What was Matthew Berry Thinking? Or Not Thinking?

I hope none of you followed Matthew Berry’s ridiculous advise this week. Berry went out on a very thin branch, rather than a limb, when he declared that everyone should drop Patriots QB Tom Brady for Washington QB Kirk Cousins. Cousins went on to throw four interceptions and one touchdown on Thursday night.

What bothers me is the advice that Berry, a supposed “fantasy guru”, gave his ESPN audience Tuesday on ESPN Sports Center.

Berry’s advice was fantasy stupidity. He supported his advice with a bold face lie or even worse a lack of insight before making his claim.

Berry exclaimed how Tom Brady declined in the second half of the 2013 NFL season. That is completely untrue. 

I tweeted to Berry to challenge his claim but did not receive a response.

@MatthewBerryTMR earlier this week you said drop #Patriots QB Tom Brady for backup QB Kirk Cousins but what bothers me is the reason.
…you said Brady had a decline in the second half of last season but the evidence is counter. Brady actually performed…
…better in the second half of the 2013 #NFL season. Brady had 1’824 yards in the games 1-8, 2’519 in games 9-17. Also…
…Brady had 9 TD’s in games 1-8, and 6 INT’s. Games 9-17 Brady had 16 TD’s and 5 INT’s. So who are you crappin?

As you can tell by reading my series of tweets I was honestly aggravated by Berry’s BS advice and his claim that Brady declined in the second half of 2013 NFL season.

If Berry had suggested to add Cousinis to your roster; I wouldn’t have blinked an eye. But to drop Tom Brady is flat out reckless. 

We are three weeks into the fantasy football season you don’t drop a 1-7 draft pick this early. Much less a proven veteran QB! 

That kind of advice can be echoed in fantasy forums but not from a leading fantasy analyst who has been given a national television platform to sound off to all who listen.

I have to question everything about Berry now. 
Is Matthew Berry a fantasy football analyst or is he just a clever writer who has little insight into football. 
Was he reading other fantasy football analyst and rehashing advice in the past? 
How did he become a fantasy football guru? 
Or was it simply that Berry’s loyalty to Washington prevented him from making a sound #fantasyfootball decision? 

One thing is certain Berry showed little fantasy football credibility this week. 

If Tom Brady has a good outing today…Berry is no better than you or me at fantasy football and doesn’t deserve your time.

Twenty Fantasy Football Draft Picks to Target Part One: The Plan

8/13/2014 By Cris Benson

With your fantasy football draft quickly approaching I want to take you through my own draft experience inside an extremely competitive fantasy football league. I will identify each player I drafted, the round they were selected, and the process I used for selecting them.

Today I will begin with part one of this three part series by explaining my draft plan.

The draft is twenty picks deep with a twelve team conference. This is a very deep draft and there are little waivers selections to repair the draft day damage done.  While this is a slow draft with a large amount of time allowed between selections, the draft only became more strategic, and all moves had to be carefully calculated.

Eventually each conference sends their top teams in conference wins and scoring to the playoffs beginning in week twelve against the other conferences top teams until a winner is crowned.

This will be my third season of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association) Industry Insiders Fantasy Football League and in my first two I had failed to even make the playoffs. One of the reasons for failing to make the playoffs was my approach on draft day. The other was lack of experience against fantasy experts who were simply better prepared.

The league is composed of over a hundred journalist, bloggers, and fantasy football analyst who all belong to the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Many of the competitors are the same opinions that I myself read and a lot them the leaders in the industry. Others are writers who enjoy the competition of fantasy football; I myself included.

Again, before I begin to explain my draft picks it is important to explain what draft philosophy I am using so that you can identify why I maneuvered for particular players on the draft board.

This is a snake draft and your selection is followed in an orchestrated order. I have the last overall pick (12th) in odd rounds and the first overall pick in even rounds.

My approach early in the draft is taking running backs since they’re the foundation of a strong draft plan. Running backs offer more scoring options and last season they did not disappoint.

 According to ProFootballReference.com “2013 NFL Fantasy” the top five scoring leaders that weren’t quarterbacks are all running backs including,

  1. KC RB Jamaal Charles 308 FPTS
  2. PHL RB LeSean McCoy 279 FPTS
  3. CHI RB Matt Forte 263 FPTS
  4. SEA RB Marshawn Lynch 239 FPTS
  5. DEN RB Knowshon Moreno 237 FPTS

Wide receiver Josh Gordon is sixth on the list with 227 FPTS. While it appears that wide receivers are beginning to equal running backs in scoring production, but they still do not have the same value as running backs in early rounds.

The simple explanation is that running backs are much more consistent and less dependent on a quarterback’s performance while wide receivers are very streaky scorers.  That being said is still only a theory but I will try to persuade you the reader.

For example, WAS RB Alfred Morris was used almost exclusively as a rusher last season rather than a receiver and had nine games where he scored 12 FPTS or more. Now let’s compare that to DEN WR Eric Decker who also had nine games of 12 FPTS or more.

  • Decker finished with 193 FPTS and was the 9th overall leading receiver.
  • Morris finished with 169 FPTS and was the 15th overall leading running back.

Which has more value?

Well without explaining the calculations of finding a VBD point (Value Based Drafting) I would suggest Morris has the greater value.

Decker’s FPTS are inflated due to his performance in week thirteen with 49 FPTS. On the other hand Morris’s scoring in more paced and consistent as opposed to Decker’s streaks of scoring.

That is also why you don’t want to draft players based on past FPTS since the value could be inflated for many reasons.

Do you anticipate MIA RB Knowshon Moreno holding his fantasy value of 5th best RB in 2014 now that he is playing for the Miami Dolphins? That isn’t likely but he had great value in the 2013 draft!

Overall running backs are a foundation of reliable scoring that can carry your team when a receiver or quarterbacks production is subpar. The only problem is you have to be vigilant on which running back is playing. You have to plan for the less productive run defense and exploit that matchup by inserting a bench RB in the lineup when needed.

Another example, since I cannot prove my first theory, but I can prove that the VBD of a RB is greater than that of a WR, TE, QB, or the last scoring options K, and of course DEF.

Please see the graph below from FootballGuys.com that was created by a man who I believe is the Bill James of football, Chase Stuart.


Note: if you’re having difficulty seeing this image click the this link.

As you can see in this graph the horizontal is the ADP (Average Draft Position) while the vertical represents VBD points. Cleary running back is the greater value with picks 1-14; however wide receiver value eventually carries the greater value in late rounds.

Also consider that running backs are more prone to injury and require more selections in the early rounds of your draft. You have to build a stable of running backs that can be inserted when an injury occurs.

Just because the NFL draft has devalued the running back position that doesn’t mean that running back carries less value in fantasy football. I believe that having a top tier running back is the difference between a win and loss and the position of running back is more is more valuable than ever in fantasy football.  No matter what fantasy football position you value more it is hard to dispute the value of running backs.  

In part two of this three part series I will list each pick in order and the reasons for why I had chosen that fantasy football prospect.

The Informers Starters, Sleepers, and Bust for Week Three


Sometimes the obvious isn’t that obvious but the Packers Jordy Nelson is an obvious starter. Now with a loaded receiving core I am certain that many fantasy football GM’s think that Nelson is due for a slip in production but a closer look at Nelson’s production reveals his relevance as the leading receiver.

Nelson has a 71% catch percentage according to FootballOutsiders.com rivaling his fellow receiver Randall Cobb which has defensive coordinators depending on man coverage. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers picks apart zone coverage and his accuracy and Nelson’s speed makes for a serious matchup problem for defensive coordinators.

So don’t hesitate to start Nelson this week and every week as he is certain to burn the Bengals secondary today. 

Starters should never be benched even when the matchup is not in your favor. 

You should start these players as well today,

  • I like Buffalo Bills Steve Johnson against a good, not great Jets defense, but I think this game will reveal how much worse this Jets defense is without Darrell Revis. Johnson has two touchdowns and only 150 yards receiving thus far but I have a feeling he is due for a big game today.
  • Last week I told you to start Chicago Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler and I will say it again, CUTLER IS A STARTER! You shouldn’t bench Cutler at all and facing a Stealers defense that simply isn’t as good as it once was. Cutler has identified his go to receivers and head coach Marc Trestman has given Cutler the play-calling options he needs but most of all Cutlers protection. Cutlers jersey is very clean after four quarters of football.
  • I love San Francisco runningback Frank Gore today! Gore is a starter and should never be benched. Look for the Colts to surrender big yardage today! 

Sleepers are the players who could emerge as possible future starters but show potential on game day due to a matchup or an injury to a starter.

Quietly Carolina Panthers DeAngelo Williams is quietly gaining ground from bust pick to sleeper. While he will play a difficult New York Giants defense this week but if you’re searching for a runninback to start then grab Williams. The Giants struggle against the Read-Option offense and today will be no different.

Here are some other sleepers to consider.

Bust, do I need to explain?

So your thinking that Oakland runningback Darren Mc Fadden is out of the woods right? Well guess again. McFadden is about to play a Denver Defense that shuts down the run and without star linebacker Von Miller.

Here are some other busts to avoid.

If you are still uncertain who to start try this widget by NumberFire.com which is my preferred source for sabermetrics approach will simply compare your two choices at the position that is causing you a dilemma.  

The Informers Starters, Sleepers, and Bust for Week Two

Last week was the lowest rushing total of all NFL runningbacks for a combined 2,964 yards in NFL history. However last week three NFL quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning 462 yards passing, Eli Manning 450 yards passing, and Colin Kaepernick 412 yards passing, aired it out for 1,324 yards combined.

So you have to wonder will the rushing game sustain its apparent reduction in yardage production and will the quarterbacks continue to sustain their passing yardage production. Most of all is this a reflection of a NFL that clearly after the 2013 draft is hesitant about committing first round money to a runningback.

It will be interesting to see what the production is by these two positions combined in the next couple of weeks.   

Starters should never be benched even when the matchup is not in your favor.

Colin Kaepernick should never be benched even if he is playing the Seattle Seahawks defense. The Seahawks nearly shutdown Cam Newton last week but the San Francisco 49ers have too many weapons on offense.

Yes I told you to bench Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler last week but this week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings should pad Cutlers numbers as well as Bears runningback Matt Forte.

Look for Buffalo Bills runningback CJ Spiller have a much better week two as the Carolina Panthers will be worn down by the heavy dose of the Bills running game.

Baltimore Ravens receiver Torrey Smith will have a solid week two against the Cleveland Browns defense that couldn’t contain Miami’s passing attack.

Sleepers are the players who could emerge as possible future starters but show potential on game day due to a matchup or an injury to a starter.

I don’t have a lot of time this morning but here are my Sleepers and Bust for today.

Sleepers Bufflao Bills QB EJ Manuel is a great start, St Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford will rip apart that mess of a secondary in Atlanta, Indianapolis Colts runningback Vick Ballard, and Oakland runningback Darren Mc Fadden is receiving the touches and is a real long shot but I’ll take him.

Bust Bench Houston runningback Aarian Foster who will struggle today, Tampabay receiver Vincent Jackson, and Miami receiver Mike Wallace has done nothing.


Before I go to the waiver wire report I want to talk about one player and he had an explosive week one. Actually he had one very explosive opening play and after that had only 15 yrds rushing yards with 17 attempts.

Adrian Peterson was the consensus number one pick in this season’s fantasy football draft but only paid off on one play in the rushing category. Peterson’s seventy eight yard opening play for a touchdown was impressive but that had the Lions lining up eight men in the box the entire rest of the game. That Lions defensive move neutralized Peterson and helped clinch a victory as the Vikings were forced to rely on quarterback Christian Ponder.

Ponder is clearly not qualified to be a backup on most NFL teams much less a NFL starter but the Vikings are still convinced he has the skill set to not lose a game. Sunday was another example of how awful Ponder really is and why he can lose a game as the Lions secondary is capable but not threatening.

If you have Peterson you can sell him as much as three starters that will pay off huge dividends by the end of the season. If you can trade him straight up for another player such as a runningback, receiver, or quarterback make certain you are getting the maximum value.

Just remember one thing the Lions gave other teams the blue print (especially 7 games in the NFC North) to beat the Vikings; simply shutdown Peterson and let Ponder make his mistakes.

Peterson will now not be coming anywhere near his 2012 numbers but he is great trade bait in week one.

WAIVERS-Who to Add in Week 2


Add Fred Jackson runningback Buffalo Bills - Is Buffalo running a two headed monster? Absolutely and Jackson led the pair in first down conversions which sustained the drive against the Patriots. Jackson had 13 carries with an average of 5.2 yards per a carry and this isn’t bad for the thirty two year old. Jackson had limited action in the preseason but clearly hasn’t lost a step and will continue to contest Spiller for carries.

Add Jackie Battle runningback Tennessee Titans - While Battle is a rollercoaster player who has ups and downs it appears that the Titans may utilize the running game and call on Battle for more endzone carries. While Battle isn’t going to impact your PPR league he can be a useful bench player in TD heavy leagues. Remember it isn’t what his numbers are in the past what matters is the Titans are going to commit to the run and Battle will be called to spell Johnson.

Add Julian Edelman wide-receiver New England Patriots - If you catch the ball Tom Brady will come back to you. That simple. This is the beginning of what could be an awesome year for a guy who has been buried on an NFL depth chart for years. Edelman was the drafted 232 in the 2009 NFL Draft and the scouts were very impressed with his speed and athletic ability. Now Edelman has his shot to breakout. Take him quickly.

Add Brent Celek tight-end Philadelphia Eagles - By the look of it Chip Kelly’s fast tempo offense that has a lot of spread option play calling which is perfect for Celek. While not receiving more than three targets Celek is still the stand alone tight-end in this offense. While others are grabbing Julius Thomas from Denver just ask one question, did Julius peak and will his production be steady? I have more confidence in Celek’s production being more consistent.

Here is the leader breakdown in Fantasy Points by


The Informers Starters, Sleepers, and Bust for Week One


The concessional best practice to find your starters is using a saber metric approach. Yes, we play “Money Ball” except none of us is Brad Pitt. Remember Brad Pitt at least had his fictional sidekick Peter Brand the brains of the operation that had a magic math equations to assemble a major league ball team on a minor league budget. However the movie failed to mention that Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) had an ace in the hole… or rather three aces. Billy Beane possessed three of the best pitchers in major league baseball at that time and while saber metrics are useful later in the season you don’t posses pocket aces.

The truth is reading and gaining knowledge from periodicals (SI, USA Today, ESPN), listening to NFL beat writers (ProFootball Weekly Radio), and simply paying attention will make you the best source on your fantasy team. However saber metrics serves a very important purpose but saber metrics can’t help you right now because there are no variables to compare that plug into the formula.

This is week one and all you have is that good guess but that’s all anyone has right now.

Starters should never be benched even when the matchup is not in your favor.

Cam Newton is simply too good to bench and don’t overestimate the Seattle Seahawks defense. The Seahawks struggled last season with games that were played on the east coast all the way to the NFC playoff game against Atlanta. Also the Seattle defense is banged up and will be missing defensive end Chris Clemons.

Cam Newton is still the best overall offensive weapon on the Panthers roster and the Panthers finished 2012 winning five of six games when the Panthers simplified the offense.

Seattle’s corners didn’t allow quarterbacks to find an open receiver but with tight end Greg Olsen emerging as a favorite target for Newton I expect Cam to find an open target over the middle. However Cam Newton will need the support of his running game if he is going to have good day.

Overall I’d still start Newton today over a backup quarterback and I expect Newton to produce more points than his counterpart Russell Wilson.  

You should start these players as well today,

  • Start Giants runningback David Wilson against the Cowboys! The Cowboys have switched to 4-3 defense and my observations they lack a true three technique defensive tackle that can plug up the middle to stop the run. Wilson will find gaps the size of Jupiter.
  • Start Packers receiver Jordy Nelson against the 49ers as Nelson will be covered by nickel corner Nnamdi Asomugha who was one of the league’s best corners but has faded quickly.

Sleepers are the players who could emerge as possible future starters but show potential on game day due to a matchup or an injury to a starter.

Tyler Eifert showed potential as a downfield threat and raised his stock in the 2013 NCAA Football Championship against Alabama this past January so much so he was drafted in the first round by the Bengals. As the Chicago Bears defense transitions at linebacker, with the departure of future hall of fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, the rookie has the potential for huge day.

Here are some other sleepers to consider.

  • Houston runningback Ben Tate with Arian Foster on the PUP list through the majority of camp and the Chargers linebackers going through a transition this is a prime opportunity for Tate.
  • San Francisco veteran receiver Kyle Williams will be lining up against the third cornerback on the Green Bay depth chart today and should be able to take advantage of the matchup to showcase why he was named Michael Crabtree’s replacement.

Bust, do I need to explain?

Jay Cutler… as a Chicago Bears fan I have no faith in Cutler who opened up so many practices and a preseason game with a guaranteed interception. I have no faith in Cutler and I wouldn’t start him today as you probably have some much better choices today.

Here are some other busts to avoid.

  • Jacksonville runningback Maurice Jones-Drew was talking about walking away from the game a few weeks ago.  MJD is over a year removed from the Dirk Koetter offense that had a heavy dose of the running game but Koetter is now in Atlanta. MJD will be lining up with a starting quarterback with a thumb injury on his passing hand, and the Jaguars are facing a healthy Kansas City defense.
  • Any Indianapolis Colt runningback… it appears that Colts Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton plans to air out the ball and the depth is crowded with touches at runningback. Until a clear runningback emerges as the rusher outside the twenties, I believe Bradshaw will be that runningback eventually, but this running back by committee system is just too crowded and uncertain right now.

If you are still uncertain who to start try this widget by NumberFire.com which is my preferred source for sabermetrics approach will simply compare your two choices at the position that is causing you a dilemma.  

“Read Option QB’s have Great Fantasy Value”

According to FantasyFootballCalcultor.com, ADP (Average Draft Position) in a twelve team standard format league shows Aaron Rogers being taken at 2.12, Drew Brees at 2.7, Peyton Manning at 3.10, Tom Brady at 4.09, and then QB Cam Newton the first Read-Option Offense QB off the board at 5.03. However the next Read-Option Offense QB Colin Kaepernick is not off the board until 6.06, followed by RG3 at 7.02, and finally Russell Wilson at 8.03. So why are so many fantasy football GM’s choosing to pass on an option QB but rather buy a QB in more traditional offense such as West Coast Offense, Coryell, or Erhardt Perkins at higher price?

Knowledgeable Fantasy Football GM’s are patiently waiting in fantasy football drafts watching the novice fantasy GM draft Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and other traditional pocket passers. The skilled GM is building depth at other positions such as RB, WR, and TE which are all much more susceptible to injury than QB. While the experienced GM builds a deep roster acquiring one or possibly two RB’s, a top tier WR, and third option at RB who is starting for their NFL team. Then after acquiring depth at other positions these GM’s are steeling Russell Wilson, RG3, and a certain QB who led his team to a Super Bowl the second half of the 2012 NFL season.

Last November I sat and watched in awe as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick executed the Read-Option offense against the Chicago Bears Cover-2 defense. The Bears Cover-2 defense was ranked first overall in pass defense according to FootballOutsiders.com. Yet the Bears might as well have been dead last in those defensive rankings since they couldn’t contain the dual attack of the read-option offense. The Bears were simply either unprepared or worse the Cover-2 defense was ineffective against the Read-Option offense.

Kaepernick, a second year backup drafted from Nevada where he ran the Pistol Offense and was named to the watch list of six major college sports awards including the Walter Camp Award, was now brining his experience running the Read Option to the 49ers. At a time when Alex Smith was tending an injury the door was open for a new version of the option offense and Kaepernick elevated his play making ability to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance.

The 49ers would catapult the Read-Option into a NFL juggernaut that came within a goal line stand of a championship. Kaepernick’s command of the read-option received the NFL’s attention as well as other quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton.

Mobile quarterbacks had defensive coordinators rethinking their game plans. Those same defensive coordinators are beginning to assemble new strategies to combat the Read-Option offense. Many DC’s have turned to college coaches for insight on how to solve this dilemma. However while the NFL is a pass first league the read-option creates a new wrinkle in stopping athletic quarterbacks that can escape the pocket and create plays on their feet.

The Read-Option adds a new dimension to an offense that makes it difficult for defenses to account for the quarterback since he is never considered a threat in the running game. The Read-Option makes the defense guess where the ball is and a defender is allowed to go untouched pursuing a runningback who doesn’t have the ball. Yet all the while the most difficult defenders are contained by blocking schemes designed to open lanes for a quarterback to get into space.

While Rodgers, Brees, Manning, and Brady are all future hall of fame quarterbacks that are known for throwing 30 or more touchdowns they also tend carry a higher price tag in this weekend’s fantasy football draft. Read-Option quarterbacks score from rushing touchdowns and have additional performance scoring points from rushing yardage.

The top ten fantasy football QB’s from the 2012 season’s in order were as follows,

NO Drew Brees 346 Fantasy Pts 43 TD’s passing and 1 TD rushing. ADP 2.7

GB Aaron Rodgers 344 Fantasy Pts 39 TD’s passing and 2 TD’s rushing. ADP 2.12

NE Tom Brady 340 Fantasy Pts 35 TD’s passing and 4 TD’s rushing. ADP 4.09

CAR Cam Newton 323 Fantasy Pts 19 TD’s passing and 8 TD’s rushing. ADP 5.03

WAS Robert Griffin III 318 Fantasy Pts 20 TD’s passing and 7 TD’s rushing. ADP 7.02

DEN Peyton Manning 311 Fantasy Pts 37 TD’s passing and 0 TD rushing. ADP 3.10

ATL Matt Ryan 305 Fantasy Pts 32 TD’s passing and 1 TD rushing. ADP 5.08

DAL Tony Romo 279 Fantasy Pts 28 TD’s passing and 1 TD rushing. ADP 7.07

SEA Russell Wilson 278 Fantasy Pts 26 TD’s passing and 4 TD’s rushing. ADP 8.03

IND Andrew Luck 276 Fantasy Pts 23 TD’s passing and 5 TD rushing. ADP 7.01

Bold text illustrations a QB’s that run the Read-Option.

This year Sports Illustrated released its annual fantasy football issue and when I turned to the mock draft I was stunned by what I saw. The writing staff that is knee deep in stats somehow passed on Read-Option QB’s but snagged Rodgers and Brees in the first round, followed by Brady in the second round, and Manning in the fourth. The first read option QB came off the board in round four with Russell Wilson, followed next by Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III late in the fourth round, and then for some reason Collin Kaepernick wasn’t drafted until the fifth round.

The SI fantasy football draft is great example of how misunderstood the Read-Option is even for the experts who cover the sport. The Read-Option is not about putting a quarterback at risk but rather taking away a defender during a disguised running play.

By the way the writer who took Colin Kaepernick in the fifth round was NFL beat writer Chris Burke. Burke took runningbacks Trent Richardson with his first pick and Stevan Ridley with his third pick. All while adding tight end Rob Gronkowski with his second pick and receiver Marques Colston with his fourth pick. At the same time Burke’s competitors weekend their roster by choosing to waste a pick on a positions that has little differential in scoring compared to others.

This comparison below of how quarterbacks have a much smaller differential in fantasy points as compared to runningbacks,

QB 1st Drew Brees 346 FPTS vs. 10th Andrew Luck 276 FPTS = a difference of 70 FPTS

RB 1st Adrian Peterson 307 FPTS – 10th Stevan Ridley 199 FPTS = a difference of 108 FPTS

While others may justify spending the first round pick taking Brees or Manning for their obvious up side yet they will be passing on needed runningback depth.

If you want to win your fantasy football league it will be hard without the necessary depth at runningback that can only be acquired in rounds one thru three. While receiver and tight-end have much deeper talent pools in later rounds starting runningbacks with scoring potential will be hard to find. That is why you may be wasting a pick on a quarterback in the first, second, and third round.

Remember add depth at runningback, receiver, and even tight-end with those early picks in the fantasy football draft and don’t hesitate to take a Read Option quarterback. While those big numbers by Rodgers and Brees will sucker the other GM’s in you will have found better value in the later rounds of the draft. That is what makes for a successful fantasy football draft when you find value in every round as opposed to going for a homerun at one single position.


by Cris Benson

In the 2012 NFL season five running backs lead fantasy football scoring and by no coincidence they had one number in common, 300. That is the number to running back supremacy in fantasy football.


The five runningbacks that had over three hundred carries in 2012 were

Adrian Peterson MIN 12 TD’s and 2097 yards on 348 Rush att

Doug Martin TB 11 TD’s and 1454 yards on 319 Rush att

Arian Foster HOU 15 TD’s and 1424 yards on 351 Rush att

Marshawn Lynch SEA 11 TD’s and 1590 yards on 315 Rush att

Alfred Morris WAS 13 TD’s and 1613 yards on 335 Rush att

Every year we hear the same noise from the cynics who believe that the bell cow back is gone but last season the bell cow back received rubber stamp of approval by several NFL coaches. These five bell cow runningbacks, debatably, carried their teams into the 2012 post season. They also carried their fantasy owners through the 2012 fantasy football postseasons with heavy production in the final four weeks of the 2012 NFL regular season.

Adrian Peterson suffered what would have been a career ending injury a decade earlier but through the miracles of modern medicine willed the Minnesota Vikings into the 2012 NFL postseason. The Vikings weren’t the only team to benefit from Peterson’s recovery as fantasy owners also had huge production from AP in the 2012 fantasy football playoffs (weeks 14-17). 

The thing that stands out about Peterson was his production even when facing eight men in the box. It wasn’t as though teams didn’t game plan to stop Peterson but that they simply couldn’t stop him. Peterson’s average rush was six yards per attempt and his average yardage per game was an unbelievable 130 yards.

The bona fide challenge that AP faces in 2013 is meeting or exceeding his own production from 2012. The additions of a young receiving core in the 2013 draft will also cost Peterson carries as the Vikings will have to continue to develop quarterback Christian Ponder. Yet Peterson is a natural first round selection but attached to a buyer beware notice that reads check the mileage before purchase.    

Last season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were told that they took Boise State tailback Doug Martin to high with their second pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. Yet Martin surprised all those experts by producing an incredible 2012 NFL season. Martin made an immediate impact on the Buccaneers offense, bailing out quarterback Josh Freeman and sustaining drives when necessary.

Martin’s speed and physical play made him a fantasy keeper and add in the return of guard Carl Nicks and I see Martin’s production increasing in 2013. Fantasy owners, especially those in a PPR league, also have to love Martin’s receiving skills.  Martin caught forty nine receptions for four hundred and seventy two yards making him a duel threat as a rusher and receiver.    

While all the praise in Washington was for quarterback RG3 yet it was another rookie who was leading fantasy owners and the Redskins into the 2012 postseason. One reason Alfred Morris was such a good runningback in 2012 was his offensive line but the other reason was the use of the read option offense. Morris had running alleys that were sealed but what made him so much better than his backups was size and power running style. Morris simply overpowered his tackler and kept turning his feet.

Morris was a true diamond in the rough, drafted in the sixth round and 173rd overall in the 2012 NFL draft. While Morris isn’t as talented as his peers he is a top five runningback in the 2013 fantasy football draft.

Another runningback that was drafted late but produced first round talent is the Houston Texans Arian Foster. Last season; at the prime age of twenty six years old, Foster continued to produce hall of fame numbers for third consecutive year. Foster received more touches than any other runningback in the NFL as well as the most rushing and receiving touchdowns combined. Nevertheless the Texans offensive line is on the decline.

Foster clearly had more production running off of LT Duane Brown and the right side of the offensive line clearly struggled to create open alleys.  Brown had a bone spur removed from his ankle and even Foster himself has recently endured a setback during OTA’s. All signs point to a possible downturn for the Texans and Foster but one thing is certain Foster continues to surprise his fantasy football critics.

Marshawn Lynch is a beast that can break off long runs often running over his opponents that get in his way. Actually that is Lynch’s AKA ‘Beast Mode’ and no one can break off a run quite like he can.

Seattle has a talented roster that has as much potential to make the Super Bowl as division rivals the San Francisco 49ers. With the addition of wide receiver Percy Harvin I do see Lynch losing carries but what concerns me more is the addition of 2013 NFL Draft pick Texas A&M runningback Christine Michael.

Of the four runningbacks I have covered so far in the 300 club two are just beginning their NFL career while the other two veterans have a proven history of reliability. Marshwan Lynch is not a rookie and has not always been a reliable option yet Lynch in the last two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks has become a reliable option.

Lynch, who had a career season in 2012, only continues to increase his production. Sometimes it takes a while for a football player to mature into a professional and all signs point to Lynch arriving.

On the other hand why did the Seahawks use their first overall pick on a runningback? Will Christine sit? No. You don’t pay second round players to sit. You pay them to play.

Keep your eyes on Seahawks training camp as Lynch will have to prove he didn’t need any new motivation from the Seahawks management?

So why did the bell cow runningback suddenly return in 2012?

The 2011 season had only two runningbacks receiving 300 or more touches, Maurice Jones Drew and Michael Turner. The bell cow was on the verge of extinction in 2011 then all the sudden returned in the 2012 NFL season.

One answer could be the heavy use of formations such as the pistol, wishbone/veer, and all of those formations concealing that dreaded play called the read option or zone read. As much as some believe the read option is another fad similar to the wildcat it is difficult to argue with the schemes overall success and especially against teams that play 3-4 defense.

Tim Tebow is not the best NFL quarterback when it comes to mechanics but even his skill set is enough talent to sustain drives in the read option offense. Yet a closer look at the box score reveals that runningback Willis McGahee was just as important to sustain a drive as Tebow was.

McGahee, when healthy, ran for eight hundred forty one yards in nine games averaging ninety three yards a game. Also McGahee split carries in a running back by committee system receiving touches on first and second down.

The other answer is that coaches are looking for runningbacks who can run, catch, and most of all block. If a runningback can’t block they are not going to be a bell cow back.

What these runningbacks also have in common is they were able to stay healthy.

Health has as much to do with runningbacks chances of reaching 300 as his average yards per a carry. However health is simply an immeasurable that cannot be easily predicted but mileage on runningbacks appears to be a factor.

Runningbacks such as Larry Johnson, Duece McAllister, and Cedric Benson all saw noticeable drop-offs after two seasons of carrying the ball for over 300 carries. While some other runningbacks such as Adrian Peterson are reaching their peak with two 300 seasons already under their belt yet continue to produce.

So who will break 300 carries in 2013 now that we know what factors into the equation?

CJ Spiller of the Buffalo Bills has a lot of potential especially with new Head Coach Doug Marrone. Marrone didn’t waste any time separating himself from former Bills coach Chan Gailey; Marrone said,”… if someone starts off and they’re running well, keep feeding them the ball.” Obliviously Marrone is not a coach who believes in abandoning the running game.  

Last season Spiller made the most of his carries averaging six yards an attempt. What stands out about Spiller is his ability to make the most of his touches. With nine starts and only 207 carries yet still ran for 1,244 yards and six touchdowns.

While Spiller has share carries with former starter Fred Jackson who’s now in the backup role however Jackson is returning from a sprained knee and has shown durability problems the last two seasons.

Spiller has everything going his way including, a new offense, a new coach, a new QB, and a young talented offensive line that could join Spiller at the Pro Bowl this season.

While Cleveland Browns fans are panicked over runningback Trent Richardson’s recent injury woes they’re also forgetting how Richardson overcame injuries last season. In 2012 Richardson carried the ball 267 times even though he was nursing two broken ribs. However that is also the problem with Richardson he doesn’t sit out when injured.

Richardson was a beast at Alabama with a career totaling 520 attempts, 3,304 yards, and 34 TD’s and that is quite a lot of millage for college football. Yet Richardson wasn’t drafted third overall in the 2012 NFL Draft because he could be developed into a bell cow runningback. Richardson is already an NFL bell cow running back and simply needs a quarterback that can make plays on third and long.

Richardson was drafted to be the Browns first option on offense but lacked the support of his offensive line. The Browns offensive line wasn’t as efficient in run blocking as they were pass blocking. However they are young and have some serious talent so I suspect a change in the coaching staff will only shake up the front five. If the Browns offensive front five can open the holes Richardson needs, and the quarterback the sell the play action passing game, then I see Richardson making even greater strides in 2013.

Think New England Patriots and you think pass but last season runningback Stevan Ridley totaled 290 carries for 1263 yards rushing and twelve rushing touchdowns. New England hasn’t had a rusher touch the ball more than 300 times since 2004 when runningback Corey Dillon had 345 rushing attempts.

What makes those numbers even more impressive is that Ridley is the only runningback that received that many touches while his QB made over 600 attempts passing attempts.

However the Patriots offense is headed for major changes with free agents Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker gone, tightend Rob Gronkowski nursing serious injuries this offense has changed drastically. While Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd could be resigned due to the cutting of Aaron Hernandez this team lost key weapons to their air attack. The Patriots are sure to return to a more balanced attack that will heavily involve Ridley.

Ridley has minimal competition in camp and has also noticeably bulked up to protect the football. On the other hand his receiving numbers make him less desirable but he is a solid rusher and that is what matters most. While a lot has been made of Ridley’s concussion during the 2013 postseason that shouldn’t keep anyone form not drafting Ridley.

Ridley is easily a second round draft lock and should payout with a first round performance. Also remember that when Tom Brady wasn’t terrific Ridley had his best performances last season.

It’s hard to not add Kansas City Chiefs runningback Jamaal Charles to this list of possible 300 carry backs but I have my reasons for doubt.

First Charles who also rebounded from an ACL injury in 2011 had a magnificent 2012 season. Charles averaged 5.29 yards a carry right behind Peterson’s average of 6.03 yards a carry. Charles also had 1,509 yards rushing and five rushing touchdowns.

However Charles was lack of touchdowns was not his fault but that of a poorly designed offense.

In February the Chiefs hired Andy Reid; who was in my opinion the best offensive coach available on the market.

The Chiefs acquired quarterback Alex Smith from San Francisco and will feature a west coast offense that will run the read option. One of Reid’s talents is finding role players and creating a place of them in his offense. This could also lead to fewer touches for Jamaal Charles.

 What concerns me is that while Reid took the Eagles to many post season games he also at times abandons the run. Under Reid last season the Eagles passed 62% of the time and elected to run only 38% of the time. With a run to pass ratio like that it will be extremely difficult for Charles to get the touches he needs to reach 300 carries.

Reid had only one NFL season of fourteen he had with the Eagles where a rusher had over 300 carries. That makes it difficult to say that Charles will join the 300 club next season.  

Now if anyone of these runningbacks does not break 300 carries but should still be snatched in the first round it will easily be Jamaal Charles. Charles will be productive in so many different ways that his overall touches won’t even matter. I expect Charles to carry the ball for big yardage and be a serious receiving threat as well.

So what should I be game planning for on draft day?  

As OTA’s have ended and NFL training camp is set to begin in late July keep an open ear for whispers of training camp battles for the starting running back position.

While I don’t see any rookies receiving 300 carries this season some such as Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers and Montee Ball of the Broncos are sure to be pushed.

As with all teams, players are phased out for younger second and third year veterans who have earned their chance to compete for a starting role.

For instance veterans Frank Gore, Darren Sproles, De Angelo Williams, and even new Falcons runningback Steven Jackson who are all twenty nine years old and are no longer spring chickens for a NFL runningback. Others who carry risk are Chris Johnson, Ben Jarvus Green Ellis, and even Adrian Peterson who are now twenty seven years old and not getting any younger.

What I do want to emphasize is that the premature death of the 300 carry runningback is postponed.

On draft day you may be able to find not one but two runningbacks that will be able to dominate your league and build your draft around them. So don’t hesitate to use your first and second draft pick at runningback since the NFL is a copycat league.

Yes the NFL is still a pass first league fundamentally that will not change but runningback is what will determine your fantasy football leagues champion this season. So grab a runningback who has the potential for 300 carries and don’t regret a thing.

Please post a comment.  

NFL Draft Prospects that will be Great Fantasy Football Prospects

by Cris Benson

Every NFL draft guru has said the 2013 NFL Draft will not produce the offensive talent of the 2012 NFL Draft. I still believe their is room for NFL draft prospect to make a fantasy football impact come this fall.

Will someone take a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft? Of course they will. Teams such as the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, and even maybe the New York Jets just may take a QB with their first overall pick. However the draft is full of maybes at the QB position and some are very overrated.

So should you take a gamble on a rookie QB come your fantasy football draft day? Nope.

Geno Smith has small hands and his playing in a spread offense covered many of his flaws. Matt Barkley played in an NFL style offense calling his own plays but I question his sprained throwing shoulder. Ryan Nassib may be drafted by Buffalo but probably won’t start until mid season and even if he did start I wouldn’t start him in fantasy football.

My point is this 2013 QB class is following in the footsteps of a possible Hall of Fame 2012 QB draft class and that is simply an unfair comparison. This draft class has no immediate impact quarterback that will be capable to do what RG3, Luck, and even Ryan Tannehill had done in 2012.   

Last season I told you to take runningback Trent Richardson who did not disappoint in 2012 for fantasy GM’s. I was enthusiastic about the muscle hamster Doug Martin telling you all to draft him as early as the second round and again he didn’t disappoint. Is there a runningback in this draft that can put up these kind of number is 2013? Yes. However the player I think can be the most explosive is a shocker.

In this NFL the runningback has to be able to catch the ball in flat and create space and one player stands out overall and that is Clemson Tiger Andre Ellington. Now with that said is Andre Ellington going to be a mid draft pick? Yes. However if Ellington was to land on the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, or even the New York Jets his value could be fairly elevated come fantasy draft day.  

Is Ellington an injury risk? Yes but most of the injury hype is overblown and future injury could be prevented with a great NFL training staff.

Wisconsin Badger Montee Ball would be a great fit on the Pittsburgh Steelers who need an every down back. Ball has patience and lets the play develop never running ahead of his lead block but instead waiting for the play to develop. Ball could be a perfect number two running back in fantasy football.

If Eddie Lacy was to land on a team on a team with an elite NFL offensive line such as… oh wait Lacy did play on a team with an elite NFL offensive line called Alabama. Lacy is very overrated and is more Mark Ingram then bell cow back Trent Richardson. However Lacy could be a serious scoring threat on team like the Rams, Giants, and especially the 49ers.

No surprise that the best NFL draft prospect at receiver is not a wide-receiver but a tightend. However Notre Dame tightend Tyler Eifert has all the talents to be a red zone threat in the NFL. While his hands are tiny for a TE at only 9 1/8 he still poses a huge catching radius and can go over the middle to attack the ball. If Eifert should land in new Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman’s West Coast offense he could have instant top end fantasy draft value come this fall.

Here is the problem with the wide receivers in this year’s draft and it isn’t the receivers as it is the neediest team at receiver and that is the Minnesota Vikings.

Last season the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted number one receiver prospect Justin Blackmon who is still a great receiver on a very dysfunctional offense. Not that I am comparing the Vikings offense to the Jaguars but they have one thing in common a third year quarterback that is simply unproven. This can also be proven again with the second overall receiving prospect in 2012 Michael Floyd and the awful Arizona quarterback situation.

A bad quarterback can crush a top tier draft prospect. Crush them!

Now will any of these receivers benefit from being picked by a low end team other than St Louis? I don’t think so.

Keep your eyes on rookie receivers who start on teams with a solid NFL quarterback, coach, and system in place to take advantage of that receivers skill set. Rather than hoping a receiver changes the quarterback, coach, and the system.

With all things in this year’s draft we have to simply wait and see what will happen. I can tell you this without any hesitation that nobody knows who, where, when any draft prospect will go. Nobody!

So when the draft is complete I will have my list of ten NFL rookies to snag in this year’s fantasy football draft and I can begin working on my annual fantasy football informer cheat sheet for 2013.  

If you have any thoughts, ideas, or simply want to slam my picks feel free to add your comments I will be sure to respond. Enjoy the 2013 NFL draft!

The Fantasy Football Informers Top 240 Fantasy Football Performers from 2012 Season

The Fantasy Football Informers Top 240 Fantasy Football Performers from 2012 Season