Rookie running backs

When I was a youngster, I was a lot more brazen. I once approached a lifeguard at my local pool. I was maybe six years old. When I looked up, I told her “I don’t usually date older women, but with you I’m willing to make an exception.”

Rookie running backs are the female lifeguard. They tempt you with Adrian Peterson-esque potential but generally turn into Cedric Benson. It’s very difficult to rank rookies. At the same time, it’s a great opportunity for upside.

I have a high third-round pick in this year’s AUFL draft. That pick most likely will become my third running back. My RB3 from last year’s draft was Jerious Norwood. Yeah, I reached. Warrick Dunn recently had surgery and I thought that the youngster could carry the load. I ignored the reports that insisted that Norwood was Maurice Jones-Drew lite.

Darren McFadden will go in the first round. Matt Forte may go that early, or in the second round. The candidates are Jonathan Stewart, Kevin Smith, and maybe Forte. Who should be my pick? Forte is the guy most likely to start but the Bears have a poor outlook at WR, QB, and OL. Forte had 361 carries for Tulane last year. That’s a high workload for 16 NFL games. Tulane didn’t have much else, so teams keyed on Forte. He averaged 5.9 yards a carry. Forte had five 200-yard games, including a ridiculous 342 yards on 38 carries against SMU. Forte had seven 30-carry games and two 40-carry games. It’s hard to call him anything but a workhorse. You just hope that he’s not the next Ryan Moats.

When Jonathan Stewart signed with Oregon, he was the top high school RB. He split carries until his junior year, when he ran for 1722 yards (6.2 yards per carry). The problem with Stewart is he was a bit injury-prone in college, including surgery on his big toe prior to the draft. Turf toe can be problematic. Also, the Panthers already have a first-round running back in DeAngelo Williams. Williams averaged five yards a carry last year as a backup. The Panthers have a mediocre offensive line at best. This looks like a RBBC where Stewart may or may not break out in the second half of the year.

Kevin Smith nearly broke Barry Sanders’ all-time college single-season rushing record. Let’s make one thing clear. Sanders set his record in 12 games. Smith had 14. He carried the ball an insane 450 times last year. Smith failed to run for 100 yards once last season. The knock on Smith is that he tends to go down on first contact. The other knock is Detroit’s offensive line. Tatum Bell, who in 2004 was more hyped than any of these rookies, is the nominal starter in Detroit. They will run more this year. Bell has averaged 4.8 yards per carry for all of his bust credentials. Smith may break out, but other than a few scattered long runs, he isn’t going to be a consistent performer.

Yeah, I’m not too excited by this bunch. Forte looks like the obvious choice. If guys like Rudi Johnson and LenDale White are available, I may take the safe pick. I could use one. Johnson scored exactly 12 touchdowns three years in a row before last year’s injury-fueled disaster. I’m not too worried about Chris Perry or Kenny Watson.

Other options are Fred Taylor (old), Selvin Young (good luck picking a Denver RB from week to week) and Julius Jones (yeah, that’s what I thought). It’s going to be a tough haul.

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