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Roto Arcade

First Down: Forte, Peterson are rather busty in appearance

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Contract, knee concerns make Forte a risky option this year. (USP)

When you entered the draft room last August, optimism brimmed. You felt fully prepared. For weeks prior, volumes of "expert" opines, player notes and insightful stats were consumed. In your fantasy laboratory, the perfect strategy was created. Anything and everything was possible.

Granted the eighth pick in a 12-team standard league, you debated internally floor versus ceiling. Go quarterback, and you minimized risk, though there were great values available much later. Go wide receiver, and you would be faced with a difficult Round 2 decision. Go running back, and the dice rolled.

After seven picks, two adult beverages and intense self-reflection, the spotlight shined on you.

90 seconds

Aaron Rodgers? He is the lifeblood of a high-powered Green Bay offense, has oodles of weapons, is consistent and pads his stellar passing numbers with excellent ground returns.

60 seconds

Andre Johnson? He's the key fixture in the Texans passing game, a truly elite talent. Downside: Hulk Hogan's tank tops are more durable.

30 seconds

Rashard Mendenhall? His yards per carry shrunk in 2010, but he's a high-tiered, workhorse back in a ball control offense. Steady production should be the norm, not the exception.

With the sands of the hourglass running thin, you calmly, confidently clicked your pick: Mendenhall.

Little did you know, that one misstep likely cost you a title shot. …

Unpredictably, Pittsburgh strayed away from the run. Poor blocking up front combined with the emergence of Antonio Brown altered then offensive coordinator Bruce Arian's thinking. Most often, games were decided on the arm of Ben Roethlisberger, not the tree trunks of Mendenhall evident in the Steelers' 53-47 pass-run split.

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Overall, the rusher's 2011 campaign, capped by a devastating ACL injury in Week 17, was smothered in disappointment. Though he crossed the chalk a useful nine times, he experienced a dramatic reduction in touches. The previous season he averaged 21.7 grips per game. Last year that number plummeted to 16.4. His subsequent 10.8 points per game average checked in at No. 18 among qualifying backs. Suffice it to say, those who believed they struck gold in Round 1 by selecting Mendy failed to finish in the black.

Mendenhall wasn't the only once coveted rusher who didn't meet expectations. Chris Johnson (Perpetual suckage), Jamaal Charles (ACL), Darren McFadden (Foot) and Frank Gore (early exits), all top-12 RBs on draft day, also bombed, adding to the high-risk, high-reward trend Fantasyland has seen at the position over the past few years (See chart).

In order not to commit the same mistake twice, many owners will abandon the position altogether in Round 1 this year. During this skyward age, quarterbacks are far more reliable. However, with the number of workhorse rushers dwindling, others will continue to invest heavily in beasts of burden. So, what perceived 2012 RB1s carry the most risk? Here's a breakdown:

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Darren McFadden, Oak
ADP: 9.6 (RB7)
Bust Barometer reads … Very High

Upside: When not coated in BenGay, McFadden is one of the AFC's most explosive and versatile RBs. He's netted 5.3 yards per carry since 2010. New head coach Dennis Allen, a former defensive coordinator, is all about clock management, which benefits the ground game. With Michael Bush no longer over his shoulder, Run DMC is poised to drop phat rhymes, earning upwards of 20-23 touches per game. Behind a very good offensive line he's certainly capable of top-5 numbers.

Downside: A kite has better odds surviving a Category 5 hurricane than McFadden does an entire 16-game slate. After missing six games with a foot injury last year, he's progressed smoothly and should be at full-strength when training camp opens in late July. Still, the brittle back has yet to eclipse 13 games in a season. If you sport serious HUEVOS and place your season in the rusher's hands, be sure to handcuff Mike Goodson late.

Adrian Peterson, Min
ADP: 12.6 (RB9)
Bust Barometer reads … High

Upside: The Purple Jesus is a true consistency king. He's finished inside the RB top-6 in per game average every year since he entered the league in 2007. Aggressive, forthright and punishing, he is one of the finest tackle-draggers in pro football (3.1 yac/attempt in '11). Minnesota addressed its trench issues landing the finest lineman in the draft, Matt Kalil. That combined with a young, but emerging passing attack should open up sizable holes for Peterson.

Downside: He shredded his ACL/MCL last Christmas Eve. Though the intelligent machine is well-ahead of schedule — one trainer recently said his protoplasm is "different from the rest of the world" — history of players with a similar setback at the same age doesn't bode well for a quick turnaround. His goal remains being ready for Week 1, but he's a pick for the iron-stomached in the late-first, early-second rounds.

Ryan Mathews, SD
ADP: 5.7 (RB4)
Bust Barometer reads … Medium-High

Upside: Everything is in place for Mathews to rack mammoth numbers. Mike Tolbert is now in Carolina. He's had an exceptional offseason. Norv Turner, whose offense has churned out dominating backs in the past (e.g. LT2), is fully committed to giving him a three-down workload. And Philip Rivers is still routinely stretching defenses.

Downside: His history of constant nicks, scrapes and fumbles fosters untrustworthy feelings. Millions simply can't shake his lousy rookie season. That viewpoint is understandable especially when considering the price point, but Mathews is ultra-confident, in exceptional shape and has little to no competition. It's entirely possible he finishes as the No. 1 overall RB in fantasy. In other words, he's the ultimate high-risk/high-reward pick.

Matt Forte, Chi
ADP: 17.2 (RB12)
Bust Barometer reads … Medium-High

Upside: Forte is a scoring buffet who can accumulate points in a variety of ways. He's rushed for at least 920 yards and snagged 50-plus passes in each of his first four seasons. The acquisition of Brandon Marshall, improved O-line and elimination of Mike Martz makes his situation more favorable. In fact, it might be the friendliest it's ever been since the Bears drafted him in '08.

Downside: Concerns over his knees combined with his possible contract holdout and presence of Bush clouds Forte's fantasy value. Inking a deal before August 1 would certainly ease tension, but even at his Round 2 price, he's completely avoidable in non-PPR formats. Don't overspend.

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Even centenarians love them some MJD. (USP)

DeMarco Murray, Dal
ADP: 14.2 (RB11)
Bust Barometer reads … Medium-High

Upside: After a stirring seven game run as the starter last year (104.3 typg, 5.0 ypc), including a team-record 253-yard outburst versus the rancid Rams Week 7, Murray will enter training camp as the incumbent. Touchdowns were few and far between for him when thrust into the lead role (1), but the 'Boys' high-octane offense should provide him ample red-zone attempts the second time around. Versatile, strong after initial contact and explosive, he has RB1 tools.

Downside: The broken foot that prematurely ended his rookie campaign is a reminder of his fragility. His upright running style could lead to additional sideline time. Still, if he can muster 14-16 games, he's capable of 1,600 total yards and 8-12 touchdowns. If you sink dollars in him, don't forget about Felix Jones in the beer hazy rounds.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac
ADP: 7.8 (RB6)
Bust Barometer reads … Medium

Upside: The Oompah Loompah's 2011 season was extraordinary. Despite the Jags' pathetic vertical game, he surpassed 1,600 yards on the ground, capturing the NFL rushing title. Assuming Justin Blackmon quits chugging Absinthe recreationally, Jacksonville should have a more viable passing attack. Laurent Robinson and the rookie form a quality 1-2 punch.

Downside: Last week, a report surfaced noting MJD has lost explosiveness. That may raise an eyebrow, but he's never possessed elite speed, counting on his fire-hydrant frame to break tackles and devour yards. Still, the 27-year-old has logged three-straight 300-plus carry seasons. It's conceivable the years of wear and tear may catch up to him, which could lead to increased touches for Rashad Jennings. Without a reliable quarterback — buyers better pray Chad Henne beats Blaine Gabbert in camp — he could again be presented with several overstacked boxes. His fantasy playoff schedule is also daunting (NYJ, at Mia, NE).

Chris Johnson, Ten
ADP: 7.0 (RB5)
Bust Barometer reads … Low-Medium

Upside: Many owners would gladly become a hood ornament on a tractor trailer than endure another year of pain and suffering with CJ2Lame, but the offensive environment in Tennessee is healthier compared to '11. The Titans reinforced the O-line, their biggest weakness last fall, by signing former All-Pro Steve Hutchinson. Kenny Britt is back. Robert Griffin III's former Baylor buddy Kendall Wright was drafted. And Chris Palmer plans to install more Run 'n Shoot elements, which plays to Johnson's strengths. Because he can beat you in variable ways, he's safer than you think in the mid-first. Approximately 1,800 total yards with 8-12 TDs are very attainable.

Downside: If running lanes don't materialize and CJ pussyfoots behind the line like he did last season, it will be  another tough-to-stomach season. Tennessee has the roughest slate among fantasy RBs. Still, he's healthy and extremely motivated to prove he still belongs among the top backs.

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Marshawn Lynch, Sea
ADP: 12.5 (RB8)
Bust Barometer reads … Low-Medium

Upside: Lynch struggled over the first few weeks adjusting to Seattle's zone-blocking scheme. However, once he exuded patience, the numbers started pouring in. Unmistakably, he was fantasy's most consistent rusher from Week 4 on, scoring in 11 straight while amassing seven 100-total yards performances. He is the unrivaled starter in an offense that should make substantial strides in the pass game. With light workloads in 2009-2010 he appears to have plenty of tread left on the tires.

Downside: If Matt Flynn pans out and Sidney Rice actually remains upright, the 'Hawks may follow the flock and throw more often in 2012. Because Lynch is a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield, it's not a hard knock, but 18-20 touches per game, not 25, could become commonplace. Bulldozing rookie Robert Turbin could also eat into his workload, albeit slightly.

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Shady's bling is brighter. Will his star remain the same? (USP)

LeSean McCoy, Phi
ADP: 2.5 (RB2)
Bust Barometer reads … Low

Upside: Even Hatfields would consider this McCoy. He's coming off a banner year in which he splashed six a position-best 20 times, averaged a career-high 4.8 yards per carry and surpassed the 100 total yard mark 10 times. He's a fixture in the pass game, fairly durable and ultra-elusive. Though defensive identity can change rapidly in the NFL, he enters 2012 with one of the softest schedules around, particularly during the fantasy playoffs (at TB, Cin, Wash). He's the second-best back in the virtual game.

Downside: If McCoy flounders, it would be because of A) A fluke injury or B) He did his best CJ2K post-payday impersonation. Andy Reid has also expressed his desire to reduce Shady's overall touches to keep the prized weapon fresh and healthy. As a result, Dion Lewis could net roughly 8-12 touches per game. Michael Vick's desire to run also limits his chances of a TD repeat.

Ray Rice, Bal
ADP: 4.2 (RB3)
Bust Barometer reads … Low

Upside: The Long Gain Rice is arguably the most well-rounded rusher in the game today, a commodity PPR gamers would sacrifice an appendage to own. For the third-straight season he eclipsed 1,200 yards on the ground, totaled at least 63 receptions and notched 550-plus receiving yards. Now that Ricky Williams is massaging someone, somewhere, he will be deployed even more at the goal-line and be counted on to wear down offenses late. Keep in mind, in this pass-happy age, the Ravens run the ball more than most (48-percent of the time last year).

Downside: There are very few negatives to his situation/game. But, nitpicking, he's averaged a tiresome 356.7 touches per year since becoming a full-timer in 2009. He's only 25, but that kind of stretch increases injury risk. Sneaking contingency plan Benard Pierce late would be a savvy move for any Rice investor.

Trent Richardson, Cle
ADP: 14.0 (RB10)
Bust Barometer reads … Low

Upside: Shocked? Unlike former college teammate Mark Ingram, Richardson should flourish in his rookie campaign. The kid has the goods — bruising interior style, plus speed, tacky hands, strong work ethic. Many scouts believe he's the best RB prospect to come into the league since Peterson. With little competition and running behind a bolstered offensive line, he is a strong candidate to eclipse 1,600 total yards with roughly 10 touchdowns, particularly if Brandon Weeden is as accurate as advertised. He's a rare pack animal in a timeshare age.

Downside: Those burned in the past by rookie RBs would consider Richardson's "low" bust forecast a joke. After all, he's yet to log a single down in the NFL and plays for a team that was absolutely dreadful on offense last year. Add that to Cleveland's rough division — the Browns play run stoppers Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincy twice each — and, to naysayers, he's more Round 3 than Round 1-2 material.

Arian Foster, Hou
ADP: 1.4 (RB1)
Bust Barometer reads … Low

Upside: Where to start? Foster is the centerpiece in a zone-blocking system tailored perfectly to his skills who is also a phenomenal receiver out of the backfield. The Texans offensive line can move mountains and the return of Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub should only widen already gaping holes. His 19.7 per game mark in standard formats was nearly a full point better than No. 2, McCoy's. Regardless of format, he is the indisputable top dog in virtual pigskin.

Downside: Ben Tate is a slight concern, but a bout of anti-awesomeness is the only thing that could slow down the league's most complete back. And, as we've seen, that would only be temporary.

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