“They Are Who We Thought They Were!” (Part 2): Daryl Richardson, Shane Vereen (revisited), and other “Uncertain” RBs

NFL: Preseason-St Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys

Photo by T.Heitman

Here’s the link to Part 1. Let’s get going on Part 2.

Rams RBs:
Is Daryl Richardson a runner with an insignificant small-school background and uncertain athleticism? Yes and yes. But he’s the starter in Jeff Fisher’s backfield, and that’s a job worth having, especially given that D-Rich may be a better athlete than we previously thought. He wasn’t outstanding against the Cardinals, but he was steady, he caught the ball, and he finished the weekend as a top-20 runner, and there’s a good chance that’s what he’ll be at the end of the season. I admit that his four games against Seattle and San Francisco will likely be brutal, and you should probably sit him for those matchups, but if you got D-Rich as your RB3, RB4, or RB5, you should be pretty happy with yourself. He could be the guy who gives you solid flex production for most of the season, and, as we all know, the flex position wins championships.

Steelers RBs:
That. Was. Brutal. The guy who finished Sunday as the team leader in rushing was LaRod Stephens-Howling, and he’s out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Felix Jones didn’t touch the ball at all. Isaac Redman, the presumptive fill-in starter, managed only 16 yards on 10 touches and was benched after he disastrously fumbled twice. These RBs were so bad that the Steelers re-signed Jonathan Dwyer, whom they jettisoned from their roster not just 2 weeks ago. All of this is to say that, when he returns healthy, Le’Veon Bell will be the man. He’s as agile as a cat, and he wants you to win championships. If you can get him now in a low-cost trade, do it. He’s already a Shonn Greene All-Star; really, he’s all they have.

Dolphins RBs:
Lamar Miller certainly received some RotoViz love before Week 1: Billed as a potential breakout candidate, Miller was even called the Doug Martin of 2013. And he still could be. Entering the season he certainly looked like the best RB in Miami’s backfield, but his Week 1 performance was awful. Daniel Thomas was also awful, but 1) we expected that, 2) he was perhaps less awful than we expected, 3) he was less awful than Miller, and 4) he scored a TD. Before the season started I suggested that the third-year RB was undervalued (big RBs with big college production tend to make an NFL impact at some point), and Week 1 supports my assertion. I’m not saying that Thomas is startable or will even finish the season with a better position rank than Miller, but he’s more likely to contribute than people think. Let me ask you this? In Miami’s win against Cleveland on the road on Sunday, who was more valuable: Miller?—or Thomas? Bizarrely, it was Thomas. He should be rostered in all leagues. If he somehow ends up pulling a Pierre Thomas and achieving a modicum of fantasy relevance, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Jaguars RBs:
The Jaguars suck. Not a surprise, but it should still be said. The only points they scored on Sunday were by their defense. Literally. People sometimes say that, but it’s not really true, because even a defensive TD usually results in a PAT for the kicker. Here, the Jaguars recorded only a safety. Not even their kicker saw action. Pah–thet-ick. Maurice Jones-Drew underwhelmed, and he was spelled by Justin Forsett and Jordan Todman. No one looked particularly good, but I continue to think that the third-year Todman could be a breakout star at some point. He has an elite nQBDR, and he looked good catching the ball on Sunday. He really could be the next Darren Sproles. I think he should be rostered in deep leagues and monitored in all other leagues.

Cardinals RBs:
Rashard Mendenhall was very Rashardy in Week 1. Whatever he is at this stage of his career, he has retained his Rashardiness. He’s what he’s always been, except now with less ability. Barring an injury, he’ll probably get 800-1000 rushing yards, around 100 receiving yards, and anywhere from 4 to 8 TDs. He’ll probably be roughly what you drafted him to be: An RB3. But if you have rookies Stepfan Taylor or Andre Ellington on your roster—and I’m not sure why you would—you’ll probably be waiting a long time for either of those guys to achieve fantasy relevance. For what it’s worth, I prefer Taylor to Ellington as long-term prospects. For 2013, I think they’re both uninspriring. Alfonso Smith was Mendenhall’s primary backup, and he finished with 10 carries—but they were ugly carries. If Mendy were injured, I think Smith wouldn’t actually have fantasy relevance. Rather, the entire Cardinals backfield would just devolve into a rancid blackhole of fantasy mediocrity. Not that we’re all that far from that point to begin with.

Patriots RBs:
In Part 1, I covered the Patriots RB, but that was before news broke of Shane Vereen’s wrist surgery. What I said about Stevan Ridley before really stands now (he’ll be fine—unless he fumbles again), and I still think that Vereen will be a low-end RB2 and a fantastic weekly flex play when he returns. In the meantime, LeGarrette Blount might get an extra carry or two, but the guys to keep an eye on are Brandon Bolden and Leon Washington. If the Patriots decide to use Washington as “the Faulk/Woodhead/Vereen function,” then he could possibly be a desperate bottom-of-the-barrel flex play in deep leagues while Verren is out. Bolden I find more enticing. He did (very) well last year in limited action (just as Ridley did as a rookie), and he could possibly be a guy who plays like a poor man’s amalgamation of Ridley and Vereen. He’s not as big as Ridley, but he’s a better pass catcher. He won’t be able to do what Vereen does as a receiver split out, but he’s a better receiver out of the backfield than Ridley is. He’s a guy to monitor. If we start to hear rumblings about how he’s likely to see some game action, then he could be worth a speculative add in all leagues, since he would presumably be about 1 Ridley fumble away from a major opportunity.

Colts RBs:
Both Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw were top-30 RBs last year. Neither looks like a top-30 rusher right now. On Sunday, they combined for 22 touches and 91 yards. Andrew Luck produced more points on the ground then they did. Literally. Luck, 9.8 RuPts; Ballard-Bradshaw, 8.9 pts. Until one of these RBs establishes himself as the clear-cut workhorse, both are nothing more than low-end desperation fantasy plays. Aaron Messing has made the case for Ballard as a sleeper. I prefer Bradshaw (an NQBDR stud). Regardless, both should be presently avoided.

Jets RBs:
On Sunday, Bilal Powell had 29 rushing yards on 12 carries; Chris Ivory had 15 yards on 10 carries. On 27 combined carries, they almost outrushed Geno Smith, who scrambled for 47 yards on only 6 carries. Like Ballard and Bradshaw—except apparently much worse—these two RBs should be avoided until one asserts himself as the workhorse, and even then that guy will likely be a low-end option. Chris Ivory may be the original reason to go RB/RB/RB, and Bilal Powell may be on a team with other inconsistent options (and he had adequate production in college), but neither of these guys should be counted on for production until they display some consistency.

Bills RBs:
Well, that’s not how this was supposed to work. I’m not worried. C.J. Spiller will be inconsistent at times, but he’s on a team that wants to get him the ball and Fred Jackson is a 32-year-old rusher who’s missed 6 games each of the last 2 seasons. At some point, this situation is likely to stabilize with Spiller as the workhorse and F-Jax as a highly capable backup. Jackson should certainly be rostered in all leagues, because he’s got talent, but you probably don’t want to start him unless Spiller suffers an injury. Currently, he’s nothing more than a desperation play.

Bengals RBs:
Remember, LeSean McCoy didn’t start out getting lots of action either, and that’s what Giovani Bernard is: a smaller LeSean McCoy. At present he’s not a fantasy option, but if he gets a chance to carry the load, he could be special. But that chance might not come in 2013. As long as BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the starter, he’ll be what he’s been the last few years: An RB2/3. Whatever.

Eagles RBs:
On Monday night, LeSean McCoy had 20 rushes—by half time. He’s a fantastic runner, but LeZeus McCrazy probably won’t be able to withstand that kind of workload across an entire season. In other words, Bryce Brown just became the most important man not starting for Chip Kelly. Get him on your team. Get him on your team. Get him on your team. And think about adding Chris Polk if either McCoy or Brown suffers an injury. If he had to start, he could get the job done.

Texans RBs:
Were you particularly impressed with the Texans RBs on Monday night? Me neither. They were OK, but not great—not what we’ve come to expect during the last three years. I have two words for you: Cierre Wood. Monitor him. If he somehow sees action, he could really impress. Will he see action? Stranger things have happened.

Chargers RBs:
Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, Donnie Woodhead, yeah yeah, whatever. Let’s talk about the SD runner I really like: Philip Rivers. He lost the game, and he threw another back-breaking interception, but, still, for at least Week 1, I was right.

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By Matthew Freedman | @MattFtheOracle | Archive

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