Is David Wilson A Fantasy Sleeper Or Bust?
Whether or not you believe it’s foolish to take a running back in the first round of your fantasy football draft (it isn’t), I think we can all agree that we’ve officially entered the era of the Running Back By Committee (RBBC). Running backs are seeing roles that are more specialized these days (i.e., first and second down back versus third down back, etc.). The role of the traditional “feature back” has generally gone the way of the thinning hair on the top of my head – down the drain. As things stand, there are currently 10 running backs who I’d feel comfortable drafting as my RB1, and there is a precipitous drop off after those 10. As it’s become abundantly clear that NFL coaches don’t care about fantasy football nerds, it’s going to become even more important to identify running backs to target and avoid in our drafts. To that end, I’ve taken a stab at identifying some sleeper and bust running backs for the 2013 season. Many things can obviously change before the season starts, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this post.
Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
Pop quiz, hotshot. Who was the 23rd-ranked running back in 2012? While I think I gave that answer away by this section’s header, it’s quite a surprising answer, isn’t it? The (generously listed) 5’8” Woodhead won’t confuse anyone for Adrian Peterson, but the former Chadron State star is a more than serviceable fantasy football running back – especially in PPR leagues. After posting 747 combined rushing and receiving yards in New England last year (to go along with seven touchdowns), Woodhead will taken his talents to San Diego, where the coaching staff has said he’ll be used as more than a third down back. He’ll still have to compete with Ryan Mathews (more on him below) and Ronnie Brown for touches, but Woodhead will most likely be available towards the end of your draft and will almost certainly outplay his draft position.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Free Agent
The good: Bradshaw finished as the 19th-ranked running back in 2012 in only 14 games. The bad: Bradshaw yet again didn’t play a full, 16-game slate and still doesn’t have a team to call his own. Bradshaw has been most consistently linked to the Pittsburgh Steelers (which would be a nice landing spot), and will have good value as a RB2 as long as he can win himself a starting job somewhere. The former Giant tends to be a boom-or-bust player (as evidenced by only seven games with double-digit points last year), but he has the talent to help your fantasy team as long as he stays healthy. I’ve done a few drafts already and have generally seen Bradshaw go in the seventh or eighth round. For a guy who out-produced players like Michael Turner and BenJarvus Green-Ellis last season, I’ll take that all day.
Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams
After eight-straight seasons of watching Steven Jackson rack up 1,000-plus yard seasons in St. Louis, it will be a little strange to see someone else carrying the rock for the Rams in 2013. As things stand right now, those duties will be shared between Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead. While both second-year players have a good shot at winning the job (or more likely becoming part of the dreaded RBBC), I’m putting my eggs in Richardson’s basket. Pead was the darling of many fantasy pundits heading into the 2012 season after being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft (Richardson went in the seventh round), but Richardson received the lions’ share of the carries between the two last season (98 to 10). I won’t claim to be a scouting expert, but the majority of my tape-grinding buddies, whom I trust implicitly, have said that Pead looks more like a third-down back (or even special teams player) while Richardson looks like the one who will get the most carries for the Rams in 2013. Both players can be had in the seventh or eighth round of your draft, but I’ll be planting my flag in the Daryl Richardson camp.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
Think the term “injury-prone” is a myth? Would you still have the same opinion if I told you that a certain running back had only topped 220 carries once in a five-year career?? McFadden has been one of my favorite running backs to watch dating back to his Arkansas days, but I just can’t buy into him anymore. After struggling in Oakland’s new zone blocking scheme last year, McFadden suffered a high ankle sprain and missed another four games on his way to posting a disappointing 2012 (especially for owners who drafted him in the first round). The Raiders will be abandoning the zone blocking experiment in 2013, but I have a hard time using the third round pick that I’ve been seeing owners use on Run DMC. While McFadden has all the talent in the world and could very well end up as a Top 10 running back, he’s probably more likely to miss at least four games again. As George W. Bush once said, “fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.” Well, I think good ole G-Dubs would agree with me when I say, shame on you, Darren McFadden.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
“I just can’t quit you, Ryan Mathews.” I’m thankfully not someone who has a fantasy crush on Mathews, but I know quite a few of those folks, and I’m here to tell you not to be that guy. We just went over how a player can be injury-prone, and I think we’d all have to agree that Mathews falls in that category. The guy has all the talent in the world, but like McFadden, Mathews has never played 15 games during his three-year career. He has a tendency for putting the ball on the ground (almost four fumbles per season) and that will certainly not endear him to the new coaching staff, who has pledged to give Danny Woodhead a larger role this season. While Mathews has averaged a healthy 4.4 yards per carry over his three-year career, I’ve been seeing him go in the third and fourth rounds in drafts, and that’s just way too rich for my blood.
Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
While I could probably start and end this section by saying, “Do you trust Bill Belichick?” I’ll try to build a little bit more on my case to dissuade you from drafting the Talented Mr. Ridley. The good news for the Patriots leading rusher in 2012 is that Danny Woodhead no longer resides in Foxborough, but the bad news is that that probably means Shane Vereen (and maybe even Leon Washington and Brandon Bolden) is in line for a larger role in 2013. While Ridley scored 12 touchdowns during the 2012 season, he only topped 20 carries six times during the season and has a penchant for putting the ball on the ground. I’m not saying Ridley won’t be a valuable player in 2013 (the Pats’ fan in my hopes he is), but I’ve been seeing him go in the Top 12-18 range in drafts, and I have a nagging feeling that the owners who draft him there will be severely “Belichick’d” in 2013.
Sleeper or Bust?
David Wilson, New York Giants
There may not be a player who is more polarizing among fantasy football analysts than David Wilson. Is he an undisciplined player who can’t block? Is he a C.J. Spiller-type star in the making? I honestly don’t have the answer, but those are pretty much the two sides of the biggest fantasy football battle since Romo vs. Luck. After Ahmad Bradshaw went down with his yearly injury in 2012, Wilson stepped in and totaled 247 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in the Giants’ final four games of the season (and all those stats came on an average of 10.8 carries per game, mind you). If you extrapolate those stats, Wilson becomes a star. But is the reason that he only got those 10.8 carries per game – shoddy pass protection – something that will prevent him from breaking out in 2013? My personal jury is still out on that one, but what do you think: will Wilson be a sleeper or a bust in 2013? (He has generally been taken in third or fourth round of most fantasy drafts that I’ve done so far to give you a little context).