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Building A Dynasty
Running Backs
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs

Joe provides his positional rankings for dynasty leagues in this multi-part series. He assesses these players according to three categories—long term, short term, and job security. Joe will update these rankings periodically throughout the year.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD
Long Term View (LTV): Tomlinson will turn 28 this week, giving him two more seasons before he reaches his 30th birthday--an age when most NFL running backs begin to break down. Despite the fact Tomlinson is entering a point in his career where he is one of the older featured backs in the NFL, his production since entering the league is too great to ignore. Since his rookie season, the six-year vet has never finished with less than 10 rushing touchdowns, 1200 rushing yards, or 50 receptions in a season. A point scorer like that is a rare find, making Tomlinson the most valuable commodity in all of fantasy football. Should his production begin to drop after his 30th birthday, it's likely he will remain among the top fantasy scores for another season or two given the production he has provided in the past.

Short Term View (STV): Norv Turner replaces Marty Schottenheimer in San Diego this year following a 14-2 record during the 2006 season. Despite the coaching change, don't expect much difference in the amount of production Tomlinson will provide. Turner has gotten great performances from running backs he has worked with in the past as both an offensive coordinator and head coach in the league. The Pro-Bowl caliber season Frank Gore produced last year in San Francisco is the most recent example. Expect a minimum of 1300 rushing yards and another 10 or more rushing touchdowns from Tomlinson in 2007. He should tack on at least another 50 receptions and 500 receiving yards as well.

Job Security (JS): Tomlinson is signed through 2011 with the San Diego Chargers, which means he'll be 32 by the start of 2012 season. Until that time, expect him to remain the featured back in San Diego. Once his contract expires, it's possible he'll sign elsewhere as he plays out the last few seasons of his career.

2. Joseph Addai, IND
LTV: In Addai's rookie season, the first round pick in the 2006 draft rushed for more than 1000 yards, and recorded 40 receptions despite splitting time in the backfield with incumbent starter Dominic Rhodes. With the departure of Rhodes via free agency this off-season to the Oakland Raiders, Addai is now the featured ball handler in Indianapolis' backfield. With the success he had as a rookie last season, there's reason to expect good production on a consistent basis from Addai in the years ahead. Playing in a high-powered offense which features Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne also contributes to his value.

STV: With Rhodes out of the picture, the path is now cleared for Addai to take over as the Colts featured running back. After averaging just over 14 carries a game last year, there's a good chance he'll receive an average of 18-20 carries a game this season. At that rate, Addai will be on pace for about 300 carries and should deliver with 1200-1300 rushing yards. He should also have 7-10 touchdowns, and at least 50 receptions after Rhodes and Addai combined for 76 of them last year.

JS: Addai's contract that he signed as a rookie last year runs through the 2010 season. While he is in position to become the team’s primary running back during that time, he'll need to meet expectations placed upon him to retain that role. At the moment, there's little indication he won't be able to do so.

3. Steven Jackson, STL
LTV: Despite three years of NFL experience, Jackson remains one of the youngest running backs in the league. At the age of 23 (he'll be 24 at the start of the season), he's coming off the most productive outing of his young career and appears to have a bright future ahead of him. The Rams selection of Brian Leonard in the second round of this year’s draft diminishes his value slightly, but as Leonard is worked into the offense, the fewer touches Jackson receives should serve towards extending his career as a featured back in the NFL. After totaling 436 touches (rushing attempts + receptions) last season, there will still be plenty of opportunities for Jackson going forward in Linehan's offense regardless of Leonard's presence.

STV: With the addition of Leonard in the draft, don't expect another 90 receptions from Jackson this year. Linehan's already on record stating he would like to see his second round pick take 15-20 snaps a game, lining up at both the fullback and halfback positions. He's also mentioned periodically using him as both a 3rd-down and short yardage back to lighten Jackson's workload. While that may be true, you can still expect the Oregon State product to finish with another 300-plus carries while rushing for more than 1300 yards and reaching double-digits in touchdowns. Leonard is going to eat into his reception totals, but Jackson should still finish with 55 or more.

JS: Jackson's contract expires following the 2008 season. Expect the Rams to either sign him to extension before then, or slap the franchise tag on him in order to keep him around. Leonard could prove to be a valuable commodity in the Rams offense, but he's more of a complimentary back within the system. It's unlikely they envision him as a featured back capable of replacing Jackson after the 2008 season.

4. Frank Gore, SF
LTV: Gore enters his third year in the league coming off a stellar season with the 49ers. In just his second season, Gore rushed for 1695 yards on 313 carries, averaging 5.4 yards per carry in the process. He also rushed into the end zone for 8 scores, while recording 61 receptions, for 485 yards and another touchdown. Surrounded by young talent at the QB and TE position, along with the additions of wide receivers Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie in the off-season, it appears the future is bright for the 3rd-year running back as a young 49ers offense continues to develop.

STV: While the new additions at wide receiver should provide a boost to the 49ers offense, it may be difficult for Gore to match the success he achieved last season when he totaled more than 2000 yards. While his yardage totals are likely to drop, there's a good chance we'll see an increase in his number of touchdowns this season. Expect him to rush for 1300-1400 yards, with 10-12 touchdowns, and around 50 receptions this season.

JS: Gore signed a 4-year contract extension with the 49ers in the off-season that doesn't expire until after the 2011 season. The only concern with him going forward is whether or not the injuries that plagued him during his college career will come back to haunt him in the NFL. After watching him start all 16 games last season however, his owner’s worries should be eased.

5. Larry Johnson, KC
LTV: Larry Johnson is 27-years old, will be 28 by the end of the season, and has a contract that expires in 2009 following his 30th birthday. With those thoughts in mind, it's likely the former Penn State tailback will have three strong seasons ahead of him, but beyond that is unknown. If the Chiefs do not wish to resign him after the final year of his contract, it's likely he'll land a starting position elsewhere in the league. At the age of 30 however, it's doubtful he'll produce as a top fantasy performer like he has in each of the past two seasons when that time comes.

STV: This is what keeps Johnson's fantasy value in dynasty leagues so high. After rushing for more than 1700 yards in each of the past two seasons while totaling 37 rushing touchdowns, chances are his production is going to slip this year. Nonetheless, he's virtually guaranteed 300-plus carries while remaining a threat to score 10 or more touchdowns a season while he's with the Chiefs. Consistent production like that is hard to find in fantasy leagues, which is why it would be difficult to pass on Johnson past this point in a start-up draft for your dynasty league. There is a chance he could be in for a disappointing season following Trent Green's departure to the Miami Dolphins, but the amount of work he receives should continue to place him among the top fantasy backs for a few more seasons.

JS: Johnson should remain the Chiefs starting running back for the next three years, but there's a good chance he could be let go after the 2009 season when his contract expires. If he continues to carry close to 350 times per season, the wear and tear will likely take a toll on his body and diminish his value by the time he signs a new deal.

6. Brian Westbrook, PHI
LTV: Westbrook is coming off a career year for himself. A year in which he tallied highs in rushing yards, rushing attempts, and receptions. His 1217 rushing yards marked the first time he surpassed 1000 in a season. The system he plays in complements his pass catching ability so well, that he also remains a threat to record 70 receptions every year. At the start of the season, the 6-year vet will be 28 and is quite possibly entering the prime of his career. He may never rush for 1300 yards in a season, but over the next 3 years you should be able to expect 1000-1200 yards from him on the ground. He'll also remain a threat to record 600-800 yards and finish with 10 or more total touchdowns over that span. While most running backs begin to see a significant drop in production after their 30th birthday, Westbrook's talents match Andy Reid's system so well that he could remain at least quality #2 RB on fantasy teams for a couple more seasons.

STV: The Eagles selected Penn State product Tony Hunt in the 3rd round of this year’s draft, but there still isn't a back on the team that matches Westbrook's abilities. With Marty Mornhinweg providing more input into Andy Reid's play calling last season, it appears the Eagles may finally be ready to run Westbrook more often on a weekly basis. Between his rushing and receiving totals, he's a threat to record 100-125 yards every week. He's also a threat to score a touchdown in every other game.

JS: Westbrook's contract keeps him in Philadelphia through the 2010 season. Expect him to remain the primary focus of the Eagles offense over the next four years.

7. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC
LTV: Jones-Drew's abilities are a lot like Westbrook's. The difference being Drew is just 22-years old, and already has a season under his belt in which he nearly reached 1000 yards rushing despite splitting time in the backfield with Fred Taylor last year. He also rushed for 13 touchdowns, while adding 2 more, and 436 yards receiving on 46 receptions. With the talented, but aging Fred Taylor having celebrated his 31st birthday in January, expect his touches to be reduced in the years ahead while Drew's go on the rise.

STV: Fred Taylor may have another year in him where he can crank out 1000 yards, but with Drew's abilities, the second year back should rush for another 800-1000 yards this year while adding 500 or more with his receptions. He should also score roughly 10 touchdowns this season.

JS: Drew still needs to prove he can be as productive a running back as he was last season while carrying the ball over 200 times a year before securing his role as member of the Jaguars offense once his contract expires. If he continues to match last year’s success it won't be an issue. Expect the Jaguars to fork over the money to keep him around past 2009, at which time his current contract is set to expire.

8. Laurence Maroney, NE
LTV: Like Drew, Maroney is also just 22-years old acquired in last year's draft. He also had solid production over the course of the year. But Maroney didn't come close to matching Drew's output. There are also some concerns surrounding Maroney and his recovery following off-season shoulder surgery. At the moment, it's believed he's on pace to be fully recovered for the start of the season. If so, and he remains injury free throughout the year, he should provide an immediate spark to New England's ground game in his first season as their starter. The only foreseeable reason for why he shouldn't succeed going forward is if injuries keep him off the field. At the moment, he's worth the gamble that he'll be fully recovered to start of the season.

STV: Should Maroney be back to top form at the start of the year, he's likely to finish the season with over 1200 yards rushing and 8-10 touchdowns. Pay close attention to his injury status as the season approaches. If he doesn't participate much in the pre-season, there may be cause for concern.

JS: Maroney's contract has him signed through the 2010 season. Provided he's healthy, he should be New England's featured running back over that span.

9. Ronnie Brown, MIA
LTV: With the addition of Trent Green in a recent trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, Ronnie Brown may finally have some competent play from the quarterback position to keep defenses a bit more honest. Cam Cameron is the new head coach in Miami as well, and he's likely to find ways to make the most of Brown's abilities. The Dolphins also used a second round pick on BYU quarterback, John Beck, in this year’s draft. Entering his third year in the league, Brown's best seasons should still be ahead of him.

STV: With the new offensive system put in place by Cam Cameron this off-season, along with the additions of Trent Green and John Beck at the QB position, expect to see improvements all around from the Dolphins offense. Chris Chambers is likely to bounce back following a disappointing year in 2006, and Ronnie Brown should benefit with the best yearly totals of his young career. Over the next three seasons there is a good chance he'll be rushing for 1200-1300 yards and scoring 7-10 touchdowns per season.

JS: Ronnie Brown has a contract that doesn't expire until after the 2010 season. Expect him to remain the Dolphins primary running back during that time.

10. Reggie Bush, NO
LTV: Reggie Bush is just 22-years old and coming off a season in which he had a team-high 89 receptions as a rookie. His rushing and touchdown totals weren't nearly as impressive as his receiving statistics were, but Bush has the talent to make vast improvements in those areas as his career progresses.

If it weren't for the presence of Deuce McAllister alongside him in the backfield, Bush would rank higher on this list. At the moment, McAllister is 28-years old and has a contract that doesn't expire until after the 2012 season. He also had a strong season last year, and will continue to be a force in the offense run by Saints head coach Sean Payton.

While Bush may one day have combined rushing and receiving totals that surpass 2000 yards a season, the presence of Deuce McAllister is likely to keep him from gaining the opportunity for another 2-3 years. Come that time, the Saints may consider releasing the Mississippi alum as his base salary escalates.

STV: At the moment, Bush can be valued as a high-end number two running back in fantasy leagues. Eight hundred yards rushing may be more towards the high end of what to expect from him on the ground this season, but he possesses the talent to do it. He'll continue to be a receiving threat out of the backfield as well, and is likely to finish with 75-85 receptions this season.

JS: Bush's current contract has him signed through the 2011 season with the Saints. Expect his role to increase as he becomes more involved in the offense. More…

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