The NFC West is almost like a flea market for Fantasy Football players.
There are currently four running backs in the NFC West with an ADP in, or before, Round 4 on FantasyFootballCalculator.com. Aside from those four backs, each team also has a few backups who are fighting for a prominent role. From pass-catching back Reggie Bush finding a home in San Francisco, to Tre Mason looking to expand his 2014 rookie campaign, this division is just busting at the seams with talent.
Marshawn Lynch is a clear-cut starter, but what about the running backs for the Seattle Seahawks who are in the background? Could Robert Turbin, Christine Michael or rookie Thomas Rawls offer Fantasy value? Some Fantasy players are already taking a plunge and buying into Todd Gurley as a fourth-round pick, but are people overlooking Mason and other running backs on the St. Louis Rams who could offer solid Fantasy production?
The Arizona Cardinals drafted rookie David Johnson to help keep Andre Ellington from wearing down, but could the rookie end up keeping Ellington on the sidelines with a set of strong performances? Will Carlos Hyde find success despite the retirement of tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupata now in Arizona?
Let’s take a look at some of the important battles and potential timeshares in the NFC West.
1. St. Louis Rams RBs: Todd Gurley vs. Tre Mason vs. Benny Cunningham
Todd Gurley’s College Rushing Stats
— St. Louis Rams (@STLouisRams) July 1, 2015
Gurley recently stated that he will meet with Dr. James Andrews in the near future to have his knee examined. Andrews is respected as an orthopedic surgeon who has worked with big-name clients like Adrian Peterson, and Gurley’s ADP may see a significant rise or fall based on what Dr. Andrews has to say. Of course, we will have to wait closer to the season to find out if the rookie will be placed on the PUP list to start the year.
His numbers are staggering considering the fact that he was suspended and tore his ACL in his final college season, and the Rams showed faith in Gurley as the future of the organization by selecting him in Round 1 of the 2015 NFL Draft. We can speculate and romanticize about his potential until the start of the season, but you have to wait to find out what exactly is going on with Gurley before you can offer him a spot on your Fantasy team. Even if he can play in Week 1, are the Rams going to trot him out and give him 20 touches against the Seahawks?
Mason was relevant in a few games to start the season, but he jumped onto everyone’s radar with his performance in Week 11 of 29 carries and 113 rushing yards. He also was able to make his owners happy in Week 13 with 117 rushing yards and three-total touchdowns, but he was regulated to 13 or fewer carries in three out of his last four games. Gurley will scare people away from owning Mason stock, but he is criminally undervalued as a seventh-round pick.
Benny Cunningham will also be in the mix as a third-down back who offers additional value in the return game, but Mason will run the show until Gurley can carve out a consistent role. I know Zac Stacy probably crushed your soul last season when you drafted him in Round 3, but you don’t have to make such a big commitment to own a Rams’ running back in 2015 Fantasy Football leagues by drafting Mason. Unless, of course, you draft Gurley in Round 4.
2. Arizona Cardinals RBs: Andre Ellington vs. David Johnson
I felt alone in my enthusiasm for Ellington and his potential in 2015, but our very own Bob Lung’s consistency rankings helped me to feel vindicated in my optimism. Despite playing in just 12 games last season, Ellington recorded 11 quality games under Lung’s consistency rankings. Ellington was able to rectify underwhelming rushing performances with a heavy involvement in the passing attack, and he showcased his dual-threat abilities in Week 5 with 32 rushing yards, 112 receiving yards and a touchdown through the air and on the ground.
Johnson serves as a bigger back who can take more wear and tear than Ellington, but he’s not a bruiser like Lynch. Through reports and his draft profile, the rookie running back is already establishing has affinity for catching the ball. This NFC West running back battle will come down to if Johnson can provide enough value to dethrone Ellington. Can he propel the rushing attack, as well as offer more value than Ellington as a pass-catching back? Will Johnson become the main rusher while Ellington is only on the field to catch passes, or will Bruce Arians only utilize Johnson to keep Ellington fresh and protect his 5-foot-9 frame from absorbing too many hits?
I’m still a big fan of Ellington regardless of Johnson’s involvement, and I am more than willing to pay a fourth-round price tag for the third-year back.
3. San Francisco 49ers RBs: Carlos Hyde vs. Reggie Bush
Round 4 of most Fantasy drafts will be filled with risky running backs, but I think Carlos Hyde takes the cake as a boom-or-bust player.
Hyde never offered enough to push Frank Gore out of the picture, and he was available on many waiver wires near the middle of the season after he didn’t gain the opportunities to live up to his early season hype. The second-year back needs to be evaluated on his own merit, and I think Fantasy players are assuming that Hyde is just a direct replacement for Gore. Hyde put up impressive numbers at Ohio State University, so I understand why people would spend an early pick on the 235-pound running back, but he’s too expensive for my tastes. I already highlighted key losses to the offensive line, but the 49ers don’t plan to stray too far from the power run. There will be new concepts added to the game plan in 2015, but the 49ers will not completely abandon their core foundation. Kendall Hunter and rookie Mike Davis should also receive a few looks behind Hyde.
I think Bush offers Fantasy owners a tremendous bargain with an availability in Round 10. Gore could handle passes, but he is obviously not considered a true pass-catching back. Colin Kaepernick can rely on Bush for quick dump-offs and utilize him on screens, which can obviously translate to solid Fantasy production in PPR leagues. Even in non-PPR formats, I think Bush should start the season on almost every roster. He can’t hurt you as a 10th-round pick.
4. Seattle Seahawks RBs: Robert Turbin vs. Christine Michael vs. Thomas Rawls
Marshawn Lynch is living the dream 😂 https://t.co/F7kGuqQhbm
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) June 30, 2015
I personally put way too much stock into Michael last season. The demise of Lynch did not come to fruition, despite several distractions off the field.
It’s not like any running back outside of Lynch will find a relevant role if Beast Mode is still on the field, but Michael is considered to be on the roster bubble for 2015. Turbin isn’t anywhere near Fantasy relevance but has contributed much more to the offense than Michael over the past few seasons with a 500-total year season in 2012 and a 496-total yard season in 2014.
The rookie Rawls may be able to land a more relevant role if Michael is off the team, but again, there isn’t much to like about the backup running back job in Seattle if Lynch is healthy. All of these guys should be on the waiver wire in shallow leagues, so just get ready to pounce on the backups if anything happens to the starter. Other than that, you don’t need to give them a roster spot.
I have a feeling that there will be a few running backs from the NFC West on championship rosters at the end of the 2015 Fantasy Football season.
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