What do they say about people who do research? Those are the people who aren’t sure of themselves. Wussies.
As this year’s rookie running back class fades into mediocrity, we look back two seasons. I wanted to look at the 2008 rookie running back class, which might be the best in history. I’m going to use my Zealot rookie drafts as a guide.
The number one rookie pick was Darren McFadden. He was a total disaster in his first two years. Nine weeks into the 2010 season, McFadden is the number two running back in points per game in my PPR league. He’s making powerful runs and speed runs. He’s even making the Raiders respectable, which was impossible until this year.
Number two was Jonathan Stewart. J-Stew has not become the uber stud that he was as the number one high school running back going into college. He did get 1000 yards last season after a DeAngelo Williams injury. Owners drafted Stewart in the fourth round this year anticipating another Williams ouchie. This happened but Stewart was injured as well. He’s going to be the bell cow RB for the Panthers next year. That might mean something if the Panthers can finally get a passing game going.
Number three was Rashard Mendenhall. He looked like a bust until taking over for “used to be fast” Willie Parker and getting 1000 rushing yards last year. He was a late first-round pick this year in fantasy drafts and probably will be a second-rounder next year.
Number four was Kevin Smith. OK, so Smith has already been replaced by a first-round RB in Jahvid Best. Smith was good for about a year and a half before tearing his ACL. He’s going to have to make his name on another team.
Number five was Matt Forte. Forte was the rookie star of this group. His second year was less good. He’s on pace for another sub-1000-yard season, although he has 30 catches. He’s been a middling fantasy producer.
Number six was Felix Jones. Jones has not become the superstar some thought he could be. He’s the lead back for the Cowboys and could become an RB2.
Numbers seven and eight are the guys who make this draft class spectacular. Chris Johnson was taken a slot after Felix Jones (d’oh). He has a 2000-yard season. Johnson’s having a “disappointing” season which means he’s the number five ranked running back. Ray Rice was quiet his rookie year then led all running backs with 78 catches last year. He’s looking like a perennial top-ten guy.
Jamaal Charles was number nine. He leads the league with six yards per carry. He had 1000 rushing yards in the last eight games last year. He’s not terrible.
Ryan Torain was a second-rounder in my league. He had one start as a rookie, disappeared after an injury then came back this year to start a few games for the Redskins this year. I know he’s no stud, but Maurice Clarett was once taken in the second round of a rookie draft.
Steve Slaton was a third rounder. He’s pretty much invisible this year but he did have a 1000-yard rookie season and was drafted ahead of Chris Johnson in fantasy drafts during his second year.
Other drafted rookies include Mike Hart (scraping the bottom), Tim Hightower (60 catches last year), Jacob Hester (not so much), Tashard Choice (a few 100-yard efforts in his rookie year), Jalen Parmele (still waiting), Marcus Thomas (released), Jerome Felton (moved to fullback), and the final pick, Justin Forsett.
And there was one guy who wasn’t drafted and was picked up for the waiver minimum. That guy was Peyton Hillis. I kept him on my roster and he’s kind of paid off a bit this year.