Welcome to the Weekly Pepper: A weekly, sometimes daily breakdown of the coming year in fantasy football.
In today's edition, I will be documenting the biggest steal of this year's fantasy football season.
These are the fantasy numbers of Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Jacobs, Steven Jackson, and Frank Gore: five running backs ranked ahead of Steve Slaton in 2009 who scored less than his amazing 210 point rookie campaign.
Chris Johnson has a well known handcuff named LenDale White. The only thing LenDale wolfs down quicker than the spaghetti at the $2.99 buffet is touchdowns near the goal line.
Maurice Jones-Drew supporters are suffering from the optimist's paradigm without looking at the actualities. It's quite similar to those who play blackjack and don't assume the dealer's card you can't see isn't a 10. These guys lose a lot.
We all know his upside but for once let's take a look at the downside:
1. Maurice Jones-Drew was a change of pace back. Defenses prepare for the starter not his backup. Now teams are coming into the game preparing for Jones-Drew.
2. He no longer gets extended breathers. He will be the man all game.
3. He will most likely stop returning kicks. No team wants to risk their starting running back getting injured on a kickoff.
Add in the fact that Slaton averaged nearly five yards a carry to Maurice Jones-Drew's four yards per carry and things start to seem a bit off.
Steven Jackson and Frank Gore were both outscored nearly 50 points by Steve Slaton. When you compare their meager offenses to Slaton's explosive juggernaut, things don't seem like they will change.
So why are all these running backs ranked so much higher than Slaton? Why is Steve Slaton routinely going in the middle second round? Why can't anybody seem to realize he was the best rookie running back of 2008?
The answer isn't important.
What is important is the result of people's mistake: Steve Slaton is a bigger steal in this year's draft than he was in the last.
Last year, only the most die-hard of Texans fans or ingenious of fantasy drafters found Slaton in the draft. He was most often grabbed in the waiver wire by the last place team; making him less a steal and more a payment for destitution.
Steve Slaton will essentially grant you the most valuable of all picks, one in the top three, with an average draft position of 16th.
For those that believe my theory is audacious, which all in all it might be, since fantasy is all one big guessing game, let me direct you to this quaint, yet precise list:
1. Steve Slaton's toughest matchups come from Jacksonville and the Titans. Jacksonville saw Slaton average over 120 total yards and a TD against their vaunted defense last year. The Titans saw Slaton average over a 100 yards rushing per game against their stifling run defense.
2. Slaton didn't get starting running back carries until the second half of the season. The last seven game saw averages of 120+ yards a game on 20+ carries.
3. Steve Slaton has no handcuff. The reason I drafted Slaton last year in every single draft was for this same reason. Competing with Chris Brown and Ahman Green for a starting spot is like competing with Ms. South Carolina in geography exam.
4. The Texans offense might be the league's most explosive and Slaton won't get any worse in his second year.
I'm not one for statistic projections, but I can say with full confidence that barring injury, Steve Slaton will finish as one of fantasy football's top three running backs.