We continue our “Five Question” series by taking a look at, you guessed it, five of the most pressing running back questions facing NFL franchises and fantasy footballers.  The answer to these five queries will drastically affect the fantasy football landscape in 2011…

  1. Where will Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs be playing in 2011?

If Brandon Jacobs’s reaction to the media yesterday is any sign, he will not be with the team in 2011.  The Giants season is over and as the players were packing up their lockers and leaving the team’s facilities yesterday to embark on their off season, Jacobs had a few choice words for reporters, including dropping an F bomb.  He also seemed to allude to this being the last time they see him.  We agree!

Jacobs is a big man with a little brain and the emotional maturity of a two year old.  The Giants should be more willing to deal with Ahmad Bradshaw’s fumbling than with Jacobs’s idiocy and $4.65M salary.  I heard one analyst say that this is a decision for the folks that own the Giants, to which I replied – why would the Giants ask the Eagles?  Ba-dum-bum.

FANTASY FOOTBALL SPIN:  Bradshaw stays and remains a high end RB#2 and Jacobs goes to participate in another RBBC.  His fumbling issue will save the Giants money.  Some candidates for his talents include; Miami (Ricky is gone), Cincinnati (if Benson leaves or goes to jail), Seahawks, Packers, Lions, and Redskins.

2.  What rookie backs could make an immediate impact?

This is not a strong running back class.  As a matter of fact, taking a look at the latest mock draft from our friends at WalterFootball.com, only one running back projects as a first round pick, Mark Ingram. 

The former Alabama superstar and Heisman Trophy winner has the size 5-10, 215 LBs, and skill set to be a fantasy football starter right off the bat.  He slightly deficient when it comes to high end speed and he is going to need work in pass blocking before a team is going to trust him as a three down back, but in the right situation he is a guy that can be in your lineup most weeks.

FANTASY FOOTBALL SPIN: We are going with WalterFootball.com and saying Ingram lands in Miami.  Ricky Williams through his coach under the bus yesterday, so he will not be a Dolphin in 2011 and Ronnie Brown is wearing down.  If Brown is back on a one year deal, Ingram is a RB#3.  If Brown is not back, Ingram has a legitimate shot at RB#2 status.  Some other possible first round suitors include New England, Seattle, Green Bay, Cincinnati, and Washington.

3.  What running backs will jump most in fantasy football value between 2010 and 2011

Bernard Scott has the chance to go from a backup running back to a starting RB.  What the Bengals offense will look like is a mystery at this point since the team is probably in store for a major overhaul which should include the entire coaching staff.  There are a lot of question marks, but keep a close eye on Scott.

Jonathan Stewart will likely enter 2011 as the #1 RB in Carolina.  He will share some carries with Mike Goodson, but he should see the bulk of the work.  All of this is assuming the DeAngelo Williams is out of the picture.  Should the team resign Williams, which seems unlikely, all bets are off.

LeGarrette Blount should be considered a fantasy football RB#2 entering 2011.  He is clearly the best back in the Buccs roster.  A caveat is that this guy is a punk.   That should not be a problem since the Buccaneers have basically become the Bengals-South and appear to not only disregard character in personnel decisions but embrace bad people.  Blount will surely be in the news for bad reasons in the near future.

4.  Is Peyton Hillis a top 5 back in 2011?

Hillis’ crawl to the finish line in 2010 may be attributable to the curse of the big back. 

Hillis appears doomed to be haunted by the ghosts of big-backs-past.  Natrone Means, Barry Word, Christian Okoye, and Earl Campbell visit him with creaky knees and tales of career shortened by violent collisions.  For all of the punishment Hillis and ilk dole out, their wear and tear is cumulative, compounded, even squared.   The answer in Cleveland is a complimentary back that can take some of the load and serve as a change of pace to keep defenses on their toes.  A real passing game wouldn’t hurt either.

We asked FFSpin readers where they ranked Hillis entering the 2011 fantasy football draft and here is what they said;

Fourth Ranked RB            21% of votes

Third Ranked RB               19% of votes

Second Ranked RB          19% of votes

Fifth Ranked RB                17% of votes

Not a Top 5 RB                   13% of votes

Top Ranked RB                  11% of votes

FANTASY FOOTBALL SPIN: Hillis had zero TDs in the final four games and over the last two meaningful weeks for fantasy football (Weeks 15 & 16) he had a combined 94 yards rushing and 38 receiving.  Maybe he was worn down; maybe defenses figured him out, maybe the lack of a passing game caught up with the Browns.  We think it is a combination of the three.  We also think that those problems will be there in 2011, which is why we have Hillis as high end RB#2, but not one of the top 12 entering the draft.

5.  What teams will be adopting or getting rid of RBBC situations?

Free agency could change the picture even more, but as of now it looks like there will be some teams that rely more on a single back and move away from the dreaded RBBC, while others embrace the approach.

Teams that could have less of a committee approach include the Giants, who may be jettisoning their big baby Brandon Jacobs and relying more on Ahmad Bradshaw.  There should be some back to take some of the heat and pounding off of oft-injured Bradshaw, perhaps Andre Brown.

The picture should be clearer in Carolina for reasons described in question #4.

Depending on whether or not the Jets retain the services of LT or another veteran back, Shonn Greene may get the shot at being the man in NY.

From game to game you never knew who would be the guy to handle the work load in Miami.  With Ricky Williams, and perhaps Ronnie Brown, out of the picture there may be more clarity.

Jamaal Charles has proven he is an elite running back.  He is freaky good and the Chiefs need to get the ball in his hands as often as possible.  They also need to balance the desire to have him carry the load with the need to protect their investment and keep him fresh.  Either way, we should see a bigger 2011 for Charles.

Here are some teams that may be moving to a more confusing and frustrating situation for fantasy owners;

Buffalo Bills – It was a boneheaded move to draft a RB when they had major holes, and many of them, elsewhere.  The deed is done, however, and despite that fact that Fred Jackson is a very good RB, the team will need to incorporate C.J. Spiller or they look even worse, if that’s possible.

Detroit Lions – Yes, we have seen smallish backs prove they can carry the load in this league, but Jahvid Best does not appear to be that kind of back.   He is dynamic, but in a Reggie Bush kind of way and we can’t see him being an every down back.  Whether it is Maurice Morris or an outside back like Ricky Williams, Brandon Jacobs or Darren Sproles

San Diego Chargers – Mike Tolbert was a revelation in 2010.  Ryan Mathews was a first round pick in 2010.  Together they will be a frustrating mess for fantasy owners in 2011.

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