With all the uncertainty in fantasy football it's comforting to know your top draft pick is always there for you, dutifully piling up touchdowns and yardage just like he's supposed to.
Two weeks into the season, that security blanket has been yanked from the fantasy owners who so gleefully drafted the top running backs just a few short weeks ago.
LaDainian Tomlinson is averaging 1.9 yards a carry and has 68 yards - less than Ron Dayne or Najeh Davenport. Steven Jackson, whose 2007 goal is 2,500 all-purpose yards, will need 30 more games to hit that total at this pace. Larry Johnson hasn't hit 56 yards.
Is it time to panic? Is it too early to bench or even trade your coveted first-round money man?
For Tomlinson, the answer is no. He's faced two brutal defenses and still scored a couple times. Plus, he's LT. It's also too early to give up on Jackson. While the Rams just aren't blocking - he's getting 3.0 yards a carry - remember he started slowly last year, with no TDs in his first four games.
As for Johnson, yes, bench him this week against the run-stuffing Vikings. And if you can find anybody offering anything of value, dump him. On a team without a quarterback, receivers, a line or a defense, there's just not much hope.
As you again ask yourself why you passed on Willie Parker with your first pick, here's a look at some players to start in Week 3, some to avoid, and a few long shots that just may pan out:
-Don't bench Tony Romo of Dallas, even against the Bears' rugged defense. Chicago allows less than 75 yards rushing a game, so look for Romo to capitalize when Rex Grossman's turnovers put Dallas in scoring position.
-Tennessee's Vince Young has been benched in many leagues because he started out against the tough Jaguars and Colts. Now he faces a New Orleans defense that can't cover anybody while handing out 36 points a week.
-Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck has been unspectacular recently, with seven TD passes in his past seven games. This week he gets to play a Cincinnati pass defense that gave up 328 yards and five touchdown passes to some guy named Derek Anderson.
-Speaking of Anderson, stick with the feel-good story and give him a shot against a soft Oakland pass defense. He could end up a solid starter this year (or get traded Monday).
-It might be time to make Carolina's Jake Delhomme your starter. He's thrown three TDs a game, his running backs don't score, and the defense looks shaky. Oh, and he faces a Falcons team busy planning for 2008.
- Grossman has been pretty bad so far, so he's due to be really good at some point. And why not against a Dallas secondary that allowed nearly 300 yards to stationary 50-year-old Trent Green?
Please, in the name of Casey Weldon, don't start these guys:
-Donovan McNabb's numbers would be great if 6-foot-8 Harold Carmichael were still playing for the Eagles. McNabb's knee may be getting better, but bench him until his aim heals up.
- Matt Schaub has the Texans feeling good for the first time since, well, since ever. But with Andre Johnson out with a knee injury, Schaub doesn't have a chance in a shootout with Peyton Manning.
-If you haven't already cut Buffalo's J.P. Losman, now would be a good time. He's averaging a high-schoolish 125 yards and has no TDs on an offense averaging 5 points. (If you drafted him based on my preseason praise ... uh, sorry.)
-LaMont Jordan's all the Raiders have, so keep riding him as long as they do. He's averaging nearly 6 yards a carry and faces a cooperative Cleveland defense that's allowed 171 yards rushing a game. (It would be more, but the passing is just so darned easy.)
-Washington's Clinton Portis has managed to score in each game, even with a lighter workload. But 17 carries goes a long way against the Giants, who have allowed an NFL-high four rushing TDs.
-Carnell Williams came close to earning back the Cadillac nickname with two scores last week, and the horrid Rams run defense could finish the deal.
-Thomas Jones couldn't do much on 24 carries against the Ravens. But that could be good for about 180 against the Dolphins, who are allowing about 180 a game.
-Are the Patriots ever going to let Laurence Maroney score? This week they only play the Bills, so look for Tom Brady to rest his arm a bit and let Maroney in on the fun.
-What do coaches do when they're desperate? They run. Maybe the 0-2 Saints will quit trying to be so smart and just let Deuce McAllister run guys over.
-Arizona's Edgerrin James has been solid against two NFC West opponents, averaging 118 yards and a score. This week he's as far as you can get from the soft division - at Baltimore, which allows 62 yards rushing a game.
-Whatever happened to Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville? He averaged a TD a week last year, but has yet to sniff the end zone. The Broncos have been giving up lots of yardage, but he couldn't even score on the Falcons.
-Until he manages to clear 3.0 yards a carry and get the ball more than 11 times, the name of Ronnie Brown shall never be mentioned here again.
-The Giants' Plaxico Burress is nicked up - surprise - but don't even think about benching him. He has six TDs in his past three games, and 11 in his past 10. He hasn't gone consecutive weeks without a score since 2005.
-Everyone's been waiting for Cleveland's Braylon Edwards to take over as a dominant No. 1 receiver. He might now that the Browns may finally have a QB who can regularly throw to another person on his team.
-Detroit's Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson should shred the depleted Philadelphia secondary that last week made Jason Campbell look like a world-beater. (You could even throw in Mike Furrey, just for kicks.)
-Oakland's Jerry Porter will spend Sunday wandering around by himself behind a handful of Browns. Even Josh ``73 Yards'' McCown can't miss against a defense on pace to allow 80 touchdown passes.
-Santana Moss should go over 100 yards with a score or two. He scored four TDs in his last three games against the Giants - and that was back when New York dabbled in pass coverage.
-It's always good to start somebody against the Vikings' pass defense. So ... Excuse me while I look up who's receiving for the Chiefs these days. ... OK, try rookie Dwayne Bowe.
-Darrell Jackson may be the No. 1 receiver for the unbeaten 49ers, but they may not even get their usual 125 yards passing at Pittsburgh.
-Has anyone told San Diego's Vincent Jackson that he was supposed to be a fantasy sleeper? Maybe he just doesn't know he's supposed to be catching those passes.
-Remember Reggie Brown? He sometimes shows up on TV during Eagles games. (Look for the guy who's not getting open while McNabb's passes are bouncing by.)
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league:
QB Derek Anderson (328 yards, 5 TDs), RB DeShawn Wynn (2 TDs), WR Roydell Williams (TD), QB Kellen Clemens (Jets backup), RB Jesse Chatman (Ronnie Brown's backup, for a while), QB Kyle Boller (Ravens backup), QB J.T. O'Sullivan (Lions backup).
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I suggested starting Jamal Lewis (215 yards, TD), Joey Galloway (135 yards, 2 TDs), Jake Delhomme (307 yards, 3 TDs), Brett Favre (3 TDs), Tom Brady (3 TDs) and Chris Chambers (109 yards). I expected more trouble for Larry Johnson (55 yards).
Big Misses: I thought this was the big week for Donovan McNabb (0 TDs, 57 overthrows), Steven Jackson (60 yards), Lee Evans (another 2-catch day), Chris Brown (34 yards) and Ronnie Brown (another 33 yards). I also expected failure for Matt Schaub (2 TDs) and Deion Branch (122 yards).

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