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2011 Draft Prep: Taking timeshare inventory

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Every Fantasy owner has the same wish list on Draft Day: Get as many running backs as possible who touch the ball at least 20 times a game. Well, if wishes came true, we would all have an Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson on our team.

In 2010, there were only 12 running backs who averaged at least 20 touches a game with their combined carries and catches, and they were Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall, Cedric Benson, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ahmad Bradshaw, Peyton Hillis, Frank Gore, Foster and Peterson. This season that number is more likely to decline since teams continue to prefer tandems to solo acts.

You're lucky to get one featured running back on your Fantasy team. The majority of the running backs on your roster in a standard 12-team league with a 14-round draft are part of a tandem or are a clear-cut backup.

Since not all of the backfields are easy to break down, we're here to look at the difficult running back situations around the NFL heading into 2011. Some you'll like. Others you'll want to avoid.

Editor's note: The splits listed for each team are based on Jamey Eisenberg's speculation on how each running back will be used on rushing downs, passing downs and near the goal line.

Beanie Wells/Ryan Williams, Cardinals
Current Average Draft Position: Wells in Round 12, Williams in Round 9
The Cardinals are counting on Wells to play like he did as a rookie before knee problems slowed him down last year. They traded Tim Hightower to Washington and will go with Wells and Williams in their backfield. Williams has more upside, but Wells will open the season as the starter. We expect Wells to have more value early in the year with Williams coming on late in the season. Wells will work on rushing downs and could have an edge over Williams near the goal line, but Williams will be on the field in passing situations. Both should be viewed as No. 3 Fantasy options on Draft Day.
Rushing downs split: 60/40 Wells
Passing downs split: 70/30 Williams
Goal-line split: 60/40 Wells

The Handcuff List
For those teams not listed, here is your running back handcuff list for Draft Day
Team Starter Handcuff
49ers Frank Gore Kendall Hunter
Bears Matt Forte Marion Barber
Bengals Cedric Benson Bernard Scott
Bills Fred Jackson C.J. Spiller
Broncos Knowshon Moreno Willis McGahee
Browns Peyton Hillis Brandon Jackson
Bucs LeGarrette Blount Kregg Lumpkin
Chiefs Jamaal Charles Thomas Jones
Eagles LeSean McCoy Ronnie Brown
Falcons Michael Turner Jason Snelling
Jaguars Maurice Jones-Drew Rashad Jennings
Lions Jahvid Best Maurice Morris
Ravens Ray Rice Ricky Williams
Rams Steven Jackson Cadillac Williams
Seahawks Marshawn Lynch Justin Forsett
Steelers Rashard Mendenhall Isaac Redman
Texans Arian Foster Derrick Ward
Vikings Adrian Peterson Toby Gerhart

Ryan Mathews/Mike Tolbert, Chargers
Average Draft Position: Mathews in Round 4, Tolbert in Round 9
Mathews struggled with injuries in his rookie year, which allowed Tolbert to come on and become a Fantasy standout in 2010. The thought this year was Mathews would establish himself as a breakout player, with Tolbert more in a complementary role. That could still happen, but Tolbert is looking like the better Fantasy option, especially with his value compared to his draft position. Both guys will share time almost equally in rushing and passing situations, but Tolbert should have an edge on Mathews near the goal line. On Draft Day, I'm waiting on Tolbert instead of reaching for Mathews.
Rushing downs split: 60/40 Mathews
Passing downs split: 60/40 Tolbert
Goal-line split: 70/30 Tolbert

Joseph Addai/Donald Brown/Delone Carter, Colts
Average Draft Position: Addai in Round 6, Brown in Round 12, Carter in Round 12
The Colts brought back Addai as a free agent and drafted Carter in the fourth round out of Syracuse. Addai is still the main running back to target in Indianapolis since he has the most talent and versatility. In 2010, when Addai suffered with a neck injury, Brown struggled to prove he can be a quality Fantasy option. Still, he is likely more of the handcuff option than Carter if Addai gets hurt again. We envision Carter being used in the Javarris James role in short-yardage and goal-line situations. The only Colts running back Fantasy owners should draft in the majority of leagues is Addai.
Rushing downs split: 70/20/10 Addai/Brown/Carter
Passing downs split: 60/35/5 Addai/Brown/Carter
Goal-line split: 50/40/10 Carter/Addai/Brown

Felix Jones/DeMarco Murray/Tashard Choice, Cowboys
Average Draft Position: Jones in Round 6, Murray in Round 11, Choice not being drafted
Jones has plenty of sleeper potential this season, and he is worth drafting as a No. 3 Fantasy running back with the chance to be a No. 2 option. He should be the best running back in Dallas this year, especially if he can stay healthy for 16 games. Murray could help replace the departed Marion Barber, and Choice will likely be Fantasy relevant for a couple of weeks as well. But Murray and Choice are late-round picks in most standard leagues, while Jones is someone to target on Draft Day. And if the Cowboys elect to use Jones near the goal line then his Fantasy value could skyrocket.
Rushing downs split: 60/30/10 Jones/Murray/Choice
Passing downs split: 60/30/10 Jones/Murray/Choice
Goal-line split: 50/30/20 Murray/Jones/Choice

Daniel Thomas/Reggie Bush, Dolphins
Average Draft Position: Thomas in Round 6, Bush in Round 13
Thomas has the potential to be the No. 1 rookie this season based on his role and opportunity. He will be used in the majority of rushing down situations and also near the goal line in a run-based offense for the Dolphins. Bush will play his role with 10-15 touches a game, and he is clearly the better receiver than Thomas. But Bush has played 16 games just once in his career, and Thomas might find himself doing all the heavy lifting for most of the year. He's worth drafting as a No. 3 Fantasy running back, but he could easily end up as a No. 2 option. And Bush should be considered a late-round pick in the majority of leagues, with his value slightly higher in point per reception formats.
Rushing downs split: 70/30 Thomas
Passing downs split: 70/30 Bush
Goal-line split: 80/20 Thomas

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Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Average Draft Position: Bradshaw in Round 3, Jacobs in Round 8
Bradshaw is still the best running back for the Giants, but coach Tom Couglin has said he wants to get Jacobs more involved this season after he averaged 5.6 yards per carry last year. While that might happen, which will help Jacobs for 2011, we still value Bradshaw as a high-end No. 2 running back. He is worth drafting in Round 3. Jacobs, meanwhile, could be a steal in Round 8. He had nine touchdowns last season, but he could easily reach double digits with an increased workload.
Rushing downs split: 60/40 Bradshaw
Passing downs split: 80/20 Bradshaw
Goal-line split: 60/40 Jacobs

Shonn Greene/LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
Average Draft Position: Greene in Round 4, Tomlinson in Round 12
Fantasy owners were extremely disappointed with Greene last year after he was drafted in Round 2 in the majority of leagues and turned into a complete bust when Tomlinson outplayed him. This year, the Jets plan to ride Greene early and often, and we're once again buying in, but he's safer with a pick in Round 4. Tomlinson is expected to be used in passing situations, but he could also take a few goal-line reps. He's more of a late-round pick at this point in his career, but his value is slightly higher in PPR leagues. The Jets also might use Joe McKnight in some Wildcat packages, but Greene is the running back to target for the Jets this season.
Rushing downs split: 70/30 Greene
Passing downs split: 80/20 Tomlinson
Goal-line split: 70/30 Greene

Ryan Grant/James Starks, Packers
Average Draft Position: Grant in Round 5, Starks in Round 12
Starks helped the Packers win the Super Bowl last season when Grant was on injured reserve after hurting his ankle in Week 1. But Grant is now back as the starter, and Starks is better suited for a reserve role. We like Grant as a No. 2 Fantasy running back, and he looks like great value in Round 5. Starks could get some increased work each week, but he won't touch the ball enough to make him Fantasy relevant in most formats. The Packers could also use rookie Alex Green on passing downs, but Grant has the most Fantasy value for the Packers running backs in 2011.
Rushing downs split: 80/20 Grant
Passing downs split: 60/40 Starks
Goal-line split: 70/30 Grant

DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Average Draft Position: Williams in Round 6, Stewart in Round 5
We had high hopes for Stewart this season before the Panthers decided to bring back Williams as a free agent. And now that he's fighting yet another problem with his Achilles', Stewart might be less of a factor than originally thought. Williams will remain the starter and get the majority of touches, but he hasn't been able to finish the past two seasons due to injury. Stewart, even when completely healthy, is on the decline from a Fantasy perspective. Look for their ADP to reverse with Williams being drafted ahead of Stewart, especially now with this latest injury news. Williams should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy option while Stewart is a No. 3 running back on Draft Day.
Rushing downs split: 60/40 Williams
Passing downs split: 70/30 Williams
Goal-line split: 60/40 Stewart

BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead/Stevan Ridley/Shane Vereen, Patriots
Average Draft Position: Green-Ellis in Round 5, Woodhead in Round 12, Ridley and Vereen not being drafted
This backfield is a mess, and I don't want any of New England's running backs on my Fantasy team unless it's with a late-round pick. Green-Ellis should remain the starter, but he could lose goal-line touches to Ridley, and he doesn't catch the ball. Woodhead and Vereen have more value in leagues where receptions count, but they might not score many touchdowns. Leave it to coach Bill Belichick to ruin Green-Ellis after his big year in 2010, but he's looking more like a bust this year with the additions of Ridley and Vereen. Ridley has the most upside of this group, and his Fantasy value could continue to rise.
Rushing downs split: 40/30/20/10 Green-Ellis/Woodhead/Ridley/Vereen
Passing downs split: 40/30/20/10 Woodhead/Vereen/Ridley/Green-Ellis
Goal-line split: 40/30/20/10 Green-Ellis/Ridley/Woodhead/Vereen

Why you need to read us ...
2010
Our Jamey Eisenberg was recognized for his accuracy.
2010
Our Dave Richard named a finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year
2009
CBSSports.com honored by the N.Y. Times/FantasyFootballLibrarian.com Rankings Accuracy Challenge
2008
Recognized for Best Article in Major Media by the FSWA

Darren McFadden/Michael Bush, Raiders
Average Draft Position: McFadden in Round 2, Bush in Round 10
McFadden finally lived up to his potential last season with his breakout campaign, and now Fantasy owners want to know if he can do it again. We think he can, but Bush will also be a factor as well since McFadden has missed 10 games over three seasons. Both running backs are versatile and will split reps somewhat evenly, but McFadden clearly has more upside. He's worth drafting toward the end of Round 1 or beginning of Round 2, and Bush should be drafted higher than his listed ADP. Look for Bush to be drafted in Round 8, and he's a capable No. 3 running back in all leagues.
Rushing downs split: 65/35 McFadden
Passing downs split: 70/30 McFadden
Goal-line split: 55/45 Bush

Tim Hightower/Ryan Torain/Roy Helu, Redskins
Average Draft Position: Hightower not being drafted, Torain in Round 7, Helu in Round 10
Hightower's ADP is based on drafts done prior to the trade. His draft value is on the rise, and he should be considered a sleeper on Draft Day, especially with Torain dealing with a hand injury in training camp. The trade for Hightower lowered the value for Torain and made Helu someone who should only be taken with a late-round flier. Hightower has a good history of catching the ball out of the backfield and also working at the goal line, and if he can push Torain for carries on rushing downs then Torain's value will be limited. We would draft Hightower as early as Round 7 as a No. 3 running back and Torain is more of a No. 4 option. Helu could still play a role this season, but he's someone you will likely add off the waiver wire.
Rushing downs split: 50/40/10 Hightower/Torain/Helu
Passing downs split: 50/30/20 Hightower/Torain/Helu
Goal-line split: 50/40/10 Hightower/Torain/Helu

Mark Ingram/Pierre Thomas/Darren Sproles, Saints
Average Draft Position: Ingram in Round 5, Thomas in Round 11, Sproles not being drafted
Ingram has so much potential that he should be a Fantasy star this year, and he and Daniel Thomas will go back and forth for the No. 1 rookie honor. But as long as Pierre Thomas remains in the mix, with Sproles working on passing downs, Ingram's value could be somewhat limited. Ingram and Thomas could share work on rushing downs, and Sproles will be on the field during passing situations. We consider Ingram a No. 2 Fantasy running back, but Thomas should still be drafted with a late-round pick. He's a steal in Round 11. As for Sproles, he's not worth drafting in the majority of standard leagues, but he should be taken with a late-round selection in all PPR formats.
Rushing downs split: 60/35/5 Ingram/Thomas/Sproles
Passing downs split: 50/30/20 Sproles/Thomas/Ingram
Goal-line split: 50/40/10 Ingram/Thomas/Sproles

And just in case the holdout lingers ...

Chris Johnson/Javon Ringer/Jamie Harper, Titans
Average Draft Position: Johnson in Round 1, Ringer and Harper not being drafted
We're looking at the Titans here if Johnson is not with the team for Week 1, which would put Ringer as the starter and Harper as the No. 2 option. Obviously, if Johnson comes to terms with a new contract, then he's the lone running back in Tennessee to target on Draft Day, with Ringer just a handcuff option in the majority of leagues. If Johnson is out then you should consider Ringer a No. 3 Fantasy running back with upside. And even Harper would have sleeper potential if he's elevated to the No. 2 role.
Rushing downs split: 70/30 Ringer
Passing downs split: 80/20 Ringer
Goal-line split: 70/30 Harper

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg .

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Player News
Ravens' Victor Hampton arrested for DWI
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4:57 pm ET) Ravens defensive back Victor Hampton was arrested for DWI, in Charlotte, Saturday night, according to WSOC TV

Hampton was pulled over after going 100 mph in a 55-mph zone. He faces DWI, speeding, reckless driving and open container charges. Passengers in the car were arrested on marijuana and concealed weapons charges. 

Hampton was on the Bengals offseason roster and Giants practice squad last year. He signed with the Ravens in January. 


Report: Raiders to release LaMarr Woodley
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:02 pm ET) The Raiders will release DE LaMarr Woodley this week, according to a report by CSN Bay Area's Fallon Smith, citing an NFL source.

Woodley is entering the second year of a two-year contract. He's scheduled to make $3.85 million with a salary cap hit of $5.1875 million.  


Chiefs' De'Anthony Thomas working on being a receiver this offseason
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) De'Anthony Thomas was drafted out of Oregon by the Chiefs as a running back. Though he worked in a hybrid role as a rookie, he was listed by Kansas City as a running back. 

That could change in 2015.

According to the Kansas City Star, Thomas said he's worked this offseason on becoming more of a complete receiver.

“Yes, I have the ability to run the whole [route] tree,” Thomas said. “That’s what I’ve been working on this offseason. I’m running all those routes in the sand [during beach workouts]. And once the time comes to come on the grass, I feel like it’s going to be a lot easier because I’ve prepared myself.”

Thomas ran for 113 yards and totaled 156 receiving yards in a reserve role. He made a big impact in the return game, combinging for 833 punt and kickoff return yards with a touchdown. 
With Thomas transitioning into being more of a receiver first, he's modeling him game after Steelers wideout Antonio Brown. Both are shorter targets, making the comparison fitting for Thomas. Thomas is listed at 5-feet-8, 176 pounds and Brown is 5-feet-10, 186 pounds. 
Brown had a career season in 2014, totaling 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

“I’m very impressed with Antonio Brown,” Thomas said. “He’s a great player, and I feel like I have the same ability to make the same plays like him and help the team and be that [kind of impact] player.”



 


Report: Dolphins eyeing CBs Brandon Flowers, Kareem Jackson
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:39 pm ET) Looking to upgrade at cornerback, the Dolphins are interested in bringing on Brandon Flowers or Kareem Jackson during free agency, according to a report from the Miami Herald

The Dolphins don't appear sold on cornerback Cortland Finnegan for future seasons with the organization discussing alternative options. 

In 2014, Flowers totaled 52 tackles and three interceptions after signing a one-year deal with the Chargers. Jackson recorded 57 tackles and three interceptions in his fifth season for the Texans. 


Report: Vincent Jackson to return to Buccaneers at full salary
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(2:23 pm ET) WR Vincent Jackson will return to the Buccaneers next season, at full salary, according to a report by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times

Jackson had been considered a target for a lower salary, to help improve the Bucs' salary cap situation. He'd previously said that he wanted to stay with the team but didn't want a pay cut. 

Jackson will be paid $9.777 million in 2015, with a cap hit of $12 million. 


Report: Todd Herremans has no plans to retire
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:23 pm ET) Former Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans is looking to continue his NFL career in 2015, according to a report from Pro Football Talk

Herremans was cut by the Eagles on Friday. The Eagles are set to save $2.8 million against the salary cap. 

Herremans was a fourth-round pick in the 2005 NFL draft and spent his entire career up to this point with Philadelphia. 


Stephen Tulloch unsure of future with Lions
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:00 pm ET) Lions LB Stephen Tulloch isn't sure whether he'll be back with the team next season. 

Tulloch is scheduled to make $4.8 million in 2015, and the Lions could save $3.2 million against the cap by releasing him. 

So far, this offsesason, the team has not communicated its plans to Tulloch. ""I haven't heard anything about what's going on, my agent hasn't heard anything," Tulloch told Sirius XM radio. "We're just preparing to report, April 20th, accordingly to the mail we've received for the offseason program. It's out of my control.

Tulloch has recovered from the ACL tear that ended his season three weeks in. "I'm way ahead of schedule and I feel great," Tulloch said. "I was telling a friend of mine yesterday, it's crazy how you feel stronger than you did previously, before the surgery." 


Jonas Gray hopes to return to Patriots' plans
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:44 pm ET) Jonas Gray burst on the scene for the Patriots last season, rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns in a Sunday night game. Just as quickly, he was gone. 

Gray overslept and was late for practice, and coach Bill Belichick didn't give him another chance to showcase his skills. Gray was inactive for the Super Bowl. 

Gray learned his lesson. "The tough part for me was to watch it, and not participate in a matter I thought I should," he told Dan Hanzus of NFL.com. "But it's motivation going into the offseason. I just know I need to work harder, so I'll never get myself in that position again." 

Still on the Patriots, Gray believes he'll get a clean slate next season, and he's spending the offseason preparing himself for the opportunity. 

I tell them, I'm going to have a Jerry Rice/Walter Payton mentality where whatever you do isn't enough," Gray said. "I'm going to have a work ethic where I know, in my heart of hearts, I'm going to outwork everybody. That's what I hope to achieve


Ravens' Justin Forsett wants to build on 2014
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:27 pm ET) Ravens RB Justin Forsett rushed for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns, nearly matching his career totals for his six previous seasons in the NFL. 

Forsett is scheduled to be a free agent on March 10, but he hopes to remain with the Ravens, saying he's "praying that everything works out." 

“I want to build upon it,” Forsett told the Baltimore Sun. “I want to be great. I didn’t come in this league to be a one-year wonder."


Lions' Stephen Tulloch progressing from ACL surgery
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:00 am ET) Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch said he is ahead of schedule in his recovery from ACL surgery, reports FOXSports.com.

Tulloch said he was way ahead of schedule and feeling stronger since undergoing the surgery. Tulloch tore his ACL during a post-play celebration in September.


 
 
 
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