Fantasy Football ADP Watch: Rising Running Backs

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IAugust 19, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 13:  LeSean McCoy #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball against the New England Patriots on August 13, 2009 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With the NFL season approaching fast, just about every eager fantasy football owner is starving for knowledge and I am here to oblige. Leading up to week one of the regular season I will be tackling the weekly running back risers and fallers for ADP (Average Draft Position). I will be using ESPN live draft ADP feature to fill everyone in on which running backs are increasing and decreasing in value as the preseason progresses.

To get things started we will take a look at the top-seven risers dating from August 12 to August 18. The biggest risers in ADP include LeSean McCoy (+7.2), Pierre Thomas (+5.8), Ray Rice (+5.4), Darren McFadden (+3.8), Ahmad Bradshaw (+3.7),Sammy Morris (+2.1) and Tim Hightower (+1.8). I will be breaking down these players and giving the reasoning of why I believe or don’t believe that the movement in ADP is justifiable.

1. LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles)

In his NFL preseason debut, LeSean McCoy went for 55 yards on the ground and 12 yards through the air. Granted, he started in place of injured running back Brian Westbrook who returned to practice this week. None the less, the +7.2 ADP this week speaks volumes for how much fantasy football owners believe in this rookie.

While he will be spending a good portion of his time on the sideline watching Brian Westbrook perform, you have to believe that the Philadelphia Eagles will be trying to rest Westbrook more than they have in the past. This should lead to McCoy getting a chance to contribute from the get-go and possibly more if Westbrook gets hurt.


2. Pierre Thomas (New Orleans Saints)

A solid season can do wonders for ones’ confidence and Pierre Thomas is no exception. Last year from Weeks 11-16, Thomas scored nine times and had only one week in which he did not have at least 100 combined all-purpose yards.

So how did he use his time during the off season? He worked out like a beast, added a minimum of 10 lbs of muscle to his frame and most likely will continue to get the scoring opportunities for the New Orleans Saints.

In fact, Thomas is already talking about how he feels that he can carry any load that the Saints place on him this year. With the hype of Reggie Bush dying down do to his continuance of nagging injuries, don’t be shocked if Thomas is the better of the Saints backs this year. And that is why the +5.8 ADP this week is well deserved.


3. Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens)

As young running backs go, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens has improved as dramatically as anyone this past off season. It showed in his first preseason game against the Washington Redskins as he had a 34-yard reception and showed great explosiveness out of the backfield. That is the positive news.

The negative news though is that he still is expected to share carries with Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain if the season started today. His +5.4 ADP this week shows that people are taking notice of the hard work that he has put in.

However, will it be enough to have him jump ahead of his competition and take the lead back role for the Ravens throughout the '09 season? Most likely not. So when targeting him on draft day, make sure you do so as a RB3.


4. Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders)

Darren McFadden struggled with injuries during his 2008 rookie campaign, but that does not mean that he should be labeled as a injury risk. In fact, the good thing about McFadden is that there was so much that did not go right for him or the Oakland Raiders last season, people are reluctant to target him as their RB2.

It has been mentioned that the Raiders want to get the pigskin into the hands of McFadden 20+ times a game. Let’s not forget that he will be running behind a tremendous fullback in Lorenzo Neal, who paved the way for LaDainian Tomlinson for many years. With head coach Tom Cable on McFadden’s side, the +3.8 ADP this week looks like a wise move for drafters.


5. Ahmad Bradshaw (New York Giants)

There are a few things going for Bradshaw this year that people are overlooking. The sentiment is shown by the +3.7 ADP in this week’s ESPN draft rankings as well as a solid '09 prediction by Lee the UPS guy. No, that is not a cartoon character; he is someone that I talk passionately with about this great game we call fantasy football.

Bradshaw is behind Brandon Jacobs, who has a track record of not being able to stay healthy. With the departure of Derrick Ward to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bradshaw becomes a threat to become one of the better fantasy football backups in the NFL, next to the likes of Chester Taylor.

If and when Jacobs (missed eight games since '07) goes down for a week or two, expect even bigger things from Bradshaw. Even if Jacobs stays healthy, Bradshaw should put up solid fantasy football numbers as a change of pace back; something that is very important in deeper 12-team leagues.

As a side note, injuries are already mounting in the backfield with Andre Brown being ruled out for the season, thus solidifying his chances of him being the true backup in New York.


6. Sammy Morris (New England Patriots)

Sammy Morris saw a +2.1 ADP rise this past week in ESPN drafts. His solid preseason showing is the reason for the rise but the fantasy football owners should remember that even though Morris has been successful when he plays, his playing time will never rival that of an every down back, or even close to it.

In fact, he is valued more as a RB4 in deeper leagues as the New England Patriots already log jammed backfield added Fred Taylor during the off season. You can do much worse than Morris as someone to fill out your roster, but personally I prefer someone that will touch the ball on a more consistent basis.


7. Tim Hightower (Arizona Cardinals)

Tim Hightower, as expected, got the start during the Cardinals preseason opener as Chris “Beanie” Wells was out with an injury.

There is no doubt the injury to Wells has something to do with the +1.8 ADP for Hightower over the past week but that’s not the only thing the second year back has working for him.

The other reason is the more Wells’ injury lingers on, the more head coach Ken Whisenhunt would be inclined to roll with his second year back over a banged-up rookie. This could lead to Hightower playing a bigger role in the offense.

However, if you do decide to roll with Hightower, do so knowing that he struggled when starting last year. He is solid in the red zone but between the 20’s has yet to be proven and the Cardinals didn’t draft Wells in the first round to ride the pine.