Brian Westbrook is back in the NFL this week after signing as a backup with the San Francisco 49ers. This signing has impact not only on Westbrook in your drafts, but also Frank Gore and the new, now old, backup Anthony Dixon.
I did a draft Sunday night where I proclaimed myself a genius in the 15th round of a 14 team league when I drafted Dixon, proclaiming I've got the handcuff for Gore, and when he goes down, I will have a very capable RB for one of my flex spots. Well...that all came crashing down on me within hours. So now the question becomes, where do you draft Brian Westbrook?
To me you have to look at a few factors here and then find a slot for him. I look at the injury history of Gore. He hasn't played all 16 games one time in the last three seasons. Granted he's only missed 1 or two games in those years, but there WILL be a game or two that Gore should miss this season, just based off of past history. Factor 2: playing time. Will Westbrook create a small issue for Gore in the playing time department? I say YES, but not in the way some backfields are a split backfield. Don't get me wrong, Gore is still the stud here and will be all season. It's still a one-back setup in San Fran, but Westbrook will provide Gore with some time to take a few more breathers during a game, which in fact could keep him healthier throughout the season, and in turn Gore should retain his spot as the number 5 back in the Nerd rankings. Factor 3: Westbrook has an injury history of his own. Over his entire career Westbrook has not played in all 16 games. But I think this year, with a reduced role as Gore's backup, he could have perhaps his healthiest season.
Ok, so those are the factors of Westbrook signing with the 49ers, now where does he belong? I'm taking the approach I would if I was drafting Shonn Greene for the Jets who has Ladainian Tomlinson now as his backup. HANDCUFF HANDCUFF HANDCUFF! As you should almost always do when you have a stud RB in an offense who likes to run the ball, you should handcuff your top flight running back. In the case of Greene in NY, you should be drafting LT as one of your backups. I'm not saying go nuts in either case and draft Westbrook or LT in the 5th round, but keep in mind who you have drafted when it comes later in the draft and you are looking at rounding out your roster.
Currently the Nerd has Westbrook listed as the number 68th-ranked running back and LT as the 48th-ranked running back. That means in a 12 team league, at best they are both your number 5 RB. The only problem with just looking at the numbers and drafting the next best available is that you won't ever get either of these backups. Both of these guys have top 10 names. I'm not saying that they have top 10 production, but for YEARS they have been top 10 backs. Just last year I was stoked to get Westbrook with the 1st pick of the 3rd round in my ten team ppr league. That pick ended up being a bust, but it just goes to show what was thought of Westbrook just last year. And don't forget who you are drafting with.
In an expert league I'd expect either one to go in very late rounds, say 14-16 in a 16 round draft. But in your home league, with some of your buddies who don't follow football as well as you do, they will both go MUCH higher. They both have name recognition, plus there are guys in leagues that will take your handcuff just to mess with you a round earlier then you wanted, I'm one of those people. So when do you draft Westbrook then?
If you've already taken Gore look to get Westbrook as an insurance policy no earlier then I'd say the 10th to 12th rounds. Keep in mind that someone else may be looking at them. Factoring in Gore's injury history and the fact that they may want to mess with you, they may take him earlier. Don't over-reach on your handcuff, but do keep in mind their value. In those double digit rounds you are looking for upside, and if your sleepers are already taken and you're debating between your handcuff and just another backup RB or WR who may not even play one week for you, take your handcuff.
Draft Round: 10th - 12th.
This is a guest post from Andrew Deehr. Andrew has written for FFN before and is one of the brightest fantasy footballers I know consistently winning the majority of his leagues each year.
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