Fantasy Football 2009 Rookie Class: Running Backs

Chris DiLeoCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2009

There is a lot of talent available at the running back position for NFL teams to consider when selecting a player in the 2009 rookie draft.

While this year may lack the big-name, high-profile prospect we have seen in previous years such as Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, or Darren McFadden, there are still several running backs who can make a big contribution this year, and for years to come.

When it comes to drafting a rookie in fantasy football, running backs are by far the most productive players of any skill position. There are four running backs in this year’s draft I expect to immediately contribute to the team that drafts them.

No. 1 choice: Chris Wells, Ohio State

At 6’ 1”, and 237 pounds, Wells has the perfect frame for an NFL running back. He is an excellent downhill runner who does not shy away from contact. He breaks tackles with a combination of strength and balance, and always tends to move a pile forward. In addition to his strength, he has also displayed good lateral quickness hitting holes at the line of scrimmage.

The biggest concern regarding Wells is his injury history. In 2007 he played through an ankle and two wrist injuries. He missed three games early in 2008 with a foot injury and sat out most of the second half of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl with a concussion.

While some have shown concern about his 2007 injuries, I believe it is more important to note that he played through those ailments. That shows the toughness necessary to compete in the NFL.

Despite the three games missed in 2008, Wells still rushed for 1,194 yards and eight touchdowns. He finished the second half of the year strong, showing no signs of lingering injuries. As for the Fiesta Bowl versus Texas, he still managed to rush 16 times for 106 yards in just over a half of play.

Wells has the skills and tools necessary to be an every down back in the NFL. He should be a drafted early in all keeper leagues, and if he lands in the right situation, could be a late second round pick in re-draft leagues.

Projection: first round selection in NFL Draft.

No. 2 choice: Shonn Greene, Iowa

Greene is a running back with great size at 5’ 11” and 235 pounds, who had many accomplishments in 2008.

He was the only college player to rush for 100-plus yards in every game he played. He also scored a touchdown in 12 of 13 games played. He set a school record for yards rushing in a single season and tied the single-season record for touchdowns.

These numbers amounted to 1,850 rushing yards (6.0 per rush) and 20 touchdowns, which include a 121-yard, three-touchdown performance in the 2009 Outback Bowl versus South Carolina.

Greene was the winner of the prestigious 2008 Doak Walker Award which recognizes not only accomplishments on the field, but achievements in the classroom and citizenship in the community.

This affirms his reputation for being a hard-working, high-character person. These qualities are often just as important as talent in The NFL.

Best of all is Greene’s running style. He is a strong, one-cut-and-go runner, who runs with a low center of gravity. This is ideal in the NFL, where the speed of the game doesn’t allow for dancing around looking for a hole. Once in the open field, his compact running style allows him to take on tacklers.

I highly recommend Greene in all keepers leagues. He should be targeted as a value pick in re-draft leagues, since he is currently a relatively under-the-radar prospect.

He has the size and toughness to be an every down back in the NFL. He could have a similar impact as Matt Forte, who was perhaps the best value pick in 2008 since his average draft position was the fifth round.

Projection: Second round selection in NFL Draft

No. 3 choice: Knowshon Moreno, Georgia

Moreno is 5’ 11” and 207 pounds. He is a versatile running back who runs well between the tackles, has great hands, and is always a threat to break off a long touchdown run.

He runs with great instincts and vision. Despite his average frame, he is a tough runner and he keeps his legs moving at all times, often requiring opposing defenses to gang tackle him if they want to bring him down.

In 2008, he rushed for 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also hauled in 33 receptions for 392 yards and two receiving touchdowns.

I am confident Moreno will be a valuable fantasy commodity in 2009, especially in points-per-reception leagues. He needs to add about 10-15 pounds of bulk to become an every-down back at the next level, however.

I envision Moreno being successful with a role as a primary running back who gives way in short yardage and red zone situations. A role similar to Chris Johnson of The Titans.

Projection: First round selection in NFL Draft.

No. 4 choice: LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh

McCoy is 5' 11" and 210 pounds. 

A well-balanced runner with great vision. He is perhaps the best of the 2009 class at making tacklers miss with his change-of-direction quickness. McCoy is adept at using this quickness to hit open holes and he has the breakaway speed to go the distance on any given play.

He has been the Panthers’ workhorse the past two seasons, accumulating 2,816 yards rushing and 35 touchdowns (in 2008 he had 1,488 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns).

He has also been an asset in the passing game with 65 receptions, 549 receiving yards, and one touchdown in 25 career games with Pittsburgh.

McCoy has the skills to contribute right away, and he has the potential to become a star in a running back-tandem situation. Like Moreno, he needs to add bulk if he wishes to carry the full-time load in The NFL.

He is definitely worth drafting in both keeper and re-draft fantasy leagues.

Projection: Second round selection in the NFL Draft.

There are also some running backs that could be worthy of fantasy consideration if they are drafted into the right situation. They are as follows:

Devin Moore, Wyoming

5’ 10”, 191 pounds

Perhaps the fastest running back prospect in this year’s class. His projected 40 time is 4.36. Due to his size, he may only get drafted by a team looking for the next Devin Hester to return punts and kickoffs.

Most fantasy leagues do not award points for return yardage, so Moore may not be a useful roster addition. However, in the right situation, his speed gives him potential. Think Darren Sproles.

Donald Brown, University of Connecticut

5’ 10”, 208 pounds

A strong runner with great instincts and good hands. Brown makes the list for topping 2,000 yards rushing and scoring 18 touchdowns for the Huskies in 2008.

I do not like his upright running style, however. It may work in college, but not in The NFL. I believe Brown is more of a project, and any success will come on special teams.

He has potential if he can add bulk to his frame, and learn to lower his shoulders and keep a low center of gravity while running the ball.

Javon Ringer, Michigan State

5’ 9”, 202 pounds

A smallish runner with decent speed, Ringer managed to rush for 1,637 yards and an impressive 22 touchdowns in 2008.

His history of knee problems will likely prevent NFL teams from spending a high draft pick on him.

He tore his ACL in high school and missed time in 2006 with another knee injury. Making matters worse, he had to withdraw from the 2009 Senior Bowl because he needed to have his knee scoped.

He has good hands, and has drawn comparisons to Steve Slaton. Ringer is a very talented running back, and perhaps if he can stay healthy and land in the right situation, he may be able to make similar contributions in 2009 as Slaton did in 2008.


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