2009 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs
by NFL Fantasy Football Analyst Russ Bliss

Every year, RB is the position and you see this in some of the 2009 NFL football mock drafts enthusiasts turn to for immediate impact from rookie players. Unlike rookies at the other positions, RB's can find themselves high on fantasy football cheat sheets when our fantasy drafts come around. With more NFL teams going with a multiple RB philosophy, even more rookie RB's can have a meaningful fantasy impact and end up in the top 40 on the positional fantasy football rankings. The 2009 NFL Draft RB class provides 3 top guys who are being looked at as primary, and maybe even feature RB's at the NFL level. There are several who could excel in a committee, and just like every season, there is going to be some guy drafted in the middle to late rounds, or even undrafted completely, who comes in and becomes the prime rookie fantasy football sleepers no one in April expects to have value come around August. The big surprise is that none of the RB's in this draft class is likely to be taken in the top 10 picks despite the fact this could be a very good crop.

1) Knowshon Moreno, Georgia. Reminds me a bit of Edgerrin James when he was a rookie. Moreno doesn't possess elite size (5'10", 215 lbs), but he runs hard and has a shiftiness that makes him elusive. While not a burner, Moreno plays faster than he times out and has excellent hands for catching the ball out of the backfield. Moreno is a willing blocker and does a good job at it. Should be the first RB taken and could end up being in the top 15 RB's in fantasy football rankings by August.

2) Chris Wells, Ohio State. At 6'1", 235 lbs, Wells is the prototypical big power RB. He is a load to bring down and fights for extra yards. Has surprising speed for a RB his size but like you'd expect, he is not a creative runner, being more of a downhill runner. Goal line potential is high but his pass catching abilities are questionable. Has battled a myriad of injuries in college and that raises a red flag, but Wells has the potential to be a 3 down RB if he turns out to be better at catching passes than he showed in college. If not for the injury concerns would (and still could) be the first RB taken on draft day. Reminds me of Jamal Lewis.

3) Donald Brown, Connecticut. Outstanding production in 2008 rushing for over 2,000 yards and scoring 18 TD's. Brown has uncanny vision on the field and while not explosive, knows how to maneuver thru traffic and has enough speed to go the distance. Catches the ball very well and has great work ethic. Not overly big (5'11", 210 lbs) and is not powerful enough to drive the pile but he has all the other talents you like in a fantasy football RB. Kind of like Joseph Addai, a jack of all trades; but master of none.

4) LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh. Was very productive in his two seasons in college racking up over 2,800 rushing yards and scoring 35 TD's. McCoy is a darter who possesses better than average speed and has a "shake and bake" style of running. Is an accomplished pass catcher and dangerous in open space. Runs well between the tackles locating holes and getting thru them but lacks size and power to drive the pile. Was leapfrogged by Brown as the 3rd best RB after not taking part in the combine because of the flu and a recent mediocre pro day showing. Before that, McCoy was considered a late first round talent.

5) Shonn Greene, Iowa. Greene is a bowling ball type of power RB who takes on tacklers and punishes them with his compact 5'11", 235 lb frame. Only a one year starter in college so while he'll be 24 in his rookie season, he doesn't have the mileage some of the other RB's have. Hands are suspect so it is probable Greene's game translates into being a 2 down power back who comes out in passing situations. Not fast, Greene's strength is between the tackles running and pushing the pile and has drawn comparisons to Rudi Johnson.

Others to keep an eye on:

Andre Brown, North Carolina State. Has prototypical size and great hands, but can he get back the speed he showed early in his career after two left ankle surgeries?

Javon Ringer, Michigan State. Short, compact RB with good hands and speed but wore down as season went on leading to questions about whether he can hold up in a feature capacity.

Cedric Peerman, Virginia. Shorter than ideal but has tremendous character and gives top effort. Must improve ball security but could excel as a complimentary RB and occasional bell cow.

Jeremiah Johnson, Oregon. Weighing in at just under 200 lbs, Johnson probably wouldn't hold up as a feature RB but could excel in a situational role due to deceptive speed. Rebounded from torn ACL in 2007 and started every game in 2008.

Glen Coffee, Alabama. Tall and thin (6'1", 200 lbs), Coffee is a slasher type with good hands in the mode of Jerious Norwood and probably would best fit in the same type of role in the NFL.

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