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2004 Player Statistics and Analysis: Running Backs
Updated: August 29, 2004

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A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z || QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DF
Shaun Alexander SEA HT 5'11'' WT 229 AGE 27 EXP 5    
2001 SEA 16 1661 16 309 1318 4.3 14 44 343 2
2002 SEA 16 1635 18 295 1175 4 16 59 460 2
2003 SEA 16 1730 16 326 1435 4.4 14 42 295 2
  Avg 16 1675 17 310 1309 4.2 15 48 366 2
In the past three years as a starter, Alexander has never fallen below 1600 total yards or 16 touchdowns in a season. He turned in seven games with 100 yards rushing and ten games over 100 combined yards. He failed to score in only three games last year and was 3 rd in the NFL for plays inside the 10 yard line (33). He’s only 27 years old and has never missed a game due to injury. Alexander has the perfect size for short yardage, goal line carries and open field running. He is the proto-typical size for a running back and was 7 th in touches by a running back (368) in 2003. In the past three seasons, he has been a top six fantasy back every year. That is consistency rivaled only by Holmes and Tomlinson. He never had less than 62 yards in any game last year. This season should be just as bright. Seattle now has a feared passing attack which takes some defensive focus from Alexander and his schedule is no worse than in past seasons. Look for him to yet again to place easily in the top ten and with upside still left for challenging the top 5 running backs. Alexander is a low risk, consistently good runner that will be gone by the middle of your first round.
Mike Alstott TB HT 6'1'' WT 248 AGE 31 EXP 8    
2001 TB 16 911 11 165 680 4.1 10 35 231 1
2002 TB 16 784 7 146 542 3.8 5 35 242 2
2003 TB 4 160 2 27 77 2.9 2 10 83 0
  Avg 12 618 7 113 433 3.6 6 27 185 1
Alstott missed the final 12 games of 2003 with a neck injury which landed him on injured reserve. He was not very effective before the injury and ended with only 77 yards on 27 carries – easily his worst season in the NFL. In his absence the Buccaneers ran through both Michael Pittman and Thomas Jones but the running game only produced five touchdowns all season – worst in the league. In 2002, Alstott scored only five rushing touchdowns compared to ten the previous season but one missing ingredient was the loss of Warrick Dunn. In Dunn’s last year the Bucs had 17 rushing touchdowns and in the two years since he left it has only produced nine in total. If Garner is healthy, he could better reprise the Dunn role that was missing the past two year but both he and Alstott are no into their 30’s and becoming more injury prone. This year the backfield is crowded for Tampa Bay with Alstott, Garner, Jamel White, Michael Pittman and even Brandon Bennett. Alstott is the short-yardage and goal-line back in that crew but at 31 years of age, he may not last. Alstott has been using the off-season to get his wind and timing back and wisely claims to be 100% and ready to play. Alstott has looked good so far in mini-camps and appears that he has regained his bruising form.
Damien Anderson ARI HT 5'11'' WT 202 AGE 25 EXP 3    
2002 ARI 1 101 0 24 65 2.7 0 3 36 0
2003 ARI 2 104 0 18 68 3.3 0 6 36 0
  Avg 2 103 0 21 67 3.0 0 5 36 0

Anderson suddenly becomes an issue with the injury to Marcell Shipp. For the next 8 to 12 weeks, Anderson becomes the #2 running back behind the oldest starting rusher in the entire league. The Cardinals ground game already looks weak this season and compounding matters here is that Josh Scobey may very well pass Anderson on the depth charts. Training camp will determine who wins the #2 spot while Shipp is out, but so far Scobey has been more impressive to HC Denny Green in these first few days of training camp since he is much quicker than Anderson.

Update 8/8/04 - Now that Shipp is gone for the season, the #2 spot behind Emmitt becomes even more interesting. Anderson is ranked here merely as the front runner but training camp will be used to determine the #2 RB in Arizona.

08/20/04 - Anderson is now #3 on the depth charts in Arizona, though eventually they may get there this season.

Richie Anderson DAL HT 6'2'' WT 230 AGE 33 EXP 12    
2001 NYJ 16 364 2 27 112 4.1 0 40 252 2
2002 NYJ 16 284 1 5 27 5.4 0 45 257 1
2003 DAL 15 799 5 70 306 4.4 1 69 493 4
  Avg 16 482 3 34 148 4.4 0 51 334 2
Anderson came to the Cowboys as a part of the Parcells reunion tour and though he was 32 years old, he ended up basically matching his career best season. Anderson is now 33 but he is rarely used in a rushing role anyway. Anderson was the leading receiver for the Cowboys last season with 69 receptions and his yardage was second only to Terry Glenn. In fantasy terms, Anderson is the guy you pick up late in the draft knowing that every week he will get you something and every week it will not be a lot. Unless you get points for receptions, Anderson will average around 50 yards a game. He had only one game with over 100 total yards (109) against the Giants which by week 16 was almost hard not to do. Anderson will still figure in but with Keyshawn Johnson acquired for possession catches and a new, “bound to be better” back in Julius Jones, and those 50 yards a game are more likely to become his high point instead of average.
Tiki Barber NYG HT 5'10'' WT 200 AGE 29 EXP 8    
2001 NYG 14 1433 4 167 856 5.1 4 72 577 0
2002 NYG 16 1984 11 303 1386 4.6 11 69 598 0
2003 NYG 16 1676 3 278 1215 4.4 2 69 461 1
  Avg 15 1698 6 249 1152 4.6 6 70 545 0

Barber was made the primary back in 2002 and responded with a career-best 1984 total yards and 11 touchdowns. He fell slightly in yardage last season with 1676 yards but only scored three times in 2003 in the lost season that the Giants found waiting for them. Barber was on a 300 carry pace again last year but after mid-season only had 93 carries in the final eight games and gained 409 yards rushing against 609 in the first half of 2003. This season Barber gets a new quarterback, head coach and offensive scheme. That is not typically the best recipe for success and in this case, HC Tom Coughlin is considering a return to the “Thunder and Lightning” days of both Barber and Dayne sharing carries. Coughlin has been intrigued with Dayne already this spring and has mentioned that Dayne will get every chance to regain his status as a running back for the Giants. New York actually has a favorable rushing schedule this season and with the need to de-emphasize Manning initially, it would be expected that the run is destined to be of great importance to the Giants and falls in line with Coughlin’s typical scheme anyway. Barber is one of the smaller starting backs in the NFL but has played all 16 games the past two seasons. He should have a good season unless the talk about Dayne proves to have merit during training camp.

08/16/04 - Barber was the starting RB in the first preseason game, but the two long Dayne scores does not help his case. Chances are Barber will still play better than Dayne and deserves to be drafted first but his numbers are almost certain to be watered down this season and his touchdowns reduced significantly.

Kevan Barlow SF HT 6'1'' WT 238 AGE 25 EXP 4    
2001 SF 15 759 5 125 512 4.1 4 22 247 1
2002 SF 14 811 5 145 675 4.7 4 14 136 1
2003 SF 16 1331 7 201 1024 5.1 6 35 307 1
  Avg 15 967 6 157 737 4.7 5 24 230 1
Barlow finally gets the starting role he has always wanted; it’s just too bad none of his talented teammates are still there to share the moment. Barlow has improved in each of his three seasons by every measure and in 2003 had a 4.7 yard rushing average while he finally crested the 1000 yard mark. He also figured heavily into the passing attack with 35 catches. When Hearst left the line-up in week 14, Barlow rolled up 515 yards and five scores in the next three games. While not sustainable over an entire season, it left Barlow as a promising back this season. Barlow should receive very heavy use this year as the 49ers adjust to a new quarterback and receivers and lean on the running game more heavily than years past. Unfortunately, the defenses will now prepare specifically for Barlow as the most feared (some would say only) weapon in San Francisco but Kevan had the ability and motivation to excel. Only now does he have the opportunity.
Tatum Bell DEN HT 5' 11" WT 212 AGE 23 EXP R    
ROOKIE DEN 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0

Bell went with the 2.09 pick to the Broncos and brings a sub-4.4 speed and explosive running style to Denver (sound familiar?). Bell is almost the exact size of Portis, he has a tendency to get nicked up like Portis and comes in with a tag of fumbler just like Portis. Will cost much less than Portis as well. Both were second round picks. Unlike Portis, Bell will have to fight through a log-jam at running back to post significant numbers since Garrison Hearst, Quentin Griffin, Mike Anderson and even Ahmaad Galloway all have some chance to gain time if not become the primary runner. HC Mike Shanahan has no problem with RBBC and this crew appears destined for some trial by fire before anyone, if in fact it is just one, player separates from the pack enough to take over the primary role. Griffin is the current front-runner, having practiced as such in mini-camps and toting a 136 yard effort in his sole start last season. Even if Tatum O’Neil was drafted as a Denver running back her stock would skyrocket because no one hits rookie gold like the Broncos when it comes to tailback. Bell will be a constant watch in training camp to see if he can dislodge Griffin and keep Hearst out of the equation. Bell will likely be drafted this season far too earlier but for the past five years, it’s never been a bad move yet.

Update: Reported to camp late and then fractured his middle finger which required two pins surgically inserted. He'll be out for a while and his value realistically falls.

Michael Bennett MIN HT 5'9'' WT 211 AGE 26 EXP 4    
2001 MIN 13 908 3 172 682 4 2 29 226 1
2002 MIN 16 1647 6 255 1296 5.1 5 37 351 1
2003 MIN 8 579 1 90 447 5 1 12 132 0
  Avg 12 1045 3 172 808 4.7 3 26 236 1

Bennett’s fractured foot was slow to heal last year and kept him out of the line-up for the first seven games while Moe Williams enjoyed his most productive time in the NFL. When he returned, he was slowly added back into the mix and started coming on in week 12 with a 73 yard effort against the Lions. After gaining 233 yards in the next two games, but then fought a high ankle sprain the final three games of the season. Those three weeks – 13 through 15 – were far more indicative of what Bennett offered back in 2002 when he gained over 1600 total yards and scored six times. Onterrio Smith was very productive as a starter last season but during those three weeks that Bennett was full strength, Smith only had four carries in week 15 and none in the previous two. Bennett’s healthy again and will be primed to return to 2002 levels with a supportive cast even stronger around him in 2004. Moe Williams was the touchdown hawk in 2002 but his carries were sliced in half when Bennett was playing healthy last season. Bennett will fall under the radar of early rounds in many drafts but his yardage will supply a consistent benefit for fantasy owners with upside on his touchdowns.

08/29/04 - Bennett will miss one to three weeks after spraining his right knee in Friday's exhibition win over San Francisco. He underwent an MRI exam Saturday that revealed more damage than originally diagnosed. He won't play in Thursday's preseason finale at Seattle and is questionable for Minnesota's season opener Sept. 12 against Dallas.

Jerome Bettis PIT HT 5'11'' WT 255 AGE 32 EXP 12    
2001 PIT 11 1120 4 225 1072 4.8 4 8 48 0
2002 PIT 13 723 9 187 666 3.6 9 7 57 0
2003 PIT 16 897 7 246 811 3.3 7 13 86 0
  Avg 13 913 7 219 850 3.9 7 9 64 0
After 11 seasons, Bettis avoided the Turk by signing a new cap-friendly contract which saved Pittsburgh about $3.5 million. Bettis was active for all games last year but after 246 carries only averaged 3.3 yards per run. He was a non-factor in the passing game as usual. His production has slid the past two seasons as he crested 30 years of age and now at 32, it is unlikely he will get any better. It’s been since 2001 that Bettis was able to run for more than 3.6 yards per carry and the Bus will never see fourth gear again. HC Bill Cowher has called the competition for starter open in training camp between Bettis, Staley and even Verron Haynes but Staley is clearly the best runner of the bunch. The best that Bettis can hope for is to be used on short-yardage and goal line carries which is his lone advantage in the position. His value is much higher in a touchdown-only league.
Ladell Betts WAS HT 5'10'' WT 222 AGE 25 EXP 3    
2002 WAS 11 461 1 65 307 4.7 1 12 154 0
2003 WAS 9 422 2 77 255 3.3 2 15 167 0
  Avg 10 442 2 71 281 4 2 14 161 0
Betts sustained a fractured forearm last year and missed most of the second half of the season while Trung Canidate and Rock Cartwright took turns gaining poor yardage. Now that Canidate is gone and the fullback Cartwright may be the odd man out (Gibbs historically uses no fullback), Betts takes the lead in backing up Clinton Portis. There is no question that Betts will be nothing more than a back-up in Washington but Portis showed last season that he is not the most durable back in the league thanks to his smaller size. The entire offense for the Redskins is a bit of a fantasy risk this year since the new scheme is being installed with a new quarterback and running back and the coaching staff is under strict orders of secrecy. Betts makes little more sense than a final round pick-up for the Portis owner and likely not worth stealing by other fantasy team owners given the unknowns surrounding the Skins.
Derrick Blaylock KC HT 5'9'' WT 200 AGE 25 EXP 3    
2002 KC 12 119 0 12 72 4.5 0 5 47 0
2003 KC 10 293 3 22 112 5.1 2 15 181 1
  Avg 10 293 3 22 112 5.1 2 15 181 1
Blaylock is not a starting-quality back, but he is the best on the roster behind Priest Holmes. He had only 22 carries last season but averaged 5.1 yards and scored in three different games. His best effort was against Detroit during week 15 when he had 106 receiving yards thanks to one 63-yard scoring pass. Blaylock remains as the better back behind Priest Holmes but it doesn’t mean much unless Holmes goes down with an injury. Priest is 31 years old now but has not had nearly the carries associated with his time in the league as he had sparse play early in his career. Consider Derrick a very deep pick only if you own Holmes for a little insurance but he is not worth holding otherwise.
Chris Brown TEN HT 6'3'' WT 220 AGE 23 EXP 2    
2003 TEN 11 282 0 56 221 3.9 0 8 61 0
  Avg 11 282 0 56 221 3.9 0 8 61 0

Chris Brown was drafted with the 3.29 pick in the 2003 draft as the 4 th running back taken. He should fit into the Titans’ scheme well since he was the one runner from that draft that most resembled Eddie George in size (6’3’, 220 pounds) and upright running style. Brown falls short of George’s ability from a lack of experience in the passing game. At Colorado he only had 11 receptions in two seasons and had only eight last year in limited play. Brown is a very powerful runner and never had a single fumble in 2003 during his 56 carries. The Titan’s have an average rushing schedule this season and Brown should be a lock for 300+ carries unless Antowain Smith figures in.

08/16/04 - Brown is looking strong and running hard in camp and preseason games. What he looks like is Eddie George five years ago.

08/27/04 - Brown looks like a safe bet to be a solid player this year and could easily do better than this ranking. We have yet to see what his durability will be like and he does run upright without shying from contact.

Shawn Bryson DET HT 6'1'' WT 233 AGE 28 EXP 5    
2001 BUF 10 400 2 80 341 4.3 2 9 59 0
2003 DET 16 946 3 158 606 3.8 3 54 340 0
  Avg 13 673 3 119 474 4 3 32 200 0
Bryson only turned in one 100 yard game last season and that was against the Chiefs where even beer vendors could get five yards a carry. Sharing the entire season with Olandis Gary, Bryson never was able to show enough to take the entire load nor prevent the Lions from making running back an early priority in the draft. Bryson will be relied on to help Jones learn the ropes and should be involved in obvious passing situations as an accomplished receiver. Jones brings in great rushing credentials but was not used much as a receiver in college, so expect some third down duty from Bryson to fill in. Even if Kevin Jones fails or is injured, Bryson is not going to step in and make a difference since he could not do it last season when they needed it desperately. He is fantasy roster filler, with value only from a handful of passes a game. Artose Pinner is the more likely replacement, having missed most of last season with an ankle injury.
Correll Buckhalter PHI HT 6'0'' WT 222 AGE 26 EXP 3    
2001 PHI 14 709 2 130 579 4.5 2 13 130 0
2003 PHI 15 675 9 126 542 4.3 8 10 133 1
  Avg 15 692 6 128 561 4.4 5 12 132 1

Buckhalter returned in 2003 from his devastating knee injury in the mini-camp on the previous season and proved he was his old self by almost mirroring his rookie season in carries and yards. Where he provided more was near the goal line where he scored a total of nine touchdowns last season. He mixed and matched with both Brian Westbrook and Duce Staley but provided a solid 4.3 yard average in spite of many short yardage runs. Correll only had three games with more than a dozen carries and gained at least 92 yards in each. With Westbrook and Staley in the backfield, Buckhalter was rarely used on passes and will continue to see Westbrook and possibly Reno Mahe take control of that need. Buckhalter was a restricted free agent this year and the Eagles signed him to a one-year contract at the lowest possible tender. He still could have been acquired by another team in exchange for only a fourth-round pick but there were no takers. Buckhalter will be a free agent after this season and has motivation in 2004 knowing he will likely hit the streets in 2005. Correll has definite fantasy value this season as the goal line guy for the Eagles but his yards are unlikely to amount to much unless Westbrook is injured. As a deeper fantasy pick, he makes a great back-up fantasy running back.

08/21/04 - Buckhalter falls out of the rankings in light of his torn patellar tendon in his right knee. He is expected to miss the 2004 season.

Cedric Cobbs NE HT 6' 0" WT 221 AGE 23 EXP R    
ROOKIE NE 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Cobbs is a good sized back out of Arkansas who has quick feet and natural running skills. Cobbs will not replace newly signed Corey Dillon unless there is an injury, but Dillon has not been the most durable player lately anyway. Cobb’s biggest attraction this season is that he is an untested rookie on the reigning NFL champion Patriots and is behind a back that lost his last job due to both injuries and attitude. The reality is that Cobbs is still raw, even for a rusher where skill usually counts much more than experience. His challenge is that he played in a simple, run-first offense in Arkansas and now belongs to one of the most complex offenses in the league that primarily likes to pass. In mini-camps he has displayed his moves but has had problems picking up the offense. Cobbs is more likely to play special teams this year with possibly the occasional carry but his intriguing dark horse situation will likely see him drafted deeply in many drafts. He is a rookie running back and besides – how many great backup tight ends come from your final round anyway?
Zack Crockett OAK HT 6'2'' WT 240 AGE 32 EXP 10    
2001 OAK 13 155 6 57 145 2.5 6 2 10 0
2002 OAK 15 118 8 40 118 3 8 0 0 0
2003 OAK 14 198 7 48 145 3 7 7 53 0
  Avg 14 157 7 48 136 2.8 7 3 21 0
Crockett has long been the secret weapon in touchdown only leagues given his almost non-existent yardage and yet at least half a dozen short scores per year as the goal line specialist in Oakland. Now that HC Norv Turner is in town, the offense will be changing and returning to a more conventional approach as has been Turner’s trademark in Dallas, Washington and Miami. This likely leaves the 32 year old Crockett out of the mix given Tyrone Wheatley and Troy Hambrick both have the size to move the pile near the goal line if in fact Turner opts to change formations in short yardage. Training camp may give clues as to whether Crockett continues his role, but likely not as plowing up the middle from the one-yard line is not something given a lot of attention in pre-season games or even in training camp. Crockett is one of the older running backs in the league and chances are best he’s already seen his best back a few years ago.
Domanick Davis HOU HT 5'9'' WT 220 AGE 24 EXP 2    
2003 HOU 14 1382 8 238 1031 4.3 8 47 351 0
  Avg 14 1382 8 238 1031 4.3 8 47 351 0

Davis quietly slipped below the radar last summer thanks to a recurring problem – injuries. He broke his hand in July and missed much of training camp and later suffered a bruise chest and later a thigh bruise. His break out performance came in week six against the Titans when he gained 129 yards and he followed that up with 199 yards against the Jets and a 136 yard game against the Colts with two touchdowns. He ended the season with 1031 yards rushing but only started really started eleven games. The Texans finally enter a season with a talented runner they will ride and Davis showed equal value in the passing game. His performance is hard to completely evaluate given his lack of starts and his injuries during the season but when he is in top form, a 2000 total yard season is certainly possible. His only limitation is his propensity to get injured but that is not uncommon for many rookies. Davis is very similar to Priest Holmes in his style of play and ability to turn in big games. So long as he can remain on the field, he has tremendous upside for 2004 and beyond. Given his total numbers from 2003 do not reflect a full season effort, he will likely fall farther in drafts than warranted.

08/20/04 - The Texans continue to assert that Hollings will get upwards of 10 carries a game and he has looked good enough this summer to give him the benefit of doubt. While this seems to suggest a drop for Domanick Davis is in order, the reality is that the four backs behind him all have sharing questions as well.

Stephen Davis CAR HT 6'0'' WT 230 AGE 30 EXP 9    
2001 WAS 16 1624 5 355 1419 4 5 28 205 0
2002 WAS 12 962 8 207 820 4 7 23 142 1
2003 CAR 14 1603 8 318 1444 4.5 8 14 159 0
  Avg 14 1396 7 293 1228 4.2 7 22 169 0
Davis used his new lease on life with the Panthers to turn in a career best 1444 yards last season in spite of missing two full games and playing sparingly in two others. Had he not suffered injury, he was on pace to gain over 1700 yards on the ground. His eight touchdowns was far from his best (1999 – 17 TDs). Davis started the season with four consecutive 100 yard efforts and adding three more by week 14 when he was injured. Davis provided the workhorse back that the Panthers coveted and only two factors will work against him this season – DeShaun Foster and the fact that Davis celebrated his 30 th birthday in March. In eight seasons of playing, Davis has only once (2001) played a full 16 game season. His style of running now coupled with an advancing age gives this power back a much higher risk of missing meaningful time. Foster played well in relief of Davis and the coaching staff has indicated that both Davis and Foster will be sharing duties this year – perhaps 50% each and not at the same time as neither is a particularly good blocker. It will keep Davis fresher for a hoped playoff run but will depress his fantasy numbers this season.
Najeh Davenport GB HT 6'1'' WT 247 AGE 25 EXP 3    
2002 GB 8 217 1 39 184 4.7 1 5 33 0
2003 GB 14 458 2 77 420 5.5 2 6 38 0
  Avg 11 338 2 58 302 5.2 2 6 36 0
While Davenport also shared with Tony Fisher during relief duty for Ahman Green last season, he had roughly twice the carries and yardage. In the event that Green was to be injured, the rotation would continue since both players have proven to be more than adequate back-ups and both are exactly the same age and size other than Davenport’s extra 25 pounds. While Davenport pulls the primary rushing duties when Green is out, Fisher comes in for the third down, pass catching replacement. Davenport is the better of the two to back-up Ahman with since he is the slightly better runner and bigger back but both will continue to participate. Davenport is a nice reserve in deeper leagues while Fisher’s value would remain much less changed should Green miss time.
Ron Dayne NYG HT 5'10'' WT 245 AGE 26 EXP 4    
2001 NYG 16 757 7 180 690 3.8 7 8 67 0
2002 NYG 16 477 3 125 428 3.4 3 11 49 0
  Avg 16 617 5 153 559 3.7 5 10 58 0

Fortunately for Dayne, the regime change for the Giants means a fresh start and an end to the doghouse that he has been living in the past couple of seasons. He never had a carry last year and yet Jim Fassel would not trade Dayne away. He will never have a second chance as good as this again. Dayne has lost close to 20 pounds in the off-season and claims he feels like a rookie again. New HC Tom Coughlin will be giving Dayne an opportunity to prove his worth this summer and is not carrying all that baggage that transpired between Dayne and ex-HC Jim Fassel. Dayne has been a regular in the weight room and on the stationary bike this spring and his dedication has spawned a sense of new hope in both teammates and coaches. As a rookie, Dayne scored seven touchdowns and actually had more carries (180 vs. 167) than Barber did. This is a definite watch in August and Dayne has the opportunity and motive to get back on track. The only thing left to prove is if he actually has the means.

08/16/04 - Dayne recorded two long touchdowns of 29 and 67 yards in the exhibition game against the Chiefs and "showed something" with a slimmer form and a faster run. A dose of reality so far is that his other nine runs only netted 22 yards and he was facing one of 2003's worst rushing defenses (and that was when they had their first team in all game). What it mostly does is devalue Barber, since Dayne has not given the Giants a reason not to use him much more. Barber has admitted that his carries apparently will be much reduced this season. It is still a little early for the Dayne bandwagon quite yet, but it is headed in the right direction.

08/27/04 - Back down where he started. Dayne was not nearly as effective in his second preseason game and should not be considered much differently than if he never broke two long runs against an always giving KC defense. Ends up he really was Ron Dayne.

Corey Dillon NE HT 6'1'' WT 225 AGE 29 EXP 8    
2001 CIN 16 1543 13 340 1315 3.9 10 34 228 3
2002 CIN 16 1609 7 314 1311 4.2 7 43 298 0
2003 CIN 13 612 2 138 541 3.9 2 11 71 0
  Avg 15 1255 7 264 1056 4 6 29 199 1
Dillon landed in New England after spending most of last season injured and upset that the stands were chanting “Rudi! Rudi!”. His new start comes none too early – he turns 30 years old next season and after years of durability was constantly nagged by a sore knee and stadium traffic last season. Prior to last season, Dillon had three consecutive years of over 1300 yards and at least seven touchdowns, his career best was in 2000 when he gained 1435 yards. He has already been anointed the starting running back and where he will also figure in as a pass receiver in that offense. Kevin Faulk has been the third down back but Dillon had the exact same number of receptions as Faulk in 2001-2002. Dillon is in a great situation with a team that needs a premier rusher. This season will only be limited to how much Faulk continues to supply a third down role and if Dillon is successful in setting aside his attitude and recent injury history. He has had 1865 carries in his career and has dropped off in yards per carry since his first four seasons. Drafting Dillon this season takes a small leap of faith, but one that could be richly rewarded.
T.J. Duckett ATL HT 6'0'' WT 254 AGE 23 EXP 3    
2002 ATL 12 568 4 130 507 3.9 4 9 61 0
2003 ATL 16 873 11 197 779 4 11 11 94 0
  Avg 14 721 8 164 643 3.9 8 10 78 0
Last season, Duckett was a scoring machine. He notched at least one touchdown in eight of his last nine games though surprisingly only turned in a single 100 yard effort in week 4 at Carolina. When Dunn went to the injured reserve in week 13, Duckett finally played a primary role and ended the season on a high note with two 90+ yard games against tough defenses of TB and JAX. They were the only games in which he carried the ball more than 20 times. Duckett should also benefit from the newest acquisition by the Falcons of O-line coach Alex Gibbs who comes over from the Broncos. This season his outlook is very favorable, with an obvious nose for the goal line and enough power to move the chains. The Falcons offense will be far better this season (it almost has to be) and Duckett’s youth and power will figure more prominently than in the past two seasons. Look for him to at least maintain his 10 TD level of last season if not improve, along with more yardage from increased carries. He won’t approach the yards per carry of Dunn, but along with his scores he will become the more valuable ATL rusher to own.
Warrick Dunn ATL HT 5'9'' WT 180 AGE 29 EXP 8    
2001 TB 13 1004 6 158 447 2.8 3 69 557 3
2002 ATL 15 1304 9 230 927 4 7 50 377 2
2003 ATL 11 1008 5 125 672 5.4 3 37 336 2
  Avg 13 1105 7 171 682 4 4 52 423 2
Dunn was on pace for almost 1500 total yards last season before tearing a tendon in his left foot during week 12 of the season. His departure was exactly one week prior to Vick’s return, so his numbers should have been higher thanks to a heavier reliance on him. He had just finished two monster games against soft defenses of the Giants and Saints before falling victim. With Vick back and a new scheme, his outlook this season is still strong. The ratio between he and Duckett remains to be seen and last season was a source of frustration for fantasy leagues since there was no consistency on which would be the primary ball carrier in any given game. During the 2002 playoff run, Duckett was often injured and Dunn responded brilliantly, notable since it was with Vick at the helm. Dunn will continue to figure in prominently and productively, but carries risk from a likely increase in workload for Duckett. Warrick’s pass catching ability will always make him fantasy relevant and yet his size prevents him from being an every down player at this point in his career. With Duckett showing nice goal line ability last season, consider Dunn as a yardage guy with touchdowns as pleasant surprises.
Justin Fargas OAK HT 6'1'' WT 220 AGE 24 EXP 2    
2003 OAK 9 205 0 40 203 5.1 0 2 2 0
  Avg 9 205 0 40 203 5.1 0 2 2 0
Fargas was on fire during the pre-season of 2003 when he appeared unstoppable when facing scrubs in the second half. He was drafted by Oakland with their 3.32 pick and had fallen that far due to injury problems that plagued his college career. He tore his MCL in practice and was placed in injured reserve last year before he was ever called in to play. Fargas has run a sub-4.4/40 and looks great in preseason. But he is an obvious and constant injury risk that may very well never pan out in the NFL. He figures into the equation in Oakland, but with a glut of second-rate backs already on the roster, Fargas will have to shine and maintain his health in order to have any fantasy value this season. He is already considered behind Wheatley and Hambrick comes in with more credentials and should surpass him as well. He is an intriguing player based on his limited displays of talent but his risk makes his fantasy value minimal unless he shows he can avoid injury and make a contribution.
Kevin Faulk NE HT 5'8'' WT 202 AGE 28 EXP 6    
2001 NE 15 358 3 41 169 4.1 1 30 189 2
2002 NE 15 650 5 52 271 5.2 2 37 379 3
2003 NE 15 1078 0 178 638 3.6 0 48 440 0
  Avg 15 695 3 90 359 4 1 38 336 2
Though the Patriots have tried on occasion, Faulk has never proven to be much more than a very good third down back with sure hands for those short passes that Brady loves to throw. He missed one game last season due to a leg injury and has been consistent with 15 games a season for the past three years. Last year the Patriots needed to establish a better running game than Antowain Smith could provide and Faulk still rarely managed over four yards a carry and never scored on his 178 runs. He did fumble four times, the worst of any non-primary back. With Corey Dillon as the clear starter, Faulk will continue to supply a change-of-pace and third down role. As has been his pattern, he is never consistent enough to be a fantasy starter even when given the #1 role by the Patriots and as the third down player this year, his numbers will decline from 2003. What remains to be seen until the season is underway is how many passes go to Dillon instead of Faulk. That could make Kevin a complete non-factor on a fantasy team.
Marshall Faulk STL HT 5'10'' WT 211 AGE 31 EXP 11    
2001 STL 14 2147 21 260 1382 5.3 12 83 765 9
2002 STL 14 1490 10 212 953 4.5 8 80 537 2
2003 STL 11 1108 11 209 818 3.9 10 45 290 1
  Avg 13 1582 14 227 1051 4.6 10 69 531 4
Marshall Faulk’s totals continue to fall the past three seasons, but mostly from missing games than a lack of game production. He has not played a full season in the past four years and had broken bones in his hand and a sprained knee last year. This season it will be something else. Faulk underwent offseason knee surgery to remove some cartilage and if he can get just two more punches on his medical card he gets the next surgery free. When he plays he still has been wildly effective. In the seven games late last year while he was healthy, Faulk exceeded 98 total yards in each and scored six touchdowns. It’s not that he has lost a step; it’s just that he doesn’t always get back up after a tackle. This year the Rams were smart in taking Steven Jackson as the heir apparent to 31 year-old Faulk. They’ve also moved Arlen Harris to fullback and he has gained 15 pounds to help. Faulk is an increased risk now that he is yet another year older, has a lesser blocking back in Harris who could even get some carries and has Jackson waiting on the sideline to spell or replace him at any time. If you get Faulk, you must burn an early pick to grab Jackson early or accept for at least a few weeks, Faulk will be injured. And maybe more.
Tony Fisher GB HT 6'1'' WT 222 AGE 25 EXP 3    
2002 GB 14 353 2 70 283 4 2 18 70 0
2003 GB 13 406 3 40 200 5 1 21 206 2
  Avg 14 380 3 55 242 4.4 2 20 138 1
Fisher holds value only in leagues that reward reception points since he has evolved into the better pass catcher between he and Najeh Davenport. There were three games last season in which he never had a play versus the full 16 games that Davenport saw. His yards per carry is high, but his volume of runs is far too low to use that as any evaluation. Take Fisher only in the very deep roster leagues and do not expect him to produce much more even if Green is injured as Davenport would assume the primary rushing role.
DeShaun Foster CAR HT 6'0'' WT 222 AGE 24 EXP 2    
2003 CAR 14 636 2 113 429 3.8 0 26 207 2
  Avg 14 636 2 133 429 3.8 0 26 207 2
Foster showed that the micro-fracture surgery to his left knee was successful by pairing with Stephen Davis in one of the most productive backfields in the league last season. In most games he was limited to merely a handful of carries as Davis gladly accepts a heavy workload but started the two times that Davis did not play. The results were less than spectacular; netting only 56 yards on 22 carries against the Bucs and later 21 carries against the Lions only gained 76 yards. Foster never scored a rushing touchdown last season. This season finds him farther removed from the knee problems and behind a back that rarely plays all 16 games. Add in Davis hitting the magic 30 years old mark and chances are excellent that Foster will get at least as much playing time this season and likely more. Foster is a required bookend for those that draft Davis, but is a worthwhile steal as well since he plays in most games and is in a great rushing offense behind a bruising back likely to miss some time. The Panthers are planning on an increased role for Foster this season, perhaps as much as Davis in an attempt to keep the 30 year old runner healthy late in the year. Look for a nice increase in Foster’s numbers this year but a lesser chance that Davis misses games.
Charlie Garner TB HT 5'10'' WT 195 AGE 32 EXP 11    
2001 OAK 16 1417 3 211 839 4 1 72 578 2
2002 OAK 16 1903 11 182 962 5.3 7 91 941 4
2003 OAK 14 939 4 120 553 4.6 3 48 386 1
  Avg 15 1420 6 171 785 4.6 4 70 635 2
Only six days into the free agency period, Jon Gruden snapped up Charlie Garner from the Raiders and re-united him with the coach he knew in Oakland and Philadelphia. Garner last played for Gruden in 2001 and registered a total of three touchdowns and 1417 yards that season. He has since become 32 years of age and comes off both knee and back injuries which forced him to miss a few games and play sparingly in others last year. Garner still averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season and had his career-best year in 2002 when he gained 1903 total yards and scored 11 times. He was used only part-time during his first five years with the Eagles and is not worn down like most backs would be after 10 seasons. By that same token he has played for 10 years. Charlie had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in the off-season and did not begin to run in practice until late May. His progress will be checked throughout the summer. His chance of scoring a lot of touchdowns is over now, particularly with Alstott back. The Bucs have a crowded backfield with all the off-season acquisitions. Garner will reprise his yardage role as in both PHI and OAK but will be spelled more and is a much bigger risk of injury given his age. Expect the committee approach in Tampa Bay to water down the value of all backs and Garner to be no exception.
Eddie George DAL HT 6'3'' WT 240 AGE 31 EXP 9    
2001 TEN 16 1218 5 315 939 3 5 37 279 0
2002 TEN 16 1420 14 343 1165 3.4 12 36 255 2
2003 TEN 16 1194 5 312 1031 3.3 5 22 163 0
  Avg 16 1277 8 323 1045 3.2 7 32 232 1

Eddie George now nears the end of a great career but the decline began three years ago after he peaked in 2000 with 1509 rushing yards and 14 scores. His rushing average has not been the standard of four yards a carry since 1999. He has been a true warrior his entire career and has not missed a single game since his first as a rookie in 1996. With 2733 carries in his career and never less than 312 in any season, George’s running style and size have combined to take a toll on him. George has always been one of the biggest starting running backs every year he has played. At 6’3” and 240 pounds, his bread and butter has long been causing collisions, not avoiding them. George was due to make $4.25 million this season and refused to take a pay cut this spring. It appeared that he would be cut in June but now the Titans and George are apparently reconciling. Unless future developments occur, expect the fan favorite George to play out his twilight season by sharing with Chris Brown and ruining yet another offense that had always featured only one back. As of the first of July, George is waiting for a revised contract but it is expected to be completed as the Titans need to free up $3 million to sign their rookies.

Update: George was picked up by the Cowboys and given a one-year contract that could be worth up to $4.5 million with incentives. The $1.5 million signing bonus was the same amount offered unguaranteed for the entire season by the Titans. George has lost his first initial step but will figure heavily into Parcells' plans. His acquisition knocks Julius Jones down of course, but both should see some playing time. George should become the short-yardage and goal line back at a minimum with Jones most likely to see third down duty.

Ahman Green GB HT 6'0'' WT 217 AGE 27 EXP 7    
2001 GB 16 1981 11 303 1385 4.6 9 63 596 2
2002 GB 14 1633 9 286 1240 4.3 7 57 393 2
2003 GB 16 2250 20 355 1883 5.3 15 50 367 5
  Avg 15 1955 13 315 1503 4.8 10 57 452 3
Green comes off a career year in every category and the fears that his goal line carries would be given to Najeh Davenport were completely unfounded. Green ended the season tied for second in 100 yard rushing games (10) and third in 100 yards combined games (11). Green had 23 carries inside the ten yard line last year and was second only to Priest Holmes with 7 games with multiple touchdowns. Green is still very much in his prime at 27 years of age and played healthy all last season. He scored in 11 of 16 games and has never gained less than 1600 total yards during his four year stay in Green Bay. His 405 touches last season ranked 4 th in the league. Green faces only a moderate rushing schedule and faces Detroit and Minnesota both during fantasy playoff weeks.
William Green CLE HT 6'1'' WT 221 AGE 25 EXP 3    
2002 CLE 16 1000 6 243 887 3.7 6 16 113 0
2003 CLE 7 609 1 142 559 3.9 1 10 50 0
  Avg 12 805 4 193 723 3.8 4 13 82 0

Green entered last season with promise after a good rookie year and promptly ran into offensive line problems and a shaky quarterback situation. His brand of helping out the team entailed convictions for drunk driving and marijuana possession and later being stabbed by his fiancé. He served a seven game suspension by the NFL and a three-day jail sentence. It was a busy year for Green, just not in a “Hey Mom” sort of way. This season Green has been welcomed back to the team with one caveat – he is not the starter unless he beats out Lee Suggs in training camp. Suggs was the #1 back during training camps and is adamant that he is not going to let his starting role slip away. To Green’s credit, he has personally apologized to his team mates and has been dedicated this spring. He is genuinely appreciative of his second chance and has only Suggs and a couple of addictions to beat in order to reclaim his old life. This is a close watch during training camp and one that Green could win if he has really changed. Green has the higher pedigree as the first back taken in the 2002 draft and has 20 pounds on the smaller Suggs.

08/22/04 - Green is not playing badly, but most importantly he is being showed up by Suggs in preseason games and the risk is greater that Green is not the eventual winner of the primary back derby.

Quentin Griffin DEN HT 5'7'' WT 198 AGE 23 EXP 2    
2003 DEN 9 406 0 94 345 3.7 0 8 61 0
  Avg 9 406 0 94 345 3.7 0 8 61 0

Griffin started out in mini-camps as the #1 running back and so far, the Broncos already believe he is capable of adding yet another 1000 yard runner to the crowded list built in Denver the past decade. Griffin is very short at only 5’7” but comes in at the same weight Portis had in his rookie season even though Clinton was 4” taller. Griffin’s running-style is more elusive than any of the other backs on the roster. His one showcase game last season was against the Colts when he ran for 136 yards on 28 carries and it was impressive enough to allow the team to swap out Portis for Champ Bailey and feel they would still receive a bigger net benefit from the trade. For comparison purposes, Griffin is almost the exact same size as Brian Westbrook. His running may keep him the starting role but his size could very well cause the Broncos to use a goal line and short yardage back. Denver has an excellushingent r schedule yet again and only the loss of O-line coach Alex Gibbs to Atlanta signals that this season could be any different than the past. Griffin will need to use training camp to cement his role but so far has done nothing but impress the coaches and gain their confidence.

Update: With Tatum Bell breaking his finger, Griffin's hold on the starting spot became stronger at least for the near future.

08/27/04 - Griffin has weathered the storm and remains the #1 RB in Denver. Thanks to Tatum Bell's broken finger, the true challenge never happened and the Broncos show of Mike Anderson lately is more related to trying to showcase him for a potential trade. He may not last the entire season, but he deserves a bump up as the starter for a team that likes the run.

Troy Hambrick OAK HT 6'1'' WT 233 AGE 27 EXP 4    
2001 DAL 16 641 2 113 579 5.1 2 4 62 0
2002 DAL 16 416 1 79 317 4 1 21 99 0
2003 DAL 16 1071 5 275 972 3.5 5 17 99 0
  Avg 16 709 3 156 623 4 3 14 87 0

Hambrick has a golden opportunity last year as the starting Cowboys running back without any real competition for the job. The same back that looked promising as relief for Emmitt Smith discovered that the NFL is a bit tougher when defenses actually prepare each week to play you. Hambrick had success only against the poor rushing defenses and was a non-factor whenever they went against even an average unit. He was dumped in the off-season and landed in Oakland where he is considered the ideal fit to back-up Tyrone Wheatley because there are no good running backs there to be compared to. With Wheatley already 32 years of age, there is a good chance Hambrick could be called on to fill in for an injury. There is also little reason to expect that he will do more with that opportunity than he did in Dallas. Before he was cut, Hambrick was willing to play special teams and assume minimal rushing duties in Dallas. He’ll likely be in the same role in Oakland.

08/20/04 - Hambrick falls in the rankings as Wheatley and Zereoue rise.

Garrison Hearst DEN HT 5'11'' WT 215 AGE 33 EXP 10    
2001 SF 16 1553 5 252 1206 4.8 4 41 347 1
2002 SF 16 1289 9 215 972 4.5 8 48 317 1
2003 SF 12 979 4 178 768 4.3 3 25 211 1
  Avg 15 1274 6 215 982 4.6 5 38 292 1
Hearst left San Francisco when it became evident that the 49ers were turning the soil on all the old crops. He signed a one year deal with the Broncos but that does not signify he is resurrecting his career. It is far more akin to a place to sit while the league prepares his retirement papers. Garrison has had a long career with many ups and downs, but since 1998 he has produced less yards every season. After returning from injury in 2000, his yards per carry has fallen each season and last season he turned in the lowest yardage since 1994. He tore the meniscus in his knee and required surgery last season, forcing him to miss the final four games of the season. This season Hearst is 33 years old and not likely to carry a full load at any point. He offers a veteran presence to a very young set of running backs and enough gas in the tank to be useful on the occasional run or on third down on receptions. With so many available players in Denver, even an injury to one would not catapult Hearst to a starting role. Consider him as a player likely to receive some work but never enough to warrant a fantasy start.
Leonard Henry MIA HT 6'1" WT 210 AGE 26 EXP 2    
2002 MIA 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2003 MIA 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
  Avg 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Henry has banged around the depth chart for two years in Miami without ever getting a gametime carry. He is of interest due to Ricky William's leaving such a void by retiring. He is the less likely RB to step up, with Minor ahead of him on the depth charts and Fred Russell making strides to overtake him. WIth the great uncertainty in Miami suddenly, Henry is a potential factor though not likely a good one.
Travis Henry BUF HT 5'9'' WT 221 AGE 25 EXP 4    
2001 BUF 13 908 4 213 729 3.4 4 22 179 0
2002 BUF 16 1747 14 325 1438 4.4 13 43 309 1
2003 BUF 15 1511 11 332 1353 4.1 10 28 158 1
  Avg 15 1389 10 290 1173 4 9 31 215 1

Henry went into last season red-hot after gaining 1747 total yards and scoring 14 times but faced one of the toughest rushing schedules in the league and had a slight specter of Willis McGahee showing up late in the season. Throw in the big slide that the entire offense took last season along with playing on a cracked fibula and his 2003 numbers were actually astounding. Going into 2004, he has the same situation. A daunting rushing schedule (thanks to the AFC East) and far greater chance he will lose carries to Willis McGahee. Henry has proven to be a solid #2 fantasy back with the ability to toss in some very nice games during the season. The rumors of a Henry trade never materialized this spring. Unless late training camp news indicates a change, expect Henry to continue to be the primary carrier for the Bills but his numbers will suffer from sharing. McGahee is only a little over a year removed from his ACL tear and it’s unlikely he can shoulder the load alone in 2003 even if the opportunity arose. Henry does drop to the #2 fantasy back range but in addition to lesser numbers, you’ll need to acquire McGahee to ensure you have the Bills backfield covered. Henry will have a tough start with JAX, NE, @NYJ, MIA and @BAL including his bye week during the initial seven games.

08/16/04 - Henry is watching McGahee get better and better and has already asked to be traded if he is not the starting running back. The slide down may only be starting if McGahee continues to impress.

Tony Hollings HOU HT 5'11'' WT 220 AGE 23 EXP 2    
2003 HOU 9 127 0 38 102 2.7 0 2 25 0
  Avg 9 127 0 38 102 2.7 0 2 25 0

Hollings was taken in the supplemental draft last summer and his limited play came in part due to Domanick Davis breakout year and because Hollings was still recovering from a torn ACL that ended his 2002 college season after only four games. His knee is healed now and in mini-camp, he has impressed the coaching staff with his quickness to the hole and ability to catch the ball. Hollings enters his second season since his ACL tear and should play more true to form. He is an exciting runner that has good upside but will play only a relief role for Domanick Davis. Given the way that Domanick was getting injured or knicked up last year, Hollings may very well find himself with a few starts in 2004. Hollings is a nice bookend pick for owners with Davis on their roster and one that can be had deeply in the draft.

08/20/04 - The Texans continue to assert that Hollings will get upwards of 10 carries a game and he has looked good enough this summer to give him the benefit of doubt. While this seems to suggest a drop for Domanick Davis is in order, the reality is that the four backs behind him all have sharing questions as well.

Priest Holmes KC HT 5'9'' WT 213 AGE 31 EXP 8    
2001 KC 16 2169 10 327 1555 4.8 8 62 614 2
2002 KC 14 2287 24 313 1615 5.2 21 70 672 3
2003 KC 16 2110 27 320 1420 4.4 27 74 690 0
  Avg 15 2189 20 320 1530 4.8 19 69 659 2
Priest Holmes entered the season as the magic 30 years old from which many backs find as the high diving board. Holmes was returning from a hip injury that ended 2002 and had promised to hold out if no new contract was offered. It was not until September 3 rd that the contract was signed, his hip held up and his age was a non-factor. It all meant the player that should have been drafted as #1 was had as deeply as the back half of the first round in some fantasy leagues. Holmes played all 16 games though he was bothered by bruised ribs and a calf injury during the year, he scored a record 27 rushing touchdowns and gained 2110 total yards. He had 13 games with over 100 combined yards and was easily in first place with 10 games of multiple touchdowns. This season, yet again, the question will be how much risk does his age present? While Holmes has passed the 30 mark, he has only had 1419 carries – less than one more season’s worth than either Fred Taylor (1377) or Ahman Green (1269). It is notable that Holmes just broke Emmitt Smith’s TD record and yet, when Emmitt had only 1400 carries it was back in 1994. Ricky Williams (1589) will likely always be ahead of Holmes. Any back can get injured and Holmes has far less on the odometer than many peers. The reward far exceeds the risk.