Every once in a while a rookie running back gets drafted in the mid rounds of your draft and goes on to make that team owner look like a genius. Odds are that team owner just got lucky. Not every rookie running back is going to have an Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson type rookie season. However, there are many rookie running backs that contribute to a NFL team and warrant a flex position or a spot start on your roster when the opportunity presents itself. Last year, guys like Ryan Mathews, Jahvid Best, James Starks, and even the undrafted guys like LeGarrette Blount and Christopher Ivory had games that would have contributed to your team.
This year there are several rookies who are going to get a chance to at least be a 1B type of guy on an NFL team. Drafting that guy could help you during the season when one of your starting running backs gets hurt and you need to spot start a rookie for a game or two. Running backs are, after all, the most injured players out of all the fantasy football positions. The constant abuse their bodies take just wears them down after a matter of time.
While most of the rookies drafted are taken as developmental players some are seen as possible starters this year. Here is a list of the all the rookie running backs and where they were drafted this year:
Round 1, Pick 28 – Mark Ingram (New Orleans)
Round 2, Pick 6 – Ryan Williams (Arizona)
Round 2, Pick 24 – Shane Vereen (New England)
Round 2, Pick 25 – Mikel Leshoure (Detroit)
Round 2, Pick 30 – Daniel Thomas (Miami)
Round 3, Pick 7 – DeMarco Murray (Dallas)
Round 3, Pick 9 – Stevan Ridley (New England)
Round 3, Pick 32 – Alex Green (Green Bay)
Round 4, Pick 8 – Roy Helu (Washington)
Round 4, Pick 18 – Kendall Hunter (San Francisco)
Round 4, Pick 22 – Delone Carter (Indianapolis)
Round 4, Pick 28 – Taiwan Jones (Oakland)
Round 4, Pick 29 – Bilal Powell (New York Jets)
Round 4, Pick 32 – Jamie Harper (Tennessee)
Round 5, Pick 2 – Johnny White (Buffalo)
Round 5, Pick 14 – Jacquizz Rodgers (Atlanta)
Round 5, Pick 18 – Dion Lewis (Philadelphia)
Round 6, Pick 12 – Evan Royster (Washington)
Round 6, Pick 18 – Jordan Todman (San Diego)
Round 6, Pick 22 – Allen Bradford (Tampa Bay)
Round 7, Pick 18 – Shaun Chapas (Dallas)
Round 7, Pick 19 – Da’Rel Scott (New York Giants)
Round 7, Pick 21 – Shane Bannon (Kansas City)
Round 7, Pick 23 – Anthony Allen (Baltimore)
Round 7, Pick 31 – Baron Batch (Pittsburgh)
Round 7, Pick 45 – Jay Finley (Cincinnati)
Before I get into which guys I think could have a meaningful and productive season, let me explain my reasoning on how I evaluated these guys. There are three things I look at when determining if a rookie running back is worth me drafting:
1. Chance to Play
No running back is going to be worthy of a spot on your team if he doesn’t touch the field. Does the NFL team that drafted the rookie have a starting or at least a competition for a starting spot based on the type of player he is? If the player in front of him on the depth chart is one that’s not going anywhere, the rookie is not getting playing time unless an injury happens. Injuries to stud running backs are hard to predict, so I won’t try.
2. Rookie Injuries
A fragile rookie isn’t going to take a beating from the bigger, more talented NFL guys tackling him. Does the rookie have injury history, and if so, how bad?
3. Speed Score
If you don’t know what the speed score is read this article. According to Football Outsiders, there have only been three running backs since 1999 with a speed score lower than 95.0 that have emerged as a viable starter (Frank Gore, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brian Westbrook). While this doesn’t guarantee NFL success is does help show which rookies probably aren’t going to make it.