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Running Backs: NFC West

1 Star – Look elsewhere
2 Stars – Desperation/Handcuff pick
3 Stars – Serviceable starter
4 Stars – Solid Starter you can count on every week
5 Stars – Stud, Top 10 running back

Arizona – Rashard Mendenhall/Ryan Williams/Stepfan Taylor

As of right now Rashard Mendenhall is the No. 1 back in Arizona. Mendenhall served his previous five years in Pittsburgh where he did a good job in the lead role. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry even including his 2012 campaign where he was clearly slowed by injury. While I don’t think he is an elite back or will ever be an elite back in the NFL he is still above average nonetheless. He has two starting seasons of more than 1,000 yards and a third right on the cusp at 928 yards. Getting those kinds of numbers are not easy and having a featured back on your fantasy team is always a plus.

The problem is these are the Cardinals who came in dead last in rushing yardage, attempts and average yards-per-carry last year. They undoubtedly sported one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The same line that rendered two injured quarterbacks and two injured running backs. With the focus on the line and Mendenhall having another offseason to fully heal from his ACL surgery, I expect a pretty decent showing from him this year. It won’t be anything to write home about but it will be serviceable and he could wind up being a great second running back or flex player.

Having named Mendenhall the starter already is not a good sign for Ryan Williams or rookie Stepfan Taylor. Ryan Williams will still play a role in this offense to give rest to Mendenhall and as a change-of-pace back but probably won’t amount to much in fantasy numbers since they’ve handed the reins to Mendenhall. Williams has superstar potential but has to stay healthy in order to show that potential. Stepfan Taylor should see even less work as the third-string back this year unless injury rears its ugly head.

Mendenhall –
3 Stars/Williams –
2 Stars/Taylor –
1 Star

St. Louis – Daryl Richardson/Isaiah Pead/Zac Stacy

So now that Steven Jackson is gone someone else can be the primary backup in St. Louis, right? Wrong. Pead was the supposed heir to Jackson’s throne but last year Pead only touched the ball 10 times for a whopping 54 yards and a fumble. Pead was great in college but appears to have done little to impress the Rams so far. Daryl Richardson served as the second back last year leapfrogging Pead and taking 98 carries for 475 yards and 24 receptions for 163 yards. In terms of raw talent and potential for stardom, Pead should be in first place. However, we find Richardson on top of the depth chart and Pead suspended for the season opener. As it stands now it looks like a true to form running back by committee over in St. Louis. I wouldn’t expect either to be a high quality contributor to your team, having at most the potential as a flex player for either. The rookie Zac Stacy may also play a role this year as a bruiser between the tackles with goal line/short yardage potential.

Richardson –
2.75 Stars/Pead –
2.65 Stars/Stacy –
1 Star

San Francisco – Frank Gore/LaMichael James/Kendall Hunter

Frank Gore’s legs just keep on churning, his age (30) does not seem to be catching up to him just yet as he has exceeded 1,200 yards in 2011 and 2012 racking up 16 rushing touchdowns as well. Gore is definitely the clear cut starter here and the 49ers offensive line does an excellent job of giving him room to run. Other than Gore turning 30 this year, I don’t see any other reason he should not be a top running back in the league again. It is also important to note that he has started every single game in the last two years as well. Gore is someone who should definitely be drafted early in all leagues. James and Hunter are the backups and nothing more until they can fully prove otherwise, or if Gore gets hurt.

Gore –
5 Stars/Hunter –
2 Stars/James –


Seattle – Marshawn Lynch/Robert Turbin

It appears as if Marshawn Lynch has definitely propelled himself into elite status. The last two seasons in Seattle have been tremendous for Lynch, compiling 2,794 yards and 23 touchdowns. Also, only missing one game has gone a long way in proving his durability. Now throw in Percy Harvin and a more experienced Russell Wilson and we have a team where missing the Super Bowl would be a disappointment. Lynch plans on playing a big role this year and coach Pete Carroll has insisted on being heavier on the rushing side of the attack. Expect Lynch to be in full effect all year long with 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns this year a good goal for this featured back. He should not last in any draft beyond the top-4 picks.

As for Turbin, he is nothing more than a proven handcuff. He’s got the skills to be an excellent backup to Lynch.

Lynch –
5 Stars/Turbin –
2 Stars

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