SEE 2013 UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE!
There looks to be five veteran running backs changing teams to be the new featured back elsewhere this season: Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Ivory, Rashard Mendenhall – featured in today’s poll – plus Reggie Bush (we have plans for him later) and Steven Jackson (already focused on in the 2013 kickoff of the Speed Bumps).
After six NFL seasons, Ahmad Bradshaw moves on from the NY Giants, having collected 5,319 total yards and two Super Bowl rings, to the Indianapolis Colts. Since becoming a primary contributor in 2009, Bradshaw has averaged 1,180 yards with 31 receptions and 8 TDs per season. Bradshaw has a long history of lower-leg injuries that have resulted in several surgeries (three operations on the right foot, one on the left foot, plus both ankles) and while he has only played a 16-game season once in his career, Bradshaw has gutted through every season having missed just 7 games over the last four seasons despite the long list of ailments. Indianapolis also welcomes a new offensive coordinator in Pep Hamilton from Stanford. Hamilton has a strong track record of focusing on the ground game and in 27 games as a coordinator in college his teams ran for a combined total of 5,178 yards and 55 TDs, nearly 200 yards per game and over 2 rushing TDs per game.
Chris Ivory moves on from essentially a 4th-string RB for the Saints for the last three years to being the Jets’ feature running back this season. In a decent-size sample scattered over a combined three years, Ivory has averaged a very solid 5.1 yards per carry on 256 carries. The Jets landed Ivory for a 4th-round pick and then signed him to a 3-year deal for $10M. On the plus side, Ivory has shown very good speed to go with great size, and runs hard with good vision. Ivory has had ten carries of 20+ yards over his NFL career. However, he’s done it coming in with fresh legs and playing with Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense as his backdrop. Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith, super weak receivers and the Jets mundane offense won’t likely provide a ton of cover nor provide a lot of scoring opportunities. The Jets did average 118.5 yards rushing per game last year (12th best in the NFL) but they averaged just 17.6 points per game last year, 5th worst. Ivory has to show he can be durable, particularly with his violent running style, and he has not shown to be much of a receiving back (and somewhat amazingly has just 3 receptions over his entire career despite playing for the Saints).
Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL in Week 15, 2011 and simply was not able to return to effectiveness last year, starting four games sprinkled throughout the season and totaling just 182 rushing yards on 51 carries (a dreadful 3.6 YPC average). Mendenhall needed a fresh start and the Steelers let him walk after five seasons. To the desert he goes, and reunited with Bruce Arians who Mendenhall had his heyday under in Pittsburgh. Over the 2009-2011 seasons with Arians calling the shots in Pittsburgh, Mendenhall averaged nearly 1300 yards with 22 receptions and 10 TDs per season.
With only back to add here, do you take Ahmad Bradshaw arguably on the best team (Indianapolis off an 11-5 season), Chris Ivory who has the least tread and should be the busiest (albeit for the Jets) or Rashard Mendenhall who has been the most productive over his career and gets to play with some nice weapons in Arizona (although playing a quarter of his games against San Francisco and Seattle)?
UPDATE 01/03/2014: This wasn’t a super pretty one but Rashard Mendenhall is your winner here. In terms of voting, Mendenhall received the fewest amount of votes among the three options with 21% of the vote.
It wasn’t anything to write home about, but Rashard Mendenhall was reunited with Bruce Arians, the two now in Arizona. Mendenhall churned out a fairly meager 687 rushing yards (with a dreadful 3.2 YPC average) but helped his fantasy cause by collecting 8 short TDs. Mendenhall is an UFA heading into 2014 but it seems unlikely he’ll be able to land anything more than a reserve role next year (although he will be still just 27). Chris Ivory had more rushing yards (833) than Ivory, but on the Jets the scoring chances were few and far in between. Ivory collected just 3 TDs on the season. Getting his first opportunity to start in the NFL, Ivory certainly looked like a legit NFL starter at times (and he had a fairly impressive 4.6 YPC average). However, Ivory was wildly inconsistent. One week he had 34 carries, the next he had 6. He had five games with 15+ carries, but then five games with 6 or fewer carries. Ivory is signed through 2015 with the Jets so expect another timeshare in 2014. Ahmad Bradshaw‘s season ended after Week 3 so he of course had no chance in this one, but based on the small sample to start the season you get the sense Bradshaw would have won this poll easily (a neck injury ended Bradshaw’s season). Based on the three games anyway, Bradshaw was on a pace for just over 1200 yards, 37 receptions and 11 TDs, a reasonable enough possibility in the Colts’ offense. Bradshaw is an UFA heading into 2014.