Few workhorses come without risk
Running backs are two things: The key to your fantasy season and the most replaceable part in the NFL. It's hard to get those two to mesh up.
Ninety-nine percent of you are going to pick a RB in the first round. If you have the first pick, you're not going to go off the board and pick
There's not a lot of difference between 358 carries and the
He's not, though he's riskier than most think. Johnson's runs and passes aren't the punishing type we're used to seeing from backs that get 370-plus carries. He's elusive and crazy fast, plus he's not used too much on the inside runs that get the big highlight-level hits. What he's not is big, and in the car-crash physics of the NFL, the
The key to Johnson's health is to keep successfully avoiding hits, which is partially on him and partially on the play-calling. According to stats from
One other wild card here is the presence of
Rice is a tough, solid back with a low center of gravity. (I'm still getting over that one play in which Rice made a catch, got hit so hard I thought he was going to get cut in half, and then bounced off it for the TD.)
Indeed, the difference between Rice and Johnson isn't a few more receptions, but their physical form. Rice is three (and probably four) inches shorter than Johnson and runs in a much more compact style. If that huge hit didn't show you that he had great balance, nothing will. Rice is, for all intents and purposes, a
As I detailed a couple weeks ago, Jackson is coming back from surgery on his lower back. Due to his running style, that part of his back gets taxed with every hit. If he stays with his style of "running behind his pads," he'll have to hope the surgeon's work holds up. If he runs more upright, he'll expose himself to bigger hits, especially to his legs. Any stylistic change is often one fraught with danger in the short term. If a player has to "think about things," he's not reacting normally.
(You can see this in something like
Watching Jackson run in pre-season isn't going to give us a perfect idea of how he'll hold up, but it will give us clues as to how, if at all, the back is affecting him. If he's looking anything close to 100 percent, he's worth a high pick just for the usage he'll get taking pressure off
If Bush is a bust, then he's a bust with a Super Bowl ring. You can't say he held the team back with his selection. It's more that Bush came in with outsized expectations.
He's had some injury problems along the way and his speed wasn't quite the gamebreaking kind it was supposed to be. He simply couldn't outrun people,
With a year between him and the surgery, plus a full off-season spent on football rather than rehab, if Bush is ever going to reach those outsized expectations, this is the year. He knows the offense, has enough distracting options around him to keep the defense from spying him, and has
Bush hasn't proven he can stay healthy, but aside from his rookie season, this is the healthiest Bush has been coming into a season. With projections very low on Bush, he could end up being a real value pick at RB2.
I couldn't list all three backs up there, but with injuries to
Let me remind you of a few facts:
1. First, it's the Buffalo offense. I'm not sure anyone's a great option here.
2. If all three are healthy, only Lynch has shown he can take a feature load and he seems to be on the outs with the new coaching staff even before the injuries get factored in.
3. Jackson, last year's RB1 on a bad Bills team, is dealing with a broken hand. It should be cleared up enough to play by Week 1, though the offense probably won't ask him to go into the middle too often and could hurt him in the receiving game.
This is where Spiller comes in. He has explosive speed, but not Chris Johnson-level speed; he ran a 4.37 at the Combine, where Johnson was a 4.24 a year previous. Spiller's long injury history contrasts with Johnson as well. Really, Spiller is Reggie Bush -- similar speed, body and injury history, but with less experience and a terrible offense around him.
That leaves us with Lynch, whose ankle injury is keeping him buried at RB3 and the Bills' doghouse. He's the most likely short-yardage guy, though last year the Bills used Jackson more. It's a different staff, so who'll get the red zone carries remains to be seen. All that to get to this: stay away from Bills backs. They're all too risky.
Brown is currently No. 48 on the ADP chart at MockDraftCentral. That's high for a guy coming off a fractured foot, but low for a guy like Brown, who has proven he can come back from injury and return to level. The foot injury that ended Brown's 2009 season is one that several NFL players have come back from without significant issues, and there's no reason to believe Brown will be any different.
While teams have had time to adjust to the Wildcat offense that Brown runs, the Dolphins have done a lot to improve their standard offense. That could mean less defenses stuffing the box. Brown may lose some carries in the platoon with
OK, if you were surprised by