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Fantasy Backs

LAS VEGAS – It’s only mid-June, but already there’s a huge fantasy football question being asked:

Who is the No. 2 running back behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson? It’s such a difficult question that no owner wants the second pick in the draft.

Let’s look at the candidates division by division.

AFC East

Buffalo: Marshawn Lynch is suspended for the first three games.

Miami: Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams split too many carries. Brown clearly is the better and more versatile back, but Williams takes goal line carries away.

New England: Committee. Laurence Maroney has been relegated to sleeper status.

New York Jets: Thomas Jones actually led the AFC in rushing last season. But he’s not even a first-round pick.

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AFC North

Baltimore: Willis McGahee never has been and never will be an elite runner.

Cincinnati: Given new life, Cedric Benson could surprise. However, four of his games are against the impossible-to-run-against Steelers and Ravens.

Cleveland: Jamal Lewis could be near the end.

Pittsburgh: Willie Parker doesn’t catch well enough and is not a shoo-in to get goal line touches.

AFC South

Houston: Steve Slaton, not Reggie Bush, is the real deal. It would take a lot of guts, though, to make him a top-five choice.

Indianapolis: I don’t see a comeback season in store for Joseph Addai.

Jacksonville: Here could be the No. 2 pick – Maurice Jones-Drew. No Fred Taylor means Jones-Drew finally becomes the unequivocal featured back. The Jaguars like to play smash-mouth. That ensures lots of carries. Jones-Drew is a tough goal line back, despite his small size, and also an excellent pass-catcher.

Tennessee: Len Dale White led the AFC in touchdowns with 15. But White isn’t even the best back on Tennessee. Chris Johnson is. Johnson would be a candidate for the No. 2 pick if White didn’t vulture many of his touchdowns.

AFC West

Denver: Rookie Knowshon Moreno is getting a lot of love in early expert’s drafts. Obviously, though, he’s a huge unknown.

Kansas City: The Chiefs are getting away from the spread offense they ran last year, which could set up Larry Johnson for a comeback season. Johnson, however, has lots of mileage and has become a huge character risk.

Oakland: It’s never wise to trust an Oakland running back.

San Diego: LaDainian Tomlinson has slipped out of the top-five.

NFC East

Dallas: Marion Barber is worth a medium-to-late first-round pick. Injury concerns keep him from going higher.

New York Giants: Ditto Brandon Jacobs. This guy could be the No. 2 pick if you could know ahead of time he wouldn’t get nicked up like he always does.

Philadelphia: Brian Westbrook. This is a very strong division for fantasy running backs. Westbrook is a legitimate top-five choice in points-per-reception leagues.

Washington: Portis came through with a monster season in 2008, but 342 carries could take a toll. He also doesn’t catch many passes.

NFC North

Chicago: Matt Forte is good, but he just doesn’t excite. The presence of Jay Cutler might lessen his impact.

Detroit: Kevin Smith lost a ton of value with the coaching change.

Green Bay: Ryan Grant should get a lot of touches. The problem is he’s just not very good.

Minnesota: Peterson is the clear-cut No. 1 choice.

NFC South

Atlanta: Michael Turner is a strong candidate to go right behind Peterson. He’s the safe, consensus choice right now. But the guy did have a staggering 376 carries last season and did his damage on odd numbered weeks only.

Carolina: DeAngelo Williams is the most unsung running back in the NFL. He doesn’t get much publicity, but his numbers were staggering: an NFL-best 18 touchdowns and 1,515 yards rushing on 273 carries for a league-best 5.5 yard average. He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on, although Jonathan Stewart remains in the Carolina running back picture.

New Orleans: Bush is the most overrated running back in the NFL. In points-per-reception leagues, though, he’s still a late first-round pick.

Tampa Bay: Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward should be helped by the Buccaneers going to a zone-blocking running scheme. Don’t bother even wasting a late pick on Cadillac Williams anymore.

NFC West

Arizona: Rookie Beanie Wells definitely is worth paying attention to. The Cardinals need to become more balanced and Wells has talent.

St. Louis: Stephen Jackson just can’t be trusted health-wise to be the No. 2 overall pick.

San Francisco: Frank Gore took a step back last year. Health, too, is a huge concern with him.

Seattle: Supreme touchdown vulture T.J. Duckett could suck any limited value out of Julius Jones.

  
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