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Fantasy: Time to make up with Chris Johnson, Vick or Hillis?


Erin Skelley, aka "Erin the Fantasy Girl" on SportsRadio 610 in Houston, ponders three big draft choices who could have boom or bust seasons.

Dear Chris Johnson:

Hello again, it's me. We haven't spoken or written since I broke up with you last November. How are you? Did you have a good Christmas? How's the weather?

I want to explain why I ended things the way I did, although you probably already know. I had big – make that HUGE – expectations for us. You were my first-round fantasy pick, despite my conflicting team loyalties in Houston. I admit (secretly between us) that headed into last season, I had a strong feeling about you. I'm sure nabbing you as a rookie in 2008 helped foster that bond. You were just a pup but I took a chance in the late rounds, and it proved to be spectacular, as you rushed for over 1,200 yards with 10 touchdowns. I thought we had something special.

Despite your even bigger showing in 2009, over time – and especially last season – your production diminished. At first, I defended you, and then I defended you again. And then I benched you, and ultimately dumped you. Some blame your O-line. Some say you were never in "football shape." And some claim it was the play-calling. It doesn't really matter anymore, does it? Time has passed, which has me contemplating: Do I try to move on, or do I beg you back? Sigh…

Let me take a look at your offseason: Attended voluntary workouts (Excellent; kudos!), added 10 pounds (Not excellent; doesn't that make you… um, less fast?), rushed for 81 yards on 28 carries in three preseason games (borderline atrocious). Perhaps it is best if I move on, or at least just choose you in a later round (like third, for instance) to avoid disappointment. At my RB1 slot, I'm thinking Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice,Matt Forte, Darren McFadden, Marshawn Lynch or DeMarco Murray might be a better fit for me. And me for them, of course. They certainly carry less risk, and offer consistency. I love consistency!

Chris, now that we've settled that, are you friends with Michael Vick or Peyton Hillis? I'd like to consider both of them, but they also struggled a bit last season. To draft or not to draft… here's my thinking:

Vick disappointed many owners last year, especially those who claimed him in the first round. He threw for 3,306 yards and 18 touchdowns (with 14 interceptions), and he also missed five games. But come on, you knew the risk. Just watch how he plays. His gutsy, gritty running back style, which can turn a busted play into a first down, can also surrender his body to unnecessary harm. As I type this, Vick is recovering from bruised ribs. The Philly quarterback has taken only 12 snaps this preseason, only 12 more than me! Vick has practiced for two consecutive days, so he's on the mend. For now. This is Vick, so he's either hurt, recovering from getting hurt or about to get hurt.

So what does all this mean? While he has first-round talent, he's just too risky for the very early rounds. But you can't avoid all risk, and you need some risk – smart risk – to gain an advantage. Yes, he's draftable, but take him in rounds 4-5 and grab yourself a top reserve like Jay Cutler. Also keep an eye on Philly's backup Nick Foles. He has impressed the Eagles so far.

Now, let's talk about Hillis. This guy should consider himself lucky. If Johnson had not toyed with fantasy owners' emotions last season, Hillis would have subjected himself to even more Twitter abuse. The "Madden" cover boy missed five games with a pulled hammy and then one game with a sore throat (Sucrets, dude). His aloof demeanor only made it worse. At season's end, he had mustered a measly 587 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

This season, Hillis is expected to split the carries with Jamaal Charles in the Kansas City Chiefs' backfield. He's the bigger back, expected to plow through defenders on the goal line. Hillis had looked better than Charles this preseason, but he's now marred by the stats of his last game: 2 carries for -1 yards. Dismal, but probably not a factor. Bottom line, he'll play and score. Decent RB2, really good RB3. Look in rounds 5-6 for this back (and rounds 2-3 for Charles). And Peyton, rest those tonsils.

Erin Skelley joins Houston Texans Radio every week on SportsRadio 610. Follow her on Twitter @erinskelley. She'll babble fantasy to anyone who will listen.

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