While I've tended to focus on writing analysis of players with jittery standard deviation numbers in mock drafts, I want to step off that train for a moment and talk about Travis Henry, because he's another player with the potential to make or break your 2007 season.
The basics: Henry was a 2nd round pick by Buffalo in 2001 who broke out in his second campaign to the tune of 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. His third season was marred by injury and the rapid decline of Drew Bledsoe, and in Year 4 Henry was basically benched in favor of Willis McGahee. For two seasons this tough-running little warrior was an NFL outcast, a sign of just how quickly fortunes can change for a running back. But in 2006, Henry revived his career with a 1,200-yard season in Tennessee and got an invitation to play for Mike Shanahan in Denver. He's falling into the early second round in this year's drafts.
The bright side: Henry has been a special back in the past; he's only had two 300-carry seasons in six seasons; and he's going to the team that used to be considered Fantasy Running Back Heaven in the Sky -- Denver.
The dark side: The same old knock we've heard about Henry since Day 1: He doesn't have the size. He doesn't look the part. He isn't blazing fast. Free agent RBs generally don't live up to the hype when it comes to actual fantasy production. He's been known to fumble the ball.
Keeper factors: Henry turns 29 this fall, and there's clearly some wear on the tires.
Other choices: RBs: Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati; Reggie Bush, New Orleans; Willis McGahee, Baltimore; Lawrence Maroney, New England; WRs: Chad Johnson, Cincinnati; QBs: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis.
Dan's take: He might not last more than another two productive seasons, but if you're in a redraft league and you're drafting any of the RBs mentioned above ahead of Henry, you're likely to feel really stupid by, say, October.
I think Henry is going to be a bone fide No. 1 fantasy RB in 2007, racking up at least 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. He's in a good team situation and he's playing for a coach who has experimented unhappily with the RBBC concept since the departure of Clinton Portis. Henry isn't a perfect fit for the Terrell Davis/Shanahan archetype, with its one-cut-and-go slasher style, but he's the kind of undersized bowling ball who hides behind blockers before squirting through a tiny hole -- typically delivering a bigger hit than he receives.
The notion that he won't put up big numbers as a free agent doesn't hold water either. Henry is not only a veteran in the prime of his career, he's a hungry, angry veteran with something to prove. In his third season, when everything fell apart in Buffalo, Henry was a marquee star who played with a broken bone in his leg, displaying team-first toughness rarely seen by a player not named Emmitt Smith. His reward? Management gave him the bums' rush to make way for Willis McGahee, on whom they clearly had an unrequited man-crush.
That had to hurt, and after traveling through the NFL wilderness for two years, Henry is finally playing for a real contender. I think he'll put up Top 5 numbers, and he comes with considerably fewer risks than Larry Johnson or Shawn Alexander. My recommendation: If you're stuck at No. 3 and somebody offers you a move-down in the first, take the deal and select Henry instead of LJ. You'll come out ahead even before you look at the other stuff you'll pick up.