Dynasty Shopping Mall - Reserve RBs

  Posted 9/17 by Jeff Tefertiller, Exclusive to Footballguys.com

Just like any other shopping mall, this one will have different products at different levels of quality and price. In this series, we will shop around at different stores like Bloomingdales, Macy's, Sears, even the Dollar Store and look for products to buy. The focus will be on value. Many times the expensive products are worth the price. Some times they are not. We will examine opportunities to buy at a reasonable price compared to value. The products we are purchasing are fantasy players for our dynasty team. This study will examine purchasing backup running backs for your fantasy team. This is the time of the year to acquire rushers that are backups on their NFL teams. Each and every season, these reserve players emerge seemingly out of nowhere to be viable fantasy options. Since we are still very early in the season, this is the time to buy. The emphasis will be on talent and the ability to produce if given the opportunity. Not all players and situations are created equal. Some of these will be young, some not so young. The situations will be varied, but these were chosen because all are expected to be the primary back if something happens to the starter.

Ladell Betts

The Washington Redskins have a potent pair of running backs. Clinton Portis is coming off of a strong season while leading the league in rushing attempts. The Redskins wanted to draft Portis out of college, but the Denver Broncos took him just before the Redskins' pick. So, they settled on the former Iowa Hawkeye. It took a trade with Denver to get Portis in the nation's capitol. Washington runs Portis a lot. The former Miami Hurricane has been pretty durable throughout his career, but it is a concern going forward. In 2006, Portis was injured leaving Betts to pick up the slack. Well, Ladell Betts surprised many by producing good numbers and was a Top 10 fantasy back for that season. He has shown he can produce strong numbers if given a chance. Clinton Portis has received a lot of carries so far this season. This has limited Betts' production.

  • Outlook: Ladell Betts is locked up after re-signing with the Redskins. He will probably end his career in Washington. To many, Betts looks to be a career backup that needs an injury to make an impact. Clinton Portis has taken a pounding during his career and has a high number of carries even though he is still young. During his six seasons in the NFL, the former Miami star has the fifth most carries in the league. In fact, he has averaged over 20 carries a game throughout his career. At 27 years old, Clinton Portis' real age and football age are very different. Betts is a versatile back with good receiving skills that has proven he can produce as a fantasy RB1 if given the opportunity.
  • Store: Old Navy.
  • Price: A 2009 2nd round pick or a good prospect.
  • Recommendation: Buy if you need RB depth for a playoff run. Clinton Portis will have a difficult time keeping up the pace with so many carries each and every year. Betts is a proven performer and is very startable if something happens to Portis.

Chester Taylor

Chester Taylor has played well the two years as a Minnesota Viking. Since coming over from Baltimore, the veteran back has accumulated over 2,000 rushing yards and 569 receiving yards. He plays behind Adrian Peterson so any opportunity is reliant upon an injury to the young stud. In 2007, as Peterson's backup, Taylor still accumulated 1,125 total yards and seven scores. This was good for a RB20 finish in fantasy leagues. So far in 2008, the Vikings have given Peterson almost every carry. Taylor is not seeing the carries he had in 2007.

  • Outlook: Chester Taylor is 29 years old and does not have many seasons left. Most of his value comes from playing behind a great offensive line and backing up Adrian Peterson. Given the former Sooner's injury history, it is very probable that Chester will get an opportunity to start a few games in 2008. He will be a fantasy starter those weeks without regard to the opponent.
  • Store: The Gap
  • Price: 2009 2nd round pick or 3rd round and a good prospect.
  • Recommendation: Buy if you need a back for the stretch run. His value will shoot through the roof if Peterson is injured, but could decline dramatically next offseason when he turns the magical age of 30 years old. Also, with Peterson getting almost every carry, the price for Chester Taylor is lower now than this time last season.

Kolby Smith

Kolby Smith was thrust into the limelight as a rookie and put up respectable stats. The former Louisville Cardinal filled in nicely for the injured Larry Johnson. Smith is a bigger back that was used both as a running back and a fullback in his first year. He catches the ball well and runs decisively. Smith is a runner that would be a good fit for a zone blocking team. He profiles as little more than a career backup that could produce if given a chance. Oddly, Smith was a healthy scratch from the week one game against the Patriots. He did play in week two against the Raiders.

  • Outlook: The Kansas City Chiefs realize that Larry Johnson may not have many seasons left. They drafted Jamaal Charles to provide a spark to the running game. Charles is a very fast runner that may struggle as a primary back. Smith should have a long-term role on the team, even if not as the primary ball carrier. The Kansas City Chief offensive line is poor and will be so for at least a couple more years. Kolby Smith did play well in preseason so there is hope.
  • Store: Sears
  • Price: A 2009 4th round pick or a prospect.
  • Recommendation: Avoid unless you need short-term help and believe Johnson will get nicked up in 2008. If something was to happen to Johnson, the Chiefs would utilize a committee with Smith and Charles splitting carries. Limiting Smith's value is the expectation that if a serious injury happens to Johnson, the Chiefs will address the position again in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Andre Hall

Andre Hall is the forgotten back in Denver. He was productive in college and overshadowed in 2007 by the emergence of Selvin Young. Andre Hall is a physical runner who offers versatility to the Bronco offense. Selvin Young is a change of pace back masquerading as a primary back. As a rookie, Young's yards per carry average was almost twice as good in the first half of games in comparison to the last half. Hall is a tough runner who may emerge as the Bronco's starting runner. The zone blocking system is a good fit for his running style.

  • Outlook: With the departure of Travis Henry, and injury to Ryan Torain, Andre Hall should get carries every week. He will have the opportunity to surpass Young and be the primary runner. The only other back on the team is Michael Pittman, who is used primarily at the goal line. The Denver running back situation is fluid and things will change by the day. Ryan Torain is expected back around midseason. He has battled injury woes throughout college and now in Denver.
  • Store: J.C. Penney
  • Price: 2009 3rd round pick
  • Recommendation: The Bronco running back merry-go-round makes this a hold. Hall is a great sleeper pick this season. Fantasy owners are focused on Selvin Young, who could not stay healthy in college. Even if he is able to prove durable, Young is best used on third downs and obvious passing situations. Hall could be a Top 20 fantasy back in 2008 if given the opportunity. But, who knows what will happen in Denver. Best not to spend much to get a piece of that group.

Tim Hightower

Tim Hightower is a name that fans are just now hearing. But, the former Richmond star has ability. He was drafted into the IDEAL situation for his skill-set Hightower is a powerful runner who can get the tough yards as well as make the big play. He has already solidified himself as the primary backup to Edgerrin James. The Cardinals want to be an effective running team. This mindset comes from the former Steeler coaches heading the staff. The team will seek a strong ground game to provide balance to the offense. This will give the ball carriers more opportunities as the team has leads deep into games.

  • Outlook: Tim Hightower is a name most fantasy owners will want to remember. He backs up Edge, who has a lot of carries in his illustrious career. It was reported in preseason that the team wants to give the rookie about one-third of the team's rushes, which is a significant amount. In addition, Hightower looks to be the goal line back. In fact, he is already establishing his ability to find the end zone. This all adds up to value.
  • Store: The Gap
  • Price: 2009 2nd round pick
  • Recommendation: Buy if you are a believer in the former Richmond star. He does have talent and is in a great situation. The one hesitation is the price. This might be expensive for an unproven rookie from a smaller school. In addition, the Cardinals might draft a top back in the 2009 NFL Draft if the Edge starts to dull or break.

The upside players on a fantasy team come from the bench players. These reserves enable an owner to have some potential upside for later in the season. Injuries to running backs are commonplace these days. One or more of the backs listed above will get an opportunity to showcase his ability in 2008. As a dynasty owner, that is about all you can ask. Acquire talented players and hope they get the opportunity. Early in the season is the time to buy.