Ryan Mathews in particular has been a forum discussion favorite at the DFW/FFW forum (click here), as has Darren McFadden, both so polarizing, as some simply won’t touch these oft-injured, fantasy-team-ruining (yet talented) backs, while other refuse to disbelieve, seeking value and ignoring the risks. Well, for you Ryan Mathew and Darren McFadden fans, here you go. They each have been served up on the cheap, versus some other often-injured back and a rookie who also has drawn somehat extreme ranges of opinions on the DFW/FFW forum board as well in Le’Veon Bell. Additionally, this is our second straight Speed Bump featuring a rookie running back, Montee Ball yesterday, Bell today.
Le’Veon Bell enters the NFL as a true bellcow back in the old school definition. Bell can easily carry a team for 300 carries and totaled 382 carries last year for Michigan State – a whooping 29 per game average. Bell has his critics however, mainly the lack of success from some bigger backs that have come from the Big 10 who busted in the NFL (Tim Biakabatuka, Kijana Carter, Maurice Clarett, Ron Dayne, Laurence Maroney, Anthony Thomas, Beanie Wells as examples). Is the generalization really fair, does it have relevance on Bell, and is it even true really? The Big 10 has also produced Mike Alstott, Larry Johnson and Rashard Mendenhall. But opponents of Bell will also point to trends to extend that Big 10 “bust streak” if there is such a thing. Bell can run a bit too upright and takes a lot big hits (he is also big enough to absorb them), he can run a bit too east-west for a big back trying to make moves, and his YPC average dipped to 4.1 against AP-ranked team in 2012. On the plus side, however, Bell goes to a Pittsburgh team almost devoid of any competition. Hold-overs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman collectively had 266 carries last year and averaged just 3.88 YPC. To Bell’s credit, he slimmed down to 230 lbs for the NFL Combine and scored well across the board in drills. Bell was particularly impressive in the three-cone drill with a 6.75 score (2nd-best among RBs) and his 4.52 forty-time was very impressive for a back his size. Bell also gets solid marks as a receiving back (he had 32 receptions last year) and Pittsburgh uses their backs in the passing game (Pittsburgh completed 60 receptions to its backs last year).
Oh that Ryan Mathews. If you had him in 2011 you probably have a soft spot in your heart as he may taken your team to the promised land, as he totaled 1500+ yards, had a cool 50 receptions and scored 6 TDs en route to finishing as the 7th best PPR RB. If you had in 2012, you probably despise Ryan Mathews as he ruined your fantasy draft and team (especially depending on when your draft was). Crack – on the very first carry in pre-season last year, Mathews had a broken clavicle. He made it back in Week 3 but he was more harm than good almost and a complete bum (before ironically breaking his other clavicle toward the end of the season). On 223 touches, Mathews managed to get the ball over the stripe for a TD one measly time. Mathews was also a bust for those who drafted him in his rookie year 2010. He had big shoes to fill after the Chargers gave up their 2nd and 4th round picks plus LB Tim Dobbins to move up 16 spots in the 1st round to select Mathews with the 12th pick of the NFL Draft. Mathews’ final stats his rookie year were padded with a 3-TD game in Week 17, but prior to that he had a paltry 681 total yards and 4 TDs and was dogged by a high ankle sprain most of the season. Mathews has missed 16 starts in three years and has a lengthy injury history in college as well. But it’s a new year so take your chances here! There are two wildcards worth highlighting. The Chargers have Danny Woodhead added to the mix (who you would think will get 3rd down work) and they have a new coaching staff. Norv Turner was particularly notorious for using his backs in the passing game. Per Fantasy Index, since Mathews entered the league, he has been part of a San Diego offense that averaged 125 receptions to its RBs (2nd most to New Orleans). With Mike McCoy running the offense its likely these RB targets drop significantly down to league averages.
Last up, and like Ryan Matthews, your love/hate affair for Darren McFadden may be based on your personal experience. He was a monster in 2010 with 1,664 yards and 10 TDs (and 47 receptions) in 13 games living up to his 4th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. If you had him in 2008, 2009, 2011, or 2012 you got burned nasty. In 2008, McFadden missed three games with a right and left turf toe (do it up right if you’re going to do it) and managed just 700 yards. In 2009, McFadden missed weeks 5-8 due to arthroscopic knee surgery but was abysmal anyway with 600 yards and 1 TD. In 2011, McFadden missed weeks 9-17 with a Lisfranc injury. In 2012, McFadden missed Weeks 10-13, with an ankle sprain. He was horrible last year anyway with a shockingly-low 3.3 YPC average (some may say due to a zone-blocking scheme which he clearly then is not well-suited for). It does not take a PhD to spot a trend here – in five NFL seasons, Run DMC has missed 23 of 80 contents (nearly 30% of his games) and missed at least three games in every single NFL season. But, hope springs eternal and it’s a new year. The Raiders have a new coaching staff, with former Jaguars’ QB coach Greg Olsen taking over for the Raiders (he must interview well, to go from being a QB coach on a 2-14 team with horrible QB play to a head coaching gig). Olson prefers a power-blocking scheme which favors McFadden, although the injury risk remains and Oakland looks to have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, generally not a recipe for big fantasy RB seasons.
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