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Insider

Ranks reaction: Handling the Lions RBs

10/19/2011

Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best can be a special football player at times, but my biggest concern with him has always been health. Best is averaging 4.6 yards per rush this season; he's a terrific receiver out of the backfield and is very exciting when he gets into the open field. However, I cringe when the guy gets tackled. We found out after the Lions' Week 6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that Best suffered a concussion -- and he has a history of them -- and his availability for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons is in question.

I ranked Best 20th among running backs for this week, but I admit we might be removing him from the rankings in Friday's update. Of course, with a vote of health confidence from someone, he might move up to 12th or so for me, as well. Best ranks 10th in standard scoring for ESPN leagues, and he's been even better for point-per-reception formats, even better than Darren Sproles, who probably deserves more carries. Regardless, if Best plays this week, he's worth starting in fantasy. Coach Jim Schwartz has had his handshake full with another controversy -- a self-made one -- this week and hasn't really discussed the matter.

However, the Lions might have tipped their hand when they traded for Philadelphia Eagles disappointment Ronnie Brown on Tuesday, which has some fantasy owners excited and thinking the bigger, wider running back will matter. How did I rank Brown? Well, let's just say I placed Maurice Morris ahead of him this week, and it's not because I think Brown needs some time to learn a new system. It's Ronnie Brown, people.

My theory when the Eagles added Brown to their Dream Team this offseason was that it didn't matter much for real life or fantasy football because LeSean McCoy is so good and Brown, well, isn't. Perhaps that's a bit too blunt, but the Brown I saw with the Miami Dolphins last season lacked speed and burst. He played in all 16 games, but leg injuries had caught up to the guy, turning him into a third-down back. So far this season, Brown has averaged 2.9 yards per carry, and his signature play with the Eagles was a ridiculous decision to attempt a lateral or pass while being tackled near the 49ers' goal line in Week 3. It didn't go well. He hasn't touched the football in a game since.

The Lions didn't give up anything of value to get Brown -- a seventh-round pick and the equally irrelevant Jerome Harrison -- but this team's top running back will remain Best. If he needs to miss time, I don't expect Brown, whom I ranked 39th at running back this week, to make an impact. I ranked Morris a bit better for this week, and he's no star, either. Let's face it, this is Matthew Stafford's team, and the Lions, in part because of trailing in so many games, haven't run much; only four teams average fewer rushing attempts per game. Here's hoping Best can suit up and make the Ronnie Brown experiment moot.

Running back heaven: I ranked quite a few running backs better than I thought I would, thanks to the schedule. For example, I still don't trust what Mike Shanahan and his Washington Redskins are doing at running back, but the Carolina Panthers have been so awful at stopping the run that I had to give Ryan Torain a top-20 rank. Of course, I did that last week and the Eagles, at the time allowing the most fantasy points to running backs, held Torain well in check. I'm not a big Beanie Wells fan, but the Pittsburgh Steelers really don't stop the run the way they used to; as a result, Wells was my No. 10 running back. And then there are the Indianapolis Colts. We know their issues stopping the run, although eight teams are permitting more fantasy points per game. I ranked all three viable New Orleans Saints running backs well this week, with Sproles and Mark Ingram in my top 20. Wow.

Off the Matt: I came thisclose to making the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback the highest ranking "Matt" at the position this week. Matt Cassel comes off a bye week, and he lit up the Colts the week before for four touchdown passes and 27 fantasy points. Now he gets the Oakland Raiders, allowing the third most fantasy points to quarterbacks. I ranked Cassel 10th at quarterback, one spot behind Matt Schaub and better than Matt Ryan, Matt Hasselbeck and, of course, Matt Moore. If only Matt Leinart were playing! I think Cassel and Dwayne Bowe -- and Jackie Battle to some degree -- will be able to put up numbers against the Raiders. I ranked four of the "Matts" better than new Raider Carson Palmer, by the way; I get that he can simply fall out of bed with little practice time and become an upgrade on Kyle Boller, but it doesn't mean I want him starting for my fantasy team so soon. I ranked him 18th at quarterback.

Shootout in Miami: Yes, Tim Tebow is scheduled to be the Denver Broncos quarterback Sunday in Miami, but there are other players worthy of fantasy attention. Brandon Marshall actually impressed me some against the New York Jets on Monday night. He isn't facing Darrelle Revis this week! Eric Decker is a top-20 wide receiver for me, as well, now that Brandon Lloyd is gone. And both teams' running backs made my top 20; I wouldn't have guessed six weeks ago that Daniel Thomas or, especially, Willis McGahee would be a good trade target.