Tom Lorenzo, Senior Editor RotoExperts.com
Believe it or not, Fantasy Football actually presents a long season. Not Fantasy Baseball long, but long enough to where you can start the season with one running back, like Fred Taylor, and end it with another. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, anyone?
Last season, guys like LeGarrette Blount and Fred Jackson weren’t even rosterable over the first eight weeks. Names like Mike Tolbert, Michael Bush, Chris Ivory, Ryan Torain, Rashad Jennings and even Peyton Hillis, early on the season, went from being less-than-desirable Fantasy options to start the 2010 season to being valuable assets as time went on. My point is, there’s still hope for those of you in dire need of help at running back.
I’ll admit up front, not each of these players are going to pan out. And, really, most of them are still a few weeks away from even garnering attention in standard 12-team leagues, but there’s no harm in keeping these 10 names on your radar. You want to be on top of your game, so when the next LeGarrette Blount comes knocking on our door come Week 8 you’ll be ready to grab him.
It might be some time before Helu gets enough touches to be worth consideration in standard leagues, but from what we’ve seen early on form the rookie, it might be much sooner than we initially thought. Helu has 16 carries, at 5.7 yards per carry, and five catches for 55 yards. As you can gather, he’s got some nice big-play-ability. Tim Hightower is still the lead running back in Washington, but he’s been underwhelming in spots (3.5 yards per carry). Helu should have no problem working his way toward the 15-carry threshold by midseason, maybe even sooner. This kid has a bright future ahead of him. He’s definitely worth watching.
Cedric Benson has a pending three-game suspension on the horizon, which was scheduled to be this week but now has been pushed back. Scott is an explosive back, who has yet to really get involved in the Bengals offense this season (8/23/0), but he’s the best option in Cincinnati behind Benson. Scott is an instant add in 12-team leagues while Benson serves his suspension, and he might be able to maintain a valuable role throughout the season if he plays well enough as Benson’s replacement.
Carter still probably isn’t wroth a roster spot just yet, but his time will come; considering Joseph Addai is an injury waiting to happen and the Colts are probably an 0-6 start away from looking forward to 2012. As of now he will continue to get good looks in the red zone and might be able to pilfer some touchdowns from Addai. In the long run, Carter is going to get his reps, eventually. Make sure you keep an eye on him and pounce when the time is right.
Let’s start off by saying this; of Murray’s 12 touches, four of them have come within the red zone. That’s somewhat intriguing. He hasn’t done much with those touches, but then again neither have Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, who have combined for one touchdown. Choice, in fact, is looking like he’s going to be limited in his touches, given his struggles (15 carries, 14 yards). Look for Murray to pick up more carries in the coming weeks, stealing a few from Choice, and if for some reason Jones misses any time with shoulder aggravation, Murray is absolutely the guy to add in Dallas.
We’re already seeing Hunter’s name come up as a possible option in Week 4. With Frank Gore not sounding like he’s going to play this weekend, Hunter is an immediate add in all formats. In fact, Hunter, in spells, has looked better than Gore. I don’t fully think that Hunter can be as valuable as a healthy Gore, but when given the opportunity the rookie has a shot at being a mid-value Fantasy contributor.
The Patriots continue to find ways to get Ridley more involved in the offense, and it paid off last weekend when he ran the ball six times for 42 yards. We know that the Patriots are one of the most creative teams in the league, so expect them to find ways to keep Ridley busy. Remember, Tom Brady rewards hard work and if you bring something to the table, as Ridley does, he’ll find him. Right now there are too many cooks in the kitchen, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead both factors out of the backfield, but as I said, the more Ridley impresses Brady and head coach Bill Belichick the more they’re going to reward him with touches.
Chris Johnson is struggling right now with underwhelming performances in each of the first three weeks. If Johnson can’t find a rhythm, expect Ringer to be a major factor in the Titans running game going forward. I know he’s a little banged up right now (hip injury), but the injury shouldn’t keep him from getting 8-10 touches per game as Johnson struggles. Also, with the Titans down a playmaker, with Kenny Britt out for the year, they’ll need guys like Ringer to make a bigger impact. Jamie Harper should also factor into the mix, but Ringer is definitely closer to being ready for taking on a larger role. That is, as I said, if Johnson can’t find a way to keep himself interested in playing on Sundays!
Beanie Wells’ health is always an issue. So is his mental makeup, which leaves the door open for someone like Smith, who has better tools than LaRod Stephens-Howling. It’s too soon to consider adding Smith, and it will probably take a more serious injury to Wells to even consider it, but Smith is without a doubt the best pure runner on the Cardinals not named Beanie.
Hardesty got his chance last week with Peyton Hillis out against the Dolphins. To be honest, Hardesty didn’t blow me away, but he did run the ball well in spells. His 4.8 yards per carry average was nice, especially for a guy who missed the entire 2010 season and came into camp as a change-of-pace back behind Hillis. The good news is, Hardesty does have some talent and the Browns do need him to complement Hillis in hopes that he doesn’t run down again this season.
Speaking of running backs breaking down, expect to see the Falcons find ways to get Rodgers more involved and keep Michael Turner preserved for a deep playoff run. Jason Snelling is already banged up himself, so Rodgers has had to keep his cleats tied and ready in the early goings. I can see him working toward double-digit touches by midseason, and if Turner does get hurt, Rodgers becomes an even more intriguing add.