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Fantasy Football 2006: Running Backs

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The running back is a player that can accumulate points like no other position.  Even though a quarterback is important to a team because of leadership, and the fact that he can bring in lots of points, a running back can be the most versatile.  Just look at Ladainian Tomlinson last year; he scored a touchdown by rushing, receiving, and passing in a single game.  If that doesn't say versatility then I don't know what does.

Another great part about a running back is that you usually start more than one on your team.  The normal amount is two, which means that you can not only have one of the best backs in the league, but a second as well.  That means well if you are looking to score tons of points.  Lets say every ten yards rushing is worth one point, and every rushing touchdown is worth six.  If a player breaks a forty-yard run for a TD, then you pick up ten points just like that.  A couple of big plays could swing an entire game around for your fantasy team.

The depth at running back in the NFL this season is unbelievable.  No team should be short on at least one great running back after their league's draft.  Even the rookies coming in have a chance to make an impact at their respective teams.  It'll definitely be interesting when the draft order makes its way to you.  The choices are unlimited almost.  Taking a quarterback with the first pick will give you that one player you need to be solid each and every week, and then even in the second round you could still be getting a top ten caliber running back.

Just as it was with the QBs, I'll look at the running backs by individual categories.  Let's break it down.

BEST OF THE REST - Running backs that can carry your team with a big run.
**Shaun Alexander (Seahawks) The reigning MVP set a record for most rushing touchdowns in one season after a career year in the Seahawks backfield.  The chances of him doing it again in 2006 aren't in his favor, especially with the loss of all-pro guard Steve Hutchinson.  But, how can you go against someone that has been so productive?  He can score from midfield or from the goaline.  An all-around seasoned back is something that you'll get from Shaun Alexander.

**LaDainian Tomlinson (Chargers) The new LT of the NFL is making a name for himself.  Last season he not only was a great player as a running back, but also as a receiver and even sometimes a quarterback.  Tomlinson didn't gain as many rushing yards compared to other top RBs, but he made up for that by doing everything else.  On top of the 20 rushing touchdowns by Tomlinson, he also had 2 receiving and 3 passing.  Any opponent of a person with LT on his fantasy team should be worried because he can beat you in so many different ways.

**Larry Johnson (Chiefs) Nobody expected Larry Johnson to have the type of season he did.  Most of the fantasy football previews I've seen have him listed as the top overall player on the big board, and have him as a potential MVP candidate.  There's no doubt he deserves those accolades after rushing for 1,750 yards and scoring 21 touchdowns on the ground.  Johnson filled in for an injured Priest Holmes, and now, even if Holmes returned, would still have a secure starting job.  Johnson is one of the top three RBs in the NFL.  Just mix him in with the two players mentioned above and rank them.  It's really a toss-up.  Johnson, just as the other two, could easily be an impact player on your roster all season long.

**Others The top three really separate themselves a little bit coming into the '06 season.  Don't take anything away from Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, or Tiki Barber (just to name a few), but there are some questions surrounding each of them.  Edge is a great back, but with an offensive line that hasn't proved itself yet in Arizona, can he really be that efficient?  Clinton Portis will be great under new offensive coordinator Al Saunders, but will a pass-oriented offense take away some of his carries?  Finally, Tiki Barber had his best season in 2005, can he come back in 2006 and match that?  These questions will answer themselves in the next season, but, until then, I'll just keep them in the others category.

NEWCOMERS - These rookies will be in the thick of things come September.
**Joseph Addai (Colts) With the exit of Edgerrin James to Arizona, the Colts will have a battle between Dominic Rhodes, and rookie out of LSU Joseph Addai for the starting spot.  Either one will be a good fit in the Colts offense.  Its just a matter of time before Addai has the starting spot locked up.  Just see Stampede Blue's Addai stat tracker in the left-side panel.

**Laurence Maroney (Patriots) Corey Dillon's best years may be behind him.  The Patriots were forced to rely on a pass-oriented offense last season, and were knocked out of the playoffs against Denver partly because of it.  Working towards a more balanced attack will include Maroney.  Dillon will have to fight in order to be named as the starting back before each game.

**DeAngelo Williams (Panthers) Rushing almost 2,000 yards in his final season at Memphis shouldn't be taken lightly.  Although the talent he faced may not be up to par when looking at the other teams players faced, it shouldn't go unnoticed.  Williams will be waiting behind DeShaun Foster. With many recent injuries, how long can Foster hold up?

**Reggie Bush (Saints) The talk of a holdout shouldn't deter you.  Even though some news outlets are saying he could holdout the entire season and re-enter the 2007 draft, don't take that talk too seriously.  No player would be stupid enough to do something like that, especially when playing for a city like New Orleans.  It's just a matter of time before Bush is signed and hits the field.  Use some caution with him, but don't miss out on a great player because of these rumors.

SLEEPERS - Going somewhat unnoticed may be in your favor with these players.
**Ronnie Brown (Dolphins) Ricky Williams having to sit out a year with a suspension may not be all that bad for Ronnie Brown. Without another back in the mix, Brown can take all of the carries and become a solid player.

**Marion Barber (Cowboys) Although he is the backup to Julius Jones, Barber saw some good playing time in his rookie season. If something were to happen to Jones then Barber would be the next in command. With T.O. in town, you know there will be plays where space is open because of tight coverage on the outspoken receiver.

**Brian Westbrook (Eagles) The solid wide receiving corps from a few years ago isn't present in Philly any longer. Add that to an injury-recovering Donovan McNabb, and you've got to have more running plays called. Andy Reid has focused on the passing game too much in past years, and it has caught up with him. Westbrook will shift from the receiving RB to an actual rushing RB in 2006. His explosiveness would help out a fantasy team in need any day.

The wide receivers are next on the list of the 2006 fantasy football preview. Look out for part IV sometime very soon.