May 19, 2010

No fantasy rookie this year can dance on the gridiron quite like Jahvid Best. The standout running back was electrifying for Cal, averaging 116.5 yards per game over his final two seasons with the Bears. Even more impressive, he posted a carry of 50-plus yards in eight of 14 Pac-10 contests during that span.

That big-play ability has everyone excited. Speaking to an NFL reporter not long after the draft, Lions coach Jim Schwartz said, "Some people watch adult videos on their computer. I go to YouTube and watch Jahvid Best highlight clips. That's what gets me going."

Barely 21, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound back has a bright future ahead of him, especially if the Lions offense matures as many believe it will.

Dissecting the depth chart: One reason Best has already earned favor among fantasy owners is for the clear path he has to the starting lineup in Detroit. With Kevin Smith still rehabbing his torn ACL, Best has an opportunity to find time on the field immediately. Maurice Morris had some nice numbers at the end of last season, but few Lions fans wish to see their club hand the starting job to the 30-year-old career backup. And 2009 sixth round pick Aaron Brown made too many mistakes as a rookie to earn more carries this season. Smith is expected to be full-go for training camp but it's doubtful that will matter; Best may already be at the top of the depth chart by then.

Just the stats: During his three-year career at Cal, Best averaged 7.3 yards per carry, including 8.1 yards during his '08 campaign (1,580 yards, 15 touchdowns). To finish that season, Best gained 201 yards against Stanford, 311 against Washington, and 186 in the Emerald Bowl win over Miami, Fla. As a junior in '09, Best missed four contests and still gained 1,080 yards from scrimmage and found the end zone 16 times.

Rookie comparison from 2009:LeSean McCoy

Roughly the same build, McCoy and Best are both capable of killing teams whenever they touch the football. Best will likely carry the ball more than McCoy did last year (155), and it's possible he will exceed McCoy's catch total (40). In time, these two could rank among the most desirable fantasy running backs in the NFC.

Interesting fact that won't help you: As a senior at California's Salesian High School, Best won a state title in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.31 seconds. The next closest time was a 10.45.

What he's worth: According to mock draft data, Best is presently the most popular fantasy rookie, landing in the fourth or fifth round of most standard 12-team drafts. Even as a No. 2 back, however, Best is a risky selection due to Detroit's so-so offensive line. But fantasy owners can assume he'll win the starting job, and if he can remain healthy, Best could approach the 1,000-yard mark with a half-dozen or more touchdowns.

Mike Beacom is a contributing writer for

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