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The Shot Caller's Report - RBs
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
Positions: QBs | RBs | WRs/TEs

Running Backs

Must Start: The Top 15

1. Larry Johnson v. SF—Needless to say, it’s been a rough start for fantasy football’s top dogs, LJ and Alexander. The former’s been handicapped by an uncertain QB situation and the latter’s been waylaid by the eerily, ruthlessly predictable Madden curse. What to do? Nothing, if you own Johnson. Fact of the matter is, he’s racking up over 150 total yards per game and, provided he finds the end zone soon, still merits that top dog status. Get him back in there.

2. LaDainian Tomlinson @ BAL—How good are the Chargers? LT rushed for 71 yards and two scores in the Week 2 victory over Tennessee and wasn’t even CLOSE to being the team’s top rock-toter. That tells me two things: 1) San Diego’s O-line is very, very good, and 2) Tennessee is really, really bad. The competition gets much stiffer this week (a Baltimore squad yielding a paltry 34 yards/game on the ground) but you don’t play matchups with Tomlinson.

3. Brian Westbrook v. GB—Westbrook is fast becoming impervious to matchups, too, as his 420 yards and five scores would attest. Even if he does struggle in the running game against Green Bay’s surprisingly decent front seven (3.2 yards/carry), he’s going to inflict damage in the passing game. In fact, I’m already cringing at the thought of him matching up against the Pack’s inexperienced outside backers. Look away.

4. Steven Jackson v. DET—I promised you a score last week but, lo and behold, he didn’t deliver. Thankfully, all was not lost as he still tallied 121 total yards from scrimmage. That makes three consecutive triple-digit days for the former Beaver. No way he doesn’t make it four straight against the crummy Lions this Sunday. I’m fairly certain he’ll find paydirt, too, though I’m chastened a bit by last week’s prediction. Let’s play it safe and call it a definite maybe.

5. Rudi Johnson v. NE—Johnson needed sixteen more carries to rush for twelve more yards than backup Kenny Watson last Sunday, proving the Steelers were clearly game-planning to take him away. Too bad they didn’t have a plan for Carson and the boys, huh? The Bengals offense is like the mythical Hydra. Cut off one head (Rudi) and another appears in its place (CJ, TJ, Henry, etc.) Keep riding the former Tiger.

6. Ronnie Brown @ HOU—Go ahead and saddle up this former Tiger, too. He’s yet to reach the 100-yard mark this season but that’s more a reflection of Daunte’s ineffectiveness than it is Brown’s ability. He’s not an auto-start and shouldn’t have been drafted as high as he was, but he DOES get the Texans this weekend, the same Texans squad that yielded a staggering 234 rushing yards to Washington last Sunday. Time for a bust-out game, methinks.

7. Warrick Dunn v. ARI—234 rushing yards was actually below average for the Falcons heading into last Monday night’s tilt at the Superdome. Unfortunately for Dunn (and his owners), the Saints were, to put it mildly, “energized” by the opportunity to play a real home game again. I wouldn’t read too much into Atlanta’s performance. There was no way the New Orleans buzzsaw was gonna lose that game. Arizona is about as far away from “buzzsaw” status as a team can get right now.

8. Clinton Portis v. JAX—A wealthy friend of mine spends most of his workday sitting in a plush corner office doing fantasy research for his various leagues. I could live with that if his research didn’t include calling ACTUAL physicians to figure out what the prognosis for a partially dislocated shoulder is. True story, people. And you thought I was addicted, honeybunch? I’m sure you wouldn’t care as much if I were pulling down six figures.

9. Edgerrin James @ ATL—Denny Green reiterated this week that he’d like to get Edge 25+ touches a game. Not sure why he felt the need to say it since the former Cane hasn’t yet failed to reach that magic number. I think what Coach Green meant is that he wants Edge (and not Kurt Warner) to be the centerpiece of Arizona’s talented offense. I’m sure his owners feel the same way…as do most Cardinals fans.

10. Chester Taylor @ BUF—I’m not sure what I think of this guy yet (or the Vikes, for that matter) but this much is true: he gets almost all of the backfield touches and Minnesota is more than likely going to contend for the NFC North crown. All things being equal, those are good things to have on your resume as a fantasy rock-toter. Give him the start against a Bills squad giving up over 116 rushing yards per game.

11. Willis McGahee v. MIN—TBRBITNFL has been TBRBITNFL thus far, at least from a statistical standpoint. He leads the league with 311 yards and is even getting a couple of touches per contest in the passing game. Of course, he has not scored a touchdown to date. That has to change for him to be considered TBRBIFF. Simply not gonna happen, this year or any other year.

12. Laurence Maroney @ CIN—No word on Corey Dillon’s status as of press time but even if he plays, Maroney will probably get the majority of the looks. That’s a pretty good reason to play him since the Bengals are usually content to let teams move the ball a bit. You have that luxury when you can score at will on your opponent’s defense. Give him the start and hope Dillon doesn’t play (no offense, Corey).

13. Maurice Morris @ CHI—Shaun Alexander apparently consulted Deion Sanders, M.D. this week, proclaiming himself fit to play despite concrete medical evidence to the contrary. Coach Mike wasn’t buying it, anyway, so MoMo gets the start. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to say that, actually. He’s been stashed away in both of my dynasty leagues since practically the day he was drafted. The matchup isn’t ideal but this guy can flat-out tote it. Think Michael Turner minus thirty pounds or so. Plus, he’s a Duck. If you’re scoring at home, a full 1/16th of NFL starting tailbacks are now Oregon alums.

14. Fred Taylor @ WAS—Taylor garnered 21 carries in last week’s loss to the Colts, tallying a modest 74 yards in the process. That wouldn’t be cause for concern if his stable mate, rook Maurice Jones-Drew, hadn’t racked up 103 more on just 13 carries in his most extensive action of the season. Not sure you can call them a committee just yet (see DeAngelo Williams’ numbers for Week 4) but the situation definitely deserves your undivided attention. Start Taylor as a #2 guy and go get Jones-Drew, a potential rising star.

15. Frank Gore @ KC—An abdominal pull and an untimely, goal line fumble mean that storm clouds are gathering on this rising star’s hoizon. Coach Nolan says he’ll play this week but he also intimated he might give more red zone work to the versatile Michael Robinson. Ruh-roh. Call it your classic good news/bad news development. Could be a motivational ploy but Nolan’s a pretty earnest fellow and NFL coaches are notoriously unforgiving of guys who fumble away scoring opportunities. Gore owners, beware.

Grab A Helmet:

Reuben Droughns @ OAK—He was a late scratch for Week 4’s contest, replaced in the lineup by virtual no-name, Jason Wright. One week later, Droughns is still a little iffy and Wright is still pretty much a no-name. Whoever gets the nod should perform quite well, however, considering the Raiduhs are yielding an astounding 166 yards per game on the ground. My suspicion? It’s Droughns. You’ll want him in there if said suspicion is confirmed.

Reggie Bush @ CAR—There are probably a few Bush owners out there frustrated that the kid seems to be more “tease” than “second coming” thus far. No reason for panic, however. He’s getting more touches than even I thought he’d get to this point (and I love the guy) and is clearly public enemy #1 for opposing defensive coordinators. That means you exercise patience, remain thankful for the 80-100 yards he accumulates each week, and sit tight for the eventual explosion. It’s coming, people.

DeShaun Foster v. NO—Reggie’s opponent this week, the somewhat disappointing Foster, is coming off his most productive outing of the season, a 20-carry, 82-yard effort against the Bucs. Seems as though he might’ve been motivated by DeAngelo Williams’ emergence in Week 2. There’s no question the rook will continue to be part of the mix but Coach Fox knows the Panthers aren’t likely going anywhere relying on a first year running back. Translation? Foster’s the guy for the foreseeable future.

Julius Jones @ TEN—Tuna’s name was already mud this week after he callously (and very publicly) demonstrated a total lack of concern for his troubled wideout. He sealed the deal with fantasy GMs, however, when he stated he wants to get backup MBIII eight to nine carries a game. Some rudimentary math tells us there are, at most, 20 touches left over for Julius. He’s capable of producing with the reduced workload (especially this week) but he shouldn’t be considered a #1 back any longer. Call him a solid #2 guy or, depending on the matchup, a #3.

Lamont Jordan v. CLE—I have no reason to believe Oakland has sorted ANYthing out during the bye week but it’s typical of reeling squads to get back to basics when nothing else seems to be working. Getting back to basics means getting the ball in Jordan’s hands 25-30 times a game, something they haven’t done yet. If you didn’t panic deal him already, get him back in there. He could surprise in Week 4 against the marginal Cleveland D.

Grab A Gatorade:

Jamal Lewis v. SD—Lewis didn’t light up that Cleveland D last week like we thought he might (21 carries for 86 yards). Too bad, ‘cuz he could have used some momentum heading into a showdown against similarly unbeaten San Diego this Sunday. The Bolts are giving up only 71 yards/game on the ground and you can bet your britches they plan to make the Ravens a one-dimensional team this Sunday. I’m thinking anything north of 75 yards would be a victory.

Kevin Jones @ STL—Jones was finally north of 75 rushing yards last week and even threw in a touchdown for good measure. Too bad that means absolutely nothing. The Pack is (regrettably) a weak sister this season and one decent game isn’t gonna convince me Jones can be a consistent starter for your fantasy squad. I like the matchup but I just don’t trust the guy. Simple as that.

Ahman Green @ PHI—Batman scored for the first time, as well, in Detroit and also tallied a stout 68 receiving yards as the Pack scratched out victory #1. Unfortunately, the only thing I remember is his ridiculous end-of-the-game fumble that could have cost Green Bay the W. God gave you two hands for a reason, bud. You should try using both of them one of these days.

Thomas Jones or Cedric Benson v. SEA—Morale is high in the Windy City as the Bears have stormed out to a 3-0 start. It isn’t gonna amount to a hill of beans, however, if they don’t figure out how to get some production out of that rushing attack. I don’t see them improving this Sunday, either, what with Seattle’s 2nd-ranked run defense coming to town. Steer clear until one of these guys does something…anything.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends