Rating the running backs that you need to know about.
1 Star – Look Elsewhere
2 Star – Handcuff/Desperation pick
3 Star – A Serviceable Starter
4 Star – Solid Starter you can count on every week
5 Star – Studs, should be in the Top 10 at the end of the year
We start the breakdown of this division with another potential headache situation for fantasy owners. Let me break this down as best I can. Going in, we know that the above listed are the top three running backs in Denver right now. Willis McGahee is out because the team only needs one veteran running back and that is Moreno, who proved last year that he can get the job done when necessary, but he’s never proven himself to be a truly dynamic player and has yet break the 1,000-yard mark in a season. Add the fact that he’s coming off of a knee scope and I figure he’s going to remain the team’s third string running back and that’s that.
Ronnie Hillman is a “capable” running back (coach John Fox’s word on him, not mine), but he’s not proven that he can be the starter yet and is obviously lacking something that Fox wants him to have. Pass blocking, maybe? That leaves us with Montee Ball, who should be the man in Denver this year. From what I hear, he’s an excellent pass blocker, which is the No. 1 thing needed to be the running back in Denver. Let’s not fool anyone else into thinking this is not the Peyton Manning show, because it is. However, you just can’t throw on every down, right?
Ball figures to play a large role in this offense as the featured man in the backfield, and how can you fail with Manning at the helm? Just be careful on the overbuy on any of these three just yet; remember Manning still has to feed Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and now Wes Welker. Yes, we have another potential backfield headache. I have to say that I’d still be more than happy to take the odds on Montee Ball as a high quality contender for offensive rookie of the year.
3 Stars; Hillman –
2 Stars; Moreno –
Charles produced 1,745 yards from scrimmage last year after an ACL surgery the year before, and coming into the 2013 season I would fully expect that total to go beyond 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Let’s think about how Charles was misused several times last year by the blundering Romeo Crennel and now they get a drastic coaching improvement with Andy Reid.
Charles is going to improve on these totals mostly based on the fact that Alex Smith and Reid will be able to give Charles some room to run with an improved offensive scheme and aerial attack to alleviate some pressure in the box. There’s absolutely no reason for Charles not to improve on last season’s numbers. Draft early and start every time.
With the effectiveness of Charles in Kansas City, I don’t expect Davis to play much more than the role of giving Charles a breather when he is winded. As always, it’s a good idea to handcuff your premier backs in case of injury. Unfortunately, because of his team and the weariness that comes with it, he just doesn’t get the respect that he deserves. However, the numbers don’t lie and I leave you with his numbers from last year, side-by-side with another person whom we all know very well.
Jamaal Charles: 285 carries, 1,509 yards, 11 touchdowns.
Arian Foster: 351 carries, 1,424 yards, 9 touchdowns.
5 Stars; Davis –
Darren McFadden has had a tough time staying healthy since getting into the NFL and has broken the 1,000-yard mark just once so far as he heads into his sixth year. He’s the unfortunate poster boy for talented running backs who just can’t seem to stay healthy as he has never started more than 13 games in any season. It’s a shame because he really is exciting to watch. Theoretically, if he were to stay healthy all year I could see him easily being a top 10 running back in the league. But that is a big if, and that hope is the main reason why so many people draft him in the first two rounds. As it stands now I would not take him in the first two rounds of a draft as there should be plenty of other guys in the league to go for first.
The risk is too great. The other guys in this stable should be looked at as depth if you are a McFadden owner and the primary backup is a must have handcuff. My favorite prospect amongst them is Reece, who came in last year and performed admirably. He is an amazing third down back and has proven that he can be out there every down if need be. Reece has excellent speed for his size and tremendous hands out of the backfield.
Rashad Jennings may sound familiar to you but don’t get too excited, as he was benched by Jacksonville for subpar play. The rookie, Latavius Murray, impressed early but already has a sore foot. I don’t anticipate him getting that much, if any, time on the field. My ratings will be in anticipation of an injury free season…
4.25 Stars; Reese –
2.5 Stars; Jennings –
2 Stars; Murray –
I know I just talked about the injury riddled career of Darren McFadden, but here we are again, another would-be star with injury problems from high ankle sprains to collar bones (twice in one year? really?), Chargers’ fans just can’t get a break. The difference between McFadden and Mathews is that Mathews really isn’t as good. It’s hard to say that, though, given the woes of San Diego’s offensive line during his stint.
That being said, I really liked the signing of Danny Woodhead quite a bit for the Chargers. Woodhead brings a much better overall game to the backfield in terms of picking up blitzes and knowing when to skate out for a dump off pass. He has nice hands out of the backfield and is effective at making the first guy miss. Unfortunately, his size may prevent him from being a three down back or getting those goal line runs up the middle that will be undoubtedly turned over to Mathews. However, in tandem these guys will be an effective 1-2 punch though Woodhead could wind up being Philip Rivers’ best friend this year if he turns those dumpoff passes into first downs and even a few touchdowns.
That brings me to Ronnie Brown, who unfortunately doesn’t have much left in the tank and will be there primarily as a change-of-pace guy and will not likely be very effective during the year. Call me crazy, but at the end of the year I’m wagering Woodhead will produce better fantasy numbers than Mathews. I would still wait until the mid-rounds and try to steal Mathews and Woodhead; anything in the first few rounds will cause too much grief later on.
3 Stars; Mathews –
2.75 Stars; Brown –