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June 6, 2008

NFL Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings (with comments)


1. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) Bye Wk. 9 When a player accounts for close to 2,000 yards from scrimmage with 18 TD’s, and that is considered an off year, he has to be considered the best fantasy football option on the planet. If you are lucky enough to get the first pick in your fantasy draft, L.T. is a no brainer.

2. Adrian Peterson (MIN) Bye Wk. 8 He is one of those rare players that comes along once every 5 years or so. After a breakthrough rookie campaign, expect Peterson to put up fantasy numbers comparable to those of Tomlinson. He should be pick 2 overall in most drafts.

3. Brian Westbrook (PHI) Bye Wk. 7 This multi-threat back can do it all. In addition to putting up strong numbers on the ground annually, Westbrook is a tremendous receiver out of the backfield. If you’re in a reception-heavy league, he may be your best fantasy option. The only liability is his durability. He accrues little nagging injuries every season.

4. Steven Jackson (STL) Bye Wk. 5 Despite an injury plagued 2007, he has established himself as one of the premier fantasy football running backs available. If he can dodge the injury bullet this season, Jackson should put up monster numbers.

5. Joseph Addai (IND) Bye Wk. 4 Being a RB in a pass-heavy attack can have its advantages. Defenses rarely stack the line against him and goal line carries are plentiful. Addai has put up strong numbers in each of his first 2 seasons in the NFL, and this season should be no different. He is also a solid pass catcher out of the backfield.

6. Frank Gore (SF) Bye Week 9 If new offensive coordinator Mike Martz can right the ship with what was a horrible offense in ’07, Gore should rebound nicely from a mildly disappointing fantasy effort last year. While Gore accounted for a solid 1, 538 total yards, he only managed to find pay dirt a disappointing 6 times all season. If his supporting cast can step up as expected, Gore should return to form as one of the better fantasy RB’s to own. He is very attractive for reception-heavy leagues. UPDATE: In watching Gore this preseason, he has never looked better. It is obvious that he is going to be a huge component in this much improved offense, and has the potential to produce at his highest level ever. We are now sold on Gore, and his fantasy stock is definately on the rise.

7. Marion Barber (DAL) Bye Wk. 10 In 2007, he accounted for 1,257 yards from scrimmage with 12 TD’s and he wasn’t even a starter. Now that Julius Jones is off to Seattle, Barber is now the premier back in Dallas. A fact which should reflect positively in his fantasy stat lines this upcoming season. Rookie Felix Jones may steal a few carries, but Barber is the go-to guy.

8. Larry Johnson (KC) Bye Week 6 He was one of 2007’s bigger fantasy busts. A lengthy holdout and an injured foot left fantasy owners less than thrilled with his limited production. The good news is that this extremely talented back should be good to go in week 1 this season. Johnson is likely to rebound with a strong ‘08, but don’t expect the beastly numbers he produced in his first 2 seasons as a starter.

9. Clinton Portis (WAS) Bye Wk. 10 He is not the most durable fantasy back, nor is he the most productive, but Portis puts up very solid numbers annually. He is a duel threat RB providing fantasy scoring on the ground, as well as through the air. When he is at 100%, he can be a great addition to any roster.

10. Ryan Grant (GB) Bye Week 8 He came from the deepest depths of the Packer’s depth chart to breakthrough as one of 2007’s biggest surprises. He was a savior for many fantasy football owners lucky enough to grab him off the waiver wire. With only 7 starts last season, Grant accounted for over 1,000 total yards and 9 TD’s. He will have a lot of competition behind him on the depth charts, but barring injury, he should remain as Green Bay’s premier RB. Update:After entering camp late and being hampered by a nagging hamstring injury, we are little less sold on Grant. He should be fine once we get into the season, but he is a bit riskier than before.

11. Marshawn Lynch (BUF) Bye Wk. 6 Despite missing 3 games with a bad ankle, Lynch put together a strong effort in his rookie season. He is talented and full of potential, but he needs to improve in his reception and TD totals to be considered among the elite fantasy RB’s. Lynch will have his chance to showcase his homerun speed in ’08 as the Bills feature back.

12. Earnest Graham (TB) Bye Wk 10 Another huge surprise in ’07, Graham was a goal line machine, scoring 10 TD’s in just 10 starts. He also added an impressive 49 receptions proving valuable in the passing game as well. He may lose a few carries with Warrick Dunn back in Tampa, but Graham should remain the premier back, and carry a heavy workload.

13. Jamal Lewis (CLE) Bye Week 5 Many fantasy owners had all but given up on this bruising back after he was shipped off to Cleveland and pronounced washed up, but he proved to have plenty left in the tank. Now in his sophomore campaign with the Browns, Lewis will likely continue his success as a feature RB in a very stout offense. The only knock on Lewis is his lack of consistency.

14. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX) Bye 7 Jones-Drew is living proof that being a back up is not necessarily a bad thing. He not only holds fantasy value in the ground attack, but he also excels as a receiver and return man, and he does it all coming off of the bench. Jones-Drew may not get as many touches as fantasy owners would like, but he makes the most of each and every one.

15. Willis McGahee (BAL) Bye Wk. 10 He made the most of his first season in a Ravens uniform rushing for 1,207 yards and pulling in a career best 43 receptions. Now in his second season in Baltimore, McGahee should again see a heavy workload. He needs to improve on his 7 rushing TD’s from a year ago to jump up to that next level of fantasy RB and that is highly probable this season. UPDATE:While we still like McGahee as a starting fantasy back, he is a little less appealing after having his knee scoped (same knee that has plagued him since college). Also, reports out of camp say he appears lazy and "just going through the motions". He will probably be good to go by week 2 at the latest, but he is a little risky. We will keep a watchful eye on the situation, and in the meantime back up Ray Rice should be on your radar. UPDATE 2: McGahee appears to be on track to start in week 1.

16. Brandon Jacobs (NYG) Bye Wk 4 His first season as the Giants starting RB can best be described as a bit of a roller coaster ride. In 11 games (9 starts) Jacobs managed to rush for over 1,000 yards and hit pay dirt 6 times, but several nagging foot injuries limited his true potential. If he can maintain his health, Jacobs should improve his fantasy stock, but he will be pushed for PT by Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. UPDATE: While Jacobs will remain the primary back for the Giants, Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward may cut into Jacob's work load more than expected. Jacob's will, without question, continue to get the the Giants goal line carries, so his fantasy appeal is only slightly deminished, and remains high.

S 17. Michael Turner (ATL) Bye Wk. 7 After spending several years in the shadow of LaDainian Tomlinson, Turner will finally get his opportunity to shine as the lead RB for the Falcons. He has a ton of potential and expectations are high, but he will be giving up some carries to Jerious Norwood and has no experience as the go-to guy. UPDATE: Turner has been lighting up opposing defenses. In spite of a questionable offensive line, Turner now has 135 yards rushing on 9 carries in 2 games (15 yards per carry). Granted, it is only pre season, but this could be a nice indication of things to come.

18. Laurence Maroney (NE) Bye Wk 4 We think he is one of the better pure RB’s in the game, but his talents were vastly under utilized last season in the Pats pass first offense. Maroney is capable of putting up big numbers, but if he continues to be an afterthought in the New England game plan from week to week, that potential is all for not. He was strong down the stretch for fantasy owners last season, so that is a big plus heading into ’08.

19. Reggie Bush (NO) Bye Week 9 While Bush still has solid potential in fantasy football, questions have surfaced about his durability, and abilities as a “pure” RB in the classic sense. One thing that cannot be questioned is Bush’s athleticism, and pass catching abilities. He could be a nice addition in reception heavy leagues, but he only has moderate value in the run game.

20. Thomas Jones (NYJ) Bye Wk. 5 He returns as the Jets starter despite a somewhat disappointing ’07 campaign, especially from a fantasy standpoint. Jones did manage to rush for over 1,000 yards, but he only hit pay dirt 2 (only once on the ground) times all season. The addition of Brett Favre and an upgraded offensive line should drastically bolster Jones’ chances for success in ’08, but he must get in the end zone to be productive.

S 21. Darren McFadden (OAK) Bye Wk 5 He is easily the most talented rookie back in the NFL, and the sky is the limit as far as his potential. That said, McFadden will probably be brought along slowly, playing a back up role to Justin Fargas to start, but it is only a matter of time before he becomes the feature back in Oakland.

S 22. Kevin Smith (DET) Bye Wk 4 He could very well be the top producing rookie in fantasy football. The Lions new offense will feature the run, so Smith should have plenty of opportunities to shine. Tatum Bell will likely steal a few carries, but that could be beneficial down the stretch, keeping the rookie fresh.

S 23. Matt Forte (CHI) Bye Week 8 One of the most important factors in selecting a fantasy RB is the number of touches the player is expected to get. For this reason alone, Forte has solid fantasy value as the Bears new feature back. He will have a lot to prove as a rookie, but the potential factor is big.

24. LenDale White (TEN) Bye Wk. 6 While he has proven himself as a solid and capable fantasy RB, there are still some question marks surrounding him. He has had several minor run ins with the law, his work ethic has been questioned, and the Titans continue to draft RB’s in early rounds, leading us to believe the Titans staff has their own doubts about his status as the team’s premier back. We like what he has to offer, especially in goal line situations, but Chris Johnson will get his chances as well. UPDATE:While Chris Johnson has been extremely impressive so far this pre season, White has also looked equally impressive. These two compliment eachother perfectly and should do some real damage as a "Thunder and Lightning" combo. UPDATE 2: While White will maintain his starting role to start the season, Head Coach Jeff Fisher has indicated that White will be splitting carries with rookie Chris Johnson. White will almost certainly remain the Titans goal line back, giving him ample fantasy value.


S 25. Selvin Young (DEN) Bye 8 With Travis Henry now out of the picture, Young is the likely candidate to step into the starting role. He showed promise last season, with a hefty 5.2 yards per carry average. Young was also very active in the Broncos passing game. He will have competition, and Mike Shanahan seems to always find a way to rain on fantasy owners’ parade when it comes to RB’s, so there is some risk here. He also needs to improve on his TD numbers. UPDATE: While Young appears to have a lock on the starting job, Andre Hall has been receiving all of the goal line carries in practice and pre season. Young should still be in for a solid season, but this does not bode well for his potential TD numbers.

S 26. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) Bye 9 Stewart, who was expected to step right into a starting role, has more competition from DeAngelo Williams than was expected. He has struggled to get back to full strength after toe surgery, and Williams has been impressive in the meantime. This highly touted rookie should eventually become Carolina’s lead back with fantasy potential galore, but he now has his work cut out for him. UPDATE:To say that Stewart's first appearance of the pre season did not go well would be an understatement. He finished with just 3 yards on 4 carries. The good news: It was only one pre season game and we still like what he brings to the table for the long haul. The bad news: DeAngelo Williams continues to play well and appears to be the likely choice to begin the season as the Panthers starting RB. Also, Stewart's toe is not responding as well as hoped and could continue to be an issue throughout the season. UPDATE 2: Stewart put to rest any debate amongst skeptics regarding his injured toe, rushing for 100 yards and a TD on 10 carries in the Panthers third pre season game. It was just a pre season game, so do not get too excited, but this was a nice indicator of Stewart's potential. He will still compete for carries with DeAngelo Williams, who had a huge game in his own right, but Stewart is the better option long term.

27. Edgerrin James (ARI) Bye Wk 7 You can’t question his reliability, and the fact that he is the feature back in Arizona is a plus, but James is merely a shell of the player he once was. He is capable of decent fantasy production, but his best years are behind him.

28. Ronnie Brown (MIA) Bye Week 4 Brown should be considered a high risk-high reward prospect for ’08. Before a season ending ACL injury last season, Brown was on a tear, and maybe the hottest RB in all of football. The only question is can he bounce back from the injury with success? If so, Brown could be a huge pick for you, but it is a gamble. Also, he will likely give up some carries to Ricky Williams. UPDATE:While Brown seems to be somewhat on track with his surgically repaired knee, he is apparently being outshined by Ricky Williams so far in camp and pre season. The coaches seem to be really pleased with Williams, so much so, that he may end up splitting equal carries with Brown. UPDATE 2: Brown performed well in his first significant action of the pre season, rushing 12 times for 47 yards and a TD. He also added 2 receptions for 10 yards, and looked solid making cuts on his repaired knee. He is still a risky fantasy option, but this is a good sign.

29. Willie Parker (PIT) Bye Week 6 When it comes to yardage totals, few backs are better, but Parker rarely finds the end zone. Couple that with the likelihood that he will split carries with rookie Rashard Mendenhall and his fantasy stock takes a nose dive. Parker should still hold value in leagues that account heavily for rushing yards. UPDATE: It appears that Parker will still give up some carries to Mendenhall, especially in goal line situations, but the coaches have hinted that Mendenhall's role in the offense will not be as prominent as previously anticipated, at least early in the season.

30. Fred Taylor (JAX) Bye Wk. 7 After a slow start in ’07, Taylor went on a tear and finished the season with over 1,200 yards rushing. He needs to improve on his TD and reception totals, but he should provide fantasy owners with decent numbers in spite of splitting time with Maurice Jones Drew.

31. Ricky Williams (MIA) Bye Wk 4 If Ronnie Brown fails to return to form after his knee injury, Williams and fantasy owners alike could benefit greatly. Regardless, he should get a decent number of touches. UPDATE: Williams has been extremely impressive in camp and pre season, and may play a big role in the Fins running game this season. He may even be a threat to steal Ronnie Brown's starting job. We will monitor the situation as the season draws closer, but things are looking better and better for Williams with each passing day.

32. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) Bye Wk 9 After the Panthers selected Jonathan Stewart in the first round of this year’s draft, Williams appeared to be destined for mop up duty once again. After a strong effort in camp and an absent Jonathan Stewart (injury), Williams could play a bigger role this season than initially anticipated. Stewart will eventually move into the starting role, but Williams should remain heavily in the fold, boosting his fantasy value. UPDATE: Williams continues to impress this pre season, and appears headed for the Panthers starting job. We still believe rookie Jonathan Stewart has the better upside for the long haul, but Williams may surprise us all in the end. He has to this point.

33. Maurice Morris (SEA) Bye 4 He is in line to receive a hefty number of touches in the upcoming season and after a very impressive training camp, Morris will challenge Julius Jones for the starting job. UPDATE:With each practice and pre season game, Morris' fantasy stock seems to rise. If he stays on track, he should be the starting back for Seattle in week 1(sorry Julius Jones). Morris was very solid last season when filling in for the injured Shaun Alexander. Keep in mind, nothing is set in stone at this point, and he will still give up alot of carries to Jones.

34. Chester Taylor (MIN) Bye Wk. 8 Taylor is arguably the best back up RB in the NFL. He should see enough action to provide fantasy owners with value, but if Adrian Peterson should go down, Taylor would become an elite fantasy RB.

S 35. Chris Johnson (TEN) Bye Wk 6 He was one of the first RB’s taken in this year’s NFL draft and teams rarely draft players that high to have them ride the pine all season. Johnson has the speed and the talent to steal the show from LenDale White, and the coaches love him. UPDATE: Johnson appears to be the real deal and has had a monster pre season to this point. LenDale White has also been impressive, so there is little chance Johnson gets the starting nod, but he should definately play a big role in the Titans offense as a multiple threat.

36. Julius Jones (SEA) Bye Week 4 With a fresh start in Seattle, Jones will have the opportunity to step back into the fantasy limelight. He was initially expected to carry the load for the Seahawks, but fellow RB Maurice Morris has stepped up and will push Jones for playing time. They are paying Jones way too much to sit on the bench, but he probably won’t have the fantasy impact everyone thought. UPDATE: Jones seems to be losing fantasy value by the day. There is still hope for him, but Maurice Morris seems to have a lock on the starting job at this point.UPDATE 2: This has been a difficult situation to gauge, but while Jones probably won't win the starting job, he should still be prominent in the Seahawk offense, maybe even a 50/50 situation with Maurice Morris.

37. Justin Fargas (OAK) Bye Week 5 This speedy home run threat is capable of doing some real damage, that is, if Darren McFadden doesn’t steal his thunder and job first. Fargas is scheduled to split the load with McFadden, but he will have to really impress to maintain that scenario.

38. Chris Perry (CIN) Bye Week 8 With Rudi Johnson once again hobbled with hamstring issues, Perry has stepped to the forefront. While Johnson is expected to be to ready to start in week 1, Perry has been getting first team reps in practice and looking extremely good in the process. If Johnson's hamstring issue should continue to linger throughout the season, Perry and fantasy owners alike will benefit greatly. As a side note, Perry has also had an injury plagued career himself, so he will be risky even if he should become the Begals go to back. UPDATE: As of 8/20, Head Coach Marvin Lewis has stated that Perry would be his starter if the season were to start today. With Rudi Johnson continuing to struggle with his hamstring, Perry could benefit greatly. The most likely scenario is a RB by commitee situation with Perry, Rudi Johnson, and Kenny Watson all sharing carries.

39. Rashard Mendenhall (PIT) Bye Wk 6 Despite being a rookie and Willie Parker’s back up, Mendenhall should see his fair share of carries this season. More importantly, he is likely to get the ball in goal line situations, which only adds to his fantasy value.

40. Deuce McAllister (NO) Bye Wk 9 It wasn’t too long ago that he was considered one of the best in all of fantasy football, but two knee surgeries later, he’s considered a long shot. The reports from Saints trainers are promising for the ’08 season, but the chances of him returning to stardom are slim. UPDATE: After a solid showing in his first action of the pre season, McAllister's chances look better by the day. He is still a risky fantasy pick, but the gamble could pay off.

41. Felix Jones (DAL) – Bye Week 10 – When given the opportunity, this speedy rookie has the ability to make some noise. Unfortunately, unless Marion Barber gets injured, opportunities may be few and far between.

42. Andre Hall (DEN) Bye Wk 8 After a serious injury to rookie Ryan Torain, Hall moves into the back up role behind Selvin Young. Hall showed flashes of greatness in mop up duty last season, and knowing Mike Shanahan’s history with RB’s, he could easily become the starter at some point this season. UPDATE:Hall has been receiving all the goal line and short yardage carries for Denver in practice and pre season. This is a strong indication that he will be the Bronco's goal line back in the regular season as well.

43. Ray Rice (BAL) Bye Wk 10 UPDATE:Rice continues to gain fantasy value with Willis McGahee iffy for week 1 after having his injury plagued knee scoped. Reports also had McGahee looking lazy and somewhat out of shape before the the surgery. This also bodes well for Rice who has been fairly impressive to this point, but McGahee should still be "the man" in Baltimore when he returns.

44. Ahman Green (HOU) Bye Wk 8 With every missed practice and preseason game, Green appears less likely to be the starting RB for the Texans this season. He continues to be plagued by injuries, and there is even some talk that he may be cut from the team all together. While there is still a tiny glimour of hope here, Green is extremely risky at this point. UPDATE: After restructuring his contract, Green appears safe in regards to remaining on the team. He has started doing some light work outs in practice, and the Texans seem optimistic about his chances to start in week 1. This is good news for those of you who have already drafted him, but for those of you yet to draft, Green remains extremely risky as he is very injury prone.

45. Rudi Johnson (CIN) Bye Wk. 8 He was considered one of fantasy football’s most consistent and talented performers less than a year ago. After a severe hamstring injury, and a lackluster ’07, Johnson is poised to redeem his good name. There is certainly room for skepticism, but we like his chances. UPDATE:Johnson continues to struggle with the same nagging hamstring injury that plagued him last season. He still has a good chance to be the Bengals starting back in week 1, but this kind of injury usually seems to linger, making him a risk. In addition, Chris Perry has been working with the 1st team offense in Johnson's absence and has been extremely impressive. UPDATE 2:Johnson's fantasy stock continues to take a nose dive. Chris Perry now seems to have the edge in the battle for the Bengal's starting RB job. Johnson's injury may be a bigger deal than expected. If he can get healthy, Johnson will likely remain in the mix, but he should be considered extremly risky for your fantasy roster at this point. UPDATE 3: Johnson has reportedly been placed on the trading block. It is unclear what his status is with the Bengals at this point, but his chances to regain a starting role do not look good. If he is traded or released, Johnson will almost certainly play a key role with his new team, but that is merely speculation. He remains a risky draft choice for your fantasy team.

46. Jerious Norwood (ATL) Bye Wk 7 Just as it seemed he would finally get his shot at starting, the Falcons brought in Michael Turner. Norwood has blazing speed and averages over 6 yards a carry for his career, but he has minimal fantasy value so long as he’s coming off of the bench.

47. Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) Bye Week 4 It appears that Bradshaw could play a bigger role in the Giants running game than expected. Both he and Derrick Ward could be in the fold to receive carries. There is alot of debate as to exactly how prevalent their roles will be, but it could be significant. Bradshaw is the more complimentary back to Jacobs, so we like his chances a little more than Ward's at this point.

48. Tim Hightower (ARI) Bye Wk 7 This little known rookie out of Richmond has been impressive in camp, and appears to be in line for a back up role behind Edgerrin James. Hightower also seems to be the likely candidate to receive the all important goal line carries for the Cards this season.

49. Derrick Ward (NYG) Bye Week 4 He has already proven himself as a starting RB in the NFL. If he can hold off Ahmad Bradshaw for the Giants back up role, Ward could be valuable down the stretch. UPDATE: Ward continues to battle Ahmad Bradshaw for playing time. The expectation is that he will have an active role, along with Bradshaw, behind starter Brandon Jacobs. Ward has more potential to replace Jacobs as the starter if he should go down, but Bradshaw has the better upside as things stand now.


50. Warrick Dunn (TB) Bye Week 10 He is back in Tampa, and while we think he still has a little left in the tank as a nice compliment to Earnest Graham, carries will be tough to come by.

51. Dominic Rhodes (IND) Bye Wk 4 After a somewhat unsuccessful injury filled stint in Oakland, Rhodes finds himself back in Indianapolis where he previously achieved mild success. He should see some action as a back up to Joseph Addai.

52. LaDell Betts (WAS) Bye Wk 10 It will be tough for him to get on the field with a healthy Clinton Portis, but coaches have pledged to give him more PT this season. Betts could be a very effective fantasy back if given the opportunity.

53. Sammy Morris (NE) Bye Week 4 Morris looked like a star during a brief stint as the Pats starting RB last season. If Maroney should get injured, Morris becomes an instant must have on fantasy rosters.

54. Chris Brown (HOU) Bye Wk 8 We really like Brown’s fantasy potential, but splitting time with Ahman Green, and his history of injuries diminish his value. Brown is a great guy to have on the backburner if Green should go down, that is, if he can stay healthy himself. UPDATE: Houston now has the most unsettled backfield in the NFL, and while Brown has the best shot at a starting spot, Ahman Green is still not completely out of the picture, and rookie Steve Slaton continues to climb the depth chart. It is difficult to gauge this situation, but we still think Brown has the best fantasy potential among this group. UPDATE 2:Brown missed the Texans 3rd preseason game against Dallas with a back injury. We like Brown, but he is proving to be too unreliable to seriously consider drafting at this point, as are any of the other Houston RB's.

55. Steve Slaton (HOU) Bye Week 8 He continues to climb the Texans depth chart. While he is not an every down type of back, Slaton could be in line for a big role in the running game, and he has the potential to be explosive. There are still a ton of question marks relating to this backfield, but Slaton is definately on the rise, and one to watch. UPDATE: Chris Taylor started the Texans third preseason game over Slaton. We are not quite sure what to make of that, but whatever the case, this is one screwed up RB situation in Houston. Slaton should see the field this season and has the potential to start, but as of now, it would be a gamble to draft him, or any other Texans RB for that matter.

56. Kevin Jones (CHI) Bye Week 8 Jones is now the favorite to win the back up RB spot for the Bears. He looked good in his first action of the preseason, and he should see some quality playing time this season if his knee remains up to the challenge. Jones is still a risky option, but he is worth keeping an eye on.

57. Tatum Bell (DET) Bye Week 4 He will likely back up rookie Kevin Smith, but he should see a fair share of carries to keep Smith fresh down the stretch.

58. Jesse Chatman (NYJ) Bye Week 5 For the time being, Chatman has passed Leon Washington on the Jets depth chart, and could have some real value if the injury bug should strike starter Thomas Jones.

59. Darren Sproles (SD) Bye Week 9 He looks to have locked down the back up job behind L.T.. Sproles has shown tremendous ability in the pre season, and he could have big fantasy potential if Tomlinson should get injured.

60. DeShaun Foster (SF) Bye Wk 9 Foster could get a few reps as Frank Gore’s back up, but unless Gore is injured, Foster has limited potential.












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