Buy Low, Sell High - Preseason Edition - RBs
By Sigmund Bloom
September 1st, 2010

This preseason edition of Buy Low/Sell High will focus on changes in momentum of player value that you need to take advantage of to dominate your draft.

Buy Low - RB

Steven Jackson - If you pass on Jackson in the mid-to-late first, be prepared for him to be there in the early-to-mid second. Some people report being able to get him in the third round, which is absurd. Jackson is a do-everything feature back in his prime. Fantasy football was built on the backs of players like Jackson, and during the preseason Jackson has looked like his surgically-repaired back will be up to the task again this year. Sam Bradford also looked positively un-rookielike vs. the Patriots, so the offense around Jackson should improve. Don't fall into the trap of disrespecting one of the great backs of our time.

Cedric Benson - Benson is one of the safest plays out there as an RB2 in the third, and he should increase his TD total from last year with a stronger passing game extending more drives. Benson was the only reason the Bengals even had a chance vs. the Jets in the playoffs and he is right there with Michael Turner as one of the premier power runners in the NFL. The Bengals are willing to lean on him and you should be too.

Jahvid Best - The Lions are showing every indication of featuring Best in the backfield and using him frequently as a receiver. He could easily have a Chris Johnson-type rookie season of around 1500 total yards and ten TDs with his long speed and guaranteed workload. His situation and talent is on a par with Ryan Mathews, but for no reason I can discern, he is going off the board at least a round later.

Reggie Bush - Pierre Thomas is the darling of the Saints backfield in the fantasy world right now, but Bush should have more opportunity in the red zone and as a receiver out of the backfield. Bush has carried over the strong play he flashed late in 2009, and he'll be a co-#1 with Thomas even though fantasy ADP would make you think Bush was the #2. He's an outstanding RB3 in PPR leagues.

Marion Barber - The Felix Jones era was never ushered in this summer despite lots of buzz that it would be, but the fantasy world is still treating Barber like a red-headed stepchild. Barber will be the finisher of Cowboys drives and wins, a role that he turned into #14 and #7 ranks at RB in 2006 and 2007, when Julius Jones was getting more touches than him. He's a steal if you can get him as your RB3.

Donald Brown - Joseph Addai has looked terrific in preseason, and he should remain the lead back and hold off Brown this year. Brown still has value as the lesser committee back in a good offense, and he is an instant top 10 back any time Addai gets dinged. He has fallen out of vogue in fantasy drafts, just like Rashard Mendenhall at this time last year. Brown is a pure upside play, but that's what picks after the 8th round at RB and WR are for.

Anthony Dixon, Jason Snelling, Javon Ringer, Toby Gerhart, Rashad Jennings - All of these young talents backup RBs that are the centerpiece of their offense, so think of them as those longshots at the track that make your whole day when they hit. If any of the starters ahead of them go down, you're sitting on fantasy gold, and if the starters stay healthy, you can hold them hostage and hope for a jackpot hit during the fantasy playoffs or extract some value from the owner of their #1 back in a late season trade. Make sure to come away with at least one of these RBs in the late rounds.

Montario Hardesty - Hardesty has rightfully been a forgotten man while he's been out with a knee injury, but his backfieldmate Jerome Harrison's performance in his absence has been even more forgettable. Harrison has put the ball on the turf three times, which could open the door for Hardesty to become the more trustworthy back if he can stay healthy. Peyton Hillis is threatening to cut into the production of both backs, but Hardesty is still a great upside flier after the 10th.

Ladainian Tomlinson - Yes, that Ladainian Tomlinson. He has lost more than a step, but Tomlinson is playing with a hunger and chip on his shoulder that we didn't see in San Diego the last two years. At the very least, Tomlinson will have flex value as a third-down and sometimes goal line back, and he also is playing with a starter who relishes contact and seems destined to miss time this year in Shonn Greene. Tomlinson's instincts and vision are still on point and he can produce RB1 numbers as the primary back behind the Jets offensive line if he gets the chance. He's a great back to have as the first or second man on your bench.

Buy Low / Sell High - RB

Arian Foster - No one is soaring up fantasy boards faster than Foster, but you may be lucky enough to compete in a league that is behind the curve. Don't expect the Texans clear lead back to fall past the 7th, and look for him to go off the board as early as the 4th. I don't rank Foster decisively ahead of backs like Barber and Bush, but I sure will snap him up if he's there the round after I take one of them. I almost got him at 7.5 in our staff draft (curse you, Yudkin).

Sell High - RB

Chris Wells - Wells will be a top 10 fantasy RB one day, just not this year. Oh, he'll have a few top 10 weeks when the Cards get some breaks and control a game, but with their QB situation, those games look to be few and far between this year. Tim Hightower got most of the early work with the first team in the preseason and he is not going away on passing downs or at the goal line. Wells is not worth trusting as your RB2 this year.

Ryan Mathews - I have high hopes for Mathews this year, but not high enough to pass on a top seven stud WR in the second. The race to get Mathews has pushed him in the mid-second round in most drafts, which is too steep a price to pay when RBs available in the 3rd and even 4th round provide similar ceilings at a cheaper price.

Pierre Thomas - When Lynell Hamilton went down, most penciled Thomas in to get more goal line carries, but Reggie Bush was in on first down at the goal line a lot in the preseason, and the Saints have always liked using Bush in red zone. Chris Ivory is also emerging as Hamilton-type stubborn runner between the tackles. The Saints would not offer Thomas starting RB money in the offseason, which should tell you what they think of him and how they'll use him.

Justin Forsett - If Forsett Fever hasn't cooled down in your league, he might still go as high as the peak sixth round ADP he hit after LenDale White got cut. He's not even worth an eighth or ninth round pick at this point as the Seahawks seem set on an RBBC, and Forsett might not even be the lead back as Leon Washington got the start in the third preseason game. When pressed about the RB situation, head coach Pete Carroll made it seem even murkier than we thought it was, which should be enough reason to stay away from Forsett in the first ten rounds.

Knowshon Moreno - Moreno might practice this week, and he might be cleared to play in week one, but we don't know any hard information about the severity of his hamstring injury, which was probably a partial tear based on the amount of time Moreno has missed. Beat writer Mike Klis said Moreno didn't look close to returning as he ran gingerly on the side earlier this week, so Moreno is a risk to aggravate the injury upon his return. If he falls to the fifth or sixth round of your draft, he might be worth the risk because he has do-everything RB1 upside, but chances are Moreno won't truly be at full speed even when he does take the field.

As always, thanks for reading. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome to bloom@footballguys.com.

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