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This is the 10th in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.
There are not many running backs in the league with the ability to match Ronnie Brown when it comes to fantasy potential, but the list is growing.
He was the 12th-ranked back in the Pro Football Weekly/Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football Guide 2010, which puts him on the fringe of No. 1 fantasy back status, even though he has played in nine games or fewer in two of the past three seasons because of injuries.
While he's apparently recovering well from his latest surgery and has taken part in offseason practices, reports indicate there's a good chance he will be limited when camp begins.
The injuries are a significant concern, but there are reasons beyond Brown's lack of durability to avoid drafting him this season.
He'll have to share snaps with Ricky Williams, who was very productive as the featured back when Brown went down with a Lisfranc fracture in Week 10 last season — Williams scored six touchdowns in his seven starts — and the addition of WR Brandon Marshall also could lead the Dolphins to take the ball out of Brown's hands, allowing QB Chad Henne to air it out more often.
It's not hard to figure out why Brown is ranked so highly, despite the obvious drawbacks. He has scored 23 TDs in his last 32 games and is a dual threat as a rusher and receiver. While Williams will take snaps away from him, Brown is still considered the No. 1 back, and it's quite possible that Williams, who turned 33 in May, will hit a wall and decline, resulting in more work for Brown. Henne has also yet to prove he's ready to lead a high-octane aerial attack, and the ground game is still the foundation of the Dolphins' offense.
But there are some other backs ranked just behind Brown on the PFW/Yahoo! draft board who are worthy of being selected ahead of Brown. Ryan Grant, Shonn Greene, Jonathan Stewart and Beanie Wells are slated in spots 13-16. Each has sustained less wear and tear than Brown, and could have brighter futures than Miami's sixth-year veteran.
Grant has rushed for at least 1,200 yards in each of the past two years and Greene is set to become the featured back in a run-heavy offense. Stewart has scored 21 TDs in 32 career games and he could just be hitting his peak. Wells gained 4.5 yards per carry as a rookie and is expected to get the majority of the Cardinals' rushes in 2010.
Brown has surprised doubters before by bouncing back following a significant injury, and he's capable of doing so again. It would be wise, however, to consider him only as a No. 2 back in most leagues this year.
For authoritative coverage and analysis of NFL news, free agency and fantasy football, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.