|ESPN.com: Eric Karabell Football||[Print without images]|
While so many eyes are on the rookie running backs and their week-to-week August progression, it’s worth noting that the preseason is pretty much over for most of the relevant fantasy options. After all, the fourth week of the preseason will feature many names that won’t even make NFL teams. While there are a scant few rookie running backs I have my eye on -- with the Green Bay Packers’ Eddie Lacy at the top -- I’ll generally let others overdraft them. Instead, I’ve been watching more closely how the young veteran running backs with limited experience have done recently, and in the case of the New Orleans Saints’ Mark Ingram, the New York Giants’ David Wilson and the Miami Dolphins’ Lamar Miller, it’s been mainly positive.
|Mark Ingram has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in his first two seasons.|
On Sunday against the Houston Texans I saw some of the best and worst of Ingram as well: the fellow who is capable of finding a hole and sprinting through it, but also the guy who looks tentative at times when the blocking isn’t there, which can be a problem on the Saints. Ingram broke off a 23-yard rush, and he later took a short pass for 29 yards. That accounts for 52 of his 54 total yards for the day, so he didn’t do much on the other four touches, but focus on the upside. The Saints aren’t tired of him. With a healthy Ingram, they could establish a running game, and while they throw so much at the goal line while he’s frustrated on the sideline, even in somewhat limited use Ingram has five rushing touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. It’s no stretch to visualize 800 rushing yards and eight scores, at least. Sure, Drew Brees throws a ton, Sproles is the pass-catcher and Pierre Thomas will see third-down work, but let’s not diminish a healthy Ingram from being valuable.
Meanwhile, Wilson and Miller might seem to be in vastly different situations, but I think they’re both capable of big things. Wilson broke off an impressive 84-yard touchdown jaunt to start off the battle of New Jersey on Saturday night, and while he did nothing else, he doesn’t need to. I happen to like the really large Andre Brown as well for the touchdowns, but Wilson has major upside. On Twitter, people were comparing him to Chris Johnson for his home run capabilities, and I see that, but don’t rule out the possibility of him being consistent as well, unlike Johnson. And please, cease with the fumbling problems, as he fumbled once as a rookie! Bryce Brown of Philly, now he can’t hold on to the football. Wilson will be fine; he has been named the starter and he’s not only staying safely among my top 20 running backs, he’ll likely crack my top 25 overall.
Then there’s Miami, where I cannot grasp the team’s compulsion with Daniel Thomas, as Miller seems considerably better. Miller blasted through the line for 20 yards on his first carry Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and finished with 35 yards on eight carries. Thomas had one 5-yard run, and on his other six rushes cumulatively lost two yards. Miller is going to be the starter, and I’ve resisted moving him down in the rankings all month because I haven’t bought any of the themes coming from Dolphins camp about a running back time-share, or Mike Wallace struggling. Miller had a disappointing rookie season, like Ingram and Wilson, all underutilized frankly, but that’s changing now.
Here are some other notes from a busy weekend:
• Arizona Cardinals veteran Rashard Mendenhall left Saturday’s game with what he called looseness in his right knee, but he actually looked good on his six rushes, gaining 47 yards. It’s looking like Ryan Williams is not next in line, though he finally played Saturday. Really, it was noticeable that the oft-ripped Cardinals offensive line made life easier for Mendenhall and No. 2 guy Alfonso Smith, and protected Carson Palmer fairly well. I’ll move Mendenhall up in my rankings; he’s too low to start with and I don’t think this knee problem is a big deal.
• Mendenhall’s former team has running back problems, with rookie Le'Veon Bell on the shelf until perhaps October. The Pittsburgh Steelers acquired retread Felix Jones from the Philadelphia Eagles -- they weren’t going to keep him -- and watched him plod his way to 29 yards on eight carries Saturday. Jonathan Dwyer didn’t look any better. Isaac Redman sat with a minor neck injury, which is probably nothing more than the Steelers wanting to protect their September starter. Redman isn’t special, but the point here is that Jones isn’t even a lock to make this team, and Redman should start being drafted in more leagues.
|Kenbrell Thompkins has impressed this summer, but the history of rookie wide receivers is working against him.|
• There’s nothing wrong with Seattle Seahawks stud Marshawn Lynch, but if this is the year the many rushing attempts catch up to him, watch out for rookie Christine Michael. The Texas A&M product ran all over the Green Bay Packers reserves Friday night -- yes, reserves, but the kid is physical and very fast -- and he figures to get chances to catch the ball out of the backfield in games that matter as well. There’s no real need to handcuff anyone to Lynch yet, but Michael is a name to remember.
• Poor Mark Sanchez. The New York Jets quarterback just doesn’t have a chance this season, frankly. I’m not sure any Jets do. With little threat at quarterback, I don’t see how Chris Ivory is going to blossom or stay healthy. I mean, it’s one thing to take handoffs from Drew Brees and rip apart a defense, but Geno Smith and Sanchez look terrible. Ivory and Bilal Powell combined for 31 rushing yards on 19 chances. I don’t trust Ivory, frankly, and he’s going to fall out of my top 30 running backs, past even Ryan Mathews, which says something.
• Meanwhile, in Oakland, it sure looks like former Ohio State miscreant Terrelle Pryor is going to win the starting job. How did Matt Flynn ever have a six-touchdown game with this arm? Pryor is an athletic specimen that nobody seems to be treating like the other young, raw, unaccomplished quarterbacks (like Geno Smith and EJ Manuel), but take another look. He ripped apart the Chicago Bears' reserves on the ground and through the air Friday, and while there’s quite a mess around him offensively as well -- the line, the injured star running back, etc. -- I’m kind of tempted in a deep dynasty league to take a shot.