Steelers running back Willie Parker was a surprise 15 game starter for the team in 2005, despite being a former undrafted free agent. Parker seemed to come out of nowhere and the combination of his blazing speed and a solid offensive line produced great results considering the cost to acquire him.
He followed that 172 fantasy point season with 267 points in 2006, good enough for fifth overall in the fantasy RB rankings. However, he fell back down to earth in 2007 averaging just under 11 points per game and 10 points per game in 2008, when he missed five games due to injury.
Because he isn’t very shifty or very good at making tacklers miss, Parker has always relied on his speed and there are questions about how much speed he has lost although he is only 28 years old. He relies on his offensive line more than most backs and was injury prone in 2008.
With 2008 1st round pick Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore, who was surprisingly productive last year, in reserve, there are questions about how much Parker will be used in 2009. He struggled in short yardage, continues to be a poor receiving option and the offense seemed to be more in sync at times last year when Moore was getting the reps.
As with all things fantasy football, it’s about value. Parker owners should consider acquiring Mendenhall as a handcuff if the price is right, but it could mean using two picks within the first ten rounds to secure both players. Parker generally comes out of the gate fast and he will have this year in order to secure his job. Look for Parker to remain marginally productive and produce a few solid outings but he’s a fantasy backup in ten team leagues and a low end starter in 12 team leagues.