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The Rising Fantasy Value of the Stud Running Back

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Through the first 47 NFL games (with the Week 3 Monday night game still to be played), it seems that every fantasy owner has a 300-yard passer and at least one 100-yard receiver on their roster. They appear to be a dime-a-dozen in this day and age and because of it their trade value has dropped dramatically.

Sure, owning Drew Brees would be nice, but how much of an upgrade is that if your quarterback is the suddenly smoking hot (and healthy) Matthew Stafford?

But a 100-yard rusher...now that's a rarity this season.

Through the first three weeks of the season, there have been 49 receivers to crack the 100-yard mark and earn fantasy bonus points. There have been 34 quarterbacks who have thrown for 300 yards-or-more.

However, only 16 times has a running back produced a 100-yard rushing game. And those 16 games were produced from just 11 running backs as five guys (Darren McFadden, LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Michael Turner and Ben Tate) have done it twice.

Which means the value of your stud running back is even greater than you estimated on Draft Day.

Look at the list of highly drafted running backs (first or second round picks) who have failed to reach even the lowest bonus at the position; Arian Foster (fantasyfootballnerd.com ranked 2), Jamaal Charles (3), Chris Johnson (5), Rashard Mendenhall (8), Frank Gore (16), Steven Jackson (20), Matt Forte (21) and Peyton Hillis (24).

The future isn't looking very bright for the fantasy owners who drafted these guys to carry their running games.

Foster is working on his third hamstring pull and his replacement, Tate, has proven to be a solid running back. Even when Foster returns, Tate is likely to get enough carries (8-10) to reduce the fantasy value of last year's No.1 running back.

Charles, as we all know, is on the injured list and done for the season and Johnson is still working his way back into "game shape" after holding out thoughtout the preseason. Meanwhile, the oft-injured Jackson is at it again. But there's nothing you can do about injuries except pray it happens to the "other guy."

The really disappointing running backs are those who are healthy and simply not producing - Mendenhall and Gore.

Mendenhall has just 148 yards in three games this season, for a career-worst 3.02 ypc and one touchdown. But if you drafted him, you can't say you weren't warned against it.

Here's what I wrote back in early August - Mendenhall's current ADP of 10 may leave the Steelers' running back overpriced if last year's situation continues. Mendenhall carried the load for Pittsburgh while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games of the season. In those first games, Mendenhall averaged 22.3 rushing attempts, 102.8 yards and one touchdown per contest. Then "Big Ben" returned, and for the remainder of the season Mendenhall averaged 19.6 carries and 71.8 yards -- and that included a game against the Buffalo Bills in late November in which he had 36 attempts and 151 yards. As long as Roethlisberger is healthy, Mendenhall's production will be limited.

My advice is trade him while he still has fantasy value and other fantasy owners are desperately seeking a runner they think can give them 100 yards- per-game. He still might command "top dollar" from the unknowing fantasy owner.

It's the same for Gore, the supposed centerpiece of the 49ers offense. Like Mendenhall, Gore has 148 yards rushing, but its taken him 59 carries to get there - for an ugly 2.51 ypc. Sell! Sell! Sell!

On the other hand, if you have any of the guys who have proven they can produce (McFadden, McCoy, Fred Jackson, Turner, Ray Rice) hold on for dear life no matter how tempting the offer.

Add Adrian Peterson to that list despite the ridiculous play calling I saw in Minnesota yesterday. Peterson was the best player on the field, yet the coaching staff kept throwing the football. He had 65 yards rushing on his first eight touches and finished the game with just 78 yards. The Vikings foolish second half play calling managed to turn a 20-0 halftime lead into a loss by inexplicably relying on Donovan McNabb instead of Peterson. Let's hope they learned their lesson.

NFL Rushing Leaders
Rank Player Team Att Yards Avg TD 100gms
1 Darren McFadden OAK 61 393 6.4 3 2
2 LeSean McCoy PHI 57 345 6.1 4 2
3 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC 66 307 4.7 1 1
4 Fred Jackson BUF 47 303 6.4 3 2
5 Ben Tate HOU 66 301 4.6 1 2
6 Adrian Peterson MIN 58 296 5.1 3 1
7 Cedric Benson CIN 58 244 4.2 1 1
8 Michael Turner ATL 42 234 5.6 1 2
9 Ray Rice BAL 40 229 5.7 1 1
10 Ryan Mathews SD 45 207 4.6 3 0


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.


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