Is Running Back Najeh Davenport A Fantasy Option?

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Saturday, October 20, 2007
By Paul Eide
Steelers Fever Columnist


Nothing is ever as it seems in fantasy football. One week a particular player is roundly rejected as waiver wire fodder but after a multiple touchdown performance, suddenly that same player is a "hot pick" for the next week. Two weeks ago Steelers second stringer Najeh Davenport put together an outstanding stat line for a back up running back: seven carries for 58 yards, four receptions for 38 yards while scoring two TDs. Davenport quickly became that week's most treasured waiver wire commodity for those in need of a running back and if it weren't for Pittsburgh's bye the following week, he may have been picked up in even more leagues.

Najeh DavenportWhile it seems as though Davenport would be hard-pressed to replicate his Week 5 performance he still retains a significant amount of value and not just for Willie Parker owners. One big reason for this is Willie Parker's penchant for goal line ineptitude.

Parker was amongst the league leaders in fumbles a year ago and just doesn't hit holes fast enough from five yards in. This idea was confirmed on Davenport's first TD in week five. After an apparent 26 yard TD run by Parker, the play was challenged and the Steelers took possession on the one yard line. And who got that one yard gift of a TD? Davenport, who would score his second TD of the day in similar fashion and made many of Willie Parker owners feel like Duce Staley owners in 2004 thanks to Jerome Bettis.

Believe it or not, Davenport's production so far this year ranks him in the top 30 of all fantasy running backs outscoring names like Rudi Johnson, Brandon Jacobs and Julius Jones. And with the potential to become a "Goal line Vulture" at any moment starting Davenport definitely falls under the category of "high risk, high reward" but has the potential for benefits.

Speaking of "Potential" and "Benefits" this week offers Davenport a healthy dose of both. The Steelers head to Denver to face the Broncos, whose rushing defense is dead last in the NFL giving up 187 yards per game on the ground. With Parker averaging 101.4 rushing yards per game through five games, that means there are roughly 86 yards out there to be gained by someone else and Davenport is certainly the leading candidate to do so. The Broncos have also given up six total rushing TDs in 2007, the fifth most in the league.

So this brings us to our original question; Is Najeh worth considering as a fantasy option? This week will tell us a lot about how this situation will unfold for the rest of the season. Will he supplant Willie Parker? Absolutely not. Parker is the unquestioned number one. But the Steelers have reasons to look to get the ball into his hands because he is averaging 7.5 yards per carry and has scored a touchdown every 11.6 touches making him a starting fantasy option on a limited basis. Parker is also averaging a league high 24.1 carries per game, so Mike Tomlin may look to spell Parker a little more frequently as the season rolls on.

Whether you chose to start Davenport this week or not depends largely on your current stable of fantasy RB's. If you've got better options, look elsewhere. If you don't need him this week consider him on the "Sneak Tip" in the future. But if you are being ravaged by injuries or the Bye Week, he could really pan out for you this week.