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Fantasy Football: Time to Panic on these Struggling Running Backs?

By Patrick Tiffany (@patrickatiffany)

Coming into the season these running backs were consensus top 10 players at their position. However as we approach the halfway point of the season they have disappointed, some more than others. The trade deadline is looming in most fantasy leagues and many are asking if it is time to panic and trade these guys? Or ride it out to the end of the season?

Ray Rice:

It is easy for most to see, his burst is limited to gone and that line is doing him no favors. So far Ray Rice has had an extremely tough start compared to previous seasons. He injured his hip in Week 2, causing him to leave early and miss the following game. He has only had one game above 50 rushing yards and currently ranks outside the top 30 in scoring for running backs.

The unfortunate fact of the Ravens offense is that despite all the stats Rice remains their best option, leaving the team with no choice but to continue to give him the ball. Bernard Pierce was thought to have the speed and burst that Rice has lost, but that just isn’t true. There are also no holes being created by that offensive line which translates to no life in the Ravens running game.

However much like any NFL team the Ravens will make it down to the goaline and will need a Rice to fall into the end zone. Going forward he is not a top 10 running back but will give you more points than the value you would receive by trading him. The Ravens now have their bye sitting at 3-4, but luckily for them the AFC North remains very much open. You can bet John Harbaugh and the team will be working exceptionally hard to right the ship preparing for their Week 9 divisional showdown with Cleveland.

CJ Spiller:

When it comes to Spiller its less of a case of speed and skill, and more of a question of usage and health. Since being drafted in 2010 he has shown flashes of the potential brilliance that made him a first round pick. Spiller had fantasy owners foaming at the mouth at the opportunity to draft someone that could take it to the house on any play, and would receive the ball close to 20 times a game in a run first Bills offense. For that reason he was chosen as a top 5 pick in many leagues and owners have been regretting it ever since.

Spiller has once again shown flashes this season including a 54-yard TD run against the Cleveland Browns. However he was a game time decision for that game and it has been his nagging injuries that continue to limit his effectiveness.  Spiller could have done himself and all of his owners a huge favor by sitting out a week and healing up that ankle. Instead it has been Fred Jackson reaping the rewards totaling the same yards and carries, with the big difference coming in touchdowns where Jackson leads Spiller 5-1.

Doug Marrone continues to insist that Spiller will be given the majority of the carries only when he is healthy enough to do so. Except with Buffalo’s bye not until week 12 and most fantasy regular seasons ending the week after it’s hard to say if his owners will ever cash in on that promise. I still believe that Spiller has all of the tools necessary to be a top 5 running back. Unfortunately just can’t see him living up to that potential this season even if he were to get healthy. First because Fred Jackson will still continue to get the goal line carries and second because nobody knows if he will ever be able to remain 100 percent.

Alfred Morris:

Watching Roy Helu Jr. score the same amount of touchdowns in one week than Morris has all season was rough for owners, myself included. Alfred Morris sits at three touchdowns through 6 weeks of play, which may be below expected totals, but is actually the same number that LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush have. Alfred is currently 8th in the league in rushing, a category in which he finished only behind the immortal AP a season ago.

Many owners are worried about the emergence of Helu Jr. who is seeing more playing time especially in the passing game. DON’T! Morris has hands of stone and was never used as a pass catching back, that’s not why you drafted him. Alfred carried the ball on 5 of 7 first downs for the Redskins in the first half of Week 7 and totalled almost 100 yards rushing in the game. Morris has 91 carries this season to Helu’s 31 and is averaging over 5 yards per run, meaning the Skins’ would be insane for not continuing to give him the ball.

On 2 of Helu’s touchdowns Sunday the Redskins were actually operating in the hurry up offense. Something that the casual NFL observer may not understand is that when in hurry up, the offense can choose to rush up the line of scrimmage immediately after the previous play and run another. As long as they opt not to substitute a player, the defense will not be offered the chance to either. Meaning if the defense comes out in a heavy pass protection package and the offense converts they can go to the line and call a run play to catch the defense with the wrong personnel on the field. These are the situations that Helu Jr. has been getting the ball and that’s just part of new age running attacks in the NFL. Morris still remains a top 10 option going forward and he must be started in all leagues.

Trent Richardson:

Coming into last season there were large expectations for Trent Richardson being drafted only behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, and he delivered. Gaining over 1300 yards and 12 total touchdowns he was a revelation for the struggling Browns offense. Last season troublesome injuries from college hampered Richardson’s fantasy draft value. This year he came into this season healthy, and some had him ranked as a clear-cut top 10 pick, some even higher. I thought this was a mistake despite his rookie statistics, partly because of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner; who is well known to love the pass. In addition Richardson sometimes tries to do too much in the backfield and is constantly criticized for only getting only what is blocked.

Early this season the Browns clearly thought that they didn’t have a franchise running back and opted to give up on the second year pro and traded him for a first round pick. Following his move to the Colts Richardson’s inability to make exciting things happen has become all too noticeable. Over the 5 games since being traded he has gained only 228 yards to the tune of just over 3 yards per carry.

He did a lot of damage last season in the pass game where many thought he would succeed again this year on a Browns team that would fall behind easy. However Richardson only has 2 receptions since his move to Indianapolis and that doesn’t figure to change with Donald Brown seeing pretty much all of the work on passing downs. Brown has actually been enjoying a nice season, and in the Denver game it was obvious he was the more effective back. I believe that his playing time will increase and begin to eat into Richardson’s if it hasn’t already. It should have been full on panic mode for Trent owner’s weeks ago, and if you could get anywhere near top 10 value for him I would try to make a trade immediately.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Robert

    November 2, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Why does your story show a pic of Arian Foster, but there is no mention of him? False advertising maybe?

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