August 18, 2010

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I like quarterbacks. No, not like a head cheerleader likes quarterbacks. I love the feeling when the QB that I've drafted goes off for 350-plus yards with four or five TDs. The piece of mind that comes with drafting a surefire stud like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees is immeasurable. Running backs have always been king in fantasy football, but I hated shuffling through QBs after my late-round gambles started to fizzle. You know what, though? This is not the year to fall in love with a quarterback. There are just too many solid options to take a QB early and watch the few sure thing running backs pass you by. I count 16 QBs I could live with as my starter, plus a handful more who could emerge. Typical one-QB leagues only use 10-12 starters. There's no need to reach. Looking at the RB depth charts I see about 15 who look like reliable picks. Of course, there are more that could break out. The problem is that most leagues employ two RBs per team and the option to fill a flex position with one as well. From a position scarcity standpoint, it's much harder to fill those RB slots than find an acceptable QB.

Now that we've got my man-love for quarterbacks out of the way, let's take a look at just where to find those running backs that you can rely on. Last week we tackled the AFC, so this week we'll travel around the NFC. Like last week we'll identify the primary RB, the red zone RB, the best handcuff, and share some thoughts on each team.

Dallas Cowboys

Primary back:Marion Barber III with healthy dose of Felix Jones

Red zone back: Barber

Handcuff: Jones

Comments: Jones got all the offseason love, but Barber has taken hold of the starting job. Keep an eye on Tashard Choice when the inevitable injuries hit Barber and Jones.

New York Giants

Primary back: Timeshare between Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw

Red zone back: Jacobs

Handcuff: Jacobs/Bradshaw

Comments: Bradshaw has gained a much larger portion of the time share, but the Giants will likely give Jacobs the ball at the goal line.

Philadelphia Eagles

Primary back:LeSean McCoy

Red zone back:Mike Bell

Handcuff: Bell

Comments: McCoy has impressed thus far in camp and should get the bulk of the work but won't get much goal-line action with Bell and Leonard Weaver around.

Washington Redskins

Primary back:Clinton Portis

Red zone back:Larry Johnson

Handcuff: Johnson/Ryan Torain

Comments: Portis will get first chance to regain his past glory, but the work load has caught up with him. Johnson will get his share of the work, but if (when) injuries strike Portis keep an eye on Torain. He may be the best running back in Washington.

Chicago Bears

Primary back:Matt Forte

Red zone back: Forte

Handcuff:Chester Taylor

Comments: Forte and Taylor are similar backs. Forte is reportedly healthy, but he'll need a serious bounce back to avoid a full-blown timeshare.

Detroit Lions

Primary back:Jahvid Best

Red zone back:Jerome Felton

Handcuff:Kevin Smith

Comments: The Lions lack a solid option at the goal. Best's value will skyrocket if he proves he can handle the red zone.

Green Bay Packers

Primary back:Ryan Grant

Red zone back: Ryan Grant

Handcuff:Brandon Jackson

Comments: Grant isn't flashy but the numbers are usually there. The Packers' elite passing attack should make for easier sledding for Grant. Look for a career year in TDs.

Minnesota Vikings

Primary back:Adrian Peterson

Red zone back: Peterson

Handcuff:Toby Gerhart

Comments: With Brett Favre back, Peterson may set a career high in carries. Gerhart won't get much work initially, but if Peterson gets hurt, Gerhart has the skills to excel.

Atlanta Falcons

Primary back:Michael Turner

Red zone back: Turner

Handcuff:Jason Snelling

Comments: Turner is primed for a serious bounce back season. Jerious Norwood will get some third down work if he can get healthy, but Snelling is the best handcuff.

Carolina Panthers

Primary back: Elite timeshare with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart

Red zone back: Stewart

Handcuff: Either running back could be a premium feature back.

Comments: Look for Stewart to get a much heavier workload this year. Williams is going first in drafts, but Stewart will be more valuable.

New Orleans Saints

Primary back:Pierre Thomas

Red zone back: Thomas

Handcuff:Reggie Bush

Comments: The season-ending injury to Lynell Hamilton cements Thomas' fantasy value. Bush will get some red zone work, but Thomas should get the rock at the goal.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Primary back:Carnell Williams

Red zone back: Williams

Handcuff:Derrick Ward

Comments: Ward's salary puts his roster slot in danger. Williams has sleeper ability, but his health is always a concern.

Arizona Cardinals

Primary back:Chris Wells

Red zone back:Tim Hightower

Handcuff: Hightower

Comments: Hightower is listed as the starter, but Wells is the RB you want. Hightower is going to vulture enough TDs to be rosterable and limits Wells' upside.

Seattle Seahawks

Primary back:Julius Jones and Justin Forsett in a timeshare

Red zone back: Jones

Handcuff:Leon Washington

Comments: Similar to the situation in Arizona, Jones is listed as the starter, but Forsett has a much higher fantasy ceiling. Washington is healthy and will get his carries as well. All in all, it's a situation to avoid.

San Francisco 49ers

Primary back:Frank Gore

Red zone back: Gore

Handcuff:Brian Westbrook

Comments: The Niners were left thin at running back after the sudden retirement of Glen Coffee. Westbrook fills that hole and will get plenty of third down work as long as he's healthy. Rookie Anthony Dixon is someone to keep an eye with the injury histories of Gore and Westbrook.

St. Louis Rams

Primary back:Steven Jackson

Red zone back: Jackson

Handcuff:Chris Ogbonnaya

Comments: Jackson's back issues are something to monitor, but he's looked good so far. If Sam Bradford can add a little danger to the passing game, it would make Jackson's job a lot easier. If the Rams can get the ball to the red zone, his value skyrockets.

This time of year always reminds me of just how long the baseball season is. It helps reinforce the lesson that you just need to stick with the best players and stop trying to ride hot streaks. As fantasy owners we spend the early season trying to be Nostradamus, but most of the time it turns out to be Nostradumbass. Think I'm joking? How valuable was Jason Heyward after he hit 10 HRs in his first 161 at-bats? Think his owners are happy with the two long balls he's provided in the 194 at-bats since? Heyward is a fine hitter and will be a star, but everyone ignored his very average power in the minors and got hyped up about his Roy Hobbs shots in spring training.

My point is not to knock Heyward. It's to stress that baseball is a different beast from football. I get tens of email each week asking if owners should bench Matt Kemp because he's slumping or pick up Jayson Nix because he hit five HRs in a week. Trying to catch these guys on a hot streak is like a dog chasing a car; you only catch them when they stop and then it really hurts. You can't tell the future. I can't tell the future. The only thing we have to rely on is a solid track record, whether it be in the major leagues or down in the minors. So you head-to-head leaguers need to chill a little. Play the best players and at the end of the season you'll be happy.

Check back next week when we'll try to make sense of the latest news coming out of NFL training camps.

Don't forget to check out our Xclusive Edge Rankings for help with tough lineup decisions.

Wake up every morning with RotoExperts on Sirius XM's new Fantasy Sports Radio channel. Listen live starting at 7 a.m. ET as covers all fantasy sports and takes your calls on Sirius channel 211 and XM channel 147.

Doug Anderson is the Executive Editor at Look for Man in a Box every Tuesday and catch him on The Fantasy War Room, Thursdays at 8 ET. Wanna climb in the box and talk fantasy sports? E-mail Doug at

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