Sorting through the RB mess

The problem with most people’s fantasy rankings is that they generally don’t research further back than the previous year. When you want to make fun of people, it’s much easier just to look at last year’s results. The first result available on my google search for “2007 fantasy football rankings” was from si.com.

The comparison was bleak. Only three of the ten finished in the final top ten. Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, and Willie Parker finished in the second ten, which makes them less than a complete disaster. Top-ten picks Shaun Alexander, Larry Johnson, Rudi Johnson, and Travis Henry all finished behind both Adrian Petersons.

The downside is there weren’t too many bargains in the top twenty. Brian Westbrook started the season at eight and finished at two. Joseph Addai started at nine and finished at two. Clinton Portis, ranked 19 after an injury-plagued 2007 and the emergence of Ladell Betts (remember his hype?), finished fourth. In my year of bad decisions, trading Portis for McGahee doesn’t rank too high. It’s pretty obvious who the better University of Miami running back is.

The following running backs weren’t in the top 80 rankings and finished in my league’s top 30: Earnest Graham (10), Kenny Watson (19), Justin Fargas (20), and Ryan Grant (22). I have to call this an outlier of a statistic. It’s possible that one of these guys was rostered before the 2007 season in a Zealots league, where the rosters are 53 players deep and most teams have at least ten running backs.

Earnest Graham had 52 carries in three years heading into 2007. Some people thought that 7th round pick Kenneth Darby would take his roster spot. Cadillac Williams, Michael Pittman, and Michael Bennett had to get injured (or in Bennett’s case, be Michael Bennett) for Graham to get his chance.

Kenny Watson had 51 carries since his rookie year in 2002. He got an opportunity after super-steady Rudi Johnson fell apart and backups Chris Perry and Kenny Irons succumbed to injuries.

Justin Fargas did nothing his first three years in the league (expect a similar stat line for Chris Henry) but had 178 carries in 2006 behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Lamont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes faltered to give Fargas his first real opportunity. He would be an excellent 2008 sleeper if it weren’t for Darren McFadden. Heck, he might be a sleeper anyway.

Ryan Grant had six career carries before getting the start in Week 8 against the Broncos. The rest is history. He started only after Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency, and DeShawn Wynn failed or got injured.

In conclusion, when looking at running backs, make sure to scout each team’s fourth stringers. That could be the key to a championship.

Don’t be surprised when Darius Walker (Texans), Ryan Torain (Broncos), Gary Russell (Steelers), and Kenneth Darby (Bucs) finish in next year’s top 30. You heard it here first.

I’ll investigate the perils of taking a top-ten ranked back in the next edition.

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