Fantasy Football Year in Review: Running Backs

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Fantasy Football Year in Review: Running Backs
IconSo let me guess: You spent the entire year looking for a go-to fantasy back, a guy you could count on week-in and week-out without having to worry that he might drop a stinker on you...and you never found him.

Sound familiar?

You aren't alone.

The good news is that there's always next year—and that it's never too early to start planning ahead. The following cheat-sheet will help you remember who you really wish you had on your squad in 2006...and who you'll probably want to forget in 2007.

Newcomers With Value

Reggie Bush

Not really a surprise here...but you can expect Bush to go in a more reasonable draft slot next year (think third round, maybe later). This is good news for anyone in the tailback market, as Reggie's 86 receptions—second only to man-beast Stephen Jackson's 88—are fantasy gold. Add in the fact that Deuce McAllister is past due for his annual ankle injury (which most people will likely forget when they draft him in the first round next year), and Bush becomes a most enticing investment.

Maurice Jones-Drew

You've probably seen him on the highlight reels. He's splitting time with Fred "One More Knee Injury Away From Retirement" Taylor, but that doesn't mean Jones-Drew doesn't get to the end zone: 12 touchdowns, even with limited carries. By comparison, Rudi Johnson also has 12 scores...and he's got the rock all to himself. Byron Leftwich will be back next year, so the offensive dynamic in Jacksonville may change (or will David Garrard hold on to the starting job?)...but either way Taylor will be just about done, and Maurice should be primed to add some serious yardage to those TD totals.

Joseph Addai

Addai quietly put together one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory. He doesn't look great all the time, but when he's on his game—let's put it this way: Edgerrin who? After beating out Dominic Rhodes for the starting job, Addai should see the ball even more in '07—especially on the goal line.

Laurence Maroney

He's already pushing Corey Dillon for carries in New England...and 2007 should be even more interesting, as Dillon is getting slower every year. Look for Maroney to win the starting job by Week 4...and to make you a very happy fantasy owner.

Forgotten Names/Fantasy Steals

Shaun Alexander

I swear—if you get away with this one, you're either in a league full of idiots or you're bribing some managers. Alexander, a top-three pick this season, spent a good chunk of the year recuperating from the Madden Curse. Look for him to return to form in 2007, which means no less than 15 TDs. Seriously, if you can get him after pick five, you're a god among men.

Clinton Portis

Again, a top back coming off an injury; he's a steal anywhere below pick number six. Check on the status of his broken hand over the offseason to make sure he'll still be able catch the ball.

Brandon Jacobs

Want to know why Tiki Barber has so few touchdowns? This guy. With an impressive 4.4 yards per carry, Jacobs is going to get ALL the touches for the Giants next season. That means more receptions (assuming he can catch), more yardage, and a marginal uptick in his TD total (he had nine in '06). The only way Jacobs' value could go down is if NY has an offensive implosion — la the Oakland Raiders (see Jordan, LaMont).

Kevin Jones

He missed the last three games of the season and only had six rushing touchdowns. So why do you want this guy? Easy: 61 receptions in 13 games...and the Lions should have an even better offense next year (look for Jones to be a Marshall Faulk-type back in the red zone in '07). Even if Detroit struggles, he should still post solid receiving numbers in a pass-happy offense.

Edgerrin James

Not really a steal, but he vastly underperformed in 2006. Promisingly, the Edge put together a year-end run of three 100-yard games...and finally started to find the end zone. If you can get him in the second round next year, consider yourself extraordinarily lucky.

Domanick Davis

Didn't play this season because of a nagging knee injury, but if he comes back next year, grab him as late as you can. His 2004 season: 14 touchdowns and 68 receptions. Granted, he's a risky pick, but odds are you could take him as late as round nine. At that price, it's more than worth a shot.

Willis McGahee

Great first half, then trailed off. I expect a repeat next year, so draft him late enough to trade him before he runs out of juice.

Vernand Morency

When Favre goes, so does Ahman Green's value. Morency is younger and faster, so look for him to start eating up downs in 2007.

Guys to Avoid

LaMont Jordan

Wow, did I ever get screwed this year. 3.8 yard per carry, 10 receptions (down from 70), and only two touchdowns!? Pathetic! Not only that, but it looks like Jordan lost the starting job to Justin Fargas. If the Raiders trade Randy Moss, his value goes down even further. Avoid this guy like the plague.

Warrick Dunn

He started off the season so well...but the Falcons apparently decided they don't want Dunn to touch the ball anywhere near the end zone. With limited receptions and no red-zone activity, his value hits rock bottom as soon as he stops putting up 100 yards a game. Add in the age factor (to say nothing of Jerious Norwood waiting in the wings), and you've got yourself a bust waiting to happen.

Ronnie Brown

Turns out that Ricky Williams wasn't to blame, as Brown looked like half a running back in 2006. His numbers didn't change from last season...which is a bad thing if you spent all of 2005 splitting carries. Hopefully, this is just a sophomore slump—but I don't want to be the guy who has to burn a high draft pick to find out.

Ahman Green

Slower and more injury-prone every year. Don't let his reception count (42) fool you—those are desperation throws from Favre, not downfield strikes. If Favre goes, look for the Packers to emphasize the ground game...which probably means that Vernand Morency is going to get his chance as the featured back. You don't want any part of this.

Next time: Wide Receiver Roundup

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