I posted this article on Rotworld's Pancake Blocks blog on Friday afternoon. It's a list of five RBs rising and five RBs falling in value since the beginning of offseason practices in May.
Since the unveiling of our first offseason Dynasty rankings back in May, spring practices have seen several players gaining momentum while others are losing steam. Here’s a brief look at the running back movement:
1. Pierre Thomas – Ultra-effective as a runner, receiver and goal-line option, Thomas has overtaken Reggie Bush as the fantasy back to own in the Saints offense. While his coach flirted with bigger backs, Thomas spent the offseason adding muscle to grind out tough inside yardage and withstand a heavier workload. Jon Gruden's pick as the best-kept secret in the NFL has "breakout" written all over him.
2. Ray Rice – Based on his work in OTAs, Rice is now poised to lead the Ravens' three-headed attack. Already the best backfield pass-catcher, he's added noticeable bulk and improved his blocking skills. Considering McGahee's possible (probable?) 2010 exit and John Harbaugh's belief that Rice has everydown-back abilities, he could see his value skyrocket by next offseason.
3. Darren McFadden – Savvy Dynasty league owners realize that temporary patches like Justin Fargas don't keep special talents on the bench for long. Leaving the debilitating turf toe injuries behind, McFadden showed off his trademark explosiveness during spring practices. In fact, there's talk of the offense "hanging its hat" on his work in the passing game this season.
4. Felix Jones – After Felix showed off dominant playmaking ability in six rookie games, owner Jerry Jones spent the offseason insisting that the former Razorback will be a "major touch-factor" in 2009. Though he still has work to do on his receiving and blocking, it's clear that the Cowboys want to force-feed their most explosive weapon double-digit touches on a weekly basis.
5. Ronnie Brown – The addition of Pat White will reduce his Wildcat impact, but Brown is expected to see more carries in a traditional role after sharing the backfield with Ricky Williams last year. Now 19 months removed from ACL surgery, Brown reportedly looked "fit, faster than ever and like he should be the team’s featured back" during OTAs.
Honorable Mention: Jerome Harrison, Rashad Jennings, Derrick Ward, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jerious Norwood
1. Brian Westbrook – Following preseason ankle surgery at age 30, Westbrook is now at the stage where an in-season injury buries his future value as much as his present value. More of an injury risk than ever, Westbrook is so important to the Eagles' renewed Super Bowl chances that the team figures to use extreme caution in monitoring his workload.
2. Marshawn Lynch – The three-game suspension stole the headlines, but it's the presence of Fred Jackson that dents Lynch's long-term value. After signing Jackson to a four-year deal, the Bills have made it clear that Jackson's role will expand at Lynch's expense.
3. Le'Ron McClain / Willis McGahee – Rice's gain is a net loss for McClain and McGahee. McClain's ceiling will be limited as he concentrates on short-yardage duties while McGahee continues to battle knee and work ethic concerns. With a cloudy future, McGahee owners can no longer count on a starting role.
4. Thomas Jones – Jones used spring workouts to posture for a new contract, and the Jets responded by trading up to grab his eventual replacement with the first pick in the third round. With a new coaching staff in town, the 31-year-old is in danger of losing touches to Leon Washignton and goal-line work to Greene.
5. Marion Barber – The precipitous drop in Barber's efficiency highlights his overuse in the first half of 2008, and the Cowboys are now determined to work in both Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. MBIII can still be a productive fantasy asset in his "closer role," but consistency will be an issue going forward.