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Cut or Run?
DAVID SABINO
October 26, 2009
Now is the time to assess which veteran backs still have something in the tank—and which are out of gas
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October 26, 2009

Cut Or Run?

Now is the time to assess which veteran backs still have something in the tank—and which are out of gas

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During the preseason the word was that Jets back Thomas Jones would be a fantasy liability because runners in their 30s are notoriously unproductive. But nearing the midway point of the fantasy season, Jones—at 31, the oldest starting running back in the NFL—is showing no signs of slowing down. Last season's AFC leader in rushing touchdowns (15, tied with the Titans' LenDale White) ranks among the top five in the league this year with six scoring runs. And on Sunday, in New York's 16--13 overtime loss to the Bills, Jones rushed for a career- and franchise-high 210 yards, including breakaways of 64 and 71 yards, the two longest runs of his 10-year career. Owning Jones does carry some risk: He splits time with Leon Washington and Shonn Greene. But there's no doubting this Thomas—he should be a regular in your lineup.

Jones was one of several once-reliable backs whose desirability was debated leading up to this year's draft. Among the others were LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamal Lewis and Larry Johnson—all of whom have struggled mightily and vindicated those who passed them up—plus this trio of former top 20 fantasy selections.

Clinton Portis, Redskins

It's been tough sledding for Washington's top rusher, who ranked among the leaders in fantasy production in seven of the last eight seasons. Injuries to his ankles and calf have slowed the 28-year-old Portis, and he's also been held back by a woeful Washington offense. As one of the few backs not operating in a committee, however, Portis still ranks in the top 10 in rushing yards (447) and yards per game (74.5), proving that even his off years are better than most players' good ones. Stick with him for consistent if unspectacular productivity.

Joseph Addai, Colts

Peyton Manning's backfieldmate has fallen victim to a prolific Indianapolis passing attack that's averaging a league-high 326 yards. At the same time the 26-year-old Addai has been forced to share carries with a budding rookie, Donald Brown. Although Addai has outscored his backup four touchdowns to two, he has outrushed Brown by only 11.2 yards per game, and at the very least the two have become interchangeable. It's likely that Brown soon will be given a much larger role in the offense, so it's time to look for Addai alternatives.

Willie Parker, Steelers

In the final year of his contract Fast Willie, who'll be 29 on Nov. 11, has been Wally Pipped by second-year man Rashard Mendenhall. Parker returned from a bout of turf toe only to cede his spot to a younger, stronger and better-blocking back. Each has had three starts, with Mendenhall gaining 349 yards and scoring four touchdowns to Parker's 185 and one. Barring an injury to Mendenhall, Parker has seen his last days as a starter in the Steel City; the same should apply on your team.

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