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ChrisThompson
Finding a third-down running back key for Redskins.

The Washington Post’s John Keim recently looked at the Racial Slurs position battle for the increasingly important in-space role. Here’s a glimpse at what he had to say:

Roy Helu is coming off an injury and Evan Royster is not a third-down back, despite filling that role last season. So there’s an opening for one of the rookies, or Williams, to earn a spot. . .Thompson offers excellent burst, which he showed at Florida State. He’d be a good fit in what the Redskins want to do with some triple-option looks or on third downs. However, he’s listed at 5 feet 7 and did not always excel at blitz pickups, nor did he have a lot of experience in that role. But he is elusive.

I recently examined the prospects of Chris Thompson and found he’s ridiculously underrated. Thompson’s advanced college rushing stats blow away the rest of the 2013 class. Moreover, history suggests Kyle Shanahan’s offense will heavily feature a pass-catching running back if one exists on the roster. It’s become so common to compare the next small back to Darren Sproles that most of us have developed a Sproles 2.0 Hype Sieve capable of automatically filtering out any reference to the second coming. I assume your eyes have already flicked past this sentence, but Chris Thompson could be the guy who finally delivers on that promise.

A little more from Keim:

What can the Redskins expect from Helu? Clearly we know he’s not the most durable back. . . The ironic thing is Helu is the most well-built of the backs. He’s a necessary weapon because of his speed and ability to make defenders miss on the outside. . .His touchdown vs. Seattle two years ago – hopping over a defender at the line – remains one few on this roster would make. So as long as he’s healthy, Helu should play a role.

So here’s the problem and/or opportunity. Roy Helu also looks like a sleeper. He’s one of my favorite dynasty stashes. If Helu is released, I believe he’ll eventually re-emerge as an above average starter somewhere. Helu’s combinaton of Speed Score, Agility Score, and collegiate efficiency levels are frankly ridiculous. He’s the only back I’ve come across who compares to a pre-injury Edgerrin James.

Is it likely Helu ever reminds us of Edge on the football field? Probably not. But what percentage of James would it take to be a valuable fantasy commodity? If you clicked on the above link, you know Helu’s rookie year production actually fits in pretty rare company. His 2012 injury and the emergence of Alfred Morris have created a big opportunity for value drafters. You don’t need to be with your first NFL team to have value. Reggie Bush‘s currently skyrocketing ADP acts as Exhibit A. Thomas Jones anybody?

2013 Strategy

In dynasty leagues Helu and Thompson should be among your priority targets once the premiere players are off the board. In redraft, pulling the trigger will be difficult. You’ll need to be in a relatively deep league to make it work, but a late round pairing of the two backs has more built-in potential than most other formulations.

In Andrew Luck, Pierre Garcon, and the Ultimate Power Lineup, I applaud the late round duo of Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy. Since the next Terrell Davis sits ahead of them in the pecking order, Helu and Thompson might be seen as the bargain basement equivalent.

Helu and Thompson may only be watch list guys right now, but fantasy titles are invariably won as the result of shrewd pickups. Once the season starts, there will be too much sound and fury to evaluate these guys properly. If Alfred Morris goes down, there are two very intriguing scenarios.

Scenario A: Helu emerges as the all-purpose back and conjures images of Clinton Portis. Again, I want to reiterate that I don’t think this is likely. But it’s possible, which can’t be said for most second string backs (and even many starters).

Scenario B: Evan Royster becomes the early down back and Thompson becomes the Sprolesian complement. If you’re handcuffing Morris, you probably don’t want to be left holding the bag that says “kind of like Mark Ingram” on it.

* Yes, I recommended Mark Ingram as a solution in How To Lose a Fantasy League in 10 Picks, and a couple of days later news broke that Ingram was running behind Pierre Thomas in OTAs. Since Thomas is the far, far better player, that only makes sense. I’m firmly back off the Ingram bandwagon.

 

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