This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
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2014 Fantasy Football: Which Saints RBs Should You Draft?
One of the toughest aspects of each fantasy football season is trying to find that fantasy football sleeper player that no one else sees coming. It’s even tougher at the running back position, where the feature backs are generally the elite options that go in round one of fantasy drafts. The guys that aren’t feature backs are considered to be low-end RB2 options, while many are looked at as weekly Flex plays, at best.
Start thinking about picking a back out of a committee, and you’re essentially playing with fire.
The Carolina Panthers, for example, routinely smash 2-3 running backs together, killing individual value but somehow producing a decent overall rushing attack. Those looking for the banged up but talented Jonathan Stewart to step up in 2013 were woefully disappointed.
It was the same with the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, although there was actually solid fantasy value to be found. We just didn’t really know where to look for it.
Many took a chance on Rashard Mendenhall or even the often injured Ryan Williams in Arizona. It would be the versatile and explosive rookie, Andre Ellington, who for half the year gave fantasy owners some steady Flex appeal. In St. Louis, Zac Stacy started 2013 behind the likes of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead. Heck, even Benny Cunningham was above him on some fantasy owner’s lists. Ultimately, it was Stacy who impressed, even putting up over 1,000 total yards in his first season.
Going into 2014, both Ellington and Stacy are at the very worst slated to be elite weekly Flex plays, while both could be steady RB2’s or higher.
Heading into the new season, fantasy owners might be taking a look at the New Orleans Saints backfield and thinking the same thing: which of these guys is going to be worth owning this year?
It’s a three-headed horse, as it often is in running back by committee’s, but we need to figure out how to rank these guys at some point.
Let’s break all three of their top running backs down and come to a conclusion as to which you should draft first come August:
Seen as the “new Chris Ivory”, Robinson saw minimal action as merely a part of the Saints’ backfield during the regular season, but saw an increased role in two playoff games, playing quite well. Robinson runs with power and decisiveness, and could project as a big part of the New Orleans offense in 2014, depending on what happens with the other backs on the roster.
Since we can only assess his own value, it’s clear Robinson is held in high regard in New Orleans and he’ll have a shot at earning the early down and short-yardage work ahead of Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. He lacks the versatility of Thomas, though, so he will need to beat out Ingram to have anything remotely close to consistent fantasy value from week to week.
The good news is that the Saints are expected to lead more of a balanced offensive attack in 2014, which bodes well for his touch count, regardless of his role to begin the season. For now, he’s merely a potential Flex play and should only be taken late in drafts.
While Robinson is the hot name, it looks like at least for now the more versatile Thomas is the back to own in New Orleans. Darren Sproles is out of the picture after the team traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles, which is pretty big news for Thomas as a receiver out of the backfield, considering he hauled in a career high 77 receptions in 2013 – even with Sproles back there with him.
More importantly, Thomas tied his career high for rushing attempts (147) and put up five total touchdowns and over 1,000 total yards. He’s not the best power rusher the Saints have, but he does just fine in that area. He’s without a doubt their most versatile back by leaps and bounds, though, which could mean he’ll spend the most time on the field out of the three top backs in New Orleans.
It’s not wise to assume his role will equate to steady RB2 value, as the Saints’ changing to a more balanced approach is a classic “believe it when you see it” situations, though. Still, Thomas does carry some RB2 upside and will absolutely be worth a Flex start on a weekly basis in his current role.
Ingram isn’t necessarily third in the pecking order here, but he’s been a grave disappointment and Robinson is gaining steam thanks to solid play in 2013. Ingram is still a former high pick for New Orleans, though, and is probably a guy they still want to see succeed. With that said, he has major competition for early down and goal-line work, struggles to stay healthy, lacks versatility and is entering a contract year.
The Saints clearly aren’t major believers in his ability to finally figure it all out in year four, as they declined his 2015 option. Perhaps it lights a fire under Ingram and he turns into the beast he was drafted to be. It’s just not very likely.
Despite all the negativity headed his way, Ingram still has the size and overall talent to be a productive back, both in real life and in fantasy football. He just needs to beat out Robinson to lock down a secured role. If he can do that, he could be in line for his best numbers to date, which could potentially give him RB2 value. It’s just a lot to bank on, though, so spending anything but a late round pick on him isn’t really suggested.
Ultimately, if you have to pick up a Saints running back earlier that the later rounds, Thomas is your guy. He’s versatile and is going to see the field a ton. However, Robinson is the sleeper of this trio, as both Thomas and Ingram have dealt with numerous injuries throughout their career. If either get bit by the injury bug, Robinson could easily end up being that sleeper back we all crave.