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Rookie Report: RB Edition

Welcome everyone to the second edition of the 2008 Rookie Report. Each week during the regular season, the report will cover trends, news items and analysis of notable performances by the NFL’s 2008 Rookie Class to assist in your pursuit of dynasty championship gold.

During the preseason, the plan is to give a tiered analysis of rookies by position each week. The preseason is crucial for evaluating rookies’ long-term fantasy values as they are given the opportunity to gain valuable playing time and experience, two factors they likely will not get the opportunity to gain during the regular season.

This week’s edition will focus on breaking down the 2008 RB rookie class. Overall, the 2008 rookie class of running backs is the most talented and deep of any position in this year’s class. There are numerous players with the talent and situation to positively impact your fantasy team’s roster.

So, without out further adieu, the following is a breakdown of the 2008 running back rookie class:

Tier 1

Darren McFadden,

Oakland Raiders


McFadden has all the intangibles to be an elite RB in the NFL: speed, agility, burst, vision and instincts. Coach Lane Kiffin has praised McFadden so far this preseason for his playmaking ability and his knack for picking up the offense quickly during training camp to-date.


McFadden needs to strengthen his lower body, and he had some character issues off the field in college. He will open the preseason splitting carries with Justin Fargas and Michael Bush; however, don’t expect for this to last long.


McFadden is an elite talent that appears to be catching on quickly in

Oakland’s offense. He should beat out Fargas by the end of training camp and be the starting running back come week one. Don’t expect him to have the same impact that Adrian Peterson had for the Vikings in his rookie year; however, McFadden should have a good rookie campaign in 2008 and emerge into one of the special backs in the NFL if he can stay healthy.

Jonathan Stewart,

Carolina Panthers


: Jonathan Stewart has the speed, burst, strength, size and vision to be an elite RB in the NFL. He also has soft hands and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Stewart fits well in

Carolina‘s offensive system; however, he will begin his career splitting carries with former first round pick DeAngelo Williams to start the year.


There are injury concerns with Jonathan Stewart; however, he is a beast when on the field.


: Long-term, Stewart is an excellent situation and has the skill set to be a special back. He has not supplanted DeAngelo Williams to-date as the Panthers’ starting running back; however, this will likely change as it is expected that he will be the workhorse for the Panthers in the 2008 season.


Rashard Mendenhall,

Pittsburgh Steelers


: Mendenhall has all of the tools to be a great running back in the NFL: strength, power, burst, quickness and good speed. He is also a good blocker and receiver out of the backfield.


Mendenhall’s situation is not as ideal as McFadden and Stewart’s in taking claim of the starting running back job. He will fight with incumbent starter Willie Parker for carries in training camp and throughout the season. Early in training camp, Mendenhall’s role will be to complement Willie Parker as a third-down back with goal-line carries.


: He will likely fall to third in a large number of rookie RBs this year due to his situation with competing with Parker; however, don’t sleep on this guy as he could be the best back of this year’s rookie class. Mendenhall will likely be the third-down and goal-line back in 2008 with significant upside for the future.

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