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Tip Sheet

Productive running backs still available on the market

Posted: Wednesday December 04, 2002 1:02 PM
  Dee Brown Dee Brown got his first 100-yard game in his first career start on Sunday against Cleveland. AP

By Richard Harris, Special to CNNSI.com

Stock Rising

Dee Brown, RB, Carolina: It’s rare to have a running back emerge this late in the season, but last Friday, Brown became the Panthers’ No. 1 tailback when the team gave Lamar Smith a paid leave of absence for the rest of the season after a DUI arrest. Drafted in the sixth round last year, Brown finished his career at Syracuse as the school’s fifth all-time leading rusher despite sharing playing time with James Mungro for three years. However, he was projected to be used mainly as a third-down back due to his lack of size (5-10, 209). Against Cleveland on Sunday, Brown rushed for 122 yards on 27 carries, and he has a very favorable matchup this week at home vs. the Bengals. Brad Johnson, QB, Tampa Bay: Johnson is not the most physically talented QB in the league, not by a long shot. However, he has produced very nice numbers in his last four games. Over that period, he has passed for at least 253 yards three times and has thrown 11 touchdowns. The Bucs are still searching for a running game, and with three of their last four games against teams that rank 26th or lower against the pass, Johnson figures to continue to post solid numbers for the rest of the season.

Darrell Jackson, WR, Seattle: Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck has been one of the hotter quarterbacks in the league, throwing for 789 yards and six TDs in the last two games. Over that span, Jackson has caught 13 balls for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Jackson’s scores came in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, and he was heading for a third TD in that game before being stripped of the ball near the goal line. Following the game, Jackson was sore from a hit taken in the back, but the injury does not appear to be serious.

Jeff Reed, K, Pittsburgh: Last season, the Steelers had the most field-goal attempts in the NFL, and they are leading the league in that department again this year. The challenge has been finding a kicker who could convert on those attempts, but they may have found their man. Reed, an undrafted rookie out of North Carolina, made all six of his attempts in Sunday’s 25-23 win at Jacksonville, including a 50-yarder into the wind. The week before at Heinz Field, a venue unfriendly to kickers due to swirling winds and an unstable playing surface, Reed made three of his four attempts, with the one miss coming from 51 yards, but he also missed one of his three PAT attempts. The Steelers say that Reed has the leg strength to hit from 60-plus yards. He will, however, have to deal with the unfavorable conditions at Heinz Field in three of his last four games.

T.J. Duckett, RB, Atlanta: If Warrick Dunn is sidelined with a high ankle sprain for any length of time, Duckett could post some big numbers down the stretch. The 254-pound rookie has rushed for 451 yards and four touchdowns on 114 carries (4.0 average) while sharing time with Dunn this season. Duckett is likely to start this week against the Buccaneers, who had trouble slowing down the powerful Deuce McAllister even though he could not cut on his sore ankle Sunday night. After Tampa Bay, the Falcons will face three sub-par defenses, including Seattle (ranked last against the run) and Cleveland (ranked 25th against the run).

Keep an eye on

Leon Johnson, RB, Chicago: The Bears announced this week that RB Anthony Thomas would likely miss the rest of the season with a broken left index finger. If the team was in the playoff race and Thomas was not in the midst of a sophomore slump, I have a feeling he’d still be playing. But it appears Johnson will be the starting tailback for the rest of the season. Johnson, who is averaging 3.7 yards per carry, has solid all-around skills as evidenced by the fact that the Bears have used him as a return man, third-down back, and short-yardage specialist over the last two seasons. Sixth-round draft pick Adrian Peterson, Division I-AA's all-time leading rusher while at Georgia Southern, will also see some carries.

Tony Fisher, RB, Green Bay: In Sunday’s win over the Bears, Ahman Green left the game in the third quarter with a bruised kneecap. He returned for only two plays in the fourth quarter before aggravating the injury and exiting for good. Tests on Monday did not show any structural damage, but he is questionable for this Sunday against Minnesota. Fisher, an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame, replaced Green in the Chicago game and gained 91 yards and scored a touchdown on 17 carries. He moved up to the No. 2 tailback spot when fellow rookie Najeh Davenport suffered a season-ending injury in Week 10, and with the Packers having already clinched a playoff spot, he could see significant action in the four remaining games.

Dorsey Levens, RB, Philadelphia: Levens had 64 yards on a season-high 12 carries in the Eagles’ victory over the Rams on Sunday. Duce Staley had a team-high 14 carries against the Rams, but wasn’t nearly as productive, gaining just 32 yards. Levens, who had just 44 carries in the first 11 games, is primarily used in one-back sets. However, with the Eagles down to third-stringer A.J. Feeley at quarterback, Levens figures to have a more prominent role in the offense, especially against Seattle this Sunday.

Wayne Chrebet, WR, NY Jets: Laveranues Coles is clearly the No. 1 receiver for the Jets, but Chrebet, who recently complained about his reduced role, scored his third touchdown in three games in Monday night’s loss to the Raiders. With Santana Moss likely to miss some time due to a sprained ankle suffered in Oakland, Chrebet will likely get his wish and see more balls coming in his direction in the next few games.

Stock Falling

Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland: The Browns’ playoff hopes were dealt a big blow when they suffered a 13-6 loss at the hands of the struggling Panthers. Couch completed only 12 of 27 passes for 130 yards and no touchdowns. He threw three interceptions, lost one fumble, and was sacked three times. His turnovers led to 10 Carolina points, and his passer rating of 19.6 was the worst since he became the Browns’ starter in 1999. On the season, Couch has a QB rating of 73.8, which is 28.1 points lower than backup Kelly Holcomb. With rookie running back William Green rushing for 304 yards in the past three games, the Browns will likely stress the running game for the rest of the season, and Holcomb could see some action if Couch continues to struggle. Marshall Faulk, RB, St. Louis: With the Rams on the verge of playoff elimination, Faulk played on his sprained ankle in Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia. He clearly was not 100 percent, and he finished with just 51 total yards and no scores. With the Rams’ playoff hopes dashed, how much we will see of Faulk in the remaining games is questionable. How effective the entire Rams offense will be with quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger sidelined with hand injuries is also questionable.

Tom Brady, QB, New England: Brady has not been sharp in his last three games, lacking accuracy, especially on his deeper throws. Over that period, he faced two of the league’s poorest pass defenses (Minnesota, ranked 31st, and Detroit, ranked 29th), but averaged just 207 passing yards per game and threw for a total of only three touchdowns.

Jake Plummer, QB, Arizona: Being a free agent at the end of the season, Plummer’s days in Arizona are likely coming to an end. After throwing three picks in Sunday’s 49-0 blowout loss to Kansas City, he was replaced in the second half by rookie Josh McCown. Coach Dave McGinnis has said that Plummer will remain the starter, but his chances for success are severely limited because his receiving corps has been devastated by injuries. Veteran WR Frank Sanders went down in the first quarter on Sunday with a sprained right arch, and he is expected to miss 1-3 games. The injury to Sanders means that the Cards have lost their top four receivers over the last six weeks, leaving Plummer with rookie WR Jason McAddley, TE Freddie Jones, and a few guys who would normally be on the streets.

Richard Harris is the Senior Writer and Managing Editor for FantasyFootballExperts.com. His weekly columns have appeared on either ESPN.com or USAToday.com over the past four years, and this season, he will be featured on CNNSI.com. FantasyFootballExperts.com offers exclusive and in-depth articles, player rankings and cheat sheets for multiple scoring systems, injury updates, weekly matchup analysis, and other essentials for a fantasy football championship.


 
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