Last week on Niners Nation Alex Smith received pretty good praise from the voters, as 38% marked Smith down to toss 25-29 TD passes (36% thought 20-24). This week, I'll take a look at some RBs that aren't necessarily first round selections, but could have first round production. Drafting running backs in fantasy football can require a little bit of patience, depending on where you're selecting in the first few rounds. Obviously with a first or second overall selection, Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson are easy choices to consider, but what about deeper down the line? Where can you find the 2010 version of Ray Rice (a guy that wasn't drafted in the first round of most fantasy drafts, but produced like he should've been)?
Last season Rice lit up fantasy scoreboards with 8 total TDs, 2041 total yards, and 78 receptions. Whether or not you played in a PPR-league, the Raven certainly held his own. When looking at Rice's average draft slot a year ago, the Baltimore RB was landing around 40th overall (or round 4, pick 5 in a 12-team league). After a quick gander at this year's crop, I noticed a certain second year running back with a similar ADP, entering his second season in the league (much like Rice last year). The running back is LeSean McCoy, who heads into 2010 as The Eagles number one back with Brian Westbrook out of the picture. McCoy showed signs of a promising fantasy future in limited 2009 action (945 total yards, 4 TDs, 40 receptions) and should be quite the commodity in 2010. You'll definitely want to consider McCoy before round 4 as he could very likely put up numbers similar to Rice's 2009.
McCoy isn't the only running back you can find later on, and there's definitely a bunch that are getting drafted a head of him. After the jump, I'll take a look at some other RBs you can land outside of rounds 1 and 2. Before the jump, a
useless fearless fantasy projection. Fantasy Forecast 2010, LeSean McCoy RB PHI: 1175 rush yards, 6 TDs; 70 receptions, 625 yards, 3 TDs.
Knowshon Moreno RB DEN, Round 3 Pick 11: The Denver Broncos running back will out produce his draft position, and you'll be laughing (in a good way) at the end of 2010 with the numbers he provided you with. Drafting 11th in the third round also means you drafted 11th in round one. In other words, you may have selected the best WR or QB available in round one and could use a starter at one of your RB positions. As a rookie in 2009, Moreno had pretty good fantasy numbers (1160 total yards, 9 TDs, 28 receptions); in 2010, he should see his role increase and Correll Buckhalter's decrease. With game manager Kyle Orton penciled to start, Moreno could be a valuable piece to Denver's offense, and more importantly, your fantasy lineup. I don't think hefty expectations are out of order; expect an increase in total yards and TDs.
Matt Forte RB CHI, Round 4 Pick 10: Ok, this one might seem like a head scratcher with Chester Taylor crowding Chicago's backfield, but hear me out first. Forte had an incredible 2008 season as a rookie both receiving and rushing wise. While I'm not expecting him to put up a complete reproduction of 2008, he certainly has the potential to flourish in Mike Martz' offense. In 2006, Martz joined the Lions and that season saw Kevin Smith total 1209 yards with 8 TDs (61 receptions) in just 12 games. In 2008, Martz joined the 49ers which lead to Frank Gore putting up 1409 total yards with 8 TDs (43 receptions). Forte had 63 catches in 2008, and 57 a year ago; with Martz in the mix, Forte will remain a fixture on offense despite Chester Taylor. Expecting 1500 total yards isn't out of the question, nor is another 60 receptions.
Loving the Late Rounders
Donald Brown RB IND, Round 9 Pick 7: Why do I like Donald Brown so much? Because he's entering his second season with Indianapolis and the future of Joseph Addai (with the Colts) is up in the air. Brown battled injuries which limited his touches to 89 total in 2009 (450 total yards). With Addai scheduled to hit the free agent market after the 2010 season, Brown could become the "guy" in Indy's backfield sooner rather than later. The Colts know what they can get out of Addai, and I'm quite certain they want to see what Brown can do for them (see what I did there) before Addai walks. Barring injuries, Brown should get quite a few touches in Indy's offense, which could lead to a very healthy fantasy season. A lot of "shoulds" and "coulds", but my money is on "can"; Donald Brown can be a very valuable situational RB for your roster.
Laurence Maroney RB NE, Round 10 Pick 6: New England's Maroney has the most tenure in the league out of the RBs mentioned so far as he enters his fifth season with the Patriots. However, the former Golden Gopher is just 25 years old, and still hasn't seen 200 carries in a season. New England isn't a great place to play running back necessarily, but with the rest of the corps aging (Morris, Taylor, Faulk) Maroney has a chance to improve upon 2009's relatively surprising season (856 total yards, 9 TDs). You likely won't see an increase in TDs (there's always a chance when a player's touches increase), but I definitely expect Maroney to total over 1000 yards combined. Like Donald Brown, Maroney could be a very good rotational back (which is what 10th round picks are for) on your fantasy roster.
Tashard Choice RB DAL, Round 13 Pick 11: I'm not expecting Choice to set fantasy records in 2010, but I do anticipate Felix Jones not making it through an entire season injury-free. It also seems every year Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones grows more tired of the Marion Barber show. Whether or not that's true is another story, but Barber's TD totals have been decreasing at a steady rate, and Felix Jones will get injured. In the past, when asked to step in, Choice has been great. Take 2008 for example, in week's 14-16 Choice put up 424 total yards with 2 TDs; in 2009, the Georgia Tech product put up 290 total yards with 2 TDs in relief during weeks 3-5. Drafting Choice isn't going to be an absolute certainty as you'll likely be able to find him on the waiver wire, if you do have the draft pick and roster spot available it could be a wise move to stash Choice.
Shonn Greene RB NYJ, Round 2 Pick 1: Greene's 2009 playoff performance with the New York Jets has fantasy owners everywhere drooling. The Jets, Jets, Jets love to run, run, run and Greene might end up being worth such a high selection, but for now, I'm tempering my enthusiasm. It's not that LaDanian Tomlinson is going to have a revival in Gang Green (although he could), or that rookie Joe McKnight is going to steal touches throughout the season (although he could); it's that I don't think Shonn Greene is as good as his playoff performance indicates. One big reason is the alarming stat that shows Greene had just 1 catch in all of 2009 counting the playoffs (if I didn't count the playoffs, he had 0). This tells me that Greene might be absent from the field on a majority of the team's third down situations, which might potentially cripple Greene's overall value (especially if you're taking him so soon).
Don't Totally Forget
Thomas Jones RB KC, Round 7 Pick 9: Jamaal Charles is a fantasy pimp, there's no denying that, but whose to say Kansas City won't run both backs liberally? The Chiefs offense will need a reliable run game to give Matt Cassel and his receivers any chance at relevance. KC's O-Line isn't the great line either, but don't count Jones out from making tough yardage. The severely under appreciated Thomas Jones has had five consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons; probably the most quiet five seasons in league history. Over that same span, Jones has banged out 46 totals TDs (which includes a 2007 that resulted in 2 TDs on the year), or, just under 10 per season. He won't put up the 15 TDs or 14 TDs he had in 2009 and 2010, but he may be able to grind out 1000 total yards and 7 TDs. During this span Jones has averaged 27 receptions per season, but with Charles in KC, you can expect something similar to 2009's total (10). The 7th round is a bit early for Jones in my opinion, I would try to land him in the 10th round or later. Jones' late seventh round ADP could be considered a sign that people are planning to hand-cuff Jones to Charles.
That wraps the fantasy football post for this week. Leave your comments below, and don't forget to vote for this week's exciting poll (we'll see just how many of you care when 49ers aren't involved). Also, for those wanting to participate in my now annual Unofficial NN Fantasy Football League through Yahoo! Sports, inquire in the comments for more details.