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Rookie Impact
Running Backs

Note: This series contains excerpts and sample profiles from my 2006 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, an publication available for purchase. For details, sample material, and testimonials for this compendium of game film study and dynasty league reports, go here.

Running back is easily the position with the greatest opportunity for a rookie to make an immediate impact on a fantasy owner’s roster. The list of the best all-time rookie fantasy performances for tailbacks clearly illustrates this fact:

Rookie RBs At Their Best
Last Name First Name FF Pts Rookie Year Rd # Ranking
Dickerson Eric 341.2 1983 1 5 1st
James Edgerrin 315.9 1999 1 2 1st
Portis Clinton 289.2 2002 2 19 4th
Sims Billy 288.4 1980 1 5 1st
Taylor Fred 266.4 1998 1 4 4th
Martin Curtis 264.8 1995 3 4 2nd
Warner Curt 261.4 1983 1 5 4th
Sanders Barry 259.2 1989 1 5 4th
Rogers George 258.0 1981 1 6 4th
Anderson Mike 256.9 2000 6 3 4th
Faulk Marshall 252.4 1994 1 2 4th
Anderson Ottis 251.3 1979 1 5 4th
Walker Herschel 241.4 1986 N/A N/A 4th
Cribbs Joe 232.0 1980 2 1 3rd
Campbell Earl 227.8 1978 1 3 2nd
Tomlinson LaDainian 220.3 2001 1 3 7th
Edwards Robert 216.6 1998 1 4 8th
Woods Ickey 216.5 1988 2 4 6th
Woods Don 211.1 1974 6 8 3rd
Bettis Jerome 209.3 1993 1 3 2nd
Average 254.01 4th

For seven of the past eleven seasons, a rookie runner ended the season no lower than 8th overall for fantasy RBs. Since rookie RBs are rarely taken in the first two rounds of re-draft leagues, that’s potentially quite a bargain for the discerning owner. I remember drafting Clinton Portis in the 9th round of a re-draft league in 2002. Portis fell this far because he wasn’t the opening day starter, but it was worth sitting on the player to see if he got a shot at playing time. I did the same thing with Cadillac Williams in the 5th round last season and he helped carry my team during the first quarter of year until my next pick, Larry Johnson, took over for Holmes.

The key is how many carries will the rookie see? Will the rookie be the feature back from day one, or will he at least be the sure-fire backup to the starter? Neither Dominic Davis nor Corey Dillon were on this list, but their rookie stretch runs as injury substitutes for Edgerrin James and Kijana Carter, helped many owners win championships.

Last year I provided a historical analysis based on the last 54 years of rookie production tiered by rushing attempts. The result was the same as with any NFL RB: A rookie that earns 300 or more carries in a season is going to put up fantasy quality numbers equivalent to a #1 RB in an owner’s starting lineup. Most of the rookies accomplishing this feat were highly touted starters from opening day.

Rookies earning 250-299 carries are generally starters from opening day or prospects that gradually earn more time as the season progresses. Although the fantasy totals aren’t as impressive as the 300+ carry workhorses, the production is still worthy of a starting roster spot to an owner. In some cases, these backs assume the workhorse role at mid-season and carry fantasy owners down the stretch:

Talent and opportunity are the keys for a rookie runner to have an immediate impact. The 2006 class is a deep pool of talent, but many lack the prototypical size that to be viewed as sure-fire starters. Still, there are some excellent multi-dimensional threats among the prospects. Multi-dimensional skill is the theme for this class of backs. Reggie Bush sits atop the draft board and has rare talent. He evokes comparisons to Marshall Faulk and Gale Sayers when the ball is in his hands—he is truly that exceptional. After Bush, there are a few options just a notch below, and several more runners with enough skills to make the most of an opportunity, if given a chance.

The Best And Worst By Category
Category Player Comment
Power DeAngelo Williams From a standpoint of sheer force and size, Lendale White and Cedric Humes are the picks, but in terms of yards after contact and deflecting shots some of these RBs have more power than meets the eye. Williams has the strength to push a pile and Addai is an impressive inside runner.
Cedric Humes
Balance Reggie Bush Both players are extremely difficult to knock off their feet without wrapping up and they can spin away from a tackle for quick, six.
Maurice Jones-Drew
Ball Handling Lendale White Both have impeccable record of fumbles per attempts in their college careers. Terrence Whitehead and Brian Calhoun get an honorable mention for their technique.
DeAngelo Williams
Speed Reggie Bush Both can fly. Bush may have greater acceleration on the field, but Jones-Drew has great long speed.
Maurice Jones-Drew
Vision Reggie Bush Both can spot the cutback and also set up openings in the open field. Bush is extraordinary in this aspect of running.
DeAngelo Williams
Elusiveness Reggie Bush Both have jaw-dropping skills in the open field.
Maurice Jones-Drew
Blocking Joseph Addai Addai is the best blocker of the bunch. Jones gets an honorable mention because he has good technique and is fearless despite his size. Note: Jones was neither draft nor signed by an NFL team.
Carlton Jones
Receiving Reggie Bush There are several good receivers in this class. Bush is a dynamic, downfield threat and Henderson had the heaviest workload as a receiver out of the backfield.

Right Here, Right Now

Reggie Bush, Saints: One of the burning questions of this preseason is whether Reggie Bush will take the league by storm like he did at USC. Will Bush’s game translate easily to the NFL? Deuce McAllister is no slouch himself. While most NFL front offices felt Bush was far and away the best player in this draft, there is a contingent of fans and fantasy owners that believe Bush is nothing more than a glorified WR that will bust in the NFL much like Desmond Howard and Peter Warrick (to some extent thus far).

I’ll tell you right away that I don’t agree this dissenting point of view among the vocal minority. Reggie Bush is quite simply, one of the better college players I have ever seen. When I say “college player,” I mean how he plays without looking at stats or his perceived level of competition. It’s how Bush performed that’s key. I’ll explore how he played as a series of responses to those arguing the contrary viewpoint.

Lendale White did all the dirty work inside. People assume that Reggie Bush can’t run between the tackles because Lendale White was often used as the short yardage and goal line back. USC’s decision to use White in these situations has nothing to do with any deficiencies Reggie Bush has as a runner. Several of Bush’s best runs were between the tackles where he displayed terrific vision and exceedingly rare cuts at full speed.

The coaching staff split the workload to incorporate both backs into the game plan like Auburn did with Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. The rationale is you rotate two excellent players, keeping them fresh while you wear down the opposing defense. Another reason a coach would use both is to take advantage of their strengths. Just because Lendale White is a powerful, inside runner doesn’t mean Bush isn’t effective inside. It just allows a coach to occasionally put Bush in the slot or split wide and utilize the greatest strengths of two players in the same formation. Bush’s receiving skills are coupled with White’s powerful style to keep defenses off balance and drive defenses crazy. As a recruiter, the coach uses both players to show high school prospects that they can buy into the team approach, win games, and still get an opportunity to perform.

Reggie Bush is too small to be a more than a 3rd down back in the NFL. At the combine, Reggie Bush was listed at 5-10, 201 lbs. Clinton Portis, Tiki Barber, Terrell Davis, and Emmitt Smith all weighed less than Bush. Some detractors of Bush say unlike Smith, Davis, and Barber—backs that all gained muscle as they aged—Bush’s legs are too skinny to add extra muscle and he’s already maximized his upper body development. They say Bush won’t last as a between the tackles runner due to his physical proportions.

Even if I were to believe these sudden experts in physiology of football players, and their point about Bush’s potential difficulty adding weight, Warrick Dunn seems to do pretty well at 5-9, 180 lbs. I watched enough games to observe Bush finish runs with a surprising amount of power. He’s no Jerome Bettis, but he won’t crumple in a heap when an LB or DB puts their body into him. Bush dies hard on most of his runs, and displays excellent body lean when wrapped up. Back to the point about Bush’s size, I’d favorably compare Bush’s body type to Clinton Portis—and the Redskins’ back has shown little problem carrying the load for Joe Gibbs.

Bush’s elusive style won’t work in the NFL. This is crux of the Peter Warrick-Desmond Howard argument I mentioned at the beginning. If you remember Warrick and Howard in college, they were quick players with good vision. Their running styles were predicated on stop-start movements and reversing their field. These moves left bigger defenders flat-footed as they found a cutback lane to the open field. When you are among the top 3%-5% of all college athletes, stop-start movements can be highly effective for a runner with good vision.

It’s a different story in the pros. NFL players are much better in pursuit and possess enough short field burst to bring down a runner that attempts a cut back. The speed of the game is too fast for a player to come to a complete stop without someone catching up to him in most situations. There have only been two players that have been able to use this skill in the NFL consistently and effectively in the past 15 years: Barry Sanders and Michael Vick.

Desmond Howard did make the adjustment to become a very good special teams player, which was also the case at Michigan. Howard’s issue had more to do with his skills as a receiver. Warrick has demonstrated he can be a good NFL receiver when healthy, but he’s nowhere near the breakaway threat many imagined he’d be while starring at FSU.

No one should compare Reggie Bush’s running style to Peter Warrick or Desmond Howard. It’s true Bush has made some dazzling open field moves that involve show-stopping reversal of field or stop-start moves which earn him a lot of face time on late night highlight shows. But the most impressive aspect of his running isn’t what he can do against overmatched competition with his speed. What has scouts and draft analysts so enamored with Reggie Bush is his ability to make sharp cuts at full speed.

Most runners have to come to a full stop to make a lateral cut. The elite runners have to slow down or change direction with 3-4 steps, but can do it fast enough to be dangerous in open space—O.J. Simpson was a great example of a slasher (I know, insert tasteless joke here) with this skill. Laurence Maroney also has this type of elite cutting ability. Then there are the mutants. Just like Barry Sanders and Michael Vick are mutants with the power to start-stop without anyone catching them, Reggie Bush can burst through a hole at full speed and change direction with just one step. The only other runner to do this regularly was Gale Sayers.

If you watch ESPN, you’ve probably heard Tom Jackson compare Reggie Bush to Gale Sayers. If you’ve never seen Gale Sayers, ask your father or grandfather how good he was, or go to the library and find a copy of an NFL Films episode that profiles his record, 6-touchdown performance. However you feel about Jim Brown the person is your business, but he is still rightly considered of the greatest three runners of all time. In my book, he is still the best over the course of a career. If you are a football fan, and even just a casual historian of the game, you have to respect Jim Brown as a player and connoisseur of runners. Jim Brown was in awe of Gale Sayers’ as a runner.

So what should we expect from Reggie Bush this year and beyond if he lives up to these expectations? Deuce McAllister is recovering from an ACL tear, so it’s highly unlikely the Saints incumbent starter returns to pre-injury form in 2006. McAllister will play but don’t expect him to gain anything more than 1000 yards, at best. Especially when the Saints have the luxury of a healthy Reggie Bush on the roster. If McAllister looks good, a 50-50 or 60-40 split in carries favoring the New Orleans rookie seems reasonable.

A 40 to 50-reception season also seems within the realm of possibility. Bush may be one of the better receiving prospects in this draft. His ability to separate, adjust to the ball in the air, and use excellent technique to catch the football is unique among backs in this draft class and several others in recent years. I believe 1200 combined yards rushing/receiving—around 200 carries for 850 yards (a healthy 4.25 ypc) and 350 yards through the air—is a reasonable expectation for a player of Bush’s skills. That makes him at least as effective as Cadillac Williams in 2005, the rookie at the top of my list of RBs last year.

Joseph Addai, Colts: The most common summarization of Addai I heard is “He does every thing well, but nothing great.” If that’s true, then I think Addai does a lot of things really well. It is hard for people to fathom a first round draft pick is worth such a grade if he shared time with a committee of backs in college. But I believe Addai does something great: He makes the critical plays in a ballgame with and without the ball in his hands. I watch a lot of SEC football, and Addai wasn’t always flashy but he was most often the player that made the big play in the 4th quarter. Whether they were short yardage runs, big blocks, or receptions, Addai rose to the occasion in situations with a high degree of difficulty. This is a football player with a high level of intelligence and on-field awareness. He is a very physical runner with speed, wiggle, and an all around game as a blocker-receiver. His skill sets are similar to Edgerrin James. While not as good of a short yardage back as the former Colt—few are in my opinion—Addai is more of a game breaker.

The current talk is Addai will split time with Dominic Rhodes. They will initially limit Addai and Rhodes to certain packages of plays within the offense. Even if this turns out to remain the case, I believe Addai will outplay Rhodes to the point that Indianapolis will give him more to learn this year. Addai is a smart risk in rounds 4-6 of most drafts if you don’t have a second RB or aren’t completely sold on the #2 RB you selected. Expect Addai to be the main cog in the backfield before the season reaches the halfway point.

Hot On Their Heels

Lendale White, Titans: I was critical of White leading up to the draft. His weight gain and questionable effort in certain game situations were reasons I gave him a lower grade than he would have earned purely on skill alone. The adjustment wasn’t enough to warn others to “stay away,” but it did give me reason to put him behind 2-3 backs he might be better than if he shows true dedication.

The questionable effort had to do with what I defined as complacency. USC was an offensive monster. Their offensive line was often a dominant unit. White had several touchdowns where he ran untouched through holes between the tackles in red zone situations. The problem is I saw plays where White entered the game in these down and distance situations and promptly got stuffed in the backfield on the first attempt. When studying these plays in more depth, I discovered White didn’t use his immense power to make a hole, but appeared to run with a high pad level into the line as if he were expecting a huge lane to showboat on the way to the end zone. There were also plays where White went down easier than expected when hit in the upper legs or waist.

Despite these criticisms there were many examples of Lendale White bouncing off defenders and wreaking havoc with his size and quickness. White has great feet for a big back and regularly cut back across the offensive formation to gain first-down yardage. I am skeptical White can do this with the same level of success in the NFL, but he’ll be quick enough to find some cut back lanes. He just won’t be pulling any reversal of field ala Marcus Allen against the Redskins in the Super Bowl.

The pairing of White with the Titans is a terrific match for his skills. Jeff Fisher loves to use the power running game and the addition of center Kevin Mawae should stabilize a promising unit. Chris Brown has been the up and down incumbent starter. Brown isn’t a strong short-yardage runner, and durability is a continuing issue. As of writing this feature, Brown has been the subject of rumors involving a trade to a more RB-needy team. If this occurs, it’s a big vote of confidence for Lendale White, Travis Henry, and Jarrett Payton as the Titans depth chart.

It will also mean White will not only see the short yardage and goal line looks, but he’ll get a shot to carry the ball 20+ times per game and wear down opposing defenses. If Brown remains a Titan, look for White to be a part time contributor with the potential of 6-8 scores and some nice games if Brown produces one of his “great in the first half-absent in the second half,” that fantasy owners have learned to dread. If Brown is shipped out of Nashville, White becomes a potential 1200-yard, double digit touchdown producer.

Spot Time, But Big Time

DeAngelo Williams, Panthers: I believe Wiliams is the best runner in this draft not named Reggie Bush. The fact Jacksonville wanted Williams and Carolina’s John Fox chose him over Laurence Maroney, Lendale White, and Joseph Addai adds validation to my point. These are defensive-minded coaches that value the power running game. Deshaun Foster is a talent, but he was George Seifert’s pick. Stephen Davis was Fox’s choice when Foster got hurt. Greg Jones was Jacksonville’s choice despite the presence of Fred Taylor.

Why would two coaches that like the power running game want a back of DeAngelo Williams’ stature? The answer is simply “Williams’ stature.” The rookie out of Memphis is a short, but muscular back with excellent quickness, vision, receiving skills, and power. Yes, power. I watched Williams carry two linemen about the combined weight range of 550-600 lbs from the two-yard line in the 4th quarter of a game—the play after he just made a long run. If that’s not a display of power and stamina, then I don’t know what is (and neither do the two coaches that coveted him). Williams won’t be the next Stephen Davis, but the point is he is more than able to carry the load for an NFL team.

Deshaun Foster is the starter and Jon Fox has made it clear the UCLA alum will get every chance to shake the injury bug he’s suffered since his transition to the pros. Still, I think it is more likely Foster is playing for a second contract, and an opportunity to start elsewhere. Foster can be a great help to Carolina now and have the luxury develop Williams at a comfortable pace and utilize his talent as a receiver and change of pace back in 2006.

This should become more apparent as you watch Williams in limited time this year. If the Colts selected Williams he would have been my highest rated RB as an impact rookie. If Reggie Bush is a comparable player to Gale Sayers, then I will compare DeAngelo Williams to Tony Dorsett. If you’re in a dynasty league, and already have two strong starters at RB, I strongly suggest you consider Williams despite the fact he’s not slated to start this year.

Laurence Maroney, Patriots: Each of the players I have listed thus far has question marks about something: stature, skills, or character. From this standpoint, Laurence Maroney might be the safest back in the draft. While I did see some inconsistency on occasion, Maroney could turn out to be the most successful back in this draft class. There is little question the Golden Gophers star can move the chains as well as break the long run and he is an underrated receiver out of the backfield.

Here are two samples of scouting profiles on Maroney from the 2006 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. This should tell you enough about his game to make an educated decision on the Patriots draft pick. While I believe Corey Dillon still has enough left in the tank to be a good fantasy starter in 2006, Bill Belicheck will likely incorporate Maroney as a change of pace runner if the rookie demonstrates a grasp of the playbook. Remember, Dillon was a great performer in 2004 and still posted respectable totals in 2005, despite playing with a leg injury. But if Dillon experiences a sudden decline or gets hurt again, Maroney is good enough to take the job and keep it—much like Dillon did as a rookie with the Bengals some time ago.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars: If you are going to compare Maurice Jones-Drew with another contemporary NFL player, don’t say Darren Sproles. A more favorable comparison will be Falcons starter, Warrick Dunn. The rookie from UCLA has a good chance to be another exception to the rule when it comes to the likelihood of the NFL having a productive starter under 5’9” tall, and weighing less than 210 lbs.

The obvious question about Maurice Jones-Drew is that he’s 5-6 and has repeatedly missed time due to minor injuries. From the standpoint of physical dimensions, if Maurice Drew were 5-10, he’d probably be close to 220 pounds if you use his current proportions (of course what do I know, I suddenly didn’t become a physiologist like some of the Reggie Bush detractors). If Drew had these proportions, the NFL draft would have had two backs or rare caliber.

Jones-Drew is special because of his speed, balance, and elusiveness in the open field. If there is a back that can give Reggie Bush competition as an open field runner, the Jaguars rookie is it. The way the North Florida media is characterizing the relationship between starter and coach, Fred Taylor won’t be in Jacksonville much longer than this year. Taylor will have to stay healthy, and post numbers the team, fans, and fantasy owners expected from the supremely talented runner years ago.

This leaves the door open for Greg Jones and Drew either to take over the job or operate as a tandem. Either way, the rookie will have a significant role in the future as a 3rd down back and special teams ace. That’s great for Maurice Jones-Drew, but an either-or situation for fantasy owners: Either he’ll be a starter one day or at best, an Amp Lee type of back capable of being a situational flex player/starter in point per reception leagues.

Depth With Upside

Jerious Norwood, Falcons: The Falcons are very excited about Norwood, a rookie out of Mississippi State that stuck around when former NFL coordinator Sylvester Croom took over the program. Norwood was the focal point of a below average offense in the SEC, but still led the conference in rushing as a junior. Norwood is widely regarded as the sleeper RB of this draft class. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen seems to be making a habit of dubbing an SEC player a sleeper, and he’s latched on to Norwood as one of his 2006 candidates.

The Falcons’ rookie looks like the heir apparent to Warrick Dunn, especially with T.J. Duckett the subject of trade rumors. Norwood is a very fast runner with excellent open field skills. He’s not a powerful back, but he is big enough to run the ball inside. Physically, Norwood reminds me of a slightly less talented Tatum Bell, but with better vision. While Norwood could step in and surprise this year, I don’t think you’ll be seeing him in a significant role until at least 2007. He’s a worthwhile late round pick in a deep redraft, and worthwhile second round pick in a rookie draft for dynasty leagues.

Jerome Harrison, Browns: No one really knows what is going on with Cleveland’s backfield. Rueben Droughns is the incumbent, but his pending off-season assault case may lead to missing time. Despite the fact he’s a determined and powerful runner, he may also have the least amount of natural talent of any back on the depth chart. William Green had one promising season, but is still attempting to round back into form on and off the field. Lee Suggs has the skills to be a great feature back, but can’t stay healthy.

Now add Washington State rookie Jerome Harrison to the mix and who knows what’s going to happen within 6-8 months. While Harrison isn’t expected to compete for the starting job this year, the Browns appeared thrilled to acquire him in the 4th round. This is a back that rushed for 1900 yards last year and showed excellent quickness, patience, and the ability to string moves together in the open field. They believe he’ll compete for the 3rd down role because he’s a good receiver out of the backfield.

What I didn’t expect to see from the 5-9, 200-lb, runner was his balance and stamina. Harrison isn’t terribly difficult to bring down when wrapped up with a good form tackle, but he does a good job deflecting shots and changing angles to slip a tackle. I also watched Harrison stay in the game and continue to receive the ball on consecutive plays after long runs. He literally carried the WSU offense.

It’s not fair to compare a 4th round pick to a star back in the NFL, but Harrison’s size, style, and strengths remind me of Priest Holmes. I don’t project that kind of career out of Harrison, but he’s definitely a player to watch over the next couple of years to see how Cleveland’s backfield shakes out. This is a guy that may have more than meets the eye.

Brian Calhoun, Lions: The Lions rookie had an excellent season at Wisconsin prior to declaring for the draft. Calhoun and Harrison are similar runners in style and possess good hands as receivers. I thought Harrison was a tougher inside runner than Calhoun. This may have to do with the fact I saw a very good run blocking line in front of Calhoun and rarely observed the back gain tough yards after contact. Considering I only saw a limited number of games, it may not be a fair assessment. Still, I feel I saw enough to believe Calhoun is best used in space and is more likely a system back that could perform very well in an offense were he isn’t expected to create yardage after contact.

Sounds like Detroit and Mike Martz’s system is one of the perfect places Calhoun could have hoped to land in the NFL. I don’t believe Calhoun has a shot to beat out Kevin Jones, but I do think Detroit got themselves a back they can trust to be effective whenever they need to put him into the game. Calhoun is worth drafting late in re-drafts, but has more value as a mid-round dynasty selection in rookie drafts.

Leon Washington, Jets: Washington is a solid runner and receiver. I heard a lot of people touting Washington as a vastly underrated player, but I don’t think he has that much upside. He’ll be a capable backup, but any thoughts of him filling Curtis Martin’s shoes aren’t realistic. He needs to develop his skills as a pass blocker because doesn’t take on the blitzing defender with the right positioning. Washington also carries the ball too far away from his body in the open field. He has some power for his size, but he does not have the explosive open field skills that other smaller backs have to compensate for their lack of great power. This is a player that I believe will make good plays for a team if used wisely, but sparingly.


P.J. Daniels, Ravens: I listed Daniels as a project in the 2006 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, but I also stated I wouldn’t be surprised if Daniels finds his way into a starting lineup and make it difficult for a coaching staff to remove him. Next thing you know, the Ravens picked him and compared him to their former change of pace back Chester Taylor—the Vikings new starter.

Daniels was a walk-on at Georgia Tech that earned the starting job. Georgia Tech is not a consistent, football powerhouse, but they to churn out some excellent prospects from time to time and play competitively in a quality conference. The team has a former pro coordinator with an excellent background (Chan Gailey) and Daniels has shown a lot of skill against some teams loaded with future NFL prospects. D

There is a lot to like about Daniels’ game. He was one of the better pass blocking backs I observed on tape this year and he runs with quickness, balance, and power. He can break a long run despite his slow combine time, but he’s more of a grind it out runner. I’d place Daniels in the Stephen Davis-Mike Anderson mold—a back that can give you the long run on occasion but is more of a chain mover. Speaking of the former Bronco, any guess who Daniels gets to learn from? This situation should be beneficial for the young overachiever to learn from and older one.

Daniels enters a seemingly loaded backfield, but I think the way the depth chart looks is deceiving on paper. Mike Anderson is a short term insurance option if Jamal Lewis doesn’t return to form. Speaking of Lewis, he’s a power back with enough seasons in the NFL for fantasy owners to be wary about him returning to stud status. If Musa Smith had shown anything thus far, Anderson wouldn’t be in the picture. In fact, Chester Taylor was a lower pick and outplayed the former Georgia stand out. Look for Daniels to see extensive time in the preseason and if he catches on quickly, he could see small opportunities to play this year.

Unless Anderson or Lewis goes down, I wouldn’t recommend Daniels as a pick in even a deep re-draft league. On the other hand, I strongly endorse the Ravens rookie as a dynasty selection in the mid-to-late rounds of a rookie draft. If his stopwatch speed were better and he didn’t suffer some minor injuries that caused him to miss time in college, I think Daniels’ value would have been more at the level of a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

Wali Lundy, Texans: Have you ever watched a talented runner that was not a good fit for his offense? Then you must have been a University of Virginia football fan while Marques Hagans was the quarterback running a spread offense. When Matt Schaub was under center, Lundy looked like a potential first day selection, and likely a late first-early second round pick. Once Schaub became an Atlanta Falcon and Al Groh installed the spread offense, Lundy looked like an average college back. Jacksonville sub Alvin Pearman often looked better than Lundy.

That is because Pearman’s skill sets are more suited to the spread offense. Lundy has quick feet and is a good receiver out of the backfield, but he doesn’t have the lateral movement of a scatback to primarily be effective on draws and delays. Lundy is a downhill runner that is most productive out of the I-formation. The Texans’ pick is a strong goal line runner and gains yards after contact. In other words, he’s in the mold of runners you would often find in offense Houston’s new coach Gary Kubiak ran in Denver.

Domanick Davis is reportedly having a very slow recovery from knee surgery so it’s not out of the question that Houston will rely more on its depth. Vernand Morency is the likely choice, but Davis’ injury gives Lundy an opportunity to show is skills this summer. Lundy has experienced his share of injuries, but none really major.

If he can remain healthy through training camp, he might have a chance to surprise. Fantasy owners should only consider Lundy at the tail end of a re-draft if no major names are added to the depth chart in lieu of Davis’ slow recovery, but they should increase his value slightly in dynasty leagues.

Late Round Gambles and Long Shots-Dynasty Only

Andre Hall, Buccaneers: I enjoyed studying this back. He had an impressive performance against NC State and their defense of touted prospects upfront. Hall has great balance, vision, and hands. Many analysts thought Hall had a chance to go in the mid-rounds, but ended up an unrestricted free agent pick of the Buccaneers. He has a shot to make the depth chart as the #3 RB and move up if he shows something this summer against a consistently higher level of competition.

Cedric Humes, Steelers: Humes is a bruiser that has a no problem making a hole where there isn’t one. He goes to a Steelers squad where the retirement of Jerome Bettis leaves an opening for Humes to compete for a situational role. He runs a little too upright for a big back, but he’s a warrior that matches the spirit of the Steelers franchise (he played last season with screws in his arm).

Mike Bell, Broncos: There are parts of Mike Bell’s game I really like—he’s a smooth runner that shows potential to develop as both a pass blocker and receiver. He gave good effort on an overmatched Arizona squad last year. He was clearly the team’s best offensive player. If Denver doesn’t bring in another back, Bell could make the depth chart. I think he has a chance to impress, but he’s a guy you shouldn’t seriously consider at this stage, just keep an eye on his progress.

Taurean Henderson, Vikings: Henderson looked very good running out of the I-formation at the Shrine Bowl, but I thought he was merely average against a fast Alabama defense in Cotton Bowl. The Vikings signed him as a free agent and I expect Henderson to impress them with his great receiving skills. But he will have to show a lot more quickness to make this roster. I think Henderson is a smart football player that could eventually make a team and contribute, but his best chance might be the Aaron Stecker route: NFL Europe.

Gerald Riggs, Jr., Dolphins: I expected so much more from Gerald Riggs, Jr. when he enrolled at Tennessee. He doesn’t have much of a burst and he doesn’t break tackles—two things you would expect from this runner that was so highly touted last summer. Now he’s trying to earn a roster spot in Miami. Initial word out of camp was Riggs looked impressive. I’m waiting for the pads to go on, because he certainly didn’t show in college what he’s showing now the Dolphins coaching staff in non-contact drills. Maybe the light has come on for him. At best he earns the #3 RB position this year—but that would be a surprise.

Damien Rhodes, Texans: The Syracuse runner came to upstate New York has a big-time prospect that had moments, but for the most part, underachieved during his career as an Orangemen. There are parts of Rhodes game that make you think with more coaching, he could develop into a quality starter on the pro level. He catches the ball well and displays a nice combination of speed and power.

The problem is Rhodes lacks vision as a runner. You give Andre Hall’s vision to Rhodes and the Houston Texans just signed an undrafted free agent that is going to make several pro bowls. Too bad the NFL can’t mix and match player skills, or players can sell each other’s physical skills for transplantation and a piece of the earnings…then again, maybe it is a great thing they can’t do this…

Quinton Ganther, Titans: Ganther is a fine receiver out of the backfield with a straight ahead running style. He’s built more like a fullback and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Titans convert him to this position. Ganther runs with excellent balance, but he’s a straight-line runner with more creativity in the open field than in the hole.