Christine Michael, Seattle
– Much has already been made of Seahawks’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s proclamation that they will be a running back by committee team this year. As Bevell tried to put the toothpaste back in the tube,
floated his bogus retirement threat while subsequently showing up for minicamp and promptly ‘spraining’ an ankle. In the meantime, the love for
exploded with thoughts of him overtaking Lynch for primary ball carrying duties by the end of the year. Those wild and reckless thoughts have since dissipated back to the point now where he is being viewed as a simple handcuff. While the demise of
has been grossly exaggerated, the truth is Lynch is much closer to the end of his Seattle tenure than the beginning. As important as he is to the offense, it would be wise for the Seahawks to begin grooming his replacement. It’s better to do that a year too soon, than a year too late.
Carlos Hyde, San Francisco
– There has been plenty of noise building for the rookie out of Ohio State to gain a major role in the 49ers offense this summer. The writing is on the wall for
as his efficiency numbers dropped dramatically in the second half of the season.
is the fan favorite for more duties but there have been mixed reports on his health thus far. Hyde is a load of a running back and an ideal fit for this offense. He is a safe bet to make waves this fantasy season but how soon will be determined largely by Gore’s health and effectiveness.
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans
– We all know there is a huge void in the Saints offense with the departure of
and the current absence of
’s receptions from last year and the Saints will potentially have to find someone to make up nearly 200 receptions (86 less if they get Graham back into the fold as expected). Rookie receiver
will likely get a share of that load with
absorbing as much as he can handle. Thomas had 77 receptions last year and should have a bead on eclipsing 100 this year. Pierre has long been the forgotten man, but don’t forget him this year.
Khiry Robinson, New Orleans
– Well sure, we might as well join the fray and get on the
hype train as well. It would feel wrong to mention Thomas without mentioning that Robinson has a more than great chance to make
even more unnecessary than he already is. A Robinson/Thomas combo will be more than a sufficient counterpart to
passing offense with Robinson able to handle some of the early down and short yardage/goal line work. If Robinson can truly step up and make that role his own, there is definite fantasy appeal for him in 2014, especially in standard and touchdown-heavy formats. A motivated
however, may set the breakout clock back a year but we’ll take our chances on that.
Lamar Miller, Miami
– To say
has been off to a slow start might be an understatement. Moreno’s signing muddied an already dirty backfield of
and Miller but it was every expectation that Moreno would end up being the lead dog. Instead, Moreno showed up out of shape, was befallen by a mystery injury and relegated to third-string reps. In the meantime,
has impressed the coaching staff and is quietly positioning himself for some post-hype consideration for this upcoming season. We have a long way to go, but if Moreno can’t make a quick recovery from his knee surgery, it might be the
Show in new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s offense.
Lance Dunbar, Dallas – Former Detroit offensive coordinator Scott Linehan heads to Dallas to lead the offensive staff clusterfudge that is the Dallas Cowboys. Demarco Murray has already been buzzed about as a benefactor of the new offense, but there has been no shortage of reports earmarking third-year man
as an integral part of the offense. Astute beat writers have drawn the correlation between Linehan’s
combo from last year and figure that Dunbar can find himself in a much larger role than he has enjoyed thus far in his career. Despite coming off a career-high 14 games and 217 carries, Murray’s health will always remain a question, which will give the Cowboys decision makers even more reason to incorporate Dunbar into the scheme.
Bernard Pierce, Baltimore
– Pierce has just been doing individual drills so far during organized team activities as he finishes up rehab from shoulder surgery, but all signs indicate that he will be ready to roll once training camp kicks off. The Ravens need Pierce to be ready with the looming suspension of
hanging in the balance. The best guess on Rice’s suspension so far has been 4-6 games but nobody will be surprised if he’s gone for half a season. In the meantime, Pierce has a golden opportunity to take the reigns of the backfield and declare it his own. With Gary Kubiak brought in to call the shots, Pierce is a prime candidate for a breakout season. With diminutive
his only competition, Pierce hopes to regain the flashes he showed at the end of the 2012 season.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta
– With a quickly aging
leading the way and an underwhelming complementary back in Jacquizz Rodgers ahead of him, it shouldn’t take much for rookie
to start making noise in the Atlanta backfield. The learning curve on a NFL offense and getting down the pass protection schemes will be key for the rookie, but early reports so far have been promising. We’ll get to know more about Freeman’s 2014 potential when the bullets start flying for real in training camp.
, Oakland – After red-shirting his rookie season with ankle and foot injuries, Murray is the diamond in the rough of the veteran committee of Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden. McFadden is the poster child of failed expectations in Oakland and was mercilessly offered a one-year deal to return but he has reportedly been working on special teams in organized team activities. Jones Drew’s best years are far behind him as he looks to show he has some juice left. If Murray can stay healthy, he can quickly rise to the top of the heap in Oakland.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina –
Hey, don’t you roll your eyes at me. I know every one of you have probably been burned by owning
at one point over the past four years. Yet, there is something very strange going on in Carolina.
has been a full participant in organized team activities. Yes, it’s quite amazing. The Panthers offensive line has been sliced and diced by retirement but the threat of Cam Newton will still give the Panthers running game a fighting chance. At age 27, there still is one last hope for a great season. There has to be, right?