Some of the best breakout performers in football fantasy leagues are rookies, who we’re not quite sure what we are going to get from. Let’s take a look at who my Top 5 rookie running backs will be for this season.
1. Knoshown Moreno – Denver Broncos
He was ranked #19 on my Top 25 running backs list (click here to view), so naturally he’s going to take the top spot on this list. He was the first back off the board, taken #12 overall, and enters the season with little competition in the backfield. Does anyone really think Correll Buckhalter or LaMont Jordan offer much of a threat to his carries at this point?
Despite Mike Shanahan no longer leading the way, the Broncos have long been a team capable of creating running backs seemingly from nothing. Moreno should be the next in a long line of success stories as he develops into a must use option in all formats.
2. Chris Wells – Arizona Cardinals
The other rookie who found his way into my Top 25 (#22), he posted back-to-back 1,000+ yards, averaging 5.9 and 5.8 yards per carry. That may be college, but it is still worth noting.
With Edgerrin James jettisoned during the off-season, his prime competition will be Tim Hightower (399 yards and 10 TD last season). I would be surprised if they didn’t at least split carries, but Wells has significantly more upside and should ultimately see the bulk of the carries. He may lose some TD potential by sharing time with Hightower (which is the major difference between himself and Moreno), but that’s something that can be said about many at this point in the NFL.
3. Donald Brown – Indianapolis Colts
Even with Joseph Addai, the Colts saw an opportunity to add talent to the backfield and quickly took it. It’s tough to imagine drafting a running back in the first round not to give him significant carries, so you have to imagine the Brown is going to get a chance to shine.
While Addai struggled last season, playing in only 12 games and picking up 544 yards, he began his career with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. It’s hard to imagine him not getting an opportunity to play as well, which certainly will decrease Brown’s potential value. That’s what keeps him a step behind the other two backs selected in the first round, he’s definitely in a situation to share carries.
4. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
Make no mistake, McCoy is going to be the back to provide a rest for Brian Westbrook, who we all know always tends to be battling an injury. If Westbrook were to go down, opening up more playing time for McCoy, he could prove to have significant value for fantasy owners in all formats. At this point, however, he’s not likely to be more of a bye week fill-in, as he doesn’t have the potential to put up huge numbers on a week-to-week basis.
5. Andre Brown – New York Giants
Last season the Giants employed a three running back set, with Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. With Ward now calling Tampa Bay home, the Giants needed a new back to join their three-headed monster. In the fourth round out N.C. State, they may have found that man.
At 6’0″, 224 lbs., his stature is very similar to that of Ward and the Giants may lean on him to mimic his performance if they determine that Bradshaw is better suited as a third down back. If that were to happen, Brown could see significant carries and really be a weapon in deeper fantasy formats. Wait and see, but he’s a player worth keeping an eye on.
Honorable Mention: Shonn Greene, New York Jets
What do you think of these rookies? Who will have the biggest performance? Who’s likely to fall flat?
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