Fake Football, Real Questions (July 25th Edition)
July 25, 2013 | Staffy Stafferton
You signed up for a fantasy football draft. This was supposed to be all about drinking beer and enjoying a night with the boys. The problem is you’ve been on the clock so long that your beer’s gone warm, and your buddies can’t stand the sight of you. You’ve been faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of deciding who to pick from a group of players ranked in the same tier, and you’re paralyzed with mental anguish. We get it…and we’re here to help. This week, we’ve given our writers a group of players who fall right next to each other in positional rank and ADP. Here are the picks they would make and the logic behind them:
Running Back: CJ Spiller, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Trent Richardson
Spiller, all the way. I really like the upside of all these guys, but in fantasy you shoot for the guy with the highest ceiling, and it’s without a doubt Spiller. We’re talking about a team with no real quarterback that is going to have to run the ball, and we’re also talking about a guy who topped 1,200+ rushing yards in 2012 on barely 200 carries. Considering he’s also a PPR fiend and he’s just now touching on his potential, you have to think the sky is the limit. He’s my 5th player off the board.
For a lot of fantasy owners, this will be their first decision of the year. Mid-first round pick, which RB do you hook your team to? If you were to base this solely on stats, Ray Rice would be your guy (top five RB each of the last four years in PPR). He certainly has the highest floor of any of these choices, but CJ Spiller just has too much talent to pass up. Spiller does not have a lot of carries under his belt, but he averaged six yards per carry last year and his backup is 32 and coming off of knee surgery. On top of that, the coaching staff that limited Spiller’s workload last year is gone. This year, Spiller’s talent and opportunity appear to have finally aligned which could lead to a monster year.
Add my voice to the chorus of C.J. Spiller acolytes. The only thing not to like about Spiller is his potential to platoon with Fred Jackson at times, but that same argument could be applied to McCoy with Bryce Brown and Rice with Bernard Pierce. Richardson has the Cleveland backfield all to himself, but he has health concerns of his own and a less developed passing infrastructure around him to keep opposing defenses honest. Overall, though, Spiller is my choice because he’s the most explosive back in this group. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball and that’s a trait I value highly.
My first reaction was to pick Spiller here, but when I went to pull a couple of data points to support my argument, I talked myself into Ray Rice. In a “down” year in 2012, Rice had 1,621 combined rushing and receiving yards (just 82 yards less than Spiller) and ten total touchdowns (two more than Spiller). I like that Rice is the only player in this group that will have continuity from a coaching perspective at the start of the season, as Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Cleveland are all under new regimes in 2013. I also like the quarterback situation in Baltimore better than the other teams. At the end of the day, I’d be happy to build my fantasy team around any of these guys, but I’ll cast my lot with the Raven.
Man, this one is tough! One week I’m leaning towards Rice and the next I’m leaning towards McCoy. Well this week’s flavor of the week is CJ Spiller. Doug Marrone has already deemed him the feature back, finally putting Fred Jackson on the back burner. The last few games of the 2012 season showed what Spiller can do in a feature role. Spiller also has the most upside of any of these backs in my opinion. In PPR though I would still take Ray Rice. Rice has the best chance to catch 60 passes this year. Trent Richardson can be put on the back burner in this conversation this year. He is right behind these guys, but not on the same level quite yet. Richardson could easily be the highest rated running back out of this group as soon as the 2014-2015 season.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see this combination of RBs in any which order come season’s end. Rice is by far the most consistent and trustable player on this list, yet I’m going with upside and placing him last amongst this group. My T-Rich evaluation is heavily clouded by my CLE homerism, but with the due workload he is talented enough to be a top 5 RB barring health. Injury worries and Brandon Weeden leave him ranked just a couple spots behind this year. The last two are the most intriguing RBs in my eyes this season. When healthy, Shady has unquestionably flashed elite talent, and I believe he can strive in a Chip Kelly run-oriented offense. I am very tempted to place McCoy in front of all three of these backs but there’s just one problem, CJ Spiller. His explosiveness is unprecedented, and watching the burst and potential of Spiller is chilling. All he needs is 15+ carries/gm and 5+ targets/gm to flourish. With the upside to be the clear-cut RB1 it’s hard not to place Spiller above most.
I’ve come around on Trent Richardson a lot in the week or so since I drafted him at #6 overall in The Fake Football Writers’ Mock. The reports on his health are glowing for a change, his new OC is talking about getting him 300 carries (a number only 5 RB’s in the league eclipsed last season), and a peek at the advanced stats paint a very different picture than his 3.6 YPA from last year would suggest. Richardson forced 40 missed tackles on run plays (6th best among backs with at least 180 attempts) and 19 missed tackles while receiving on pass plays (best in the league), proving what we already knew about him coming out of Alabama – he has elite playmaking ability. Some juicy counting stats were there for Richardson at the end of last season (51 receptions, 12 total TD’s), and I think what we witnessed in 2012 was much closer to his floor than his ceiling. Norv Turner brings to town an offense that threw to its RB’s on 31% of its plays per Rotoviz, making it a distinct possibility that T-Rich leads all RB’s in catches this year. By virtue of projected workload alone, I give him the slightest of edges over Spiller. 1,600 total yards, 60 catches, and 10 TD’s may end up conservative projections.
Check out previous editions of Fake Football, Real Questions: