I know it’s early for this, but I can’t help be jealous of the depth at the RB position in the NFC West. It is loaded with running back talent, but that doesn’t mean it will translate to success for your fantasy football team on Sundays. Let’s start with Marshawn Lynch, who has 1,002 carries over the last 3 seasons. Now the beast is still a beast no questions asked, but Pete Carroll may be ready to shift some of the beast’s workload to the other talented RB’s on the Seahawks roster. Carroll has already said that 2nd year RB Christine Michael has the most breakout potential of any guy on their roster heading into the 2014 season. I also loved Michael coming out of Texas A&M, you have to imagine the Seahawks selected him realizing they had questions about Marshawn’s durability going forward after all the work he has done. Combine that with the way Robert Turbin has looked in small doses in his young NFL career and you should have reasons to be concerned about the workload Marshawn will get next season.
Next, we’ll look at Frank Gore, who started to show some signs of decline towards the end of last season, and has carried the rock 956 times over the last 3 seasons. Frank has already turned the dreaded 30 for a RB and will be 31 before training camp. Frank also posted his lowest YPC average of his career last year. Compare that with how the duo of Mark Ingram/Khiry Robinson rushed for over 100 yards against Seattle in the playoffs then a week later Frank posted a measly 14 yards on 11 carries, but there’s plenty of different factors to effect that performance. However, the 49ers have been grooming Marcus Lattimore, who at one time was thought of has the best RB in college football before several devastating injuries ended his college football career. However, Lattimore basically took a redshirt year last year with the 9ers, which gave him plenty of time to get back into game shape & a year to learn behind Frank Gore. Plus, they still have 2 other talented RB’s on the roster with Kendall Hunter & Lamichael James (who you have to be believe will get some creative looks in their scheme at some point). Frank Gore is not at the top of my list of fantasy RB’s going into the 2014 NFL season.
Zac Stacy looked very promising after taking over the starting RB role for the Rams. The Rams may have finally found the guy they want at RB since Steven Jackson left for Atlanta last offseason after Daryl Richardson & Isaiah Pead have not worked out so far as they were both drafted in 2012 to replace SJax. But let’s get back to Stacy, who seemed to take on a big workload for this team about half way through last season and looked great in doing so until he broke a few ribs which obviously effected how affective he could be. It’s not Stacy I’m concerned with though, as I am in the direction the Rams are going with their offense. I’m already nervous about Brian Schottenheimer being the play caller, and the WR core while very young hasn’t really improved liked I had hoped. I thought Chris Givens was on verge of being a stud until he became buried on their depth chart, Brian Quick hasn’t really shown any flashes & Tavon Austin hasn’t shown he can be an NFL WR yet. However, my main concern is the offensive line which they haven’t done anything to improve so far this offseason, still early granted. Jake Long had ACL surgery in January and could miss the start of the season & getting Rodger Saffold back was helpful but he has a medical history of his own. Plus the loss of their 3 top guards of last season does give me some concern for this offense next season. Zac Stacy has very high upside but I’m just afraid the Rams are putting him a situation where he’ll have to do too much himself.
After the retirement of Rashard Mendenhall, the Arizona Cardinals RB situation has become wide open for someone new to emerge & most believe that will be Andre Ellington, the 2nd year RB out of Clemson. Think of him as a poor man’s Gio Bernard, but he still has a tremendous skill set and upside. Bruce Arians said earlier this offseason Ellington has already beefed up 10 pounds in preparation to take on more of a load as the Cardinals main RB. However, while I really like Ellington and loved him coming out of the draft, think Arians will still manage his workload closer to 50-50 and use him in creative ways. He has to prove he can run in between the tackles before he’s just handed the starting RB job and I’m not so sure he’ll be able to manage that right away. Ryan Williams was drafted as a guy who was supposed to be that and maybe a light will click this offseason. Stepfan Taylor is also an interesting hard-nosed RB who was actually drafted before Ellington could get some looks as well. Whoever is the starting RB on Arizona will greatly benefit from the return of 7th overall pick Jonathan Cooper after missing all of last season with a broken foot and newly acquired Jared Veldheer, who is considered one of the best offensive tackles in the league.
That breaks down basically every RB in the NFC West before the 2014 NFL draft arrives, so things are still subject to change, but there are reasons to be skeptical about each one of these teams RB situations simply because there is a ton of talent at the position in this division. Not to mention that ALL 4 teams finished in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed (Cardinals 1st, 49ers 4th, Seahawks 7th & Rams 9th). So each RB has to play these teams 6 out of the 16 games, none of which are matchups you would be excited about to heading into your football Sunday. I’m not sure where to find fantasy points allowed by RB’s for team defenses, but I’d imagine all 4 teams were pretty high up there.