NFL Free Agency 2011: 5 Running Backs; 5 Questions Answered

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UPDATED: 6/10/2011:
Last week I skimmed the surface on 5 Free Agent WR in 2011 you needed to know about and today we are going to cover the ever pressing running back situation.

I say ever pressing because the running backs that are available have more questions looming over their fantasy football future value than other positions, so it’s good to get a leg up now before things really heat up.

The importance of this list is to also highlight a few players who may be on your mind now, but should be as far from your memory by the start of the fantasy football season as possible.

Wanna know who and why? Well read on kids, and if there is a specific player you have a question about, leave your comment below and I'll get to it promptly.



Cedric Benson – Cincinnati: There are few folks who believe Benson will return to Cincinnati and there are a few folks who believe his days as a member of the Bengals are over.

Benson himself feels he is deserving of a big-time contract saying on Sirius NFL Radio that "I think I’m deserving. I just hope a couple teams feel the same way. It would be nice if it would be the Bengals."

So it appears that Benson will play anywhere so long as the price is right, but there are some huge concerns here.

  1. Benson turns 29 this year—not a good age for overworked running backs.
  2. Benson had a career year in carries last year, and it was a DOWN season for him in regard to ground yardage, suggesting he could be on the decline.
  3. The Bengals aren’t going to sit on Bernard Scott for too much longer either, so even if they do bring Benson back, a time-share could be in line to protect BOTH investments.
  4. Benson maybe reaching for the stars with a lofty contract altogether.

Outlook: This is a situation that warrants a constant look as it is sure to change regularly. My personal opinion is Benson is not going to hold as much value in the 2011 fantasy football season as he did in 2010—just too many variables standing in his way.

At this point, he is a nice RB2 consideration, but keep checking back with us for the latest news and updates surrounding Cedric Benson and other noteworthy players all year long.


Mike Tolbert – San Diego: There were times in the 2010 fantasy football season that Tolbert offered owners limited value, and there were other times where he was a non-factor.

Much of the same is probably in line for the 2011 season.

Tolbert is more of a traditional fullback than anything else at 5’9” – 245, and his real value is being the blocking force and setup man for Ryan Mathews, as long as Mathews remains healthy in 2011.

Tolbert is the kind of guy you will easily find on the wire after your 2011 fantasy football draft, so it’s not like you should consider pulling the trigger in draft time, but keep an eye on him and Mathews through the summer, in case something drastic changes.

Outlook: Tolbert is a three-year vet which means he is restricted and that will keep him in San Diego for one more year. His projected fantasy value is minimal at best right now, barring any unforeseen changes this summer.


Ronnie Brown – Miami: Before the lockout began, both Brown and the Dolphins were miles apart in regard to re-signing a deal.

In reality, it doesn’t really matter.

Brown has now said that he is open to mentoring and sharing carries with top draft pick Daniel Thomas, and if given the choice, you can expect the Dolphins to re-sign Brown over free agent Ricky Williams.

Outlook: Ronnie Brown has little to offer fantasy owners in the 2011 fantasy football season, and at this point, you would be wise to put Daniel Thomas on your watch list as early as possible.


Ahmad Bradshaw – New York Giants: The Giants have a few conundrums on their hands and it all has to do with the backfield.

Ahmad Bradshaw’s future will ultimately be dependent on what the final outcome of the labor talks are, and Brandon Jacobs will be looking for an increase in pay.

In addition to the one-two punch the Giants already have, they also will have some quality depth in their seventh round selection: Da' Rel Scott from Maryland.

What this all means for fantasy owners is this:

The Giants backfield situation is very much up in the air right now, but expect Bradshaw to be brought back along with Jacobs if he is willing to restructure.

Both backs are still quality backs, but in a time-share situation, they could be more of a high RB2 draft pick in your 2011 fantasy football draft.

Outlook: Bradshaw is more than likely to stay in New York in a time-share role with fellow back Brandon Jacobs, but if Jacobs moves on to greener pastures, Bradshaw's value will skyrocket.

And Brandon Jacobs will be a brand new study piece for all us as well.


DeAngelo Williams – Carolina:

UPDATE - 6/10/2011: The Denver Post's Jeff Legwold has reported that the Broncos will give DeAngelo Williams a "long look" alongside Rams fullback Mike Carney.

The growing suggestion is that if the Broncos can afford it, they may infact go after Williams given his history with coach Fox.

There is a serious upside to Williams and a serious downside to Williams as we approach the 2011 fantasy football season.

But in addition to what I am about to get into, Williams’ future will be solely dependent on the final outcome of the labor agreement.

But that’s ok, and here’s why.

Williams already has Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson to compete with and the Panthers could choose to dangle Williams out there for players or—more likely—future NFL draft picks.

The skinny is, if he’s traded there are plenty of hungry teams out there—specifically Denver—where Williams could fit right into.

If he is re-signed, his value may drop a bit thanks to a possible RBBC.

My guess is with John Fox having a better run blocking O-line in Denver, and the Panther’s interest in trade upgrades for next year’s draft, there is a good chance Williams could reunite with his old coach.

In two years Williams has only missed 13 games, but it was due to ankle and foot sprains so a quality compliment back would be in order if you do draft high on him.

Outlook: Williams retains his fantasy football value for the interim, but where he winds up will be the final determining factor.