Tuesday, August 21, 2012
5 Running Backs To Proceed With Caution
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
After undergoing both ACL and MCL surgery this off-season, now might be a good time to switch up Peterson's nickname from "All Day" to "Day to Day". With his Week 1 availability still in question, fantasy owners will have a tough decision to make come draft day. When healthy, there is no doubt that he's a top 5 talent, but with limited time to prepare, and no realistic shot at making the playoffs, it may be in the Vikings best interest to protect their investment and ease him back on to the field.
If you do decide to roll the dice on A.P., it's essential that you handcuff Toby Gerhart as a safety precaution. He'll be the guy doing the heavy lifting should Peterson end up missing time. It should also be noted that Minnesota will be playing from behind more often than not, which could be detrimental to their rushing stats.
Wait it out and grab him in the third round if he falls to you.
There is certainly some cause for concern for Peterson owners in keeper leagues as well, seeing that his rushing total decreased last season for the fourth year in a row, and with close to fifteen hundred carries under his belt already, it looks like some of the wear and tear is already starting to catch up with him.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
Murray was a top tier wavier wire pickup last season, and this time around, he's projected to be one of the top 10 running backs off the board. There's a lot to love about this guy, including his running back leading 5.5 YPC (Cam rushed for 5.6), game breaking speed, and potential to get monster touches in the Cowboy offense. However, there are some red flags that need to be considered before investing a second round pick on the second year back out of Oklahoma.
For starters, the Boys haven't had a thousand yard rusher since Julius Jones rushed for 1,084 in '06. This is not to say that Murray's potential isn't light years ahead of whatever Marion the Barbarian, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice or any other back Big D brought to the table these past five years, but it is evidence of a heavy, pass-first trend. With Tony Romo under center and Miles Austin back from a nasty hamstring injury, a strong dose of passing attack should be just what the doctor (Jason Garrett) ordered.
With a roster that oozes offensive talent, the Cowboys are one of those teams like Green Bay and New Orleans that suffer from New Englanditis, not enough balls to go around. Hence DeMarco Murray's 85:1 touches to touchdown ratio in his rookie campaign. That number was unrealistically high, and he should see the end zone 7-9 times in '12, but it is something to consider while you're on the clock.
Frank Gore, 49ers
To the untrained eye, Frank Gore had a career year last season for the 13-3 49ers. The eight year vet rushed for more than 1,200 yards with eight scores and appeared in all sixteen regular season games for the first time since '06. But after further examination, it becomes painfully clear that his production dropped significantly in the second half of last season, a trend that looks to continue heading into '12 with the acquisitions of LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs to the already crowded San Fran backfield.
For the first half of the season last year, Gore averaged a remarkable 97.5 rushing YPG, including a streak of five consecutive games where he broke the century mark. That number dropped off to a more pedestrian 53.6 rushing YPG in the second half of the season, where he saw an average of close to five fewer carries per contest. He also only caught 17 balls last year, the first time he's had a season with under 40 receptions since his he was a rookie.
Gore is still a viable option as a RB2 for the sheer reason that the Niners' offense caters to the ground and pound game, just be prepared for a major drop-off. Look for Kendall Hunter to see the majority of the action on third downs, while Jacobs continues to do what he does best: steal touchdowns.
Willis McGahee, Broncos
If Willis had a hard time finding his way into the end-zone on a team that ran the ball 546 times last year, then it's going to be extra hard this time around with Peyton Manning under center slinging the ball 40 times per game. From Week 5 on, McGahee only caught one pass for 2 yards. Manning has a long track record of using his running backs as safety blankets when nothing is open down field, so look for the Broncos to give each of their five RB's a shot at becoming Peyton's dump off guy. Also, look for McGahee to find himself on the sidelines during obvious passing situations.
At the end of the day, he's still the number one back on the Broncos depth chart, so clearly there is some fantasy value to be had by drafting him at the right spot. Just don't bank on a repeat of last season.
Mark Ingram, Saints
Only the Lions took to the air more often than the Saints did a year ago, in an offense that saw Drew Brees shatter the record for most passing yards in a single season with 5,476. So it goes without saying that touches in the New Orleans backfield come few and far between. Fantasy owners had high hopes for the former Heisman winner heading into his rookie season, but after putting up underwhelming stats in limited opportunities (474 and 5 on the ground with a sub 4 YPC), it's safe to say Mark won't be getting drafted nearly as high as he did last year (4th-6th round).
Surely some of his lack of production can be attributed to the breakout success of Darren Sprolles, the 5'6 speedster who caught 86 passes out of the backfield to go along with his 6.9 YPC (on 87 attempts), and nagging injuries (Ingram missed six games due to turf toe), but even in the games he did play in, it never really felt like he was a good fit for this team.
From a fantasy standpoint the Saints have three elite players in Brees, Sprolles and Jimmy Graham. Then things get dicey. Ingram certainly has the potential to have a breakout season, but whether or not that will happen is far from guaranteed. Draft with caution, preferably sometime after the seventh round.