As Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead battle it out for the Rams starting running back spot to see who will replace the departed Steven Jackson, it appears as though the former is a step ahead of the latter.
That’s what St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher says he believes thus far.
“I think Daryl comes back as our starter,” Fisher said Tuesday.
Gone was the committee talk that plagued the Rams backfield all offseason and forced the ADP’s of Richardson down to RB32, Pead to RB46, and Zac Stacy to RB51. Rather than speaking of a rotation of 2-3 backs, the mustachioed man stated his preference for one guy. Fisher said this quotation to the media on Wednesday, the day before the Rams first preseason game; fantasy owners didn’t have to wait long for Fisher’s words to represent themselves in reality.
Richardson opened the Rams first preseason game versus the Cleveland Browns with the first team and ran 4 times for 24 yards and caught 2 passes for 20 yards. Isiah Pead, on the other hand, was used as a kick returner and fumbled on his first carry of the game. Despite Matt Freedman’s desperate pleas, Richardson is going to be the lead back for the Rams.
“Last year’s seventh-round pick started ahead of Isaiah Pead, as expected, and he looked like the better back on Thursday. Richardson hits the hole quicker and harder than Pead, and he runs with velocity. Richardson was already the back to own in St. Louis, and that hasn’t changed.”
Given that Richardson now seems to be entrenched as the starter, fantasy owners have some actionable information to use immediately. Even Freedman finally conceded that Richardson was likely to start in 2013. Fear of the unknown paralyzes only the weak fantasy football player. Owners who act quickly, decisively and intelligently will always be rewarded. Last year, owners who properly read Mike Shanahan’s tea leaves with the Alfred Morris-Evan Royster-Roy Helu love triangle were rewarded. In the Rams’ situation, the coaches are making it even easier on fantasy players, by stating that Richardson has the starting job, and then actually demonstrating the truth of the statements in preseason play. Very rarely do these backfield quagmires get resolved so quickly and easily.
Compared to to other running backs around his ADP, Richardson is now in a clearer situation for touches than Shane Vereen, Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy and Montee Ball. Rashard Mendenhall has the worst line in the NFL and probably just isn’t good anymore. Andre Brown is a good value pick, but not a starting running back, and won’t receive starters touches. Injury and timeshare concerns abound for Ryan Mathews and Chris Ivory. The St. Louis coaching staff has for once, acted in the best interest of fantasy football players. They gave us actionable information and then demonstrated their willingness to execute that information on the field.
Perhaps most importantly, Richardson didn’t disappoint. All offseason, the fantasy football community compared this backfield to those of Mike Shanahan. Well, keen fantasy football players will probably remember that at this time last year, Evan Royster was the “clear starter” for the Washington Racial Slurs. In fact, a recap on NFL.com from Washington’s first preseason game says exactly that. Royster fumbled the ball and was generally unimpressive.
Richardson, on the other hand, made the most of his opportunity against the Browns in preseason action. He hasn’t given Fisher a reason to change his mind, while Isiah Pead gave the coaching staff every reason to believe that he wasn’t ready for prime time. Maybe Pead is the better back. Much of the Rotoviz staff believes that Zac Stacy is the best runner on the roster (I happen to be of that opinion). All of that is immaterial. Betting on talent can work in the long run, but time and time again, we have seen plodders be surprisingly good fantasy players. in The running back position is about volume and opportunity (especially in redraft), and Richardson possesses both of those. It isn’t as if he is entirely unskilled either, gaining 638 yards on 122 touches in 2012 as the spell back for Steven Jackson. Despite only being listed at 196 pounds, even the Sim Score App doesn’t hate him. Taking out only games where he had 2 or fewer touches (2 games), this is Richardson’s Sim Score.
The floor is low, but we know that. It is priced into his ADP. If we knew for 100%, in no uncertain terms, that Richardson ends the year with 275 touches, fantasy owners would pull the trigger in the 3rd, possibly even the 2nd round. The risk that Pead is given 100 touches or that Stacy eats into some goalline work is included in Richardson’s price as a full-time starter. It’s pretty rare for fantasy players to get that advantage.
Take advantage of your leaguemates fear. If you are in a MFL10, feel free to profit from taking Richardson in the fifth round. As we move into August, ADP’s will start to stabilize and more accurately represent the values of players, but the fear of the general fantasy football playing populace can be used to your advantage. You are smarter than them, and you are armed with more actionable and pertinent fantasy advice. I am NOT saying that Daryl Richardson is Alfred Morris from 2012. He isn’t. However, after Alfred Morris started the 3rd preseason game for the Washington Redskins and sat the 4th, he was being drafted as the 47th running back off the board (ADP data from after August 25th, 2012). If your ultimate goal is to win your league, and to do so by generating value from each of your selections, taking Richardson in the 4th or 5th round of your draft is an easy way to do so.