation
plays out in this fashion.

  I expect
Marion Barber’s role to stay similar to 2006; however, it is very unlikely he
will attain the 16 TD total again with Wade Phillips splitting red zone looks
between the two backs.

  Both running
should be regarded as RB3s in this year’s fantasy drafts; however, Julius Jones
has more value in drafts if he continues to go a couple rounds later than
Barber III.

Tennessee

Titans RB: Lendale White vs. Chris Brown

After letting 2006 starting running back Travis Henry leave
to the Denver Broncos this offseason, the Tennessee Titans running back
situation appears to be a mess.

  Last
year’s 2nd round pick, Lendale White is the early favorite to win
the starting job in training camp; however, he does face competition in Chris
Brown.

  Before the start of OTA’s, White
appeared to be the heir apparent to the job until he showed up to camp out of
shape and overweight.

 

During OTA’s, White’s absence from practices were noted by
his head coach Jeff Fisher and several teammates who called Lendale White out
in the media.

  White returned to practice
later in the week with an explanation of being with his grandmother who was in
intensive care; however, the situation exposed some underlying disappointment
in Lendale White’s performance since joining the Titans last year.

  White suffered a hamstring injury in OTAs,
but appears to be fully healed going into training camp in a couple weeks.

Lendale White is a bruising between the tackles running back
who shared the load at USC with Reggie Bush.

  
Coming into the NFL last year, White was expected to share carries in
the Titans backfield before the emergence of Travis Henry last year.

  Chris Henry was also drafted in the 2nd
round in 2007.

  His selection by the
Titans in using their second 2nd round draft pick in consecutive
years on a RB further shows their displeasure with Lendale White.

  After a disappointing OTA practice session,
Chris Henry does not appear to be in the mix to receive significant carries in
2007.

Chris Brown was recently re-signed by the Titans after
shopping his services across the league, in which he received limited fan
fare.

  After rushing for 1,067 yards in
11 games in 2004 and 851 yards in 2005, Brown is coming off a highly
disappointing 2006 campaign in which he could not stay healthy enough to
compete with Travis Henry.

  Reports out
of OTA’s is that Chris Brown is in excellent shapeBrown’s familiarity with the
Titans offense and skill set give him a definite opportunity to rise again as
the primary ball carrier for the team in 2007.

 

Lendale White continues to be taken in early fantasy mocks a
few rounds earlier than Chris Brown; however, this will likely change as the
training camp battle unfolds and each player’s role in the offense becomes
clearer.

Projected
Season Outlook:

  I expect
Chris Brown to emerge as the Titan’s starting running back by the end

of
training camp.

  Lendale White will likely
become a short yardage/goal line back and spell Brown to reduce the wear on him
during the season.

  If Brown can shake
the chronic turf toe that has plagued him over the past few years, he could
present an excellent value as a RB3 taken in the late middle rounds of fantasy
drafts in 2007.

  None of the running
backs on the Titans roster have significant long-term value as I would expect
the Titans to be going after a starting RB in free agency in 2008.

About Fantasy Sharks

FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.