Greetings again Chiefs fans! A couple of days ago I delivered my fantasy outlook on quarterbacks taken in the 2009 Draft, and today I follow up with a look at some of the most notable rookie running backs who could make impacts in the coming season. Remember, I’m focusing on one-year re-draft leagues. You get the top five, and then few backs who might emerge as diamonds in the rough.
Knowshon Moreno, 12th overall, Denver – The days of Mike Shanahan frustrating fantasy owners to no end have been put to rest, but could Josh McDaniels just be getting started? Early in the off season, Denver signed a couple of running backs incapable of carrying loads in Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Arrington. Lamont Jordan was also brought in. There appear to be so many options that multiples will have to be used, limiting the immediate ceiling for the Georgia product. He’ll be worth a mid-round upside pick, but don’t invest too heavily.
Donald Brown, 27th overall, Indianapolis – The nation’s leading rusher last season out of UCONN, Brown finds himself in a great situation for a rookie. Expectations won’t be too high splitting carries with veteran Joseph Addai, and there is potential for much more than a split with Addai being so injury prone in recent years. He’s probably not worth a 6th or 7th round gamble just because Addai is so established in front of him, but once the handcuff backs begin to fly off the shelf, he should be one of the first gone.
Chris Wells, 31st overall, Arizona – Now here’s a rookie RB to watch for from the jump. Edgerrin James was released shortly after he was drafted, the aforementioned Arrington is gone, and Tim Hightower did not distinguish himself when he was given a chance to run with the Cardinals’ starting gig last year. Wells was electric when healthy, and a strong rushing game can only help Arizona’s pass-first attack. Yes, of course, OC Todd Haley isn’t there anymore, but Kurt Warner was retained for two more years and you know the system isn’t going to change much around him, even if Anquan Boldin does finally get moved. Adding a dynamic young back makes opposing teams think. Wells should easily compete to start, and if he wins the job, he could realistically be a 4th or 5th round pick, maybe even earlier depending on how early the top backs go.
LeSean McCoy, 53rd overall, Eagles – It seems like Brian Westbrook has been playing through injuries for years, doesn’t it? Every season brings the theory that time and health are catching up with him, but Westbrook usually dispels that theory. Now the Eagles have a back who can spell Westbrook and keep him fresh. The Iowa product brings more skill to the table than backs like the departed Buckhalter, Ryan Moats, or others who were hyped as potential beneficiaries if Westbrook were to go down. He generally doesn’t, so McCoy is pushed to a late round pick with high upside in the event of injury.
Shonn Greene, 65th overall, Jets – Needing a power back, Rex Ryan traded up to get Greene, so you know the love is already there. Despite coming off a fantastic season, the marriage between Thomas Jones and the Jets isn’t on the most solid of ground. Should the two part ways, Greene would immediately become an excellent compliment to Leon Washington, and given the problems that Jones has had at the goal line, he might be in line for those carries right away. Like McCoy, he’s another late round pick with potential for now.
Best of the rest: Obviously, injuries or cuts can throw things into flux, but here are the three I like the most. First, the Giants’ Andre Brown. He’s 6’0, 224, almost identical to the 5’11, 228 pound back who left New York for greener pastures in Tampa Bay, Derrick Ward. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw need a new partner to round out their trio. Next, James Davis of the Cleveland Browns. Eric Mangini inherits a roster short on skill players and in possession of an aging #1 back with no clear cut heir. Davis is no higher than third on the depth chart right now with Jason Wright in front of him, but Wright hasn’t distinguished himself yet. Finally, Quinn Johnson was a 5th round pick of the Packers. Ryan Grant was hot and cold last season, and at 6’1, 246, Johnson could bruise his way into the picture.