Isn't it about time we say goodbye to the byes? Well, Week 10 is the final week for the annoying bye weeks, and while it's going to make many fantasy owners jump into action -- three top quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers) are off -- at least fantasy's most troubling position, running back, isn't deeply affected. You should be able to get a quarterback -- maybe Josh Freeman or Mark Sanchez -- on your waiver wire, even if you use him for just one week.
At running back, we'll be without awesome Oakland Raiders back Darren McFadden, but that's the only key back (unless you've been counting on a Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints or San Diego Chargers back in a deep league). It wasn't so uneventful in Week 9, when the bye week slate featured four of the top six running backs from ESPN average live drafts: Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson. To some degree, however, each of these "sure things" from draft day has disappointed fantasy owners. Let's delve deeper here, looking forward for this foursome of fantasy monsters.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: I laugh when his owners whine about his production. Johnson currently sits 5th in (standard) fantasy scoring among running backs. OK, so he hasn't been the best player, but it was hardly a wasted first overall draft pick. Johnson has had three single-digit-scoring games, which is the basis for the perception of disappointment, but let's focus on the four games of 19 or more fantasy points. Now that Randy Moss is teaming up with Johnson and the Titans, I think Johnson has a legitimate chance to end up as fantasy's top player. That's right, scoring more than any quarterback, too. A season ago, when Johnson exploded for a 2,000-yard season, he didn't start out quickly. But he ran for 100 or more yards in each of his final 11 games, scoring 13 touchdowns in that span. I'm likely to rank him either first or second (behind Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings) consistently from here on out, but even if he remains as productive as he has been so far this season that should work just fine. Trade for him with confidence.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jones-Drew complaints are a bit more legitimate, as the consensus No. 3 pick is ranked 17th in running back scoring. He has one game of more than 17 fantasy points, and it came against the Colts, which at the time were considered patsies against the run. But in Week 8, MJD looked fine against the Cowboys, rambling for a season-best 135 yards. No, he didn't score, and I think with the David Garrard-led offense being more erratic than even last season asking for a double-digit touchdown campaign is folly. However, Jones-Drew is on pace for nearly 1,300 rushing yards. The lack of touchdowns has hurt, but Garrard's failure to look his way out of the backfield is another issue. Add it up and Jones-Drew probably finds his way into the season top 10 at running back but not by much.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Here's a guy I really do like from here on out. I can't say I'd trade Chris Johnson, Peterson or Arian Foster to get him, but every other running back I would. Gore has been in double digits in standard scoring six of his past seven games, and he has proven he can overcome his team's shoddy quarterback play. Having Troy Smith make the mistakes instead of Alex Smith, or even David Carr, doesn't seem to matter. Gore looks healthy, and he leads the team in receptions. Plus, look at the fantasy playoff schedule, with the Seahawks, Chargers, Rams and Cardinals pending. It wouldn't surprise me if Gore finished as fantasy's top running back, but I'll play it safe and say he ends up fourth.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: At what point do we stop expecting Jackson to be a top-5 guy? He's currently 15th in fantasy points among running backs and on pace for about the same numbers as last year. He hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2006, and he hasn't scored more than seven rushing touchdowns since that year. Jackson is dependable, and I'd say you know what you're going to get, but even with rookie Sam Bradford looking like a future star I'm not sure I'll expect Jackson to have a season like 2006 again. He's safe, but you might want to toss him and a WR3 into a deal to upgrade the position.