Football Information: Is Willie Parker Still a Starting Fantasy Running Back?
In 2006 Willie Parker rocked the fantasy football world in his first season as the Steelers feature runner. With over 1,700 total yards and 16 touchdowns Parker looked like the next big time fantasy football star.
Since that time Parker has been nothing but a disappointment to fantasy football owners in the past two seasons. Sure in 2007 he was having a fine season in rushing yards as going into week 16 of the season he had a league high 1,317 yards, but he only totaled two measly touchdowns.
With such a low touchdown total one was definitely in trouble if you were in a fantasy league that was heavy on the touchdown scoring.
Last season started out like Parker was going to erase his poor touchdown totals as he had three touchdowns, in the first week of the season. But again the production fell off the table as he totaled only two more scores for the rest of the year and he missed five game due to injury.
With his lack of production and health, the Steelers dropped to a very unexpected 23rd overall rushing (105.6 yards per game) team in the NFL. Not only were they lower then average, the Steelers also looked down right pathetic at time trying to run the football.
I believe they hit an all time low as a rushing unit when Mewelde Moore got stuffed at the goal line (and more then just one time) against the hapless Colts defense. When the Colts start looking like a juggernaut against your running game you know things aren’t going well.
More Problems for Willie Parker in 2009
Reports out of Pittsburgh are that Parker is in better shape then ever as he looks to have the speed he ran with two or three years ago. This may fool some fantasy football owners into believing that Willie is primed for a comeback to pro bowl numbers, but for my money I’m not buying it.
That is not to say that I don’t believe that Parker can be productive for his team and fantasy owners at times. I do also believe that Willie might even get back over the century mark for rushing this season as well.
With that being said in all honesty Willie’s days as a feature runner in the NFL are done. With last years first round pick Rashard Mendenhall back and ready to go, expect this big runner to take over as the goal line back as late as mid season.
Beyond being a goal line back look for Mendenhall to take over more and more of the workload (think Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson back in 2006) as the season moves along. Beyond losing time to Rashard, Parker should also lose out on third and long situations as those duty’s should go to Mewelde Moore.
While the goal line stop by the Colts was embarrassing for Moore, he was the spark that helped carry this offense when Parker was out. He also helped win games for fantasy football owners when he was given the opportunity to start in the middle of the season.
In all his success he has carved out a spot in the rotation of this team and is a very good role player for any football team to have.
With these two runners added into the mix, Parker needs to have the September of his life to hold them off, for fantasy owners to count on him for more then a bye week fill in.
Can the Offensive Line Rebound?
If Willie is to have a great start to the season he will need not only his health but his offensive line to rebound this year. While long time veterans Kendall Simmons and Marvel Smith did not play a lot last year, the Steelers will not have them at all this year as both men left in free agency.
That means Pittsburgh is left with the offensive line that started the final 11 games of the season together.
Outside of starting center Justin Hartwig the Steelers line is an average age of around 27 years old, so they should have room to improve as a unit. This rebuilt offensive lines strength is geared toward the run as opposed to the pass, so this will help Willie as well.
Fantasy Football Information for Willie Parker
Look for Willie as your first back up runner on your fantasy team. If you are desperate in the mid rounds of your draft and need someone that will start right away then Parker is a good option as well.
But as the season wears on you will probably need to look for other options as one can not feel comfortable with the runners behind him and his health issues of late.
At this point in time Parker is kind of at the cross roads of his career as a fantasy starter. I believe he still has the talent to squeeze out maybe one or two more seasons of good production, but at the same time he would be better used for the Steelers in a rotation.
Beyond just my opinion consider this when selecting this Pittsburgh player, the Steelers will probably make the playoffs this season and with that in mind they may need Parker for up to 20 games this year.
It would be in their best interest to keep him fresh for the long hall as their goal as a team is to no doubt go back to the Super Bowl again. With Mendenhall and Moore the Steelers have the talent around Parker to keep him stay fresh and not over used during the regular season.
Understanding this information, one can only come to the conclusion that it makes perfect sense to not over work Willie as a true feature runner. If they do in fact use Parker as I’ve laid out above, then this means that not only will Parker not receive many touchdowns and receptions again this year, he will also not receive a consistent 20 carries a week as well.
Look for Wilie as a serviceable backup runner on your fantasy team and I believe you will get a fair return on investment from this player in 2009.
Fantasy Football Information Writer: Sean E. Douglas- fantasy-info.com