Fantasy Effects of the Offseason – RBs | June 25, 2012
After looking into the fantasy fortunes of some of the leagues QB’s for the upcoming year now it is the turn of the running backs. This is potentially the most difficult group to rank as it is the most injury hit and is becoming more and more of a committee effort rather than their being one stud running backs that a team relies on.
Ryan Matthews – San Diego Chargers
Matthews has the chance this year to join the elite of fantasy running backs. He has the opportunity and the team he just needs to remain healthy and he should put up huge numbers for fantasy owners. Mike Tolbert leaving has left what felt like a crowded backfield leaving Matthews as the best back by a fair distance. With good receivers and a great QB teams will not be able to stack the line to negate his effect. RB’s featured heavily in the passing game as well last year and in space he has the potential to be devastating. Should be the 4th RB off the board this year and potentially the 4th overall pick as well with the lack of depth at the position.
Roy Helu – Washington Redskins
Helu showed last year just how electric he can be but through a combination of injury and Shanahanigans he did not get the chance to really excite fantasy owners but if he can take a grip of the game early on and give Robert Griffin III a reliable guy to hand the ball off too there is no reason why he won’t be given the time to show his talent. He will lose snaps to Hightower and potentially Torrain but neither of these has been reliable with their performance or injury history so they shouldn’t be too much of a threat to his time. Helu is being drafted high for someone who is not guaranteed to star the majority of games but he could prove to be well worth the risk.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Cincinnati Bengals
The Law Firm as he is affectionately known boasts the fantastic stat of having never fumbled the ball in his pro career and now he has moved on from New England where he was successful for fantasy owner but just not on a regular basis he has a real chance to be a fantasy superstar. In joining the Bengals he goes to a team who will rely on the run game to alleviate the pressure from rookie QB Andy Dalton and joins a division where ball control is the key to success. He will face two of the toughest defences in the league but with all the other parts this team possesses he should be capable of putting up great (and reliable) numbers. He could provide fantastic value for where he is being drafted
Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars
In 2011 MJD was unbelievable and the only Jaguar who was fantasy relevant but whether he can produce those numbers again in 2012 is a big question. Of course any running back would have trouble putting up back to back seasons with them numbers but out of the big four running backs last year he is the one who will have the hardest job. His offense is still not a world beater but they do have more weapons for Gabbert to throw to so chances are he will not get as many touches as he did. There is also a contract issue which needs resolving and with Jennings back this season the Jaguars may feel they have an adequate replacement if he decides to hold out, starts slow or gets a minor injury. All of this points to a down year for an ageing running back with a lot of miles on the clock already. He will be drafted in the 1st round but there are potentially 5 RB’s who will go before him.
Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers
This offseason for Gore has arguably been one of the worst ever for the fantasy value of a player. The addition of Brandon Jacobs suggest that he may lose short yardage and goal line attempts throughout the year which is likely to reduce his touchdown numbers to below 5 which while not a significant reduction is a mediocre amount for a number 1 or 2 RB. The addition of LaMichael James to Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon suggest that maybe Gore’s days in the bay are limited as there appears to be a line of succession being put in place which could lead to a reduced number of touches this year. Will still be drafted high but don’t be surprised if owners become disillusioned with him.
Mike Tolbert – Carolina Panthers
When Tolbert joined the Panthers this offseason the fantasy world gave out a collective groan of disappointment. Not only does further cloud a very messy Carolina Panthers backfield but it robs people of a player who last season became fantasy relevant and would have served as a more than adequate handcuff to Ryan Matthews if he could not stay healthy. Unlike the previous two players in this section Tolbert will go undrafted in all but the deepest leagues however, he could prove to be a hot pick up if a couple of injuries lead to a clearer situation in Carolina.
Rashad Jennings – Jacksonville Jaguars
Jennings missed the whole of last season with a knee injury and while the injury itself is worrying for fantasy owners the time frame he’s had to recover is promising. He had an outstanding 5.4 average yards per carry and has the potential opportunity this year to make a big splash. If MJD holds out then he is a lock for the job but even if Jones-Drew is present then he will be used to take the load off of him, especially if MJD receives a new contract. The RB will play a huge part this year for the Jaguars again and now they have some outside threats teams will not be as keen to load the box as they did last year. Could prove to be a real steal late in drafts.
Shonn Greene – New York Jets
Greene actually finished as a low end number 2 RB last year which many of his owners will struggle to believe with the inconsistency and frustrating numbers he produced. This year he could be a great value if he falls in drafts because the Jets have said they want to go ground ‘n’ pound and there is not another back in New York who can carry the load. The acquisition of Tebow plays into Greene’s strengths as the opposition will have to take account of the extra runner meaning he may find more gaps opening up for him. He will lose the odd carry to McKnight and the other backs but barring injury he should put up so pretty decent games for owners.
Donald Brown – Indianapolis Colts
Brown is the most underrated starting running back in fantasy this year. With the disappointing Delone Carter for a back-up he has a fantastic opportunity to be an every down back. The Colts will be desperate to keep Luck upright so will use the run to keep defences off balance and Browns catching ability will ensure he will see the field for passing downs as well as running downs. He has the 4th best yard after contact last year and that figure wasn’t much lower in 2009. With Addai having left there is a real chance for Brown to stake a claim to the job and if he does fantasy owners will benefit hugely from picking him up so late in drafts.
Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin is set to be the starter in Tampa due to his ability to be a three down back. He is perceived to already be a better blocker than Blount and has good hand out of the backfield which combined with his hard running style makes for a very attractive proposition. Rookie head coach Schiano is known for his hard running style while at Rutgers and with Martin a virtual carbon copy of Ray Rice he figures to be the man Schiano is going to build his team around. He is being drafted in the 4th/5th rounds so again it’s a high price for an unproven rookie but if he can stay healthy he figures to have the job for many years to come.
Trent Richardson – Cleveland Browns
Cleveland’s offense is not the most explosive in the league but Richardson has the chance to bring some stability to it which will hopefully allow the other parts to feed off of it. The AFC North is a ball control division and with Cleveland’s defence being top notch many of their games could be low scoring placing an even greater importance on a strong running game. He will see all the goal line touches as there is no dominating receiver in the red zone so if the Browns can get there hopefully Richardson can punch in plenty of touchdowns for owners. Richardson is being drafted high so you’ll have to take a risk to get him by drafting him late 1st/early 2nd but the potential rewards are top RB production.
David Wilson – New York Giants
Wilson has moved into the spot which was vacated by the leaving of Brandon Jacobs after the Superbowl. New York potentially have plans for him to grow into a feature back but for now his main role in a shallow fantasy leagues is he will take touches away from Bradshaw. As a running back he has the potential to break out long explosive runs and that is what the Giants will be hoping from him this year as well as wanting to see his fumble problems be a thing of the past. Wilson is being drafted late and figures to be a good handcuff for Bradshaw who has struggled with injuries before.
Ronnie Hillman – Denver Broncos
Hillman could not have landed in a better spot for a rookie; he has a great QB who will recognise the best times to get him the ball and a coach whose zone blocking system is very good for getting top production from running backs. He figures to be the backup to McGahee to start the year as Moreno’s production over the previous years has really not been what the Broncos have expected. If McGahee struggles or gets injured then Hillman will more than likely be thrown in at the deep end and will need to prove quickly he has the blocking ability to protect the vulnerable Peyton Manning. Hillman is starting to shoot up in drafts and many will feel he is being over drafted. If you can get him as a backup in the middle rounds and the rest of your team is sorted then he could be a great plug and play starter later in the season.