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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
Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Dekoda Watson moving to strong-side LB
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jobbing
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

Report: Niners won't release Aldon Smith
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The 49ers might expect a suspension for pass rushing linebacker Aldon Smith, but they are not planning to release him, NFL Network reported on Friday.

Smith was arrested recently for making false bomb reports at a Los Angeles airport, the latest of a string of troubles for the highly talented linebacker. He was also arrested for suspicion of DUI in January, 2012 and again September, 2013. He also had marijuana on him during that September arrest. In October, 2013 he was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon. 


 
 
 
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