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Week One Lineup Debate: Daryl Richardson vs. Ahmad Bradshaw

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Bradshaw is wearing a different blue than Eli Manning this year, but does that change his fantasy value? Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Fantasy football lineup decisions are never easy. From the kickoff of Week 1 through the gut-wrenching lineup decisions of Week 13, fantasy football owners must debate the pros and cons of each player on their roster on a weekly basis. Will “questionable” players actually play? Will unproven wide receivers develop the trust of their quarterbacks? Will committee backfields relinquish substantial carries to a young running back? These are all difficult questions to answer and we face a multitude of debatable situations currently, before the NFL season even kicks off. One such lineup debate revolves around a young running back and an oft-injured veteran, both of which could help fantasy teams early in the NFL season. So, as lineup deadlines loom, is Daryl Richardson or Ahmad Bradshaw the best flex play in Week 1?

The Case For Richardson

Unlike Bradshaw, Daryl Richardson is lacking substantial proven production in his brief NFL career. While working in the same backfield as veteran Steven Jackson, Richardson ran for 475 yards on 98 carries in 2012, for a respectable 4.8 yards per carry. Richardson also chipped in 24 receptions as a rookie last season, proving that he is a versatile back perhaps capable of leading a backfield in the future. After the departure of Jackson this offseason, Richardson was left to battle with Isaiah Pead and rookie Zac Stacy for lead running back duties, a battle that Richardson won in the early rounds by TKO. While he didn’t light the world on fire with his preseason performance, Richardson was held out of the Rams final preseason game, which is treatment generally reserved for those skill players who figure prominently into a team’s Week 1 game plan.

With Richardson penciled in to lead the Rams backfield in week one against Arizona, how much work can we expect out of the second year running back? The Rams averaged 25.6 rushing attempts per game in 2012 (a figure that may dip with the slew of young receiving playmakers added to the roster), but should still afford their lead back a "fantasy start worthy” workload. Expect roughly 15-20 touches for Richardson, and although he hasn’t produced at RB1 levels in the past, he did well in the two games where he received double digit carries in 2012 (15 carries for 83 yards in Week Two, 11 carries for 76 yards in Week 6). While the production level remains a bit of a mystery, the workload should be fairly safe this Sunday.

The Case For Bradshaw

As opposed to Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw has been a proven fantasy football contributor in past seasons, as a member of the New York Giants. Bradshaw topped 1,000 yards rushing in two of the last three seasons, despite missing time periodically with troublesome foot problems. After the dust settled on the 2013 offseason, Bradshaw found himself in Indianapolis alongside Andrew Luck and the rising Colts offense. While Bradshaw’s capabilities on the field have never been in question, as he has averaged less than 4.5 yards per carry in a season just once (an injury-riddled 2011 campaign), his delicate wheels have his early-season workload in jeopardy.

The 2013 preseason saw the Colts move on with a new offensive coordinator in Pep Hamilton, a process that did not involve Ahmad Bradshaw, as he did not see any preseason game action due to concerns about his right foot issues. The question facing fantasy football aficionados now is whether or not a new running back with no game experience with his current team can be trusted. Recently, it was revealed that Bradshaw was working with the Colts second team, and head coach Chuck Pagano stated, “There’s probably a certain amount of plays we’d like to get him. What that is, I don’t know. He was out there [at practice Monday] and running around and looked pretty good out there.” While this statement doesn’t exactly make fantasy owners giddy with anticipation for Bradshaw’s output in week one, his head coach’s confidence does help ease worries of fellow running back Vick Ballard delegating Bradshaw to a backup role early in 2013. Expect Bradshaw to receive between 10-15 carries as the Colts pound Oakland on Sunday and attempt to ease their new offensive weapon into their scheme.

The Choice

While Bradshaw is a more proven fantasy commodity, the likelihood of Indianapolis limiting his workload in Week 1 is very problematic for fantasy owners. With the Colts playing an inferior opponent in the Raiders, Bradshaw’s workload will be even more at risk as they will likely be nursing a second half lead and have no reason to risk an injury aggravation for Bradshaw this early in the year. If facing a flex slot dilemma between these two running backs, Daryl Richardson is the safest and most promising play. With a more certain workload, Richardson will produce a more impactful performance, as the Rams begin their transformation into a more effective offense.

Week one prediction:

Daryl Richardson: 18 carries, 81 yards and 4 receptions for 30 yards

Ahmad Bradshaw: 14 carries, 62 yards and 2 receptions for 12 yards