NFL fantasy: Breaking down featured fantasy RBs

  • By Michael Fabiano
  • Published: April 3, 2013 at 06:41 p.m.

Which running backs had the greatest percentage of carries for their team last season? I think that's a huge part of putting together player rankings. Thanks! - @DanOnofrio (via Twitter)

Michael Fabiano: In terms of pure carries from running backs and fullbacks, Alfred Morris (89 percent) was the most featured player at the position last season. Here's the rest of the top five: 2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (87 percent); 3. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (86 percent); 4. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans (83 percent); T-5. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals (77 percent). On the flip side, the teams with the lowest percentage of carries for a single back in 2012 were the Jacksonville Jaguars (32 percent), Arizona Cardinals (35 percent), Denver Broncos (37 percent) and Green Bay Packers (37 percent). The percentages for the Jaguars and Cardinals should increase next season, though, as Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashard Mendenhall will be back on the gridiron and should see a lot of the carries for their respective teams.

In what round would you draft Larry Fitzgerald now that he has Carson Palmer throwing him the football? - J. Butte (via Facebook)

M.F.: If you ask Fitzgerald, he would tell you he's a top-five fantasy wide receiver. That's possible now with Palmer at the helm of the offense and coach Bruce Arians calling the shots -- just as long as the Cardinals make some moves to improve their questionable offensive line. Remember, Fitzgerald had been a staple among the top five fantasy wideouts before 2012; he finished 5th (2011), 16th (2010), 5th (2009), 1st (2008) and 5th (2007) in the previous five campaigns, althought few of those finishes came with Kurt Warner under center. While Palmer isn't on that level, he's still an experienced signal-caller with the skills to go vertical in the pass attack. If I were in a fantasy football draft right now, Fitzgerald would come off the board somewhere in the second or third round.

What do you think of West Virginia's Geno Smith? I have the first overall pick in our dynasty league and was wondering if he's worth it. - @beardreams (via Twitter)

M.F.: Smith has been receiving some harsh criticism of late, most notably from Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock backed Nawrocki's reputation and sources, and he's not overly impressed with any of the rookie signal-callers, either. In fact, Mayock said he "couldn't take Geno Smith in the top 10" and "can't stand this whole quarterback class." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. With that said, Smith's short- and long-term value is going to be due in part to where he lands in April's draft. Will he be allowed a chance to start in 2013, or will Smith be groomed by a veteran quarterback? A few of the teams in the top 10 that need a quarterback have added a veteran in the offseason -- Matt Flynn went to the Oakland Raiders, Palmer went to the Cardinals and Kevin Kolb landed with the Buffalo Bills. The Jaguars and New York Jets could also use help at the position, but using a top-10 pick on Smith seems unlikely at this point. From a fantasy perspective, I like his versatile skill set and upside in a league that has become an absolute stat-fest for quarterbacks. So if you're in real need at the position in your dynasty league, Smith is almost guaranteed to be a first-round pick. Just don't expect him to be the rookie equivalent of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson.

Do the Jets have even one potential fantasy starter heading into the 2013 season? - B. Bergantino (via Facebook)

M.F.: As a I go through this roster in my head, I can't think of a single player I'd draft with confidence as a fantasy starter. Mark Sanchez? Heck no, he might not even be the actual starter with David Garrard in the mix. While I think Mike Goodson has some deep-sleeper value, I couldn't draft him or Bilal Powell as more than a No. 4 fantasy runner. The best wide receiver on the team is Santonio Holmes, and he hasn't had a solid fantasy season since leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009. Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley don't exactly get my fantasy blood boiling, and the loss of Dustin Keller leaves Jeff Cumberland as the current favorite to start at tight end. The Jets defense could have some starting appeal from a fantasy perspective, but that's not guaranteed if the team decides to part with superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis. Clearly, the Men in Green will be a virtual fantasy wasteland in 2013.

M.F.: Remember when Bush averaged 71 catches in his first three seasons with the New Orleans Saints? That's the sort of potential he'll have with the Lions. Coach Jim Schwartz plans to use the versatile runner in a similar fashion as Sean Payton, but I wouldn't be shocked to see him record somewhere in the neighborhood of 175-200 carries too -- keep in mind, Mikel Leshoure will see his share of the work in short-yardage and goal-line situations. If there's one concern I have with Bush, it's that he was a much more brittle runner with the Saints and more importantly, playing on turf. When playing more games on grass as a member of the Miami Dolphins, he was far more durable. Overall, I think the Southern California product will be a No. 2 fantasy back in most standard leagues with top-15 potential among runners in leagues that reward points for catches.

There's been a lot of buzz around Lamar Miller, but what about Daniel Thomas? Don't you think this has the potential to be a committee situation? - P. Stearns (via Facebook)

M.F.: Anything is possible, but I see Miller being the main man in the backfield. Last season, Bush saw close to 60 percent of all the running back/fullback carries for the team. I think Miller will see the same, if not more. Also, according to a recent report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "the Dolphins are concerned about Thomas' durability, and his ability to be the big, physical goal-line runner this offense needs." In fact, the report also suggests that the team "will likely add another young back, or two via the draft." Regardless, the writing is on the wall for Miller -- he's a favorite among his teammates and a virtual lock to be mentioned about the top sleepers in fantasy football for 2013.

In what round would you draft Tony Romo? I don't think he was worth that huge contract, but I know Romo is a good fantasy option. - @dhersh (via Twitter)

M.F.: Romo catches a lot of flack from the media for not being clutch and failing to lead his team to the postseason on a consistent basis. That's fair, but we're talking about fantasy football and statistics -- those are two categories where Romo finds a lot of success. Don't forget, he was just 97 yards shy of throwing for 5,000 yards last season. He's also scored a combined 61 total touchdowns over the last two seasons, and Romo's schedule based on fantasy points is the easiest among quarterbacks heading into the 2013 campaign. When you also factor in that the position is ridiculously deep -- I have 10 field generals ranked ahead of Romo -- and Romo could turn into one of the best bargains in drafts. I would be targeting him starting in the fifth round in a standard 10-team league, but Romo might still be on the board into Round 6 or 7.

Matt Flynn seems to be a nice fit in Oakland. I think he'll be fine. Thoughts? - P. Drounett (via Facebook)

M.F.: Flynn's fantasy value is on the rise, but only because he's gone from being a backup in Seattle to a starter in Oakland. While there has been a trend of former Green Bay reserve field generals (Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Rodgers) finding success with new organizations, Flynn is not guaranteed to join that list. He doesn't have a big arm, and his most memorable moment at the NFL level is a 480-yard, six-touchdown performance in 2011. Those are huge fantasy totals, but that game came in Week 17 against a Detroit Lions squad with a questionable pass defense and nothing on the line since the team had already clinched a spot in the postseason. Flynn is also lacking for reliable weapons, as the Raiders released Darrius Heyward-Bey (Colts) and lost Brandon Myers to the Giants this offseason. If he is selected in fantasy drafts, it won't be as more than a reserve in most leagues.

Do you think Michael Vick has a chance to be a fantasy draft bargain under coach Chip Kelly? - @TGoogs13 (via Twitter)

M.F.: I think the fit with Vick's skill set and Kelly's offense is a good one, but how much can we as fantasy owners trust Vick to remain on the football field? He hasn't started a full 16 games as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. In fact, he has started every single game just once (2006) in his career. Even in 2010 when he was the top quarterback in fantasy football, Vick started just 12 contests. Furthermore, the Virginia Tech product has missed a combined 13 games between injuries and being benched since 2010. So ... do I think Vick can be a nice draft bargain? Absolutely. Am I willing to draft him as my No. 1 fantasy quarterback? Not a chance.

How will Kevin Kolb affect the fantasy value of Steve Johnson? - J. Goodwin (via Facebook)

M.F.: Regardless of who is under center, Johnson is what he is at this point in his career, a good No. 3 fantasy wide receiver who will give you around 70 receptions, 1,000 yards and six to eight touchdowns. If anything, Kolb might detract from Johnson's stock a little because he's about as durable as a glass chandelier. Kolb missed a combined 17 games during his time in Arizona with various ailments, and a continuance of his brittle state would mean Tarvaris Jackson takes over under center.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related?