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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. LaDainian Tomlinson @ SF—You never sit LT but here’s some food for thought: his backup, Michael Turner, has collected more fantasy points than regulars Reuben Droughns, LaMont Jordan, and Cadillac Williams thus far. Now comes word that Coach Schott intends to employ more two-back sets so he can get both of them on the field at the same time. Hey, I’m just the messenger.

2. Clinton Portis v. TEN—Portis loses touches to Ladell Betts at times but is still the primary meal ticket in DC and will remain so as long as he holds up physically. This week, he draws the league’s worst rushing defense, Tennessee’s, yielding 4.7 per carry and over 170 per game. Expect huge numbers and an easy rebound victory for the ‘Skins in Week 6.

3. Brian Westbrook @ NO—The chronically “questionable” Westbrook returned to practice on Wednesday, easing concerns for those relying on him to lead their squads to championship glory this season. Long way to go yet but expect this to be his M.O. for the rest of the season. Hey, nobody said winning a fantasy championship was gonna be easy…or stress-free. Start him and hope for the best.

4. Larry Johnson @ PIT—LJ induced a serious amount of stress himself this past weekend, crumpling to the turf after a 78-yard reception that, save for a horse collar, would have resulted in his second receiving touchdown of the day. The Chefs are optimistic he’ll be ready this Sunday but keep your options open. Neck injuries are serious business and any setbacks between now and then could result in an unexpected sit-down.

5. Rudi Johnson @ TB—After a blazing start (251 yards and three scores in his first two games), the other Johnson has cooled off considerably. Not sure what (or who) is to blame for that but two stellar defenses (Pittsburgh and New England) probably have something to do with it. Get him back in there against a Tampa D that is surprisingly woeful against the run (5 yards/carry and 163.3/game).

6. Tatum Bell v. OAK—Full disclosure time: I was one of those folks who actually believed Coach Shanny intended to rotate the Bells this year. Perhaps he did but Tatum has since seized the reins in Denver and tightened his grip on the job with each passing week. Expect him to further solidify that hold with a huge game against the atrocious Raiduhs this Sunday night. 150 yards and two scores is not out of the question.

7. Steven Jackson v. SEA—It is for this guy, though, at least this weekend. The league’s leader in yards from scrimmage faces a Seahawks squad that was embarrassed in Week 4 at Chicago. Good teams coming off embarrassing losses tend to make amends quickly. There’s a lot of talent on that Seattle front seven so don’t be surprised if SJ struggles to top the century mark for the first time this season.

8. Ronnie Brown @ NYJ—Most pundits predicted big things for Mr. Brown this season, assuming (incorrectly) that the addition of Daunte Culpepper would put the Fish over the hump. I was not one of those pundits, for the record. Nevertheless, he still has a chance to post good numbers in spots and, facing a New York D that has given up eleven rushing touchdowns in five games, Week 6 should be one of them. Give him the start and hope Joey is accurate enough to keep New York reasonably honest.

9. Cadillac Williams v. CIN—Well, look who decided to join the party! After an abysmal start to the season, Cadillac rambled for 111 yards last Sunday in New Orleans, looking every bit as explosive as we thought he’d be when the campaign started. Of course, he didn’t find the end zone and, worse yet, was even pulled near the goal line. That’s troubling, for sure, but not troubling enough to sit him down against a Cincy D that’s starting to look very un-playoff-like these days. Expect another triple-digit day and a score at Raymond James.

10. Willis McGahee @ DET—McGahee posted a meager 50 rushing yards in the execution at Soldier Field last weekend, managing only 14 carries as the Bills played from WAY behind early. That shouldn’t be the case this Sunday in Detroit. Though the Lions are tough against the run and desperate for a W, I think the former Cane runs for 75-100 yards and a score at Ford Field as the Bills keep them winless.

11. Maurice Morris @ STL—A fellow league mate spent $196 of his $200 free agent dollars on MoMo two weeks ago, hoping against hope that a) Shaun Alexander would be out for a while and b) Seattle would still be able to run the ball against Chicago’s ferocious front. Strikes one and two. At least he gets the benefit of one good week from Morris before, presumably, Alexander returns to the fold. Expect a nice effort from the former Duck this Sunday in St. Louis.

12. Warrick Dunn v. NYG—Dunn was outgained by his quarterback AND his backup in the Week 4 win over Arizona, tallying a mere 55 yards on the ground as the Falcons dusted the Cardinals. Not sure what that means but I can’t think of too many top-tier running backs who have suffered a similar fate. Not too many left who haven’t scored yet, either.

13. Tiki Barber @ ATL—Here’s one, though. Tiki’s averaging almost 125 yards from scrimmage but hasn’t found paydirt as the Giants have opted to rely on Kid Bro in the red zone. Not a bad idea considering Eli has tossed nine TD passes thus far. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much for Barber’s owners. Keep him in there but temper those expectations. He’s never been a touchdown machine and probably won’t become one anytime soon.

14. Willie Parker v. KC—I told you to sit him down last Sunday night and, in retrospect, that probably wasn’t such a wise recommendation (57 yards and a score). I won’t make the same mistake twice, but I will warn you that Kansas City finally (!) appears to have rounded up some bona fide run stoppers. You know me. Always looking on the bright side.

15. Thomas Jones @ ARI—The elder Jones brother posted his first triple-digit performance of the season last Sunday, racking up 109 yards on 22 carries in the 40-7 romp. Unfortunately, he left the scoring to backup Ced Benson, who scored his first two professional touchdowns the same week I recommended you sit him down. Hey, I can’t be right ALL the time.

Grab A Helmet:

Leon Washington v. MIA—Just most of the time. OK, some of the time. After urging you to go pick up Washington (something I’d already done), I got a wild hair and inserted him as my flex guy in my ultra-competitive yearly league. Needless to say, the move paid off as the former Seminole rushed for 101 yards in garbage time at Jacksonville. He probably doesn’t have the job all to himself just yet but it’s only a matter of time. After all, his chief competition is Kevan Barlow, long-time fantasy scourge and all-around underachiever.

Julius Jones v. HOU—Cool stat of the week: he and brother Thomas are now tied for fifth in rushing yardage (388). Of course, Julius has played one less game, meaning that on a per-game basis, he’s probably the better option. Like his big brother, however…

Marion Barber v. HOU—…Julius tends to lose touches to an almost-as-talented backup, in this case, MBIII. Barber has now scored in three consecutive contests and seems to be the favored goal-line option for the ‘Boys. You probably got him real cheap so once you’re done patting yourself on the back (go ahead…you deserve it!), get him in your lineup. I suspect both of the Dallas running backs will score this weekend.

Reggie Bush v. PHI—Unless your league rewards individual special teams TDs, you probably weren’t able to revel in Saint Reginald’s first official NFL touch. Don’t worry, though. There will be plenty more where that came from, maybe even this week. New Orleans seems bound and determined to force-feed him the ball so it’s only a matter of time before he starts making those trips to the promised land more regular.

Deuce McAllister v. PHI—Kinda like his teammate does. Nobody got less respect back on draft day than Deuce but he’s proven through five weeks that he’s definitely not ready to ride off into the sunset (76 yards/game and four scores). In fact, would you believe he’s still a top 5 scorer at the all-important running back position? Looks like somebody (me) needs to start practicing what he’s preaching.

Frank Gore v. SD—By my rough estimate, Gore is a top TWO fantasy scorer through five weeks of play, though bye weeks make that ranking slightly misleading. He’s coming off a stellar 27-carry, 134-yard, fumble-free performance against the Raiders and now draws the top-ranked Bolts D. Just in case you’re wondering why he’s not in the top 15, that’s top-ranked against the run AND the pass. I still think Denver’s is better but…yikes!

Grab A Gatorade:

Jamal Lewis v. CAR—Lewis can probably be excused for his two most recent lackluster performances (34 and 43 yards) as they’ve come against the Chargers and Broncos, respectively. Nevertheless, I’m just not seeing the same burst we’re used to seeing from him, regardless of the opponent. Moreover, he’s losing a fair amount of touches to Musa Smith and Mike Anderson. Sit him down against Carolina’s resurgent D and see if you can’t sucker someone into taking him off your hands. The Ravens’ schedule features plenty more top-notch defenses.

LaMont Jordan @ DEN—Jordan barely outgained backup Justin Fargas in the Week 5 loss at Monster Park. The last time Fargas was relevant? 2002. In Ann Arbor. If you own any Raiders right now, you’re obviously not paying attention.

Edgerrin James v. CHI—Edge openly carped about his reduced workload in the fourth quarter of last week’s devastating loss to KC and he might even have a legit case if he weren’t rushing for (barely) three yards a pop and weren’t already getting 25-30 touches a game. Not sure how many he thinks he needs but the Cardinals have some pretty good wideouts who deserve some looks, too. Don’t expect his attitude to improve after he gets stoned by Chicago on Monday night.

DeShaun Foster @ BAL—The former Bruin has strung together a couple 100-yard games now and even appears to have the backfield all to himself again this weekend (thanks to a DeAngelo Williams injury). Unfortunately, he’s drawn one of the most formidable run defenses in the league for Week 6. Likelihood of scoring? 40%. Likelihood of breaking the century mark? 10%. Find someone else if you can.

Ron Dayne @ DAL—Not this guy, though. I’ve been on the business end of some infamous draft misfires before (Tony Mandarich and Sam Bowie, to name a few) and I can tell you exactly how Texans fans feel when they watch this former Heisman trophy winner plod forward for another two-yard gain: why couldn’t he be that OTHER Heisman trophy winner, the one everyone’s all gaga about down in N’awlins? He should be, folks, and everyone but the Houston not-so-intelligentsia seems to know that.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends