January 13 2011 Last updated at 03:00 PM ET
Fantasy Football Rookie Report Card: RBs
Ryan Mathews, RB, SD
The easy pick for fantasy Rookie of the Year, Mathews failed to deliver on the lofty expectations that followed him as LaDainian Tomlinson's replacement. Instead, Mathews battled injury issues all year, posting double-digit carries just three times in the first 13 weeks of the season. He was solid when he did touch the ball, however, and he exploded in Week 17 for 120 rushing yards and three TDs. Could the final huge performance give him a Arian Foster-like push into 2011?
Final Grade: Incomplete
Jahvid Best, RB, DET
The second rookie back off the fantasy board was a lot like Mathews, having struggled with injury all season. The difference is that Best missed just one game this year while battling turf toe all season. We saw his upside back in Week 2, when he posted 78 rushing yards, 154 receiving yards and three TDs. I'm going to throw his 3.3 yards per carry figure out the window and blame it on the injury, but he sure does have a lot to prove next season.
Final Grade: Incomplete, but A for effort
C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF
While you can blame poor seasons from his first-round kin on injuries, Spiller was just awful in 2010. He didn't receive more than nine carries in any game, he failed to top 35 rushing yards in any game, and the one time he did put a solid yardage day together -- Week 16, with 30 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards -- he lost two fumbles. Things aren't looking any better for Spiller in 2011, so it's best to just ignore him in drafts moving forward.
Final Grade: F+
LeGarrette Blount, RB, TB
If it wasn't crazy enough that everyone passed on Blount during draft weekend, he actually didn't make his fantasy impact till he was with his second team. Tampa Bay took a chance on Blount, and having next to no talent at the running back position, the Buccaneers gave the talented but troubled back a shot. Despite only having 10 carries through the first six weeks of the season, Blount was able to top 1,000 yards and average over five yards per carry while scoring six TDs. He shined in the fantasy playoffs with three 16-point performances during the span of four weeks. He obviously exceeded expectations and for that, receives high marks.
Final Grade: A+
Chris Ivory, RB, NO
Tampa Bay wasn't the only team to employ the services of an undrafted free agent rookie; in fact, the defending Super Bowl champions went the same route. Losing multiple backs to injury, the Saints gave Ivory a shot, and he was very up and down in early weeks. In his first seven performances, he would move back and forth between the good (15 carries, 158 yards in Week 6) and the bad (7 carries, 7 yards in Week 8). He got his act together after the Week 10 bye, rushing for 254 yards and five TDs in the span of three weeks. Does New Orleans feel comfortable moving forward with Ivory as a lead back? It's hard to say.
Final Grade: A-
James Starks, RB, GB
I wasn't ready to give Starks and chance of contributing this season; after all, he missed the entire 2009 season with injury, and when he did play, it was with the University of Buffalo. How would he adjust to the huge leap in the talent level of the opposition. Quite well, actually, rushing for 73 yards on 18 carries in his first opportunity. Owners pounded the waiver wire adding the guy, but he had just six carries in the Packers' next game and found himself inactive in the next two. Just when you were ready to count him out, Starks put up a very nice playoff performance against the Eagles. This kid has some serious potential if Green Bay is willing to place their faith in him.
Final Grade: B-
Toby Gerhart, RB, MIN
The rookie out of Stanford did a serviceable job in limited time filling in for Adrian Peterson. He racked up a total of 207 rushing yards in his three games with double-digit carries. It was enough to earn him handcuff status for Peterson owners moving forward.
Final Grade: C
Joe McKnight, RB, NYJ
I'm not sure anyone thought McKnight capable of being a lead back in the NFL, and he surely wasn't going to get much playing time behind LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. With both backs inactive in Week 17, McKnight racked up 158 rushing yards on 32 carries. Don't read too much into the performance -- McKnight is only worthy of handcuffing to Greene if/when LT hangs it up.
Final Grade: D+
Anthony Dixon, RB, SF
The sixth-rounder figured to get his number called when Frank Gore went down with injury, and while he did see a huge increase in playing time, Brian Westbrook was the guy to capture most of the fantasy stock. Dixon really missed a chance to blow some people away.
Final Grade: D
Keiland Williams, RB, WAS
The undrafted rookie earned exactly two weeks of feature back status. In his first game, he exploded for 139 yards and three TDs on 20 touches in a blowout loss to the Eagles (a.k.a The Michael Vick Experience). In his second, he had just 68 yards on 23 carries (less than three yards per) and only 27 yards on six receptions. Even James Davis played ahead of Williams late in the season, so it's safe to say his time in the spotlight has come and gone.
Final Grade: D+
Jarvarris James, RB, IND
The Colts had to deal with their own injury problems at multiple positions all year, but they were hit hardest at running back. James found himself the beneficiary, earning himself a total of 45 carries from Week 8 to Week 14. With that workload, he was able to score six TDs while splitting time with Donald Brown while Joseph Addai was injured. Though he had a nose for the end zone, James averaged about 2.5 yards per carry. He likely doesn't have a future as a feature back.
Final Grade: D+, but a B- for TD-only leagues.
Read More: NFL New Studs NFL Value Machine anthony+dixon, c.j.+spiller, chris+ivory, jahvid+best, james+starks, jarvarris+james, joe+mcknight, keiland+williams, legarrette+blount, ryan+mathews, toby+gerhart
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