THE OUTLOOK: All that depth I spoke about at the quarterback position? Waiting until the fourth through sixth round to grab someone you can win with? This year’s stock of running backs is pretty much the exact opposite. Running backs have their own Elite 3 (Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy), but after those three, things get a bit dicey. Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles are both on the mend, recovering from severe knee injuries. Matt Forte has Michael Bush waiting in the wings, ready to vulture opportunities away from him. Michael Turner is on the wrong side of 30. How much longer will Maurice Jones-Drew hold up while carrying the entire Jacksonville Jaguars offense on his back? Be sure to do your homework when it’s your time to draft a running back. You’re going to want to place yourself in position to draft at least two sure-fire top 15 hits in this year’s fantasy draft.
- Ryan Mathews went and did what he usually does (get himself injured). There are whispers out there saying that he “ahead of schedule” and could be available for Week 1. Let’s say that report is true – are you still willing to risk an early round draft pick on him? Mathews is a sure bet to wow you from time to time with spectacular performances. However, you have to take into account that you may only be able count on him for 10-12 games a season. Add in his inconsistent/boom or bust weekly output and you’re staring at one of the biggest fantasy question marks of 2012.
- The Washington Redskins backfield is so mucked up I decided not to even attempt to decipher it. Tim Hightower, Evan Royster, Roy Helu and – Mike Shannahan’s latest pet – Alfred Morris, all have a shot at what could very well be a highly productive role in the Redskins offense. You can pencil each one of these guys in for one, maybe two matchup tilting performances as the season rolls along. You just never know who Shannahan will decide to roll with on any given week.
- Jamaal Charles ran well during his limited action over the past few weeks. It’s been almost a whole year since his ACL tear. He just may be approaching 100% health. Remember what Charles and Thomas Jones did on the ground for the Chiefs a few seasons back? Peyton Hillis will fill the Jones roll this season. Remember Hillis’ 2010 season? Keep in mind that Hillis is a power back with pass catching skills as well. What I’m getting at is Chiefs 2012 Backfield = $$$ *evil villain hand rub*
- Word on the block is that the Detroit Lions are looking to either sign or trade for a running back. Running back just may be the missing ingredient to their potent offense, yet that whole portion of their depth chart is riddled with injury related question marks (Jahvid Best – concussions; Mikel Leshoure – torn Achilles in 2011, hamstring issues earlier in the summer, ganja dependence; Kevin Smith – I know he’s torn one ACL, he may have torn both. He has been a walking injury report his entire time in the league). Lions GM Martin Mayhew has to be kicking himself for passing on Cedric Benson and allowing him to sign with a division rival (Packers). What’s stopping him from picking up the phone right now and dialing up Jacksonville Jaguars GM Gene Smith and asking him for Maurice Jones-Drew in exchange for a 2013 second round pick + a 2014 fourth rounder that could become a second rounder based on performance incentives? Who says no to that deal? The Jaguars are rebuilding and the extra draft picks should aid with that. Rashad Jennings has proven himself to be a capable runner and should be a competent replacement. Plus they rid themselves of MJD’s expensive contract. The Lions get MJD in his prime to add to a core of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Megatron and Pocket Hercules on the same team – how is that not a Super Bowl winning offense? Better yet – imagine the fantasy implications. I realize this has absolutely no chance of happening. I’ll just see how it plays it in Madden NFL ’13 …
*lists created with Four-Downs.com Ranking Editor*
- The Rookies – This year’s crop of rookie running backs find themselves in position to make some noise this season and you should craft your draft board around the value they will potentially present. Doug Martin and David Wilson were drafted at the end of the first round of the NFL draft by the Buccaneers and Giants, respectively. The backs ahead of them on their respective depth charts, LeGarrette Blount and Ahmad Bradshaw, should not feel too secure in their current positions as lead back. New Bucs head coach Greg Schiano and his staff are rumored to be less than enamored with Blount’s work ethic and attitude. Bradshaw hasn’t exactly been the picture of perfect health over the last few years. He has had screws inserted into both of his feet to stabilize broken bones over the course of his career. Wilson and Martin may get their chance to shine sooner rather than later.
- Lamar Miller and Isaiah Pead find themselves in position to make contributions as well. In Miami, Miller has Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas listed ahead of him. Bush enjoyed the most productive year of his career running the ball last season. However, new coach Joe Philbin and his pass heavy offensive attack may make those numbers tough to repeat. Thomas proved himself to be incapable of handling the role of feature back. He poses no threat whatsoever to Miller’s playing time. In St. Louis, Pead has Steven Jackson entrenched in the lead back role. However, with over 900 careers over the last three seasons, the workload may be piling up on Jackson, paving the way for Pead to step in.
- With Marshawn Lynch likely to be suspended for a portion of the season due to his latest arrest, Seahawks rookie back Rob Turbin will be a name to keep an eye on. Expect to hear some noise from at least one of these young backs in 2012
- Ryan Matthews, San Diego Chargers (ADP: 12 Team – Round 1, 8th Pick; 14 Team – Round 1, 7th Pick) – Mathews has shown flashes of workhorse potential in his short career, specifically with a four game stretch late in the 2011 season that saw him total over 450 rushing yards and four touchdowns. However, he’s also proven to be inconsistent and has shown an inability to avoid the injury bug. Analysts everywhere are predicting a breakout year for Mathews, but his history has me worried about him being overvalued as a top ten pick in 2012.
- Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 12 Team – Round 2, 3rd Pick; 14 Team – Round 1, 14th Pick) – I had Marshawn earmarked for my potential bust list even before he got himself picked up on a DWI charge this past weekend. He’s a back with a career yard-per-carry average under 4.0. Last season, in a contract year, Lynch blew up for over 1,200 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He would go on to sign a 4 year, $31 million contract this past March. Now that he’s gotten himself paid, I’m not sure if Lynch will put forth the effort to necessary to repeat as a top ten back this upcoming season.
- Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins (ADP: 12 Team – Round 5, 1st Pick; 14 Team – Round 4, 4th Pick) – Reggie Bush is coming off the best season of his seven year career. Why should he be avoided? Well, for one – his new coach is expected to employ a more passing oriented attack, limiting Bush’s impact in the running game. Also, the Dolphins showed just how much faith they have in Bush’s game by drafting Lamar Millier out of The U in round 2 of the 2012 NFL draft. Bush is NOT worthy of going within the top 50 of any fantasy drafts (PPR leagues included).