After talking about six rookies who I think have a chance to help Zero Running Back drafters, it’s time for me to talk about six non-rookies who have a good chance to provide value for those drafting their starting running backs late.
Pierre Thomas, Toby Gerhart, and Danny Woodhead are already very well known, so we won’t go in depth on those players. But let’s take a look at some other players who could surprise owners this season:
By not breaking out last season, Lamar Miller fell out of favor with fantasy owners. The Dolphins signed Knowshon Moreno and many expected him to be the starter. That was all good and dandy until Moreno showed up for camp looking “a little thick around the belly.” The Miami Herald reported that Miller is “taking a lot of first team snaps.” As Ryan Rouillard pointed out last offseason, Miller is a superior athlete that has a chance to become a star. With the 2013 Dolphins offense dormant, the Dolphins hired former Philadelphia Eagles Quarterbacks Coach Bill Lazor, who Chip Kelly believes “will succeed.” With a revamped offensive line and improved play calling, there are reasons for optimism for Lamar Miller.
Another guy that many fantasy owners are down on, but for different reasons. Stevan Ridley’s problems start and end with fumbles. Yeah, he would be more valuable if he caught more passes but that’s not his role in the offense and he doesn’t need to catch passes to outperform his ADP. Ridley needs to hold on to the football. In Week 9 of last season, Ridley was coming off a four game stretch of rushing 71 times for 340 yards (4.79 yards per carry) and 6 touchdowns. He proceeded to lose fumbles in three straight games and didn’t top 15 carries for the rest of the season. Well, LeGarrette Blount was the man who took his carries and he’s now a Pittsburgh Steeler. By drafting James White in the 4th, the Patriots were possibly showing that they’re more concerned about Shane Vereen getting injured than Stevan Ridley fumbling. Brandon Bolden is a replacement-level talent and the only other similar back the Patriots have is Stephen Houston, who went undrafted out of Indiana. The Patriots may have no choice but to lean on Ridley for their big back role and they don’t seem to have a problem with it. After rushing for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, he should be on your radar for this discounted rate.
Christine Michael was a little more below the radar before Seahawks Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell announced that he’s too good to keep off the field. It’s obvious that the Seahawks consider Michael a special player. Averaging 334 carries per year over the past three seasons, Marshawn Lynch is a candidate to break down. Over the last two seasons, the Seahawks have more rush attempts than any team in the NFL – some have theorized that they can have two successful running backs. Either way, you need to consider Christine Michael later in the draft.
After averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 8.4 yards per catch last season, Lance Dunbar secured his role as Dallas’ backup running back. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan coming to town, Dunbar has positioned himself nicely. We know what Linehan did for Joique Bell in Detroit and he’s already been raving about Dunbar. Beat writer Bryan Broaddus reported that the Cowboys are creating stuff for Dunbar. With over 1,000 college receiving yards, Dunbar has proven he has soft hands and will likely be involved in the passing game. He’s a solid handcuff behind the injury-prone DeMarco Murray and could even push for flex value in PPR leagues.
I’m not a huge fan of T-Rich but there’s a point where every player becomes a value pick. My suggestion is if he falls far enough in your draft, there’s a point where he’s worth drafting – like almost every player. Richardson was nothing short of awful last season, topping 4.0 yards per carry in zero games last season. He looked like an uncomfortable runner who had lost his confidence. There are a couple reasons I like him for 2014, however: his perceived value by other fantasy owners and his competition, or lackthereof. After trading a 1st round pick to snag Richardson from the Browns, he’s going to get an opportunity to be the Colts’ back of the future. His competition is a 28 year-old Ahmad Bradshaw still recovering from neck surgery and Vick Ballard. Don’t reach for the former 1st round pick, but if he’s sticking around late in your draft, realize that he has a solid chance to bounce back.
I’m not crazy about Robinson because of his three-way timeshare with Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. Pierre Thomas will continue to be the pass-game back while Robinson and Ingram battle over power-back duties. I believe Robinson is the more talented player but I don’t expect Ingram to be phased out. He could gain value with New Orleans moving to a more “balanced, ball-control attack” in 2014. Robinson would also be more appealing if he began to catch more passes. Either way, with Darren Sproles gone, there will more opportunities in the Saints’ backfield.