LenDale White, who scored 15 touchdowns in 2008, got his wish Saturday as the Titans traded him to the Seahawks in exchange for fourth- and sixth-round picks. Not exactly a king's ransom, but given White's lack of production in '09 (just 222 yards and two scores on 64 carries), we probably shouldn't be surprised. And then an hour or so later, the Seahawks added another running back, trading fifth- and seventh-round picks to the Jets for Leon Washington.
In White and Washington, the Seahawks under Pete Carroll have remade their backfield. Julius Jones doesn't figure to be on the roster much longer, and last year's surprise fantasy-relevant rusher, Justin Forsett, appears to be no better than third on the depth chart. Washington is coming off a compound leg fracture, and if he has any hiccups in his return to full action, Forsett is good insurance as a third-down back. Otherwise, though, Forsett doesn't have any fantasy value at all.
So what are the Seahawks getting in their new duo? White should be the starting back and get most of the team's first- and second-down carries, at least if and until he proves ineffective in that role. He slimmed down in '09, going from 265 pounds to 228 by (he claimed) giving up tequila, but given his decline in production, it's fair to wonder if that was a good thing. Certainly, he's got better endurance with his smaller frame, but is he as much of a battering ram? And does drafting Russell Okung (presumably to play left tackle) cure all of the offensive line problems the Seahawks had last season? And will either Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst do enough to tempt opposing defenses into guarding against the pass as well as the run? Yes, it seems at the moment that White has a clear path to lead the Seahawks in carries and rushing touchdowns, but I'm just not sure that translates to either 1,000 yards rushing or double-digit touchdowns. For the moment, I'm placing him 28th in my running back list, though I may make some changes once the rookies have all found homes. Certainly White needs to be owned in all leagues, but I'd feel a lot better using him as a bye-week replacement or flex player. If someone else wants to draft him high enough to start every week, I'd advise you to gladly allow them to do so.
Whether or not Washington's fantasy stock goes up or down because of this trade depends on your time frame. Compared to when he was the Jets' No. 2 back behind Thomas Jones for the first half of '09, this is probably a downgrade, because the Seahawks' offensive line is nowhere near as good as the Jets'. But compared to when Washington was third on the depth chart behind Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson this winter? This is probably a bit of an upgrade, at least in terms of usage pattern. If he'd stayed with the Jets, Washington looked like a special teams player, with the occasional change-of-pace carry out of the backfield. With the Seahawks (again, if he's healthy), he's the team's best rusher, a playmaker who should see double-digit touches in a lot of games, and who'll electrify fans a lot more than the plodding White will. Is he likely to score a bunch of touchdowns? No. Is he likely to approach White's carries or rush yardage? Probably not. That's why I'd value White higher. But you're also going to have to draft White higher. There's more value in Washington. He can probably be had late in fantasy drafts this summer, but I'm betting he can produce top-50 fantasy value at least, with a few games that are much better than that. And in a point-per-reception league, he can approach the top 30.
As for what's left in Tennessee, score another point for those who consider Chris Johnson the No. 1 pick in all of fantasy this year. White wasn't a threat to CJ2K's value last year, but there were indications that the Titans wouldn't give Johnson the rock as much this year, if only to preserve him a bit. With White gone, Javon Ringer appears to ascend to the No. 2 job, but he's more of an unknown than White. It's still possible the Titans will acquire another back to supplement some of Johnson's inside carries, but for the moment, double-digit touchdowns look highly likely for fantasy's 2009 MVP once again.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.