ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03: Running back Marion Barber #24 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Oh dear, oh dear. Whatever to make of this Cowboys backfield. For the past two years, the Cowboys have reminded me of the Broncos under Shanahan: a fearsome rushing attack that alternated between a zillion different backs, causing fantasy owners to pray ONE of the backs would somehow emerge and get the lion’s share of the carries. But Shanny was a parsimonious bastard and never gave anyone the satisfaction of sticking to one back, and Jason Garrett seems to be the exact same way.
You can’t blame Garrett for doing this, of course. The Cowboys ranked 7th overall in rushing last year and averaged 4.8 yards per carry, second best in football. And rotating between Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones helped keep all three backs fresh in a year where injuries at that spot were fairly commonplace.
But the rotation is MURDERING Marion the Barbarian’s fantasy value. Four years ago, Barber had 14 TDs on just 135 carries and seemed destined to become a top 5 fantasy back. He has never bested that tally in the subsequent three years, and he’s never topped 1,000 yards rushing. This despite the fact that Barber has only missed a handful of games, is an excellent receiving back, and runs the ball with a freakish amount of fury. In a perfect fantasy world, he’d be an every down back throwing up three-touchdown games left and right.
But he’s not. He’s rotating with two other very talented backs in a platoon that shows no signs of abating. In average Yahoo draft results, Felix Jones and Barber are ranked back to back in average draft position. Jones is being drafted, on average, in the middle of the ninth round. Barber, the beginning of the tenth (91st overall). Both rank well below other platoon backs like Jonathan Stewart, Joseph Addai and Pierre Thomas, almost certainly because none of those backs have a third player to compete with, as Jones and Barber do with Tashard Choice.
So if you draft Barber, you’re going to spend a lot of time rooting for Jones to get injured (or preventing yourself from rooting for Jones to get injured and failing, if you’re a big Dallas fan), then rooting for Choice to get injured, so Barber can finally get the 300 carries you so direly need him to get. Because without injuries, there’s no way Garrett will elevate one back in this rotation to dominant status. It’s going to be week after week of inconsistent results from a guy who, were he on another team with less competition, would be much more consistent. That’s the story of Marion Barber’s fantasy value the past three seasons, and it’s not going to change as long as he’s a Cowboy.
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