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rainey, bobby
With the news that Charles Sims is going to miss 12-14 weeks after ankle surgery, the question of who will be backing up Doug Martin becomes more pertinent. I’d like to nominate Bobby Rainey, the former Trent Richardson handcuff of the future and brief DFS all-star of yesteryear. After Martin went down with a shoulder injury in 2013, Rainey destroyed Atlanta by rushing for 165 yards and two touchdowns. He then faced a murderer’s row of rushing defenses: Detroit, Carolina, San Francisco, and St. Louis. Those are four of the top eight rushing defenses last year, and three of them averaged less than 100 yards rushing conceded per game.

What if I told you that instead of a journeyman backup Rainey is actually a potential mid-2000s Brian Westbrook incarnate?

Undeniable Talent

Despite being ignored by the fantasy community at large since coming into the league as an undrafted free agent, Rainey has serious NFL talent. He is a clear Profile 2 running back with an absolutely filthy Agility Score of 10.74, the third-best I have recorded going back to 2005. He scored as a top 25 small RB of all time in a model I constructed last year, and did very well on Matthew Freedman’s nQBDR metric. In almost any measure you use, Rainey shows up as incredibly strong and deadly quick. Against teams that weren’t top in the league at stopping the run, Rainey rushed for 327 yards and four TDs at a 4.5 yards per carry clip. Granted, Atlanta and Buffalo were legendarily bad at stopping the run last season and he’s unlikely to face such powder puff defenses this year, but what are the chances he’ll play 50 percent of his starts against top eight rush defenses? I’d put those at odds at “extremely low.”

Dollar Store Blowout Sale Price

Fortunately for us, Rainey’s poor performance against top defenses and a draftnik love for Sims means he is massively undervalued. His average draft position is 360, also known as round 30 or “undrafted.” Sims was going a full 180 picks before him in round 15. Over the next week, I expect we’ll see a fairly large leap in that ADP, although he likely won’t make it into your home league draft.  Rainey is a near-lock to outperform that ADP even if Martin doesn’t miss any time. Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has said he will rotate backs:

“. . . I don’t believe that one back can carry the load. It’s just too physical. I think you probably need to have two to three guys to bring different things to the table.”

It’s likely Rainey will have a roll in 2014 even with a healthy Martin.

Be that as it may, there are still distressing realities about the quality of the offense in Tampa Bay. Last year, it ranked in the bottom 10 in run blocking according to ProFootballFocus, and with a poor preseason showing, there’s no reason to believe that will be any different this year. There’s also been a quarterback change; the Buccaneers signed Josh McCown, putting an end for now to the brief Mike Glennon experiment. McCown is a career journeyman who was stroked back to life by the wizard fingers of Marc Trestman. It’s pretty hard to endorse McCown as someone who is going to boost an offense that struggled last year, although Tampa Bay does have two receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans that resemble the Bears dynamic duo that aided McCown. The Buccaneers also drafted Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a gigantic 6’6”, 258-lb. tight end. I can’t say that offense is going to be better than last year, but I don’t think it will be worse.

Redux

The only other back on the roster is second-year player Mike James, a player with average explosion and sub-standard agility. Rainey seized the gig when James got hurt, and there’s no reason to believe he hasn’t permanently supplanted James on the depth chart. The finishing paragraph from my Rainey ode last year still applies, while swapping Ogbonnaya for James:

“Despite the cons, there are significant pros. There’s upside for a top 25 small running back of all time, a Brian Westbrook or DeAngelo Williams level talent. Trent Richardson hasn’t show the ability to stay healthy yet, and [Mike James] has already hit his ceiling as an NFL role player. The cons are that you pick up a player in a deeper league… and cut him if he doesn’t pan out. Rainey is a can’t lose prospect, similar to Latavius Murray. In a dynasty league with a deep bench (22+ spots), roster him and hope for the best.”

Rainey is a must-draft in MFL10s, and a player to keep your eye on in deeper redraft leagues.

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