Tiers of Heaven: RBs - NBC New York

Tiers of Heaven: RBs

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Fantasy owners are always asking us at Rotoworld for that one tip; the one sentence that will solve their fantasy football league. It doesn't exist.

    The best advice we have is to know more than the owner next to you, have a system of evaluating players, and to be flexible within that system. Every season, every draft, every choice is different. The owner that is flexible enough to look for value at each pick will win over the long run.

    We believe creating tiers at each position. to maximize value is the best system. (And if you know our tiering system well, skip to the fun below.) Cheats sheets are great, but don't always see the big picture. Tiers can help when you have a difficult choice like taking your starting tight end in the sixth round or continuing to build depth at receiver.

    Let's say Chris Cooley was near the top of your Top 200 board, and you still have a hole at tight end. It looks like a no brainer. Looking at your tiers, however, you notice that many other tight ends from his tier including Jeremy Shockey and Todd Heap are still available.

    You check your wide receiver tiers and notice that Lee Evans is the last wideout standing from your third tier. You don't necessarily need another wide receiver, but there is a huge projected drop-off after Evans. Taking him maximizes value. There is almost certain to be a similarly valued tight end to Cooley available with your next pick. Evans is the choice.

    The 2008 Running Back Tiers are below. Our Draft Guide Subscribers have had access to the constantly evolving tiers at each position since June. They will get all the important updates to over 500 profiles, projections, rankings, and tiers in the buildup to draft day. They can customize their cheat sheets to fit their individual scoring system. The only thing we can guarantee is that value changes every day, so consider this the running back snapshot for August 15, 2008.

    Tiers of Heaven: Running Backs

    You are going to hear a lot this preseason that it's a down year for running backs because of all the committees. While there is certainly more uncertainty after the top-ten than usual, it's more accurate to say that last year was a down year for running backs. That is mostly reflected in our Top-200 rankings, where we recommend taking most WR1s over second running backs.

    Just don't get carried away. Because of position scarcity, nabbing three quality running backs is still a must for any owner with designs on a title. You just may be able to grab those starters a round or two later than usual. Quality players will fall to the fifth and sixth round.

    Note: These players are ranked in standard non-PPR scoring.

    Tier One: LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson

    Peterson's collapse in December made this decision easier, but not a cinch. Peterson is a singular talent. Drafting him is drafting a 10% chance at a historic season. He still has a lot of room for improvement, which is scary. LT2 is still the best, but he's not going to reach his 2006 dominance again.

    Tier Two: Steven Jackson, Brian Westbrook, Joseph Addai, Frank Gore

    We'd take all these backs before any quarterback or receiver. Westbrook is likely to see fewer touches this season, but remains the best pass-catching back. Jackson performed as expected after his injury last season despite a terrible team. The offensive line has to get better. We're not worried about Jackson's holdout yet. Addai is the safest bet for 12+ scores other than LT2, but probably won't reach 300 carries. Gore's talent and the addition of Mike Martz will make him a great value if he falls.

    Note:See how far Westbrook and Gore climb in our PPR rankings.

    Tier Three: Marshawn Lynch, Clinton Portis, Marion Barber, Ryan Grant

    The end of the true RB1s. This is a season with very few sure things at the position. Lynch is clear of any legal problems and is entering his prime. No one breaks more tackles. Other than Barber, we see 300 carries from the other backs in this tier. Barber makes it up with touchdowns and receptions. It would be nice to see Grant get back on the practice field. Even though the top wideouts are safer picks, we'd still grab these RB1s before most of them.

    Tier Four: Maurice Jones-Drew, Larry Johnson, Willis McGahee, Brandon Jacobs, Ronnie Brown, Jamal Lewis, Jonathan Stewart, Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney

    Drafts will be won and lost this season at the RB2 position. Mo-Jo needs Fred Taylor to get hurt to realize his full potential. Larry Johnson may be healthier, but he was struggling badly on the Chiefs before getting hurt next year. He won't look like the old L.J. until Will Shields and Willie Roaf un-retire. McGahee was very steady last season, but his offensive line is worse and he's coming off a mid-August surgery. Ronnie Brown is a top-five talent, but has yet to top 300 touches and is coming off a torn ACL. Jacobs, Bush, and Maroney could be buy-low candidates on explosive offenses, but they have to worry about carries. Jacobs has the highest ceiling of any back here if he stays healthy. Stewart is an intriguing all-down bruiser who could be a great value as a rookie like Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch last season. He may not open the year carrying the load, but he'll finish it that way.

    We see more boom-or-busts in this group than ever. Taking a second-round wide receiver makes a lot of sense this year ahead of most of these guys. You can limit your risk and maximize value by taking this group in round three. Two backs from the top four tiers starts off your running back group with strength.

    Willis McGahee took a hit in our most recent draft guide rankings.

    Tier Five: Darren McFadden, Michael Turner, Thomas Jones, Earnest Graham, Selvin Young

    The last of the legitimate RB2s. McFadden may not last long, but the other four could fall into the fourth and fifth round. Jones isn't flashy, but he could give you 300 cheap carries. Jones is a safe bet to score more. Turner is a great talent, but is stuck in a nearly impossible situation. Earnest Graham is unlikely to carry the load as much as last year. Selvin Young is the ultimate boom-or-bust pick, but he'll be a difference maker while healthy. If you don't have a RB2 before this tier, make sure to get one.

    Win $100K using these tiers at the NBC Sports Fantasy Football Championship. I'll see all of you in NY.

    Tier Six: LenDale White, Matt Forte, Edgerrin James, Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Fred Taylor, Julius Jones, Chester Taylor, Chris Johnson

    The best of the committee backs and RB3s. White faces a challenge from Chris Johnson, but still should lead a smashmouth team with a great line in carries. He can still crack 1,000 yards and 8-10 scores. He's a safer pick than Johnson in this format, but Johnson should get the ball enough to be an intriguing fantasy reserve. Forte has a decent chance to lead all rookie runners in carries, but the Bears offense is a concern. Parker is going to lose work to Mendenhall, and now profiles like a younger Fred Taylor, needing a big play every week. Chester Taylor has stand-alone value, but Adrian Peterson owners should reach a round early for him. Julius Jones is set up for a rebound in Seattle, but has looked like an average talent. He will probably start the year splitting carries.

    We look at RB3s as a starter, whether you use a flex position or not. You will need to use them over the course of the season. These are the best of the bunch and are worth mid-round grades.

    Note: Check out the Fantasy Fix running back preview, with analysis, rankings, Ms. Tiffany Simons, and some other dude.

    Tier Seven: DeAngelo Williams, Felix Jones, Ahmad Bradshaw, Justin Fargas, Rudi Johnson, Kevin Smith

    Shaky starters, promising backups, and some players in between. The situations in Cincy, Carolina, and Detroit remain up from grabs. Kevin Smith and Rudi Johnson are the favorites, but are no locks to keep their jobs. Committees look likely. DeAngelo Williams may open the year as a starter in Carolina, but probably won't play in the red zone and is likely to lose his job. Bradshaw could be the most dynamic committee back in the league. Fargas was a perfect fit for Oakland's scheme and may be ignored in drafts this year. Felix Jones is a dynamic third-down back at worst.

    RB4s are ultimately reserves, so be careful of reaching too early for risky picks. They should start going off the board halfway through a 12-team draft. Pick a player or two that you feel is undervalued to build your depth. Ideally, you'd draft four backs from the first seven tiers.

    Tier Eight: Ricky Williams, Maurice Morris, Kenny Watson, Pierre Thomas, Jerious Norwood, Ray Rice, Chris Brown, Ahman Green

    For the most part, these are high upside backups and third-down backs. Rice has earned a big role in Baltimore with an impressive rookie off-season. He could play more early with Willis McGahee banged up. Ricky Williams could split carries in Miami to open the year and looks fresh. He'll give way during the season to Ronnie Brown. Morris should start the year splitting work in Seattle, but we've seen what he can do as a starter. He's only useful as fantasy depth. Green and Brown make a colorfully injury-prone tandem in Houston that we'll let someone else draft. Thomas has extra value as a backup on a high-octane offense. Norwood continues to be limited by his situation in Atlanta, but he's very talented.

    Tier Nine: Fred Jackson, Ladell Betts, Warrick Dunn, LaMont Jordan, Tatum Bell, Kevin Jones, Dominic Rhodes, Chris Perry, Andre Hall, Steve Slaton, Leon Washington, Derrick Ward, Jason Wright, Brandon Jackson

    The best of the remaining draftable players and handcuffs to attach to your starters. Of this group, Perry, Kevin Jones, and Jordan have the most potential to emerge with a bigger role. Past performance wouldn't indicate that is likely, though. Perry will climb a tier if this weekend goes well. Hall and Rhodes are intriguing because they are an injury away on explosive offenses.

    Tier Ten: Jamaal Charles, Michael Bush, Tim Hightower, Correll Buckhalter, Deuce McAllister, Lorenzo Booker, Jacob Hester, Sammy Morris, Michael Pittman, DeShaun Foster, Kolby Smith, Adrian Peterson (CHI), Sammy Morris, Brian Calhoun, Kevin Faulk

    Mostly reserves here with questionable roles, but they are all on the fantasy radar. McAllister has the chance for a big role, but any success would be going against all medical precedent after duel ACL and microfracture surgeries in the off-season. Watch our news closely to see what develops with all the borderline cases.

    Note: In case you hadn't heard eight other times in this column, you can head to our draft guide for tiers at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, defense, and even kicker! We also have dynasty tiers, over 500 profiles, cheat sheets, and much more. This is our big time of year, so thanks to everyone that supports our year-round coverage.