All of this news, in addition to the number of major free-agent transactions and trades that have run rampant, has made for a lot of changes in player fantasy values. Some moves, like the one that sent Michael Bush to Chicago, had a domino effect that has altered the stock of several players. In an effort to get you up to date on all the news, here's our look at who's stock has risen and fallen as we inch closer to April's draft. We covered quarterbacks on Monday, so let's move on to the running backs.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers: Mathews is in a position to be a breakout fantasy player in 2012. The Bolts were unable to retain Mike Tolbert, leaving Mathews to be the featured back in an offense that will allow him more than his share of opportunities to produce. Assuming another prominent runner isn't added in the weeks and months to come, Mathews, despite his questionable durability, will be one of the five first players at his position taken in drafts.
Darren McFadden/Taiwan Jones, Raiders: If talent and statistical potential were the basis of a player's draft value, McFadden would be a surefire first-round pick across the board. Unfortunately, he's been very prone to injuries throughout his NFL tenure. His stock does rise with the departure of Michael Bush, but fantasy leaguers who draft McFadden must also handcuff him with Jones. If "Run DMC" goes down once again, Jones would be a major sleeper in fantasy leagues.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals: Coach Marvin Lewis believes Green-Ellis can be a three-down back in Cincinnati, which is music to the hears of fantasy owners. But while the Law Firm's stock is on the rise right now, it could take a hit if the team decides to add another prominent running back in April's draft. As it stands, Green-Ellis will be a viable No. 2 fantasy runner with 1,000-yard rushing potential in what is an up-and-coming offensive attack under Andy Dalton.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots: The departure of Green-Ellis leaves a void in the Patriots' backfield, which also creates a chance for Ridley to emerge into a more productivet role. While he did see only limited playing time as a rookie, Ridley did average a stout 5.1 yards per carry in his 87 rushing attempts. Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen are also in the backfield rotation, but Ridley has the most upside of the trio and could turn into a nice fantasy sleeper in 2012.
Montario Hardesty, Browns: I'm listing Hardesty in this space for now, but the Browns are almost certainly going to add another running back this offseason. If that runner turns out to be Alabama's Trent Richardson, look out. With Peyton Hillis now in Kansas City and no one else to threaten him for a featured role, Richardson would quickly pass Hardesty on the depth chart and become a very interesting fantasy option in seasonal, keeper and dynasty formats. Stay tuned.
Matt Forte/Michael Bush, Bears: This situation could see more ups and downs than a roller coaster. Forte wants a contract extension from the Bears, so the signing of Bush could add fuel to a potential holdout fire. If Forte does hold out into training camp and the preseason, Bush's stock would rise in the interim. Regardless, the potential loss of short-yardage and goal-line work puts a dent in Forte's value. A committee would also mean a drop in Bush's production compared to his solid 2011 totals.
Jamaal Charles/Peyton Hillis, Chiefs: How much of Charles' explosiveness was left on the operating table? That's a major question, as he's now destined to lose short-yardage and goal-line work to Hillis in the Chiefs' backfield. That's not an inevitable statistical death sentence for Charles, who was a superb fantasy option in 2010 despite sharing carries with veteran Thomas Jones. But coming off an ACL surgery and with Hillis now in the mix, Charles does lose some of his luster.
Shonn Greene, Jets: The Jets haven't added another running back to replace LaDainian Tomlinson, so why is Greene listed as a fantasy loser? Well, the addition of Tim Tebow isn't going to affect the value of Mark Sanchez alone. In fact, he could very well steal rushing opportunities and goal-line work from Greene and Joe McKnight as well. So despite the team's move to a ground-and-pound offense, Greene is no lock to post huge totals next season.
Jahvid Best, Lions: Best is a talented, versatile running back. Unfortunately, he's also injury prone and looking a committee situation right in the face. The Lions expect to have Mikel LeShoure (Achilles) back in time for the start of next season, and Kevin Smith remains in the mix after re-signing with the team this week. That means there's the potential for a three-headed backfield headache in the Motor City - that's not something fantasy owners want to hear.
Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams, Panthers: The Panthers' backfield was already crowded with Stewart and Williams in the rotation, so the addition of Tolbert makes this situation even more of a question mark from a fantasy perspective. In fact, I don't see how Stewart or Williams can be drafted as more than a flex starter in most leagues. Things would change if the team dealt Stewart this offseason, but for now it's tough to advise anyone to draft a Carolina running back until the middle rounds.