August 24, 2009
Entering ‘08, Marion Barber(notes) was expected to be the ultimate fantasy "Barbarian." Slated to shoulder the lion's share of the carries, many believed the sinewy rusher was destined to catapult into the position's pantheon.
But limited by a nasty toe injury over much of the season's second half, the popular early-rounder's acceleration and drive was sapped, crippling his value. Overall, his 12.3 fantasy points per game output – the 16th-best mark among RBs – sorely underwhelmed. More embarrassing, the hampered warrior wielded a rubber chicken during the most crucial weeks of the season (Weeks 13-16), averaging a paltry 15.8 total yards per game and 2.0 yards per carry.
With Barber and electric rookie Felix Jones(notes) sidelined, unheralded youngster Tashard Choice(notes) put together a series of difference-making performances, propelling many owners into the money rounds.
Now with Smash, Dash and Tash entering the season at full-strength, the Cowboys are the latest team to institute a soul-destroying RBBC. Although Barber currently tops the depth-chart, Jones is quickly looking more and more like a 1B than a pure backup. Based on running backs coach Skip Peete's comments from earlier this month, balance will be the norm not the exception in the Big D backfield this year:
"It's based on packages and plays. I think it's more about series. It could be the start of the game and we say we want to do this, and if Felix or Marion don't fit that, they might not be in there. Now, to have a true starter, we more than likely will have a true starter, but I will probably say they will all play...Hopefully, they will all play equal, so they will all be fresh." (Side note: Insiders have suggested Barber turns green when optimal readiness is locked in)
Because Dallas remains steadfast in its commitment to a socialized system, Barber might be one of fantasy's most overvalued rushers in drafts. Although he will net a large chunk of carries inside the 10, his touch total is sure to dwindle. The exact amount is unknown, but if Peete is firm in his spreading-the-wealth conviction, the incumbent's 15.91 ADP is undoubtedly inflated.
Among the ‘Boys' backfield thrice, Jones is the player you want to roster. Blessed with Usain-Bolt-driving-a-rocket-propelled-Lamborghini-while-riding-a-comet wheels, the second-year standout from Arkansas is the quintessential game-breaker. As witnessed against Tennessee on Saturday, his mixture of blinding speed, open-field shiftiness and versatility is lethal. Whenever he grips the rock, simple 5-yard dump-offs can instantly turn into 60-yard scampers (See example here). Recall before he was placed on the IR with a torn ligament in his left big toe last year, the kid averaged an otherworldly 8.9 yards per carry. He was also one of the league's most dangerous kickoff return weapons.
Undoubtedly, Jason Garrett will find creative ways to maximize No. 28's potential. He's simply too explosive to be underused. Most insiders anticipate Garrett will call Jones' number roughly 12-15 times per contest. Due to his game-altering skills and the 'Boys' formidable offensive line, he could inflict significant damage with a moderate workload, possibly emerging as a reliable RB2-3 in deeper formats. If Barber succumbed to a major injury, it's certainly possible the lightning bolt could become Chris Johnson-valuable. That's tremendous upside when you consider he's being selected during the Cedric Benson(notes) frame of average drafts (81.57 ADP).
As for Barber, circumventing his services for a top-flight wide receiver in Round 2 (i.e. Calvin Johnson(notes), Randy Moss(notes) or Steve Smith) is a sagacious move. RB values this year are plentiful after pick 30. Without question, he will outpace Jones in total touchdowns, but a downturn in receptions should be expected.
Fearless Forecast (Jones): 168 rushes, 907 rushing yards, 32 receptions, 269 receiving yards, 7 total touchdowns
Fearless Forecast (Barber): 217 rushes, 977 rushing yards, 39 receptions, 316 receiving yards, 10 total touchdowns
Do you believe Barber is overvalued? What is your Fearless Forecast for Jones? Barber? Who would win in a footrace between Jones, Johnson and a cheetah driving a funny car? Discuss below.
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