Mar 18, 2009
It’s been a few weeks since I broke out my QB Keeper Overviews here, and it’s already time to update them. But before I do that I’m going to try to bang out the other key positions within the next week and catch completely up.
Next up, it’s the RBs.
At first glance, while there is good depth, I notice a little bit of a void when it comes to true studs at the position. So if you’re in a keeper league that retains only 3-4 players, I advise your approach your keepers much like you should have been approaching a standard redraft league the last two years: don’t take a RB just because he’s a RB and take the best players, period. Keep in mind, of course, the pool of attractive options will increase after the draft.
That said about the lack of quality at the top, I’m personally ranking some young guys who I do think are for real very high, even though they’ve really only “done it” for one year.
Let’s take a look at the top guys.
There aren’t many RBs who are clearly their team’s workhorse, so if you have one on your team, and he’s a young stud, then you keep him no matter what. Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, and definitely Maurice Jones-Drew fall into this category. I am worried about Jackson’s situation, but he is a horse, no doubt.
Then I’d roll with those two young guys who have already proved to me that they are legit, and they are Chris Johnson and Matt Forte. Be happy if you have one of these guys in a keeper league. You can’t be much younger, and you can’t expect a rookie back to show more then these two did in 2008. Next up, we have some players who aren’t perfect in every way, but are still very young, talented, in a good situation, or all of the above. They are: Marion Barber, Joseph Addai, Frank Gore, and Ronnie Brown. Barber’s going to be solid the next 3-5 years by default given his nose for the goal. Addai isn’t a pure stud, but you have to love the situation, while Gore is still an elite talent and young enough, so he deserves the love, despite his injury issues and shaky situation. Brown’s still young, too, and his potential next 2-3 years seems high, now fully healthy. I think the Dolphins needs to focus more on their running game in 2009, and maybe they will with Brown having another full season to return to previous form (although he looked fine to me last year and actually told me in November he was, in fact, 100%).
Things already get a little tricky after these guys, and you next have some quality players who have a lot of wear and tear on them, so they can’t be trusted for more than 1-2 more years. However, things change so quickly in the NFL, so there’s a lot to be said for even one more productive season. So while Clinton Portis, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Brian Westbrook may fade away sooner rather than later, they are worth holding on after the aforementioned younger studs. All three will be integral parts of their offense this year, and they could easily be productive for another couple of seasons. Of the three, Westbrook would be the biggest concern in terms of quickly breaking down.
Youth is a key factor for keeper leagues, of course, not only for the future, but also for the here and now. After all, a young back with fresh legs is always desirable right now. So the next group of players are mostly young, yet they have active roles right now, so they are desirable. DeAngelo Williams, Reggie Bush, Steve Slaton, Brandon Jacobs, Ryan Grant, Marshawn Lynch, and Jonathan Stewart. Some of these guys are more desirable than others, like Williams, Slaton, and Stewart, who are good choices for long-term upside. But they might not be as productive this year as Jacobs, Grant, or Lynch. Who you keep from this group has to do with your risk tolerance and expectations, as it typically does in keeper leagues.
My next group of players is also a mixture of (somewhat) safe options for the next 1-2 years and upside choices for the future. If I really wanted to play to win, for example, I’d find a way to retain a guy like Rashard Mendenhall, Felix Jones, Darren McFadden, or even Darren Sproles. I’m not a big McFadden fan, but I do think he’ll get a lot of touches, perhaps similar to how Bush does in New Orleans, and he does have the potential to make explosive plays and put up good yardage numbers as a runner and receiver. I love Mendenhall’s potential, and I think he could be THE sleeper at the position if we’re talking the next 2-3 years or more. Jones and Sproles will likely always share time, especially Sproles, but I love the juice they bring to the equation.
Willis McGahee, Thomas Jones, Larry Johnson, LenDale White, and Derrick Ward should have value the next 1-2 years at least, so for now they look worthy. While Kevin Smith, Pierre Thomas, and Tim Hightower may not have big upside or a ton of value right now, all have a good chance to be their team’s lead back, so they are also very worthy.
Next up, some players you probably can’t rely on much longer than for 2009, but they are still worth consideration, especially in larger keeper or dynasty leagues. I’m talking about Willie Parker, Earnest Graham, Jamal Lewis, Cedric Benson, Julius Jones, Correll Buckhalter, Chester Taylor, and Fred Taylor.
Next I’d be looking at players who have the ability and potential in their current situations to surprise with more playing time/production than expected, like Fred Jackson, Jamaal Charles, Ryan Torain, and Tashard Choice. Or I’d settle for a younger player who is solid and should have value in a complementary role, like
Jerious Norwood, Leon Washington, Ray Rice, or Le’Ron McClain.
We’re already about 50 deep here at RB, and it’s certainly hit-or-miss from here in terms of keeper league prospects. If I’m looking for some younger guys from here with some legit potential, then I’d like a guys like Michael Bush, Kolby Smith,
Ahmad Bradshaw, Peyton Hillis, J.J. Arrington, Brandon Jackson, and Jerome Harrison. None are sure things, but a guy like Smith could actually be a “starter” relatively soon, and guys like Bradshaw, Arrington, and Harrison should have active roles as peripheral weapons. If I’m looking more for the short-term, then there are some viable options for the next 1-2 years, such as Maurice Morris, Sammy Morris, Ricky Williams, Edgerrin James, Justin Fargas, and LaMont Jordan. Laurence Maroney is still worth a shot this late, and Kevin Faulk is always worth something in PPR leagues.
If you’re going deeper than this, you’re probably in a dynasty league and you’re looking for some players who have potential to grow into a more prominent role, and players like Danny Ware, Chauncey Washington, James Johnson, and Xavier Omon are decent options. Ware could be just a Brandon Jacobs injury away from starting for the Giants, while Johnson is a kid the Bengals like and kept on their practice quad this past year; he could factor into their mix soon. Washington could be the bigger back they use with MJD in Jacksonville, while Omon is a player the Bill do like.
Of course, there are still some veterans and some other younger guys who needs to be at least mentioned. Some of these guys are lost causes, but Chris Perry and
Selvin Young are still pretty young, and Dominic Rhodes and Mewelde Moore are still productive but their roles are unclear.
There’s little hope for the rest of the RBs in the league, quite frankly, but if you’re still looking to add a prospect or two you should again look for the younger guys, such as Antonio Pittman, Mike Hart, Jason Wright, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brian Leonard, Garrett Wolfe, DeShawn Wynn, Chris Henry, Clifton Smith, and Justin Forsett.
I really don’t feel good listing any other young guys, but there will be a few guys who emerge as at least viable for fantasy teams that can keep 5-6 RBs, and I will list them here in subsequent updates of this article.
Otherwise, the bottom of the barrel veteran-wise would be guys like Kevin Jones
Deuce McAllister, DeShaun Foster, Chris Brown, Kenny Watson, Tatum Bell, T.J. Duckett, Michael Pittman, Rudi Johnson, and Travis Henry. Some of these guys aren’t even in the league officially, so you know we’re digging deep.
Next up, the WRs. I’ll post that Friday.