fantasy football     JOIN THE HUDDLE    


Speculation Slots
Joe Levit
October 6, 2004

Winning can be accomplished in fantasy football in a number of fashions. One way is to accumulate as much talent as possible in your backup slots. This means dropping that second defense in favor of a skilled young running back, and giving an extra kicker the quick boot after he has filled in for your starter’s bye week. The players you have as backups can be a boon to you if they suddenly become stars, but they are often just as valuable if by owning them you can deny talent to other owners in your league.

Unless there is a real gem of a wide receiver or quarterback sitting there at the end of somebody’s bench or hanging out on the waiver wire, it is better to stash running backs in these slots. There are more starting wide receivers in the league than running backs or quarterbacks, so wide receivers get added and dropped all season long. These players are on the cusp of fantasy value, but are not consistent enough to merit even a full-time bench gig. Quarterbacks, while they might play poorly, usually make it through the season, as a group. Any shortage on starters is short-lived.

Running backs are different. There are few who consistently put up strong fantasy scores, and because of the pounding they take, they are subjected to minor and major injuries at an alarming rate. Think about all of the guys that have been out so far this year:

Deuce McAllister, Charlie Garner, Correll Buckhalter, Kevin Jones, Michael Bennett, Julius Jones, Ron Dayne, Stephen Davis, Marcel Shipp, Tatum Bell, Lee Suggs, and Domanick Davis, to name a few.

There is a definite double-edged advantage to adding backup running backs to your roster. If the team’s starter gets hurt or is not getting the job done, your miniscule investment can pay off big time. Just by having a decent player ride your pine, you may force a rival team that is abruptly hungry for any running back that moves into fantasy bankruptcy and out of contention.

Applied last week, this technique could have landed you Amos Zereoue, Jonathan Wells or Leonard Henry, all running backs whose status has been elevated due to injuries sustained by their teammates. While Zereoue and Wells may be relegated to backup duty once the starters are healthy, Henry has a chance to become the full-time back in Miami.

Here are the runners to get right now, before a switch occurs and your nemesis finds a new stud. You will be able to simply add many of these players, but even the others can be had for a small trade.

Stephen Jackson – He is probably the backup you’d have to pay the most for right now, but he is getting worked into the offense despite Faulk’s fine play.

Larry Johnson – If Priest Holmes is out for any length of time, Johnson will be eager to show just how tough he can be after the comments from Vermeil.

Willis McGahee – Travis Henry plays hurt, but his hard running style also leads to injuries. McGahee has a nose for the end zone and is dying to get on the field.

Justin Fargas – If he can get healthy, he is probably a better option than even Zereoue long-term.

William Green – Green is a durable player, and will be ready to roll if Suggs has any recurring health issues.

Anthony Thomas – This average back could do well behind the good Bears offensive line should Jones get dinged up.

Najeh Davenport – Davenport is a bruising runner, and he will star on the off-chance Green gets hurt, and the better chance that Green gets pulled for a game because he is fumbling the season away.

Tatum Bell – While he has been hurt himself to start off his career, his value is very low right now, so it is the perfect time to take him and just keep him from others.

Chris Perry – The Bengals will work him into the passing game, and Perry has proven his own wherewithal after a workmanlike year at Michigan in 2003.

Josh Scobey/Troy Hambrick – I know Emmitt just made headlines with his touchdown pass, but at his age, a serious injury will linger.