2010 Rookie RBs: It's All About the Situation

Back in the eighties, there was a game show that ran on NBC called “Blockbusters” with legendary Bill Cullen as the emcee.  A modified NFL version of the game has been taking place recently, with contestants such as Donovan McNabb, Santonio Holmes, and Brandon Marshall going to new places in blockbuster deals that have turned the NFL upside down. The well-publicized trades have generated such a buzz that the 2010 NFL Draft has almost taken a back seat.  Almost…

While there is an intense fascination on where Tim Tebow will end up (rumor has it even overseas newspapers such as the Pyongyang Press Herald, Baghdad Beacon Journal, and Tehran Morning Telegraph have done articles speculating on the destination of the legendary Florida Gator) fantasy owners should be most focused on where this year’s crop of running backs will be headed.  That’s because as any good fantasy owner knows, a great rookie running back can make the difference between singing “We Are the Champions” or “Take These Broken Wings and Learn to Fly Again.” 

With intriguing talents such as Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, Fresno State’s Ryan Matthews, and California’s Jahvid Best in the mix, there are a lot of players worth keeping an eye on. 

It’s dicey to predict that this year’s group will live up to the recent gold standard of 2008, when Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, and Steve Slaton were immediate fantasy stars.  Johnson, who will likely go first overall in many drafts in 2010, had 1,488 total yards and 10 touchdowns in his rookie season while splitting time with LenDale White.  Slaton and Forte were fantasy disappointments in 2009, but as rookies Slaton compiled 1,659 total yards and 10 touchdowns, while Forte found the end zone 12 times and had over 1,700 total yards.  Instantaneous help was also provided by Kevin Smith, who had eight touchdowns and 1,262 total yards, and Jonathan Stewart and Tim Hightower, both of whom had 10 touchdowns. 

But this year’s group could easily be better than the class of 2009, which didn’t feature any instant impact performers.  Knowshon Moreno did manage 1,160 total yards and nine touchdowns, but four of those touchdowns came in two games against Kansas City, meaning Moreno was rarely a big money player. LeSean McCoy, Beanie Wells, and Shonn Greene showed flashes of glory (especially Greene once the NFL playoffs rolled around) but fantasy owners couldn’t pencil them into their lineups on a regular basis.  

Of course, owners in dynasty leagues often have a different perspective on rookie runners, and the best plan is to exhibit patience.  McCoy, Wells, and Greene should be good players this year and all have the potential to be credible weekly starters, and let’s not forget that in 2008 Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, and Jamaal Charles had uninspiring rookie seasons and then turned into fantasy gold in 2009. 

For now though, rather than trying to differentiate between incoming NFL players, we are going to take a look at the teams that have serious needs in their backfield, and some teams that don’t have urgent concerns but need to take a look at adding someone.  This will benefit both owners in redraft and dynasty leagues.  After all, anyone who saw him play at Clemson will tell you that C.J. Spiller is talented, but if he winds up in a time share his impact will be somewhat limited.  It’s all about the situation. 


Best Potential Situations:

San Diego – The LaDanian Tomlinson era is over in the city that stays classy, and while Darren Sproles will be back, the speedy Sproles isn’t capable of carrying a full load.  He certainly isn’t a consistent short yardage touchdown threat.  San Diego needs a workhorse who can diversify the offense the way LT used to, and fantasy owners need to strongly consider whoever lands on the Chargers as they would potentially play an integral role on a great offense. 

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Filed Under: Preseason, 2010

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