Deep rookie RB class to alter fantasy football values

Rookies can become valuable assets in the land of fantasy football, as the likes of Vince Young, Adrian Peterson and Marques Colston have showed in recent season.

Overall, however, most of the impact rookies tend to come out of the running back position. And with a rich class headed into April's draft, there are certain to be a number of talented runners to draw the attention of owners in both seasonal and keeper leagues. In fact, some of these backs will have the sleeper candidate label affixed to their names.

So which current running backs could see their value affected after the draft? Well, that will be based on the teams that have a need at the position, and there are several. With that in mind, let's take a look at 10 teams that are expected to take a runner next month and what sort of implications will emerge as a result of the moves.

Arizona Cardinals: It's no secret that the Cardinals want to add a runner and create a committee situation with Edgerrin James, who turns 30 before the start of the 2008 season. James has been a serviceable No. 2 fantasy back over the past two seasons, but his stock could be on the verge of a significant fall. While there are needs on the defensive side of the football, the Cardinals will no doubt also look to add their back of the future. Rashard Mendenhall could be the answer with the No. 16 overall selection.

Carolina Panthers:DeAngelo Williams has a ton of sleeper value at this point in time, but his value could fall if the Panthers add a prominent rookie runner. The team released DeShaun Foster (San Francisco) earlier in the offseason, and the addition of LaBrandon Toefield alone won't make up for his absence. Carolina also has defensive holes to fill, but he addition of an impact runner could put the offense over the top. Jonathan Stewart could fit the bill with the No. 13 overall selection if his health isn't an issue.

Chicago Bears: The Bears don't seem to have much faith in Cedric Benson, who was selected in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft but seems to have already fallen out of favor. In fact, the Chicago Sun Times has reported the team could use its first-round selection (No. 14 overall) on a new runner. While that might be unlikely with all the other needs on both offense and defense, it appears Benson is no lock to open next season atop the depth chart. At this time he should be seen as a No. 3 fantasy runner.

Dallas Cowboys: Marion Barber has secured his spot as the new No. 1 back in Dallas, but the team is certain to add another runner in the draft. Julius Jones (Seattle) is now out of the mix, so the Cowboys could use one of their two first-round selections (Nos. 22 and 28 overall) on a back to pair with MBIII. Owner Jerry Jones is an Arkansas native, so don't be shocked if the team adds former Razorbacks runner Felix Jones next month. Whatever the scenario, Barber will remain an attractive No. 2 fantasy back in all formats.

Detroit Lions: The Lions released Kevin Jones and lost T.J. Duckett (Seattle), so running back is an area of dire need. Veteran Tatum Bell, who will see competition from Brian Calhoun, is the current in-house favorite to top the depth chart. However, neither back elicits much excitement in fantasy land. The team could look to improve its offensive line or add to its defense, but Stewart could also be a nice replacement for Jones with the No. 15 overall selection. Whoever is selected will be a hot sleeper in all 2008 drafts.

Houston Texans: Where have you gone, Domanick Williams? The Texans did add Chris Brown and still field Ahman Green, Chris Taylor and Darius Walker, but that doesn't mean the team won't look to further upgrade at the position. With new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan at the helm, a talented rookie runner would have some nice long-term potential in Houston. A backfield committee with at least Green and Brown should be expected in 2008, but a back like Stewart or Mendenhall could become a fabulous keeper option.

New York Jets: The Jets aren't expected to take a running back in the first round unless Darren McFadden falls to them at the No. 6 overall selection, but the team could look to improve at the position at some point in the draft. Thomas Jones will be 30 when the 2008 season starts, and neither Leon Washington nor Jesse Chatman have what it takes to be a true featured back at the NFL level. The Men in Green have improved their offensive line this offseason, so any rookie back that might be selected will have some keeper value.

Oakland Raiders: How can a team that re-signed Justin Fargas and Dominic Rhodes have a need in its backfield? Well, the Raiders don't have much of a need with these two veterans and Michael Bush on the roster, but I'm not sure owner Al Davis will be able to pass on McFadden if he's still on the board with the No. 4 overall selection. Considered the prize of the rookie runners, McFadden would be the automatic favorite to start. That would demolish the value of Fargas, Rhodes and Bush in seasonal and keeper formats.

San Diego Chargers: It's true, the Chargers do have a need real need at the running back position after the departure of Michael Turner (Atlanta). Furthermore, LaDainian Tomlinson will turn 30 before the start of the 2009 season, and he can't run forever despite his heroics at the NFL level. San Diego could decide to draft the best of what's left at the position with the No. 27 overall selection, so a runner such as Stewart, Mendenhall or Jones could become a solid handcuff and the heir apparent to Tomlinson.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans do have a solid No. 1 runner in LenDale White, but the team has no real depth at the position after Chris Henry. While a wideout makes a lot more sense in the first round (Limas Sweed and DeSean Jackson are possibilities), Tennessee could also look to add a running back like Jones with their No. 24 overall selection. What's more, White had an arthroscopic procedure on his knee in the offseason, so the team should look to add insurance at the position after the loss of Chris Brown (Houston).

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