Faceoff: Who is the #4 RB?
Clayton Gray: If Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, and Ray Rice are gone, who are you taking at running back? Why?
Andy Hicks: Adrian Peterson or Matt Forte.
Peterson is obviously the biggest question mark and due to his injury cloud, you should not have to draft him in the top 5, but I have him in my top 5 as he is clearly the most consistent fantasy back of his generation. Top 3 finishes in each of his first 4 seasons and on track for 5 in a row until his knee gave way are reasons to at least look at him very closely. Obviously if there is clear news that he will not start the season or even worse start it on PUP, then he deserves to be moved down draft boards, but at this stage being on PUP for training camp are the team being cautious. It is all about 2012 though and Peterson himself has made a good recovery and looks to be on track to start the season, which is why I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and feel he is a safer option than Mathews. At 27 years of age he still has life left to continue his consistent fantasy history.
For Matt Forte, after his phenomenal rookie season he seemed to go off the boil, but the last 2 years have seen form more like year 1, than year 2. He was on track for a top 5 finish last year before a knee sprain put him out. As one of the best receivers at his position and as the Bears offense runs through him, he will put up fantasy points good enough for a top 5 finish without needing a slew of TDs. If he can crack the 10 touchdown mark then he is a top 5 certainty. Michael Bush has always been an excellent complementary back without being trusted to carry an offense for a season and that won't change in Chicago. Marion Barber and Chester Taylor have recorded similar numbers as Forte's deputy compared to what Bush has in Oakland and Forte has still dominated in Chicago. Forte is a top tier back and will prove he earned every cent of his new contract this year.
Jeff Haseley: This is a critical question, because anyone in the 4th or 5th spot will likely have to endure this situation. My vote is for Chris Johnson. In my opinion, this has to be a running back, unless the scoring format greatly favors the quarterback. Then and only then would I take a long look at Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. If the scoring system is that strong, one of Rodgers or Brady could already be off the board and thus the 4th ranked RB could still be there. We know what Chris Johnson is capable of, and personally I feel he still has the ability to be a 1,400-yard rusher with double-digit touchdowns. He fell out of favor with fantasy owners, but I think we will see a rejuvenated Chris Johnson that will definitely see the bulk of the team's carries in 2012. In an era where there are not many teams that employ a one-RB approach, having Johnson on your squad is a definite advantage, in my opinion.
Ryan Hester: As of this writing, I have Chris Johnson in that spot, but the gap between McCoy and Johnson is much larger than the gap between Johnson and my fifth-ranked back -- Darren McFadden.
In fact, Johnson's uninspired performance in Tennessee's first preseason game reminded me too much of last season and has me very close to moving McFadden ahead of Johnson. Injuries are so incredibly hard to predict, and while McFadden has had his fair share, he's still dynamic enough to be worth the risk to me. If he plays in just 12 games, he can put up numbers that make it worth having to find a "replacement level" RB for the other games.
Jeff Pasquino: Normally I would go conservative, but given how few feature running backs there are and the thought of having to compete with teams with the Top 3 RBs in tow, I vote Darren McFadden. Sure he has injury history, but when he's in the lineup he is right there on a points per game basis with most any running back in the league. He doesn't face the touchdown vulturing from Michael Bush any longer and the Raiders want to give him the ball plenty. If he stays healthy I can easily see McFadden as a Top 3 RB when the season is over.
Anthony Borbely: I would have to go with Chris Johnson. I'm not worried about his stats from the preseason opener. Last year, Johnson was doomed from the start with his holdout, but he is in much better shape this year and in an offense that should be better than last year. With Jake Locker winning the QB battle and with the addition of Kendal Wright, the Titans offense should be more of a vertical attack, especially when Kenny Britt returns from his expected suspension. Add in Nate Washington and and improving Jared Cook and it will be much more difficult for defenses to stack the box with eight defenders. I also expect Johnson to be a big part of the passing game.
Steve Holloway: The combination of this question and the one regarding who would you take as the #2 wide receiver is highligting to me the almost unanimous consenus at the top of this year's drafts and why the top quarterbacks and tight ends have creeped into the first round. There seem to be several candidates for both and the #2 wide receiver and the #4 running back.
I really like Jeff's choice of Darren McFadden as the guy that I think can finish as the #4 or higher running back, but I would prefer to get him close to the bottom of the first round. I also think that Maurice Jones-Drew has the ability and opportunity to finish that high, but with him not at camp, he slides even farther down the draft lists. When he does join the team though, I think he or McFadden are the top candidates to finish as running back #4.
Mark Wimer: I'm with Jeff here - Darren McFadden is the clear "next-best" after Foster/Rice/McCoy - he's just so explosive and we saw that on Monday Night Football just a few days ago in the preseason opener. With Bush gone, McFadden has superior prospects as a high-yardage, high-reception, high-touchdown featured back. I think he has a legitimate shot at #1 fantasy running back overall if everything breaks right for Oakland this year (the offensive line stays intact; Carson Palmer is more proficient running the passing attack this year, etc.).
Will Grant: I LOVE DMAC this year - even wrote up the spotlight on him. I really think he's a top 5 potential back like everyone else here mentioned. However, his total lack of history with anything close to 225 carries is very concerning. It's definitely a boom or bust type of thing - take him high and hope he holds out. You might also consider going RB-RB in the first two picks to make sure you have him covered well with a solid RB.