Yesterday, we went back through our preseason top-35 running back rankings to determine whether fantasy owners should applaud these backs or consider them frauds going forward. You can read that post here.
In this post, we’re going to look at running backs outside of the preseason top-35 and determine whether we should applaud these backs or consider their numbers fraudulent. Read the individual reports to see whether the verdicts mean you should start a player, hold him on your bench, pick him up, or drop him. We’ve listed these players alphabetically.
Mike Bell, Saints – Bell burst onto the scene in Week One when Pierre Thomas was hurt, and over the first two weeks he had 229 rushing yards and a touchdown. But he has missed the last two games with injury, and Thomas has reestablished himself as the main back in New Orleans. Bell will be a role player when he returns to action, and that limits his fantasy value. Verdict: A fraud
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants – Bradshaw is now a solid No. 2 behind Brandon Jacobs in New York, and that will get him 12-15 carries a game. But Bradshaw’s not a touchdown threat unless he breaks a long run. So his current average of 66 yards per game is probably all you can expect from him. That’s OK No. 3 fantasy back production, but it’s not starter worthy. Verdict: A fraud
Correll Buckhalter, Broncos – Buckhalter had a good start to the season with 363 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown in the first four games of the season. But he will miss the next two games with injury, and that will give rookie Knowshon Moreno a chance to seize more carries in Denver. Despite his solid numbers thus far, Buckhalter isn’t more than a bye-week fill-in going forward for fantasy owners. Verdict: A fraud
Tashard Choice, Cowboys – Choice started the season as the Cowboys’ No. 3 back, but injuries first to Marion Barber and then to Felix Jones have given him chances. He has 215 yards from scrimmage thus far with one touchdown, showing that he’s good enough when he gets the ball in his hands. As long as Barber is healthy, Choice isn’t really a starter, but he’s worth hanging onto in most leagues because you never know if Barber and Jones will stay healthy. Verdict: Applaud
Felix Jones, Cowboys – Jones has had solid numbers as a change-of-pace back and an injury fill-in thus far, but he missed the Week 4 game vs. Denver and will miss some more time with a knee injury. So despite his 232 yards from scrimmage, he’s droppable in fantasy leagues right now. Verdict: A fraud
Julius Jones, Seahawks – Jones is the best back Seattle has, which isn’t saying much. But he has been a decent fantasy performer thus far with 316 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns. That makes Jones a solid No. 3 fantasy back or flex option, which is a nice find, and we can assume that he’ll have similar fantasy value moving forward. Verdict: Applaud
Tim Hightower, Cardinals – Hightower has held off Beanie Wells for the Cardinals’ starting RB job, and he’s produced 279 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. He’s not a great fantasy back, but as long as he holds this role he’ll be a flex option or No. 3 back in most leagues. That’s decent value. Verdict: Applaud
Willis McGahee, Ravens – McGahee has been the biggest surprise for fantasy owners this year with seven touchdowns in the first four games. It will be hard for McGahee to continue this torrid TD pace, but you should be starting him until he starts to go through an extended scoring drought. Ray Rice is the better overall back, but McGahee’s production is impossible to ignore. Verdict: Applaud
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – After doing next to nothing in the first three games of the year, Mendenhall went crazy in Week 4 against San Diego with 165 yards and two touchdowns. But he has just 210 rushing yards total, and when Willie Parker returns Mendenhall shouldn’t be in your fantasy lineup. He’s only valuable as a Parker handcuff, not as a part-time player on his own. Verdict: A fraud
Darren Sproles, Chargers – With LaDanian Tomlinson out for one week and hobbled for a couple others, Sproles has stepped up with 287 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. But now that Tomlinson is coming back, Sproles becomes a feature player. Sproles will probably end up with around 800 yards from scrimmage and six TDs, and that’s not enough to make him a starting-caliber player unless Tomlinson gets hurt again. So we’ll turn a thumbs-down on him continuing his current level of production. Verdict: A fraud
Fred Taylor, Patriots – Taylor has had one 100-yard game, but other than that he’s been a role player in the Pats’ RB-by-committee approach. The problem with Taylor for fantasy owners is that it will be all but impossible to figure out when his chances will come. That makes him hard to start despite his still-existent talent. Verdict: A fraud
Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers – Coming back from an atrocious knee injury, Williams has burst back on the scene with 272 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in four games. Williams has established himself as the best back in Tampa Bay, and that role will allow him to be a fantasy contributor as a flex option or No. 3 back. Verdict: Applaud
Ricky Williams, Dolphins – I was surprised to see Williams end up on this list, but he’s legit with 310 yards from scrimmage and three TDs. The fact that both Williams and Ronnie Brown continue to produce shouldn’t surprise us, because that’s the Dolphins’ formula to win. That means Williams will be a decent No. 3 back in all fantasy leagues going forward. Verdict: Applaud