There are a lot of running backs that dissapoint their fantasy owners every year. However, unlike last year, this years backs have been a little different. There haven't been any busts from the first round (except MJD a little), the guys that have struggled have been second through sixth round selections. I just wrote an article on Ryan Mathews and it got me thinking about other running backs, and who has hope for the season.
I'll give each player a grade on how likely I see them improving this season
A - will get better
B - should get better
C - might get better
D - doubtful they will improve
F - almost no chance of improvement
Maurice Jones-Drew - MJD has struggled dating back to the second half of last season. His yards per carry average is under four this year and it was for the end of last season as well. The Jags offense is struggling and teams are stacking the box. An injury to the offensive line and quarterback injuries do not help his cause.
Obviously, you still start him, but he is probably the only first round pick that isn't a top-ten running back going forward. It's hard to call him a complete bust, but as a top-five pick in every draft, he has certainly disappointed his owners. Grade: D
DeAngelo Williams - I wasn't a DeAngelo fan coming into the year, but even I didn't think he would be this bad. It's not entirely his fault, the Panthers as a whole have struggled. But reinstalling Mat Moore as the starting quarterback should help this team a lot. I didn't think it was a good move going to Clausen so early and I was right, as he clearly isn't NFL-ready.
Steve Smith is back and David Gettis could finally fill that second wide receiver role. All of this should move some guys out of the box, giving the talented DeAngelo some more room to run. DeAngelo has some hope to improve but his potential is limited as long is Stewart stays in the mix. Grade: B
Shonn Greene - I liked Greene a lot all summer and then after I watched LT in the preseason I wasn't as high on Greene. Despite Greene's poor season so far, there is some optimism for the future. The Jets are a running team, they may have the best offensive line in the league, and LT has a lot of carries on his legs, so they may want to keep LT fresh for their Super Bowl hopes.
As we saw in Miami last year and Kansas City this year, running backs can be productive at the same time on one team. The Jets certainly fit the profile. Greene is only a matchup play right now against weaker teams, but could have value down the road. Grade: C
Ryan Mathews - I discussed Ryan Mathews in detail in my previous article, but to some it up, the workload just isn't there for him to be productive. He is on a passing team where Tolbert is used at the goal-line and Sproles is used on third down. Mathews has played pretty well when used, and has a run-friendly schedule, but that is about all. Grade: D
Jonathan Stewart - Some places ranked Stewart ahead of DeAngelo coming into the year. If DeAngelo is struggling, it's hard to expect anything out of his backup. Stewart is un-usable and is now just a handcuff to DeAngelo. The only way Stewart becomes startable is if DeAngelo gets hurt. Grade: F
Pierre Thomas - Many predicted Thomas to have a breakout year with Mike Bell gone. Things have gone from bad to worse for him. He gets hurt and seems to be week-to-week, but now he hasn't played since Week 3, and he has no timetable for his return.
To make matters worse, the Saints offense has struggled as a whole, Reggie Bush is expected back, and Chris Ivory may have earned at least some carries when/if PT makes it back. Grade: C
Ronnie Brown- Those who drafted Ronnie Brown, I can't feel too bad for you because there weren't many players with more red-flags than Brown. Injury history, Ricky Williams, and more Miami passing with Brandon Marshall: Are any of those going away? No.
Ronnie and Ricky have had an almost even workload so far, and have been up and down in terms of who is more productive. Ronnie needs a Ricky injury to be an every week starter. Grade: D
Jerome Harrison - Same way I feel about guys who drafted Ronnie Brown, it is your own fault. Sure Harrison exploded at the end of last year, but Cleveland went out and drafted Hardesty, and even though he ended up getting hurt, Cleveland has never liked Harrison for some reason.
Unless you got him really late in the draft, it's your own fault. Now he is the backup for Lesean McCoy, which actually might be better for him. If McCoy goes down, he could fit well in the Eagles system. Grade: D
Marion Barber - Felix Jones was hyped during the summer, but Barber was named the starter at the beginning of the season. Felix Jones has taken over as the feature back and Barber has been reduced to more of a short yardage guy, even though he is still first on the depth chart and continues to start the game. Even if Felix Jones gets hurt, which is very possible, Tashard Choice may get the work. Grade: F
Clinton Portis - He actually generated some buz this off-season because he had fallen so far in fantasy drafts since last year, he almost became a bargain. Well he struggled early to generate any explosiveness and his production came from touchdowns. Clearly Portis has lost a step (or five), because Torain is tearing it up right now.
It's been predicted by Washington reporters that Portis has played his last game as a Redskin, and even if he returns, this is Torain's backfield now. Keiland Williams is probably better than Portis at this point. Grade: F
As always, feel free to post how you feel about players or if you think I left anyone out that is worth talking about.