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CFB: RB Roundtable

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Which running backs are overrated as a fantasy option this year?

Braden Gall: Trent Richardson, Alabama - Yes, he might be more talented than Ingram. Yes, he might go higher in the NFL Draft and have a better pro career. But what is his true value as a back-up this fall? Unless Ingram gets hurt, he is not an every week RB2 or RB3. And that is where he is getting drafted currently.

1st round Mid-Majors - SEE BELOW

Steven Lassan: Even though UTEP’s Donald Buckram and North Texas’ Lance Dunbar had great 2009 fantasy seasons, I wouldn’t take them ahead of any of the other names in our top 10, Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray and Temple’s Bernard Pierce. Buckram should be a solid fantasy option, but will UTEP go back to leaning the pass with quarterback Trevor Vittatoe? Although North Texas is solid up front, there’s a new coordinator and a question mark at quarterback. I don’t necessarily believe they are ranked too high in the top 12, but I’d rather have a steady, proven option like Mark Ingram, Jordan Todman or John Clay.

Patrick Snow:One thing to stay away from in drafting a starter at running back is uncertainty. There is no doubt that Oklahoma State senior Kendall Hunter is a quality runner, but some uncertainties with the Cowboys offense have me hesitant on Hunter being a Top 20 running back. OSU lost four offensive line starters from last year, and new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen may get very pass-happy as he did at Houston. Additionally, Hunter is coming off an injury-riddled 2009 season.

Hunter has a ton of talent (over 1500 yards in 2008), but the questions around him will drop his draft position for me more in the #22-#26 RB range.

Which running backs are underrated as a fantasy option this year?

Braden Gall: Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati - The numbers have improved each season, and for where he is going in drafts, he is a great value pick.

Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky - Widely underrated by most rankings with the glaring exception of one three-letter broadcasting corporation.

Victor Anderson, Louisville - If he can stay healthy, a big if, then owners have already seen what he can do. Try 1,148 yards from scrimmage and nine scores in 2008.

Tre Newton, Texas - If the new under-center offensive approach truly is more dedicated to running the ball, it looks like Newton will be the top beneficiary.

Steven Lassan: The offseason buzz surrounding Oklahoma has indicated DeMarco Murray is in for a huge season. If those reports are true, Murray’s fantasy value lies closer to the top five. However, Murray also has to prove he can stay healthy, something he hasn’t done so far in his career. There’s a lot of risk to Murray, but one that could pay off for fantasy owners. Also, USC’s Allen Bradford, Fresno State’s Robbie Rouse, Illinois’ Mikel LeShoure, Western Kentucky’s Bobby Rainey and Marshall’s Martin Ward are backs I would move up our rankings.

Patrick Snow: Most people are understandably hesitant to draft a team’s “second” running back as a starter, but I think you have to make an exception with Alabama’s Trent Richardson. He scored eight touchdowns as a freshman in limited duty, and the results should be even better this year.

The Tide loves to pound the rock and has one of the best offensive lines in the country. While Heisman winner Mark Ingram will still get his touches, I believe Richardson will get 175-200 carries this season. With that many attempts, a total of 1000 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns seems very attainable. Those numbers should work very well for your team if you get him as a third or even fourth back.

Which running back will you avoid on draft day?

Braden Gall: Lance Dunbar, Donald Buckram and to a lesser extent Bernard Pierce. "Mid-Major" programs are much more volatile and subsequently much more difficult to predict in fantasy — all three were waiver wire adds last season for example. For my RB1 or RB2, I will take one of the big boys who play at power running schools like Wisconsin, Alabama, Oklahoma, Pitt, UConn or Cal. I love the mid-majors later in the draft. Bobby Rainey (WKU), Frank Goodin (ULM), Eddie Wide (Utah), Morgan Williams (TOL) and Robbie Rouse (Fresno) could all be this year's Dunbar, Buckram or Pierce. And you can get them much later.

Steven Lassan: Unless Alfred Morris is my third running back, I will avoid him on draft day. The defenses in the Sun Belt may be light, but the Owls have a mess along the offensive line. Five new starters are taking over and the potential starting left tackle (Troy Niblack) was lost in fall practice due to academics. With the line a big concern, I can’t see Morris equaling last year’s statline – 1,392 yards and 11 scores.

Also, I would hesitate to take running backs like Arizona’s Nic Grigsby, Kansas’ Toben Opurum, Georgia’s Washaun Ealey and Texas A&M’s Christine Michael. Although each have a lot of upside, I don’t think I would rely on them as my starting running backs, largely due to the uncertainty on how the carries will shake out at those schools.

Patrick Snow: I would look to avoid backs with low yards per carry (below 4.5) averages. In our Top 50, guys like Kansas’ Toben Opurum (4.2 ypc), Bowling Green’s Willie Geter (4.0 ypc), Syracuse’s Delone Carter (4.3 ypc) and Colorado’s Rodney Stewart (4.1 ypc) fall into this category. Obviously their numbers may go up with improved line and/or quarterback play, but I will be very hesitant on those types of runners.

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