Saturday, September 1, 2012

Redskins Running Back Situation

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is known for his zone-blocking scheme and One-Cut-and-Go RB philosophy. He likes his RBs to be patient, wait for a hole and then just hit that hole hard. No Chris Johnson like dancing around and possibly taking a loss on the play for the chance to break a long TD. While in Denver, this system made stars out of Clinton Portis (2002-2003) and Terrell Davis (1995-1998) as well as produced 1000 yards seasons out of lesser talents Olandis Gary (1999), Mike Anderson (2000), Reuben Droughns (2004) and Tatum Bell (2006).

Mike Shanahan's RBs almost always have success. Will he produce a star out of Helu, Morris or Royster?

As you can clearly see, Shanahan has a knack for taking average running backs and just plugging them into his system with very positive results. Ryan Torain was the benefactor in 2010 rushing for 742 yards in only 10 games. Roy Helu took over last year rushing for 509 yards in the final 8 games of 2011. While in Denver, Shanny used to take a RB and plug him in as the starter all season. His two years in Washington have been the complete opposite (partly due to the numerous injuries that his RBs have suffered). Week to week, it has been seemingly impossible to determine which RB will get the most playing time.

There are three RBs still on the roster after Tim Hightower's release on Friday: Roy Helu, Alfred Morris and Evan Royster. Let's take a look at each one of them.

Roy Helu

Helu is 6"0, 220 lbs 4th round pick out of Nebraska in 2011. He rushed for 1000 yards and 10 TDs each of his last two years in college (2009, 2010). His running style fits perfectly into Shanahan's system and he ran a 4.42 at the combine and was 2nd best in 3-cone drill so he has the speed and quickness to succeed in the NFL. However, he has battled sore Achilles tendons in training camp and was held out of pre-season action. He returned for the final game of the pre-season rushing for 90 yards and 2 TDs on 15 carries and catching two passes for 34 yards. He is the most talented RB on the roster (and by far the best receiving back) so I have him ranked the highest at 41 among RBs, hoping that the talent will win out in the end.

Roy Helu is the most talented RB on the roster

Alfred Morris
Morris is a 5"10, 220 lb 6th round pick in this year's draft out of Florida Atlantic. The converted fullback doesn't have great speed, but is a strong, physical runner who doesn't shy away from contact. He has impressed coaches with his performance in the pre-season in which he rushed for 195 yards on 39 carries (5.0 yards/carry) with a TD. He was sat out of the pre-season finale and is clearly the most healthy of the three RBs, so it appears like he may get the start in Week 1. Based on Shanahan's track record, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him take the starting job and run with it.

Alfred Morris appears to have the inside track on the starting job after a strong pre-season

Evan Royster
Royster was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL draft. A 6"1, 212 lb RB out of Penn State, he posted three straight 1000 yard rushing seasons (2008-2010) and is Penn State's all-time leading rusher. He was originally placed on the practice squad to start the year, but joined the 53-man roster after Tim Hightower's torn ACL. He doesn't have great speed, but runs hard and fits in well in Shanny's system. He has been sidelined with a sore knee but still finished the pre-season with 19 carries for 85 yards (4.5 yards/carry).

Evan Royster is the dark-horse to start in Washington

What do we do in fantasy leagues?

First of all, don't spend a high pick on any of these guys. I recently did a draft in which I drafted Helu as a 14th round pick (my last pick before my defense and kicker) just to stash on my bench in case he gets the job once again since he is the most talented RB. I wouldn't mind taking fliers on Morris and Royster (in that order) after all the high upside backup RBs are gone.

Second of all, I am benching all of these guys until further notice. Even if one of them is declared the starter, I will not be putting them in my lineup unless I have no choice. Bottom line, you can't trust what Shanahan will do week to week so unless there is some more clarity to the situation, don't put them in your lineups!

Lastly, if it looks like one of the guys become the starter and posts a couple good weeks in a row, I'm selling. There is a chance I will miss out on another one of those 1000 yard RB seasons, but if I can sell for a safer guy that I can plug into my lineup every week without the worry about being Shanahanned I'm pulling the trigger.

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