Familiar Faces in New Places: Running Backs
Several top-level running backs will open the 2010 season with new teams. Now that the dust has cleared from the offseason, some of these backs are getting a fresh start and have the chance to increase their fantasy production. However, often times this potential is unfulfilled. Look no further than Derrick Ward last season who many pegged as a fantasy sleeper -- Ward finished the season with 414 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD.
In other cases, veterans are looking for one last shot to put up impressive numbers. Last year, it was Fred Taylor going to the Patriots. But despite an impressive week 3 performance (105/1), Taylor was unable to make a substantial impact over the course of an injury plagued season.
Often times when backs switch teams it is a “sink or swim situation.” Which running backs will make the leap in fantasy stats in 2010? Here’s a look at a some of the top backs in new places and the fantasy impact they could have this fall.
Thomas Jones, Kansas City
4for4 Running Back Rank: 23
2009 Stats: 331 attempts, 1,402 yards, 14 TDs
After carrying the bulk of the load for the Jets last season, and leading them to the AFC Championship game, Thomas Jones was released and subsequently signed with Kansas City. Though he is a veteran back (Jones turns 32 this August), he has somewhat quietly put up five straight 1,000 yard seasons. The fantasy upside is there – but owners have to wonder whether or not he can match his recent production with the Jets now that he is running behind the Kansas City offensive line. He is expected to share carries with Jamaal Charles. On draft day, Jones would be a great value as a third running back on a fantasy squad or as a cheap handcuff for Charles owners.
Since his record-breaking season in 2006, LT’s numbers have declined with each passing year. Though he is still a capable runner and goal-line option, his production in San Diego kept getting worse and worse. Now, with the Jets, he’ll be used in a ground-heavy attack behind Shonn Greene. With a better offensive line and decreased touches game-to-game, LaDainian Tomlinson has a chance to repair his damaged reputation by showing off the burst in his game that has been missing for the last three seasons. Fantasy owners have been burned by LT in the past, so he is expected to slip into the middle rounds in some drafts. This is another “Buyer Beware” situation, but could pay off if LaDainian can benefit from one of the best offensive lines in football and find the end zone is 2010.
Mike Bell, Philadelphia
4for4 Running Back Rank: 52
2009 Stats: 172 attempts, 654 yards, 5 TDs
In a supporting role with the Saints last season, Mike Bell had some vital carries late in games and proved that he is still a capable third down back. Joining the Eagles’ offensive system might be a great fit for Bell, who will backup LeSean McCoy. Philadelphia loves to run screen plays, so Bell will have more chances for receiving yards than in past seasons. Also, if McCoy suffers any injuries, Bell will likely become the primary ball carrier. Bell has some upside, but might not have value until later in the year.
Chester Taylor, Chicago
4for4 Running Back Rank: 53
2009 Stats: 94 attempts, 338 yards, 1 TD