As if it's not bad enough that injuries are already hitting the running back position hard, with the likes of Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills and Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears already sidelined, there have been a number of backs that have been huge disappointments to their fantasy owners so far this season.
Let's take a look at a trio of these bummer backs, try to determine whether their slow starts are just a bad break or the beginning of a fantasy football faceplant, and decide whether or not it's time to hit the proverbial eject button before your fantasy squad hits the side of Mt. Mediocrity.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
After finishing the 2010 season as a top-10 fantasy running back and ranking in the top 10 in fantasy points per game last year many fantasy owners gambled a first-round pick on Darren McFadden in the hopes that the fifth-year pro would be able to stay healthy.
For once injury hasn't been the issue with McFadden but performance is. Through two games McFadden has managed only 54 yards on the ground in 26 carries, and while his 15 receptions for 105 yards has helped salvage some fantasy value the putrid state of the Oakland offense has left McFadden's fantasy owners grumbling in disgust.
Some have questioned whether the new zone-blocking scheme employed by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp may be to blame, but as McFadden recently told Paul Gutierrez of CSN Bay Area he feels it's only a matter of time until he gets on track.
"I'm very comfortable in this scheme," McFadden said. "I just feel like we have to get going. Like I say, you hit one or two runs here, three-yard runs here, and eventually it's going to start popping."
It's more likely that the injuries that have decimated the Oakland receiving corps have left McFadden as the lone threat in the Raiders offense and the focus of opposing defenses, and if Carson Palmer can get the Oakland passing attack going well at all, then the sledding should get a lot easier for McFadden.
VERDICT: Buy, especially if he struggles again this week and his price tag drops as a result.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Much like Darren McFadden Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was something of a risky draft choice this year, although he was a top-five fantasy option in 2010 on the heels of over 1,900 total yards the fifth-year pro lost almost the entire 2011 campaign to a torn ACL.
Charles has, to this point in the season, managed only 109 total yards and was a complete non-factor in the team's loss to the Buffalo Bills, due in large part to soreness in his surgically repaired knee, although head coach Romeo Crennel told C.J. Moore of CBS Sports that Charles should play this week against the New Orleans Saints.
"He got banged up a little bit and we decided not to put him back in the game. He wanted to go back," Crennel said. "He wanted to go back in…but the other guys were doing OK, so we left the other guys in. I talked to him after the game. He said he wanted to go back in and he felt OK. He was getting treatment, so I think he'll be ready to play this week."
This week's matchup with a Saints defense that was gashed for over 200 yards by the Carolina Panthers is about as good as it gets from a fantasy perspective, and hopefully it will provide the impetus for Charles' production to pick up.
VERDICT: Buy now before he gashes the Saints, but it's a risky play. No guts no glory.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson was a top-10 fantasy back in point-per-reception fantasy football leagues in 2011, but it had to be the ugliest top-10 season in history. Johnson struggled mightily early in the season after a protracted holdout, and while he topped 1,000 rushing yards the 26-year-old rushed for a career-low four yards a carry.
Johnson's fantasy owners would kill for four yards a carry right now.
Through two games this season Johnson has managed all of 21 yards on 19 carries, and that robust 1.1 yards per carry average has left Johnson a very frustrated ball-carrier according to Jim Wyatt of The Nashville Tennessean.
“The run game ain’t working,” Johnson said. “We just aren’t executing the plays. I don’t know why we’re not. People need to step up and do their job,” Johnson said. “They don’t need to let people beat them. It don’t matter who the opposing defense is, you can’t let your guy beat you. You just can’t give up plays. You have to make plays like they make plays. I can’t speak for the defense. I can only speak for the offense.
If Johnson wants to find someone not doing their job he need look no farther than the mirror, as he's been incredibly tentative in hitting the hole, and until that changes Johnson's fantasy value is in the toilet.
VERDICT: I'd say sell, but you're not going to get anything for him, so hold and bench.