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Andy Behrens

Let's meet the candidates to be the Pierre Thomas of 2009

Andy Behrens
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The objective today is simple. We're evaluating applicants for the role of this year's Pierre Thomas(notes). Someone must be chosen.

Unless you're completely new to our game, you'll recall that PT finished the 2008 season heroically, scoring nine touchdowns in Weeks 11-16 while averaging 112.8 total yards per game. He carried many of us to fantasy titles, if we somehow avoided the DeAngelo buzzsaw in Week 16.

A credible collection of candidates has emerged to be the 2009 version of PT. You're only allowed to vote for one. In order to qualify, a player must meet the following eligibility requirements: A) he became his team's primary ball-carrier at mid-season; B) he was largely unhyped entering the year; C) at some point, he was available via waivers and/or free agency in fantasy leagues.

We're excluding any running back who began the season ranked among the Yahoo! composite top 40, so Rashard Mendenhall(notes), LeSean McCoy(notes), Beanie Wells(notes) and Donald Brown(notes) are not involved in the discussion.

Pierre Thomas himself is not eligible to be this year's Pierre Thomas, because he was thoroughly hyped back in August and…well, because this is kind of like the comeback player of the year award. You should not be allowed to win it in consecutive seasons.

Here are the top five contenders, in no particular order:

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Jamaal Charles(notes), Kansas City Chiefs

End-of-season schedule: DEN, BUF, CLE, at CIN, at DEN
2009 preseason rank: unranked
Last three weeks: No. 7 RB
Current percent owned: 58

Charles managed to gain 213 total yards and score three touchdowns over the past two weeks, in degree-of-difficulty matchups against Pittsburgh and San Diego. The schedule finally tilts in his favor in the weeks ahead. Buffalo has allowed the most fantasy points to running backs and Cleveland has allowed the second-most.

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Ricky Williams(notes), Miami Dolphins

Schedule: NE, at JAC, at TEN, HOU, PIT
Preseason: No. 60
Last three: No. 3
Percent owned: 93

The upcoming schedule isn't necessarily loaded with friendly matchups, but Ricky won't face a defense that needs to be avoided until Week 17, when most fantasy leagues are staging imaginary Pro Bowls. Williams is a lock for 20-plus carries in every game and he's topped 100 rushing yards in his last three. He wasn't exactly an unknown commodity on draft day, but we clearly didn't rank him well.

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Justin Forsett(notes), Seattle Seahawks

Schedule: SF, at HOU, TB, at GB, TEN
Preseason: unranked
Last three: No. 2
Percent owned: 57

If you invested in Forsett three weeks ago, following Julius Jones'(notes) lung-bruising, then you've obviously been pleased with the returns. He's the second highest-scoring running back since Week 10. But Jones will likely return soon and Seattle head coach Jim Mora has declared, "Julius is our starting running back." Of course the stats favor Forsett, and it's not close. Jones has averaged 3.7 yards per carry while Forsett has averaged 5.7.

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Laurence Maroney(notes), New England Patriots

Schedule: at MIA, CAR, at BUF, JAC, at HOU
Preseason: unranked
Last three: No. 8
Percent owned: 71

He's found the end zone in six consecutive games and took the plunge twice against the Saints on Monday night. But Maroney has also lost fumbles in three straight and Sammy Morris(notes) (knee) returned in Week 12. Morris has been a trusted goal line option for New England in the recent past (11 TDs, one lost fumble in 26 games).

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Fred Jackson(notes), Buffalo Bills

Schedule: NYJ, at KC, NE, at ATL, IND
Preseason: No. 42
Last three: No. 18
Percent owned: 69

He barely makes the top-40 cutoff, but he meets all other criteria. Jackson has recently reclaimed the starting role from Marshawn Lynch(notes) and his opponents in Weeks 14-16 all rank in the bottom half of the NFL in yards-per-carry allowed. It's really too bad he can't face his own team's defense.

So…pick your '09 PT. Your vote is your voice, citizen. Again, you're only allowed to support one candidate. Write-ins are encouraged; someone must feel that Rock Cartwright(notes) or Jerious Norwood(notes) has been disrespected.

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