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Owners: Patience is key with struggling star running backs

Drafting LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson or Larry Johnson was a no-brainer.

Two games into the NFL season, it's been a no-pointer for vexed Fantasy Football owners.

While many of the league's big-name quarterbacks and receivers have gotten off to flying starts, several marquee running backs have done little more than run in place and take up space in the backfield.

Tomlinson, Jackson and Johnson -- the top three picks in most drafts -- have rushed for fewer yards than Derrick Ward of the Giants and Chris Brown of the Titans, and Packers rookie seventh-round draft pick DeShawn Wynn has two touchdowns, one more than The Big Three combined.

Tomlinson has gained just 68 yards in 35 attempts for the Chargers (good for an NFL-worst 1.9 yards per carry), Jackson (39 carries for 118 yards, 0 TDs) has found the going rough without Rams lineman Orlando Pace around to play traffic cop, and the bull's-eye-wearing Johnson (26 carries for 98 yards, 0 TDs) has struggled against 11-man fronts that have dared the Chiefs to pass.

Others also are struggling. Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging 31.5 yards per game and is still looking for his first touchdown after scoring 15 (13 rushing) last season for the Jaguars. The Saints' habit of falling behind early has reduced the two-headed backfield monster of Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister to reluctant bit players. Laurence Maroney hasn't been bad, but his opportunities have been limited because the Patriots' passing game has been unconscious.

The good news is that it's early -- too early for widespread panic or resorting to drastic measures (like trading every starting pitcher worth a fig for second-rate closers and speed merchants with sore groins, hangnails and paper cuts, then wondering why you're in last place or uncomfortably close to it in late September. ... I hate baseball!).

Tomlinson opened against two of the best defenses in the league in Chicago and New England and hasn't been helped by quarterback Philip Rivers' sloppy play. Jackson, who despite playing behind a patchwork offensive line, is too good to be down long, and Johnson is still shaking off the cobwebs following a summer-long holdout and will make somebody pay in the very near future.

If you're as impulsive as, say, the guy writing this column, patience isn't a word that holds much meaning (it's the name of an old wooden ship used during the Civil War era, if I'm not mistaken) or weight. But remember that whatever pain and frustration you're feeling now because your stars are running in quicksand will only be compounded and intensified if they go off once you've traded them (Roy Halladay, Brandon Webb, Tim Hudson, Fausto Carmona and Ryan Zimmerman taught me that. ... Did I already say I hate baseball?).

Even if you do decide to part with your slumping superstar running back, you can't expect to get fair value in return. Why deal when you're most vulnerable and most likely to make a trade you'll immediately regret?

They might be stinking up stadiums now, but guys like L.T., L.J. and Jackson are supremely talented and, to our knowledge, healthy. The wise thing to do is sit tight and give your struggling back time to pull out of his funk, which will happen.

After turning in the worst managerial performance in the history of Fantasy Baseball, I appear to be on the road to redemption with one football team in first place (Chad Johnson for president!) and the other in third (I like the possibilities once Tomlinson gets going) two weeks into the season.

My Week 3 Lineups

TEAM 1 (9-team league) -- QB: Marc Bulger (at Buccaneers); RB: LaDainian Tomlinson (at Packers) and LaMont Jordan (vs. Browns); WR: Steve Smith (at Falcons), Chris Chambers (at Jets) and Anquan Boldin (at Ravens); TE: Todd Heap (vs. Cardinals); K: Jeff Wilkins (at Buccaneers); D/ST: Chargers (at Packers).

TEAM 2 (12-team league) -- QB: Tony Romo (at Bears) or Jason Campbell (vs. Giants); RB: Shaun Alexander (vs. Bengals) and Clinton Portis (vs. Giants); WR: Chad Johnson (at Seahawks) and Laveranues Coles (vs. Dolphins); TE: Benjamin Watson (vs. Bills); K: Jeff Wilkins (at Buccaneers); D/ST: Broncos (vs. Jaguars).

Stu Rosenberg's fantasy sports column runs Fridays. He can be reached at

srosenberg@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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