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RB Production Issues

This year has already proven to be a huge year in terms of dynasty options. Top-of-the-line players have been locked up with historical contracts, giving us a glimpse into the players’ futures. We now know that such players as Chris Johnson, Frank Gore and Michael Vick won’t be hitting the free agent market next season, making it easier for managers to apply the keeper tag to them. While we are all very aware of how the preseason has changed the landscape of keeper outlooks, the season itself will prove to be the biggest indicator of future value. By this I mean that there were several offseason moves that could lead to massive changes in offensive philosophies and individual player value.

Such moves that have positive affects are things like Kevin Kolb raising Larry Fitzgerald’s value, Julio Jones bumping up Matt Ryan’s value, or Tom Brady lifting Chad Ochocinco’s value. But the other side of that coin is some of these moves will have the reverse affect on players. A prime example of this is evident in DeAngelo Williams signing a long-term deal. Jonathan Stewart’s value has all but leveled off due to taking a backseat to Williams for the foreseeable future. Sadly, Stewart isn’t the only one to suffer from offseason moves.

There are two particular players that are in for solid seasons that I, myself, am anxious to see work in their offenses. These two players are both young, productive guys that have shown the league what they are capable of on more than one occasion. However, due to roster moves and question marks surrounding exactly how they will be used these two players could be in for huge downgrades in terms of immediate and dynasty value. The two players I’m referring to are LeSean McCoy and Knowshon Moreno. Both are extremely young guys who have the best of their playing days in front of them, making them prime dynasty options. But offseason moves among other factors could lead to limited potential. Though they play in two entirely different situations the issues mirror each other.

Moreno – This is his year. This is the season that Moreno comes in experienced, healthy, and ready to break the 1,000-yard marker for the first time in his young career. The situation gets even better for Moreno due the fact that the new head coach John Fox has historically implemented a run-heavy offense. Everything is looking great for the Denver running back. Then all of a sudden the Baltimore Ravens change the entire picture. A move made several states away has blurred the once bright outlook for Moreno in 2011. The move I’m talking about is the Ravens letting go of veteran back Willis McGahee. Due to the lack of production behind Moreno last season, the Broncos decided to sign the ex-Ravens’ back to help lighten the load on Moreno. Though it’s great to have a partner to share some of the load with, the question remains of when?

Issue 1 – By when I’m referring to the times that Fox decides to “lighten” the load on Moreno. If it’s just for breathers and breaks then that’s completely fine. But if it’s on the 1-yard line then we have an issue. Going on what we saw from the Broncos in the preseason I’m going to go ahead and say we have an issue. It looks as though McGahee will be the goal line back in most cases. This could lead to as many as 7-10 lost touchdowns to McGahee by season’s end. That is a massive dropoff for Moreno because he potentially could be getting those meaningful carries. We could be in for a Felix Jones and Marion Barber type of situation in Denver, with Moreno playing the role of Jones.

Issue 2 – Let’s say by chance that Moreno does get some of those goal line carries. I’ll go out on a limb and give him 30 percent of the goal line carries with McGahee receiving the remaining 70 percent. Now take into consideration that Tim Tebow will have a role in the Denver offense. That role will most likely be a wild cat style of play in the red zone, resulting in a lot of quarterback draws, sneaks and roll outs. Suddenly that 30 percent for Moreno is 15 percent. Fantasy football is all about opportunity. Fifteen percent isn’t a lot of opportunity to capitalize on. This is solely speculation at this point, but don’t be surprised if it comes to be. McGahee was brought in to have a role and Tebow is too good of a mismatch in close to not be used. The percentages may be different, but the overall theme remains in that Moreno will be the victim of stolen touchdowns on a weekly basis.

McCoy – The Philadelphia Eagles running back was drafted to fill the role of veteran Brian Westbrook and he did just that. McCoy has performed to a level that even the Eagles have to be surprised with. McCoy has already established himself as one of the best pass catching running backs in the NFL. He plays on what should be the most explosive offenses in the league and is on the field for the majority of the plays. Everything looks great for the young back on the surface. But when you begin to scratch the surface you see that there are a few things that could handcuff McCoy’s potential not only in 2011, but in the long term as well.

Issue 1 – The Philadelphia Eagles were by far the busiest team in the offseason. They signed several impact veterans and earned the label of “Dream Team” thanks to their efforts. One of those “Dream Team” members is Ronnie Brown. The Miami Dolphins said goodbye to their long-time starter in the offseason. The Eagles wanted to add some depth at the running back position and signed Brown. The question still remains of what exactly Brown’s role with the Eagles is? Is he strictly a backup? Will there be a running back by committee? Will Brown take some of the third down plays away from McCoy? Or will Brown be used in the red zone thanks to his ability to run, pass and catch? Brown ran the Wildcat offense successfully for the Dolphins over the past few seasons. Andy Reid is a very creative offensive coach who will be sure to utilize Browns’ skill set. McCoy could lose a ton of scoring chances in 2011 to the ex-Dolphins back.

Issue 2 – Vick began the 2010 season on the bench and ultimately missed time due to some nagging injuries. Even with that missed time Vick still managed to rush for nine touchdowns. Vick is the ultimate red zone quarterback. If you send pressure he’ll find the open target but if you don’t apply pressure he’ll take off to score. Nothing can demonstrate how efficient Vick can be more than last season’s historical night against the Washington Redskins when he threw for four scores and ran for two more. Now, how many rushing touchdowns do you think Vick is capable of going into the season healthy and as the undisputed starter for all 16 games? Every time that Vick crosses the goal line it is a missed opportunity for McCoy to do the same. McCoy is going to lose a lot of scoring chances due to the effectiveness of Vick in close.

Issue 3 – What is Vince Young’s role with Philadelphia? Is he just the backup plan in case Vick were to miss time. The offensive game plan wouldn’t need to change? Or will we see Young on the field for a few plays every week to create mismatches and confusion for defenses? I’m guessing that Young will have few special plays designed solely for him every week. Maybe the Eagles will line up both Vick and Young in a shotgun formation and defenses won’t know who is receiving the snap. Maybe Young lines up in the backfield or is sent out in motion as a receiver. The point is that Young is an incredible athlete like Vick and Brown. Reid will find creative ways to have Young contribute on offense. What happens if this creativity occurs in the red zone? That would lead to even further lost touchdowns for McCoy. McCoy could be losing scores to three different rushers for 2011. And to top it all off, even beyond this season given Vick’s new contract, McCoy is set to lose touchdowns to his quarterback for the next six years.

These issues are just worrisome thoughts at this point. We really don’t know how much or in what manner either team will use any of their personnel until the season is underway. I just don’t see these players being brought in and given contracts for no reason. Be completely aware of the possibility of massive opportunity being withheld from both Moreno and McCoy. The 2011 season will either propel their dynasty values way up the board or completely stall them out where they are. As long as they stay healthy the production and yardage will be there for both backs. This is not saying to avoid either on draft day. What I am saying is to be sure you know what you’re getting before using a high pick on either back.

Both Moreno and McCoy will lead their teams in rushing attempts and total yardage. Just don’t be upset when it’s 3rd-and-1 on the goal line and Ronnie Brown, Michael Vick and/or Vince Young are lined up under center and McCoy is on the sideline.

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