Fred Jackson has been Marshawn Lynch’s handcuff/semi-relevant platoon-mate for a couple years now, Dominic Rhodes brings better value and more upside to the table. Years in the pass-happy Indianapolis offense have made Rhodes a competent pass-blocker and receiving back. Additionally, unlike Jackson, he has shown flashes of deceptive power in his stout, five-nine frame. While his value would obviously be at its peak during Marshawn Lynch’s three game suspension (assuming it happens), Rhodes can still remain fantasy-relevant as a goal-line or change-of-pace back when Marshawn takes a few snaps off. The upside here is not enormous, as it is with the next few guys, but the potential exists.
Take a second look at him in deeper leagues.Miami Dolphins- Pat WhiteFor the first time in a while, a number of Miami players have fantasy relevance. Granted, none of them have HUGE fantasy relevance (save Ronnie Brown), but there are a number of ownable players. Pretty much every Miami receiver is a fantasy sleeper this season. The hyper-talented Ted Ginn made big strides in 2008, and is entering the magical third season. Greg Camarillo showed Welker-like potential last season. Davone Bess had a miniaturized breakout rookie season as a solid slot receiver. Ernest Wilford is still massive, making him an instant red zone threat. Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline would not have been drafted by the magically-talented Bill Parcells if they didn’t have NFL-level potential (they’re also both big). All that said, I already wrote up a big-ass article on Pat White’s historic fantasy potential. Read it here.New England Patriots- Laurence MaroneyEver since Corey Dillon retired, the Patriots’ backfield has been confusing as hell. In the 2008 season, LaMont Jordan, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis all had brief bursts of fantasy relevance. Completely absent from this is Laurence Maroney. The twenty-first overall pick in the 2006 draft has already been labeled a bust by Patriots fans, and a total of sixteen games played in the past two seasons, best remembered for an impressive level of inconsistency, left a bitter taste in the mouth of fantasy players.
To top it all off, a combination of effective play from Sammy Morris (4.6 yards per carry in 2007 and 2008) and Kevin Faulk (6.1 ypc, 58 receptions for 486 yards) and the Patriots’ signing of Fred Taylor have put Maroney out-of-mind with anyone who pays attention to the Pats. Their loss, though. Maroney is a rare combination of speed and power. He ran a 4.48 forty on his Pro Day back in 2006, and back when he was actually playing with Dillon, not a game went by when they didn’t talk about how Dillon worked with him during practice, teaching him his brutal, legendary, tackler-stuffing stiff arm. Maroney was limited in his brief 2008 season because of a shoulder injury (a broken shoulder, to be precise), which made him unable to show any of the power he had in his first two seasons, like here, where he runs head-first into a pile of Titans for a touchdown, or here, where he embarrasses defenders in the infamous 52-7 win over the Redskins. Just watching plays like this reminds you that Maroney is talented. Another thing to consider is that, good as New England’s RBs have been, they’re really freaking old. Morris is 32, Faulk will be 33 in June, and Fred Taylor will be 34 in time for the postseason. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, despite his fantasy relevance, is not really electrifying. While Maroney is probably going to end up somewhere in standard ten team leagues…try and make sure he ends up on your team.
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New York Jets- Shonn Greene
It’s entirely possible that by the time the season rolls around, this won’t be a sleeper pick. But I’m still penciling in Marion Barber’s doppelganger here. Firstly, check this out. It’s a highlight reel of Shonn Greene barreling over random shmoes in college. Granted, he is not going to encounter many five-foot-eight strong safeties like he did in college, but the sheer strength is impressive. New coach Rex Ryan is smitten with Greene’s power, and Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are on the midnight train to the doghouse. Greene is bigger than Jones and stronger than Washington, and Ryan “loves the way guys bounce off of him” and “has a poster of him taped over his bed.” Even if Jones and Washington both stick around, the thoughts of Greene getting a huge load of red zone carries won’t leave my head, and a the chances of a two-back system being set up by the new Jets regime boon Greene’s fantasy potential even more. A season in the same vein of Marion Barber’s 2006 breakout campaign (654 yards, 14 TDs) is possible…though 14 TDs is unlikely. But Greene will probably end up infuriating many-a-Thomas Jones-owner with his TD-stealing abilities.