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Home / Commentary / Rookie Running Backs of 09: Who’s #1, Sleepers, Dynasty Ranks, Rookie of the Year

Rookie Running Backs of 09: Who’s #1, Sleepers, Dynasty Ranks, Rookie of the Year

The Main Event: Chris “Beanie” Wells vs. Knowshon Moreno

The running back position has been super saturated as of late, but the 2009 NFL draft provides fantasy fanatics with two potential future stars in Wells and


Which rookie running back will have the best fantasy year in ‘09?

I am confident that Wells will be the rookie of the year in ‘09. This is a match made in heaven. Wells fell further than anyone expected – including the Cardinals. He’s the right player on the right team. If

is able to retain Anquan Boldin, teams will be forced to defend the spread offense with Steve Breaston in the slot. Defensive coordinators can not afford to stack the box – leading to open running lanes for the talented rookie back. Wells is a strong inside runner that can quickly pick up a head of steam once he hits his hole.

has become known for their high-flying passing attack, but don’t forget that coach Ken Whisenhunt is a disciple of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ hardcore, grind-it-out-run philosophy. Think of Wells as a hybrid of 75% Jerome Bettis and 25% Willy Parker. The clincher is realizing the caliber of defenses he’ll be facing with a double dose of
San Francisco,
Seattle and

St Louis
. Questions still remain around how big of a factor Tim Hightower will be. Hightower seemed to be phased out in the ‘08 playoffs, with Edgerrin James and J.J. Arrington splitting the majority of snaps. With the release of Edge and Arrington leaving town, a lot of carries are up for grabs. Wells will prove that he is not just a pony for between the 20’s and should work his way into short-yardage/goal-line scenarios.

Which rookie runner top your dynasty ranks?

I project Wells to have the more immediate impact, with a less-resistant/crowded path to a starting role. Although “Beanie” should have a stronger rookie campaign,

has more long-term value and appears to possess the skills to become one of the endangered species known as an “every-down back.” Josh McDaniels has caught some heat for drafting

with the 12th pick overall. After signing Correll Buckhalter and Lamont Jordan to an already crowded backfield (Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain, Peyton Hillis …), most experts had the Broncos addressing the defensive side of the ball with their first pick. Look for McDaniels to want to prove himself right on drafting


has always had a strong focus on the run. It’s simply a matter of time before
Moreno surpasses all competitors for the starting job in

. He should be fed a healthy enough portion to produce decent fantasy numbers in ‘09. Reports out of Broncos camp show that they are very impressed with

‘s receiving skills. He is quickly outperforming his competitors for the starting job. As I wrote before, I believe that

could be an every-down back. His receiving skills and durability give him the edge over Wells. It’s a win-win situation, whether you draft Wells or

. Wells is still my favorite to win rookie of the year honors, but

has more overall talent and long-term value. 

is the pick if you’re in a dynasty league.

The Undercard: Donald Brown, LeSean McCoy, Shonn Greene

Wells vs.

may be the Main Event, but don’t miss out on some of these undercard fighters: Brown, McCoy and Greene. All three will have some long-term value, but I predict Brown to have the most NFL success. Joseph Addai’s production can be attributed more to a well-established offense than personal athletic ability. Dominic Rhodes out performed Addai last year, and I expect Brown to do the same. Look for

to return to a two-back timeshare that worked so well in Addai’s rookie year.

Many draft experts had

selecting the heir to Brian Westbrook‘s throne with their first-round pick. The Eagles were able to hold out and grab the versatile McCoy with the 53rd pick overall. After losing Correll Buckhalter to

, and given Westbrook’s constant game-to-game availability, the Eagles acquired much-needed assistance in the running game. Both McCoy and Westbrook are better-than-average pass catchers. Look for the Eagles to put both on the field at once: one lined up in the backfield and one split out – providing mismatches and causing confusion for opposing defenses. Westbrook is still a clear first-rounder but a McCoy handcuff is advised. Both players should have higher values in PPR leagues.

The longer that Thomas Jones stays out of Jets camp, the higher Greene’s stock will rise. Jones has little bargaining power in negotiations for the Jets already have drafted his replacement in Greene. Contract questions are still swarming around Jones, but his agent has said that he is to return to team activities this week. The impact of Greene on Jones’ touches is a “wait and see” situation. But a good running game is a rookie quarterback’s best friend. Look for the Jets to pound the rock often as Mark Sanchez gathers experience. Keep an eye on Jets camp to see how the situation pans out.

ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzz. Sleepers?

James Davis’ situation in

could be promising. He isn’t a flashy or dynamic player, but he runs downhill, runs hard and protects the ball. His ceiling is not high, but

could see playing time as a rookie, being brought in to spell the aging Jamal Lewis.

Bernard Scott has reportedly shown a decent burst in

’s off-season workouts. The Bengals’ backfield is headlined by Cedric Benson, so that tells you a lot. But Benson did quiet his many critics last season and surprisingly threw up some decent fantasy stats. Scott definitely has had off-the-field issues, with multiple arrests on his record and a nomadic pattern of traveling, bouncing from one university to next throughout his college career. Character flaws appear to be a prerequisite for the Bengals. Scott should fit right in. He led the nation in rushing for DII schools at Abiline Christian. He shows incredible athleticism when on the field. Scott’s sleeper value is more around landing in running back-thin

, and the road to playing time is shorter wait than on other teams. Keep an eye on Bengals camp and also to the

police reports to see how Scott is doing. He’s definitely a long-shot, but a name to remember as a possible last-round flier, or early-season waiver pickup.

Don’t be looking for Gartrell Johnson to be the successor to LaDanian Tomlinson’s throne. Johnson is more of a FB/RB hybrid. With his versatility to run and block, and with the recent success of LeRon McClain and Peyton Hillis, Johnson could find his way onto the field. But unless he locks down goal-line duties for the Chargers, I don’t see him doing anything extraordinary fantasy-wise in ‘09.

A guy that I would not mind gambling on is Rashard Jennings out of


was drafted by the Jaguars in the seventh round. He is a beast of a back at 6-1, 232 lbs. For a player his size, he displays speed with his power. Although he runs upright at times, he still has some elusiveness and could impress if given a shot.

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