The following projections are made with assumed 16-game health for the majority of players. In cases where players have a consistent history of missing games (DeShaun Foster, Darrell Jackson, etc), or a player's contributions will likely be limited in at least the early going of this coming season (Dominic Rhodes, Kevin Jones, etc), the projections are qualified based on the anticipation of time or effectiveness lost.
Touches is defined as the number of times a running back carried or caught the football.
Looks is defined as the number of times a player was the intended target of a pass.
• Only one RB reached 375 touches in 2007 (LaDainian Tomlinson, with 375) after five reached the number in 2006, including three with over 400 touches (Larry Johnson 457, Steven Jackson 436, Tomlinson 404). With more and more teams spreading the workload around to keep players fresh and defenses off-balance, the 2006 season may have been something of a last hurrah for the 400-touch back. The quality of touches becomes that much more important as more and more players have the opportunity for quantity, although that's not to say that it wasn't a concern previously.
• Jamal Lewis may seem like a surprise at No.2 on the list, but he's about as safe of a bet for complete domination of his team's touches as you'll find. Don't make the mistake of underrating him on draft day – he also benefits from very good offensive line play and a dynamic passing offense that opens things up even further for him.
• Steven Jackson's holdout neared a critical stage before it came to an end this week. He's only been bumped slightly for the purposes of this column because of timing – the lost time hurt a little considering there's a new offense in place in St. Louis.
• Love Edgerrin James' historical workload, but put more weight on the subsequent results. Over the past two respective seasons, he's finished fourth and fifth in touches, but only 10th and 15th in total yards and 13th and 25th in touchdowns. Tim Hightower's potential for stealing touches over the course of the season is very real.
• Marion Barber (248 touches in 2007), Marshawn Lynch (298), Steven Jackson (275), and Ryan Grant (218) did not finish the 2007 season in the touches top 10 but project to do so in 2008. Willie Parker (344), Thomas Jones (338), Willis McGahee (337), and LenDale White (323) finished the 2007 season in the top 10 but don't figure to repeat in 2008.
• Other notes: Even if Larry Johnson stays healthy, he won't be run into the ground like seasons past. With that said, it's not hard to envision his missing a game or two … Ryan Torain's elbow injury creates a golden opportunity for Selvin Young to emerge as, by the Broncos' standards, an every down back … Reggie Bush's number is buoyed by his reception total – he's totaled 161 catches in his first 28 career games … Chris Brown figures to see the most action among Houston's RB, but that doesn't figure to be a pretty situation either way. Things would clear up a bit if the Texans decide to cut the perpetually inactive Ahman Green.
• The platoon watch notes when a team's RB2 is given at least half as many touches as the RB1, regardless of the reason. Expected platoons for the 2008 season include: Carolina (DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart), Cincinnati (Rudi Johnson, Chris Perry, Kenny Watson), Houston (Chris Brown, Steve Slaton, Ahman Green), Jacksonville (Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew), Miami (Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams), Minnesota (Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor), New Orleans (Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas), NY Giants (Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw), Oakland (Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas), Pittsburgh (Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall), Seattle (Julius Jones, Maurice Morris), and Tennessee (LenDale White, Chris Johnson).
• Consider both the quality and quantity of looks when sizing up these lists, just as you do with touches for RB. An example: Marty Booker projects to have a higher volume of looks than Santonio Holmes, but Holmes gets the nod when it comes to catch percentage and it's not close in terms of who will be in a better position to score touchdowns.
• Larry Fitzgerald finished third in looks in 2007 (167) but was the only WR among the top nine that did not appear in all 16 games and led the league in looks per game (11.1). His workload will not decrease this coming season, particularly when Anquan Boldin misses his game or two.
• Don't let Brandon Marshall (league-leading 170 looks in 2007) or Steve Smith's (148) suspensions make you bump them too far down your cheat sheets. Both players figure to be among the leaders in looks per game upon their returns and the goal in fantasy football is to win the league championship, not the first two matchups of the season.
• Someone is going to emerge as PPR gold in San Francisco – four players had at least 90 looks for the Lions in 2007, with the top four averaging 104 looks as a group.
• A decent amount of Nate Burleson's work is going to come in the early going, as both Bobby Engram and Deion Branch are sidelined by injuries. Engram totaled 134 looks in 2007 (8.4 per game), while Branch recorded 85 (7.7 per game).
• Kellen Winslow looks to take the mantle as the most-targeted TE in 2008. Tony Gonzalez led the position with 154 in 2007, with Winslow coming in a close second at 148. Also of note: Jason Witten (141) was the only other TE with at least 140 looks last season – Antonio Gates finished fourth with 117.
• Owen Daniels was a touchdown or two away in 2007 from being more than a late-round sleeper in 2008. He was seventh at the position in looks (94), catches (63), and yards (768) last season, but reached the end zone only three times. Ironically, he scored five times in 2006 despite only 34 catches.
• If Bo Scaife managed almost five targets per game in 2007 (78 total), you have to like a now-healthy Alge Crumpler's chances in 2008. His history with another run-oriented QB (Michael Vick) should help ease the adjustment process to working with Vince Young.
- Steven Jackson
- Larry Johnson