Parker Producing Like Top Five Fantasy RB

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Sunday, September 23, 2007
By Paul Eide
Steelers Fever Columnist


Willie Parker is about as underrated as a fantasy running back can get. After the seasons first two weeks, Parker currently ranks in fifth amongst running backs in terms of fantasy productivity ahead of bigger names like Joseph Addai and Shaun Alexander. And if Mike Tomlin gets his wish, he won't slow down anytime soon.

Willie Parker"We're going to ride Willie until the wheels come off," said Tomlin on Wednesday. "He's game for that, he's in great physical condition, he wants the ball, he's a competitor and he's showing he's capable of doing that."

This translates into great news for fantasy owners of Parker, though three weeks ago it wasn't the case at all. Concerns about the installation of a new "pass first" offense diminished his value as a legit #1 back and caused him to fall into the second round of many drafts. Shrewd owners who selected him are no doubt reaping the benefits of steady fantasy production.

His 126 yard performance vs. the Bills last week was his third 100 yard rushing game in a row and fifth in six games dating back to last season. Going back to 2005 he has rushed for at least 100 yards in 14 of 33 (42 percent) games he's played in. Once he became a full time starter in '06, he became even more productive, achieving the feat in 9 of 18 (50 percent) total games. The only two running backs who have done it more frequently over the last 18 games are LaDainian Tomlinson (10 of 18) and Larry Johnson (11 of 18).

Parker has also rushed for 3,117 yards in four years as a member of the Steelers, only the 11th running back in the franchises' history to eclipse 3,000 yards and ranks 10th all time. Parker only needs 155 yards on the ground to move into eighth place on the teams all time rushing list ahead of Rocky Bleier and Fran Rogel.

All of the yards he's accumulated also mean that he's getting the ball a lot. In the first two games he has carried the ball 50 times which leads the NFL, and puts him on pace for exactly 400 carries this season. And while that may be an issue the Steelers front office will have to worry about, it shouldn't bother fantasy owners one bit. Handcuffing Najeh Davenport is not a bad idea, but Parker is only 26 years old and looks to be entering the prime of his career. The increased workload has also done nothing to limit his explosiveness thus far with Parker's four runs of 20 plus yards currently the most in the league.

"He's getting better with each carry as these games go on," said Tomlin. "And I'm starting to realize that about him. He's a rhythm runner so we'll keep feeding it to him."

Parker will look to continue his fantasy success against the 49ers this Sunday at Heinz field. The Niners have been successful defending the run in their first two games, limiting Edgerrin James to 3.5 yards per carry on 26 carries and Steven Jackson to 2.8 yards per carry on 21 carries. Mike Nolan's defense was improved significantly this offseason, but has not been tested by an opposing offensive line like it will be vs. the Steelers. In contrast Parker hasn't faced much in the way of stiff competition in victories over Cleveland and Buffalo, but a productive game vs. San Francisco will prove that he is a fantasy stud that owners can hitch their wagons to for the season 2007 and beyond.