Aug 5, 2008
We’ve seen only one preseason game so far, so it’s still very early, but so far in training camps, it appears this year’s crop of rookie runners is a very good one.
I’ll start with Matt Forte, one of our favorites in the league already. Talk about being “as advertised.” He’s been so damn solid that I’m starting to feel bad that he’s on the Bears, a bad offense. But he will make them better, for sure. Most encouraging, he’s been good picking up the blitz, his biggest problem. If healthy, Forte’s going to have a nicer NFL career. He’s not bursting with upside, but he’s going to be very, very solid.
In Detroit, Kevin Smith has also impressed. Just keep in mind that he’s far from a special talent. But he’s a very hard worker with high marks for his character and work ethic, and he’s tireless. This offense could be surprisingly good, too. Keep in mind they still have two stud wideouts on the outside and Jon Kitna is still serviceable.
In Oakland, the reviews on Darren McFadden have been phenomenal. Head coach Lane Kiffen can’t contain his excitement. That’s nice and all, but we’re still going to make the call that he’ll be overvalued based on his name recognition and his limitations. But he’s certainly off to a fine start.
In Dallas, Felix Jones is yet another player who has been “as advertised” in camp. He’s a complementary player, but he has a chance to be one of the best non-starters at the position, as soon as this year. For as much as I respect Marion Barber, he’s not a special talent. A great football player, yes, but not a special talent.
In Tennessee, Chris Johnson has already cemented a spot as the #2, plus he’s wowed with his speed. As we wrote all spring, Johnson’s elite speed shows on film during real football action, so this isn’t a track star playing football.
Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart has been practicing and is everything the team hoped, as well.
Ray Rice? I’ve loved this guy from Day One this year, and so far he’s been incredible in Ravens camp. As I’ve written a few times, I simply cannot envision him failing if give the ball at some point. He may not be a stud talent physically, but neither was Emmitt Smith.
Bronco Ryan Torain has been seeing ample time with the first-team offense, and my buddy who covers the team has told me that he’s seeing a lot of action in red zone and goal line packages, and he’s doing well. Torain will make an impact for fantasy this year at some point, no doubt.
Heck, even Tim Hightower in Arizona is looking like someone who needs to be on your radar now that Marcel Shipp has been cut. We’ve been telling people that the team really likes him, and Shipp’s release speaks to that.
The RB position is shakier at the top this year, but it’s also deeper than it’s ever been. Knowing what we know about injuries, underachieving players, etc., don’t be surprised if there are 50+ backs who are relevant this year at some point. That’s why I think it’s paramount to get that one stud if you can, load up on quality wideouts, and then take advantage of the unusual depth at the position this year.
The RB position is unique in that, if a starter goes down, you can realistically expect the backup to step in and immediately offer fantasy relief, and as you know many RBs do get hurt. It’s always easiest to grab the next great pickup at this position, whereas the others are trickier. So keep an eye on all these high quality backups and complementary players.