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Fantasy Strategy: Running Backs

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Now, we've had a little time for things to shake out and my original rankings are all over the place at this point. Some have worked well like the WR, where I projected Brandon Marshall and Greg Jennings as the best value picks. And some not so much, like the RB, where I wasn't so high on Frank Gore and Reggie Bush. However, I do have some pieces to play with and I want to look at a strategy I've used successfully in the past regarding strength of schedule. I'm currently 3-0 in both leagues, but in one league (my money league), the record is much like Tech and more reflective of my opponents' ineptitude. I've got some options though, and here's what I'm working with:

League 1:

RB - LT - I'm staying put.

RB - Earnest Graham - No way I'm getting rid of this guy. He faced a top 10 rush defense (from here on out known as "TT" units) last week and bombed. He's delivered against everyone else. He only sees 3 more TT units the rest of the way and should finish strong.

Flex - LenDale White - I got great value for him and it's paying off. Not a bad schedule either facing only 5 TT units from here on out. He gets Minnesota and Baltimore out of the way in the next two weeks. I'm wishy-washy here, but if the right deal came along, I might do it. I parlayed Chris Johnson's hot start into Colston (pre-injury), but still feel good about that trade as I'm currently fucking rolling with Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall as my 1 and 2. I'll probably use Colston to rotate with White at Flex. I've just talked myself into staying put.

Reserves - Rudi Johnson/Michael Pittman/Darren Sproles - I would move White/Johnson/Pittman for another #1 back in a heartbeat. I might do something with Colston. I can be picky here and I need some help at tight end since Todd Fucking Heap of Shit turned out to be just that.

League 2 - Note - I've been playing in this league for 10 years with the same guys, and it's a little tougher, so my getting out to a 3-0 start is huge. My team is as strong as anyone's, but not a lock for the playoffs, so I might make some moves:

RB - Joseph Addai - He might lead the RB department in fantasy points over the 2nd half of the season. Addai even delivered a TD against Minnesota and he only sees 4 TT units from here on out.

RB - Jamal Lewis - Probably the biggest bust on my board, but he has play 3 TT outfits in Dallas, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. They've been playing from behind and I'm still optimistic about the guy once things get clicking on offense. His schedule is mediocre facing 6 TT units the rest of the way. Plus, he sees 3 of them in December during playoff time. I'm willing to deal here and his stock may not be higher than after playing the Bengals this week. I need him as a starter this week given Addai and Jacobs are on bye weeks.

Flex - Brandon Jacobs - He hasn't been a star, but he's also been steady and only one TD off the pace of what I had him down for at the #8 back. If he doesn't split too many reps and gets the goalline work, he'll probably mess around and be ranked around the #10 at season's end. However, Jacobs has horrible schedule with 8 TT units on it, and he's facing one next week in Seattle, then gets a couple of cupcakes in Cleveland and San Francisco before facing an absolutely brutal run of Pittsburgh, Dallas, Philly and Baltimore. His stock will never be higher than between Cleveland and San Francisco and I'm going to try and move him.

Reserves: Selvin Young/Dominic Rhodes - I'll keep Rhodes for insurance. I picked up Young last week off the waiver wire and he's an intriguing player to me. He's seeing minimal touches and losing goalline carries to Pittman, but he's averaging 6.9 yards per carry and only faces 3 TT units from here on out. I'm going to hold on to him for a little while and I'm starting him this week against an awful Kansas City defense that ranks 31st in the league against the run. I think if that carry number jumps up from 10 a game to between 15-20, the TDs will come as well.

So, here's what's left. I'm going to break this out into guys that are probably untouchable right now, so they're not in consideration unless you're willing to part with 2 RBs for 1, which I'm not. And if I was, it would be 2 they wouldn't want to deal for anyway:


LT - He'll be back.

Peterson - He's never made it through a full season of football that I know of, even at the high school level. Maybe his freshman year at OU, but I thought I remember him missing a game or two.

Barber - I was wrong about him and Scipio was right. There you go, I said it. With that running style, I have a hard time seeing him staying healthy for a full season, but his frame is built more like Courtney Simpson than Adrian Peterson, in that it can take a pounding versus the rangier Peterson. He faces 6 TT units, but with that OL it won't matter. He's the goalline guy regardless and will finish as a top 5 back, if he stays healthy.

Westbrook- Even hurt, I don't think anyone would let him go.

Ronnie Brown - Dude, he looked good. Congrats to all those, who rolled the dice on him. He's looked a little healthier than the #40 ranking I gave him and another inspiration for the importance of a strength of schedule factor. He's only got 5 TT units to play and should start getting more carries.

Marshawn Lynch - This dude was my 11th ranked back and that's about where he went in the draft. He's ranked #7 right now, but he's playing like a top 5 guy. Great pick for guys with him and he only sees 4 TT units the rest of the way. He threw down 14 points on a pretty salty Seattle run defense. If you've got him, hang onto him.

Michael Turner - Whoa, I missed the boat on this guy ranking him #20. But, I think a lot of people did. With the way the NFL rotates its schedule, I'm definitely factoring SOS in next year. I knew I should have, but I was too lazy. Turner only sees 3 TT units the rest of the way. You might have a shot at him with that Chicago and Philly run back-to-back, but the guy who has him in our league is too smart for that. Speaking of that guy, he's become a borderline if not full blown alcoholic. He's showed up at the draft the last two years drunk and Zanaxed out of his gourd at 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday. It's a given he'll take 3 RBs in the first 3 rounds. And, year-in, year-out, nobody picks backs better. Last year, he was rolling with LT and Peterson. This year, he's got Westbrook and Turner. His third pick almost worked out with Kevin Smith, but it looks like Rudi Johnson might be the guy. Anyway, he didn't make the playoffs with LT and Peterson and that's when I began to soften on my RB draft policy to some extent, and go ahead and take one in the 2nd round.

Reggie Bush - He's on my blacklist because I drafted him in the 2nd round last year in a league, and he thinks I was the camera man in the Ray-J video.

Frank Gore - He's on my blacklist because I drafted him #6 overall last year in the same league as Bush, and he thinks I wrote the alphabet backwards just to fuck with him. Dude will slow down though as he faces 7 TT units the rest of the way.

I think everyone else is in play. The other pieces I have to work with in my money league at WR are Andre Johnson, who I'm confident will bounce back. Dwayne Bowe, who I feel I've been getting very lucky with, but if he keeps producing with someone named Thigpen as the QB, then he could very well be the next Roddy White. An underrated guy, who would be a Pro Bowler with Matt Hasselbeck throwing him the ball. I wouldn't mind upgrading here as I'm currently rolling with Antonio Bryant as my next option. I made a bonehead rookie mistake in dropping Coles to pick up Selvin Young instead of Derrick Mason with a rookie QB. I realized it the minute I did it and put in a request to drop Mason and pick Coles back up, but it was too late. Now, he's like Randy Moss in Oakland and stuck on a shitty team. Poor guy.

At TE, I'm sporting Tony Gonzalez and my 13th round sleeper Tony Scheffler. I was impressed with Scheffler at the end of last year, and with the way Cutler is playing, I don't think he's a fluke. Dude has some skills. However, when I decide to give him the ball over Gonzalez, he fumbles it, literally. I'm going to wait a week or two and decide, which one I want to keep and then try to package one of them with a RB to sweeten the deal. With Addai and Jacobs on byes, I'm stuck trying to decide between one of them or Antonio Bryant as my flex. I've actually got a pretty easy opponent this week and it may not matter.

At QB, I'm keeping Warner and my projections had him as the #4 QB overall. People said I reached on him in the 5th round, but I say he's 4th highest scoring QB right now. Griese is my bye-week replacement, and I probably can't and won't try to do any better than that.

On defense, I got the Bucs and Packers, who I had ranked #4 and #10 headed into the season. I got them both late and the Packers are currently ranked #5, while the Bucs are #8. Barring huge injuries or a meltdown, I'll platoon these two units the rest of the year. I like having two solid units, one in a cold weather division for winter and another in a warm weather division early in the year. Especially, when outside of New Orleans twice a year, they co-exist with rather inept offenses division-wise. I'll be fine.

So, I'm looking to move Jacobs and possibly Lewis for some underachievers who have played tough schedules to date, but things get pretty juicy for the rest of the way. We've covered the untouchables and here's our options with favorable schedules:

Let's Make a Deal

Earnest Graham - See above (only 3 TT). I've got him in one league and would trade Jacobs and a tight end in a heartbeat, but the guy has Kellen Winslow. I might wait until next week when Winslow has a bye and Jacobs is back in action. He's only scored one more point that Jacobs to date, so this might be plausible.

Ryan Grant - His stock has definitely dropped from the #7 ranking that I had, and might be a complete whiff. The Detroit perfomance was baffling as he had just thrown down 92 yards on the Vikings defense. He was bothered by a hamstring, which may be the cause, but I thought he looked fine against a tough Dallas D. Grant only sees 5 TT teams and should bounce back fine. Shockey and LJ Smith are the guy's TEs.

Willie Parker - He would probably be untouchable were it not for injuries. Parker faces 5 TT outfits and looks to be the goalline guy when healthy. It's an injury risk, but I would definitely do something involving Jacobs so long as Parker isn't out for an extended period of time.

Matt Forte - This guy is bordering on untouchable and only has 4 TT teams left on the schedule. And he looks like the real deal to me. He's got quicker feet than what I thought. In both leagues, the guys who ended up with him, kind of did it out of luck. He was the best option on the board and he's the #6 back right now. The guy who has him is rolling with Jerramy Stevens and Kevin Boss. However, I never can get anything done with the guy that has him. I've beat his ass a couple of years for the title and knocked him out of the semis last year. I'll send him a legitimate offer like Jacobs/Scheffler or Gonzalez for Forte/Stevens or Boss, and he'll reply back, "nah, think I'll pass, Jacobs splits carries and Gonzalez is old. I'll send you Forte/Boss for Addai/Scheffler/Kurt Warner." What the fuck. I hate dealing with guys like that, but I'll try anyway.

Julius Jones - I really missed the boat on him at #38. Walter Jones can still play and he only has 5 TT units on his plate. Again, I would put Jacobs and a tight end in play here. Same dude with Grant.

Larry Johnson - This is a guy, who has only 4 TT teams left, but has faced 3 easy teams and only performed well in one. He seems to still remain a part of the game plan even when his team is getting blown out, but that OL and QB situation is bad. I would still do a Jacobs trade given his tough schedule and split reps.

Maurice Jones-Drew - Only faces 5 TT units, but he's on the blacklist from the team as Gore and Bush. I would probably stick considering Jacobs and Jones-Drew share a lot of the same value, but I like the Giants OL better.

Darren McFadden - He's got a great schedule with 3 TT teams. They might lean on him some more, but I think he was the first pick in the 4th round and will be someone's keeper.

Thomas Jones - I don't trust him, but he's only got 5 TT units left. I'll probably pass on him.

LenDale White - 5 TT teams. I've covered him.

Here's the guy's I might look at moving besides Jacobs and Jamal Lewis, if they were on my team:

Hey, "Fill in the Blank" threw down 18 points last week:

Clinton Portis - I love the shit out of Portis because he runs hard every play and scores TDs. However, he's got a tough division with 3 good defenses in it and faces 8 TT units overall. He's ranked #12 overall in scoring, and if I had him on my team, I would try to parlay him into Addai while he's hot. More than likely, no one will do it, but you might throw in a TE or WR swap to upgrade the guy. You've got one other opportunity to move him during the St. Louis/Cleveland stretch.

Steven Jackson - Stuck on a bad team and facing 6 TT teams.

Willis McGahee - I'm still not sold on the Baltimore OL and he's got some 7 TT units to play.

Edgerrin James - 7 TT units and you're probably stuck with him the rest of the way.

I'm sure you've all got your own strategies, but the old schedule swap has been successful for me in the past, especially in leagues with vulnerable owners.