Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 May 2008

Sneak Preview: KUBIAK Top 25

Have you noticed that there hasn't been a lot of new material on Football Outsiders recently? Not just new articles, but new Extra Points links, almost as if we were all really busy doing something else? Well, we have been. Today I turned in the final article for Pro Football Prospectus 2008. We worked a mad, insane schedule, trying to get the book out a week earlier than last year. I'm exhausted and plan on shutting my brain down for a few days; after that, we'll start coming up with some fun offseason content.

In the meantime, I wanted to spur some fantasy conversation -- and get people excited for the book -- by treating everyone to a sneak peak at this year's KUBIAK fantasy football ratings. We're feeling pretty good about these projections, especially because it turns out last year's ratings were a lot more accurate than we thought. They weren't as accurate as we wanted, but that was because it was a strange year, especially for running backs. Believe it or not, only three running backs ranked in the top ten for fantasy points in both 2006 and 2007: LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, and Frank Gore. A fourth running back ranked in the top dozen both years, Joseph Addai.

Do you remember who the top-rated players were in last year's KUBIAK ratings? Yes, the top three players were Tomlinson, Westbrook, and Gore, with Addai ranked fourth.

Here are the top 25 players for 2008, based on value-based drafting principles for a 12-team league with 2 RB, 2 WR, and a flex, no PPR.

1 RB LaDainian Tomlinson SD
2 RB Brian Westbrook PHI
3 RB Adrian Peterson MIN
4 WR Randy Moss NE
5 RB Steven Jackson STL
6 RB Marshawn Lynch BUF
7 RB Joseph Addai IND
8 RB Maurice Jones-Drew JAC
9 RB Earnest Graham TB
10 QB Tom Brady NE
11 RB Ryan Grant GB
12 WR Terrell Owens DAL
13 RB Laurence Maroney NE
14 QB Peyton Manning IND
15 WR Reggie Wayne IND
16 WR Andre Johnson HOU
17 RB Larry Johnson KC
18 RB Clinton Portis WAS
19 RB Brandon Jacobs NYG
20 WR Plaxico Burress NYG
21 RB Darren McFadden OAK
22 RB Frank Gore SF
23 RB Marion Barber DAL
24 WR Marques Colston NO
25 RB Ronnie Brown MIA

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 28 May 2008

63 comments, Last at 01 Jun 2008, 6:05pm by Raiderjoe


by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 12:30am

Didn't expect to see Earnest Graham ninth.

by Jimbohead (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 12:32am

I'm a little surprised by the positive projections for Johnson, Gore, and Brown, considering their terrible injury years last year, not to mention the relative dysfunction of each of their teams. What are some similar players who bounced back under similar circumstances?

by Jeff M (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 12:39am

I want the 3rd draft slot in that league... Purple Jesus plus Frank Gore all the way to the bank.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 1:34am

2: The assumption is that they'll still get a big pile of carries and even if they're not that effective, they'll still be good for fantasy.

As for examples of people who bounce back from big injuries on a mediocre team, try Fred Taylor's entire career. He would often follow up injury seasons with solid fantasy seasons, resulting in a silly thing where he'd either get drafted too high or too low every year in fantasy.

by Alex (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 2:41am


On another note, I guess FO expects the Pats to tear it up again.

by Speedegg (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 3:12am

Whoa. Surprised at Larry Johnson after the curse of 370 AND a bad QB + old/rookie O-line.

Also surprised at McFadden, but he is in Oakland.

No Tony Romo, but TO is on the list? Hmmmm, can't wait for the book to come out.

by karl (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 3:13am

re 2 & 4:

Frank Gore only missed one game last year, in the middle of the season and actually performed reasonably throughout - just didn't get many carries. That probably had as much to do with SF being behind by a ton most of the time as it did with Frank's health. And he tore it up at the end of the season.

by Tom D (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 3:29am

I underestimate Brian Westbrook every year. I think for some reason my brain doesn't accept that receiving numbers work with running backs.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 4:36am

#8: You do realize that Westbrook was the third-leading rusher in the league last year, right? Westbrook's been one of the best running backs in terms of running ability for two years now. The receiving numbers are just icing on the cake.

Really, his only drawback from a fantasy perspective is that that he doesn't rack up touchdowns like Tomlinson does.

by Mungo (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 6:18am

#8 Plus he freaks you out by being on the injury report as "questionable" every damn week. I had him for two consecutive years a couple of seasons ago and he takes you down to the wire every time.

by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 6:58am

This just goes to support my theory that RB are stressed too heavily in most leagues. Sure, anyone would be happy to have LDT on their Pro Team. However, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would clearly be the Top 2. If you want a more balanced league, at least allow 3-receivers per team to receive full points for their scores.

by Stereochemistry (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 7:32am

Earnest Graham is going to require some offseason watching; right now he's sitting out of OTAs because he's unhappy with his contract (he just hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent having previously done his own contract while being a 3rd string STer). Meanwhile, plenty of talk is coming out of practices that Dunn and Bennett are enjoying the extra snaps and have looked good, and that Cadillac Williams thinks he may be ready to go by training camp (or at least, be able to play this season even if he starts out on the PUP list).

There's a lot of talk in Buc fan circles of Graham taking the Erict Rhett approach to his career, right down to having the same agent and being beat out by the same player (Dunn).

Even if Graham is the starter by opening weekend, his touches could be down and he won't live up to his projection based on last year's potential. He was literally the only guy they could use last season after Williams and Pittman were lost for the year (Bennett was a midseason acquisition, so he didn't know the playbook). This year, Bennett is a lot more comfortable with the offense and Dunn has shown up ready to play, so regardless of depth chart, it'll probably be a RBBC.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 8:16am

Re: 11

I made a similar comment last year. Running back injuries are so common and random that it makes them much riskier at the top of a fantasy draft than a QB. I had Steven Jackson and Rudi Johnson last year (ouch!).

Brady and Manning look very safe in comparison.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 8:27am

@12, The simple fact is that Earnest Graham has looked much better on the field than Cadillac, the since-traded Pittman, Warrick Dunn (who is one of the great guys in the league, and an all-time under-rated player, yet old and not very effective the last couple of seasons), and journeyman Michael Bennett, who hasn't been good since his early Minnesota days. If it weren't for Cadillac's status as a high pick, I think we'd have seen Graham starting before late last year.

However, I agree with your point: He certainly hasn't proven enough that his job is sufficiently safe to sit out of team activities. I think Kenneth Darby is still around, and there's guys like Shaun Alexander, Lamont Jordan, and Kevin Jones that are/will soon be available.

by JCRODRIGUEZ (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 8:59am

No Big Ben???...wow...let me grab him in the third round again and run away with the title...pre-season strength of schedule is soooo over-rated...

by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 9:05am

Ruh-roh - it looks like the irrational thread is about to get some new business...

by Black Squirrel (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 9:13am

I had Gore last year and thought he was a total bust, but at the end of the year, he was close to a top 10 RB and I got him at #9. As others said, he only missed one game and was able to accumulate a lot of yards, especially at the end of the year when Shaun Hill took over at QB (and the schedule got easier, I think).

I'm assuming his projected decline is due to a lack of surrounding talent and his ankle problems from last year.

Other thoughts:

- Moss and TO must be major outliers to be projected so high at their ages.

- I was wondering what KUBIAK would think of less heralded guys like Graham and Grant. It likes them.

-Maroney is projected as a high 2nd round pick again. Based on his playoff performance and workload, I will be very tempted to take him again this year.

by billsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 9:56am

a rational question Brady/Manning question:
Do they both get Blue risk ratings now? Is it still named after the same one of those QBs?

by Adam B (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 10:30am

MoJo was projected around that high last year, and never quite got the level of carries to justify it -- I think he ended up around #15 or so among RBs. Is *this* the year that age forces Taylor's numbers down and MoJo's up, or is something else underlying the projection?

by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 11:09am

#10 - Westbrook was questionable:

- Two weeks in 2002
- One week in 2003
- Two weeks in 2004
- No weeks in 2005
- Four (consecutive) weeks in 2006
- Five weeks in 2007

#18 - No blue ratings this year.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 11:22am

Does anyone else find the Marshawn Lynch love a little bit suspicious? Yea, he's a young back with no competition, which is studly, but he wasn't that effective last year.

by Andy (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 11:29am

Westbrook was my horse last year...except for the week-to-week stress caused by him being on the injury list every week.

One week, that shcmuck Jay Glazer said he was not gonna play 10 minutes before kick and he had over 200 yards and a few TDs.

Thanks for the KUBIAK preview.

Marshawn Lynch seems a bit high for a guy who is relatively untested and playing with a QB who is relatively untested. Why would Lynch be 16 slots higher than Frank Gore?

by MatMan (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 11:30am

#18: That's a good question. I'm not sure I ever understood the logic behind inventing the BLUE risk category for Manning a year ago. I posted a general question about risk ratings on the FO fantasy message board last year, but --silly me-- I did it after the boards were closed for the offseason. Hopefully it'll come up once they're reopened for 2008.

Also, can anyone tell me why the #1 WR is ranked so much higher than the #1 QB? I could be way off here, but does it have something to do with VBD? I play in an auction league, so I'm not that familiar with VBD.

by Doug Darroch (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 11:56am

Why is that one one of the first rules of Football Outsiders is that RB's start to breakdown at 29, but Tomlinson and Westbrook are the top 2 RB's in your rankings? Both have already shown signs of wear and tear.

by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 12:24pm

#23 - The idea was that Manning's consistency was so absurd that it was on another level.

#24 - I would hope that, as a Football Outsider, if this were one of our first rules, I would've actually heard us talk about it before today. It's on Our Basics page, and it says "usually". As for wear and tear, Tomlinson's missed one game in his career. Westbrook's two healthiest years were the last two seasons. You can say that you think they're going to decline, but saying "they've shown wear and tear" is curiously inaccurate.

by Fire Millen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 1:24pm

Is Marvin Harrison officially done? Or is his projection brought down by a largeish probability of last years injury carrying over to this season?

by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 1:44pm

#5 and #26 touch on a related theme: This appears to be VERY heavily influenced by last year. While that is logical, how many consistent 12 TD producers like Harrison just drop off the map? (With Manning throwing the ball...) How many 50 TD seasons are followed up by another 50 TD season? Doesn't logic dictate that some extremes from last year (and by that I mean atypical extremes) would not repeat themselves?

As an investor I might look at the Pats and conclude that Moss (and maybe Brady too) is too high and Maroney is too low. Unless the entire Colts organization is lying scum, Harrison should be good for 75-80 catches, 900+ yards, and 10 TDs once more. Which would diminish Reggie Wayne's production a bit. Anthony Gonzalez's 2nd season should also cut into Wayne's production I'd think. This list looks like Marvin Harrison's complete demise is assumed. Which is a reasonable assumption, but contradicts every statement coming out of Indianapolis. And hell, if he's beating the shit out of convicted murderers with his ninija hands, maybe it's time to pair him up with Bob Sanders on D. That would lower his FF value considerably.

by Adam B (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 2:35pm

Second question: do the rankings distinguish between a RB who scores 12 points in fifteen straight weeks versus the one with five 25's, a 10 and nine 5's? Both end up with 180 points, but the second one might frustrate the hell out of you. (And might win more games for you.)

by AmBentDonkey (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 2:41pm

I think some of you guys might be reading too much into this list. Harrison and Romo could be numbers 26 and 27 as far we know. Being picked in the 3rd round isn't exactly falling off the map.

by The Hypno-Toad (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 3:59pm

It makes me sad that when I looked at the list and saw no Broncos I couldn't muster the energy to be even a little homerishly outraged. You know your team's on the decline when your blind-faith fans don't take every possible opportunity to feel slighted.

by Tom D (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 4:10pm

Re 21:

You don't have to be effective to make a good fantasy football player, you just need to rack high totals, which Lynch did.

by Mungo (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 4:37pm

#20 Wow, way to bust my chops. It certainly felt a lot more frequent than that, although I suppose a lot of them were "probable".

by SuperBears (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 5:05pm

Andre Johnson, I know he was on fire before his injury but I doubt he goes in the first 3 rounds in most leagues. Sounds like a great value pick though.

by Dan (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 7:02pm

Is 370 really just a one-year curse? I'm surprised to see Larry Johnson projected for such a big bounceback two years after hitting 416 (and 1 year after 3.5 ypc and a worse DVOA than Kolby Smith), especially after seeing Alexander live down to his projection last year.

by Black Squirrel (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 7:23pm

Re: 21

Lynch's ranking does surprise me. I assume KUBIAK likes his youth and the fact that he won't split carries. However, according to the most recent AFC East Four Downs, Buffalo didn't do much to upgrade its OL during the offseason.

I'm surprised Marion Barber isn't higher. I know Dallas drafted Felix Jones, but won't his workload increase?

by Ryan Harris (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 7:56pm

Sweet, I have 4 of these guys as my keepers in my Dynasty league. (Peterson, Grant, Maroney, Reggie Wayne.)

Plus I have two others that I am guessing are in the next 10 in Drew Brees and Wes Welker.

I cant wait to skip work to read PFP 2008.

by jimmo (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 8:09pm

re:25- I'd say missing maybe the most important game of his career due to an obviously fairly serious injury is indicative of some wear and tear on Tomlinson.

by jimmo (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 8:22pm

and as to Westbrook, a reported abdomen tear (a report that was apparently not true), and a lingering serious knee bruise that caused three questionable listings, two probables and 2 to 3 missed practices a week down the stretch last season (when he turned 28) also qualifies as "wear and tear."
Not "curiously inaccurate" in any way.

by Jason H (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 8:22pm

This list just highlights the keeper dilemma I'm facing. I'm struggling picking 2 of the following: Tom Brady, Joseph Addai, Marshawn Lynch, Maurice Jones-Drew and Marion Barber III. I think MJD and MB3 are out. Recognizing the Brady will more than likely not repeat last year's success, it's still nice to roll out a strong QB/RB combo every week. Decisions, decisions...

by countertorque (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 9:18pm

The reason RB's are so heavily favored in fantasy drafts is not only because they score a lot of points, but also because they tend to be more consistent from year to year. LDT is the current poster child, but there are several examples. The top 5 list for the other positions has a lot more turnover year to year. Manning has demonstrated that his fantasy production is as consistent as any football player, so you can easily justify taking him early in the first round. Brady has yet to demonstrate that, with 1 super good year in a row.

by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 10:36pm

LT has missed one game in six years. Yes, he missed a playoff game. It's also one game in six years.

by Chris M (not verified) :: Wed, 05/28/2008 - 11:30pm

A bit surprised to see Brady there, but I guess he is a good bet for end of the first round.

Moss I just don't quite buy as a top 5 guy - are the expected numbers of for other WRs seriously depressed?

Also, MJD as a top 10 guy? After last year, color me scared.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 12:20am

#38: and as to Westbrook, a reported abdomen tear (a report that was apparently not true), and a lingering serious knee bruise that caused three questionable listings, two probables and 2 to 3 missed practices a week down the stretch last season (when he turned 28) also qualifies as “wear and tear.”

The question isn't whether Westbrook gets injured. It's whether he's getting more injured than when he was younger.

He isn't. Therefore, saying he's showing "wear and tear" when he's actually holding up better than he did in earlier years seems backwards.

by Rocky the Philly Eagle (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 12:24am

Will you also be publishing last years football prospectus with this years date on it, or a similarly BS prospectus that I can leave on my coffee table for my no good friends to steal?

by jimmo (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 1:10am

re:43- no I don't think the question is "whether he’s getting more injured than when he was younger," at least not any question that I was answering. I see the question as, paraphrasing #24 a bit, does Westbrook show signs of wear and tear? I believe he does. What almost-29 year old running back doesn't? (which is the point as I read it of #24's post).

Is it less wear and tear than earlier in his career? I'm not sure that can be quantified. The fact remains he's listed on the injury report nearly every week. That's "wear and tear." He may not have missed as many games the last couple of years as he did earlier, but he's still suffering the injuries.

by jimmo (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 1:32am

Again for Tomlinson the question is, is he showing signs of "wear and tear?" Its disingenuous to suggest otherwise, using the argument that he's missed one game in six years.

He's finished one of his last six starts. Big leads in weeks 15 & 16 might've lead to early rest, but in the weeks following both games he made mention of a hamstring "twinge" and "grab." In week 17 he lasted into the third then was pulled for apparently non-medical reasons. The one game he finished, round one vs. Tennessee, he was ineffective. Then came the Indy game and the knee injury and of course the New England game.

One finish in six games, with two directly related to injury (most importantly, the last two), and two in which an injury concern was mentioned, constitutes "wear and tear."

by t.d. (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 2:54am

I gotta say, its hard to argue that Tomlinson is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Gimpy, lingering injuries that nag him for the latter part of the season seem to be the textbook definition of wear and tear. He's been durable and tremendous to this point, but I'd rather have Peterson

by TruFalcon (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 3:06am

- Why is Ronnie Brown so low? He was about the best back in the league last year before he got hurt. Was the injury real bad?

- Where is the Burner?

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 6:11am

#45: Is it less wear and tear than earlier in his career? I’m not sure that can be quantified. The fact remains he’s listed on the injury report nearly every week. That’s “wear and tear.”

'Wear' implies something that's degenerative. That is, something that's getting worse. That's what the word means. If there's a condition that's not getting worse, it cannot be wear.

In Westbrook's specific case, though, the injury report listing is meaningless. They have to list him on the injury report because they hold him out of practice for preventative reasons, and whenever you do that, you have to list someone on an injury report.

He could practice any of those days. There's just no reason to. The team knows he'll perform just as well without practicing.

by andy (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 8:52am


Any ACL injury is "really bad".

He'll also be splitting carries with Ricky. That said, it will be interesting to see the left side of the Miami OL in run-blocking with Jake Long and Justin Smiley.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 12:25pm

Tom Brady has seemingly been listed on the injury every week for the past 4 years. Is he also showing signs of wear and tear?

by bartleby (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 5:18pm

Isn't MJD ranked a bit too high? I had him last year and got burned. Will he still split carries with Fred Taylor?

Generally, how does FO resolve issues of player usage within KUBIAK

by Buzz (not verified) :: Thu, 05/29/2008 - 9:37pm

I actually think this is a great list as well. The one guy that I didn't see that I was some what surprised about was mcgahee. He finished right around the 10th rated RB last year and while he may have been lucky to be injury free and there is a good chance he won't again I think he deserves strong consideration for a much higher position. Also he played without much line help last year so he couldn't get much worse off there. Overall, though not many other people that I would switch in.

by Rich COnley (not verified) :: Fri, 05/30/2008 - 11:10am

"Maroney is too low"

Re: Bobman

You think so? I'm of the opinnion hes too high. Way too high.

The talent is there, but I don't think the carries will be. End of the Season Maroney won't be back because Sammy Morris should be back. He's going to be losing grinding time at the end of the game to morris, and losing 3rd down carries to faulk, etc.

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Fri, 05/30/2008 - 12:30pm


The Ravens drafted a RB in the 2nd round. He was largely a workhorse back last year and finished where he did, and now it looks like he'll be in a committee with Rice. That can't be good for his fantasy production.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 05/30/2008 - 1:06pm

Which of the following players are most likely to get injured?

1. Tomlinson ( career miles)
2. Westbrook ( age/miles)
3. Purple Jesus ( style/past)
5. S. Jackson ( past injury)
17 LJ (past injury/miles)
18 cross dressing Portis (see LJ)
19 Jacobs ( size/punishing style)
22. Gore ( carries)
25 Ronnie Brown ( past injury)

Purple Jesus has the god given talent to go down in history at the RB position. Terell Davis said he thinks he was the first player in history that could have come straight out of his Texas HS to the Pros. He wowed the strength and conditioning staff at OU ( not to shabby) as an 18 year old freshman with his physical attributes and work ethic. He dazzeled college football his first year and was a serious contender for the Heisman but followed up with injury. The lone draw back to AD at the draft was injury concerns. The fact that Peterson was healthy last year brings up the thoughts that he is "due" at sometime in the near future. His wreckless style, dome surface he plays on, and past injury history assign him a higher chance of getting hurt as opposed to his peers. Petersons recent goal of a 2000 yard season leave him open to huge upside and potential huge downside as well.

by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Fri, 05/30/2008 - 6:18pm

if you want to win your league you shuld draft Jamarucs Russell in draft, maybe like 6th round or 7th round in drfat. very good elsetvontom for your tesam.

by LoopyBurns (not verified) :: Fri, 05/30/2008 - 8:08pm

Y.A. Tittle never had it so tough

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 05/30/2008 - 8:20pm

The fact that Peterson was healthy last year brings up the thoughts that he is “due” at sometime in the near future.

Adrian Peterson was healthy last year? Is 'healthy' a strange euphemism for "tore a ligament in his knee?"

by Matman (not verified) :: Sat, 05/31/2008 - 1:06pm

Can someone please decipher "elsetvontom?"

by Bronco Jeff (not verified) :: Sat, 05/31/2008 - 1:32pm

Y'all obviously forgot about the beast that is Selvin Young!

He's going to rush for 2000 yards, dontcha know (see link)! :p

But seriously, I think that there should be a reserved spot in the KUBIAK top 25 for Broncos RB1. You know someone's going to be there, you just won't know who until after your fantasy draft has taken place.

by Alex (not verified) :: Sun, 06/01/2008 - 12:07am

I think that there should be a reserved spot in the KUBIAK top 25 for Broncos RB1. You know someone’s going to be there, you just won’t know who until after your fantasy draft has taken place.

Hate to break it to you, but the Broncos haven't had a RB in the top 25 since Mike Anderson in 2005. Last year, their leading rusher had fewer than 800 yards, and a grand total of 1 TD. Not exactly the stuff of legend.

by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Sun, 06/01/2008 - 6:05pm

sorry, meant to type selection. must have been drinking and hit wrong keys and didnt look at screen after it. stupid mistake, but