Backup RB Roundup: Carlos Hyde, Devonta Freeman, Knowshon Moreno
Staff writers from RotoExperts.com sat down to discuss the upcoming football season, and tackle some of the most interesting storylines to keep an eye on before drafting your squad, and throughout the season.
Pat Mayo (@ThePME)
Evan Tarracciano (@Roto_Wizard)
James Naddeo (@JamesNaddeo)
George Kurtz (@GeorgeKurtz)
Tim McCullough (@Tim_RotoExperts)
Topic: New Miami OC Bill Lazor is the former Eagles QB coach who got so much out of Nick Foles last year (top-rated QB with a passer rating of 119..2 in 2013). Does this hiring make Ryan Tannehill a sleeper pick, and how will the new playbook affect Mike Wallace, and their crowded backfield?
James Naddeo: The hiring of Lazor alone hasn’t done much to boost Tannehill’s stock in standard one QB leagues (currently 21st ranked, ADP of 159). Nor has a lackluster preseason. The arrival of Knowshon Moreno will help more than some people realize, but I’m down on Tannehill in all 10 and 12-team leagues. However, Mike Wallace’s price (ADP 77) as a WR2 could be a nice upside buy.
Pat Mayo: Not at all. If they had hired Chip Kelly, that would be a different story. Tannehill has the potential to get better based on natural development and experience, but I wouldn’t expect too much behind an offensive line that’s still not very good. I think this a trickle-down effect for the entire Dolphins offense, so I am avoiding Mike Wallace at all costs. He’ll have his big games, no doubt, but his propensity to drop passes mixed with Tannehill’s inaccurate deep balls doesn’t make for reliable Fantasy production. I’m also out on Miller due to lack of skills, so Knowshon Moreno makes a great value pick. His experience pass blocking and pass catching should have him eventually getting the plurality of snaps in Miami backfield.
Evan Tarracciano: I don’t believe that the hiring of Lazor automatically upgrades the stock of Tannehill. People often forget that Foles’s statistics last year were a product of circumstance. The defenses that he faced after Week 9 last season were typically rated in the bottom third of the league, and the biggest games where he padded his statistics (406 passing yards and seven touchdown passes against the Oakland Raiders, for instance) were a pure result of a superior Chip Kelly scheme picking apart a subpar defense. This isn’t to suggest that Ryan Tannehill can’t take a step forward, but the Miami Dolphins haven’t surrounded him with enough weapons to succeed, and Tannehill doesn’t have the same level of talent as a Tom Brady or Cam Newton where he can turn coal into Fantasy diamonds. He’s still a backup in my eyes, or a bye week flier.
George Kurtz: While a change in offensive coordinator certainly can’t hurt, I don’t think it automatically moves Tannehill into the Top 16 quarterbacks in the NFL, at least as far as Fantasy is concerned. Quarterback is extremely deep in the NFL and we all know this is a passing league, but I wouldn’t even be happy with Tannehill in 2-QB leagues. I might feel differently had he seemed to have worked out his deep ball issues with WR Mike Wallace, but they still can’t seem to find each other and although the offensive line will be better than it was last season (that isn’t saying much), it’s not going to be a good to great unit but rather an average one. I believe the jury is still out on Tannehill being an effective NFL QB, never mind one a Fantasy owner can rely on.
Tim McCullough: Everyone makes great points here and I agree with all of them. The hiring of Bill Lazor is not going to matter one bit unless Tannehill takes a step forward in his development. Tannehill has to be able to throw the ball down field to open up the short game for the up-tempo offense that Lasor likes to run. Last season, Tannehill completed just 16 of 64 passes beyond 20 yards (29.6 percent) and if he can’t improve on that then we’ll be looking at another bust of a season from Mike Wallace. The short passing game should make for some nice production from RB Knowshon Moreno and TE Charles Clay, but I’m not terribly impressed with RBs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas and don’t foresee much production from either one. Tannehill is only a viable Fantasy option in deep two-QB leagues.
Topic: Steven Jackson has dealt with his share of injuries lately, which has caused his draft stock to fall (avg. ADP of 91, according to FantasyPros.com). Will the emergence of rookie Devonta Freeman keep Jackson’s playing time and value limited? Is he more likely to be a sleeper or a bust? Which Atlanta RB would you rather have this season?
James Naddeo: It seems like Steven Jackson has found his way onto one of my teams every year for the past four years. I loved the move to Atlanta’s offense last season, but we know how that turned out. The Falcons are still in win-now mode, and the best recipe for success there is to keep Jackson healthy for a stretch run into December-January which means more Freeman, Antone Smith, and/or Quizz. It’s a crowded backfield in ATL, but if I had to pick one guy to have right now, it would be Jackson.
Pat Mayo: I’ve been investing heavily in Jackson since getting banged up at the beginning of training camp. While I’m not sold he can be consistent Fantasy contributor, he’ll be on the field more often than not when he’s healthy. Because of Fantasy ageism, his draft stock has plummeted, so he’s turned into a good value because of his opportunity.
Evan Tarracciano: Unlike other analysts in the industry, I do have my fair share of players that I will not draft, regardless of how far they fall in ADP, and Jackson happens to be one of those. His carries have declined each year since 2010, as have his receptions receiving yards and YPC. With the return of Julio Jones and Roddy White, I feel that Atlanta will have a more pass-heavy attack this season, and will also use Freeman to spell Jackson constantly during games. Even if he were to make it through a full 16 game slate (which he’s only done once since 2011) the split in carries will likely be 60/40. I’m staying firmly away.
George Kurtz: It’s funny you should ask this question as I just selected Jackson in the RotoExperts podcast league last night. Now, I’m not high on Jackson at all and his injury history scares the living daylights out of me, but after the first 12-15 backs they all have warts. Some will be in a committee, some don’t catch the ball, and some won’t get carries at the goal line. Now, at the very least I know Jackson will be the goal line guy and with the Atlanta offense that could get me double-digit touchdowns. Do I expect him to play 16 games? No, but I’m not worried about Freeman taking his job from day one either. Now, I like Freeman and he will touch the ball some, maybe a series here and a series there, but that can also be good for Jackson, as it will keep him fresh for the end of the season. I believe Atlanta will treat Jackson like Seattle will Marshawn Lynch. They will look to get all they can out of him this season before moving on next year. I’ll take Jackson first, and I would love to back him up with Freeman but that won’t happen in most leagues, as Freeman is being drafted as more than just a handcuff.
Tim McCullough: Devonta Freeman is loaded with all kinds of potential, but as Bill Parcells once said, “potential means you ain’t done nothin’ yet.” The hype on Freeman comes about a year too soon because Jacquizz Rodgers is still clearly the number two running back on this team and Steven Jackson still has something left in the tank. If forced to pick an Atlanta RB for this season, I’d still go with Jackson and handcuff him with Rodgers. Freeman is best left for dynasty and keeper leagues, as his time will come in 2015.
Topic: In a dynasty league, which rookie RB would you want to have the most for contributions this year as well as the future?
James Naddeo: That’s a really tough call because choosing RBs can be like throwing darts. Bishop Sankey has received a lot of buzz for the opportunity ahead of him (good O-line, the pedestrian Shonn Greene lurking). Fumble problems aside, he could have a monster year. My personal favorite is Carlos Hyde. I can see a situation where he is eventually getting 30 percent of the carries in San Francisco this year, and explodes next season when they let Frank Gore walk at age 32.
Pat Mayo: Sankey appears to have the greatest opportunity to make an immediate impact, but I’m not buying him as a legit Fantasy option that you can trust. For 2014 and long-term, Carlos Hyde is in the best position to succeed. He gets to run behind a terrific O-Line with a coach that is committed to running the football. Plus, with Colin Kaepernick under center, the defense has to commit a spy man to ensure Kaep doesn’t get to the edge and turn the corner, meaning, Hyde won’t face many stacked boxes. All he needs to do is outperform Frank Gore or let old age work its magic on the veteran back.
Evan Tarracciano: The running back with the clearest path to playing time in 2014 is certainly Bishop Sankey, but he is being VASTLY over-drafted, given his fumbling problems and lack of playing time with the first team in the preseason. The Titans will definitely phase him into the offense as the year goes on. However, in terms of long term upside, I’d have to go with Carlos Hyde. I covered the NFL Draft for RotoExperts at Radio City Music Hall this year, and in studying game tape, I wrote down the following notes for him: “Inside runner who is physically bruising, patient and powerful. Possesses burst to exploit holes in defense”. Given the talented offensive line in San Francisco, rushing quarterback which will need to have a linebacker committed to him as a spy, and great receiving options (Crabtree, Boldin, Davis) he is a perfect situation, should Frank Gore get hurt or retire next year.
George Kurtz: The easy answer here is the Titans Bishop Sankey but we are starting to hear rumors now that Tennessee may go with some kind of three headed monster with Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster, and Sankey. We already know that Greene will be the short yardage, aka goal line guy, and if McCluster is the third down back, I’m not sure that I like what’s left for Sankey. I’m going with Carlos Hyde of the 49ers. Now, I readily admit that Frank Gore will have to prove he can’t get the job done for Hyde to make an impact but I can’t see how he doesn’t have the starting job or at least an even split by Week 8. That San Francisco defense isn’t what it used to be and will need all of their playmakers to get them where they want to go. At this point in time, Hyde is a bigger playmaker than Gore.
Tim McCullough: Don’t get me wrong, I like Carlos Hyde to become a big time Fantasy asset at some point, but I think he’s in the same boat as Devonta Freeman. He’s got a veteran RB in front of him, and Gore has a better health track record that Steven Jackson. So Hyde is probably a year away from being the starter and it could be even longer than that. Unless Gore gets hurt you won’t see a ton of Hyde this year. The rookie RB that I think is going to contribute most this year and be a solid starter going forward is Terrance West of the Cleveland Browns. Yes, he has Ben Tate in front of him, but aside from a terrific rookie year with Texas, Tate has been a banged up Fantasy bust for the most part. A lot of his previous success can be attributed to Houston’s zone blocking scheme. West comes from one of the smaller colleges but he produced in a big way at Towson, averaging 6.1 yards per carry and scoring 86 TDs during his four years there. West is the type of player that could step in for Tate if he gets hurt, whip off a handful of 100-yard games and never relinquish the starting job. He’s the guy I’m picking late in my leagues this year as a mid-to-late season threat to take over and carry my team in December.