The running back is a former cornerstone to any championship Dynasty football team. Players like Marshall Faulk and Priest Holmes used to singlehandedly carry a lineup to a title. In the current version of the NFL, though, each team seemingly needs at least 2, if not 3 productive RB's on their roster. Gone are the days of every NFL team feeding one RB the ball 25 times a game every game. RB's are now asked to be productive while only touching the ball 10-15 times a game. So, while this new line of thinking thins out the value of most every RB, it also creates opportunity for more RB's to be fantasy relevant. The 2010 Draft Class is not filled with many RB's that will blow you away with their franchise player ability. Instead, though, you'll find numerous prospects that could very well be fantasy factors as part of commitees and time shares. Let's take a look at some of the top Dynasty prospects at the RB position.
College: Clemson (4 Year Senior)
Height-Weight: 5'11" 196lbs
Player Comparison: Jamaal Charles
Ideal Landing Spots: Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers
Comments: CJ Spiller’s skillset is nothing short of electric as evidenced by his 21 collegiate TD’s of 50 yards or more. He is used to being in a committee, sharing the Clemson backfield for three years with current Cleveland Brown James Davis. When Davis departed for the NFL, Spiller failed to disappoint as he carried the load in his Senior campain. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and added another 500 receiving yards to became the first ACC RB to accomplish this feat within the same season. Spiller is clearly not a traditional workhorse running back or powerful inside runner for that matter, however his skill set will be an asset for any team looking for extreme versatility and playmaking ability . With teams going to two and three back systems, CJ Spiller is an ideal fit as the “speed” component. Where his inside rushing ability lacks, he makes up for it with excellent vision, instinctive running style and and ability to turn the corner outside the tackles. Durability will always be a concern although he will not be required to grind out yardage on the inside. His previous success in a committee makes him an immediate value in Dynasty Leagues. He is a dangerous punt/kickoff return specialist and very good receiver out of the backfield, adding extra value in leagues that implement Return and PPR scoring systems. It is those skills that will have him making an immediate impact player with 15-20 touches per game.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: A Top 3 Dynasty draft pick and an elite talent. Outside of the Top 5, he could be a steal.
College: Fresno State (3rd Year Junior)
Height-Weight: 6’0” 218lbs
Player Comparison: Rashad Mendenhall
Ideal Landing Spots: San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans
Comments: Ryan Mathews is arguably the most complete back in the draft with the upside to be a true franchise RB. At Fresno State, he led the nation in rushing as a Junior amassing over 1,800 yards and 18 TD's on 276 carries (6.5 ypc and over 150 ypg). While this is a heavy workload, his Freshman and Sophomore seasons were limited to an average of under 130 carries per year, partly due to minor knee and foot injuries. Durability remains a concern, but without a tremendous amount of collegiate tread on his tires, Mathews has a frame to add additional mass to help him endure a solid workload at the next level. His limited reception totals in college indicate poor pass catching ability however he has indicated he looks to improve all facets of his game and impressed all in receiving drills at the combine. Paired with his size and speed combination, Mathews has eventual 3 down ability. He is a strong tackle breaker with raw strength to push the pile on Sundays. He impressed at the Combine and put on a show at his Pro Day, solidifying his 1st round draft status. He is regarded as a high character individual and a hard worker. He will have to improve his blocking to immediately find the field as a rookie, however his intangibles are such that he can be an immediate contributor on your Dynasty squad and shouldn't fall outside of the Top 5 in Rookie Drafts.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: Top 5 pick and could push for the 1st overall selection if he lands in the right spot.
College: Georgia Tech (3 Year Junior)
Height-Weight: 5’11” 229lbs
Player Comparison: Shonn Greene
Ideal Landing Spots: Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams
Comments: Dwyer is a bruising back that excelled in Georgia Tech’s triple option offense. He succeeded former Yellow Jacket standout Tashard Choice and filled in aptly. His stock is down because he timed slow at the Combine, but speed is not his game. He improved both his 40 time and his receiving skills at his Pro Day, breathing life back into his draft stock. Dwyer runs with a reckless abandon and overpowering strength that makes him an ideal pile pusher in the NFL. Yes, he is coming from a quirky offensive scheme, but he had success as a freshman under Chan Gailey in a pro style offense. He also showed adequate elusiveness in college and has soft hands that could enhance his fantasy value at the next level. Dwyer could have an immediate fantasy impact and might be under the radar at the moment due to speed and versatility questions. This is a situation where you want to trust the game tape and not necessarily the offseason performance. Don't be concerned with the knocks he has taken for weight control issues. In the right situation where he gets involved in a hardcore conditioning program, Dwyer could evolve into the top pure between the tackles RB of this group. If you need an RB, he possesses exceptional value after the first 15 picks. His long term upside is that of an RB2 in Dynasty leagues, as a grind it out TD machine.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: A late 1st / Early 2nd Round pick, in the 8 - 14 range.
College: Cal (3 Year Junior)
Height-Weight: 5’10” 199lbs
Player Comparison: Steve Slaton
Ideal Landing Spots: Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills
Comments: A game breaker in every sense of the word, Best is unfortunately being hampered by injury and durability concerns. Taking over the starting job from NFL-bound Justin Forsett in 2008, Best displayed his elite athleticisim exploding for for 1,580 yards rushing (8.1 YPC) and 15 TD’s on the ground. He added another 27 catches for 246 yards and a TD through the air. He started out his junior season right where he left off although watched his 1st Round Draft status plummet following a season ending concussion. He has since been medically cleared and ran the fastest timed 40 of any RB at the Combine. He should develop into a top notch receiver out of the backfield. He will make his living outside the tackles, but his inside running skills are hugely underrated where he has developed a skill set of paitently waiting for holes to develop and finding even the smallest creases to run between. He is every bit the playmaker that CJ Spiller is and has a similar fantasy profile. He will however find more inside rushing work than Spiller. His Dynasty upside is limited to being a committee back, but he could develop into a weekly starter as an RB2 or high flex option in the right situation.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: A Late 1st Round Selection, in the 6-12 range.
College: Ole Miss (4 Year Senior)
Height-Weight: 5’8” 170lbs
Player Comparison: A diminunative Reggie Bush
Comments: Versatility is his calling card and will also hold the key to his fantasy success. McCluster did it all at Ole Miss, carrying the ball 181 times as a senior for 1,169 yards (6.5 ypc), adding 44 catches for another 520 yards through the air and 11 total TD’s. During his freshman and sophomore seasons, McCluster was injury prone and did not see much game action. He had a very impressive Senior Bowl performance that boosted his stock in a big way. Many evaluators view him as a WR instead of a RB, but he might just fall into the category of “weapon”. A natural comparison is Darren Sproles, but McCluster may have a higher ceiling because of his advanced ability as a receiver. In fact, he is likely the best pure pass catching RB to enter the draft since Reggie Bush. He does not have Bush’s bulk, but he can have a similar fantasy impact as a dual threat specifically within the open field where his elusiveness is as high as any other player in this class. In your Dynasty league, his stock may drop because of his size and pedestrian Combine performance, but he becomes a great value in the early 2nd round. Ideally, he will land with a team that has a creative offensive scheme or the need for a pass catching RB / slot receiver. A perfect fit in evolving NFL offenses. His Dynasty value will come with big play ability and we love a player that brings it every week with a chip on his shoulder.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 2nd Round Talent that could fall to the early 3rd Round.
College: Auburn (4 Year Senior)
Height-Weight: 5’11” 220lbs
Player Comparison: Marshawn Lynch
Comments: Ben Tate may be the offseason’s biggest winner, boosting his Draft stock with an impressive Combine performance. He looked pedestrian at times in college and never seemed to take full advantage of his skills. Some of this can be attributed to the short period Auburn implemented a spread attack, not suitable to the inside I-formation type downhill power rushing that fits Tate's skill set. He set the record strainght as a Senior, rushing for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his 4 year career (Auburn went back to more of a pro-style attack in 2009). He has a physical profile that suggests he could blossom as an NFL runner, maximizing the potential he flashed in college. He has a thick build and is an impressive tackle breaker, along with solid receiving skills. He does have an inflated perception of himself, but has worked hard this offseason to back up his bravado. There is “workout warrior” danger here, but Tate could be successful if he lands in the right system. His Dynasty Draft stock is all over the board, but has just as much potential as many of the RB’s that will go ahead of him in your draft. Keep an eye on where he ends up during the NFL Draft, because the right situation could boost his value to a surefire 2nd round rookie draft pick with opportunity to get on the field immediately in his rookie year due to his developed blocking skills.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 1st Round Measurables and upside in the 3rd Round. At that point, he is well worth the risk.
College: Mississippi State (4 Year Senior)
Height-Weight: 6’1” 233lbs
Player Comparison: Jamal Lewis
Ideal Landing Spots: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns
Comments: Anthony Dixon measures like a fullback, but has the ability to be a complete RB in the NFL. Dixon's collegiate body of work was impressive versus SEC opponents rushing for just under 4,000 yards and 46 combined TD’s, adding 56 catches for another 449 yards through the air. Dixon showed scouts that he is more than a short yardage specialist although without being drafted into the perfect situation, his early career could be limited to those types of duties. He proved to be a durable inside runner not missing a game in the last three seasons. His 2009 arrest for numerous vehicular infractions should not keep him from a role on an NFL squad. Dixon has legitimate upside, although there is nothing quite separating him from the rest of the RB group. His Dynasty outlook is solid however much like most of the larger backs in this class is largely dependent where he ends up. If he stays under the radar, you might be able to get solid value within the mid 2nd round of your Dynasty draft.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: A Late 2nd Round Prospect for now, with a reasonable bump if he lands in the right situation.
College: Stanford (4 Year Senior)
Height-Weight: 6’0” 231lbs
Player Comparison: Larry Johnson
Comments: Gerhart is not receiving the hype that a Heisman runner-up usually garners heading into this year’s NFL Draft. He is a natural athlete that played three seasons in the OF on Stanford’s baseball team. His future, however, is on the gridiron and he showed promise as a Junior with 1,147 yards and 15 TD’s. He followed that breakout performance with a Senior season that put him on the map, rushing for 1,871 yards and 27 TD’s on 343 carries. He runs with a bruising style and possesses an ideal work ethic. He does lack long speed and elusiveness, but can pick up extra yardage with his power. There was some talk of him switching to fullback on Sundays, but that would be squandering his ability. His ceiling may be lower than most of the other top RB’s in this class, but he does possess a high fantasy floor. Whether he develops into a lead back in a committee or just a short yardage/TD specialist will determine is long term Dynasty value. Considering the fact he is a skilled football player that will play with a chip on his shoulder, he is well worth the risk of selecting him above some of the other more highly rated RB's in this class and may grow into a weekly starter as an RB2 or high upside flex option.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: Mid to Late 2nd Round prospect
College: Tennessee (4 Year Senior)
Height-Weight: 6’0” 225lbs
Player Comparison: Willis McGahee
Comments: An all around back, Hardesty’s long term outlook is cloudy because of three serious knee injuries and a body of work which includes 560 career carries while at Tenn. That is one major knee injury per 186 carries folks) . He excelled in Lane Kiffin’s offense, rushing for 1,345 yards and 13 TD’s as a senior. Hardesty is solidly built with a nice size/speed combination. He does not have one standout skill, but can do everything well. He is a good receiver out of the backfield and can break tackles for extra yardage. He has shown the ability to carry the load in a one-cut, pro style offense. He is by all accounts a high character individual and tireless worker twice voted team captain by his temamates. Hardesty saw his stock rise with an impressive offseason. Durability will remain a serious concern and should be for the discerning Dynasty owner. From skill set alone, we would have him ranked higher than this, but in reality, his overall upside is outweighed by his injury risk, and therefore he should not be targeted until very late 2nd or early to mid 3rd round of Rookie Drafts.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: In the 2nd Round he is a risky prospect, but in the 3rd Round or later, he is a must draft.
College: USC (3 Year Junior)
Height-Weight: 6’0” 190lbs
Player Comparison: Felix Jones
Comments: There are a number of excellent receiving threats in this year’s RB Class, and it seems that Joe McKnight is getting lost in the shuffle. Given his inconsistent 3 year college career, that should not come as a complete surprise. McKnight came to the Trojans with big expectations, as he was replacing all-everything back Reggie Bush. The fact that his skillset was similar to Bush’s raised the stakes even more. While he did not beast in college, he did not exactly bust either. As a junior, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 8 TD’s in a crowded backfield showing decent inside rushing skills. He flashed solid inside rushing ability and he is a highly valuable asset as a pass catcher. He lacks strength and ideal size, which limits his overall upside and also increases the potential for an injury prone career if not utilized properly. He has excellent speed and burst on the outside, which could valuable in the proper system looking at approximately 7-10 touches per game as a pure complimentary back. McKnight could make an immediate impact in PPR leagues however garner overall expectations.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: Late 3rd Round Selection who could push to a 2n Rounder in Return and PPR leagues.
James Starks (Buffalo): Injured for all of 2009, Starks might have been a 3rd round pick if was healthy. He is a workhorse back that could develop into a starter in the NFL, but may need extra time to develop his skills fully. He is an excellent receiving back, which could help his fantasy transition.
Deji Kamin (Southern Illinois): Who we are calling a light version of MJD, his 7.1 yards per carry for just under 1,700 yards and 18 TD's in 2009 have us more than intrigued. More than a few small school running backs and gone onto productive NFL careers.
Charles Scott (LSU): Scott is a big back that lacks breakaway speed and is not really a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. That will limit his upside, but Scott could be a power back and potential goal line vulture in the right situation.
Lonyae Miller (Fresno State): He was solid, but never spectacular for the Bulldogs. As a senior, he played second fiddle to Ryan Mathews, but he has upside if his game continues to develop. He struggles as a receiver out of the backfield and has not shown more than average elusiveness. A late round prospect.
Joique Bell (Wayne State): Division III product that has rushed for over 2,000 yards twice and scored a ridiculous 96 collegiate TD's in just 44 games. He has a ton of carries on his body, but enough juice and versatility to be a late round steal.
Andre Dixon (UConn): Replaced first round draft pick Donald Brown in the Huskies starting lineup. He's no more than a late round speculative pick, but he has the talent and upside to eventually be a fantasy factor.
Andre Anderson (Tulane): Succeeded Matt Forte at Tulane and was off to an excellent start to his junior season before a shoulder injury knocked him out for the year. Bounced back with a solid senior season. Does not have the production or pedigree of a Day 1 or 2 RB, but he is a high upside Day 3 back.
Chris Brown (Oklahoma): Brown enjoyed a huge 2008 season, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 21 Total TD's as a junior. His senior year was a disappointment, as he ran for just 749 yards and 8 Total TD's. Part of that could be attributed to teams keying in on the run with the injury to Sam Bradford. Brown a traditional RB with solid speed and the ability to break tackles. He was a workhorse type in college and that could translate into an opportunity at the next level.
Keith Toston (Oklahoma State): Toston showed his skills immediately at the collegiate level with a strong freshman year, but he struggled as a sophomore and eventually succumbed to a season ending knee injury. He bounced back as a junior and then put it all together as the Cowboys do it all back this season, with 11 TD's, over 1,100 yards and 24 catches. Pass catching ability is a plus for his Dynasty value as he could be a versatile back-up or part-time player in the NFL.
Darius Marshall (Marshall): Like Ahmad Bradshaw, the RB he succeeded at Marshall, Darius Marshall is a diminutive back with plenty of speed and playmaking ability. Also like Bradshaw, Marshall had his share of nagging injuries and character quesitons. He was a very productive back for the Thundering Herd and could step in right away at the next level.
LeGarrette Blount (Oregon): Gained national attention for punching a Boise State player, Blount has worked hard to revive his draft stock. If he is not converted to FB, he could be a solid goal line / short yardage back.