Word to the Winners: Fantasy Football Advice from the Experts

2006 Rookie Running Backs -- By Russ Bliss

I’m sure I’m going to buck the trend of most fantasy football projections in the short term by appointing Joseph Addai as the best rookie fantasy football RB prospect for the 2006 season, but I’m more concerned about being right than being popular. And you should be, too. When you read the write-ups, you’ll understand why Addai, and not Reggie Bush, is tops in 2006. From the 2006 NFL draft, there are as many 8 RB prospects who have the chance of being feature RB’s in the future for their teams. For immediate fantasy football help, there’s a lot that needs to play out in training camps and pre-season before we have a good idea of potential fantasy football rankings for these rookies. There are only 2 or 3 who will be competing for the starting, feature RB job from day one. The rest need an injury to an established starter for them to have a legitimate chance. And if history is any indicator, there are only 1 or 2 names here who will finish in the top 20 RB’s in the end of the year fantasy football rankings. There’s a lot like in terms of long term fantasy football value for some of these guys, but to look for more than 1 or 2 solid fantasy football starters for 2006 from this class is unrealistic.


2006 Impact Ranking: Dynasty Values:
1) Joseph Addai 1) Reggie Bush
2) Reggie Bush 2) Laurence Maroney
3) DeAngelo Williams 3) DeAngelo Williams
4) Laurence Maroney 4) Joseph Addai
5) LenDale White 5) LenDale White
6) Brian Calhoun 6) Jerious Norwood
7) Jerious Norwood 7) Leon Washington
8) Maurice Drew 8) Brian Calhoun
9) Leon Washington 9) P.J. Daniels
10) Jerome Harrison 10) Maurice Drew
11) Cedric Humes 11) Wali Lundy
12) Wali Lundy 12) Cedric Humes
13) P.J. Daniels 13) Jerome Harrison
14) Quinton Ganther 14) Quinton Ganther
15) Garrett Mills 15) Garrett Mills
16) Lawrence Vickers 16) Lawrence Vickers
17) J.D. Runnels 17) J.D. Runnels
18) David Kirtman 18) David Kirtman

Rookie Rundown (in order drafted)

Reggie Bush, Round 1, New Orleans Saints: Recognized by practically everyone as the best player in this draft, Bush has tremendous explosive potential as a runner, receiver, and return specialist. With great speed, and elusiveness, Bush figures to make an impact in the NFL. The knock on Bush is that he isn’t that big, and there are concerns about his ability to be a feature RB who carries the ball 20+ times in a game. If he bulks up, he may turn into a full time RB. If he doesn’t, he’s a 15-20 carry guy who will also catch 4-5 passes per game. If used properly, Bush could remind many of Marshall Faulk.
2006 outlook: The only thing that prevents Bush from being the top guy at the position for this season is that the Saints have Deuce McAllister. McAllister is bigger, and when healthy has been a great feature RB for the Saints. The drafting of Bush puts the fantasy football projections for McAllister is serious question, and at the same time, the presence of McAllister hinders the fantasy football predictions for Bush. If McAllister gets injured, Bush will receive a huge bump up in value. If McAllister stays healthy, it’s hard to see Bush making serious fantasy football news in 2006.
Beyond 2006: The Saints can’t keep both RB’s for long at the $$$ they’re spending on them. And of the two, Bush is much more likely to stay than McAllister. The upside of what Bush could be if he adds some bulk makes him extremely attractive for dynasty or keeper style fantasy football leagues. Even if he doesn’t, the possibility of Bush providing the type of fantasy football help that Marshall Faulk did in his prime for fantasy teams is enough to make him the elite RB of this class.

Laurence Maroney, Round 1, New England Patriots: A good sized RB with excellent speed, Maroney is a lot like the RB he will eventually replace in New England (Corey Dillon). Like Dillon, Maroney isn’t a great pass catcher and needs work on that area of his game. And while Maroney has good size, he isn’t as powerful as you would expect. But he’ll have time to get there as he won’t be counted on to be the feature guy right away.
2006 outlook: If Corey Dillon can avoid the injury bug that plagued him in 2005 then Maroney will only get token time. It’s possible the Patriots will limit Dillon’s touches, and use Maroney to spell him frequently though to keep Dillon fresher. This will especially be true later in the season if the Patriots are cruising to a playoff spot. But most likely, the best fantasy football strategy regarding Maroney will be to handcuff him to Dillon in case Dillon can’t stay healthy.
Beyond 2006: Dillon will turn 32 in October and possibly only has a year or two left in New England. The Patriots needed a young RB to groom to take over for him and found one in Maroney. It may be 2007 or 2008 before Maroney gets a chance to be the feature RB, but when he does, he’ll likely be a workhorse and pay big dividends for those who stashed him on their fantasy football rosters.

DeAngelo Williams, Round 1, Carolina Panthers: A three year starter in college, Williams is experienced as a feature RB and has proven he can carry the load. A little shorter than ideal, Williams displays good decision making when running the ball and possesses more power than you’d expect from a shorter RB. Not a speed demon, but fast and elusive enough to be a threat in the open field either running or catching the football. There is a minor durability concern as he’s logged a lot of carries in college.
2006 outlook: Williams will likely compete right away with DeShaun Foster for the starting job in Carolina. Foster has had problems staying healthy, so even if Williams doesn’t win the job outright in camp, there’s a good chance he’ll get opportunities to claim the job when Foster gets injured. If Foster wins the job in camp, Williams becomes the necessary handcuff to Foster for your fantasy football drafts. If Williams wins the job in camp, he’ll end up being top 20 on most fantasy football rankings at the RB position.
Beyond 2006: The Panthers can’t trust Foster to stay healthy, and because of that, they drafted Williams. The Panthers might see the tandem of Williams and last years rookie (Eric Shelton) as their future with each RB complementing the other’s abilities. Shelton is a big powerful RB while Williams is a shorter, more versatile one. But one thing is sure: the Panthers were so unsure of Foster and Shelton that they drafted Williams in the first round in 2006. Williams will be given every opportunity to be their feature RB in the future.

Joseph Addai, Round 1, Indianapolis Colts: A versatile RB skilled in almost aspects of the position. He’s fast, catches the ball well, is a good blocker, has decent size, and can run inside or outside. The knocks on Addai are that he doesn’t possess elite talent and that he is unproven at being a workhorse who can consistently carry the ball 20+ times per game.
2006 outlook: No rookie RB steps into a better situation than Addai. He will compete with Dominic Rhodes for the starting job in Indianapolis. Addai is slightly bigger than Rhodes, and if he picks up the offense quickly, stands an excellent chance of being the starter at the beginning of the season. If he does win the job, he’ll provide immediate fantasy football help to whoever drafts him. If he doesn’t, he’ll at least get a fairly even split with Rhodes as he has more of a complete game than Rhodes.
Beyond 2006: The Colts know that Rhodes isn’t the RB of the future for them and think they can make Addai a feature RB. His overall skills fits the Colts offense very well and he could end up being a solid starting RB for Indy for years to come. Dynasty style fantasy football leagues should look at Addai as a borderline #1/#2 RB with a high ceiling in future fantasy football projections.

LenDale White, Round 2, Tennessee Titans: Before tearing his hamstring reaching for a bag of Cheetos, White was considered as a possible top 10 selection in the 2006 NFL draft. Okay. I’m probably making up the “Cheetos” part, but it’s unknown when or where the hamstring injury occurred and while that certainly hurt his draft position, it doesn’t explain why White was out of shape throughout the whole off-season. A massive load at RB, White has been very productive while splitting time with Reggie Bush at USC. White knows how to get into the end zone, but it remains to be seen if he can be a true feature RB in the NFL. He’s not fast, and while big, isn’t as powerful as he should be in his running style. Though his production can’t be questioned, his work ethic often has been. One thing in his favor is that he’ll have a leg up on knowing Norm Chow’s offense in Tennessee.
2006 outlook: Will initially compete with Chris Brown and Travis Henry for the starting job, but probably ends up as a situational RB as a rookie. Short yardage and goal lines will be his specialty, and if anything happens to Brown, White possibly gets a chance to prove he can be the man. At that point, it’s up to him to seize the opportunity.
Beyond 2006: White is a boom or bust candidate. Neither Brown nor Henry have proven they can consistently be the feature guy and that gives White an opportunity. If he learns some discipline, he could end up being a solid fantasy football starter at RB. If he expects to just cruise through practices giving minimal effort and then shining on game day, White will learn a valuable lesson in how the professional ranks are different than in college.

Maurice Drew, Round 2, Jacksonville Jaguars: Very fast and a capable pass catcher, Drew is only 5’6” and lacks the bulk to be an every down RB in the NFL. Was very productive at UCLA and while he may not be able to be a feature RB, he certainly has the explosiveness necessary to warrant time in the offense. Is also a solid return specialist and may make his primary living doing that in the NFL.
2006 outlook: Will battle with Alvin Pearman to be the 3rd down RB for the Jags. Could win that job, but even so, his fantasy impact will be minimal unless your fantasy football league gives you points for special teams contributions. A lot would need to happen for Drew to be considered in your fantasy football draft.
Beyond 2006: I just doubt that Drew is capable of being a feature RB in the NFL. And that means he won’t be much a force for fantasy football purposes. There are other RB’s who were drafted after Drew who likely make better fantasy football picks in dynasty leagues.

Brian Calhoun, Round 3, Detroit Lions: Shorter and lighter than ideal, Calhoun at least proved he could be a workhorse in 2005 carrying the ball 348 times while also catching 53 passes for Wisconsin. Fast, and strong for his size, there is some doubt about whether Calhoun would be able to handle such a load in the NFL. May be best suited as a 3rd down and change of pace RB as a pro.
2006 outlook: Certainly brings an element of speed the Lions backfield lacks. Isn’t likely to challenge Kevin Jones for the primary job, but could be a great fit for Mike Martz’s offense getting 5-10 touches per game. If he excels, and if Jones struggles in the new offense, Calhoun has a chance to steal more playing time. Keep your eye on this situation and think of using a late round pick on Calhoun in your fantasy football draft. The upside alone is worth the gamble as a fantasy football strategy.
Beyond 2006: It depends first on whether Jones adapts to the new offense. If he does, then Calhoun has limited long term fantasy football value. It also depends on whether Calhoun shows he’s capable of handling the load if given the opportunity. In Mike Martz’s offense, Calhoun is more likely to be like Trung Canidate than Marshall Faulk. But I could be wrong, and at least Canidate was a worthy handcuff those early years with the Rams.

Jerious Norwood, Round 3, Atlanta Falcons: Blessed with tremendous speed, Norwood is considered to be a threat to take it all the way whenever he is on the field. While not possessing prototypical size, Norwood isn’t afraid of contact and can break tackles. Is sometimes impatient and doesn’t always allow the play to develop. Is a capable receiver and a high character guy with a great work ethic.
2006 outlook: Will likely become the primary change of pace RB to Warrick Dunn, thusly pushing T.J. Duckett into a more traditional short yardage/goal line role. Unless Dunn suffers an injury though, Norwood isn’t likely to have more than minimal fantasy football value.
Beyond 2006: This is where it gets intriguing. Dunn is 31, and only signed through the 2007 season. The Falcons have soured on Duckett’s long term value and invested a 3rd round pick on Norwood this season to see if he can be Dunn’s eventual replacement. Given Norwood’s dedication to self improvement and work ethic, there’s a decent chance that in 2-3 years, Norwood can have improved his lower body strength to the point where he could be a sleeper in fantasy football projections.

Garrett Mills, Round 4, New England Patriots: Mills was a collegiate TE, but will be making the position switch to FB/H-Back. While an excellent receiver, has no experience carrying the ball as a RB and isn’t known for his blocking abilities. The Patriots don’t use a lot of 2 RB sets, so it’s a safe bet to think that they drafted Mills to be the 3rd down RB to Laurence Maroney’s feature RB status in a couple of years.
2006 outlook: There’s little reason to think Mills has any value as a rookie. Kevin Faulk is still the Patriots 3rd down RB, and there’s a slew of other TE’s on the team to catch the ball.
Beyond 2006: As previously stated, the plan could be to have Mills take over as the 3rd down RB in another year or two. His skills at catching the ball could give some minimal fantasy football value, but realistically, Mills is a long shot to ever be on anyone’s fantasy football rankings.

Leon Washington, Round 4, New York Jets: A small, compact RB, Washington was never an every down guy in college and doubtful he’ll be one in the NFL. Doesn’t possess great speed, and although he runs hard, isn’t very powerful. Has good hands and could turn into a 3rd down RB.
2006 outlook: Will compete with Cedric Houston and Derrick Blaylock for playing time in a likely rotational scheme with Curtis Martin. Not as big or strong as Houston, and not as fast or experienced as Blaylock, Washington needs a lot to happen to have any fantasy football impact in 2006.
Beyond 2006: Martin’s not going to last much longer in the NFL, Blaylock isn’t capable of being a full time RB, and the Jets aren’t sold on Houston as their future. Washington will get a chance to compete for the starting job when Martin’s gone, and while I’m dubious he’ll ever be anything more than a 3rd down RB at the pro level, there’s a chance he could be the guy in the proverbial “right place at the right time”.

P.J. Daniels, Round 4, Baltimore Ravens: Not known for his speed or elusiveness, Daniels is a straight line runner with good power. Is a decent receiver, but isn’t a big threat to make the big play. Daniels has good size and is a hard worker, and reminds me of a slightly smaller version of current Ravens RB Mike Anderson.
2006 outlook: Will battle with Musa Smith to be the #3 RB behind Jamal Lewis and Anderson.
Beyond 2006: It’s unclear if the Ravens are committed to Lewis past this season. Anderson isn’t a young RB. Smith has never stayed healthy enough to live up to any expectations placed on him. Daniels isn’t a complete RB, but he has a shot to be part of a rotation if the Ravens choose to go that route after 2006. In terms of fantasy football help, Daniels isn’t likely to provide much even in a few years.

Jerome Harrison, Round 5, Cleveland Browns: Had a tremendous 2005 season despite not being that fast, strong, or big. Is elusive, and an adequate receiver, but is careless with the football, and that combined with his lack of size cost him on draft day.
2006 outlook: Will compete with Lee Suggs, William Green, and Jason Wright for one of the two backup RB spots behind Reuben Droughns. Harrison’s fantasy football projections for 2006 aren’t encouraging at all.
Beyond 2006: The Browns are likely to get rid of Green and/or Suggs eventually and if Harrison makes a good showing in training camp as a rookie, he could be in their plans in another year or two. But it’s much more likely it’s in a 3rd down RB role and not a feature RB role.

David Kirtman, Round 5, Seattle Seahawks: Kirtman’s best attribute is his pass catching skills. While possessing good size for a FB, he is an adequate, but not great blocker. Because of other, more talented runners at USC the past few years, Kirtman has rarely run with the ball.
2006 outlook: Are you kidding me? The Seahawks have Shaun Alexander and Maurice Morris at RB, with Mack Strong and Leonard Weaver (a guy they’re supposedly high on to begin with) at FB. Why the Seahawks felt Kirtman was the best choice for them in round 5 this year is one of my bigger draft mysteries.
Beyond 2006: Maybe the Seahawks feel Strong can teach Kirtman the finer points of being a great lead blocker. But no matter what, Kirtman won’t be making an appearance on any fantasy football cheat sheets any time in the next decade.

Wali Lundy, Round 6, Houston Texans: A good short yardage runner, Lundy lacks the speed or elusiveness to be a feature RB. He has had a problem fumbling the ball in college and also had problems staying healthy. Is an adequate receiver and blocker, but not special and not likely to be asked to contribute in that part of the game.
2006 outlook: Likely takes over for unsigned Jonathan Wells and departed Tony Hollings as the short yardage/goal line RB for Houston. May challenge Vernand Morency as the backup to Domanick Davis, but probably isn’t good enough to beat Morency for the job.
Beyond 2006: Limited upside for Lundy as anything more than a potential goal line vulture for fantasy football help going into the future. Even then, it’s debatable he excels in that capacity as he lacks elite size in that capacity.

Lawrence Vickers, Round 6, Cleveland Browns: A decent all around FB, Vickers has the capability to become a short yardage/goal line type of FB on a Browns team lacking anyone who fills that position.
2006 outlook: Will compete for the backup FB job behind one of the best blocking FB’s in the NFL, Terrelle Smith. If he wins it, he may have goal line capabilities, but not enough to warrant being on a fantasy football roster.
Beyond 2006: Another in a long line of FB’s who get no consideration when it comes to a fantasy football draft.

J.D. Runnels, Round 6, Chicago Bears: A terrific blocker and decent pass catcher, Runnels only had 2 carries in his entire college career.
2006 outlook: Will compete for the backup FB job to Bryan Johnson. Johnson has had injury problems the past 2 seasons, so there is a chance Runnels could compete for the starting job as well. But no matter what, the Bears don’t ask their FB’s to touch the ball much.
Beyond 2006: Could be the Bears lead blocker of the future, but that translates into squat for your fantasy football rankings.

Cedric Humes, Round 7, Pittsburgh Steelers: A big RB with power, Humes appears to have been anointed as the new short yardage/grinder RB for the Steelers. Humes isn’t fast or elusive, but he pushes a pile and runs with strength. Needs work as a blocker and pass catcher.
2006 outlook: The Steelers were thrilled to get Humes in round 7 and think he has a chance to be a situational RB for them right away. Only time will tell if he develops into that type of RB, and by no means will he be the next Jerome Bettis.
Beyond 2006: It’s a long shot, but Humes could end up playing a bigger part of a rotational system in Pittsburgh if he works on his blocking and shows his college prowess as a power runner works in the pro’s too.

Quinton Ganther, Round 7, Tennessee Titans: Ganther has good quickness and has been productive in a spread offense. His size is almost the same as current Titans RB Travis Henry. He’s adequate catching the ball, but has no special qualities about his game.
2006 outlook: Practice squad and with some injuries to others may be on the active roster. With a lot of luck, he maybe even sees playing time. But it’s not likely he’s making the fantasy football news this season in Tennessee.
Beyond 2006: There’s a real outside chance for Ganther to become a decent NFL RB, but he’s more likely a career backup and not on any fantasy football rankings in dynasty leagues.

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