Mike Bell (left) is the assumed No. 1 back for Denver. (Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)
As training camp rolls along, certain running back situations are starting to show some clarity (and some aren’t). The following is a list of “handcuff situations.” This means that if you take one of these players, you should make an effort to take the other as well because the competitions are so close that the second option could easily be the first option at some point during the season. Let’s get on with it before another Bengal gets arrested.
Mike Bell vs. Tatum Bell vs. Ron Dayne
If you are new to Fantasy football, you will quickly learn why veterans of the hobby have such a love/hate relationship with Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. A Denver running back has run for over 1,000 yards each of the last four seasons, but figuring out which player will be the lucky starter is tricky. Undrafted rookie Mike Bell from Arizona has been pegged as the new No. 1 back, a position that Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne were seemingly in a dogfight for.
Knowing Shanahan, this could change multiple times over the next few weeks, but if you do take Mike Bell (he’s going anywhere from the sixth to eighth round at the moment, but that will get higher as more good news about him circulates), you should certainly take the other Bell later in your draft as insurance. If you had to take only one: Mike Bell.
DeShaun Foster vs. DeAngelo Williams
DeShaun Foster is the incumbent here and will have the chance to start again. The former UCLA Bruin has plenty of talent, but has had trouble staying healthy. Foster has missed 15 games over the last three seasons, which prompted the Panthers to draft DeAngelo Williams. Arguably the second-most talented runner in college football last season, it seems as if it’s just a matter of time before Williams will get a shot and Foster will be forced to sit out.
If that happens, don’t expect Williams to give the starting job back. The more savvy your league, the higher Williams is being taken. In some cases, he is even going before Foster. Both are going between rounds four to six in most drafts. If you had to take only one: Very tough, but we’d go with Williams. You can’t deny this.
New Orleans Saints
Reggie Bush vs. Deuce McAllister
When the Houston Texans passed on Reggie Bush, the biggest loser was Deuce McAllister. McAllister suffered an ACL injury last year, which would have made a good season this year difficult enough. With Bush in the mix, it’s hard to envision McAllister as anything more than a third or fourth Fantasy running back. Bush, meanwhile, is an intriguing selection.
The questions about McAllister’s injury status and overall effectiveness have propelled Bush to being taken anywhere from the late second round to the early fifth round in many drafts. If you had to take only one: Bush.
San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore vs. Kevan Barlow
Few starting running backs in the NFL have struggled as mightily as Kevan Barlow has the last couple of seasons. He has averaged 3.4 yards per carry and five TDs per season. Barlow’s 2003 season of 1,024 yards on 201 carries (5.1 average) to go along with six TDs is now a distant memory. Frank Gore, meanwhile, had injury problems throughout his college career at Miami and took a while to get on the field for the ‘Niners in 2005.
Once he did, he easily outperformed Barlow by running for 613 yards on 128 carries (4.8 average). Both seem to be getting some preseason action, but Gore makes for a nice late-round sleeper pick. If you had to take only one: Barlow has a better chance to start, but Gore has a better chance to succeed.
Dominic Rhodes vs. Joseph Addai
Edgerrin James‘ departure opened the door for Dominic Rhodes or Joseph Addai to take over the starting running back spot for the Colts. The early company line was that Rhodes was going to be the number one guy with Addai getting some touches. As training camp has worn on, more and more compliments are being directed at Addai. His ability to pass protect may be one of the things that helps his stats the most.
For the Colts and Peyton Manning, a running back who can pick up the blitz is a running back who will be on the field a lot. Watch this battle closely, but don’t be afraid to take Addai starting with the fourth round of your draft. If you had to take only one: Addai.
New England Patriots
Corey Dillon vs. Laurence Maroney
After a brilliant 2004 campaign, Corey Dillon came back to earth last season. He battled injuries while gaining 733 yards on only 209 carries (3.5 average). The Patriots wasted no time picking up their insurance plan for the 2006 season by drafting Laurence Maroney in the first round. All signs out of New England’s training camp so far are that Dillon is looking a bit closer to his 2004 form. Maroney, the former University of Minnesota back, is certainly a talent, but we don’t think he will be used as anything more than a change-of-pace player unless Dillon goes down with an injury.
Dillon may no longer be a top back, but for a guy going in the third or fourth rounds, he is actually a decent value. If you had to take only one: Dillon.
‘Till next time, remember not to challenge your ex-girlfriend’s new guy if said guy happens to be Reggie Bush.