Fantasy Folesball: The RBs I Love & Loathe

You’ve seen the numbers. You know the names. When the clock is ticking will you make the right choice? In this entry I’ll highlight five running backs I love and the ones you should avoid.

THUMBS UP:

Jamaal Charles– Breakaway speed on an improved offense. He set an NFL record for fewest carries (190) to reach 1,100 rushing yards for 5.9 yards per carry. That’s some Madden type stuff right there. The presence of Thomas Jones will scare off enough people to make Charles a nice value in the 3rd round of fantasy drafts. He’s an ideal RB2.

Thumbs Up for Southeast Jerome!

Clinton Portis– His offseason conditioning has received high marks from the local media. The arrival of Donovan McNabb and old-new coach Mike Shanahan will open the running game enough to reach 1,200 rushing yards and 6 TDs (if healthy).

Ryan Matthews– Norv Turner sure knows how to please fantasy football fans doesn’t he? Turner suggests that Matthews will fetch 250+ carries and over 40 receptions in his rookie season. One has to like this talk coming out of Chargers camp. Slot him ahead of marginal first rounders LeSean McCoy and Rashard Mendenhall.

Ladanian Tomlinson– Value, value, value. LT will be ignored in the early rounds. Take him late and expect solid production. The Jets offensive line is the best in the league and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will give LT every opportunity to earn his fair share of the carries. I forecast a 50/50 split (timeshare with second year back Shonn Greene) and LT getting most of the action near the goal line. “What it do!”

Beanie Wells– In a recent interview on the Jim Rome Show Wells provided some insight as to why his rookie season started so slow. It was the first time he’d ever lived outside the state of Ohio and he struggled with the pressures of being the 1st round pick to a team that made the Super Bowl in its previous season. This year he’s fully loaded and ready to set the fantasy world afire. Arizona will lean heavily on the 6’1″ 235lb back to give Matt Leinart more room in the passing game. Expect his workload to increase significantly from the 176 carries posted in ’09. Prediction: 1,400 rushing yards, 10 TDs, and dozens of trade offers from your fellow leaguemates. You’re welcome.

Keep your eye on…

Buffalo Bills running back CJ Spiller is primed for some major preseason carries. Fred Jackson, who’s fresh off a 1,000 yard season behind that same offensive line, will be out 4-6 weeks due to a broken bone in his hand. Incumbent starter Marshawn Lynch was the mayor of Suck City last season and he’ll be on the sidelines for the next 3-4 weeks nursing a sprained ankle. Monitor Spiller’s progress and adjust your rankings accordingly.

"Are you not entertained?!"

THUMBS DOWN:

Adrian Peterson– Are we supposed to forget that this guy is a torn-ACL-waiting-to-happen? AP now has 742 touches in the past two seasons. He logged 412 total touches last season including the playoffs. Don’t forget the fumbles either. If you have the #1 overall pick just draft Chris Johnson and enjoy the ride.

The mutant child of JStew & DeAngelo Williams– Who’s their quarterback? Which of these two running backs is the starter? How will the carries be divvied up? What’s the ratio of stanley nickels to schrute bucks?

Avoid the Dirty Birds this year.

Michael Turner– Have you ever seen this guy run in the open field? Michael “the Burner” Turner isn’t… and hasn’t been since 2008. He’s every bit of 28 years old in a very young league. Matt Ryan looked very JV last season and defenses will continue to stack 8 men in the box. Yuck.

Ryan Grant– He’s that guy in the office who got promoted to management and no one seems to know why. Yet Ryan Grant shows up to work on time, leaves promptly at 5pm, and does just enough not to get fired. Somehow people keep drafting Grant in the 2nd round. That’s terrible value for a guy who only topped 100 yards twice last year. LOATHE!

Knowshon Moreno– A simple Google Images search will show there are three full pages of pics from Moreno’s college days before you get to some snapshots of him sporting Broncos gear. There’s a reason for that. After a rather uninspired rookie campaign in which he averaged a very pedestrian 3.8 yards per carry, Moreno has yet to show flashes of the form that made him a fixture in Athens. Couple that with the departure of playmaker Brandon Marshall, sprinkle in a few extra gimmick plays for Tim Tebow (hey, you have to sell jerseys somehow) and you have the recipe for regression. He’ll probably never be the featured back in Denver so why waste a 3/4 round pick on him? Don’t be that guy on draft day wearing the hideous Broncos throwback jersey with #27 on the back.

Stay tuned next week for a preview of the wide receivers.

The Good, The Bad, The Astros

Of the Big Four, Major League Baseball most closely mirrors the world of business because it’s much more than a schedule of games. The baseball season is a timeline and that dictates market conditions for future gains. Wins, losses, injuries, and performance create a supply and demand. Here’s a look at some of trade deadline buyers, sellers, winners, and losers:

BUYERS

New York Yankees
It’s hard to start this entry without mentioning the Big Apple, right?  There’s a reason why Yankees GM Brian Cashman chose the font silian rail for his business cards and the word “cash” is part of his name… he’s the shrewdest of all negotiators. Have you ever wondered what happens to these “prospects” the Yankees trade away at the deadline every year? Nothing. The Yankees always keep the Robinson Canos and the Derek Jeters of the world. They added 1B/DH Lance Berkman for pennies on the dollar and filled in a couple holes with some spare parts from the Cleveland Indians. Berkman looked a little awkward in Yankees garb the other night but he will pay dividends as a #7 hitter. Read that again. Lance Berkman is going bat 7th. Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns will be solid role players for the Yankees. Wood struck out the side in his first appearance as a Yankee. Situational relievers and power off the bench are at a premium come playoff time. The Big Apple is ripe for a repeat: GRADE A+.

Someone needs to remind the Texas Rangers that they don’t play in the AL East. The Cliff Lee pickup in early July was phenomenal, but did they really need those impulse buys at the cash register? Jorge Cantu’s production has dropped off significantly since May and Cristian Guzman is… well… Cristian Guzman. He’ll be relegated to the bench once Ian Kinsler returns from the DL anyway. Shame on the Rangers for not having more positional depth. What ever happened to Chris Davis anyway? The guy hit 21 home runs in half a season last year. GRADE C.

The Anaheim Angels landed Dan Haren without giving up prized prospect Mike Trout (not to be confused with former Angel Tim Salmon). Joe Saunders, a couple mid-level prospects, and a plater to be named later doesn’t seem like fair market value. Haren’s numbers will likely improve moving from a ballpark that surrendered the third most HRs in the league. Their postseason rotation could shape up to be Haren, Jered Weaver, and Ervin Santana. GRADE B.

SELLERS

Houston Astros
Billy Madison: I bet that snack pack is pretty good huh?
[the little kid smiles and nods]
Billy Madison: Wanna trade me the rest of it for this banana?
[the little kid smiles and shakes his head]
Billy Madison: You know how badly I could beat you, right?

That’s exactly what Brian Cashman did to Astros GM Ed Wade. The Astros surrendered Lance Berkman to the Yankees for two crummy side items. Triple-A pitching prospect Mark Melancon will have immediate value as a situational reliever while Jimmy Paredes will fade into minor league obscurity. Worst of all, Houston will pay most of Berkman’s contract. Michael Bourn’s bunting skills probably won’t be enough to keep Houston fans coming through the turnstiles.

Billy Madison: Bunt. B-U-N-T, in perfect cursive. Any more brain busters?
Veronica Vaughn: “Rizzuto”? [Billy ponders, then writes]
Veronica Vaughn: Rirruto?
Billy Madison: Those’re Z’s.
Veronica Vaughn: They look like R’s to me.
Billy Madison: That’s not fair! Rizzuto’s not a word! He’s a baseball player! You’re cheating!

Ed Wade cheated the rest of the AL East by making this deal. Of course, the ‘Stros tipped their hand early by dealing Roy Oswalt to the Phillies for pitcher JA Happ, Jonathan Villar, and OF Anthony Gose. While Happ will slide right into the #3 starter, Anthony Gose was the key piece of this deal. Wade quickly swapped the 19-year-old speedster for Blue Jays prospect Brett Wallace. The guy has crushed Triple-A pitching to the tune of .301 AVG 18 HRs 61 RBI and was immediately called up to take Berkman’s spot in the lineup. Wallace has now been involved in deals for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Matt Holliday, and Roy Oswalt. Not sure what that suggests but we’ll find out over his next two months in the bigs. Wallace was a great consolation prize but the Astros still receive a GRADE F. Perhaps Ed Wade should go back to school… “the Billy Madison wayyyy!”

Washington Nationals
Nats brass has learned a few things from those summer interns who use Craigslist religiously. Post a bunch of your stuff that’s available for sale, set prices ridiculously high, and sit back while your inbox gets flooded with stupid questions. Unfortunately the asking price for free-agent-to-be Adam Dunn was too expensive (Daniel Hudson +1) for the White Sox GM Kenny Williams’ taste. Alfonso Soriano anyone?
Even though the big name stayed put, the Nats quietly pieced together some nice deals. Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps was an absolute steal. The development of closer-in-waiting Drew Storen made The Mad Capper expendable and LHP Joe Testa was also a decent bargain grab for the Nats.
The longest tenured National Christian was exported to Texas for a couple minor leaguers. RHP Ryan Tatusko projects as a #4 starter while RHP Tanner Roark has a long way to go. Without the presence of Guzman, shortstop Ian Desmond and his pancake hands will challenge baseball’s modern day errors record (Joe Cronin – 62). The biggest loser in this deal is Nats color guy Rob Dibble because he’ll be tasked with the responsibility of making non-Strasburg games interesting for viewers. No deal for Dunn, but the Nationals still get a GRADE B for their ability to land top catching prospect Wilson Ramos.

Cleveland Indians
All this guff about Lebron James had everyone forgetting that Cleveland still has a really bad baseball team too. The Kerry Wood trade makes sense because it saves money and gives 8th inning guy Chris Perez a chance to shine in the closer role. But why would you trade Jhonny Peralta and Austin Kearns when there’s no one to replace them? 19-year-old LHP Giovanni Soto (not to be confused with Cubs catcher Geovany Soto) had some success at the Single-A level and is the lone bright spot of these deadline deals. Adding insult to injury for Cleveland fans, Jake Delhomme was on Sportscenter this morning talking about how he’s ready for week 1. Ugh. Speaking of Jakes, they couldn’t get more than Corey Kluber for Jake Westbrook? Cmon Shapiro, you’re better than that. GRADE D.

WINNERS

The Boston Red Sox were penny-wise at the trade deadline and took a flier on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Every week there’s a new All Star coming back from the DL and it’s hard to gage how good or bad this team can be. Playing it safe was the right move here.

LOSERS

Chicago White Sox failed to land Adam Dunn and settled for Edwin Jackson. Division rivals Minnesota and Detroit also got better at the deadline. Dunn would’ve been the perfect anchor in that lineup as a DH. Chicago missed its chance to set themselves apart. They might win the division, but October will be an early exit for the South Siders.

Did the Philadelphia Phillies really need to make that deal for Oswalt? It seems like that move was motivated by pure paranoia. If the Phillies kept Cliff Lee rather than dealing him to Seattle in the offseason this trade wouldn’t have been necessary. JA Happ outshined Oswalt in his first start for the Astros. Perhaps Ed Wade didn’t do so bad after all.