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Willie Parker vs. The NFL RB Crop

I did a post recently on the current slate of NFL coaches and concluded that I'm enormously pleased with who the franchise has steering the ship. For kicks, let's take a look at some of the RBs around the league to subjectively evaluate how Willie Parker stands up. I think this is at least somewhat worthwhile because even though it seems as if Fast Willie Parker has only graced us with his presence for a few years, he's no spring chicken. Parker will turn 28 years old in November of the '08 season. He has relatively little wear and tear on his body as a result of his days as a backup in college and to start his career. Still, it's not secret that players begin their downward descent around the age of 27-29, especially at a position as taxing as RB. So, I couldn't be more pleased to have Parker in our backfield in the immediate future, but at some point before the end of the decade, it certainly wouldn't surprise me if we start incorporating another option in our running game, perhaps in a similar fashion to how Parker shared time with Jerome Bettis as he completed his career. And I'm not just talking about sharing a few carries with Najeh Davenport. I'm referring more to a Jacknsonville (Jones-Drew, Taylor) type scenario where both backs get substantial carries.

The following list is the top-25 RBs from 2007 in terms of yards.

LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers: Similar to Parker in many ways, but probably a bit better squeezing out a few extra tough yards in traffic. Tomlinson will turn 29 this year, so I'm interested to see how many impressive seasons he has left. No doubt every team would select him 1st or 2nd at the RB position, even at his age. LT went over 10,000 yards this past season for his career. Ever since good friend Drew Brees left town though, LTs attitude has turned to muck. It's somewhat disappointing to see, but what the hey, most of his vitriol is directed to the Patriots and Phillip Rivers so can you really blame him? Edge: LT

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: If this guy can stay healthy, look out NFL. Definitely one of the most exciting players I've ever seen play football. Forget Devon Hestor and one-trick ponies like that, Peterson can do it all: run, catch, block, return kicks. No bold predictions about his career from me due to his injury riddled past, but how upset must the teams who passed on Peterson be as of now? Edge: Peterson

Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles: Easily the most underated RB in football. Westbrook is averaging a sick 4.7 yards per carry for his career, as well as just under 60 catches per year, including 90 and 77 receptions the past two.Edge: Westbrook

Jamal Lewis, Cleveland Browns: Lewis had a big bounceback year in 2008, and got paid heftily as a reward. I was surprised to discover that Lewis is actually a few months younger than Willie Parker. He does however have much more tread on his tires, having carried the ball 2,120 times in his career compared to just 945 for Parker. Lewis just got paid, so I'm interested to see if he's willing to put in the hard work to keep his body in form for the next several years while the Browns have a chance to really break through. Edge: Parker

Clinton Portis, Washington Reskins: After Portis' incredible first two years in the league in Denver, he's fallen off some. Not much though. Other than in 2006 when he was hurt for about half of the season, Portis has been remarkably productive and consistent. Three 1,500 yard seasons, a 1,300 yard season, and 1,200+ last year. Injuries of course are a concern for a back who carries the ball so frequently, but Portis is only 26 years old and should be helping the Redskins win games for a few more years to come. I'd rather have Parker frankly, but I admire Portis' toughness. Edge: Push

Edgerrin James, Arizona Cardinals: A 'bounce-back' season of sorts for James, who finished the season with a respectable 1,200+ yards rushing. But a 3.8 yards per carry leaves plenty to be desired. Did I mention that his longest run of the year was 27 yards? James turns 30 prior to Opening Day 2008 so I can't imagine him being a feature back past 2010. With Whisenhunt in charge in Arizona, it's likely that James will continue to have his number called in large numbers. James only has one season with fewer than 275 carries, and only two seasons with fewer than 310 carries. Wow. Great career for the active career leader in rushing yards. There was a time when I would have been interested, but no longer for obvious reasons. Edge: Parker

Willis McGahee, Baltimore Ravens: One of the more overated backs in the game in my estimation. A career average of just 3.9 yards per carry, and only so-so hands catching the ball. There's nothing wrong with McGahee necessarily, but at that price tag, thanks but no thanks. Edge: Parker

Fred Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars: Tough to not like Taylor as a player and professional. He's spent his entire career with Jacksonville since 1998, and has amassed 7 1,000+ yard seasons, despite only getting 300 carries once in his career. Taylor finally got his due and made his first Pro-Bowl. A couple more productive seasons sharing time with Maurice Jones Drew and Taylor might crack the top-10 career list in rushing yards. Edge: Parker

Thomas Jones, New York Jets: 4 teams since 2000, nearly 30 years old, and a sub-4.0 yards per carry average for his career. He's all yours Mangini. Edge: Parker

Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills: I remember maryrose writing a diary about Marshawn Lynch prior to the 2007 Draft. Turns out to have been a prescient call by him, as Lynch had a fantastic rookie season, finishing with 1,115 yards and 7 TDs. He did miss 3 games, so it'll be interesting to see if he's able to remain on the field enough to have as productive a career as his enormous talent might allow. At 5'11" 215 lbs, Lynch is in many ways cut in the same mold as Parker, though perhaps not quite as fast going from 1st to 5th gear. A very tough, gifted runner though who may have the edge on Parker in terms of getting tough yards in small chunks. Edge: Parker

Lendale White, Tennessee Titans: Stop eating. Edge: Parker

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Welcome Mike Martz to SF. Gore, your career has officially hit a substnatial obstacle. Definitely refrain from any more 2,000 yard season predictions so long as the offensive talent around you is as bad as it is. In fairness, Gore's a warrior who is as good as anybody on any given day. Edge: Push

Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts: Bill Polian looked smart letting Edge walk and drafting Joseph Addai out of LSU. Addai has been just fine for the Colts, posting back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, 19 TDs, and a healthy 4.4 ypc average in his first two years. Still, how do you only have a long of 23 yards for the season playing in that system. Addai is great making linemen miss on that play the Colts run to the edge, but apparently he's no good at making would-be tacklers miss in the secondary, as proven by that paltry long for the year. I'd take Parker but Addai's no slouch whatsoever. Edge: Push (Age)

Justin Vargas, Oakland Raiders: A pretty nice RB that most people don't know much about. Vargas runs north-south with plenty of wreckless abandon. With Lamont Jordan unable to stay on the field, Vargas has been able to garner some attention, particularly last year, when he eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau for the first time in his career. A true Raider, complete with crazy tats and a permanent chip on his shoulder. A decent complimentary back, but not starter material on contending teams. Edge: Parker

Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants: Backs like Jacobs have become all the rage in the NFL. Teams want a bruising back like him, as well as a Jones-Drew speedster as a change-of pace. Jacobs isn't quite as good as advertised imo, but he did have a really nice 2007 season when he was healthy. That's been a big question mark for Jacobs though, and frankly I'm not sure it will ever get resolved. If anyone has any salary data on him, I'd be curious to see it. After four years, he should be making big bucks, but it wouldn't surprise me if he's earning far more than his output merits. A nice tandem with that Bradshaw kid we saw late last year. Edge: Parker

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: Another Oregon State product with a bottomless pit of talent. Great size, receiving skills (90 receptions in '06), and ability to change gears all make Jackson a special talent. He ran for 1,000 yards in just 12 games last year, giving him 1,000+ yard season in three of his first four professional seasons. Not to sound like a broken record, but durability will be key for Jackson. Playing behind that porous offensive line isn't the best recipe for success, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him head for greener pastures in the very near future. The Rams will try to re-sign him, but their cap situation isn't great and I wouldn't be surprised if Jackson declines even if he is offered big bucks. Edge: Jackson  

Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys: I can't stand the Cowboys so I don't watch them. Thus, I can't evaluate Marion Barber. 4.8 yards per carry the past two season with 28 combined rushing and receiving TDs is nothing to sneeze at, that's for sure. Why the hell doesn't this guy get more carries? Edge: Parker (I know MB is talented, but he simply doesn't touch the ball as much as Parker)

Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers: My vote for one of the biggest flops in 2008. Good luck without Brett Favre and the element of surprise on your side. Kudos for a nice 2007 season, but I can just see fantasy owners now going overboard to draft Grant due to his outburst late last year. Edge: Parker

Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: See Ryan Grant. A few good games makes not a good career or running back. Cadillac will be back in '08, relegating Graham back to the sidelines where he belongs. Edge: Parker

DeShaun Foster, Carolina Panthers: Yawn. I'm not quite sure why his mate DeAngelo Williams (5 ypc, long of 75) got only 144 carries while Foster got 247 carries (3.5 ypc, long of 20). Seriously, how does that make sense. No, injuries weren't the reason. Williams played in all 16 games. Edge: Parker

Chester Taylor, Minnesota Vikings: I'm trying to figure out why exactly Taylor got paid so handsomely (4 years, $14.1, $5.6 guaranteed) prior to the 2006 season but I can't. As Jamal Lewis' backup in Baltimore, he had some okay seasons, but nothing special. Nothing really more impressive than what Mewelde Moore did as a reserve in Minny prior to heading here, yet we got Moore for pennies on the dollar compared to what Taylor was had for. Edge: Parker

Laurence Maroney, New England Patriots: If not for being a part of a pass-happy record setting offense, Mauroney would be accumulating many more yards and accolades. As is, he's mostly forgotten about, despite being one of the better runners in this league imo. Another back with a similar frame as Parker's, but I'd give the edge to Maroney in terms of physical running style. Parker's a bit faster, but Maroney, like Gore, is able to run over and outrun defenders. Maroney will probably not be re-signed by the Patriots when his rookie contract expires. I can't imagine the arrogant Pats not determining that they can just fill in whomever back there so long as Tom Terrific is at the controls. Edge: Push

Ron Dayne, _____: Only a team as pathetic as the Texans would give this guy 200 carries in a season. They didn't make the mistake of re-signing him. He'll find a job somewhere, but I'd bet that's the last time we ever see Dayne finish in the top 25 in rushing yards. Edge: Parker

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: Drew deserves all the acclaim he's gotten during his first two years in the league. A do-it-all player that has performed way beyond expectations thus far. As Fred Taylor winds down his career in the next several years, Drew will likely get fed the ball more and more, though Jacksonville might be smart to limit his carries so that he's healthy enough to contribute like he has in the passing game and in special teams. Drew is an other-worldly talent that the Jags were very wise to nab in the 2nd round. Teams are going to be scrambling to find talents like him in forthcoming drafts, but I'm not sure there are going to be many guys with that combination of instincts, raw power, speed, and pass-catching ability. Edge: MJD

Larry Johnson, Reggie Bush, Cedric Benson, Rudi Johnson. Other than LJ, I'd definitely go with FWP. Perhaps even over LJ too, though that's up for debate and hard to say until Johnson can post another solid, complete season.